Ancient Stories of Life, Death and Art

Life lives off of death. It translates one into another.


Life lives in death.

P1240855Pre-Contact Graveyard, Beacon Hill, Vancouver Island

Much of what is known about the human past is known by how people honoured life at the moment of death.



What they left was art.

P1240876Art is in part this intersection. Even if it is only the arrangement of naturally-occuring patterns.

P1240875Like the web of a spider…

P1240819… they draw life to themselves…

P1240859Photography works like that, too. It reads things, and in reading them stops them, in the way that the living, undifferentiated earth seen as stone is stopped, right at the moment of transformation. We don’t call it death. We call it life.

P1240767Turtle at Finlayson Point Salish Village Site, Beacon HIll Park, Vancouver Island

Spiders that we are. Hunters. Soul eaters.



But we are gatherers, too. We don’t just read the patterns of life in time, but this, as well.


Native Pacific Crabapples (Malus Fusca), a Salish Crop

It seems that a landscape can be read in time. It doesn’t have to be stopped. This series of images takes place on and above the beach that the painter Emily Carr went down to again and again nearly a hundred years ago.


Now, though, it has been sculpted by bulldozers and filled with new gravel to prevent erosion of the cliffs, and, um, it’s covered with even more industrial refuse. Out of that, people are making art.

P1240788Sometimes, only in a photograph.

P1240781Or in attention to a flash of movement, that gets caught in the eye’s web.


1/100th of a Second of Time

In Emily’s time, or just before it, people dreaming of England planted sweet peas on this ancient village site. They’re still here.


It is 10,000 years ago. It is 1900. It is today.

P1240722Homeless Painter on the Rocks

He has just packed up from his sleeping back above Horseshoe Bay, behind him, and is headed into town for a day of busking. I bet Emily still lives in him. He’s standing on a stone surf of whales and waves transforming into each other, still, after all this time. It’s all still a story, and a very old one.


Raven Pecking at Pretty Leaves

The ancient cultural hero is still telling our tale.












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