In the stillness I realize that the past two years have felt like running on a treadmill that’s slightly too fast. Pregnancy, postpartum, the wild ride of baby’s first year, finding childcare, returning to work: COVID has added an extra layer of difficulty to these rites of passage and isolated new parents from their “village” — a concept that for many western families was already notional at best. Reminders to practice self-care are everywhere, particularly if, like me, you turned to social media to build some semblance of a virtual village. But when you’re in the thick of motherhood and career-building, “self-care” can often feel like just another box to tick — one that can be indefinitely deferred in favour of more important obligations.
This, then, feels like the height of luxury: to fill my eyes with a beautiful scene for as long as the daylight lasts, and know that the most complicated decision I need to make tonight is what to eat for dinner at the resort’s West Coast Grill. Once again, I sleep through the night.
The mental clutter recedes even further into the background as I round the island. I lose cell service a few kilometres outside Sooke. It’s just me, the 4Runner, and as many trails as I can explore before dark. I walk through the fog to the tip of Whiffin Spit. I check out Sheringham Point Lighthouse. I hike the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail down to Mystic Beach, stopping every few metres at first to take wide-angle photos of the towering cedars. As the trail becomes steeper and muddier, I stash my camera in my backpack and focus on putting one foot in front of the other, careful not to trip on the tangled roots. It’s hard work in this unfamiliar body, but it feels good. Close to the beach, I pass a family on their way back up — dad and coltish pre-teen son stomping effortlessly up the stairs, mom bringing up the rear, red-faced and breathing hard. “This is the pace I go at now,” she calls out. I relate.
In Port Renfrew, I hike to Botanical Beach for low tide. It’s dusk, and cloudy; the anemones in the tide pools are still curled in on themselves. Each pool is a little world unto itself, and for the hundredth time I think Marcus would love this, not with regret, but with excitement for all the amazing things we’ll discover together as he grows.
I check my steps for the day: 16 kilometres, a post-pandemic personal best. I subside into the private oceanfront hot tub at my Wild Renfrew cottage, filled with the satisfaction of a challenge met.