Shape

In the summer of 1999 we moved from Burlington, Ontario to North Saanich on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. We took the long way around, a three-month road trip with a camper trailer, dog, canoe and bicycles, heading east to Newfoundland then west to British Columbia, arriving in early September. I collected many sketches (see above) and photographs and kept a detailed journal. The poem Shape emerged from this experience later when a guest speaker at the First Unitarian Church of Victoria suggested that all things pray, including “inanimate” objects. The theme of physical form continues with Shelf Fungi, a poem inspired by a stunning photograph taken by Tim Rogers, a photograph that reveals the delicate architecture of soft tissue engineered over a very long time.

Shape

Above the South Saskatchewan
grassy hills rise north and south
with willowed gullies running to the river.

The sun is rising above the valley’s rim
while shadows retreat across the open ground
to their daytime lairs of thickets.

A random dryland garden glows.
The grasses rattle.
Prickly pears claim space,
and the stones, cradled in clay,
take colour as they warm.
They are marked with black and orange lichens,
a deft and careless calligraphy of koans.
Just so!

The stones are rounded.
Torn from distant matrices, they’ve travelled far.
The wastage of their journey,
pebbles, grit and mud,
lies about them,
and they will shrink and split, shift and roll
under the strobe of seasons,
until they become matrix again,
and many times yet.

Someone told me
that in the calm of morning, after the stillness of deep night,
all things pray,
in silence find their centres,
measuring from the current point of balance
to the curved expression of surface
around which the world must flow.

And now I guess the prayer of stone,
a single word that marks the start of being.

Our prayer is shape.

(May 2000)

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Shelf Fungi

Tension between the bounding curves
and the ordered striations of the gills,
that yields both surface and strength.
Who ordained this fleeting elegance, we ask?

Some claim that our discerning eyes
must be the work of some deliberate designer,
and yet a wrinkle in the skin
can sense where comes the light.

This complexity emerges
in a brief convergence
of light, gravity and stuff,
a placement that frees the elements
to test all combinations,
arising in this span of possibility.
Like this poem.

(November 2019)

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6 thoughts on “Shape

  1. remember very well when you did leave the confines of Burlington and moved west…via out east. I seem to remember that you were looking at one of those smaller islands off of VI to settle on– was that correct?….i also remember you commenting on how high the real estate prices were out there

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    1. We explored both Vancouver Island and the adjoining southern Gulf Islands from Comox south. The politics on the islands tended to be fractious; 50 people in a room and 51 divergent opinions. North Saanich was similar but moderated by the presence of a working city. North Saanich was a good choice logistically: semi-rural living, beautiful surroundings, but with easy access to Vancouver where we had family responsibilities. We have found friends here and positive community involvements. We were in our primes in the Hamilton years and you can’t replace that.

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  2. 1999. It was a sad time for us. I hated friends moving away almost as much as friends dying. I still miss you both.

    I’ve recently hung some of your art and mine…works we did together. (Moon River Falls and Bennett Orchard. ) and the chaos aboard the Limnos during our ten- day mooring off Cleveland.

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