Tuesday, September 2, 2014

to name what is holy

The Work of the Poet is to Name What is Holy

by Diane Ackerman

The work of the poet
is to name what is holy:

the spring snow
that hides unevenness
but also records
a dog walked at lunchtime,
the hieroglyphs of birds,
pawprints of a life
tiny but resolute;

how, like Russian dolls,
we nest in previous selves;

the lustrous itch
that compels an oyster
to forge a pearl,
or a poet a verse;

the drawing on of evening
belted at the waist;

snowfields of diamond dust;

the cozy monotony
of our days, in which
love appears with a holler;

the way a man’s body
has its own geography -
cliffs, aqueducts, pumice fields,
but a woman’s is the jungle,
hot, steamy, full of song;

the brain’s curiosity shop
filled with quaint mementos
and shadowy antiques
hidden away in drawers;

the plain geometry
of you, me, and art -
our angles at rest
among shifting forms.

The work of the poet
is to name what is holy,

and not to mind so much
the pinch of words
to cope with memories
weak as falling buildings,

or render loss, love,
and the penitentiary
of worry where we live.

The work of the poet
is to name what is holy,
a task fit for eternity,
or the small Eden of this hour.

- from Origami Bridges

If the work of the poet is to name what is holy, then I name these stones in the Bow River in Banff. We went down to look at Bow Falls in the evening, to take some photos, and to breathe in that particular air of the mountains. I stacked a few stones in a small tower, but I don't suppose they're still  in formation. 

We took the quick drive out of town to Lake Minnewanka but because it was raining we didn't walk around too much. On the way back we stopped at the turn-out for Lower Bankhead, (the ruins of a coal mining town) and the rain had suddenly ended. So down we went. Next time, we'll have to explore Upper Bankhead...

Below is the Lamp House, with Chloe standing inside. Trees are growing through the windows, and beginning to sprout inside.

The coal cars still have coal in them, and you can see Chloe below sitting on the small seats of the train.

A very different view of things from the lower vantage point. The pine smell was glorious after all the rain. 

And we couldn't resist a few more photos in the Lamp House on the way out. Chloe took the one of me, below. Very glad I brought my toque. I'm wearing a borrowed hoodie from Rob - as it turns out I pack very badly for 3 day trips. (I suppose it was because I was expecting sunshine, which doesn't necessarily explain the fact that I remembered to bring a toque....)

And lastly, Chloe, who returns to school today, grade eleven. Which seems impossible, but there it is.


  1. Love all the colours (especially that riot of pink) and the poetry. Mine are back to school today too, so hard to believe. Sigh. Thank you for this:) xo

  2. wonderful!!.... wonderful scenaries, wondeful heritage for the generations to come...
    and wonderful people who do not let these things pass unnoticed.
    much is owed to such talented, creative, unselfish hearts and souls.

  3. mmm, nothing like the scent of the pines after a rain. what a wonderful place to explore and I love all the little details you captured here. I just watched a show on PBS about the photographer, Dorothea Lange..she once talked about seeing, really seeing and you do that so well, Shawna.

    1. I'll have to take a look for that show! Thanks for mentioning! And what a sweet thing to say. Thanks, Susan

  4. Thanks everyone! It's an amazing place, Banff, and only a 5 hour drive from here :) Far enough away to still make it a special road trip, but near enough that it's possible.


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