Thursday, October 23, 2014


Inukshuks at Rogers Creek, Port Alberni

October, 1996

Spirit in the stone,
you sing to me
of bygone centuries
and ancient mystery.
Once you sat with other Grandfathers in the fire
in times that were so close to life and death.
Water splashed on stone and in the vapors
Spirit-prayers rose upon the Old Ones' breath.
The sacred smoke carried the prayers higher -
words of trust in sustenance and seasons -
up to the Spirit-world on wings of fire,
full of a gratitude that did not ask for reasons.
You once ringed communal fires upon the common,
where families came to take hot coals away,
carried them home to light their own hearth-fires
for needed warmth to keep the dark at bay.
You have known the ocean's roar, ice floe, volcano.
You have been a temple in another land.
Water and fire and earth and ice have honed you
til now you come and fit into my hand.
You connect my heart with all that has a spirit:
all that lies upon the ground and all that flies,
the Standing People and the winged ones,
those breathing peace and those soaring the skies.
Your ancient presence speaks an untold story,
has witnessed centuries of joy and pain.
I place you back on earth in testimony
to all that passes, all that will remain.

One from the archives, kids. I have carried on a love affair with rocks and stones for a very long time. This was written when I worked at Kakawis, on Meares Island, where I took a boat to work and back every weekday. In those days, I  found heart-shaped rocks by the dozens on the walk uphill from boat to office. Those were good days.

The Lost Art of Listening to the Land

In Yellowstone Park, by Frans de Waal

White Buffalo Woman holds a sacred white calf
in her arms.
See their tears flowing, mingling,
with red blood and rain from Mother Earth,
cascading down the mountain slopes,
bouncing off cliff faces, that wear
the eyes of the ancestors,
stoic, resigned to our unceasing folly,
our refusal to wake up, to see
what is plainly before us.
Mighty river roaring through the gorge
storms the mountain pass,
trees waving their arms in distress,
Mother Wind battering the earth
with pounding rain,
a furious housecleaning,
trying to rid herself of parasites and vermin
clinging to her skin.

There is a thin keening in the wildwoods,
cries of the young and their dams,
all hungry and ever in search of a home
away from the Two-Leggeds
who stalk them to the end of their lives, 
walking ghosts with no eyes
and small, unawakened hearts.

Every inch of this earth is alive, and beautiful.
Every inch of this earth is alive, and suffering.

The pale ones wander the earth
in search of their vanished spirits.
Who will call their souls back into their bodies?

The blood of the fallen trees is on the land,
which is grieving bitterly.
The stones that receive their blood
hold strong healing for ones who know they are ill.
Hold one in your hand.
Feel, and listen, for the spirit in the stone,
the ancient memory it holds.
It will speak to you
in the language of mountains and rivers,
tell you of long-gone times upon the land,
when buffalo coloured the landscape brown
and then, so bitterly, red,
and then were gone.

The stones, the land, remembers.
Listen, for all this earth has to teach us
about being alive.

This poem was inspired by my wild ride through the mountain passes in storm, this past weekend, the faces I saw in the cliffs, the roaring rivers and waterfalls, and by reading  Tim Lilburn's wonderful Ghost Song while I was at Chris's. The way he writes about the land, and nature, just blows my mind. My poem is in response to all that reading his poem drew forth in me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Today's News

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, age 24
Rest in Peace
Globe and Mail photo

Before morning coffee,
my sister comes in to say
"Turn on the tv."

A young man serving his country,
beloved, a son, striving for honor
in his life, and purpose,
and dreaming of a future,
standing guard at the War Memorial
on Capitol Hill,
like any other morning of his working life,
is shot dead by a gunman,
who then runs into the Centre Block of Parliament,
pursued by security.
30 to 50 shots are exchanged,
till he is shot dead, in turn,
by the Sergeant-at-Arms.

Canadians are shocked,
watching emergency responders
and SWAT teams 
on our tv screens.

The madness is at our doorstep, too.
No escape, anywhere.

Two young men, at opposite ends of the spectrum,
with likely diametrically opposite pasts,
will not return home tonight.
A nation loses some
of its innocence.

for Mary's prompt at dVerse: the news. Sadly, there is only too much of it to report, on any given day. This is today's.

One Day In Autumn

“Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.” 
― Thornton WilderOur Town

One day in Autumn.......
Nekiah hand-stitched every single leaf
to make Tree Spirit costumes
for you and your friend, 
Isaac Blue Sky.

How could we know, back then,
just how precious
were those fleeting
days of grace?
Just how fast it all was
flying by?

First, you grew.
Before I knew it,
before I was ready,
you were out of the nest
and away,
living all of your heartbreaks
and hard times,
so young and heedless and rash,
my hair slowly turning
the color of silvery ash.

Nekiah is gone.
It was cancer,
Isaac Blue Sky's life,
forever fractured.

Those innocent faces up there,
those round trusting eyes
that enraptured,
those smiles that had not yet
known pain........
remind me that once,
once in autumn,
we all lived precious days
that will not,
will not ever

for Susan's prompt at Mid-Weel Motif: One day in the life..........I admit, I slightly altered a poem written in 2010 for this prompt, given I have spent the day online working on other things. It just seemed to fit.

Tofino Time II

[Here are Chris and I after the reading, basking in the glow of all the love in that room for this talented and wonderful woman. Her journey has been one that has inspired me, ever since I first met her.]

Well, of course it all was glorious, my friends. The bus trekked through the mountain pass in storm on Sunday, and everything was in motion: the vibrantly colored leaves, the clouds on the slopes, the roaring rivers, the waterfalls cascading down mountainsides and rocky cliffs, the rain battering the bus which rolled stoically through it all. My eyes feasted on the wildness of nature's fury.

But when we arrived in Tofino, the weather magically let up. The surf was reportedly wild, but we couldnt get to the beach, for lack of wheels. So on Sunday afternoon Chris and I walked down to the harbour and watched half a dozen river otters diving off the dock, climbing back up with fish in their mouths, dining heartily, as an envious heron looked on.

A fine, well-fed, happy fellow. Once he swam right under us as we stood at the window above him, and I so wanted that photo, but he was under the building before I could catch him.

This is Strawberry Island, with its cluster of floathouses and stunning backdrop.

Lone Cone in cloud

The round windows in the pub framed the outer scene so beautifully I could not resist taking these, which could grace art cards quite nicely, if one ever had time for such things.

Chris took this photo, of the vista in her neighbourhood. (Chris stays in town during the winter, when passage to the float is too stormy and dangerous.)

On Monday, the sun shone and we had beautiful skies and vistas in every direction. I took some shots from around Chris's neighbourhood. 

I went into town in the morning and poked about and, in the afternoon, we went on a short walk or two, putting in time and trying to calm Chris's nerves before her big night.

The book launch was a rousing success. It was held at the Ice House, a seafood place built on pilings over the water. Here it is, empty while we were setting up. I kept wandering out onto the dock to smile at kayakers paddling past........

and watch the play of light on the water, just before sunset. I had hoped for more sky color, but the clouds swallowed the sunset up that particular night. I was well enough content, just to be that close to my beloved ocean. I sat by the window beaming as darkness softly covered up the view.

This book, Born Out of This, (on ancient-forest-friendly paper!) is Chris's memoir, one I have long been awaiting (and nagging her to write. You're welcome, Chris, LOL.) Chris has a remarkable history,  has made an inspiring journey from childhood trauma, and has built the most amazing life for herself. She is an activist, nature lover, poet, writer and friend extraordinaire. Born Out of This is available from Caitlin Press. A fantastic read and, if you love nature writing, you will find none finer. 

Chris has had encounters with wildlife that will take your breath away, and she records what she sees around her, at her beautiful floathouse called Gratitude, in a way that magically transports the reader into those meticulously described surroundings.

There was standing room only at the reading,  to a sellout crowd of appreciative and vocally enthusiastic locals. (Tuff City audiences are very interactive, to my delight.) I saw so many friends, sitting there looking out at the water, feeling completely happy, as I have not felt in some time.

I traveled back out in storm, Tuesday morning,  and when I got home was treated to a long noisy thunderstorm. So the earth is all washed clean now.  I am trying to catch up online, which will take some time, and I am working on a poem, stirred by my visit to the home of my spirit. I am distracted by the news, as we follow events at Parliament Hill, where  this morning an armed gunman shot and killed a soldier, then ran into Centre Block of Parliament, was chased, gunned down and killed, early this morning. This is the second soldier killed in the past three days, and is so unlike the Canada we know that we are quite stunned. But given recent world events, I suppose it is not surprising that the global insanity has arrived on our doorstep.

My time in Tofino was restorative. It replenished my heart, which was in need of nurture, and injected some much-needed energy. I may need to make more frequent trips, for further transfusions.

I am a long ways away from making the rounds, but will come by and see you all as soon as I am able to. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Christine Lowther - poet, writer and 
friend extraordinaire

You know how Tofino makes my heart go pitter-pat. I am ocean-bound today, kids, to attend my friend Christine Lowther's latest book launch for her memoir : Born Out of This. This is the book I have waited twenty years to read. Yay! Can't wait to hold it in my hands.

I will be staying in style in Chris's winter digs, with a view of Tofino Harbor and Lone Cone, and can hobble happily around the village at my leisure. I will be back home, energized but yearning, Tuesday afternoon, and will make my way around the 'sphere to catch up on all I missed on my return. 

Happy days to one and all!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


She slept so soundly, smiling sweet,
when suddenly, upon her feet,
a kookaburra lit, opened his beak,
and serenaded with his shriek.

"Oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why?
Just shoot me now and let me die.
This laughing fiend stole my sweet dream
and rends my brain with his shrill screams.

"Where did he come from, tell me, now.
How did he get in? Tell me how?
But even more, I beg you, plain,
how do I get him out again?"

The birdling cocked his head, and knew
she thought him an ungainly shrew.
A tear rolled softly from his eye;
he bleeped a mournful, muted sigh.

"Oh, poor burdle, how uncouth
you must think me but, forsooth,
you startled me within a dream.
I did not want to sound  so mean.

"Do, pray tell, sing me again
and I will  list'  to your refrain."
The birdling sang, the woman beamed,
as beauteous as any dream.

Some fun for Kerry's prompt at Real Toads: to substitute words in a title and write a poem on the result. I chose "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time", and while I would rather have written about the dog, this pesky bird started rapping on my head with his beak!