The past few days have been spent supporting loved ones so I haven’t been out much but today I managed to get out for a walk and i went to one my favourite places to sit, a little pocket beach in my neighbourhood that has a lovely view across the Queen Charlotte Channel to the west wall of Átl’ka7tsem (Howe Sound) where, this time of year, the clouds and light and snow compose a lovely soft changing view scape. I was looking forward to a little bit of quiet communion with the resident eagles and seals and possibly catch a glimpse of one of the cetaceans who have been hanging around.
To my surprise, many of the local families in the neighbourhood had gathered for a Polar Bear Swim. This is an annual New Year’s Day tradition around here and there is a larger community gathering on the west side of Nexwlélexwm (Bowen Island) at Bowen Bay beach, which is a very popular spot. The community gathers and there is a big bonfire and bottles of Fireball and other high quality spirts are passed around and dozens of people take the plunge.
I have done that several times, but this year I wasn’t feeling it and so I didn’t have my swimming gear with me. And I wasn’t expecting a polar bear swim at our little beach. But there is was, my neighbours and friends taking the plunge together. There has been a bit of a trend since COVID to localize our community events a bit. Some neighbourhoods now do their own Hallowe’en instead of all coming to the Deep Bay loop, a flattish neighbourhood with two looping roads and full of families and haunted houses. It seems the polar bear swim has become decentralized a bit too. Not a bad thing as we get a bit bigger as a community, it is good to know and celebrate with the folks closest in proximity to us.
This afternoon it was +7 degrees and so relatively balmy for the swim. The beach was quite cleared from the King Tide + extreme low pressure event we had last week. Some of the huge old logs and stumps that have rested on that beach for at least 25 years were lifted and moved by the storm surge from a tide that was expected at 5.0 meters but was actually recorded at 5.6 meters. That came on as a deep low pressure system passed over us with 978 mb surface pressure which accounts for the extra 60 cms of sea level. That’s a huge tide, a once in a generation beach re-arranger.
And so it seems appropriate that these subtle but generational shifts in the social fabric of our place are accompanied by one in the very marine in which we are located.
Happy New Year.