Docks used to be quiet places.
Now come the wedding cheers
tour boats idling
sight seers boarding.
While the revellers sleep it off,
a multitude of small splashes
like haphazard rain:
the fish are many and hungry.
At low tide raccoons chittering
under the boards:
between grounded boats
they find food in the mud.
Loud breaths and snorts
from the dark water farther out:
which is it, river otter or harbour seal?
Not knowing is a state of being
to work with. To listen from.
Pre-dawn keer cries of murrelets
signal day’s beginning.
Kingfishers ratchet raucously
with or without fish in their bills.
At the first human footstep on the ramp
a great blue heron lifts off the dock
screams its harsh kraaak to wake the dead
or at least the hungover.
Soon boats and planes will start up,
altering the soundscape again.
—Jensen’s Dock, Tofino Harbour, early hours of August 4, 2019
Behind the screen of harbour islands
cocoon of silence—floss, gloss, wrapping
relief a sigh of love
and I grow younger
And now sound is not noise
but sweetness, belonging, language
an alphabet to be learned
Awkward slapping of otter feet on land
Bluster of eagle wings lifting from a branch
Crusty cormorants: piss off, leave us alone
Quiet warms my mind, each ray a finger
writing truths I have always known
but forget to keep
truths like what and where I am
truths like the current of water gliding beneath me, holding me up
Quiet smooths my face
opens my ears, inhales beauty, lets
the stress of noise flow out
even my breath is in me now
But when the current takes me back
around the corner, I slip
against the harbour’s stampede, am shattered
by a floatplane lumbering toward its horizon
boats pass at speed, every year more horsepower
A second plane buzzes my head, comes in to land
through the wall of noise
clamour of Tofino, amplified by space
individual cars, a dirt bike accelerating
wang-wang-wang from the fishplant’s ice machine
rrrrum a garbage truck
I focus on small sounds, listen
for the slicing of my paddle through water
listen as you would at a train station
straining to hear the announcements
and then from the treetops on Olsen road
the sky-seeking song of a Swainson’s thrush
faint as stars
August 23, 2019 6pm
The Birds of Waaxp̓inč̓a
Late spring evening,
a thousand turnstones sing
across the harbour
on what we mamalthni**
call Neilsen Island.
The First Peoples of this land
have always known it
island of the river otters.
The birds converse
in their ancient tongue.
The Nuu chah nulth say
there was a time
when human and animal
plant and tree
spoke to each other in the same language.
It is we mamalthni
who have forgotten.
But the living land and water
cedar and osprey
orca, wolf and bear
must carry this wisdom of interconnection
in cellular memory.
upon the moment’s rapture,
a boat motor roars;
a seaplane flies in, low:
we humans, being
—our cacophony and clamour,
—our relentless encroachment
on the wild
a thousand singing voices
falling suddenly silent.
**Mamalthni is the Nuu chah nulth word for white people
**Waaxp̓inč̓a means island of the river otters
Sherry Marr experienced this on May 9th at 7:05 p.m.,
from the deck of the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust building.
BOOM, BOOM, BOOM
Goes the echo
As it travels up the sound
RUN, RUN, RUN
From the echo
Where can creatures hide?
There’s no getting away
It ricochets around
Echoing off the mountains
And travelling back to town.
The tame are scared
The wild are fleeing in fright
It’s Canada Day again
Is this really how we want
To show dominance
With noise and light and litter?
July 1, 2019