I have taken a monthly retreat day for almost 30 years now. One of my special places for retreat since living in Abbotsford has been Fraser River Heritage Park in Mission, BC. The view to the south is spectacular: the wide Fraser River, the fertile and expansive valley, forested hills, and Mount Baker’s snow-covered peak in the distance. It is not difficult to experience the Creator’s closeness here and yet the place is also marked by spiritual pain–story boards were added a few years ago to commemorate the sad chapter of a residential school on the site. I have written numerous poems from this vantage point and this latest one illustrates a few of the layers from prehistoric times to my present that make this a sacred place.

STORY BOARDS

Coagulating story boards

Markers of days gone by

Sheltered by shade of trees with eyes

What stories could they tell?

In the distance a dormant cone

Now covered all with snow

A deep rainforest lies below

A river flowing by

Teeming large with salmon plenteous

Ancient home of STO:LO

Hemlock and fir and cedar grow

Gray rain and cloudy sky

Foreign explorers found their way

With alcohol and gun

Built a school: St. Mary’s Mission

Christendom is to blame

So much pain these cracked foundations

Dignity and pride like mist

What can anyone say to this?

We hang our heads in shame

Now there’s a new and winding path

Nearer to death than birth

Will something fresh ever come forth?

Or does one pause to rest?

Coagulating story boards

From ancient fire till now

List! Listen to the leaves and bow

Your story may be next