Friday, January 23, 2009

Wind: a love - hate relationship

Wind (by Ted Hughes)

This house has been far out at sea all night,

The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet.

Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.

At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up -
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,

The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap;
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house

Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,

Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.
* * * *
In January, February, March my heart pounds more, because
I'm sure
the westerlies, northerlies and otherlies bang on my door.
no. in fact they like to raise my bed,
in my balloon-frame house they shake every darn piece
of furniture. Not just shake but rattle and unhinge.
And that goes for my nerves too.
Only heavy wool blankets stay on my bed in these months.
Even the foster cat finds the rocking chair preferable,
a pleasant counter-action, like a hammock on a ship, to the
plundering wind.
When we lived in Port au Port
(and the axe blew over one blustery winter day)
I joked that my kids were growing on an angle.
Like tuckamore. Resilient.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Storm-bound days on kayaking trips can drive you batty. I like to think they offer opportunities for creativity. Take one day last August. Our group of 3 were 'stuck' on an island, thickly wooded (think knitted wood) on either side of our football-sized meadow. Steep but navigable cliffs to beaches on either side. I wandered down to the south-facing beach and started on one of my ongoing little projects: documenting the garbage that had made its way to and back from the ocean. But this time I saw new potential. Grabbing J (an artist), I explained our afternoon activity: arranging as many different colours and hues of garbage into a Rainbow. At one point I thought I might be on to a new grant possibility for environmental art! Imagine creating Garbage Rainbows at remote beaches to draw attention to the problem of using our oceans as dumping grounds. May still do it.
Meanwhile, some stats:
Did you know?
Time taken for objects to dissolve at sea
Paper bus ticket 2-4 weeks
Cotton cloth 1-5 months
Rope 3-14 months
Woolen cloth 1 year
Painted wood 13 years
Tin can 100 years
Aluminum can 200-500 years
Plastic bottle 450 years
(Source: Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Boxing Up a River

[Photo: Manuel's River, Alison Dyer]

Boxing Day usually means a hike somewhere. This year, that is, last year, it was a hike up Manuel's River. (I always want to say a 'short walk' a la Eric Newby. A hike sounds too grand.) And it's mainly an excuse to take some Christmas leftovers for a picnic. At least, that's what I always tell the kids. Darn cold but some lovely tinkling sounds of frozen grasses at the river bed. Manuel's River is known internationally for its fossilized trilobites. We've been coming for years to this river-park. And this year, that is, last year, son #1 actually found part of a trilobite in one of the rocks.