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PEI’s iconic Anne of Green Gables never looked so good …

I’m traveling and enjoying the postcard scenery of Canada’s Prince Edward Island this week.

And as always, I’m reminding myself to look for some meaning, some deeper reality that doesn’t just dust the surface. There’s more than meets our eye everywhere in life, but you have to keep your brain tuned to the vibrations.

PEI is the iconic home of author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s red-haired urchin orphan, Anne of Green Gables.

And since it’s not yet true tourist season, there is a delicate stillness on the island like when dark clouds lie on the horizon waiting to lay havoc and siege the barricades. There’s an inevitability to it.

The island’s endless, quiet roads are lined both sides with red-clay coloured fields that, like great crimson seas, roll into the far off distance to meet the horizon.

It’s just days, maybe minutes even, before potatoes will be planted and so the long-as-airport-runway fields have all been vacuumed and tidied, looking their best before the tractors come out to lay down and bury the seed of another season’s promise.

Crispy potato chips and hot salted french fries are an oasis mirage in the distance that will become reality in just a few months before another snow cover lays it all to bed.

But aside from the red hair and similarly red-soil waves of potato-growing fields, there is a long-time-gone memory for me that lays uncomfortably beneath the covers of the bed on which I lay here in PEI.

Maybe you’ll think it strange, but 32 years ago, I was a young newlywed enjoying PEI’s Cavendish Beach, when on a blazing bright, summer afternoon, in view of the azure waters and pillow-soft sand dunes, I was a victim of sexual molestation.

Me, a man. Me, an adult man.

After coming out of the salty crashing surf, I retreated over the hot sand dunes to the back edge of the beach and entered the mens’ outdoor change room to get back into my shorts and T-shirt.

One other fairly rotund fellow, late 20’s, maybe early 30’s, and I chatted about the beautiful weather and where we had travelled from. It was a pleasant interaction although it seemed a smidgeon strange that he was lingering in the change room just to chat. He was fully clothed and ready to leave from the moment I entered.

I stripped down to shower off the salt ocean residue. Chattering sounds of songbirds flittering in the small pine trees outside played through the walls.

I was back to a state of semi-dress when he approached me quietly from behind and wordlessly clasped a hand over my underwear-clad genitals.

His other hand held my shoulder in a tight vice-like grip. Even today, I can still feel the pressured squeeze of his strong, meaty hand on my shoulder.

It was a moment of total surprise and shock, like the minutes after an unexpected car accident when the world takes on a surreal quality. Nothing looks the same suddenly, and everything bogs down in a slow-motion muddle. I felt like a man going over a waterfall with no lifejacket.

You know, I spent a long time after wondering if I had given off some vibe that said I was interested.

I had shown no signs of sexual excitement… None.

If anything, the chill Atlantic waters had given to me what George Costanza of Seinfeld-fame once famously described as “severe shrinkage”.

So what in the world made this dude think he could place his hands on my junk?

Honestly though, I wasn’t thinking about any of this when I pushed him away in anger and shock. I quickly grabbed my belongings and, underwear-clad, I exited the change room, stopping only in the outer doorway to pull on my shorts.

Yikes … All I needed was for a little girl to be standing at the outside entry as I rushed out in my underpants. How ironic would it be if I was charged by the local authorities with indecent exposure and sexual harassment of a minor?

I wandered around for a few minutes in an angry, fuming haze, trying to decide if I should follow up with the police.

Momentarily, I even considered grabbing my firewood-chopping axe from the yellow VW camper van and exacting a violent revenge with the blunt side of the axe head.

As my heart rate lowered, I took the easy – perhaps cowardly – decision to do or say nothing. I think my hesitation in reporting the occurrence to the police was that they would laugh at me for being such a wuss. It felt like it would be telling the teacher about Johnny tripping Mary in the playground… No one wants to be a little snitch.

I eventually returned to the van in the beach’s parking area and my new bride and I drove off for more of life’s adventures.

……………..

I’ve thought about the PEI event many times in the intervening years.

Not about the damage that had been done to me (for there really was none), but the potential for some other, less physically-capable person to defend themselves against an attack.

Truly, I don’t think I was in any REAL danger from the guy. But the next victim might not be so lucky. What had I done to protect a future fellow in need?

……………

As I stare out the window of the rented van at the orange-pink sun ball going down over the ocean on the north shore of this bucolic little island, this island of red sand and red soil and red Anne of Green Gables hair, I’m thinking quietly to myself.

No matter how beautiful a scenic vista … a day … a woman, there exists a subtle danger in seeing only its surface beauty.

The ocean is delightful on its lightly rippled surface, but deadly in its roiling undercurrents.

The blazing sun is warming and healing, but consumed to excess leaves a painful, stinging reminder of its power.

A beautiful woman, or friendly man, despite a placid, unthreatening demeanor may harbour darker thoughts that lead us into unsuspected danger.

I gained a love of the simple, aching beauty of this Prince Edward Island 32 years ago. Little has changed here over the years since then… the friendly people, the wonderful seafood, the amazing farmlands.

But long ago, in the warm sands of Cavendish Beach, I left behind just a few grains of my young man’s innocence and naivety.

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