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Locarno Beach, Vancouver, by Pat Ajello

October 22, 2009

179999863_72add86a91It is August 16th, 8:40 p.m., the sun already slipping into the Strait of Georgia. Eight fishers, strung out along the curving shoreline, have tossed out their fragile nets for smelt.

Turning to the west, I am immediately struck by a scene familiar from photographs in a thousand National Geographics, from the pages of countless books, magazines, television documentaries, from beaches across the continents, from islands, lakes, rivers, estuaries, oceans. The skies at sunset may differ, as may the nets, the beaches, the fishers themselves. Yet the timeless tradition of ordinary men gathering a modest sustenance from the sea endures.

The western sky is striated with blue-grey cloud and, high above us, with the pinks, reds and pale yellows of the afterglow. The forested peninsular of Point Grey to the south and the gentle slope of Bowen Island to the north are etched against the sky, but the water, the shimmering water, is a scintillating silver sheet, puckered, rippled, like crumpled foil. Silhouetted against it, waist deep in the water, the fishers stand, momentarily frozen, each caught in a gesture distinct from his neighbour. Gradually they begin to shift, to lift an arm, to shield eyes, to bend to a net. Now they no longer resemble the page of a book, a still photograph, a scene painted on canvas.

I am glad I have no camera. The scene will remain captured and held in my memory for as long as I retain a mind to recall it.


Photo courtesy of Szymek S.

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