Walking the Shore: Remembering Two Realities
December 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Ten years ago today - December 27, 2004 - my wife and I were about to start an early morning walk. We were in Coquitlam, British Columbia at my sister’s house for a Christmas gathering of our various families. On that most ritual-informed day of the year, gifts were opened, liquor consumed, food devoured.
Two days later, the haze of excess starting to dissipate, we decided to disappear into the early morning fog on a long walk. We descended from suburban Coquitlam, down the steep, densely wooded slope to Port Moody and the shores of Port Moody Inlet. Starting from the pier at Rocky Point Park, we wound our way along the shore, following manicured trails through damp coastal forests clothed in thick lichen and along slippery wood boardwalks barely higher than the high-tide waters they crossed. We circled the inlet from the south shore to its tip at Town Centre Park and onward to the north shore, ending at Old Orchard Park.
With its constant vistas to this salt water inlet of the Pacific Ocean, it is a remarkable trail for a normally land-locked prairie boy. Whenever I am in Coquitlam on a family visit, my day always begins with this refreshingly different trail. Two coincidences made this day’s walk memorable for decidedly unique reasons that, in the end, connected in an equally unique way.
Coincidence Number One.
Earlier that year, I had started a new art project. It involved the simultaneous taking of a walk and the taking of photographs while fully engaged in the act of walking. These images, caught at a slow shutter speed and full of messy, blurry glimpses of things I saw along the way, would be merged into one long, narrow image. A connection of the time and rhythm of a walk with that of a photograph. These walking photo projects would eventually be titled “Journeys”, the core of my Walk Project.
Without thinking it through, it occurred to me at the Old Orchard Park end point, the midpoint of our walk through Port Moody, that this would make an ideal Journey. We turned around, headed back on our return trip, camera drawn.
We continued back down the north shore, my intent being to continue the Journey back to Coquitlam. Instead, we detoured to Newport Village, the new town centre of Port Moody, for coffee. It was a detour that worked for the project and its sub-plot to weave the interplay of urban environments with the natural remnants at their edges.
Opening the glass door of the small coffee shop, its air damp with coffee breath, our eyeglasses immediately fogged, rendering us near-blind and groping our way to an open table. We sat, waiting for vision to return. Slowly the soft shape of a round table appeared, then a white rectangle set against the wood table top, then a headline.
Coincidence Number Two.
As we blissfully walked the shores of Burrard Inlet, a world away on another sea, vacationers and residents would also be relaxing on their own shoreline. Except that a more tragic event had just taken place. As the newspaper on our table came into focus, we read the headline, “Killer wave’s trail of terror”. It was our first knowledge of the devastating tsunami that crossed the Indian Ocean just a few hours earlier, crashing into the shores of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, South India and others, killing at least 270,000.
That murky, emerging headline seen through a still-fogged camera lens became the transformative image, personally as well as photographically, for this day’s Journey.
We finished our coffees and continued our return walk along the south shore. The Journey part of the trip ended on the pier at Rocky Point Park. The photos were now still and silent as we looked out to the fog-bound inlet where the water’s surface disappeared into nothingness.
That Journey became the first of three Journeys created as part of the Walk Project. Presented in the form of a hand-made accordion-folded book, the images reveal our walk from start to finish. It’s neutral title, “Walk 1: A walk with Gail along Shoreline Trail, Port Moody, British Columbia, December 27, 2004”, belies the tragedy unfolding in the book and a world away.
A complete set of pages from the book (three pages per image) and pictures of the completed book are presented below.
Keywords: 2004, books, photography, tsunami, walk
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