Poetry and prose from Isabella Mori

Rocks covered with seaweed and algae out by the water. Land in the near distance.
Yellow sticky note saying that a museum is closed, from Isabella, on a metal gate over a gravel trail.
Large and full wooden cabinets and bookshelves full of books.
Haibun Highway

[This is an excerpt of a travel journal I wrote in 2017 while walking 160 kilometres (100 miles) from Vancouver, BC, up the Sunshine Coast in the Northwest Pacific, to visit my friends Haedy and Ed in Powell River, BC. I mostly stayed with friends along the way. Using the haibun form (known most famously through Basho’s Narrow Road To The Interior) each day has a description of the writing, followed by a haiku, as well as a haibun with impressions during the rest times.]

September 6
I walk for 14,000 metres along the highway, along the highway, along the highway, past a sign that reads Smugglers Cove, until I reach Secret Cove. There’s a change in plan and I stay at Elizabeth’s, who lives right on the beach. 

lizzy’s couch:
i dream to the water drum
all night long

the ocean’s waters gurgle gently against big rocks, lying there like sleeping hippopotamuses from the river nile. so much more water than land!  the islands, the rocks, the coast are all here at the sufferance of water. it all exists surrounded by what we call air, suffused today as in the last days by the smoke created by the wildfires. 

water, earth, air, fire. water. the water people can be felt – seen? – everywhere. watermen and waterwomen, and watercreatures i can never understand, not equipped to grasp. i see a watercreature hailing a seagull and know that somewhere near, humpback whales are on the move. the sleeping hippopotamuses allow me to sense not only the nile but also the great okanagan lake, creeks in kamloops, the mighty fraser in its canyon. the waternet is everywhere. 

i am of land and water. we’re all of land and water.

	transfixed
	is sit in this
	fairytale puddle


September 7
13,000 metres today, from Secret Cove to Madeira Park. I am taken by signs on the roadside: an announcement of “Visitors Info – 400m” leading to a row of ten or so billboards arranged in a quarter circle; a barn advertising it’s a mink farm, right beside an old “Drink Coca Cola” sign; donut circles screeched into the road with smoking tires. Mario greets me and takes me to his home on the hill.

highway full of curves
wouldn’t wanna walk this way
drunk and in the rain

tonight i sleep in a library. all the books are bound in hardcover, some standing neatly side by side in series – agatha christie, for example, or jane austen. photographs of lovers, mothers, long-dead dogs look down on me. videos beside a tv, respectfully stacked. a dog pillow lies on the ground. of sounds i notice hardly any, none from the outside on this quiet wooded hill, only a few from inside the house. before i fall asleep i read a little in a book called sointula island utopia, full of names like linnoila, kurikka and honkala.
the scent of books
how can i not
have a magical night?


September 8
This is my last full day on the Southern part of the Sunshine Coast. I walk 16,100 metres along a highway with less and less traffic, towards Ruby Lake. A woman stops beside me on the opposite side of the road. 
“I’ve seen you on the highway before. Where are you going?”  
“I’m walking from Vancouver to Powell River.”  
“Where are you heading today?”  
“To the Iris Griffith Center.”  
It turns out she works there but the center is closed today. Very generously, she decides to let me in anyway – “I’ll just put the key under the mat.”  Her friendliness bowls me over.   

trees, rocks, blackberries …
joy bubbles from my heart
as i walk

And another night at Elizabeth’s. We have a hoot!

at the iris griffith centre. i have benefitted from so much generosity. sitting here in this beautiful space, i feel it everywhere. the generosity of air and soil, so much unfathomable abundance. the generosity of these strong tree trunks that hold up the roof. the generosity of billions of cells that grew the ten-point antler of the deer skull on the wall. the generosity of the cookies and tea on the table beside me. the generosity of the woman who gave me the key to the centre, just like that, without knowing me. i am grateful. and wish i could be feel the gratitude even deeper, right in my blood, to honour the generosity that has been thrown my way, a tidal wave, a sandstorm of generosity. 

can’t repay
all the wealth tossed at me – 
not meant to

September 9
It rains. I walk to the ferry and it rains. I dry out, just a little, on the ferry, and it rains. I walk from the ferry, and it rains. For 10,200 long metres I get very wet, then suddenly Haedy and Ed show up. I am confused; I was not planning to see them until I arrived at their doorstep, a good 30,000 metres from here. I am wet. It rains. I get into their car. It rains. Disappointment over not walking today’s allotted stretch, gratitude, and confusion tumble about in my head. Haedy and Ed drive me to the B&B I had arranged for the night and the day after, a day of rest. The place is stunning and luxurious.

wet rat
tumbling through the landscape
the cackle of a crow

turn on the water in the shiny sink. add shampoo, the next best thing if there is no laundry detergent. dunk the socks – the socks must go first, they are the dirtiest. their former white is grey and black in most places although clean spots shine through like the clouds behind a sudden gap between trees. 
turn the water off.  we finally, finally had rain today but there will be no reason for a long time to waste water. add underwear, bra, t-shirt. squeeze it all a bit and let it soak. check the rain-drenched jacket – is it drying?  look at the alice munro book. i like the really short stories and the really long ones. “wild swans,” – yes, i’ll read that one. 

return to the sink. the socks need soap – what do we have here today?  lavender. the time for lavender bloom is over; we’re heading into autumn. as am i. this 62-year-old remembers washing laundry by hand as a given, not something done with tender nostalgia about archaic times. 

the owner of this luxurious place has cushion covers embroidered with the same colours and deer motif as my grandmother’s. embroidered by hand.

and suddenly
summer’s over
… one squishy step at a time …


September 10
Stillwater Creek B&B
A Day of Rest

i wake up at the earliest dawn, sensing it’s not completely dark anymore. first i hear nothing but quiet. the tide has gone out. then crickets. when a few moments later the seagulls start their screech, i know night is over. out of the dark gray-blue, a growl. it seems to come from the porch or … no, not the porch. farther down, by the water. then another growl and a whole chorus. this is not what bears sound like. bears are forest animals, quiet, they don’t talk like drunks in a pub. and then i understand – sea lions!  they growl and bellow and gurgle, throaty voices unmistakably carried by their large blubber bodies.

then – a swooshing and rushing from the same area where i believe the sea lions to be – no, farther away. 

a night of sensing but not knowing the sounds. not fully awake, i think of hurricanes, and i’m a little afraid. the rushing gets louder and nearer, not fast like a plane but moving inexorably, directly, without obstruction, to this beautiful house.

sea lions –
amid the surround sound of rain
a canticle of growls

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