In Slow Curve Out, Maureen Scott Harris has as one of the opening poems an elegy to Alex Wilson, landscape restorer and author. She concludes the poem with the recollection of first hearing of Alex’s illness at Stonyground. The location is over-determined. Stonyground was a ferme ornée, the locale of horticultural splendour and fanciful follies created by Douglas Chambers. This is more than name dropping, this is an attempt to record in literature projects about shaping our relation to environment and each other. Fragile but necessary projects. She concludes her tribute to Wilson thus
When I heard again of his illness
I sat on a green Adirondack chair
in the yard at Stonyground
staring at the page in front of me
while the light dissolved in colours.
It was summer, soft air, birdsong,
a small breeze in the trees.
I could think of nothing to do.
I’m talking about being in love
with the same things, the way the world
will speak us together. And apart.
This figure of unity via some form of shared mentality combined with an acknowledgement of our existential aloneness ends “Epistemology: The World Speaks”. Later, like a volunteer one finds transplanted, many poems into the book, another poem with the same figure. “She dreams / the young everywhere are lucid in their beauty, and safe / walking or sitting or dreaming, alone or together.” concludes “A Woman Dreaming.” One can only imagine that the two pretext fuse in the writer’s crucible, the poet remembering of being at Stonyground learning of Alex’s illness (AIDS) and the woman dreaming of a future of youth alone and together. Like a great chiasmus sketched over the course of the book, the figure bends in a different way: in one instance we are left with the apartness; in the other, the togetherness; both mediated by the flow of words.
Alexander Wilson The Culture of Nature: North American Landscape from Disney to the Exxon Valdez (1991).
Douglas Chambers Stonyground: The Making of a Canadian Garden (1996).
And so for day 1130