Rinsing Concrete

This is an oldie. Same vein as "That's my boy." Country meets big city - cognitive dissonance ensues.

Rinsing Concrete

A slick wet film, watched and washed.

A tear in his eye, a mop that won't dry.

From twenty floors up, and twenty floors down A fine performance, but the divers drown, in a sea of concrete along the street, where the pigeons shit.

And a one, two, three, and away we go, It doesn't matter which way the winds blow, that's the job.

That's the job.

And six feet before the twenty foot radius, Shamu splashes down and the tourists get wet ...they were warned, while the herring were fed. And the calculator cries out, "Newton's apple was red!"

Wood Fires: Black Sage

Black Sage

Greasewood trees are always old And gnarled and twisted, where They crouch along the hilltop With ragged limbs in air.

Greasewood leaves are dusty green And dull and tiny, still Greasewoods carry cheer enough To brighten all the hill.

Greasewood bloom is neat and gay, Life elf-lamps burning high; Like little yellow candle-wicks Alight against the sky.

Greasewood trees are always old And gnarled and twisted, so They crouch along the hilltop With ragged limbs bent low.

Woodfires: Indian Paintbrush

Growing up in the Okanagan, my nana was fascinated by Okanagan First Nations culture, drawing and copying pictographs from the rocks and cliff faces in the Vaseaux Lake area, and adapting Okanagan Indian legends into plays that were performed at the Inkameep Indian School in association with Anthony Walsh (a teacher at the Inkameep Day School in the 1930's). One play, "Why the Ant's Waist is Small," was produced in 1939/40 at Hart House in Toronto and in Banff, Alberta.

While not an unproblematic cultural association, Anthony Walsh is still credited by the Okanagan First Peoples as being a rare teacher who encouraged Okanagan visual art practices within the confines of the educational system at the time: "It is through Anthony Walsh that the young Aboriginal children were able to continue learning and further developing Okanagan art practices and non-Aboriginal education."


While my nana was helping to tell stories that weren't naturally her own, the cultural hybrid they represented at the time, and the new audiences they reached were, I think, a valuable creation that created new understandings and forms of respect between peoples, and were a unique art form in their own right.

I'll reprint "Why the Ant's Waist is Small," in a future post.

Indian Paintbrush

On trails where once the Indian roamed His crimson paintbrush grow - Gay symbol of forgotten things That no white man may know.

Spirit of all his singing fires Long since grown cold and grey, Once more in them the beauty lives We thought had passed away.

Wood Fires: Windows

A house is such A little thing to hold So much of happiness And dearer things than gold.

Build it with spaciousness, With windows deep and wide, Let them encompass A great countryside;

Let them look out upon Tall trees and straight, Contentment and serenity Will enter as you wait;

Let them be open when The first bird calls, You will not be bothered By hemming things like walls;

It will be big enough And fine enough to hold A whole world of happiness And dearer things than gold.

That's My Boy

This is an older piece I wrote when I was about nineteen and freshly moved from Oliver B.C. (pop. < 5000) to downtown Toronto for school. I was being exposed for the first time to theories of mass media and reading hand-me-down copies of Adbusters from my cousin Paul.

That's My Boy

With your savings plan and farmers tan, you remind me of that guy.

The one with all the money, the one who swats the fly.

Let them eat steak and mushroom caps, stuffed with champagne dreams and heart attacks.

You kill me...no you really do, I'm bloated for all the wrong reasons, and I'm only two.

Where's my T.V. SUV, can I borrow your GPS? It's not that I'm going anywhere, it's just that my life's a mess.

Dear Mercedes, I've got the bends, I can't make the ends meet.

Let me suckle from your tail pipe, your carbon dioxide teat.

Oh give me a home, where the anorexics trip, and the deep fryers never cool.

24/7 at 7/11, my bank card's my only tool.

All for one, and one for one, the numbers are force-fed.

Where every ticket's a winner, and every day 25,000 are dead.

That's my boy.

Wood Fires: Okanagan Winter

Another poem from my nana's 1942 book of poetry, "Wood Fires."

