TOFINO, British Columbia: Greedy, I want to glimpse the surfers' Tofino, that sanctuary of clear purpose and cold water ... Karen and I decide to climb Sunset Point. Maybe the high vantage will make sense of the slop.
We duck low beneath branches on the path, tripwired by roots. We emerge onto the headland, all raw, jagged rock. Below surge the breakers in distinct ranks. A scrim of white-water lace trails after each pulsing wave.
I find a bench and face the gale. Quite simply, I miss weather, the raw and urgent slap of it. A metropolis softens those blows with double-panes and 24-hour supermarkets: the essentials rarely require a dousing in Seattle.
Here rain scours my cheekbones, puddles under my fleece and Gore-Tex. I can't surf these waters, but I can still let them wash over me.
Then the Pacific rises with a last roar: foam gusting 20, 30, 40 feet to slap down my city-slicker pretensions. I flinch, unable to gaze the storm in the eye. Retreating, I glance over my shoulder. In the mouse-gray light, shading already to plum at 4 p.m., I spot the boards, like leaves adrift, far below.
My weedy voice doesn't carry above the wind, smashing us into the cliff's cutting edges. But her gaze follows my outstretched arm and her eyes widen.
And so we watch them, the surfers of the Wild Rim, until the sun slips onward ... to Hawaii and Japan and Australia.