Thursday, September 30, 2010

On Equality

Image from

[posted for Think Tank Thursday at Poets United]

I fully and
in my
soul of souls
and in my
heart of hearts,
that one human being
is of equal worth
to every other.
That one baby born
is a miracle,
is a matter for
to every mother,
as is every
brand new

When I meet you,
I will
look into your eyes,
will smile,
will see you as
a fellow
human being.
I will look into
your heart,
see your goodness
shining there.
I will not see
any "differences"
of skin,
for I know
we are
all kin.

I will be
not scornful
of your poverty,
or your addiction,
or your brokenness.
I will rejoice in
your striving,
your courage,
your smile,
your talent

But am I "there"
to forgive
the redneck
and the racist
for their 
in the way
they talk?
Not yet.
I fear
there is
much more
of the roadway
I still have to walk.

I can indict
the world :
until this
little child
has food
in his stomach,
and  can
go to school,
and have a life,
is simply
a lofty concept
unrelated to
his strife.

But what am I
doing about it?
I contribute
scant dollars,
but could do
so much
too broke,
too busy,
I care,
I grow outraged,
but the passion
does not
make up for
the world's
indifference to
his sorrow.

The little fellow
is still
waiting for
some food
to fill
his cup.
He's getting
he's starting
give up.

The problem is
too big;
it is
too simple.
Too many people
do not have
and there is
'tween lives of ease
and lives so tough.

But equality
of worth?
Oh yes,
at each
new birth.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's All About the Love

It turns out Jasmine's injury is serious - a cruciate ligament rupture - that is the big ligament within the knee socket (on her rear right leg), so with its padding gone, every step she takes, the bone plates rub against each other, causing severe pain.

Surgery is needed. I have few resources. Between a rock and a hard place right now, as I gather information, and wrap my brain around the path ahead of us. Best case scenario, it can be done locally, will be successful and she faces a very long recovery period of at least a year. Worst case scenario, a specialist has to do it down-Island, she has the surgery and then blows her other knee from putting so much weight on it.

I was not expecting such a shock and there was a moment in the vet's office when I thought I might lose both my dogs this year. That's when everything started swirling and going black and they had to revive me with water and cold cloths.

But this little dog......innocent and trusting, and so undeserving of what has happened to her, in pain and hobbling.......this is the face she turns to me, this is the smile she gives. She is a gallant little dog, and she is  all about the love, every minute.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Potential Dancer

He called himself
a Potential Dancer,
but his footstep
was not light.
He spoke of "vigilance",
was always on the alert
for attack.

How could a vigilant
potential dancer
and a stardreamer
find any connection?

Everyone is such
a complicated mixture
of experience,
and heartbreak,
each one
so cautious,
so defended.
How to step
outside the box,
yet be careful not to step
so far outside
you're swinging
from the chandelier?

From below,
I observed him


The chasm between
our financial realities
would have had
to be bridged
by a kamikaze
bungee jump
I am too old
and far too
to attempt.

We spoke of
the path,
of wellness,
of walking the talk.
Yet in the next breath
he attacked the
with judgment
and venom.

Yes, he was just
another wounded
on the path,
transforming his
into a shield
so he will
never again
be undefended.

Nor will I,
antenna attuned
to detect red flags
with the swiftness
of a gazelle,
and as fleetly gone.

My tolerance,
I think,
for judgment
and aggression
and vitriol
is nil.

I cast my vote
for humility
-for humanity-
when speaking of
the disenfranchised,
the addicted,
the ill, the broken,
the impoverished,
the alone and
the forgotten.

We pass
like two frigates
in the channel:
a nod,
a wave,
and continue
to our various

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Half-Full Cup

Sunrise over the inlet, in Tofino

"The day you can be grateful for every single trifle in your life, for the moving train, for the water than runs down a tap when you open it, for the light that comes on when you press a switch, for clean sheets on your bed.........your heart will be filled with a deep contentment and with almost continuous joy. The secret of being always joyful is to be always grateful." So said Anthony De Mello in Sadhana: A Way to God.

So, this Monday, still suspended in the middle of Jasmine's unfixed injury and waiting for the vet to call, I hauled out my gratitude book, to write down a few reminders that this, too, shall pass (hopefully today!), and that life is much more than the situation in which I find myself.

