For the fall of 2010, I resided on British Columbia's Vancouver Island.  I lived in a neighborhood of Victoria known as Gonzales, two blocks from the Juan de Fuca Strait and fifty miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.  During my stay I was deeply stirred by the intense natural energies that seemed to converge at this point of time and geography and was intrigued by the history the waterway played in earlier centuries in the search for the elusive Northwest Passage.  

       Recently the waterways between Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula, including the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Pudget Sound and the Strait of Georgia, as a whole have been designated the "Salish Sea," after the region's historic First Nations coastal peoples.   

      Three months after returning home to North Carolina, I composed the following poem in an attempt to express my feelings about experiences along the strait - watching sunsets and moonrises, beach walking, collecting pebbles and driftwood, botanizing on the hillsides, harvesting kelp in the shallows, birding with my binos, watching for sea mammals like otters, sea lions and whales, observing passing ships, contemplating the snow capped Olympic Mountains to the south, paddling my waft, taking photos, climbing rocky cliffs, dipping in 48 degree water and then sunning on the giant driftwood trunks of washed up ancient rainforest trees!  I have entitled this poem Meeqan, the Salish word meaning "warmed by the sun."


by Riverdave Owen

March 2011

Cool night by the Eno RIver

With windows open wide

My chime plays mystic in the wind

The stars refuse to hide.

My drum broods restless on the shelf

Awaiting midnight stroke

Time dribbles to a feeble end

It vanishes like smoke.

My soul takes flight quite suddenly

Somewhere beyond rainbow

Goes searching for a simpler life

A field where camas grow.

My feet touch down I look around

In solar radiance

South tip of Vancouver Island

A clement ambiance.

Meeqan, the native Salish call 

This sun drenched meadow sheen 

Upon whose soft breast gently rests

Arbutus evergreen.

Beyond this pasture great waters 

Flow seaward with the tide

And to the south Olympic peaks

Where deities reside.

Amidst this wild topography

Move primal elements

Of earth and wind and sea and sun

With perfect compliments.

This ancient sea of legendry

Across millennia

To mast was bound Odysseus

and then Juan de Fuca.

Competing empires racing in 

The northwest regatta

Both Spain and England chasing a

Beguiling chimera.

But in my odyssey and flight

Find deeper satiance

A tender spot on Mother Earth

With warming influence. 

This photo is looking west to my neighborhood of Gonzales, the peninsula that juts out into the Juan de Fuca Strait.  Gonzales Bay is in the foreground



A evening scene, looking south across the Juan de Fuca Strait to the Olympic Mountains of Washington State twenty miles away. Floating kelp is on the water.

Looking west from my neighborhood at sunset across the Juan de Fuca Strait towards the Pacific Ocean.

This is a cairn erected in 1925, is on hill above my neighborhood of Gonzales in Victoria BC, overlooking the Juan de Fuca Strait.  It commemorates the expeditions undertaken by both Spanish and British explorers in search of the Northwest Passage. The search for a temperate zone  passageway ended in 1792 when Europeans circumnavigated Vancouver Island for the first time, ending all speculation that the Juan de Fuca Strait might somehow lead to a direct passage to the Hudson Bay.  

Below is a photo of the plaque on the south face of the cairn.

I'm out in my inflatable kayak, wafting the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

I'm seated by the Strait looking south, pondering the significance of this body of water on a cold, windy evening ...

Sign in Beacon Hill Park on the sunny seaward slope to the Starit of Juan de Fuca.

Arbutus tree in Beacon Hill park facing the Strait.  This species in the Heath family, Arbutus menziesii and sometimes called Pacific madrone, is the only evergreen hardwood found in British Columbia.
Photos by Riverdave