The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 15

Posted on Leave a comment
The Audrey Eleanor, in the calm after the storm.

THE SCREAMS OF THE FURIES

The Captain is asleep with his good hearing ear in the pillow…I can feel the weight of it as it as it gets closer, roaring like an old WhitePass steam engine determined to run us down.  The Audrey Eleanor is pulsating with the sound…

It has been a handful of years since the magnificent, giant, old growth cedars of Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada are flattened to the earth. Hurricane winds ripped and tore their roots from the very land that sustained them.  As they thunder to the earth causing humankind to tremble, we are at anchor on an old wooden boat.

Fifty four feet and thirty tonnes of old wooden yacht must be held off of jagged rocks by a chain and a cast iron Danforth anchor in hurricane force winds.  Our anchor had been set earlier in the afternoon and should be stuck in the mud.  We hope so.

The Audrey Eleanor, a 1948 custom wooden yacht is anchored in Potts Lagoon located at the northern end of Vancouver Island.  We had slipped away from our berth at the Government dock on Malcolm Island, disappearing into the fog like a shadowy ghost ship. After days of pouring rain and windstorms we are making our weather break from Sointula on Malcolm Island our quest is to find a safe and semi-permanent Harbour on a more southern portion of Vancouver Island.  It is early morning, we are soon enveloped in a grizzly gray drizzle.

Steel coloured Ocean leaves no definition, no distinction against steely skies.  Flat silver water appears oily, we motor off into nothingness, I wonder if we will drop off the end of the world? There is no indication that a storm is brewing as we search for the slicing dorsal fins of killer whales.  A family pod has been sighted recently here and we are on high alert.  This is an area of rubbing beaches for the giant “Wolves of the Sea”.

A change in tide swings us slightly to one side.  H-m-m-m is it tidal currents or are the waves coming up?  A Sea Span tug is starboard to us; he is making a run to catch the slack tide at Seymour narrows.  Spray from the sea is beginning to break over his bow.  “She’s coming up,” states the Captain.  “We are going to look for shelter before it gets dark.”

We have no radio contact.  In Ketchikan, Alaska we replaced the antennae, in Port Hardy, B.C. we replaced the radio, our reward for this costly process is a static squawk.  Whomp, whomp, whomp, the Canadian Coast Guard is hovering overhead in a very large helicopter.  It’s nice to know that they are there, but we don’t want to give them a reason to stick around. Audrey’s bow points us toward our destination, Potts Lagoon on Cracroft Island. The Search and Rescue Helicopter swings off to Starboard side and disappears from sight. The anchor is to be set in the mud.

Our new neighbourhood is made up of several float houses, this may be a summer camp, we are not sure. The lagoon is not very large with signs of an old wharf at one end and has a beach type that indicates it is good crabbing territory.  There is still enough light to drop a few crab pots.  Gray skies darken slowly into black.  I feel that someone is watching us from the float houses.  My hair stands up on the back of my neck, I don’t like this sense of being ogled while sitting out in the blackening middle of nowhere.  We circle the float house intending to be neighborly, no one responds to our hellos.

Hurricane-force winds begin as a distant rumble, sounding very much like the old Whitepass train roaring down the tracks into the City of Whitehorse, Yukon.  I can feel the weight of it in my sleep.  Closer and closer it comes, I sit upright with a start wanting to stop this bad dream.  It continues, the weight is a heavy pressure in my inner ear; it pulses like a migraine in my temples.  This is no dream; it’s a goddamned nightmare! An entity has arrived and is attempting to bulldoze us over! The Furies are coming, The Furies are coming!

Audrey Eleanor is pulsating with the sound. My Captain is asleep in the saloon with his good hearing ear in the pillow.  I sleep with the hard of hearing Captain, drop the anchor when need be and I do the dishes damn it! I am the crew.  Captain Rick must be dreaming that his perfect Perkins diesels are vibrating us toward the Mexican border; regardless it is time to share this experience with him.

I waken him to the all-engulfing screams of the furies.  A hundred shrieking banshees are blasting us in their rage.  A wall of wind hits the Audrey Eleanor with mighty force.  Icy Fingers of wind become steel, they rip and tear at the canvas. Swung hard to starboard, the chain attached to the anchor stretches taut and jerks us hard about. We stumble and fall with the motion.

Monsoon rains pummel the saloon roof. Blasting rain resonates on the roof.  I feel that I am inside a tin can that is being pelleted with small rocks, the noise is deafening.  The Captain yells for the spotlight as he flashes into action, setting radar and depth sounders on high alert.  Wrestling the saloon door open he shines the spot light into the harbor, the light stops dead, a solid black wall of water greets him, we see nothing.

No visibility coupled with the deafening rain means we have no way of knowing whether we are dragging our anchor over the floor of the ocean. There is no sight; there is no sound except for the pelting rain. The alarm on the radar is set to go off if we get within 50 feet of a solid obstacle, but that would be too late.  If we are blown up on the rocks in this blackest of nights it could cost us our lives.

Our radar is particular as to what it will reveal.  I jump up to check the depth sounder repeatedly. We are maintaining a water level of 45 feet beneath our hull and it is low tide.  As the tide rises so will we.  So far so good, but there will be no sleep this night.

I get a whiff of wood smoke.  My god!  Now what, we are on a wooden boat, are we on a wooden boat that is on fire?  Huge tanks of diesel contained in our hull would set up a blaze for all the world to see.  A frantic survey reveals that we are not about to be cremated. For sure someone is living on the float houses and doesn’t want to be seen.  The fury of the night compels them to light a fire or freeze. Our silent neighbour has started a wood fire in one of the float houses.  I knew I could feel eyes on us, this is creepy, I want to go home.

In true Yukon tradition we settle into a long night of cribbage.  Yelling at each other at the top of our lungs we attempt to out last the storm, 15/4, 15/6…and listening for things that go” bump” in the night under the Audrey Eleanor.

P.S.  Later we found the force of the jerk on the chain to the anchor caused the cast iron stanchion to bend.  You can see it still should you decide to visit. And so the journey resumes, join us soon for another; ADVENTURE OF THE AUDREY ELEANOR.

Depth-of-Field, Your Creative Tool

Posted on Leave a comment

Depth-of-Field – Your Creative Tool

The creative use of Depth-of-Field (DOF) has been a journey of discovery, wonder and artistic joy for me my entire photographic career.

Even now, after many years of working with film, then digital cameras, it never ceases to amaze me what a huge difference the choice of how to use this technique makes to a photograph.

Learning to use DOF creatively to generate artistic impressions of the scenes and subjects you deal with is one of the most exciting discoveries you will have in photography.

