Political Paddle Prose

Saturday September 25, 12021 HE

Today was my first fall paddle of the year after we passed the September Equinox. Equinox comes from the Latin words aequi, which means “equal,” and nox, which means “night.” Though, it is a bit of a misnomer since the Equinox does not coincide with the equal duration of night and day. Despite the change in season, the conditions were almost summer-esk.

I set out from Locarno Beach at sunrise with my semi-drysuit fully on. It wasn’t long before I was pulling down the top half to cool off. The water was flat, and it was relatively warm out. It was too hot to have it on, and the water was calm enough that I didn’t think I would have any trouble staying on the high and dry side of my board. Below is the view from the shoreline at Locarno Beach, looking east toward Vancouver just before I set out on the water.

My first fall sunrise on the water this year.

The water was glassy, as you can see in the image below. So, you can see why I was happy to shed my upper layer shortly into my paddle. I started first paddling northeastward to take advantage of the rising sun.

Pristine conditions as the sun makes its way into view.

Here is the sun breaking through the city skyline.

City sunrise silhouette.

Originally I planned to do a short paddle to be back early as everyone in my household was rising. That failed on two counts. First, my eldest son, Elijah, was up earlier than weekend waking would warrant. And two, my wife, Annie, had messaged me to see if I could pick up a gift for a birthday party we would be attending in the afternoon. The store only opened at 09:00, so I decided to take advantage of the extra time and make my way out toward Point Grey.

One thing that I love about the morning solo-paddle is getting lost in your thoughts. The rhythm of paddling, the calmness of the often flat morning water, and the crisp morning air really let you get into a state of tranquility. I found myself mixing thoughts about my son’s school homework name origin project with my ancestral ties. Elijah was to do a presentation of what was special about his name in the coming week.

Elijah is the name of a Hebrew prophet, and in Hebrew means “Yahweh is my God”. But that’s not why we chose the name. We liked the sound of it. I also suspect that a media story around the time of our son’s birth brought the name into Annie’s subconscious. Elijah’s middle names, Jozef Michael, are the namesake of his paternal great-grandfather and maternal grandfather, respectively. As a side note, “El” is the Semitic root word for “god” and is common in many biblical names. As such, Elijah not only has a double-barrel middle name but a double-barrel reference to god in his name. I was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith but am a fervent atheist in my current religious dogma. So that was a minor reservation in our naming process. But I was swayed by the long tradition associated with a biblical name, in that it most likely will remain a strong name indefinitely.

Our other son’s name is Kieran. It is the Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Ciaráin ‘descendant of Ciarán’, a byname from a diminutive of ciar ‘dark’, ‘black-haired’. We had considered naming our firstborn Kieran, but after learning that the Gaelic Ciarán is often translated to ‘little dark one’ or ‘little dark-haired one’ we decided not to. But when our second born came out with blonde hair to our surprise and delight, we decided it would be ironically fitting to name him Kieran. His middle names are Jacques Bram. The names are tributes to his deceased paternal grandmother, Mama Kambo, and his maternal great uncle Bram, who sadly passed away from tuberculosis in infancy.

As these thoughts were rolling around in my head I realized I was approaching the World War II Coast Artillery Search Light Post(s). I have passed them before, as well as the searchlight station near Standing Man Rock (Slhx̱í7lsh) in Stanley Park (see this post for details). The timing was fitting since I was reflecting on name origins as I passed by a modern-day artifact that is a stark reminder of the histories of the great wars of the past century. I recall as a child attending Remembrance Day ceremonies in my hometown of Squamish as a Boy Scout. I remember L.C. (Minch) Minchin (see page three) leading the tribute over the various years, both at community events and at my high school.

But as a child, I always felt removed from the histories of the war. I vaguely recall conversations of who had family that fought in the war from pop-culture media and possibly even classroom discussions. I didn’t feel like I had that history. I only met my paternal grandparents when I was under the age of two, so, as a child, I didn’t have any of that experience. There was never a time where I sat on my grandpa’s, Vava’s, lap and listened to hi(s)-stories. Or my grandma’s, Moemoe’s, lap. In adolescence, I did become aware that my grandfather had been in a prisoner of war camp. Surprisingly, I didn’t clue into the likelihood of this scenario from a histo-geographical account, given my Belgium ancestry. I guess I was a bit ignorant of the histories of the wars.

