One Hundred and Forty Miles from the Interstate

One Hundred and Forty Miles from the Interstate
a regular guy

Friday, February 5, 2010


In the summer of 1971 I lived for about a month at Wreck Bay, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Getting there by land involved 80 miles of gravel road after the pavement ended outside Port Alberni. Wreck Bay was on the coast between Uclulet and Tofino, now national park but back then it was crown land, open land, so travelers camped and squatted along the bay with no control and no trouble.

The beach was scattered over with driftwood logs washed ashore from runaway logging booms during winter storms. An earth cliff rose a hundred yards back from the surf, and the forest began at the top edge. It was a thick, dark forest of man-sized ferns beneath tall trees such as a Colorado boy had never seen. It rained most of the time; the foliage intercepted most of the rain, so the dripping from the canopy never ended. Whether it was raining or not, the forest was a world of gentle endless dripping out of a grey and leafy sky.

I had made a shelter out of medium-sized logs, stacked without notching, covered over with sheets of clear plastic. The view was horizontal stripes of sand and rainy ocean. The plank ceiling was not quite high enough for standing. The place leaked a bit so I remember being damp and cold most of the time. I packed damp sand for a floor and lashed my backpack to the wall for a sort of closet. I also attached small metal mirror to one of the logs and rested a candle on a shelf the logs made. My sleeping bag was settled in the sand.

And there I had five dreams....

  • Up on the cliff in the forest was a fine large house I had never noticed before. I was at a cocktail party there among many warm, dry and well-dressed people. A man came to the party, soaked hrough, to warn us that a storm had blown in and the sea was rising. Most ignored him, even me, until I looked outside at the roaring black squall. I scrambled down the slope and across the beach through the tangle of drift-logs. The water already was above the open sand and was washing through the piled wood. It was very dark. When I reached my shack and entered, I was chest deep among waves. I had a knife in my hand and I cut loose my pack from the wall. I salvaged it, and myself, while the ocean pulled my house apart.
  • I woke in the night, and smelled something burning. There was a smoldering patch on my sleeping bag, as if I had fallen asleep with a cigarette and it had ignited the bag. I beat out the burning spot, and noticed another wisp of smoke on the wall. I smothered that one, too. Then I saw another, and another. The walls were alive with little tongues of smoke and flame. It looked like a Pentecost illustration from a catholic catechism. My house was collapsing in a slow spontaneous combustion.
  • I was walking across a featureless plain of white grit. It could have been desert sand or arctic wasteland; there was no sensation of cold or heat. I seemed to be naked. In the bright distance I could barely make out something protruding from the surface. As I approached I slowly began to realize I was seeing the peak of a house. My house.
  • I was walking across the beach, approaching my house from a great distance. A strong wind came up from off the ocean, loud and almost visible. It approached with the certainty of a shock wave, and flattened the little shack like a house of cards.

The fifth dream was of a different quality. It was luminous and calm. There was a grassy hill in view of the ocean. I was high on a ladder with a hammer in my hand, leaning against the frame of a wall. I was building a large house. It was the house I had always wanted, in a place I was destined to be. I had a lot of help. Every friend I had ever known was there; all of them were helping to build the house. There was no actual event in this dream apart from the slow progress of the house-raising. I was filled with great peace and a silent joy.

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