Let’s invest in quieter devices;
we’ll hear the otter family coming,
the adults’ whistles, low rhythmic chuckling,
the young one’s chirp.
More of the world will open to us.
What is this miracle? A grouse’s soft feathers
drumming to attract a mate.
We’ll try to record the sound
but the creek drowns it out.
Both sounds contain mystery,
emerge from the forest,
change with the seasons.
House guests point out
that they listen differently here:
most sounds are not human-made.
Together we’ll make a game of trying
to identify every rustle and squeak.
Calls and songs of known birds
side by side with those unknown:
there is yet so much to learn.
Bees’ wings’ buzzing ceases in sudden silence:
they doze, defying gravity
on the columbine’s upside down stamens.
Flutterings and scurryings in the underbrush:
we are not alone. The huffing breaths
of a bear: it has caught our scent.
A soft-voiced stream waits for generous clouds;
a chattering course is replenished.
A jay’s rasp-call opens the air
between eternal creek and sharp beak,
the blue-black shadow’s comic, cosmic voice.
—Wah-nah-jus Hilthoois Tribal Park, various daylight hours, Summer 2018
What is this hum, and will it become a growl, then a roar?
This is miles from town. Boats are scarce.
High jets burn white paths across the sunlit sky,
but they pass and are gone. Sounds are
robins singing, tides flooding and receding,
currents swirling and sliding,
wind shushing in alder leaves,
in cedar and hemlock boughs,
whispering in pine: both needle and cone.
Sounds are river otters crunching on crabs,
grouse drumming deep in the forest,
the creek receiving rain.
Miles from town, no mining or logging.
Miles from town, no airstrip or generator.
Only at night, sometimes, the hum.
Northwest, Catface as the crow flies:
just a few cabins there. Miles away, over water
and forested land. Can they hear it too?
When darkness should bring silence,
stars glimmer mutely—what is this hum,
and will it become a growl, then a roar?
—Nearly every night since 2017; in 2019 during daytime also, Lemmens Inlet/ Wah-nah-jus Hilthoois Tribal Park, Clayoquot Sound.
*Hummadruz is “a noise in the air that you can’t identify, or a sound in the landscape whose source is unlocatable.” P. 190, Landmarks, Robert Macfarlane quoting Richard Skelton in conversation.
when all i have is memory, i’ll
drift to Lemmen’s Inlet on days of
white summer rain, my blood
mercurial, rising and falling with the clouds
and onto the drumskin of silence
water will bounce and quiver
each drop a chapter, spilling
news of birth, breath, movement
and all the jostling indignities of life
in air i’ll hear the finning of water
as it passes over rocks, as it falls teep-toop
from leaning trees onto the risen river
rapid-fire shots of a branch giving way
under the weight of one drop too many
floating by the high-tide river mouth
whistled so-o-sweets of wet-feathered
flycatchers, the hollow pat of the paddle
on thick water
i’ll know the deep green
skin that holds me up, the tight piped breath
of porpoise (itself a dark ripple
in the celluloid of memory)
muffled throat-singing of the creeks
as they face off
across the steep-sided valley
throwing themselves seaward
careless of salt
turning back, i’ll hear
the distant tok-tok of a raven
water falling—tumbling chorus
of here we come! arms of sea
gathering swirls of fresh water, gathering
vapour of rain, whispered breath
of a valley’s trees, exhaled lives
of those who came before, fjord
and sky breathing, hishuk ish tsawalk
Lemmens Inlet July 28, 2019
What it Takes
up the inlet for a swim
boat tethered to rock
patches of wheat-like grass at hightide,
sea asparagus immersed.
i look at you beside me on the little island
last corner of afternoon sun.
we’ve been here before,
not knowing what to do
still caught, pushing outward
to plan, worry, organize, fix, shuttle and feed.
i’ve undressed, my clothes in a little heap.
before us is Lemmen’s Inlet,
which flows into Duffin Passage,
which empties into the Pacific,
the best way I know to tap into infinity
with you by my side.
no wonder they call this god’s pocket
not that I need a god
to remind me of what’s godly
or what it takes
to jump in,
however I can, at all costs,
to soak in the silence.
Aug 15 2018 4:34pm