What the Rolling Stone Gathers
22 May 2020

(Meldrum Bay, Manitoulin Island, Ontario)

Yesterday, at anchor, waiting our turn for the stone dock, I looked out on the pebbled beaches and dense tree-line of the North Channel and noticed a tall white pine standing significantly higher than the other trees by almost double, like the awkward, tall too soon child in a primary school class photo. It brought to mind a painting by Emily Carr, fresh in my mind as it is featured on the cover of Annie Proulx’ latest book ‘Barkskins’ which I’m currently reading. It’s of an immensely long-trunked tree (possibly a white pine?) standing mostly alone (another tree stands in the distance and a few are in the periphery), with limbs only at its very top and a corona of light and cloud surrounding it like a halo. It is not quite straight, and its foliage is askew lending it a shambolic elegance. And though it might seem lonely, alien in its landscape, it is likely that its lankiness and imperfect lines are why it still stands and has been spared ithe woodsman’s axe. It is called ‘Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky’. Goddamn. What a title.

It’s good to be back at work. The sailors life suits one with a restless nature even if I don’t always suit it. When I’m in one place too long I begin to get antsy and inevitably that big black beast malaise will commence his dogged harassment until I’m compelled to move on. For me, the grass is always greener on the other side, and the possibility of another, better adventure persistently lurks around each corner. Possessing multiple citizenships and passports has certainly helped facilitate this transient existence, as has working on ships, which on and off over the years I’ve found myself returning to, whenever, like Ishmael in Moby Dick, it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul.

I may not have been made to stand still, but for one so fond of words, I find myself out here, inundated with images like Carr’s, with similes and sentences and endless metaphoric possibilities presenting themselves to me. Of course, clichés abound, they do everywhere, for example, when we turned westward yesterday, to seek our anchorage, we did so into the setting sun, and it DID blind me momentarily and then that light DID dance on the water and reflect so brightly on the seas surface as to make it hard to look at, but also hard to look away. Whatever, it is all fodder for the notebook and sometimes it seems to fall so easily from on high, like the winter’s first fat-ass chunks of logy snow, like manna from the hand of a benevolent God.