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Out Here the Mind Would Empty

Artifacts
By Helena Minton
                                     Shuyak Island, Alaska
 
 Wind blows from the mainland across the Straits
 over nettle-covered middens where I’ve dug
 for Aleut arrowheads, unearthing
 fish bones, clam shells, human teeth.
 
 Tribes slept near these hills
 and in daylight told of omens dreamed
 as elk of schools of spawning salmon.
 
 Trout broach, eagles circle overhead
 yet never enter my sleep.
 I thought out here the mind would empty
 and be filled as quietly as sky with stars
 
 When I close my eyes I see torn sheets and blackboards.
 I want the spruce, sea otter, cormorant
 inside of me to speak.


“Artifacts” (poem) from The Canal Bed by Helena Minton, Alice James Books, 1985. 

Sometimes, as I walk down to our little gravel beach for an evening swim, an air of solemnity comes over me. What I’m about to do — wade into the frigid waters of Boundary Pass — is something akin to communion, a baptism of sorts.

I’m going to immerse myself in a swirling chaos of seawater full of lurking currents, slippery animals, hard-shell crustaceans, undulating forests of kelp. This water is otherworldly, a terrible force. It accepts me at its pleasure but could just as quickly reject me without mercy. Dash me against the rocks or carry me out to sea. There is always a sense of risk, but also the potential of new wisdom. Communion.

An air of solemnity

At the foot of lichen-stained conglomerate cliffs, knee-deep in the waves, I look across our little bay to the Living Rock Island 300 yards offshore. Cormorants and seagulls perch on the rock, staring intently at the water, looking for feed, I imagine.

Stuart Island on the far side of the Pass is an almost unspoiled coastline. On any given day, a pod of Orcas could pass between South Pender and the San Juans. Or a pair of majestic Humpbacks!

Due east, on a clear day, I can see Mount Baker, rising like a white deity, above the horizon.

The cormorants and gulls, eagles and ravens, the schools of silver streaking salmon. The barnacled, bladderwracked boulders that cracked off cliffs eons ago, these are all the actual residents of this place.

I’m a stranger, here, an interloper

And sometimes, in this reverie, I catch a movement at the corner of my eye. It jolts me! I turn to look, scanning the water all around, for a different kind of wave, a darkened animal head rising out the water, moving towards me. Or a shadow passing overhead. It’s something threatening or nothing at all. But something’s there, I sense.

Sometimes I half expect to see a sleek dugout canoe paddling in my direction. A man with long black hair, tanned arms and narrow eyes looking at me as he dips his paddle in and out of the water. He wears a flat-top brimmed hat and a yellow-brown tunic. He’s wary of me, I can tell, but he detects no threat and so carries on. And I watch his image recede in the distance, and he bends around Brooks Point and disappears. Is he on his way to the white deity, the one we call Mount Baker?

The life force of us all

I’d like to greet this fellow, hold up my arm in salute. I’m an interloper, a strange creature by my white skin, yes, but not so foreign, not so out of time here. Because this icy water we stand in and by contains the spirit that is the life force of us all. He has taken wisdom from this water and these animals, birds, fish and plants and learned to live with all of them. I could thank him for being a steward of these waters, this beautiful land, for millennia.

I could say sorry for what would soon happen. Then I’d say goodbye and wish him a safe journey to the white deity on the horizon.

Communion.


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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #olives #olivebread #olivesourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland
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#penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery
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This is James Morton, my father, who would have been 100 years old today if we hadn't lost him 36 years ago. I've surpassed him in living age and spent more years without him than with him, yet he still whispers in my ear and is a great listener when I talk to him. Taken at 14th Ave. and Burgess St., Burnaby, 'round about 1955. Handsome devil, ain't he?

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2 thoughts on “Out Here the Mind Would Empty

  1. David. Oh my, what a beautiful picture you paint as I sit in my chair Drummond Bay calmly caressing the shore and a golden glow rising up from near the majestic White Mountain. I am calm. Stuart

    1. Thank you, Stuart!We do live in a kind of paradise!

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