Today I am grateful :

that there is a vet to call who will soon ease my dog's pain

for gray clouds moving across a silver sky, and the rain that is turning this valley green again

for the sound a creek makes dancing over round, glistening stones

for laughter - the cackling black humour of women on the edge

for my daughter's amazing poem, followed by her incredible piece on Kindness at

the loving brown trusting eyes of both my dogs

the memory of the anticipation that ripples through a crowd as the conductor raises his baton, the slicing first notes of the violins, my heart winging across the ceiling to dance among the notes

the scent of my pineapple candle, wafting through the room in competition with the Nag Champa incense, my favorite

Sunrise. Sunset.


the remembered sound of the waves, and how that sound feels a part of my consciousness

this small home of mine that wraps around me like a cocoon

this blog, and the amazing community of creative souls, who visit me here and whom I visit, who have become my friends. I am grateful for each one of you!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Overloaded at Dogs R Us!

I have been distracted and not feeling up to posting or taking part in Poetry Pantry this weekend, though I enjoyed reading everyone's postings very much - it was a good distraction. I already was having trouble with Pup's failing health, which seems to have triggered some other feelings of grief I can't quite put my finger on. But now Jasmine, my other fur critter, has an injury, and until she gets back in to see the vet and is feeling better, I am having a hard time focussing on much of anything else.

Her injury was caused by the special needs teen I provide respite for, when he continued to repeat behavior I warned could result in hurting her  until, sure enough, he managed to fall on top of her. He is six feet tall, and emotionally around nine years old. I can't get the sight of him out of my head, as he stared me straight in the eye while he lowered himself over her, one leg on either side of her, deliberately defying my repeated demands that he not do that.

At first I hoped it was a pulled muscle or something that would right itself. Then I called the vet and they couldn't get her in for too many days. Finally the day of the appointment came and  I DID take her in, but it was hard for the vet to determine exactly what was going on, and she examined the left hip, not the right. Yesterday it became clear, it IS her right hip, which is quite possibly dislocated. I can only imagine the agony she has been in and I am just sick about it. Sick that this need not have happened, had the kid simply respected my wishes as to how I want my dog treated in her own home. Sick that I wasn't more forceful in making him stop. Sick that Jasmine is paying the consequences for him refusing to listen (to anyone, not just me). And sick that my entire summer of work can be wiped out, financially speaking, by this one event, leaving me with vet bills it could take me all winter to pay.

It makes me question the status quo. I do not want to continue in an unsustainable situation. I have to quickly find some alternatives. But first, I have to get my dog better.

So I have been rather a wreck for a few days. I will feel better tomorrow morning, when I can call the vet, arrange to have Jas seen ASAP, and hopefully when they can return her to comfort once again.

On the other side of that, hopefully my equilibrium will return. It isn't often my positive mindset falters. When it does, I don't enjoy the feelings of queasiness and disequilibrium. This weekend is almost over though, and tomorrow morning will come. I will insist she be seen, this has gone on too long.

Will keep you posted.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Peaceful Valley

The autumn rains
have come.
Salmon are leaping
and splashing
in the swollen river.
The water
has risen
to the top
of its topmost bank,
lipping bushes and roots
through the heat
of summer.

Down the
ancient path
in the
the waterfall
gushes again,

Gray clouds
and brood
atop the hills, 
and all across
the fields and
rolling meadows,
green has
once more
to the
peaceful valley.

To Understand a Swan......

"To understand a swan,
one must learn
how to cry,"
my son says,
the words
Such truths sprinkle
his conversation,
attuned as he is
to a higher
than the
rest of us
can hear.

And these days,
I am very close
to tears.
I can't put my finger
on it.
Yes, my old dog
is failing,
but it is
something more.                  .
Am I grieving
my life's
all the losses
gone before?
Each loss
for all
the others.
A wave like a
jet plane
knocks you 
it nearly
You tumble
on the ocean floor
a while
in pain,
wondering if
ever get
back up
But when
the wave
draws back
its lip
once more,
you arise
with luck
much stronger
than before,
even more wise,
there was
much more
love and joy
than the

Perhaps I'll
soon converse
with swans,
look in their
opaque eyes,
and finally
what this
on which
I stand
is trying
so hard
to make me

Friday, September 24, 2010

Once In Autumn........

Once in Autumn.......
Nekiah hand-stitched
every single leaf
to make Tree Spirit
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
the color
of silvery ash.

Nekiah is gone.
It was cancer.
And Isaac Blue Sky's
life has been

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

More on Betty.....

