Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Beauty and its absence

...have been on my mind of late. I was thinking about it the other day when the call came. A sentence had been haunting me. "Poverty is also the absence of beauty" says Jan Wong in the third part of her Maid for a Month series. Also. I'd finished reading Dionne Brand's Inventory a couple days before, and bits of it, sharp bits, kept coming to mind. I thought about it as we drove out to Bakers Narrows. The headlines I'd read just before we left -- 10 killed in a car bombing in Baghdad, a case of mad cow disease in BC -- traveled with me, too. On the way out of town, we drove by a couple gas stations. $1.099 a litre. We had half a tank left, so we were good to go. Twenty minutes later we came to a stop, Lake Athapapuskow a stone throw away, its ice dark and broken near shore, the open water even darker. Beyond, the ice was a dead grey. Dead and scarred. Snowmobile and ATV tracks melted into blue grooves. Everywhere blue grooves and blue puddles. H spotted the Bald Eagle immediately. That's what had prompted the call. Its mate was sitting on a nest in an old poplar just across a creek. Just as H got out of the car, an otter popped up a few feet from shore. The sun slipped over its head as it watched us. H photographed the otter, who appeared to be posing, and then photographed the eagles. I stood back and watched.

That night we drove down the Hanson Lake Road to do the annual nocturnal owl survey. It's easy. We stop every 1.6 kilometers and listen for two minutes and fill in the blanks on the forms. The outing always includes hot chocolate. So there I was, standing on the edge of the highway, hot chocolate in hand, listening to Boreal Owls and a world of wood frogs. There I was. Thinking.


Anonymous said...

If poverty is the absence of beauty, then this post is rich in the absence of poverty.

There I was. Thinking.


Anita Daher said...


Brenda Schmidt said...

Thanks Pete and Anita!

Dionne Brand's book is incredible. It's a must read.