Life and Death, Flaming Passage

Candle boat sailing on the current

21 June 2012

It was the longest day of the year.  We were blessed with sunshine, water warm enough for a swim and the pleasure of a lazy row down the inlet past natural arbutus gardens—the great savour of life.

Marike launches the candle boat

And yet, beside that and mixed with it, sadness.  A friend called to say that her father had died. Our hearts ached for her and the rest of her family—and for ourselves as well.  For life is precarious and we have all lost people precious to us; we have even wrestled with fear of difficult diagnoses and close calls ourselves. Yet the very closeness of death and of dying– the knowledge of our finitude–makes us avid for the light, the sun, the snowy peaks, the murmur of the water and birds and wind around us; it becomes ever more crucial to take pleasure in these things and to share them with each other: these are the elements of plenitude in life.

To mark the passing of our friend’s father, we fabricated a little boat from paper plates and mounted two candles in its tiny hull.  At darkness we lit the candles. Marike reached down to place the vessel gently on the water.

We had expected our little boat to go directly out to sea with the ebbing tide.  Instead the eddies carried it first to the stern and then back along the hull of Quoddy’s Run to the bow. Finally our candle bark turned out to sea where it flickered along bravely for a long time, a tribute to our friend’s father’s mortal life extinguished, a fragile vessel of departure.

The last of the light

About Karin Cope

Karin Cope lives on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia. She is a poet, sailor, photographer, scholar, rural activist, blogger and an Associate Professor at NSCAD University. Her publications include Passionate Collaborations: Learning to Live with Gertrude Stein, a poetry collection entitled What we're doing to stay afloat, and, since 2009, a photo/poetry blog entitled Visible Poetry: Aesthetic Acts in Progress. Over the course of the last decade, with her partner and collaborator Marike Finlay, Cope has sailed to and conducted fieldwork in a number of remote or marginal coastal communities in British Columbia and Mexico. Their joint writings range from activist journalism and travel and policy documents, to an illustrated popular material history of the Lunenburg Foundry entitled Casting a Legend, as well as their ongoing west coast travel blog, West By East.
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