Wednesday began with a meditative walk through the grassy paths of St. Luke’s, Sequim’s labyrinth. Our pilgrimage’s music team played the Gaelic hymn Morning Has Broken, inspiring deeper reflection while we walked. Ann Strickland and the other musicians then transitioned us into an outdoor morning prayer service.
Today involved a (relatively) short hike: five miles along the Olympic Discovery Trail, from Deer Park to Port Angeles’ Hollywood Beach. We traveled through a riparian zone and a coastal forest before our trail took us right to the edge of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We followed the shoreline into town. As we walked, Katharine and youth pilgrim Elena Burnett identified the plants and birds around us. We saw salmonberries, foxglove, horsetails, stinging nettles, devil’s club, cormorants, and bald eagles.
St. Andrew’s, Port Angeles hosted us today, where we enjoyed some luxurious downtime. We’ve spent most of this journey in both physical and mental outdoor activity, and quick nap in this sanctuary rejuvenated us.
We then headed downtown for more mental activity in a different type of sanctuary: the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. In the words of youth pilgrim Arden Johnson:
This portion of our day consisted of wonderfully informative and exciting activities. We dove right in to the touch tanks and connected more intimately with the local sea life. My friend Elijah Adrian especially enjoyed the tanks:
“It was fascinating,” he wrote. “I saw tiny shrimp, rubbery sea cucumbers, fractile anenomies, an elegant jellyfish. I learned that sand dollars can move, and shrimp can dart around faster than the eye can follow. Everywhere I looked there were more and more interesting creatures. Tube worms near the surface. Worms with stringy tendrils stretching across the rocks. Sideways fish. And the greatest shock of all was that all the incredible animals lived within twenty miles of the Center.”
Since the center caters to local wildlife, our group of pilgrims learned what lives in the very oceans we enjoy consistently. With the incredible opportunity to reel in plankton, we plopped them under microscopes to have a closer look and discovered that there’s way more to plankton than what SpongeBob portrays. Some were like lemon halves, some like worms, some like springs, and all microscopically small. Gaining a new perspective of the sheer quantity of other life on the planet truly opened our eyes to the impact we humans have on our environment, as an abundance of organisms thrived in even the tiniest splashes of ocean waves.
To round out the experience, our group learned directly about ocean acidification as a result of CO2 emissions, as well as the impact of plastics and other waste pollutants on our oceans. Oceans make up 71% of our planet’s surface and provide life to multitudes of species, so they clearly are an important part of the world. Our learning serves as a call to action for the future, especially in creating sanctuary from the world. We are all capable of positively impacting the world around us.
The day wrapped up with Return of the River (a movie about the Elwha Dam) and a conversation around the day’s theme of sanctuary. Pilgrims shared places where they felt safe and ways they provide sanctuary to others. We also connected our newfound sense of environmental stewardship to the story of Jonah—one of the many lessons woven throughout this pilgrimage.
We’re seeing beauty all around us. In the land, the ocean, our waystations, and one another. To see some of this beauty through Arden’s lens, here are a few of her photos from today: