Monday, September 13, 2010

One Poet's Life

Christine Lowther. Photo by Tina Norvell

The poet as a small child.

On the West Coast of Vancouver Island, on a floathouse about twenty minutes from Tofino, lives my friend, Christine Lowther. She is one of the most interesting and talented women I have ever met.

The float. Christine Lowther photo.

Chris is a true poet. You can see the poems in her dreamy eyes. Chris has three books to her credit, so far: A Cabin in Clayoquot, (memoir), New Power, (poems), and an anthology entitled Writing the West Coast: In Love With Place, co-edited and co-authored with Anita Sinner. Chris and Anita are currently looking for a publisher for a second anthology, on West Coast identities, titled Living Artfully: Reflections From the Far West Coast. Her second volume of poems, My Nature, is coming out this October.

Chris explains: "The title is meant to mean my character, as well as the nature I live in half the year. I also have an urban side to me, a punk rocker that loves dancing and clubbing and excitement. Many of the poems in My Nature also reveal how sometimes I feel quite bleak and negative, despite where I am. It's realism rather than idealism I hope."

The publisher's link to this volume describes it best at:
http://leafpress.ca/Christine-Lowther/My-Nature.htm
I plan to be at the book launch and will report back!


Chris on wheels with Attitude. Photo by Corinne Murray.


Chris is a protector of the environment, who lives to a conscientious standard that I admire greatly. When Chris requested no styrofoam on her package one day, the store clerk said, "Oh, you can just throw that away." Chris blazed back, "There's no such place as Away."
Arrest in Clayoquot. Kate Craig photo.

Christine was on the blockades in the Walbran Valley in '91, and was arrested in Clayoquot Sound in '92. She puts herself on the line for what she believes. Some of us try to do this. Chris succeeds. (Here Chris interjects in capital letters: "Sherry, remember you were at the blockades too!")
Here is a photo of the Eik tree, as printed in the Alberni Valley Times under the heading Ancient Tree Wins Reprieve. Photographer Ron Shaul took this photo for The Province newspaper in Vancouver. The caption says: "Tofino tree activist Chris Lowther is dwarfed by 800-year-old cedar."

This lovely old giant, the "Eik" tree, was in danger of being felled by developers several years back because it was considerd "unsafe". Chris went into action. "All I did," she says,"was block the huge chainsaw long enough for two guys to climb the tree. They set up camp there for 35 days." The media took an interest. The end result: Eik was saved. "It is important to say what a travesty it was to have to go to such lengths to save a single tree in a Biosphere Reserve, especially after the blockades. Eik is now encased in metal to make it "-safe-", but this is surely better than a stump. Because it's 800 years old."

Old grandfather Eik today. Photo from the archive at ten-thousand-trees.blogspot.com


I admire everything about this woman.

Chris's other wheels: photo by Warren Rudd

Chris is the youngest daughter of the late celebrated poet, Pat Lowther, whose work is still vibrantly alive.

Photo of Pat Lowther obtained from library.utoronto.ca

Since the 1997 publication of Time Capsule, a volume of poems found years after her untimely death in 1975, Pat's work has enjoyed a resurgence. This past June, Chris was invited by the League of Canadian Poets to sit on a panel in Toronto celebrating what would have been Pat Lowther's 75th birthday.

Moon jellies: photo by Christine Lowther


Note the photographer's reflection in the water. Photo by Chris Lowther.

The annual Pat Lowther award for poetry was awarded at this event as well. In her mother's honor, Christine gave a presentation: In Celebration of Pat Lowther: A Daughter's Collage. Here is an excerpt from that offering:

"I didn't know my mother wanted to live on a houseboat until after I was living on one myself. There have been numerous little coincidences like this that tend to give me goosebumps. Sometimes I indulge in imagining everything has been somehow lined up for me. That in fact I'm living this privileged life to carry on her dreams, and that my life is a life she would have loved. Of course, she was urban-based and thrived that way; I sometimes fancy, after living in a village of less than 2000 people for 18 years now, that I am living not just for myself but for her too, because now is the first time I've considered spending part of each winter in a city. As well as offering pursuits my little town cannot, seasonal urban sojourns may be a route to feeling closer to her.

A river otter visits the float. Photo: Chris Lowther.

I wish she were here, that her tenure as chair of the League had not been interrupted, that she could visit me at my floathouse and write about the wonders she would have seen there every day: from mink, martens, otters and bears to jellyfish, sunflower sea stars and dendronotids. She should have been allowed to live. She should have been allowed to write.

By celebrating the poetry of Pat Lowther, we take affirmative action. As my sister [Beth Lowther] wrote so eloquently in Time Capsule (p.19): "...we send out these poems, her words which he tried to take away from us, her voice which will not be silenced. We lift this stone from the water and let it taste the sun again, we send these words back to the world".


Bees on daffodil at the float. Photo by Chris Lowther.


This past spring, a comprehensive volume,The Collected Works of Pat Lowther, edited by Christine Wiesenthal, was published. The voice of this poet lives on today as strongly as ever. And her daughter's voice is growing stronger by the year.

Christine lost her mother when she was only seven. This event of course affected Chris profoundly. But she weathered through the pain of her young womanhood, emerging as a dedicated and persevering poet, who writes through all the stresses and insecurities of daily living.

I admire her work more than almost any other living writer. I told her how much I admired her perseverence with writing. I asked her how she does it.

"I'm a grumpy bitch when I don't have time to write, and some poets don't make pleasant people, and I don't have kids, which helps." Isn't she cute when she's grumpy?

I love Chris's writing. But I also love and admire the woman. Chris has worked through a harsh beginning, emerging as a strong and vibrant character. Here is a glimpse of the life she lives from early spring to late fall.


This is Chris's morning commute: (photos by Chris Lowther)




I so envy her immersion in the natural world for half the year. She drifts off to sleep at night and wakes in the morning to the gentle lapping of the waves, to the eagle's cry, to the sight of morning mist wrapping itself around the pines.


Cozy indoors. Chris Lowther photo

She communes with hummingbirds, with herons, with plants, with sea life. Look at these, all taken by Chris (and grown by her!):








Sometimes she has visitors: a marten, a seal, a river otter, the occasional bear lumbering along the shore. Sometimes the bay fills with moon-jellyfish. I know it is magical to boat out of the bay through their millions of bodies, for I have done it.


Photo by Chris Lowther

In 2002 Anne Henderson made a film called Water Marks about Chris and Beth's lives, reflecting on their mother's life and untimely death. It can be found in libraries and from the National Film Network.

When the book launch for My Nature is held in Tofino in October, you can be sure I will be there to applaud this persistent and dedicated poet.

It is too easy, when life is busy, when one has to work to survive, when energy and time are limited, to let the writing slide, to put it off, to say "I'll do it later." I can hear Chis saying, in my ear, "There is no Later! Write it now!" And, at my advanced age, I have to agree.


Storm at the float. Winter storms are the reason Chris can't live on it year round. Chris Lowther photo.


Taken by Chris from her kayak.


Christine is a marvellous, complex, unique, vibrantly alive, extremely talented poet, who lives as creatively as she writes, with as punctilious attention to detail. Read her - you will be blown away. Honestly.

View from her home, taken by Chris Lowther. Beautiful.

8 comments:

  1. You have to watch out for poets. Especially female poets. Especially red-haired female poets. They're all off the rails, that what I heard. ;-)

    I loved the connection she clearly feels with her poet mother, despite her being taken away too soon. I'm always drawn to hearing about connections like that, maybe because my own mother and I have always been oil and water. Her reaction to my poetry: "oh...you're still doing that?"

    I like the otter!

    Okay, Missy, you are now on my blog list on my sidebar, so I never miss any exciting episodes! So, welcome to my little rogues' gallery. :-) (rouguettes?)

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  2. Oh, this is so well done, Sherry!! What a fascinating blend Ms. Lowther sounds...part punk rocker, part child of nature, and all round passionate crusader who embraces joy each and every day. You’ve definitely painted a vivid picture of a life well lived, filled with creativity, and enjoyed thoroughly as a life should be!

    I will definitely look into her poetry, and will reread some of her mother’s work, too. It was a wonderful idea to weave the poet’s own photos throughout the article…lends it intimacy, as if we were friends invited to tea who settled in for a chat and lingered to enjoy the good company!

    A beautifully written piece…one poet to another, one heart to another. That was just a joy to read…thank you, Sherry…:)

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  3. what a grand tribute to your friend, sherry! poetry can indeed make a difference in this world and your friend has shown that. she is an inspiration. :)

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  4. I love the goosebumps of finding similarities between her Mom's life and hers. She sounds like an amazing spirit, full of passion and fight! What an inspiring force!

    Happy you two know each other; Someone I can see you both influencing each other!

    Write now~xXx

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  5. Wow, what a life and legacy...I am truly inspired by Chris' life and look forward to reading more of her work...Excellent biography, Sherry. Thank you so much for sharing your insight into this amazing person with me (us).

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  6. I'm so glad you all got to meet her. She's a great gal! I had to twist her arm to let me write about her:) I so enjoyed writing this piece!

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  7. Hi Sherry, I read this again and can understand why she would be your favorite poet and a favorite person. What a beautiful area she lives in. I do admire a person who really stands up for what he/she believes in. It is obvious that she does that. Thanks for resending me the link!

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I so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.
Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!