The ocean reaches many arms to embrace the land. Long, graceful fingers of saltwater stretch to meet fresh, flowing rivers. River and ocean mingle to make brackish water. Ocean breathes the tide in, and out, in, and out. Hiding and then revealing the shore’s secrets with each ebb and flood. We call these places estuaries.
Here, where towering flowers stand tall as grizzly bears, the sea reaches into the heart of the river valley, and the estuary flourishes. The river greets the ocean like an old friend, and anadromous fish fin from salt into freshwater, spawn, die and feed a hungry forest. A hive of activity splashes and caws, howls, prowls, slumbers, and feasts.
The river estuary; where grizzly bears gather to celebrate the annual homecoming of Pacific salmon.
On the west coast of North America, is a place deep in the rainforest within the ancestral lands and present-day territory of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais people.
Each time the estuary reveals a little more to me; whispers secrets for the ears of those who stop long enough to listen, to soak in the sounds, to sink into and become a part of the surroundings. Grizzlies walking lazily through the asters, black bears swimming across the river, ravens teasing one another, kingfishers swooping from cedar boughs. The soundscape is always wrapped in the thunder of water falling from the steep landscape; sometimes roaring, other times a steady rumble down to the ocean.
Each time I am here, the river has changed this place. A great, winding snake shedding skin as spring and fall floods erupt over and erode the river banks.
And each time I am here, there are changes in myself since the last time. A reminder that my life’s countless experiences through the years are the rain that pours into the river of my internal landscape; altering the way I see the world; eroding and exposing the truth of things a little more. A constant internal rebirth.
And so I am not the same as I was before being here, witnessing great bears and great rivers.
I can not get to know wild places, and upon departing simply disentangle from the river, the trees, the bears, the diversity of life, the death, and the beauty. I am tangled up in something much larger than my own body and mind. I am a part of a much bigger story than just ‘I’.