An outhouse photo? Will this post stink? What about those summer memories you promised, PlaidCamper? It will be ok, honest…
It’ll feature a bit more about my summer reading. Seems like these little summer highlights all have a bit of a literary thread running through them – we must have needed to sit down and think, rather than charge around learning to surf or whatever…(actually, I did read a good book on surfing…but that’s not for now!)
This week, the look back at a summer highlight is two or three places connected through my enjoyment of a single book. I know, rather a slim pretext for what follows, but I hope you enjoy it.
The first place is Long Beach, on the west side of Vancouver Island. A lovely beach to go stretch your legs, we wandered for a couple of hours, and then stopped for a picnic lunch, sitting against a suitably comfortable driftwood log.
Along with important outdoor items like bear spray and chocolate, I like to pack a book, and this day I’d tucked a copy of Walt Franklin’s Earthstars, Chanterelles, Destroying Angels into my backpack. I’d been saving it for a few weeks, and a sunny beach afternoon seemed a good time to dip into this collection of poetry.
When I say it was so engaging that I forgot to pay attention to my immediate surroundings (and how I love those west coast surroundings!), then hopefully you have some idea as to what a splendid collection it is. If you are even only sometimes preoccupied with the natural world around us, then you’d likely be captivated by Walt’s words. Travel, wilderness, identity, conflict, the passage of time, the nature of nature and our place in it; Walt explores all this and more, with insight, a keen eye for detail, and flashes of good humour. I find he can say more in a few lines than most:
in falling snow-
all at once-
the ancient tales,
the current news
form as lines
across white fields-
across the endless poem
(lines from A Rivertop Reflection)
I’ve read it and reread it cover to cover! It’s fair to say I enjoyed that warm afternoon of lazing at the beach, dipping into the Earthstars, and pausing every now and again to dip toes into the ocean.
About a month later, we were hiding away up at Little Bear. As we unpacked the car, my backpack tumbled out and the contents landed at my feet. Bear spray, (more?!) chocolate, a bottle opener, and a sand-sprinkled copy of Earthstars…Well, I’d simply have to reread it!
The final poem in Earthstars is Mike’s Truck, a wonderful tale featuring a septic tank, a truck, old Mike, and a memory about an outhouse:
“an old non-flusher with a crescent moon”
The poem sparked an old memory of ours. When we lived for a while in rural France, our old stone fixer-upper had a septic tank. We’d telephone and then wait outside for the elderly farmer to come by on his ancient tractor to pump out the tank. Oddly happy with his work, after payment he’d drive off with a cheery wave, the tractor puffing blue diesel fumes and crawling up and over the stone bridge out of the village. We never asked where he emptied out, and we never bought his farm produce…
Little Bear is pretty well equipped, with four walls, a roof, a tree for hanging your solar shower, and – luxury – an outhouse. Happily, the outhouse was under a near full moon during our most recent stay, more practical than poetic, the extra moonlight something to be thankful for in the wee small hours.
There you have it, a series of happy memories and recent highlights, connected and prompted by reading Walt’s poetry. If you have the time, pay a visit to Rivertop Rambles and read Walt’s excellent blog (and find links to where you can get hold of a copy of Earthstars and other published works – go on, you’ll be glad you did!)
Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment, and have a wonderful weekend!