Extreme Depth-of-Field example
Extreme Depth-of-Field example

Depth-of-Field is described as the distance within which everything is in focus. Think of having everything from 2 metres away to 10 metres away in focus, and nothing else; those 8 metres are the depth-of-field.

DOF is dependent on the aperture, focal length of your lens, distance the camera is from the subject and distance between the subject and the background.

Aperture, the opening in the lens, is measured in f/stops; the smaller the aperture, the larger the f/stop is numbered. For example, f/22 is a very small opening while f/2.8 has the lens almost completely opened.

Lenses with shorter focal lengths allow for a greater DOF than do longer focal lengths; the reason landscape photographers use wide angle lenses and hyperfocal distance in their work. This way they get the detail in the foreground in focus as well as the trees and hills in the background.

Hyperfocal distance is the closest distance you can be focus and still keep objects at infinity in acceptable sharpness. It changes with different f/stops.

Set your digital camera on aperture priority or use it in manual mode to gain control of the f/stop.

Using small apertures cuts the amount of light travelling through the lens and creates a need for longer shutter speeds.

Use your tripod.

Shallow Depth-of-Field example
Shallow Depth-of-Field example

Let’s take a look at the opposite end of the DOF spectrum; having a very short distance in focus. Portraiture is one photographic style where this comes into play often.

The closer your subject is to you and the further away the background is from your subject, the easier it is to have your subject in sharp focus while allowing the background to go out of focus.

Shallow DOF can create an image where the beautiful face of your child is in sharp focus while the background is blurry. This effect makes the portrait stand out from everything else.

Wide angle lenses are not usually used for portraiture as you have to get in very close to your subject causing facial distortion, and even wide open they still have quite a wide DOF.

Focal lengths of 50 to 85 are the norm for portraiture, allowing some distance between you and your subject and providing the capacity for a minimal DOF so you can create that wonderful bokeh – the blurry out of focus area of your photo.

The quality of the bokeh differs with each lens, lighting situation and any sharp highlights that may be in the background.

The more blades a lens has to control aperture, the better the bokeh. Their shape and the opening they create also impact on how it is displayed.

Lenses with large apertures allow for the shortest DOF so can be very versatile in doing close-up work. The wider the f/stop, the easier to separate the background from the item you want enhanced.

Longer lenses offer an opportunity to create a portrait while you are still some distance away from your subject. They may, however, cause some distortion.

However, long lenses are useful in photographing sports.

We’ve all seen the images of a football player making the great catch and it seems he is the only thing in the photo as the crowd and all the other players have been lost in the blurry background.

This is created with a very long lens and large aperture.

Take this information to use your digital camera to its utmost by experimenting with the creative use of depth-of-field. You won’t be disappointed.

If you have comments or questions post them in the comment section below.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy shooting and remember to leave the environment as you found it.

Norm Hamilton
normhamilton.ca/photography
norm@normhamilton.ca

Depth-of-Field, Your Creative Tool

Posted on Leave a comment

Depth-of-Field – Your Creative Tool

The creative use of Depth-of-Field (DOF) has been a journey of discovery, wonder and artistic joy for me my entire photographic career.

Even now, after many years of working with film, then digital cameras, it never ceases to amaze me what a huge difference the choice of how to use this technique makes to a photograph.

Learning to use DOF creatively to generate artistic impressions of the scenes and subjects you deal with is one of the most exciting discoveries you will have in photography.

Extreme Depth-of-Field example
Extreme Depth-of-Field example

Depth-of-Field is described as the distance within which everything is in focus. Think of having everything from 2 metres away to 10 metres away in focus, and nothing else; those 8 metres are the depth-of-field.

DOF is dependent on the aperture, focal length of your lens, distance the camera is from the subject and distance between the subject and the background.

Aperture, the opening in the lens, is measured in f/stops; the smaller the aperture, the larger the f/stop is numbered. For example, f/22 is a very small opening while f/2.8 has the lens almost completely opened.

Lenses with shorter focal lengths allow for a greater DOF than do longer focal lengths; the reason landscape photographers use wide angle lenses and hyperfocal distance in their work. This way they get the detail in the foreground in focus as well as the trees and hills in the background.

Hyperfocal distance is the closest distance you can be focus and still keep objects at infinity in acceptable sharpness. It changes with different f/stops.

Set your digital camera on aperture priority or use it in manual mode to gain control of the f/stop.

Using small apertures cuts the amount of light travelling through the lens and creates a need for longer shutter speeds.

Use your tripod.

Shallow Depth-of-Field example
Shallow Depth-of-Field example

Let’s take a look at the opposite end of the DOF spectrum; having a very short distance in focus. Portraiture is one photographic style where this comes into play often.

The closer your subject is to you and the further away the background is from your subject, the easier it is to have your subject in sharp focus while allowing the background to go out of focus.

Shallow DOF can create an image where the beautiful face of your child is in sharp focus while the background is blurry. This effect makes the portrait stand out from everything else.

Wide angle lenses are not usually used for portraiture as you have to get in very close to your subject causing facial distortion, and even wide open they still have quite a wide DOF.

Focal lengths of 50 to 85 are the norm for portraiture, allowing some distance between you and your subject and providing the capacity for a minimal DOF so you can create that wonderful bokeh – the blurry out of focus area of your photo.

The quality of the bokeh differs with each lens, lighting situation and any sharp highlights that may be in the background.

The more blades a lens has to control aperture, the better the bokeh. Their shape and the opening they create also impact on how it is displayed.

Lenses with large apertures allow for the shortest DOF so can be very versatile in doing close-up work. The wider the f/stop, the easier to separate the background from the item you want enhanced.

Longer lenses offer an opportunity to create a portrait while you are still some distance away from your subject. They may, however, cause some distortion.

However, long lenses are useful in photographing sports.

We’ve all seen the images of a football player making the great catch and it seems he is the only thing in the photo as the crowd and all the other players have been lost in the blurry background.

This is created with a very long lens and large aperture.

Take this information to use your digital camera to its utmost by experimenting with the creative use of depth-of-field. You won’t be disappointed.

If you have comments or questions post them in the comment section below.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy shooting and remember to leave the environment as you found it.

Norm Hamilton
normhamilton.ca/photography
norm@normhamilton.ca

Depth-of-Field, Your Creative Tool

Posted on Leave a comment

Depth-of-Field – Your Creative Tool

The creative use of Depth-of-Field (DOF) has been a journey of discovery, wonder and artistic joy for me my entire photographic career.

Even now, after many years of working with film, then digital cameras, it never ceases to amaze me what a huge difference the choice of how to use this technique makes to a photograph.

