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« Bill Reid (1920-1998) – Vancouver | Main | Elaine Savoie – Hornby Island »

Haida Gwaii – Vancouver

Tonight we went to the anthropology museum at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. It brought back so much from our trip five years ago to Haida Gwaii. I just stared and stared at the old poles again, which had been saved from their decay on the islands and had been brought here to be conserved.

About 7.30 pm we went outside to see the poles Bill Reid and others had carved much more recently. It was drizzling. And then soon the drizzle became proper rain. Thank God. Now I had those poles (and Susan Point’s Musqueam house posts) to myself. Even Debi had gone inside.

Even in the mist and rain, it wasn't Haida Gwaii -- but it was as close as I'll get this time. And I could feel the place again. I could really feel the place. It made me question everything -- or certainly it made me question museums. I know the old poles would be rotting on the shore now. I know someone had to save them. But I also know they weren’t made for a museum.

When I went back into the museum myself, the place was nearly empty. And then it was empty. For twenty-five minutes, Debi and I (and one guard) had the place to ourselves. We had Reid's "Raven and the First Men" to ourselves. Then we went back to those old poles from Ttanuu and Qquuna and Sghan Gwaay. I whisked away everything in the rooms but them. All I wanted was to be drifting in a canoe past Shaman's Island into a misty cove again – praying and calling out to the watchmen for the necessary permissions.That's what these poles still do, even in a museum, if you can be alone with them enough. They point the way. I've always loved that quote by Hesse: "Our only guide is our homesickness."

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