Not long ago, I was in a remote area of BC….the Queen Charlottes, sometimes known by their real name as Haida Gwaii.
I was alone, as I mostly always am when on hikes.
The Haida Gwaii area is almost pristine, even these days, and there are huge tracts of land that are still virgin, although rather difficult to get to.
I try to go there as often as I can…the isolation from the circus that is life is truly magical there, as it is in all such places elsewhere in the world.
It’s very difficult to put into words how one feels in such places….I can only describe it as recuperative, inspiring t be in a virgin place as that…..making you think that this is what the world must have been like before the multitudes and hordes invaded the lands and pillaged everything.
Inspiring and recuperative it may well be, but for me, and this is my personal feeling, not a crusade or anything I am on….the place cries out, reeks of….something missing.
And for me, I feel the missing link, that elusive feeling I get there, is the native peoples.
Somehow, don’t please ask me how or what…..it seems that their not being there….having been forced out….seems to have left a gaping void….an invisible, gaping chasm, which manifests itself into your mind, making you almost cry with sadness at the slashing of the ties the natives had to this area.
As ever, myself and my fellow-men, call us whites, north americans, whatever…..we are charged with depopulating the indigenous Haida peoples from their lands here. They say some 90% of the Haida died from something as simple as smallpox and the common flu bug, something the Haida never had any immunity to, and which our people brought into their lands when we decided to invade.
The survivors were removed forcibly from these happy, peaceful hunting grounds and placed in just 2 villages where they live to this day.
It is, for me, a feeling of incompleteness, if there is such a word….a land barren of an essential part of it’s ecosystem shall we say….and I feel the land itself, somehow manifesting a terrible sadness at this loss….a bit like how a parent, myself being one, would feel if, for some reason or other…..I were to return home one day and find all my family gone…just disappeared into thin air, never to return…..a sick, deep grief and sadness….I don’t know…maybe it’s just me.
But let’s talk about happier things….in places like the Haida Gwaii, we can come closer than we ever will be on tis planet, to being what creation has deigned us to be…..untrammaled spirits made to enjoy the timeless stillness of that same creation itself…..as if that creative force wants to tell us…wants to show us, through places like these, that that is where it comes from, where it resides..and ultimately where it wants us to be.
Could it possibly be the reason why we so love the wilderness, the deserted coasts, where we can be and just look out towards the nothingness, the nowhere where creation itself resides? And could it be why native legends and so-called folklore is full of tales imploring us not to destroy that wilderness? Because to destroy it, like we have done already, is to destroy the abode of the force that created it and all of us, too.
There too, I had one of the most profound experiences of coincidence, synchronicity…call it what you will.
I had always looked up into the sky and many times seen a solitary eagle or perhaps a number of them, circling or soaring on the thermals from below….I had often wondered if it could be possible to catch an eagle feather in it’s fall from it’s owner, before it touched the ground….could that be possible? I asked a Haida friend of mine about this, and he in turn put the question to an elder he knew.
My friend came back many days later, with a big smile on his face, and when I asked him what he was so happy about, he told me that if I were to get hold of even a single feather from an eagle, a feather that hadn’t fallen and touched the Earth, caught in mid-air in other words, that it would a very, very fortuitous thing indeed to happen, and such a gift is classed as priceless by the Haida. This he was told by the elder.
And that is exactly what happened a few months later, when I was in the Haida Gwaii again, having forgotten all about the feathers and the eagles.
I just happened to be walking on the beach, when by pure chance perhaps, or pure synchronicity…take your pick….I looked up into the sky, and saw not one, not two, but more than 7 or 8 eagles circling around very low…I’d say not more than 150 to 200 feet in the air, and for some odd reason, there were eagle feathers falling from them!
Of course, I wasted no time in running underneath them as fast as I could, with my shirt ripped off my back and held out like a basket, catching as many feathers as possible. That night I called my Haida friend and told him what had happened, and he said we would both take those feathers to the elder and ask him what this all meant.
A few days later, we were with the Haida elder…to just be with such a person is to experience peace and quiet….a result of the peace itself that emanated from him.
He told me that I was indeed very fortunate….that this was a very great occurrence, which meant that the gods were pleased with what I had been thinking, and that great experiences would envelop me, great happiness would follow me wherever I went. And the feathers were a tangible proof from the gods…a kind of confirmation of this.
Well, being a western-minded agnostic, it was a little hard to swallow, but I respected what the elder told us, and anyway, his words of wisdom both calmed me and made me feel happier anyway!