The Shadow River
A Tribute to Pauline Johnson
A concrete bridge crosses it now
I parked on the graveled highway shoulder
and portaged the asphalt ribbon
that runs from Rosseau to Georgian Bay.
The sign said
Narrow, shallow, tea-coloured water
curving through bushy foliage and dense forest firs,
it disappears around a curve into an abstraction of green
A string of hydro lines spans the river,
poles sunk into the marsh it drains,
casting the only trace of humanity onto the surface,
caught in the looking glass
and the silence of the shadow river,
a mirror and a time tunnel
where once Pauline Johnson paddled.
I trace the outline, at the border, a fine line:
pictures above and below, all defying an orderly sense of vision,
blending old logging routes and modern growth,
balancing ancient solitude and present communication
floating and dreaming in wooden canoes
Of filmy sun, and opal-tinted skies,
of clouds of snow, above and below. They drifted with her drifting,
through brownish hills with needles green and gold,
and not a ripple moved to mar
the mirrored surface.
(A little fern bent upon the brink. Its green reflection
met a bubble in the pearly air.
My leaf floating upon the sapphire floor,
like in a dream.)
Two pathless worlds — her past, my present --
collide on an August afternoon
in the untamed country
on the river that was once a highway
and is now a bridge.
We only claimed the shadows and the dreaming.
Sharon Frayne is a writer and artist. She is a member of the Canadian Author's Association, the Niagara Writer's Circle and the Pumphouse Art Gallery. She looks for the universal experience and the mystery in everyday things.