To Dwell

By Fiona MacLeod, Vancouver and Lilloet, BC.


They dwell here.

I lower myself slowly down the small, grassy cliff and onto the red, rocky beach. As I step forward, I feel the tiny stabilizer muscles in my ankles flex and relax repeatedly as my hard-soled shoes seek to find some form of solid platform on the sharply angled beach of jutting bricks. Between rounded grey stones and jagged oyster shells, the deteriorating rusty rectangles now protrude like tombstones feebly memorializing the notion that they were once to be the essential pieces of a stable dwelling. Now, instead of building, they are being built upon, their flat, grainy faces becoming the real estate for a subdivided seaside dwelling for barnacles and seaweed.

The stories of once promised red brick houses; they dwell here.

He dwells here.

We approach up the short gravel pitch, past the quirky hand-painted sign for the Small Species Sanctuary. We pass a shed where a series of rakes and shovels have been lovingly lined up against the back wall, the damp, earthy clumps still clinging to the tines openly telling their tales of recent hard work. We are met by a thin, welcomingly weathered and animated man in a worn, knitted, brown sweater who proudly shows us around this property and this passion on which he dwells.

“…I have to show you this…”; sheets of wavy grey rock, as wide as the foundation of a house, dimpled with green, lichen-laden pools of life;

“…I’ll show you this…”; an endangered Gary oak tree, each kinked, gnarly knuckle telling a story about the direction in which it had to reach to cradle the sun’s rays at a particular point in time;

“…let me show you this…”; a figure carved in the rock at some time past, the lines as smooth as if I had used my finger to trace the same image in the wet sand on a beach. A heart and soul poured into the guided tour of both a dwelling and a passion.

The Steward…he dwells here.

I dwell here.

The long finger of smooth grey rock extending out to my left wordlessly directs my beach exploration...I silently obey and walk carefully over the smooth, slippery rock towards the narrowing fingertip. I inhale deeply and the salty air leaves a cool, damp film inside my nostrils. As I approach the point, the rock extends out under me. I am fascinated with the structure of it; I am atop a massive prehistoric femur, patches of its outer layer of bone worn away to expose the fossilized sponge-like marrow underneath. I reach the point. I sit.

As my gaze relaxes, the water all around me seemingly morphs to a silvery liquid metal as the glare from the sinking afternoon sun reflects off the water and into my unpolarized human eyes. The dancing, swirling breeze creates a mosaic of varied textures across the incandescent bay without ever once breaking the surface tension of its aqueous canvas. A dark, smooth, whiskered snout suddenly emerges ten feet to my right through what I had sworn only seconds ago to be an impassable sheet. The two soft black charcoal eyes briefly gauge my presence before slipping quickly and silently back under the surface, leaving a perfect pattern of concentric rings growing outwards from the point of retreat. I close my eyes and turn my head towards the setting sun, which reaches out and gently cups my face in its warm hands.

…and I dwell here…here in this moment.

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