Located about halfway between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, Saturna Island is a small slice of paradise. Over half of Saturna Island is designated as park land – part of the Gulf Islands National Park. Every June, I am lucky enough to spend a weekend there with some amazing women, exploring the beaches and watching the waves roll in …
One of my favourite places on Saturn is East Point, which is considered one of the best places on the British Columbia coastline for onshore whale watching. It is also the site where Moby Doll, the first orca ever live-captured for aquarium display, was harpooned in 1964. A sad story but the knowledge gained from the Vancouver Aquarium’s experience with Moby Doll was a turning point in our understanding of these beautiful creatures, about which little was known and whom people feared and considered a nuisance.
The white building you see in the photo is a small museum run by the Saturna Island Heritage Committee in the former fog alarm building at East Point where visitors can learn about Moby Doll, and the history of Saturna Island.
There is something very special about the Gulf Islands. It’s a long slow ferry ride to Saturna, and as you slip away from the dock you seem to slip away from the world and exist in that perfect space between ocean, sky, trees and rocks. This year, in order to squeeze as much time as I could away from the city, I took the ferry over and then hopped on a sea plane for the very fast 15-minute flight back to the mainland and back to the every day.
Until next year …
The expression “if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes” was made for Iceland. Wind, rain, sleet, snow and sun; the weather teaching us to hang on and keep pushing through the storms, stop and enjoy the moment the sun emerges, have a Plan A but also have a Plan B,C,D and E and, most important, just relax cause it’ll all work out.
Fire and ice; cold rain and hot steam; flowing lava and frozen ice; uplifting earth and eroding water and wind and wave; beauty and terror – you are right smack in the midst of the forces of creation and destruction which are intertwined in Iceland everywhere you look.
Iceland was amazing and reminded me to be adventurous and to connect to nature in all her wild beauty. May I carry a small piece of that creative/destructive power in my heart and be reminded of what it is be fully alive always …
One of the main reasons I travelled to Thailand a year ago was the chance to see and experience the amazing presence of elephants. Before the trip, my sister and I researched different elephant tourist opportunities to make sure that the elephants were treated well. We settled on the Elephant Nature Park (ENP), near Chiang Mai. But until we got there, and heard the whole story, I had no idea that elephants in Thailand (and surrounding countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos) were abused at such a horrific level.
Part by luck, part by research, we ended up at the right place. Started by Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, the Elephant Nature Park is a place that buys and rescues elephants so that they can live out the rest of their lives free from abuse. They heal the physical and emotional wounds as best they can and give the elephants a loving home while providing visitors with an experience that raises awareness and allows an up close connection with these amazing animals.
Before visiting ENP, my sister and I talked about what it meant to visit animals that had been abused and, as in the case of elephants, where abuse continues to this day. Emotionally difficult, we made a commitment to bearing witness while there, to expressing our apology as humans through emotion, and to following up by speaking up and by sharing. That is part of the purpose of this post. To share with you these elephants, and to raise awareness that when you visit Thailand and nearby countries you know that the elephants in trekking camps (where you can ride on the elephants), and street begging, and painting pictures, have all been abused so that they will “behave”. And so that you can help share the message and educate others.
To help you to bear witness, here is a short description of the abuse and then I can share some more amazing photos. In places like Thailand, baby elephants are captured from their Mothers and Nannies (who usually die protecting them) and are submitted to the “kraal” or “crushing”. They are placed in a stall, tied up, and then submitted to beatings and other punishment until they “behave” and then they are used in the logging industry, for street begging or to carry humans (especially tourists). You can see many examples of this abuse from the photos – chunks of ears missing from beatings, knee injuries from being forced to work in the logging industry and poor eye sight or blindness from the car lights while being used for street begging.
ENP was a place where my heart broke at these sights, but filled again with love watching the elephants rescued and free from chains. While at the Park, we had the opportunity to watch the elephants, walk near them (with supervision), throw water on them in the river to cool them and make rice and banana balls for the elephants that couldn’t see to find food and feed themselves. Each elephant is cared for and watched over by a mahout, an elephant keeper who is bonded to the elephant. Some of the mahouts made carvings of their elephant, which visitors could purchase. We stayed over one night so we could hear the elephants at night and in the morning, rumbling and trumpeting to each other.
My gratitude and thanks to those who play a part in rescuing these elephants and to the educated tourists who support ENP and the related sites and programs that work to end elephant cruelty and use eco-tourism to support Thai communities.