(Remember, that to enlarge any image, just click on it.)
The ferry crossing from Victoria to Port Angeles Washington was smooth and uneventful. The border goons were unusually cordial, even cavalier, which left me quite suspicious but I have learned never to argue or jest with them. The crossing was spent in philosophical conversation with another sailor (We have ways of finding each other, like dolphins in the sea) and the ninety minute voyage passed quickly. I soon found myself heading west out of Port Angeles, driving in driving snow.
It is a bleak passage along highway 101 through raped forests, past abandoned mills and homes, derelict machinery, and run-down villages; a weary drive in a mangled world, a movie set for a film about the omega man. After hours of travel I arrive on the southern border of the State of Washington at a place on the Columbia river called Dismal Nitch. It was so-named by the explorers Lewis and Clark. They at least got to see this stunning part of the world in a virginal state, before we raped it. Imagine what they would name it now! Perhaps it was the snow but I’ve never before noticed how devastated the countryside and the communities seem. Perhaps that is why Astoria seems to have so much soul and vibrancy. It lays on the south bank of the Columbia River, across a bridge which is four miles long.
The weather was typical for late winter at the mouth of the Columbia River. Rain, wind, snow and clear brilliant sunlight, all in any half-hour. Much of the town seemed infected with a nasty flu and I hope I did not bring home any souvenirs. One performer came all the way from her studies in Brussels. We all performed our gigs, reinforced our affirmations as writers and water people, made new friendships and had a splendid time. The event has outgrown itself. There were 110 performers scheduled this year to perform in 14 venues. it was a spectacular time as usual and I know no-one went home disappointed. The originators and organizers, now past its 21st anniversary, deserve the highest kudos for their dedication and endeavour. FPG is an inspiration to thousands of people. (The website is fisherpoets.org)
I am one of them. I drove back to the border through Seattle, where it is now always rush hour and arrived safely at the Blaine border crossing for an uneventful re-entry to Canada. I had a wonderful, long-overdue visit with some very dear friends and travelled back to Vancouver Island on the ferry under clear sunny skies.
You may well wonder what all this “Fisher Poet” stuff is all about. A group of people, who make their living in the fishing industry and on the water, gather once a year to read some of their work, sing some of their songs and enjoy the affirmation of being among fellow blue-collared creative people. I am always humbled in their presence. I’ll conclude this blog with a quick sample of my work, written about the ferry ride home.
Herring Season (1)
Last Monday in February ( Background music:
Northbound in the middle of the Strait of Georgia “Tiny Fish For Japan homeward from an annual Fisher Poets Gathering … Stan Rogers) On a BC Ferry, the ‘Coastal Inspiration.’
The mid-winter sunlight has some warmth
but the wind is cold and dense and fine.
I have been drawn toward the bow by music.
I could hear traditional Acadian shanties
accompanied with the throb of our huge engines
and in the shelter of the forward observation lounge
a young man wearing a large home-spun wool toque plays an accordion.
The acoustics under the glass are superb.
I want to praise the musician but cannot bring myself to interrupt,
So I listen with hungry ears to songs I have not heard in decades
and loiter on the starboard forward quarter snapping pictures.
Along the sharp clear blue curve of the strait I can see for sixty miles.
On a common heading, in a row, a mile apart
an armada of fishboats parading northward.
Each has a large power skiff in tow
Each worth a small fortune
Each optimistic for an opening
to earn half a year’s income
which after a wait of weeks
may last for only minutes.
There is an occasional glint of sunlight
reflected from a rolling boat’s wheelhouse window
a white wake streaming out behind.
The intensity of the annual drama begins,
Herring Season (2)
The fleet jammed into the harbour
waiting for the opening of herring season.
Volcanic tensions mounted over the next six weeks
until finally DFO declared the sacred event
would occur on the next Saturday.
Two of the boats were skippered by men
who were Seventh Day Adventists
and would not work on their Sabbath.
Herring Season (3)
If masses of people were randomly slaughtered
while in the peak of procreation
chances are the “managed stocks,”
which we are,
would be much smaller.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Gandhi