St John River, NB and Grand River, ON - Marian Lucas-Jefferies
My sense of ocean waters? Are they sacred? Absolutely! Do they have a place in my story? Absolutely!
But I spent my childhood on the banks of the Grand River in southern Ontario. The Six Nations, land of the Haudenosaunee, People of the Longhouse, surrounded my home. The " big muddy" is what my father called the Grand River. And that it is. No clear, clean rippling water, but still cherished by so many including the poet, Pauline Johnson:
The Song My Paddle Sings
West wind, blow from your prairie nest
Blow from the mountains, blow from the west.
The sail is idle, the sailor too;
O! wind of the west, we wait for you.
I have wooed you so,
But never a favour you bestow.
You rock your cradle the hills between,
But scorn to notice my white lateen.
I stow the sail, unship the mast:
I wooed you long but my wooing's past;
My paddle will lull you into rest.
O! drowsy wind of the drowsy west,
By your mountain steep,
Or down where the prairie grasses sweep!
Now fold in slumber your laggard wings,
For soft is the song my paddle sings.
August is laughing across the sky,
Laughing while paddle, canoe and I,
Where the hills uplift
On either side of the current swift.
The river rolls in its rocky bed;
My paddle is plying its way ahead;
While the waters flip
In foam as over their breast we slip.
And oh, the river runs swifter now;
The eddies circle about my bow.
How the ripples curl
In many a dangerous pool awhirl!
And forward far the rapids roar,
Fretting their margin for evermore.
With a mighty crash,
They seethe, and boil, and bound, and splash.
Be strong, O paddle! be brave, canoe!
The reckless waves you must plunge into.
On your trembling keel,
But never a fear my craft will feel.
We've raced the rapid, we're far ahead!
The river slips through its silent bed.
As the bubbles spray
And fall in tinkling tunes away.
And up on the hills against the sky,
A fir tree rocking its lullaby,
Its emerald wings,
Swelling the song that my paddle sings.
No, although for a number of my adult years, it was, my life has not always been centred on oceans, not the salt smell in the air, tidal pools and sails, fishing wharves and dulse. My life has, on the whole been about rivers, some long and some not, some wide and some not. All used for travel in the past. Some clear and some opaque. The clay banks of the Grand River leach into the river and the water is brown. Those waters flow into Lake Erie and eventually find their way to the Atlantic. So I live and love the Atlantic watershed. The waters of the Miramichi, part of my past, are generally clear, mostly salt. They also find their way from the Gulf o St Lawrence to the Atlantic. And the St. John River, that flows into the Bay of Fundy, has been my home for this past thirty-five years (not consecutive), is clearer and fresh, sometimes calm and sometimes wild.
These things are God's, on loan to us, entrusted to us, and to be shared among us. We cannot and should not own them, but instead be in them. My children and nieghbourhood children learned about the "thin place" we call "the rock" what a special place it is, passed down and being passed down. I took my grandchildren there. A sacred place where we do not discuss troubles, but seek deeper communion, intimacy perhaps with the Creator and creation. We look to the east, over the water, to the south, downriver towards home, to the north to Caton's Island, a place that had always been considered sacred by the first nations people and west into the trees, the land, life today and tomorrow.