Insert your custom message here. close ×

Dead Sentinels; Inspired By A Family Hike To Stanley Glacier

The summer of 2018 had been hot, dry, and smoky in British Columbia and Alberta. There had been many forest fires. Recent previous summers had also known significant forest fire damage.

As a family, we had chosen to do the Stanley Glacier hike. The area had been affected by fire in a recent year. Rain had fallen earlier in the week of our hike, so the air was clearer than usual, and so we took the opportunity to get out to the mountains.

Early on, our hike went past many short young coniferous trees growing close together. Some of the cones of evergreen trees actually require the heat of a fire to crack them open and make the seed available for germination. The fire that had burned away many taller trees and left charred stump also had eliminated the canopy that prevented sunlight from reaching younger trees, and now the new growth was plentiful.
There were, however, the blackened and barren remnants of the tall trees that had once dominated that landscape. They stood out like sentinels watching over the newer life below them – the new trees, the fireweed. A poem began to form in my mind, nearly spontaneously. It’s a rare occurrence for me, but it does happen- perhaps the result of a lifetime’s fascination with words and ideas, how words sound, and how ideas are shaped. So here it is.

Dead Sentinels – by Art Koop (September 1, 2018, during a hike toward Stanley Glacier, through terrain scorched by a huge forest fire just a few years previous)

Dead sentinels still standing guard
Over nurseries of toddler trees and fireweed
Determined in their youth
Asserting life within
Their rockstrewn charred domain
Certain in some grander scheme, they win.

We, wending our way over, through, and past
Begin to feel our circulating breath and blood,
The warmth of working muscle pushing us ahead.
And start to feel we too are more alive than dead.

The intrepid potentilla, bursting into bloom
While holding fast its roots in molecules of dirt
Between the rocks, bears witness to our wandering
And seems to cheer us on, while we,
Amazed at its endurance, hear its positive prodding
And proceed.

Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus

Heart Portal – 12 Years Old and Intense and Likes Poetry

These four lines were among those I wrote in one of my early attempts at songwriting, when I was 12 years old;

“Those eyes
are beautiful.

They’re all I see, sometimes,
when I look at you.

They cause me
to feel.

They move me softly,
they make me steel.”

To be honest, the poem/song wasn’t actually much longer than that. And the melody that went with those lines – simple, almost automatic, a bit stilted – is now part of the new version of the song I built around those lines.

I was a pretty intense 12 year old. I mean sure, that intensity came out in my love for floor hockey (I never did properly learn how to skate on ice – a source of some shame for a Canadian boy from Winnipeg). But I also really liked words. I read poetry, and every book I could get my hands on. Some nights I read the dictionary, and even took notes, trying to learn new words.

The line about how “the eyes are a window to the soul” made a lot of sense to me.

The intensity with which I felt my many conflicting emotions felt taboo to me somehow. Much of that was internal – I also felt a keen loyalty to logic, and the social attraction interactions of 12-year-olds made no sense to me at all. I wasn’t sure that emotions were even okay to have, never mind admit to. I unconsciously attributed this sense of taboo to coming from the faith community that I grew up in, but looking back I think it was more a matter of my own internal interpretations rather than dogma.

In one conversation I had as an older teenager at camp, I confessed to my desire to be a writer, but that I had some misgivings, since I felt that faith limited what I could write about. I don’t remember the name of the fellow I talked to, but I do remember what he said – or at least, what he meant. The gist of it was, that he saw spirituality as providing an expanded dimension for what a person could write about.
A person of faith (and I would now add, a person struggling with the notion of faith) could write about everything that anyone else could write about, and faith as well.

That conversation was part of my process of opening up and being more free to express myself, to consider all topics.

So this song, about feeling an intense attraction to another person, and the awkward and wonderful moment of getting caught up in that attraction, is part of belatedly setting my 12 year old conflicted self free to be expressive and less conflicted. As Wordsworth famously wrote in his poem ‘My Heart Leaps Up’- “The Child is father of the Man”.

Here are the rest of the lyrics of ‘Heart Portal’

Feels like I’m looking
through a window
deeply into you –

And I’m ashamed of how I stare,
but I don’t wanna
look away.

Some kind of power
is beginning
to flow.

Now we’re just standing there,

Those eyes
are beautiful.

They all I see, sometimes,
when I look at you.

They cause me
to feel.

They move me softly;
they make me steel.

They penetrate.
They water-fall.

They massage my stiff heart until they hold it all.

Those eyes
are beauty

They all I
they all I
they all I see.

They all I
they all I
they all I see.

… From there, it’s a matter of repetition.

The repetition itself functions in this song as a way to communicate the sense of being caught up in a moment, of not being able to get past the moment – of feeling entranced and having my mind captured by the beauty of the eyes I am looking into and by extension, the essence of the person that I feel drawn to as well.

Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus