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  • Writer's pictureeschaden


I spent the day on Anacapa yesterday, hiking, kayaking and generally exploring. I realized while doing this that there is this large need inside me to see things I have never seen before and absorb them.

I have been to the Channel Islands many times. Santa Cruz Island being my escape from life lived on the mainland. A place where I can retreat into some part of me that seems to be vacant or missing in my regular life.

I have never been to Anacapa before yesterday and was appropriately impressed with its rocky faces and dramatic coves. It was beautiful if not a little austere. And while it was similar to Santa Cruz, it was its own, distinct and different yet familiar.

The Chumash word Anacapa means ever changing, deceptive. And while I am not sure what the island looked like back then, I can see why it might be considered deceptive. I saw at least two breaks in the land masses where the ocean confluenced, looking lovely and inviting, a place that you might find yourself wanting to walk across from one spit of land to the next, but if you viewed the space long enough, you would see that while first glance might have provided you the desire, any lingering view would demonstrate a deadly seriousness that would stop you in your tracks. The ocean and land quite at war with each other in those gaps, the ocean and wind winning this ancient battle. Clearly the Chumash recognized this clash between the earth, wind and sea. And this affray would surely cause the island to be ever changing.

I could relate to Anacapa in a way that I don’t on Santa Cruz, even though I love Santa Cruz more...Anacapa being more poignant in its struggle while Santa Cruz’s land mass assures it a more stable position. Anacapa sits more precariously in itself, seeming to barely be holding on to the struggle to remain above the sea.

I can relate to that. I feel that way myself sometimes, hell, I feel that way often. Struggling to keep myself righted above all the things that clamor for my attention, time, energy and thought. While I am not an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, eleven miles off the California shore and 8600 miles from Antartica, I often do feel removed and distant from all that goes on around me. I feel sovereign within myself and often unable to reach others in a manner that seems easy for everyone else. I sit often within myself and while many occasions bring people to my shores, I remain isolated, untouched.

I can also feel the ever changing nature of myself. The deceptiveness in my interior. Open, fun loving, but afraid and distant hovering just below the surface, ready to be activated at any moment. Almost like the island itself, born of volcanic genesis, pushed forth into the world, losing more and more of itself to the elements of life daily. I can relate, I can relate.

It was odd how I felt while I was in its coastal waters...slightly at peril, yet not worried. The swamped kayakers being rescued upon on arrival setting the stage for my instinctual self preservation to be on higher alert. However, I felt, deeply that I was ok. That I would not swamp. I would not be in peril. That somehow my presence was blessed by the island, I a welcome guest to an attentive host. And I felt guided as we paddled around the dramatic cliffs and hollowed out coves. Whatever energy began there, lingered and called to me. I felt its majesty and wanted nothing more than to be a part of it for a few minutes.

I now know that while I may prefer Santa Cruz, Anacapa has my number. It gets me better, I too am constantly shifting, ever changing and deceptive in my intention, way and manner all too often. I appear welcoming from a distance, but gather yourself too close and I reveal an intentional austerity that is far less than welcoming.

Perhaps is it arrogant to compare myself to Anacapa. But I really don’t think Anacapa minds, I felt it there while in her presence, a communion of souls, beautiful yet wounded. I could feel the push and pull of ever changing landscape, a hollow beckoning to reveal a new part of myself that I kept hidden, if even only from myself.

As I rode the ferry home, I sat in quiet wonder at my willingness to connect to volcanic land masses and remain separate and apart from the humans about me. The peril of gaping caves shrouded in volcanic rock far less scary than intimate connection. I felt the safety provided by the ever changing, shifting landscape, a place that got me and welcomed me all the same. While people’s moving and shifting provides me no comfort at all, in fact, undermines my whole belief in intimacy completely.

I am sure that Anacapa will continue to teach me because though I have left her shores, her beauty and wonder, her deceptive natures follow me still, a rather pleasant haunting if you will. And I shall return to her again, to see for myself what new lessons she has to teach and me to learn. As is often in my life, I learn best from entities scarred and marred from living this life, life eroding me and all I think I know, like a crashing wave at a coastal shore.

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