It was only in adulthood that I was shocked by my father’s account of how he was born during the war, in 1942, in a makeshift bunker in Belgium. In his words, it was a “ditch”, and it was covered with bundles of sticks. I am sure the story was told to me at a younger age, but I am ashamed to admit that it only fell upon receptive ears in my thirties. I guess with parenthood there was a perspective shift in me to where the past became so much more pertinent. On reflection, it seems like such a selfish motivation, that now my parents’ stories are so much more meaningful so that I can pass them on to my own children. Perhaps the less ego-bruising interpretation would be that I am doing it altruistically to give my children their own histories. In any case, after hearing my father’s account, it left me with a thought that I have had many times over the years. If you assume that you could only be born unto one or both of your parents in order to come into existence, then I am fortunate that the war wasn’t the end of the beginning of my lifeline (or perhaps the beginning of the end?). The curious case of the counterfactual. Taking that notion further, you reading this now, are also the product of a chain of events that needed to go correctly just for you to be alive and reading this now. To the dawn of Homo sapiens likely over 200,000 years ago and back to the origins of life on Earth at least 3.5 billion years ago, to the origin of the solar system, 4.5 billion years ago, and the start of the universe, as far as we can tell, 14 billion years ago. To borrow from scientist Carl Saganwe are all made up of star stuff.

As a side, this is an interesting post by the CBC that shows then and now images of Vancouver for World War II.

And while we are on the topic of the CBC, this was a great episode on Ideas in which the Award-winning historian Margaret MacMillan delivers a lecture entitled War and the Modern World. Absolutely worth a listen.

All these thoughts were circulating through my mind as I paddled out toward Point Grey. The photograph below shows the east and west World War II Coast Artillery Search Light Posts from the water.

The World War II Coast Artillery Search Light Posts along the shore at Point Grey.

At the same time, my mind drifted off to thoughts about the Meng Wanzhou case and the recent release of the two Michaels from the People’s Republic of China. Seeing the wartime paraphernalia along the shoreline made me think of an interview I heard. And the subsequent article that I read by Graham Allison about Thucydides’ Trap. In a nutshell, Allison’s premise is that in recent history, that is the last 500 years, a rising power usurping an established power most often has occurred by way of conflict. He demonstrates that conflict has been the mode of the power shift 12 out of 16 times. This statistical probability was rolling around in the back of my head as the shoreline WWII searchlights roused my memory in light of the current events. I can’t see how China’s hostage diplomacy will in any way make its ascension to dominant force any less of a traumatic event.

Thankfully the ding of the red bell buoy in the distance brought me back into the present. I focused on the water again. Then my thoughts drifted to my whale sighting earlier in the year and my subsequent attempt to spot the whale again from the water. I searched the waterline for any glimpse of a spout. No luck, at least not today. But I did spy the Neptune wave energy testing station on the horizon, which I have seen and written about before. Then it dawned on me that I had never been all the way out to the station. I have only observed it from a distance. So I decided to make the wave station my destination. You can see it from afar in the image below.

The Neptune wave energy station in the distance.

Getting closer…

Approaching the wave energy station.

While en route to the wave energy station, I took in some of the surrounding sights. The image below is the view northwestward toward the mouth of Átl’ḵa7tsem (Howe Sound). Mount Wrottesley is the peak seen in the centre of the image in the distance on the Sunshine Coast.

The mouth of Átl’ḵa7tsem (Howe Sound).

And here is the wave energy station glimmering gold in the sunshine.

The wave energy station.

Closer to the station, I could make out the writing on the signage. It read, “VANCOUVER WAVE ENERGY TEST STATION.” If you are curious, this is where the station is. In the image below, I could see another structure that appeared to be related to the station. I decided to investigate.

The wave energy station sign.

I couldn’t figure out what this structure was or how it worked. The wave energy test station had visible pistons. I could see that the wave action of the water would move the pistons. Though, I was clueless as to what the mechanism of action or measurement would be for this secondary structure. Some birds had seemed to figure things out, at least to the point of taking advantage of a resting perch.

A part of the wave energy system, I think?

The image below is the structure as I depart, showing all four of what I think are mooring buoys surrounding the central apparatus.

The wave energy station’s addition?

I was now pressed a bit for time. And with the rising winds, it was a focused paddle back to my launch site with no time for photography. I took in the sights as I alternated twenty stroke counts on either side back to Locarno Beach.

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