Over a hundred supporters were present at the peak of the rally outside the Vancouver Court House on Wednesday morning, before Betty went in to face the judge.

Monika Markovici sent out this statement to Betty Krawczyk's supporters yesterday:

"Thanks all for a great rally, great speakers and  so much support for Betty in the standing room only courtroom.

Betty presented her arguments with dignity and passion, and the judges seemed to show interest in her arguments.

We were left with the words "Judgement reserved" at the end of the day. We will advise as soon as we get word of their decision."

This sounds a bit more hopeful, folks! Will keep you apprised.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Stairway to Heaven

There is a Stairway to Heaven tree
deep in the forest
where I used to live.
It fell on its side
years ago
and lies along
a gentle rise
so that you can
walk up it
like a stairway
to the stars.
Its trunk is so thick,
you stand high,
looking down
at the forest
and upwards
at the sky.

I miss that tree
this morning,
like another country
I once visited,
another lifetime,
more real than this one,
that I just can't

Monday, September 20, 2010

You know you're getting old when.......... have your pharmacist's phone number memorized, and can't remember your childrens' :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Are You Freaking KIDDING Me?

[Betty Krawczyk, as photographed for the Vancouver Sun by Ian Smith. In this photo Betty was behind bars, unbeaten and unbowed:) The caption above the photo reads: One of B.C.'s most political of prisoners, and underneath the piece is captioned: Behind Bars With a Romantic Warrior]

I must say, I have the most amazing friends! When I look around at my life's real wealth, it is my friends, all of whom are golden, all of whom contribute something breathtaking to this old planet of ours, in our desire to save it.

Betty and I were among the founding members of the Clayoquot Sound Writers Group. At that time, early '90's, Betty was grieving the death of her beautiful daughter, who was a dancer, from cancer, and helping to care for her grandson, Julian. Betty was a fiery, passionate, fun-loving woman, who always brought down the house at our gatherings by doing the best self-taught boogy-shimmy ever danced by a septuagenarian (now an octogenarian!)

She has an irrepressible spirit, and has had a most colorful and interesting life, which she wrote about in her first book: Clayoquot: The Sound Of My Heart. Her subsequent books are about life in prison (where of course she advocated for the rights of the women incarcerated with her). The titles are pure Betty: Lock Me Up or Let Me Go, and Open Living Confidential From Inside the Joint.

In her lifetime, she raised eight children. She hailed from Mississippi, where early on she was an activist for civil rights. This grew to include human rights, workers' rights, women's rights. You name it, any cause Betty came across, she worked hard for, with a passion for righting wrongs that seem self-evident to all but the powers-that-be.

She had moved to Tofino, where she lived in a small cabin a distance by boat from the village, with the intention of retiring after an active and busy life. But one morning, she stepped out of her cabin to see the mountain behind her had slid down its slopes in the night, due to clearcutting then going on in the Sound, literally on her doorstep. Her heart became fired with the need to do what she could to stop the insanity.

At the time of the article accompanying the above photo, Betty was incarcerated for protesting at the Elaho Valley. She was given a 67 day sentence for defying a court order prohibiting environmental protests in the Elaho. (What happened to freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest? Dunno.) She refused to sign an undertaking not to return to the area, which would have allowed her out of prison. But she knew, in conscience, she could not honor it.

Betty's first arrest was in Clayoquot Sound. She has spent two and a half years in prison for "previous contempt convictions stemming from anti-logging protests." Then she served ten months, at age 78, for "civil disobedience", peacefully protesting the Eagleridge Bluffs development.

After leaving Tofino, Betty went to Victoria and founded the Canadian Party of Women. I would have so loved to see Betty as premier of this province. It is our loss that it didn't happen.
At age 80, Betty ran as candidate for Mayor of Vancouver. When asked by a journalist what she thought her chances of winning were, Betty responded in true Betty fashion: "I'm aready a winner. I was conceived. The odds against that are one in a million. That makes any other odds look pretty good, doesn't it?" My gal Betty!

Here is an excerpt from about the coverage of Betty's trial on the Eagleridge Bluffs charges, when Betty spoke in explanation of her actions:

But Krawczyk had another point to make that was far more principled than either personal or legal . “[I]n a very real sense,” she said, ”this trial is not about me. It’s about an awakening human consciousness, a consciousness that wants to do things differently, that wants to be healthy, and that wants a healthy planet.” She went on to speak of the “decomposing” planet due to climate change, of ecologies that are being “cut down, burned out, dug out, or hacked to death for profit”, of the cancer epidemic, the collapse in sperm count, and — as the ultimate indignity to a great grandmother — that “human breast milk has become the very most polluted human food on this increasingly chemically polluted earth.”

