Wain Rock


Wain Rock lies just off Deep Cove at the north end of the Saanich Peninsula. It is (or used to be) a favourite fishing spot. It is not located where you might expect a big rock and although it is clearly marked on the chart and has a beacon visible by night and day, I always wanted to keep it clearly in view when leaving or entering the Deep Cove Marina aboard our sailboat. At low tide the rock is a favourite seal haul-out but there is little room for seals at high tide. It is a favourite destination for an early morning kayak cruise but I have always felt that the rock, despite its proximity to a densely settled shore, was not of the same world, remaining aloof and even a little threatening.

Wain Rock

It’s good to come here early in the day
when the breeze strokes the water with her lightest touch
and the sun, half-wakened slow to rise,
warms and warns of noonday skies.

Kayak’s stern waves chuckle.
Arms learn the weight of water.
Body bends to breathing.
Mind floats free of chatter.

And now the rock itself,
protruding like a giant tooth,
contours looming while we glide,
it twists the slow assault of tide
to lazy whorls in silence.

Upon this rock is built
a clumsy cube of masonry,
a ladder and a beacon tower.
And I imagine, boat upset by carelessness,
climbing, scraped and soaked,
with darkness falling,
clinging to this bleak defense,
while calling to indifference.

(June 2015)



On another morning visit to Wain Rock the tide was beginning to ebb strongly and the rock in mid-channel generated eddies as the water flowed by. My earlier feeling about the rock as an unfriendly refuge was replaced by a fascination with the oscillating tidal flows that would continue as long as the oceans were filled and moon circled earth.


Out here at Wain Rock in the warming early light
there is no sound of motors.
There is the whispering of water
as the Inlet exhales its high-tide breathing.

I nose the kayak into the riffle
Where Wain Rock shoulders the flow aside,
Let the current carry us some distance seaward.
Fronds of seaweed wave us on.

I imagine this to-and-fro in time,
obedient to the rhymes of gravity, and motion,
stretching before us and beyond us,
as long as there are hills and deep salt water.

Breathe in, breathe out…

(August 24 2017)

Mount Tuam (Salt Spring Island)



P1000932 4poleMount Tuam , also known as the Sacred Mountain, rises on the southwest ‘corner’ of Saltspring Island, overlooking Satellite Channel and the north end of the Saanich Peninsula. For years I thought that ‘Tuam’ was a First Nations name but the mountain is most likely named after the cathedral town of Tuam in County Galway, Ireland. The summit (606 m) is one of the highest points on Saltspring Island and it can be seen from many places on the Saanich Peninsula all the way south to Victoria. Its presence is so dominant in North Saanich that I came to view Mount Tuam as an overlooking guardian and record-keeper.

Snow on Mount Tuam

It’s only a hill, really,
but you can’t hide from Tuam.
Tuam looks down on you,
and you can feel it, too,
the overlooking presence that
knows where and who you are.
Tuam no longer judges;
Tuam just keeps track,
Clouds don’t give a darn;
Self-absorbed, they waltz the sky,
Up, down, near or far,
Benign or full of mischief.
Sometimes they rest a while,
Propped up by the hills,
blocking Tuam’s sight lines.

When clouds moved on this morning
they left Tuam painted white.
“Don’t worry,” they said on parting,
“next bunch will wash it off.”
A blessing or reminder that
mountains, too, grow old?
I find it beautiful but cold.
(December 30, 2015)



P1000936 alt


I stood before you, Tuam.
with paints and a panel of deep space blue.
You looked, may I say, a little smug,
standing back and saying “Here we are.”

The trees across the bay
turned their backs to me,
awaiting your approval.
Maybe they are still waiting.

One or two were over-dressed
in golds and yellows.
I know that does not please you.
But such glory will not last.

The sky lay on your shoulders,
white cloud upon your western flank.
Impertinence though it was
they looked good on you.

The sea did not brood in glassy silence.
Neither did it roar in wind-swept rage.
Forgot its task to wear away
all that dare to rise above it.

That’s you and me, Bub.

First I painted your shawl of sky,
respecting the contour of your ridge,
then the row of trees along the shore,
the tall ones dark against your glow.

Next, the indifferent sea,
some bushes and a path
to show that I, like you,
was poised upon the ground.

And then, it seems disloyal
(though perhaps you knew),
Right side, a young arbutus,
larger on the page than you.

I stepped back.

My image still without you
showed a hole punched through
to space where we might fall
were you not there to stop us.

With racing heart, I brushed you in
Before the cosmos noticed, and then,
to show the fickleness of men,
I daubed the scarlet clusters of arbutus fruit.

(October 26 2016)