Friday, October 9, 2009


i find the image of a small boat on a river compelling.
it connects very strongly to my sense of myself.
it's ripe with metaphor.
metaphor being the bridge between this world and all the others i know.


when i was very little, i lived in england.
when we visited my grandma's home,
there was a set of books
in the room i slept in.
each night i would pick one of those books off the shelf
and spend a little time
wandering through
a world long past.

the books were quite old, but filled
with art, photographs, fairy tales, stories of lands so exotic
i could barely imagine.

i remember a time when i thought that the world would be like this when i grew up.

old stone cottages.
tinted a soft sepia.

photogravure peter henry emerson (1886)

a fisherman spends the night under west rock,
pails clear river water and burns bamboo.
smoke vanishes, sun rises and no one is seen.
the oar-sound turns mountains and water green.
floating the central current, he turns to gaze at sky
above rock where mindless clouds chase each other.


Dan Gurney said...

Steven, I agree completely. The strength of this image has swayed me so strongly as to have owned a boat or two or three my whole adult life.

Boats resting at their moorings resonates particularly strongly with me. I remember one week-long Zen sesshin where the image of a wooden sailboat resting on its mooring in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia practically took over my whole mind.

I love the image of the gaff rigged sailboat on the river.

Life is but a dream. Go merrily.

Kay said...

the piece..fisherman is just lovely...I to have very happy memories of sitting on my grandads knee looking at a book about people and there different occupations..the smell of his pipe tobacco and fish and parsley sauce for tea.....

Delwyn said...

Hi Steven

Strangely enough I have prepared a post of a different translation of this poem...I will post it one day and we can compare them.

I love your image - sepia is other worldly - its almost a transition world between this and some other...Hmmm "the sepia world" I think I'll hang on to that...

Happy days

willow said...

My grandmother had a set of just those books, as well. They were old and bound in wine colored red. The illustrations were magical, as were the tales of Giant Thunderbones. How I'd love to have that set today!

gleaner said...

Your post resonates with me - the childhood memories of the mysteries and wonders of books.

steven said...

hi dan - the image of a small boat sailing in a river is for me the most compelling image. i've never owned a sailboat although i've been on a few.
life is a dream.
thanks for the lovely comment dan. steven

steven said...

kay - such a beautiful memory!!! it's incredible that we carry these moments with us. the richest, most compelling, life affirming stories we know. have a peaceful day. steven

steven said...

hi delwyn - the sepia world. it has so many emotional referents for me. back to old books and pictures that, as you say, danced between worlds. the here and now and the there and then. i'm looking forward to reading the alternate translattion of zongyuan's writing!! have a lovely twilight by the river. steven

steven said...

hi willow - so cool!! i wonder just how much those books set us on our journey in terms of what we love and value. especially the way they fired our imaginations . . . . i too would love to hold those books in my hands now and really scour them for all the little gems i recall were bound in them! have a lovely day at the manor. steven

steven said...

hi gleaner - as i was mentioning to willow - i wonder how tose childhood books coloured and affected my perception of the world long after they had been put down?! obviously they sit in our minds for a very long time. have a lovely day. steven

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Steven; So meaningful to me - in so many ways. Thank you.

Golden West said...

Life is vastly different than what I expected once I "grew up". The biggest surprise has been that I thought it would get easier - wrong!

Anonymous said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

The Weaver of Grass said...

Oh steven, the memory of old books one used to read at one's grannies - I have been there too. The magic of those old photographs - makes me very nostalgic. Have a lovely weekend.

steven said...

hello weaver - it's a magical memory of something so simple isn't it. it makes me really aware of how i would wish to make my own grandchildren's lives special when ever they appear in my life!!! steven

steven said...

hello golden west, funny that isn't it. i had no real sense of expectation or even any real idea of how life would be. it just sort of happened. it is still happening and i have a little sense onow of what i'd like to do when i "grow up"!!! have a lovely evening. steven

steven said...

hello hapi - lovely to have you drop in for a quick look-see. you're always welcome back of course. have a lovely evening wherever you are!!! steven

Margaret Pangert said...

Hi Steven~ I love to hear snippets here and there of your life--it's been so varied. And stayig at grandmother's conjured up images for me, too. I remember the bound short stories of Guy de Maupassant--is that why I majored in French? And boats on rivers! We used to take homemade rafts down the Sacramento River--they were about as substantial as an air mattress on the ocean! I could never fathom Tom Sawyer going down the Mississippi on a raft! I love this sepia-colored Asian sailboat with the poem. Bon week-end!

hope said... that neither of my grandmothers were "readers" and yet, they had the most fascinating collection of photo albums. I spent many an afternoon wondering about the "real" stories behind those photos.

Nice way to start the weekend!