Learning to use DOF creatively to generate artistic impressions of the scenes and subjects you deal with is one of the most exciting discoveries you will have in photography.

Extreme Depth-of-Field example
Extreme Depth-of-Field example

Depth-of-Field is described as the distance within which everything is in focus. Think of having everything from 2 metres away to 10 metres away in focus, and nothing else; those 8 metres are the depth-of-field.

DOF is dependent on the aperture, focal length of your lens, distance the camera is from the subject and distance between the subject and the background.

Aperture, the opening in the lens, is measured in f/stops; the smaller the aperture, the larger the f/stop is numbered. For example, f/22 is a very small opening while f/2.8 has the lens almost completely opened.

Lenses with shorter focal lengths allow for a greater DOF than do longer focal lengths; the reason landscape photographers use wide angle lenses and hyperfocal distance in their work. This way they get the detail in the foreground in focus as well as the trees and hills in the background.

Hyperfocal distance is the closest distance you can be focus and still keep objects at infinity in acceptable sharpness. It changes with different f/stops.

Set your digital camera on aperture priority or use it in manual mode to gain control of the f/stop.

Using small apertures cuts the amount of light travelling through the lens and creates a need for longer shutter speeds.

Use your tripod.

Shallow Depth-of-Field example
Shallow Depth-of-Field example

Let’s take a look at the opposite end of the DOF spectrum; having a very short distance in focus. Portraiture is one photographic style where this comes into play often.

The closer your subject is to you and the further away the background is from your subject, the easier it is to have your subject in sharp focus while allowing the background to go out of focus.

Shallow DOF can create an image where the beautiful face of your child is in sharp focus while the background is blurry. This effect makes the portrait stand out from everything else.

Wide angle lenses are not usually used for portraiture as you have to get in very close to your subject causing facial distortion, and even wide open they still have quite a wide DOF.

Focal lengths of 50 to 85 are the norm for portraiture, allowing some distance between you and your subject and providing the capacity for a minimal DOF so you can create that wonderful bokeh – the blurry out of focus area of your photo.

The quality of the bokeh differs with each lens, lighting situation and any sharp highlights that may be in the background.

The more blades a lens has to control aperture, the better the bokeh. Their shape and the opening they create also impact on how it is displayed.

Lenses with large apertures allow for the shortest DOF so can be very versatile in doing close-up work. The wider the f/stop, the easier to separate the background from the item you want enhanced.

Longer lenses offer an opportunity to create a portrait while you are still some distance away from your subject. They may, however, cause some distortion.

However, long lenses are useful in photographing sports.

We’ve all seen the images of a football player making the great catch and it seems he is the only thing in the photo as the crowd and all the other players have been lost in the blurry background.

This is created with a very long lens and large aperture.

Take this information to use your digital camera to its utmost by experimenting with the creative use of depth-of-field. You won’t be disappointed.

If you have comments or questions post them in the comment section below.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy shooting and remember to leave the environment as you found it.

Norm Hamilton
normhamilton.ca/photography
norm@normhamilton.ca

Depth-of-Field, Your Creative Tool

Posted on Leave a comment

Depth-of-Field – Your Creative Tool

The creative use of Depth-of-Field (DOF) has been a journey of discovery, wonder and artistic joy for me my entire photographic career.

Even now, after many years of working with film, then digital cameras, it never ceases to amaze me what a huge difference the choice of how to use this technique makes to a photograph.

Learning to use DOF creatively to generate artistic impressions of the scenes and subjects you deal with is one of the most exciting discoveries you will have in photography.

Extreme Depth-of-Field example
Extreme Depth-of-Field example

Depth-of-Field is described as the distance within which everything is in focus. Think of having everything from 2 metres away to 10 metres away in focus, and nothing else; those 8 metres are the depth-of-field.

DOF is dependent on the aperture, focal length of your lens, distance the camera is from the subject and distance between the subject and the background.

Aperture, the opening in the lens, is measured in f/stops; the smaller the aperture, the larger the f/stop is numbered. For example, f/22 is a very small opening while f/2.8 has the lens almost completely opened.

Lenses with shorter focal lengths allow for a greater DOF than do longer focal lengths; the reason landscape photographers use wide angle lenses and hyperfocal distance in their work. This way they get the detail in the foreground in focus as well as the trees and hills in the background.

Hyperfocal distance is the closest distance you can be focus and still keep objects at infinity in acceptable sharpness. It changes with different f/stops.

Set your digital camera on aperture priority or use it in manual mode to gain control of the f/stop.

Using small apertures cuts the amount of light travelling through the lens and creates a need for longer shutter speeds.

Use your tripod.

Shallow Depth-of-Field example
Shallow Depth-of-Field example

Let’s take a look at the opposite end of the DOF spectrum; having a very short distance in focus. Portraiture is one photographic style where this comes into play often.

The closer your subject is to you and the further away the background is from your subject, the easier it is to have your subject in sharp focus while allowing the background to go out of focus.

Shallow DOF can create an image where the beautiful face of your child is in sharp focus while the background is blurry. This effect makes the portrait stand out from everything else.

Wide angle lenses are not usually used for portraiture as you have to get in very close to your subject causing facial distortion, and even wide open they still have quite a wide DOF.

Focal lengths of 50 to 85 are the norm for portraiture, allowing some distance between you and your subject and providing the capacity for a minimal DOF so you can create that wonderful bokeh – the blurry out of focus area of your photo.

The quality of the bokeh differs with each lens, lighting situation and any sharp highlights that may be in the background.

The more blades a lens has to control aperture, the better the bokeh. Their shape and the opening they create also impact on how it is displayed.

Lenses with large apertures allow for the shortest DOF so can be very versatile in doing close-up work. The wider the f/stop, the easier to separate the background from the item you want enhanced.

Longer lenses offer an opportunity to create a portrait while you are still some distance away from your subject. They may, however, cause some distortion.

However, long lenses are useful in photographing sports.

We’ve all seen the images of a football player making the great catch and it seems he is the only thing in the photo as the crowd and all the other players have been lost in the blurry background.

This is created with a very long lens and large aperture.

Take this information to use your digital camera to its utmost by experimenting with the creative use of depth-of-field. You won’t be disappointed.

If you have comments or questions post them in the comment section below.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy shooting and remember to leave the environment as you found it.

Norm Hamilton
normhamilton.ca/photography
norm@normhamilton.ca

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 14

Posted on Leave a comment
Rain and fog, rain and fog, a soggy Captain heads out to check crab traps early in the morning before the winds come up to rage and blow the channel clear.

Follow The North Star

…she attempted to tie herself to a wall in the rolling galley.

The thought of leaving Shearwater by sea is too traumatic.  If I am jumping ship this is my last chance to do so.

Shearwater is located on Denny Island across the water from Bella Bella, a native seaside community located on the coast of B.C., Canada.   My escape vehicle could be B.C. Ferries, which makes a scheduled stop at Bella Bella.   Or I could jump into a small floatplane and fly into Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. I would be safe and have to live with the fact that I deserted my ship and my Captain.   I am still considering it.

An eighty-foot tug registered out of Juneau, Alaska has been our phantom companion since we left Prince Rupert more than a week ago.  As they vaporize in the fog, so do our communications with them on our none too stable radio.  They are a ghost ship that offers the small condolence of “someone else is out here.”

With the surge of storms we have seen little life moving on the raging seas.  Tucking into Oliver’s Cove we wait for our chance to make a break into Sea forth Channel and run for Shearwater and civilization. B.C. Ferries have quit running and the tugs are hiding out with their bows stuck in bights, the storms of November are early. Days later we made the break for Shearwater.

The big Juneau tug follows us into Shearwater.  Waiting at the payphone for a chance to call my kids before we take on our next big crossing, Queen Charlotte Strait, I notice the Tugboat Captains wife is ahead of me; there is little privacy in the area surrounding the payphone.

It is wrenches my heart listening to her talking to children and grandchildren in the southern U.S.  Trying to keep tears under control she bids them a final farewell. She is certain that once back onboard the Tug she is motoring to her death.  Crying softly she hangs up the phone and attempts to quiet her sobs, she passes me with head hung low.  Such bravery in such a diminutive woman, would you climb on board a vessel that you were positive was carrying you to your grave?  My mind is reeling, how often does that float plane leave for the outside world?

During their previous crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound, the Juneau Tug struggled with gigantic waves cresting on top of 20’ swells.  The Captains wife attempted to tie herself to the wall in the galley to prevent battery of herself within that confined and dangerous area.  A rogue wave presents itself on already colossal rollers and nails them directly on the beam.  The impact causes the commercial-sized fridge/freezer to slam to the floor and wedge up against the door.  Her access to the outside world is cut off until a crewmember can think to look for her.

She is beaten around in the galley for four hours before any of the crew can leave their posts to recue her.  No windows and no escape; she is in her coffin on a roller coaster ride in the black.  When the tug arrives at Campbell River she is treated for minor injuries and major physiological trauma.  She is about to face her demons again, in this winter of storms.

What I had not realized was that this crossing of Queen Charlotte Strait was Captain Ricks nemeses as well.  We had survived Dixon Entrance and were alive if badly shaken after the threat of being ground into the rocky bottom of a shallow sea in Milbanke Sound, and how about grabbing a wave that lifted us over ragged rocks by Ivory Island.  Wasn’t that enough, haven’t the dues been paid?  There is no mercy in the sea, no such thing as having paid enough dues.

I had lost feeling in my arms after the terrifying encounter with Milbanke Sound; this leaves me with another concern.  This is the point that I refuse to get back on the boat.

I am the only crew; it’s the two of us against this literal craziness.  My arms are working again, but I am afraid that I could possibly have a stroke or a heart attack if we get pummeled again.  The Captain is an amazing guy.  If I did have any of the above he would have to deal with three temperamental ladies: me, Mother Nature and Audrey Eleanor.  I know that if I am having a heart attack or stroke it isn’t because it is a calm sunny day.  Even he is not that good.  My concern is that I could end up being more trouble than is worth the risk.

Coming up Seaforth Channel my hands had been shaking so uncontrollably that I cannot hold on to anything to stabilize myself.  I suggest that he call one of the boys and have them come to replace me as the crew

There is wisdom in drinking too much beer.  Shearwater was having its Halloween party this night.  The Captain insists that we go ashore, this would be a great opportunity to relax, engage in conversation with people other than ourselves and swill beer.

Such a great time!  People here are glad to have someone new to talk to as well.  The night carries on into the dawn.  Everyone is swept up in an alcoholic haze; we will be best friends forever and all of that wonderful stuff.

The next morning I am praying for a swift death.  That man has his moments, he knows I get sick as a dog and hope for death after a night of great social activity…I am back on board the Audrey Eleanor, listing in my bunk with a major hang over and en-route to Queen Charlotte Sound.

This is the time to take on the Sound and the Strait.  I watch the moons, the barometer, hold my mouth just right and sniff the salty breeze.  I will walk on water to avoid crossing a Strait or a Sound at tide change, not at slack but at the change.  I believe if there is an opportunity for a rough crossing this is when it will happen.  Our famous crossing of Dixon Entrance sickens me to this day.  At this moment if I think about that crossing and close my eyes, I am falling out of the saloon door and into the trough of the wild seas.  There are times when you have no choice in the matter, but the tides are in our favour for the next two days.

In order to time our crossing perfectly we are anchoring at Hecate Island tonight and then running for the safety of Vancouver Island early tomorrow morning.  Goldstream Harbour on Hecate Island is our destination.  It is a difficult passage to distinguish and tricky to navigate.   With a narrow and rock strewn entrance to the inside, we swing up and in on the crest of a building sea.

An eighty-pound hook is dropped and we settle in for the night.  A full moon strikes a mirrored path on the calm waters of the Harbour, the stars; I can tickle their bellies.  Standing on the flying bridge I hear the thunder of monster waves crashing against the small natural breakwater, which creates this bay.  White froth and foam of cresting waves shimmer and are accentuated in the full moon; tons of water smash against the little wall yet again.  I am feeling very unsure that this damned big ocean is going to stay on its own side of the Island.

Huge rocks, crowned with old growth trees, stunted and malformed assure me that they have managed to hang on by twisted and gnarled roots for decades.  I look back at the surreal calm in the anchorage and there in all of its solitary glory sparkles the reflection of the Big Dipper with the gleam of the North Star.  None of the other stars are apparent to me, but in crystal clear view is the Big Dipper.  I am thinking, this is a sign, we need to turn around and run as fast as we can to the Yukon, we should not do this crossing.

First pale and pink light creeps across Goldstream Harbour as we prepare to weigh anchor.  I hand crank the 80 pound anchor and 200 feet of rope and chain that make up our rode.  I cannot haul the anchor up past the 40-foot mark, this is our water depth, the anchor is sitting on the bottom refusing to leave.   I finally yell at the Captain that if he thinks that he can do better, he should.

When the Captain manages to pull the anchor free of the seabed, we see that a huge boulder has lodged itself on the anchor flutes. My active mind is whirling, another sign, my god we need to turn back, I don’t want to do this crossing.  Yeah well, “god hates a coward,” and we leave our little haven and turn to starboard.

Securite’, securite’ breaks up on the radio weather channel…we know this chant by heart.  Swells are beginning to build as we nose our bow out into Queen Charlotte Strait and beyond Cape Caution.  We now have to run as far and as fast as our eight knots per hour will carry us toward Gods Pocket, there is no turning back.

Swells are building and carrying us towards Vancouver Island.  Audrey climbs the walls of water and we coast 12 feet down into the trough and up we go again.  Very pleasant, if only I could relax and enjoy it.  A black line on the horizon signifies that a storm is moving in; god let us be off of the wide-open ocean by then. Up we go and down we glide, we are on a gigantic powered surfboard.  I can see Vancouver Island!   This is the warm and gentle south; this is where we want to spend the winter aboard the Audrey Eleanor.  This is safety.  It doesn’t matter that nirvana is still miles away, having the visual no matter how deceptive the concept of safety is, is wonderful.

Up and down, up and down, closer and closer we get.  We are at God’s Pocket (fantastic diving) and the seas are such that we are going to continue on to Port Hardy.  There is nothing physically wrong with my heart when Mother Nature is not terrorizing me. We are almost there!

P.S. we never saw the tug from Juneau Alaska again.  Knowing their cruising speed and with the size of the waves that we watched from the security of Goldstream Harbour I can only assume that they had another extreme crossing of Queen Charlotte Strait.  Once the Captains wife gets to her home in the southern part of the U.S., I truly wish that she never had to make that crossing again.  This storey is for Willie Olson.  Join us again for another ADVENTURE OF THE AUDREY ELEANOR.

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 14

Posted on Leave a comment
Rain and fog, rain and fog, a soggy Captain heads out to check crab traps early in the morning before the winds come up to rage and blow the channel clear.

Follow The North Star

…she attempted to tie herself to a wall in the rolling galley.

The thought of leaving Shearwater by sea is too traumatic.  If I am jumping ship this is my last chance to do so.

Shearwater is located on Denny Island across the water from Bella Bella, a native seaside community located on the coast of B.C., Canada.   My escape vehicle could be B.C. Ferries, which makes a scheduled stop at Bella Bella.   Or I could jump into a small floatplane and fly into Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. I would be safe and have to live with the fact that I deserted my ship and my Captain.   I am still considering it.

An eighty-foot tug registered out of Juneau, Alaska has been our phantom companion since we left Prince Rupert more than a week ago.  As they vaporize in the fog, so do our communications with them on our none too stable radio.  They are a ghost ship that offers the small condolence of “someone else is out here.”

With the surge of storms we have seen little life moving on the raging seas.  Tucking into Oliver’s Cove we wait for our chance to make a break into Sea forth Channel and run for Shearwater and civilization. B.C. Ferries have quit running and the tugs are hiding out with their bows stuck in bights, the storms of November are early. Days later we made the break for Shearwater.

The big Juneau tug follows us into Shearwater.  Waiting at the payphone for a chance to call my kids before we take on our next big crossing, Queen Charlotte Strait, I notice the Tugboat Captains wife is ahead of me; there is little privacy in the area surrounding the payphone.

It is wrenches my heart listening to her talking to children and grandchildren in the southern U.S.  Trying to keep tears under control she bids them a final farewell. She is certain that once back onboard the Tug she is motoring to her death.  Crying softly she hangs up the phone and attempts to quiet her sobs, she passes me with head hung low.  Such bravery in such a diminutive woman, would you climb on board a vessel that you were positive was carrying you to your grave?  My mind is reeling, how often does that float plane leave for the outside world?

During their previous crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound, the Juneau Tug struggled with gigantic waves cresting on top of 20’ swells.  The Captains wife attempted to tie herself to the wall in the galley to prevent battery of herself within that confined and dangerous area.  A rogue wave presents itself on already colossal rollers and nails them directly on the beam.  The impact causes the commercial-sized fridge/freezer to slam to the floor and wedge up against the door.  Her access to the outside world is cut off until a crewmember can think to look for her.

She is beaten around in the galley for four hours before any of the crew can leave their posts to recue her.  No windows and no escape; she is in her coffin on a roller coaster ride in the black.  When the tug arrives at Campbell River she is treated for minor injuries and major physiological trauma.  She is about to face her demons again, in this winter of storms.

What I had not realized was that this crossing of Queen Charlotte Strait was Captain Ricks nemeses as well.  We had survived Dixon Entrance and were alive if badly shaken after the threat of being ground into the rocky bottom of a shallow sea in Milbanke Sound, and how about grabbing a wave that lifted us over ragged rocks by Ivory Island.  Wasn’t that enough, haven’t the dues been paid?  There is no mercy in the sea, no such thing as having paid enough dues.

I had lost feeling in my arms after the terrifying encounter with Milbanke Sound; this leaves me with another concern.  This is the point that I refuse to get back on the boat.

I am the only crew; it’s the two of us against this literal craziness.  My arms are working again, but I am afraid that I could possibly have a stroke or a heart attack if we get pummeled again.  The Captain is an amazing guy.  If I did have any of the above he would have to deal with three temperamental ladies: me, Mother Nature and Audrey Eleanor.  I know that if I am having a heart attack or stroke it isn’t because it is a calm sunny day.  Even he is not that good.  My concern is that I could end up being more trouble than is worth the risk.

Coming up Seaforth Channel my hands had been shaking so uncontrollably that I cannot hold on to anything to stabilize myself.  I suggest that he call one of the boys and have them come to replace me as the crew

There is wisdom in drinking too much beer.  Shearwater was having its Halloween party this night.  The Captain insists that we go ashore, this would be a great opportunity to relax, engage in conversation with people other than ourselves and swill beer.

Such a great time!  People here are glad to have someone new to talk to as well.  The night carries on into the dawn.  Everyone is swept up in an alcoholic haze; we will be best friends forever and all of that wonderful stuff.

The next morning I am praying for a swift death.  That man has his moments, he knows I get sick as a dog and hope for death after a night of great social activity…I am back on board the Audrey Eleanor, listing in my bunk with a major hang over and en-route to Queen Charlotte Sound.

This is the time to take on the Sound and the Strait.  I watch the moons, the barometer, hold my mouth just right and sniff the salty breeze.  I will walk on water to avoid crossing a Strait or a Sound at tide change, not at slack but at the change.  I believe if there is an opportunity for a rough crossing this is when it will happen.  Our famous crossing of Dixon Entrance sickens me to this day.  At this moment if I think about that crossing and close my eyes, I am falling out of the saloon door and into the trough of the wild seas.  There are times when you have no choice in the matter, but the tides are in our favour for the next two days.

In order to time our crossing perfectly we are anchoring at Hecate Island tonight and then running for the safety of Vancouver Island early tomorrow morning.  Goldstream Harbour on Hecate Island is our destination.  It is a difficult passage to distinguish and tricky to navigate.   With a narrow and rock strewn entrance to the inside, we swing up and in on the crest of a building sea.

An eighty-pound hook is dropped and we settle in for the night.  A full moon strikes a mirrored path on the calm waters of the Harbour, the stars; I can tickle their bellies.  Standing on the flying bridge I hear the thunder of monster waves crashing against the small natural breakwater, which creates this bay.  White froth and foam of cresting waves shimmer and are accentuated in the full moon; tons of water smash against the little wall yet again.  I am feeling very unsure that this damned big ocean is going to stay on its own side of the Island.

Huge rocks, crowned with old growth trees, stunted and malformed assure me that they have managed to hang on by twisted and gnarled roots for decades.  I look back at the surreal calm in the anchorage and there in all of its solitary glory sparkles the reflection of the Big Dipper with the gleam of the North Star.  None of the other stars are apparent to me, but in crystal clear view is the Big Dipper.  I am thinking, this is a sign, we need to turn around and run as fast as we can to the Yukon, we should not do this crossing.

First pale and pink light creeps across Goldstream Harbour as we prepare to weigh anchor.  I hand crank the 80 pound anchor and 200 feet of rope and chain that make up our rode.  I cannot haul the anchor up past the 40-foot mark, this is our water depth, the anchor is sitting on the bottom refusing to leave.   I finally yell at the Captain that if he thinks that he can do better, he should.

When the Captain manages to pull the anchor free of the seabed, we see that a huge boulder has lodged itself on the anchor flutes. My active mind is whirling, another sign, my god we need to turn back, I don’t want to do this crossing.  Yeah well, “god hates a coward,” and we leave our little haven and turn to starboard.

Securite’, securite’ breaks up on the radio weather channel…we know this chant by heart.  Swells are beginning to build as we nose our bow out into Queen Charlotte Strait and beyond Cape Caution.  We now have to run as far and as fast as our eight knots per hour will carry us toward Gods Pocket, there is no turning back.

Swells are building and carrying us towards Vancouver Island.  Audrey climbs the walls of water and we coast 12 feet down into the trough and up we go again.  Very pleasant, if only I could relax and enjoy it.  A black line on the horizon signifies that a storm is moving in; god let us be off of the wide-open ocean by then. Up we go and down we glide, we are on a gigantic powered surfboard.  I can see Vancouver Island!   This is the warm and gentle south; this is where we want to spend the winter aboard the Audrey Eleanor.  This is safety.  It doesn’t matter that nirvana is still miles away, having the visual no matter how deceptive the concept of safety is, is wonderful.

Up and down, up and down, closer and closer we get.  We are at God’s Pocket (fantastic diving) and the seas are such that we are going to continue on to Port Hardy.  There is nothing physically wrong with my heart when Mother Nature is not terrorizing me. We are almost there!

P.S. we never saw the tug from Juneau Alaska again.  Knowing their cruising speed and with the size of the waves that we watched from the security of Goldstream Harbour I can only assume that they had another extreme crossing of Queen Charlotte Strait.  Once the Captains wife gets to her home in the southern part of the U.S., I truly wish that she never had to make that crossing again.  This storey is for Willie Olson.  Join us again for another ADVENTURE OF THE AUDREY ELEANOR.

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 13

Posted on Leave a comment
The saloon onboard the Audrey Eleanor, looking through into the galley. Captain Rick Cousins and First mate Dawn Kostelnik fall to the floor in exhaustion.

Ivory Island

In the previous adventure; the Audrey Eleanor and crew take a beating while trying to creep undetected past the furies and Mother Nature into Milbanke Sound and through Reid Channel.  They manage to escape after 20-foot seas threaten to roll them side over side and dredge them into the ocean floor:

It is surreal cruising down Reid Channel in calm waters after being battered minutes earlier by huge waves.  I have to pinch myself to make sure that I am still alive.  It is one of those moments where you wonder if you haven’t actually crossed over into another world or dimension and someone should show up soon to give you directions on how to proceed.

The directions come… from the helm. The Captain decides that we should cruise into Oliver Cove to check out possible anchorage and make the big decision, do we go or do we stay?  It is nine o’clock in the morning and Shearwater is only a few hours away.  We have been living off of dry goods, mostly what the mice have left of the lentils (the un-damaged bags, I know what you are thinking!!) and whatever the Captain manages to bring up in the crab traps or catch on a hook…you can actually get sick of crab you know.

What are the odds of experiencing another extreme adventure the same morning after our experience at Milbanke Sound?  We have studied the charts. The direction of the waves we have just come through could make it rough going at the tip of Ivory Island, it should only be for a short distance, the tide has turned and could help ease the ride.  God hates a coward; we’re going for it.

Between Cecilia Island, Ivory Island and Don Peninsula there is a minefield of rocks.  Coming out of Reid Channel you have a very narrow passage with Ivory Island to your starboard side, the lighthouse on Ivory Island then works as your navigational aid that directs you safely up Sea Forth Channel.  Most of the rocks in this area are “just” submerged, waves smashing over and on them, verify what the charts say, this is an extremely dangerous area…stay on the road.

The Captain edges Audrey out into the channel, so far so good.  Swells begin to rise, the wind picks up as we head out.  Makings of waves on top of the swells are making me nervous.  The swell/wave action is increasing, a combination of the seas building and the waves are beginning to break over the bow again.  My hands begin to shake and I’m having difficulty hanging on to my little ledge on the windowsill.  Ivory Island is close, just off to starboard… the waves are beginning to resemble the monsters that we have just escaped.

Why on earth would we do this again on purpose, here we go again.  I have lost the feeling in both of my arms and they are jumping around like some invisible puppet master has control of them and just wants me to look foolish. Thank the Goddess, the Captain decides that this is enough for one day, makes the turn and is taking us back toward Reid Channel.

A white curtain drops in front of us.  An inversion of cold air hitting warmer water or vice versa, we are in a fog bank.  The inversion has also instantly steamed up all of our windows, they are running with condensation and it’s impossible to see out. Amazingly, as soon as we are out of the huge waves my arms become my own again, physiological you think; you bet, I am terrified!

I have a squeegee; I am running from window to window clearing off the moisture so that the Captain has some visibility in this rock minefield.  The mouth of Reid Channel is very narrow and hard to distinguish in fair weather; the fog and rain are making it impossible. Cecilia Island looms out of the fog in front of us, we nose toward the shore trying to get our position.  Something doesn’t feel right, I run to the stern of the boat and look outside, we are churning up mud!!

I run yelling toward the saloon, the Captain has already figured that we have a problem and has thrown Audrey into reverse. The wake of the boat lifts us up and back out, he switches to neutral.  The fog has cleared enough; we can see our bow is not in Reid Channel.  Our nose is stuck into a little bight (indent) on Cecilia Island, but where on Cecilia Island!  Are we either too far to the east or to the west of the channel?  The fog swirling around us is thick, too thick for us to see anything in the distance.

A sudden rush of fresh wind tosses us and drives the fog further out, this we don’t want to see.  All around us the waves are smashing on barely submerged rocks, it looks like those pictures you see of the Oregon coast during a storm, I’d always thought that the waves crashing on the rocks with spray flying high into the air looked wild and beautiful.  Up close it’s wild and bloody dangerous.  There is no way out I tell you!

The Captain is struggling to maintain our position; waves are making it difficult to hold a steady course.  Our bow is in the bight and our stern is positioned between two huge submerged rocks, they look to be about three feet below the surface with the one on our portside breaking free of the ocean now and again. Our draft is 4’6” those rocks will gouge and crack the hull apart.

A decision is made; we are in reverse and heading to starboard to find the channel.  The Captain has us turned slightly to the right and he is waiting, waiting again for that bigger wave.  The wave comes, lifts us up and carries us over the rock; I can hear ripping and tearing and run back to the stern.  Our tender is strapped to the transom and below it is what’s left of the swim grid.  The rock that was only partly submerged has ripped off two feet of the swim grid and a section of chrome from the side, we are that close. We have only our eyes and the Captain’s instincts to guide us through this mess, there is no channel.

The waves toss saltwater 10 feet into the air; these are the easy ones to see and to avoid.  The deadly ones are the deep dark swirls, are they real or illusion. After trying to look into and through water, your mind starts to play tricks on you, was that another rock or simply a shadow of the depths??  To portside, the mouth of Reid Channel comes into view; we have done it, again.  God protects drunks, fools and little children; we fit all these categories, depending on the hour.

To this day, I don’t know how the Captain brought us through those rocks, if you ever get a chance check out Canadian chart 3710 and you will understand. Losing part of the swim grid and that little piece of chrome are so minimal in comparison to what could have happened.  It is an unbelievable feat and an incredible ability to read water that the Captain once again, in the same day and almost in the same hour saved our lives!

Again, we are safely in Reid Channel and heading for Oliver Cove.  Audrey cruises into the cove and the anchor is dropped.  It is 11 o’clock in the morning; we both fall on the saloon floor exhausted.  The last thing that I remember is looking through the window and watching the trees swinging quickly by, we are truly swinging on the hook.  We sleep on the floor, like the dead we could have been, for hours.  Finally the cold creeps up and in from the hold, sneaking into our bodies.

The Captain lights our Dickinson stove in the galley, the temperature is dropping.  From our snug anchorage we can see out into Reid Channel.  The wind is managing to drop down over the tree tops causing us to swing like a huge pendulum, you could get quite dizzy from the motion if you don’t concentrate on something other than the inside movement.

For three days we wait out the weather in the Cove.  There is no traffic in Reid Channel until the afternoon of the third day.  Waves in the channel have built to four feet so when we see a troller heading south in the channel it is hard to read the size of her; the back deck is blocked from sight by the waves.  The Captain hails the troller on the radio,” little white fishing boat, little white fishing boat come in please.” Our radio per usual is not working properly; the Captain tries the call again and again. A more persistent call goes out, ”little white fishing boat in Reid Channel, across from Oliver Cove come in PLEASE!”  The reply finally comes back in heavily accented Portuguese English “Me-e-ester, she’s thirty-two feet long!”

Profuse apologies from the Captain are followed by a request for weather and sea conditions once the Portuguese boat reaches the lighthouse at Ivory Island.  Sure enough 30 minutes later, there is static on our radio, nothing that we can decipher, but a well-intentioned reply none the less.  More traffic appears, it’s a tug this time, heading north.  They have just come from where we want to go, perfect.  Request for sea conditions from the Captain, Tug Captain comes back with questions,” how big is your boat, what is your power; well considering your size and power you had better run for it, it won’t get any better in this area until spring.”

I lose the feeling in my arms again navigating the bumpy and nerve-wracking Sea forth Channel, but we make it to safe Harbour at Shearwater.

P.S.  This was a major storm with no boats running for three days, not even the tugs and those guys move in almost anything.  The B.C. ferry spent three days hiding behind or beside Princess Royal Island, I bet everyone onboard became great friends.  Follow the North Star concludes this string of three stories, with more great adventures on the other side, come join us aboard the Audrey Eleanor.

A Fleeting Star

Posted on 1 Comment
A Fleeting Star in Pelly Crossing, Yukon | Photo: Melanie Hackett

Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.  My feet rhythmically crush the crystals of ice on the forest floor as crimson sunlight reflects from their intricate architecture.  I lift my face towards the mist that is swirling from the depths of the granite canyon, and notice a rainbow emanating within it.  The thunderous rush of a stunning waterfall below vibrates inside my chest, and I can see through the emerald water to the very bottom.  I take a deep breath of the crisp, tangy forest air.  The phenomenal wonders of this place seep into my thoughts.  How precisely atoms are added to a growing ice crystal lattice.  How rays of golden sunshine are dispersed into the spectrum of wavelengths by the prism of mist to paint the splash of colour our eyes can pick up.  How gravity produces such a spectacular waterfall.  How geologic processes carved this bottomless canyon.  And even how all elements combined in such a fashion to cause a river of life to develop.  Yet surrounded by endless beauty, my heart is drowning with an immense sorrow.

I once knew a beautiful person.  Sheena was part of my competitive Irish Dancing team, and we travelled to many competitions throughout North America.  Tall, lanky, brunette, she was often partnered with me.  After finally medalling at the North American Championships in Ottawa, she moved to Australia to begin a new life that would lead her to graduating with honours and becoming a nurse.  She taught in Cambodia for a year, and was nominated as an executive of a non-profit organization that reduces health inequalities in rural and indigenous Australia and around the globe.  She then pursued her Master’s degree in speech pathology.  On the side, she was scouted to become a model and actress.  More importantly than her many accomplishments, I remember her as a wonderful friend and genuinely nice person.

