hold fast

hold fast

A holdfast is a root-like structure that anchors aquatic sessile organisms, such as seaweed, other sessile algae, stalked crinoids, benthic cnidarians, and sponges, to the substrate. (from Wikipedia)

Walking on the long beaches this morning—Cox Bay, Florencia Bay—I forgot for a time the dark world all around me. The wars, the children (still) in cages, the dams and pipelines, the people without homes tucked into dry corners in every city, the raftloads on precarious waters…I don’t know what to do about those things. I’d like to say I do my best—letters to people who might have some influence, petitions, money to organizations trying to ensure better standards for those who have no voice. I write my quiet books commemorating place and history. And it isn’t enough. I know that.

But this morning, leaning over to look at bunches of kelp washed in with their anchors still attached, I thought there was a small lesson in that. The tight grip of the kelp on the stones, the beauty of the relationship. Wikipedia has this to say about the relationship (and I’m sorry to cite Wiki in this case but I’m away from home and don’t have my natural history books at hand):

The holdfasts of organisms that live on smooth surfaces (such as the surface of a boulder) have flattened bases which adhere to the surface. The organism derives no nutrition from this intimate contact with the substrate, as the process of liberating nutrients from the substrate requires enzymatically eroding the substrate away, thereby increasing the risk of organism falling off the substrate.

And yet they hold fast. They are stranded on the beach in perfect union, the root-like structures of the kelp embracing the boulders. All around people walk, crows strut, the surfers race down to catch the perfect wave. There are times and places when I am reminded to hold fast myself, to stay alive in the imperfect world. To remember the words of Lorine Niedecker:

Do not save love
for things
Throw things
to the flood

by the flood
Leave the new unbought—
all one in the end—

(I can’t get this to retain the format. A few of the lines are indented.)

hold fast2

morning on Cox Bay

P1100514The price we pay, a handful of broken sand-dollars, an empty beach at first, just the moon above, caught in the branches of the tree by our window,


and pink sky and the surf.


I first came to this area — the Pacific Rim — as a teenager and continued coming regularly into my early twenties. I camped alone on these beaches in the days when people lived in driftwood shelters and there might have been a resort or two but certainly not the numbers there are now. You could walk in any direction and meet one person, or none. There was a Co-op in Tofino and the winding road in was still gravel, logging trucks racing towards Port Alberni with their loads of fine trees stripped of their branches. And no, I’m not camping this time but staying in one those resorts, with John, Angelica, and Sahand. No beach fires with a bottle of Jamesons settled into the sand nearby. No broken heart, no dog at my heel, eager to roll in rotten fish. But that girl walked beside me just now as I went out to meet the ocean. And the ocean is the same, surging in over the grey sand and then falling back, under the moon’s influence. There are long strands of bull kelp and clam shells


and the wonderful taste of salt on my mouth from the wind. As I headed back to our suite, where I hoped coffee might be ready (and it is!), I saw this young man running towards the rocks at the end of the bay, board under his arm.