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This Living Rock Island

Our little island at right, the lights of Sidney in the distance. A near full moon. Picture taken July 3 at 2:34 a.m.

In the dark, it’s a haunting presence, this island to the southwest off the prow of our property. I often see it in the moonlight, in the early morning hours of a bake day. Silent, permanent, the waves washing, polishing its barnacled rocks. Or cragged and variegated in the open light of day.

We’re just east of Craddock Beach, South Pender, and whenever we look towards Sidney, there is the island, floating in our little bay.

It’s properly a peninsula; you can walk out to it at low tide. It has no name on the maps, but it’s most striking at high tide, when the currents of Boundary Pass swirl and eddy around it. Or during the autumn storms when huge waves batter it, sending towers of foam cascading over top.

A favoured place for birds

It’s a spot for birds in quieter weather. A pair of eagles, a solitary heron, or, when there is feed in the water, a hundred gulls or more.

Eccentric black oystercatchers sometimes take up residence there, laying their eggs in a rocky crevice. When the seagulls or eagles pillage the eggs, the oystercatchers circle the island relentlessly screeching out their loss, or horror, or fury.

Once, when swimming off our rocks, a pair of them flew right past me at high speed towards the rock. They weren’t more than 10 feet away, and I swear I could feel the wind on my cheek as they passed. They almost disappeared into the shadows and seaweed on the island. Their long red bills were all that showed me where they were.

An osprey appears in the summer months, circling over the island and beach. When something catches its eye below — a small fish or a crab — it stops mid-air, arching itself almost vertical, wings flapping madly. It hovers a few seconds, then makes a dramatic dive right into the shallows. Splash! Hoping to grab something squirming and alive in its talons or hooked beak.

We’ve seen seals sunning on the low rocks and, once, an enormous sea lion.

Google map image of the rock at low tide.

As the tide falls, a pathway opens up from Craddock Beach and before long you can easily walk out to the island. The tiny pebbles are flecked with bits of seashell, suggesting the presence of an ancient midden. Possibly a resting point for indigenous peoples passing through in their boats to the more sheltered waters of what we now call Bedwell Harbour.

A place for picnics and interlopers

Summer visitors are drawn to the island. Families and groups of “interlopers” clamber to the top and have picnics and explore the tidal pools and crevices. There are audible whoops and applause when a pod of whales are spotted in the summer months.

The island is empty most of the winter, and when the whales go by, then, only a few neighbours watch from their living room windows with binoculars.

From the summit of the island you can see Mt. Baker, rising like a magnificent deity on the eastern horizon. The San Juan Islands are there, too, to the south: Orcas, Waldron and Stuart. Strangely, the northern coasts of these islands show little sign of habitation. At night the Turn Point Lighthouse on Stuart keeps night ships away, and the red flashing lights on the summit of Orcas wards airplanes away from the radio towers.

On July 4, American Independence Day, you might see three or more fireworks displays across the southern horizon. Freighters, oil tankers, sail boats, yachts and automotive carriers pass by, many each day. We haven’t seen cruise ships in months! Those brightly lit floating cities have all but shut down until further notice.

The living waters

This small, anonymous rock, this tiny island defines the landscape and provides sustenance and home to sea life.

The waters around it are fluid, in constant motion. They seem alive to a careful watcher against the solid stillness of the rock. They scrub the ocean floor, feed the beds of bull kelp and eel grass, pass through the gills of salmon and ling cod.

The waters run swiftly past the rocks and landforms, swirling, bubbling, thrusting. And sometimes they enter the bay for a brief pause, a respite in the lee of our little island. They quiver and rest there a while before being pulled back out into the currents and the rougher, faster world of Boundary Pass.

This living rock island, rises out of the Salish Sea, yet is bound to the earth, permanent, alive and eternal.


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#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries

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