Sheena and I in the dance team group photo
Sheena and I in the dance team group photo

Recently, she suddenly entered my mind.  I’m considering a trip to Australia in the spring, and was hoping to reconnect with her.  Though we hadn’t been in touch for a long while, I had this strange feeling that I should contact her, and couldn’t get her out of my mind.  Later, I received the news that around the same time, she was leaving her final exam for her Master’s degree, and was hit by a car mere steps away from her vehicle.  She passed away at the scene.

Whether my feeling was coincidence, or whether there was something more to it, I will never know for certain.  I like to think that her big heart and spirit filled every corner of our Earth as she passed, and that her short but wondrous presence on Earth will continue to paint rainbows in the hearts of many.

Sheena
Sheena

Several years ago, I myself was hit while bicycling.  The aftermath involved serious injuries that tore from me all of my passions, career paths, and even social networks, including Irish Dancing.  Years of physical and emotional recovery ensued.  In the midst of the darkest times in my recovery, I felt completely hopeless although intellectually I knew that it could easily have been much worse. I was the lucky one.  Eventually I reached a point where I could be grateful enough for everything I did still have to realize the beauty that exists in our world.  And occasionally, during the fleeting times that I had a glimpse into my pre-accident life, the beauty of life was vividly sharpened.

This unexpected tragedy is a harsh reminder that life is too short to be taken for granted and to spend it in sorrow.  Though one life is over, it continues for everyone left behind, including the driver of the car.  A life forever wracked with guilt, this life will likely also face seemingly unbearable challenges in the coming years.  It may never be in the hearts of those who loved Sheena to forgive such a devastating mistake, but the truth is it can happen to any one of us.  More than ever before, I am determined to make the most of my time and enjoy life fully in the wonders and the sorrows, and also to make an effort to bring happiness to others.  Life is but a fleeting falling star.  As the kids these days say, YOLO!  Does that mean I won’t feel sad? Of course not.  There exists an eternal and infinite sadness in my heart.  But it is through this very sadness that the beauty and preciousness of life shines through even more clearly.

It is my hope that through these words, anyone who is navigating through loss may find solace in the idea that the very loss has the potential to highlight the wonders of life both in the cherished memories, and in the time yet to come.

As I’m standing here, feeling the waterfall of tears plunging through the granite canyon, the mist off the water rises once more.  Catching the fluid rays of shimmering light it dances in the breeze before being carried away.  Is it just my imagination, or did I catch a brief glimpse of the sparkling rainbow of an Irish Dancing angel?

A Fleeting Star

Posted on 1 Comment
A Fleeting Star in Pelly Crossing, Yukon | Photo: Melanie Hackett

Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.  My feet rhythmically crush the crystals of ice on the forest floor as crimson sunlight reflects from their intricate architecture.  I lift my face towards the mist that is swirling from the depths of the granite canyon, and notice a rainbow emanating within it.  The thunderous rush of a stunning waterfall below vibrates inside my chest, and I can see through the emerald water to the very bottom.  I take a deep breath of the crisp, tangy forest air.  The phenomenal wonders of this place seep into my thoughts.  How precisely atoms are added to a growing ice crystal lattice.  How rays of golden sunshine are dispersed into the spectrum of wavelengths by the prism of mist to paint the splash of colour our eyes can pick up.  How gravity produces such a spectacular waterfall.  How geologic processes carved this bottomless canyon.  And even how all elements combined in such a fashion to cause a river of life to develop.  Yet surrounded by endless beauty, my heart is drowning with an immense sorrow.

I once knew a beautiful person.  Sheena was part of my competitive Irish Dancing team, and we travelled to many competitions throughout North America.  Tall, lanky, brunette, she was often partnered with me.  After finally medalling at the North American Championships in Ottawa, she moved to Australia to begin a new life that would lead her to graduating with honours and becoming a nurse.  She taught in Cambodia for a year, and was nominated as an executive of a non-profit organization that reduces health inequalities in rural and indigenous Australia and around the globe.  She then pursued her Master’s degree in speech pathology.  On the side, she was scouted to become a model and actress.  More importantly than her many accomplishments, I remember her as a wonderful friend and genuinely nice person.

Sheena and I in the dance team group photo
Sheena and I in the dance team group photo

Recently, she suddenly entered my mind.  I’m considering a trip to Australia in the spring, and was hoping to reconnect with her.  Though we hadn’t been in touch for a long while, I had this strange feeling that I should contact her, and couldn’t get her out of my mind.  Later, I received the news that around the same time, she was leaving her final exam for her Master’s degree, and was hit by a car mere steps away from her vehicle.  She passed away at the scene.

Whether my feeling was coincidence, or whether there was something more to it, I will never know for certain.  I like to think that her big heart and spirit filled every corner of our Earth as she passed, and that her short but wondrous presence on Earth will continue to paint rainbows in the hearts of many.

Sheena
Sheena

Several years ago, I myself was hit while bicycling.  The aftermath involved serious injuries that tore from me all of my passions, career paths, and even social networks, including Irish Dancing.  Years of physical and emotional recovery ensued.  In the midst of the darkest times in my recovery, I felt completely hopeless although intellectually I knew that it could easily have been much worse. I was the lucky one.  Eventually I reached a point where I could be grateful enough for everything I did still have to realize the beauty that exists in our world.  And occasionally, during the fleeting times that I had a glimpse into my pre-accident life, the beauty of life was vividly sharpened.

This unexpected tragedy is a harsh reminder that life is too short to be taken for granted and to spend it in sorrow.  Though one life is over, it continues for everyone left behind, including the driver of the car.  A life forever wracked with guilt, this life will likely also face seemingly unbearable challenges in the coming years.  It may never be in the hearts of those who loved Sheena to forgive such a devastating mistake, but the truth is it can happen to any one of us.  More than ever before, I am determined to make the most of my time and enjoy life fully in the wonders and the sorrows, and also to make an effort to bring happiness to others.  Life is but a fleeting falling star.  As the kids these days say, YOLO!  Does that mean I won’t feel sad? Of course not.  There exists an eternal and infinite sadness in my heart.  But it is through this very sadness that the beauty and preciousness of life shines through even more clearly.

It is my hope that through these words, anyone who is navigating through loss may find solace in the idea that the very loss has the potential to highlight the wonders of life both in the cherished memories, and in the time yet to come.

As I’m standing here, feeling the waterfall of tears plunging through the granite canyon, the mist off the water rises once more.  Catching the fluid rays of shimmering light it dances in the breeze before being carried away.  Is it just my imagination, or did I catch a brief glimpse of the sparkling rainbow of an Irish Dancing angel?