The Writing 101 assignment for today: “If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?” has squeezed my heart. One thought — Haida Gwaii — and in a moment I am filled with loss and the acute yes physical pain of being homesick. If you don’t know her, Haida Gwaii is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. Her nearest neighbours are Alaska and the coastline of British Columbia. I used to live there.
I thought it would be comforting to think of my old world — the old world — of trees and moss. Where even the light is green. I never asked but I bet the Haida (the indigenous people) probably have 100 words for moss. It hangs from branches. It grows on tree trunks. It covers the ground. I used to call Haida Gwaii the edge of the world. It felt that way sometimes. Like teetering on the edge of what is real. Everything was impossibly perfect: mountains, sea and forest. A reminder of what our world is meant to be.
Remnants of the old growth forest survive there.
Each morning on my way to work I would walk a sacred path that crossed a living salmon stream. A fallen tree posed as a bridge. The bark was covered long ago in moss. The wood beneath was punky and spongy. Most days I could hear a loon calling out from the bay. The forest was haunted with dragon mists twisting through the tree trunks.
I felt like I knew my place there. I was a humbler person. Always drenched in rain. Always with wet feet. But out of the rain came towering trees. Some of which were over 700 years old. To them I was no more or less important than an insect.
I came to Texas for love but some days I feel like this place is a vision of hell on earth.
The heat can be relentless. The sun scorches and brands the skin. Yet humans think they can bring the sun to its knees. They crank the AC making the world just a little bit hotter and certainly more noisy. Everywhere I go I see evidence of American ingenuity. As though they can bring all the world’s resources to their knees. To look at this world from above is to see a web of asphalt roads — it looks vaguely cancerous. Supply lines for endless wars against nature and other people. I did not know so many young men sat in wheelchairs or try to walk without limbs.
This is the new world.
What does it mean?
We do not know what we have until we lose it. But memory provides the material to construct maps leading to the future. Memory can inform us about where to go. I will continue to look for things to appreciate in Texas. A different landscape brings a different kind of knowledge and new voices of wisdom. Like the words of this dying poet who reminds us: don’t ask the angels how they fly:
If I had known,
I’d have come here better equipped –
but that’s another one of those
things you can’t change – as we
can’t alter that part of us
that lives on memory, knowing
all the while that time is not
real and that what we are we
never were in the light of that
timeless place where we really
So tomorrow I will try to like Texas again. Today I will just mourn a little and prepare.