Okanagan Winter

If I were painting a picture of winter I'd paint A hillside of white, With an old snake fence Zig-zagging its grey pole length along

To a group of pines. (And a snow bird's song, And little grey gusts of the fitful breeze To show me the outstretched arms of the trees Cradling the snow).

And then I'd paint Some dappled horses, Plodding one by one, In eager line

To where the tufted Brunch grass shows Gold-brown and rusty Through the snow.

(And a snow bird's song, And little grey gusts of the fitful breeze To show me the outstretched arms of the trees Cradling the snow).

Wood Fires: Trail Gold

Trail Gold

He who has walked a mountain trail In happiness or sorrow, Has ease for hurts of yesterday And courage for the morrow.

And truth it is that mountain trails All carry joy for lending; And mountain trails all carry gold That souls can have for spending.

The mountain magic is a thing You cannot be denying. Who walks a mountain trail has that You'll never find for buying.

A Grace For Loveliness

This is the second poem in my running "Wood Fires" series of posts. I'm posting poems by Isabel Christie MacNaughton (my nana) from her 1942 book of poetry, "Wood Fires."

A Grace For Loveliness

A grace for lovely things we bring, For shining bluebirds on the wing;

For tinkling waters, clear and cold, For daffodils of yellow gold;

For fish hawks sailing high and lone, For little winds through pine woods blown;

For far blue mountains, dim with haze, For starlit nights, for sunny days;

For lilac time, for hills of brown, For apple blossoms floating down.

From hearts that with their beauty sing, A grace for lovely things we bring.

Butterfly Bush

I wrote a story for you, but it was all wrong.I sung a song for you, but the words didn't match. I painted a picture of you, but it was all smudged. My mind's eye had a mind of its own.

I drifted from you, but I trusted my gut. I tried to hold your hand, but I could only feel it half. I listened to your story, but it came out one ear. I tried to pull my bootstraps up, but they had rotted away, and I thought it would all fall away.

But then I remembered love, and I realized I wasn't wearing boots at all, and I went and smelled the butterfly bush, and there was one flower left from all the times before, and its scent was faded, but it was still enough to wake me up. Enough for a second chance.

I just needed to blow things up.

And when the dust that was never really there had settled, you were unspeakably beautiful.

Wood Fires

In 1942 my nana, Isabelle Christie MacNaughton ("Buddie" to her friends), published a book of poems titled, "Wood Fires." Printed by the local Chronicle Publishing Company (home of the local newspaper, "The Oliver Chronicle") the book's proceeds went to the Red Cross during World War II. Apart from loving the work because it's my nana's words and an important part of our family history and mythology, I love it because it's a beautiful window into the life of a young woman growing up in the South Okanagan. The poems would have been written primarily at the Grey Sage Ranch, just south of Okanagan Falls in the 1930's and 40's, and they are very much place-based and read like a beautifully rendered painting of an Okanagan hill side. The prose is often innocent, naive, longing, whimsical and sweet. It is also mournful, some being written following the death of my nana's brother, Bob, who was shot down during a bombing run over Germany. In short it is from a different time and place, but one I still recognize whenever I visit home.

The book's unabashed love affair with the wilderness, and the prospect of sharing that love with a kindred spirit, foreshadowed my nana's marriage to my grandad, Carleton MacNaughton, a local naturalist who was just as in love with the hills and critters as she was. The life stories they wrote together brought the hills to life for me, a child of the 80's and early 90's, and sparked my own curiosity and love for nature.

As part of this site's "poetry" section, I'm planning to republish my nana's poems here in the coming weeks and months, bringing a little slice of early Okanagan life, as interpreted by Buddie MacNaughton, to the digital age.

The first poem shares the book's title, "Wood Fires."

Wood Fires

All the singing fire spirits, Gypsies of the sun, Play upon our kindly hearth When the day is done---

The pine song and alder son, The wind song and rain, Gathered through the laughing years Sound for us again.

Trees have lived in loveliness, How could they but bring Happiness that's longing still In a heart to sing?