A Secret Garden

A Secret Garden

Nature is the great healer – both physically and psychologically. I never cease to wonder at the whispering innocence, life pulse, beauty, symmetry and fractal geometry of Nature.

At the end of the Lebanese Civil War, I worked in Beirut on a CBC-TV documentary about hostages remaining in captivity. Of course, this assignment put my life at risk, since we were pressing warlords on camera for answers about the fate of hostages – warlords running their own private armies. I could easily have become a disappeared person myself. This assignment also put my value system at risk – my faith and trust and optimism. I wrote the following poem in French, after returning home. If you don’t understand it, then scroll down to the English translation below.

Oies des neiges

Il y a dans mon coeur un lieu secret:
Je l’ai regagné à quatre heures dix,
Redessinant dans la froideur de la nuit
Comme sur un tableau lumineux
Toute la douceur des premiers jours…
La surface ondulante me berce,
La pagaie laissant goutter
Une traînée de tourbillons qui gargouillent
Et glissent et chuintent.

Le kayak s’approche d’une image floue et blanche,
D’un être vivant, mystérieux, qui danse sur l’eau,
D’une multitude qui murmure et gémit et remue :
Les oies des neiges se sont arrêtées,
Durant leur migration vers le Sud,
Entre l’austère baie de Povungnituk
Et les pins chuchotants de la Caroline.
Le kayak me projette dans ce tableau d’automne,
Tout bordé d’écarlate et d’or,
De couleurs figées: le temps s’est arrêté.

Et dans ce lieu secret, l’effroi s’évanouit:
Là me quittent les visions d’horreur,
Les décombres des trous de balles,
Les enlèvements de Beyrouth que je suis venu documenter,
La tempête des folies humaines,
La haine du Dieu-des-entonnoirs.
J’ai voulu prendre la mesure du monde,
Offrir mon témoignage du bien et du mal…
Mais ce jeu de contrastes ne mène nulle part
Des fois, le mal est une façon plus qu’un absolu.

Longtemps, les oies subissent-elles mon regard,
Et puis, le vent se levant doucement,
D’un commun accord elles s’étirent,
Se rangent en V,
Éclaboussant la surface du bout des ailes,
Et lentement, tout en cacquetant, prennent leur envol.
Il y a dans mon coeur un lieu secret,
Où la beauté côtoie l’innocence : j’y retourne souvent.

Snow Geese

There is in my heart a secret place:
I went back there at ten past four,
Calling forth, in the coolness of night,
As if drawing on a crystal-clear screen
All the sweetness of the first days …
The undulating surface rocks me,
My paddle leaves
A swirling trail of gurgling bubbles,
Slipping and hissing.

The kayak approaches a blurred, white image
A living, mysterious being, dancing on the water,
Murmuring, cackling, stirring:
A flock of snow geese rest here,
On their migration southwards,
From the austere bay of Povungnituk
To the whispering pines of Carolina.
The kayak glides into this autumn scene,
All bordered with scarlet and gold,
The colours are frozen: time has stopped.

Nature is the great healer – this is Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

And in this secret place, I find release
From my dread and visions of horror,
The broken rubble and bullet-scarred buildings,
The kidnappings of Beirut I have come to document,
The storm of human follies,
The hatred of God-of-the-bomb-craters.
I wanted to take the measure of the world,
Bear witness to good and evil…
But stark either/or choices lead nowhere.
Sometimes, evil is a manner more than something absolute.

For the longest time, the geese suffer my gaze,
And then, the wind slowly rising,
They respond to some secret stirring,
Stretch their wings, lining up in a V,
Splash the surface with their wingtips,
Slowly, honking, they take flight.
There is in my heart a secret place,
Where beauty and innocence find each other:
I go back there often.

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