I’ve been thinking constantly about Tofino, that western coast of Vancouver Island, where people swim and surf all year round, even in winter.
For a while, I was into watching parkour, watching folks throw themselves around, over, under, and through whatever obstacle was in their way. And that was great. But there was still a part of me that wanted to see acrobatics that I could (potentially) do — without cringing at the thought of landing hard the wrong way on a solid object. And I was more interested in seeing something in the wilderness, than in the city… something that involved people in dynamic interaction with their environment. Like I am with my own environment.
Then came Tofino. Onto my radar, thanks to YouTube. Surfing in snowstorms. Endless waves that have been rolling in for thousands of years… that can be caught by just about anyone with a wetsuit and a board… male or female. An equal opportunity constant challenge. Not unlike TBI — only much less particular. I think of those waves, deadly as they can be, as being all but oblivious to the presence of humans. TBI, though, seems a whole lot more personal.
Anyway, I’ve been struggling a bit at work, on and off. Struggling with money. Struggling with my marriage. Not constantly. Many days are great, and there are so many good moments. But still, I can’t help but wonder what it might be like to not be here at all… but be at Tofino, enclosed in neoprene, paddling after waves.
What might that feel like? The constant rolling, the chasing, the paddling, the riding, the flying, the falling… the constant ebb and flow, the never-ending crash and pull, the rip tides, the swells, the sky overhead, and the salt on your face, in your eyes, your mouth, frigid water seeping into the tight spaces between skin and wetsuit… I imagine what it must be like, to track through snow to get to the beach… how cold it must be. And how much you must need to want it, to do it. How much you must have to have it. Man, woman, or child. Elder or youngster. Local or import.
I dream of Tofino, having no idea what it’s like, not knowing if I will ever find out. I am almost out of money, for a variety of reasons, many of them neurological, past and present. I am intensely occupied with just keeping viable in the moment, and I am fully invested in living right here, right now. Will I ever see Tofino? Who can say?
What I CAN say is that I don’t necessarily need to be at Tofino to have that kind of experience. Oh, certainly, there is no place like it on earth. But surely some elements of the experience of it can be had, just about anywhere you find yourself. Maybe Tofino is as much a state of mind as it is a place…?
I have friends who like to talk about living capably “in the flow” in terms of being “skillful surfers”. These people bug the living crap out of me. Because they are — almost without exception — extremely un-athletic individuals who love the imagery of surfing without having any idea of what it’s really like to Get Out There in the surf and try your hand at surviving it. They don’t swim, they don’t surf, they don’t even boogie board. They just like the imagery.
But I’m getting prickly. The real thing I need to talk about is how I don’t have to leave the country to get the state of mind I seek — the surfing, the moving, the seeking, the riding, the splashing, the movement. No matter where I am, no matter what I am doing, I can have that quality of living that I seek, simply by putting myself in that head-space. It’s not easy. Sometimes it seems all but impossible. But it can be done. I did it when I was homeless, two decades ago, walking the streets of a very large city in the winter, wondering what would become of me, realizing that no matter where I was or what I was doing, I could choose to think and feel however I chose to think and feel. That was something NO ONE could take from me. No matter what. Unless I let them.
Now I find myself thinking this same way — almost out of money, wondering what’s going to happen to me and my family and my home… dreaming of Tofino and spending my days in the water. I can spend my days however I like, in whatever frame of mind I so choose. I don’t actually have to be in the water to get soaking wet. I can close my eyes… and imagine…
I may be here, or I may be there, but I can always be at Tofino.