David Berreby 

Day Four
Thursday, Sept. 26, 1996

Wednesday evening, after a day of paddling and hiking, I find myself wondering about the business of getting a living. The harbor seals who’ve popped up next to us now and then as we’ve glided through kelp beds, looking at us intently before vanishing back down in a coppery flash of sunlight reflecting off their rolling backs–they eat fish. The starfish–a foot across, its center and five arms traced with the beady ridges of its skeleton, cracks open barnacles with the relentless pressure of its muscles, which is why we found it in tidal rocks next to a little beach made of cracked dead barnacles. The big-leafed maple we passed this morning, an immense two-trunked monster, covers as much ground as it can with its canopy and sends out powerful roots in every direction–making a clearing so no other plants can compete with it. They call it a wolf tree, says our guide, Martine Springer. (Trees look serene to us only because our time scale is too brief for us to notice their mortal combat.)
       I make my living at the moment by scribbling in a notebook, inside a tent I pitched with a view of the sea and some tree-covered islands that I think are part of Canada. The water’s white with the light of a huge full moon; I’ll hear its rhythmic lap and trickle all night. Between me and the water is a dead tree covered with light green lichen and a few bushes, and on the ground around the tent are the cedar-colored droppings of a madrone tree. The madrone fights off boring insects and darkens the ground near it by constantly shedding bark. The jagged edge pieces curl on their edges like wrapping paper somebody threw aside.
       At least I think I’m getting my living this way. Maybe the people at SLATE have tossed me over after yesterday’s little contretemps. It seems the last island didn’t have cell-phone service, at least not anywhere near the end of the long harbor where we camped. I’m hoping this bump generated some suspense.
       And speaking of suspense, I’ve just run out of battery power on my computer. I’ll just have to continue when I return to electricity.