My Blog__ On Ferries

May 03, 2012 | By

photo: Marilyne Blais

I think that the best place in the world is between all the places that you go. It's the bus rides I remember from the places I travel to, and those prolonged moments that seem to transcend the time, when your forehead's on the window and the sun is strobing in and out between the leaves. Your skin is warm. Sometimes the bus is kicking up dirt from a dry, dusty road and your book has just dropped to your lap. Or it's those walks that you take, when you're somewhere between the fire pit and the cabin. Sometimes on the walks someone tells you a secret.

My lifetime here in BC has been relatively short--I've lived here 4 years this week. I've come to really appreciate the character of these fleeting moments here. It's probably because of the backdrop of mountains and sea.

But throughout my life, it's always been a quiet adoration that I've had--as I'm sure many do--for the small dash between A-B. Here that means the ocean that bends around islands, mountains, the curve of the Earth, and high pigment forests. I've taken a BC ferry maybe 30 times now. Actually, it's maybe just under that, and it depends if you count both ways, which I do.

photo: Michelle Ford

What is it about ferries?

They're huge white whales, for one thing.

I love them just as much when I see them as little dots on the ocean when I am sitting on the beach, especially when it's just after sunset and the beach is rocky, so it matches the grey dusky skies and the greyish top of the Pacific.

We're usually very late for ferries or way too early. So you either have to run down that ramp, which clinks and shakes under your feet, while your bag bounces up and down against your back. Those long ramps for walk-ons are framed on the sides with thick white rails, which I notice cuts interesting geometries out of the sky behind it, especially when I'm running. Or when we're too early, sometimes we go take a seat on a dry log on the beach just nearby. There are dirty barnacles all up the sides of the looming pier. Or if you're driving, you smoke and lean against the car, which is usually warm from the drive and the sun. This always feels good on the calves.

photo: Brock Watson

Everytime I get on the ferry, we climb up the top and we pile our various bags onto a bench. They're all different colors and it can look like a quilt if you blur your vision. I sit and walk around the top deck as much as I can stand the chill of wind and the water. Last time we all sat a little closer to keep warm. When the ship begins to protude from the shore slowly, there's that trick of the eye, where you can't tell whether the landscape is moving backwards or whether you're moving forwards. That slow and soft passage through the trees and shoreline is like grazing a stranger.

Last time I was on a ferry, I saw four magazines with the sinking Titanic on the cover.

photo: Ben Marvin

The ferry curves around little bulbous islands and the wind pounds your ears. Every time my hair gets windswept, it takes a life of its own and stretches to its limits then twists all around itself. I try to resist putting my hair in a bun; the only other time this will happen is on car rides in the summer. The rest of the days and nights my hair stays quiet. I always hate it for that. But again, A-B.

photo: Ben Marvin

Undoubtedly, it's a good place for photographs. Where more majestic than huge blue water with little waves spiraling around to match lingering snow? Then there's the symmetry of the white rails-- lines and cross-hatching that cut through the photograph somwhere near the middle. The mountains flare up like wings from behind your subject and zig zag all around.

photo: Hana Pesut

photo: Brock Watson

I ask my B.C. friends if being here makes them nostalgic. I'm not a salt water kid. Everyone looks a little different when I ask, but each one of them always tell me a story. Sneaking on mickeys of vodka and drinking them up on the top - Going to the city - Missing the last ferry - shit - Sleeping in the car - spotting whales - we used take two ferries to get to my cabin, and then a little boat - Smoking a first cigarette - Yelling "dolphins" and watching tourists run with their cameras to the other side - when I was young...

Those kinds of stories.

I didn't know ferries as a child. Eastern Canada is about fresh lakes and long drives. There are causeways and huge bridges and nothing is a ferry ride away. My own nostalgia ebbs and flows over times sitting in the car on 15 hour drives to Nova Scotia. My dad and I wouldn't talk much, and I could put my feet on the dash if I took off my shoes. The roads were dead straight and every now and again we'd flip the tape over. And then over. My dad would shoot a smile my way and we'd know just how content we both were.

5 hours behind us and 9 to go. A-B.

photo: Marilyne Blais

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