the soft animals of our bodies

a fellow islander recently shared this mary oliver poem with the rest of us, as i must with you…

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you arrive. a sunny day, mid september. you drive down this winding gravel road, no bus too high for this island without power lines. you make it up the hill, not too steep for this magic bus. you unpack what you can, clear a space to walk inside, carrie is coming tomorrow. and the fall fair, you volunteer at the gate with sue, take peoples money, do bad math. it’s a good thing there are two of you to do bad math together. jenny describes the fall fair as the time the island gets to be silly together. later you do the relay race where you and your teammates have to hug between each task, in lieu of passing a baton. you split wood, stack it, push your teammate in the wheelbarrow, pour water from a gas-can into a vinegar bottle without spilling it, then recycle different sorts of containers into the appropriate bins. clearly not all of you are good at recycling.

you head back up the hill, unpack more. your friend arrives and you wander the land with her. the next day you walk down to the ocean, the tide is out, the tidal flats are alive with wonder. the mucky sand is scalloped with sand dollars, their tiny purple cilia frond about in the sunlight as you pick them up to examine. an oyster the size of a dinner plate; still alive, you put it back. carrie leaves and you work work work. get up, do yoga, get to the task of the day. six days until your first shower because you hadn’t had time to get the shower set up. fix the brakes on the truck; vise grips are your new favourite tool. drill a hole in the water tank to install a fitting that a garden hose can attach to. tomorrow will be for the figuring out of the placement of solar panels, and wiring them in. tonight jennas first dance class of the season. a welcome to the new moon, to fall equinox, to the turning of the season. as A said: back to school! mystery school. we dance to adams beats and jennas prompts, we welcome the moon, and in my mind, in my heart, it all comes together. so many times i have spent in this hall. so many different intentions we have held within it. the newest i have seen: a sign on the wall that declares it certified as a place of internment. how special this island is. but tonight, the history of it and me merge and i dance through all that has culminated into me being here. visions of caribou moving across the tundra, bike tires spinning over the gravel of distant lands, cultures i have had the pleasure of being welcomed into. lakes and rivers that have met my paddle and propelled me onward, welcomed the forward slice of my canoe through their cradling waters. the people who have been named as friend in the travels to places previously unknown. knowlesville, nippissing, the sun farm, erickson, golden horn, tombstone campground, the deh cho long and wide, winnipeg, prairies edge, fort nelson, golden. i am so grateful, for the time here, but for the time away too. for all that leads us to where we are.

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