But the reason she gave for going up to Eagleridge Bluffs on June 3th, 2006 — the evening she was arrested — was eminently practical and compassionate. Her 71 year-old friend, a Pacheenacht elder named Harriet Nahanee, “said she had to go to the Bluffs to say prayers for the dead and dying creatures...due to the logging and blasting there.” Nahanee had been most concerned about the red-legged frogs. “When I asked her why especially the frogs, she said that red-legged frogs only live in wetlands and they signify life because that’s where we all came from, the wetlands, and so the red-legged frogs also signify life to humans, and that in the Pacheenacht belief when the last red-legged frog dies, all of humanity will also die.”

Harriet Nahanee, weakened from chronic asthma, influenza and 14 days in jail, died one month after her release from custody. Betty Krawczyk, still alive and fit of body and mind, is in jail again. One very tough woman! One very justified fight.

In the article accompanying the above photo, Betty is quoted as saying, "As I gaze upon these stripped mountains daily, I am beginning to wonder if the logging companies...know what in tarnation they are doing." At this time she was 71. Born in 1928, Betty is 82 today. Still an ecological warrior like none other. Still trying to right an unworkable system, every day of her life.

Betty has an appeal pending, in an attempt to defend an individual's right to free speech and peaceful protest. She is fighting on behalf of the rights of all of us, to stand for what we believe, and to protest the environmental desecration that has ravaged this province for decades, in the name of Profit.

Imagine how thunderstruck I was today to find this in my inbox, from Monica Markovici, Betty's ardent supporter and distributor of Betty's press releases :

There is a very serious development occurring in Betty's appeal...The Attorney General (the Crown) is going to try to pursuade the Court to look at locking Betty away for fifteen, twenty-five years, or even for life. The way they are going to do this is by asking the Court to designate her a chronic offender and to re-sentence her under the rules of "accumulated convictions".

Here are the facts: The Crown has entered into the Court in his responses to Betty's appeal these facts: Two cases he refers for the judges to consider for Betty Krawczyk's sentence appeal are both concerning repeated violent pedophiles who raped their own children. The case for one is entitled Regina v. C.A.M and the other is R.v. M (C.A.) But in the one case R.V.M (C.A) the Crown (Michael Brundrett) emphasizes one judge's opinion on the sentencing principle: "When an accused has been convicted of a serious crime in itself calling for a substantial sentence and when he suffers from some mental or personality disorder rendering him a danger to the community but not subjecting him to confinement in a mental institution and when it is uncertain when, if ever, the accused will be cured of his affliction, in my opinion the appropriate sentence is one of life."

So this is how the Attorney General plans to get rid of Betty...have the court declare that my search, and others' search, for justice and fairness from our own government and in the court and for protection of our life support systems for the future is a mental and personality disorder, much like violent pedophiles who repeatedly rape their own children.

You can see how important it is for people to be there on Wednesday to support Betty and others in the right to protest the destruction of our forests and streams. The more people who know that the right to protest is being equated with perversion and that everybody is being threatened by the Attorney General with unheard of sentences. Life? My God.

It appears there are millions of us with this same "affliction", that of hating the destruction of the planet for the profit of the multinationals. Any one of us could be in Betty's place. She is fighting for us all, and for her grandchildren's - and our grandchildren's - future.

I am indebted to this woman warrior. I think the court, if it recognizes this argument, should be declared criminally insane itself. In fact, the insane people I know have a truer wisdom than apparently can be found before the court.

My mind is truly boggled.

Anyone who feels outraged by this may write in support of Betty, to the Attorney General Michael de Jong at or to Premier Gordon Campbell at


Wickanninish Beach, Vancouver Island
[posted for the Poetry Pantry
at Poets United]
written August 22, 1998

Yesterday my sister
called me up
to say they were
dropping bombs
on Afghanistan:
peasants bombarded
under a morning sky
another slice of
toxic political pie

Instead of turning
on the news
I walked the beach -
dogs frolicked in the waves
with loopy grins,
as another radiant
west coast day begins
All we can do is send out
love and light,
no limit to how far
our love can reach

A young woman,
huddled under quilts,
says her life "sucks"
while outside
her bedroom door
a little miracle
with jam on his face
needs to know
the world's
a happy place
A child of hope
striving to survive
his mother's pain
living childhood days
of fleeting grace
that will never
come again,
waits for her
to look outward and see
we are all part
of the glorious mystery
life unfolding
when we stop withholding

This morning I read
a polar ice cap
the size of Connecticut
is slowly breaking
and when it does,
whether three years
or five hundred
in the making,
the sea will rise up
in a single night
sweeping the coast away
that's what they say

But all we ever have
is this one day
to be grateful
for each moon
each morning star,
each song that opens doors
to who we are -
we all travel so far
to find that place
of love within
where we finally begin
to know we're not alone
and let love guide
our footsteps
on the journey home

My friend is dreaming
of babies
a little soul is asking
to come through -
she wonders
how can she bring a child
all sweet and new
into a world
so helter-skelter,
so askew

Because I believe in life
and life believes in life
I say -
we open our eyes
to miracles
every day,
are only asked
to give back
what we can
along the way

This afternoon
a young couple
playing music
in the summer sun
set all our toes
a-tapping to the beat -
gracefully, two women
started dancing
on the village street
We all were smiling
because life is fun
These are the moments
when we most feel
as one
each bringing gift's
to the universe's table
as we are able

We all want life
our souls all long
to fly
we bring our babies
into a world
of starshine
and blue sky
of song and wonder
love and laughter
and they will thank us after
for giving them the chance
to love and live
to share the joys we know,
give our souls
the chance to grow
while teaching us how much
we have
to give

No matter what
is happening
life holds
a million gifts
we still
can share
as simple
as the sun warm
on our faces,
as profound as love
found in
the most unlikely places -
love enough
to plunge our souls in,
fill ourselves right up
with plenty spilling over
to fill our children's cup

Oh how they teach us,
as we share each day,
that the love
that makes us happiest
is the love we give away
In them is our re-birth -
we send them forth
with love too deep to say
trusting that
the beauty of the earth
will carry them
the rest of the way

Saturday, September 18, 2010

That Farther Shore

His white grizzled snout
twitches in his sleep
and his legs spasm and pedal.

Awake, he can only hobble,
but, in his dreams,
he still lopes along
forest trails
and long sandy beaches
stretching to forever.

In his dreams,
he is exploring
that farther shore
that's coming ever closer,
where he will free
the wolf-pup
in his soul
and run joyously
beside the sea
once more.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Navigating the Shores of Grief

There is a heaviness in my chest this morning. I am nearing the very last days of my old wolf-dog's life. I have been grieving this for some time, for it will be a huge loss, in a life that has been full of losses. I have been trying to prepare but there is really no preparing: there is simply doing what must be done and getting through it. There will be great pain and many tears. But I also know that the only way out is through, and I will come out on the other side, and it will be all right.

This is the way of life, and of loving, people or creatures. Loss is built-in.


I picked up a little book with a silly title the other day: Geneen Roth's The Craggy Hole In My Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It. Geneen Roth has written some weightier tomes, notably Women, Food and God. I might have thought this was going to be another cute little cat-story book. But I was wrong. I think it is her best book.

This book is about loving her cat, Blanche (who was male:) ). But it is also about the death of her father and, subsequently, the death of Blanche. I could not have picked up a better book this week.

Since some of my readers are also going through grief and remembering, I will share a few excerpts from it here:

A student once asked Zen master Shunryu Suzuki Roshi what nirvana was and he said, "Seeing one thing through all the way to the end."

....I soon realize there is something here besides grief, and it is so surprising that I keep turning away from it because the impending death of someone you love is not supposed to feel like this. In addition to my usual thrashing, I am aware of an unchanged and unchangeable stillness, a peacefulness so languid and so relaxing that it feels like being dissolved, cell by cell.

[I have felt this stillness at the side of death beds, and within my own being. It is a profound pervasive stillness, almost an entity.]

The difference between how I think death should feel and how it does feel is like the difference between being knocked around on the surface of the ocean and gliding along on the dark, hushed bottom, where the surface is only a dream.

When I pay attention to what I am losing, [her father] I feel insane with grief. When I pay attention to the enveloping stillness, I know that nothing bad is happening.

It makes me wonder if what the Sufis have said for a thousand years is actually true: anything you can lose in a shipwreck is not really yours.

...Now that I have to face the unfaceable, I feel washed clean, unexpectedly alive.......if I give up holding onto what I love most, I get the world back........If I give up trying to orchestrate the safety and the future of those I care about, I get to have everything - as if for the first time: the gratitude of having a body, the round shimmering coins of Matt's eyes, the silkiness of Blanche's fur beneath my fingers, the delicacy of air, just plain air, on my skin. Geez. Who made this bargain?

.......a knowing arises that this is what is going to get me through. Not...personal love - my dad loved me and now he's dying - but the fact that Love exists, is real, is true. It existed before and through him and will continue after him. I am beginning to believe that everything will not end when he does.

.....the aftermath of surviving what I thought would destroy me, of having my heart broken ten thousand times, means there is nothing left to protect. I can have the whole world, every illuminated gorgeous fragile sunrise, every glimpse of a hummingbird, every morning I spend with Matt, every taste of food, every step, every breath. I can have the unrepeatable wonder of them, no holds barred - but only if I know I can lose them the next instant. It turns out that astonishing beauty co-exists with staggering pain. It's a feast here, it's always been a feast, and even dying is part of it.

[My friend Peter, who lost his young wife to cancer, said to me, smiling, when I remarked how well his soul was handling her loss: "It's part of the deal." It's part of life.]

In the end, both deaths - my father's and Blanche's - did mean a kind of death for me......because in addition to the heaving grief, there were necklaces of whooshing, starry moments.....If the worst possible thing that could happen does not destroy me, it means there is an ineffable, mysterious something that can never be destroyed.

Nothing is the way I thought it would be. It's better.

[Then Geneen writes a few pages she says were channeled through her by her cat, Blanche, after Blanche's death:]

You cannot see me splayed in the sunroom looking as if I am surfing on a wave of light, you cannot see me lapping up the dripping water in the bathtub, curled on the couch in the TV room, or snoring in the laundry basket. This deceives you into believing I am not here, but you are only looking with your physical eyes. Look again. Look with the eyes beneath your eyes, the quivering life beneath what you call your life. is what you can see with those eyes that is most compelling. It's time to begin living the shimmery glimmery sunlit life you gave me, but haven't let yourself fully inhabit.

...I had a better life-and death-than most people on the planet..........All that was good, but the pleasures of the physical world.....were not the real treasure. It was the love, it was always the love............It was you. It was always you......

You used to mistake the symbol of the treasure for the treasure.....As if all you could possibly hope for was a thing you could touch, a token, rather than all of shining existence.....

It was time for me to go. I told you I would stay until you were strong enough to live without me, and I did, and you are. Until your heart spread like dragonfly wings, until you didn't need me to know you had a heart........Do not grieve for me. I am in a place where tuna fish flows like water, where I can jump like the wind and every place is silky and sunny. If you must, grieve for what you won't allow yourself to have. Grieve for all the ways you separate yourself from this radiance.......from knowing you are beloved on the earth.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September Skies

One could wish
for a soul's passing
no finer flight
than this:
a blaze of soft color
across the sky
that flares
in one last burst
of glory,
then softly

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


My sister on Beau at a cattle sorting event

was a very good year.
There was work
for everyone.
Wages were low,
but so were the costs
of housing
and daily living.
A dime could buy you
a Popsicle, two Dubble Bubble
and penny candy.

For fifty bucks a month
you could rent
a pretty great house.

Cars were built solid,
to last.
It was not yet a
disposable society.

Care was taken
to put quality
into products.

My sister was born
that year.
I was jealous
of all the attention
she got.
On her christening day,
I pinched her
through her diaper
and all the flouncy layers
of her long white gown.

She roared,
and so did my mother,
as she rushed
to comfort her.

Now that sister and I
are best friends.
We help each other out.
There's no one else
our history goes
so far back with.

She knew me when
I had freckles
and no hairstyle
and pretended I knew how
to twirl a baton
(I didnt)
and be cool
(I wasnt)

We've weathered
and divorces
and losses
and starting over
with nothing
so many times

We've discussed it all
sometimes laughing
over thousands
of cups of tea.

We support each other.
We have each other's back

Turns out
1955 was
a very good year.


Beautiful morning:
clouds like
herds of white horses
grazing the sky
a deer
taking startled flight
across the meadow
sleepy dogs
on the porch-step
of morning
a horse's
deep brown-eyed calm
to greet me,
whuffing for her
breakfast oats
teapot steaming
and nothing to do
this long glorious day
but be with
the animals

They know how
to live in balance,
in the Now;
our soul's
is to let them
show us

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:
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

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

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.