Poems for Trees: Wilson Island

Wilson Island's cobble shores, Ontario (Photo by Michelle Derosier, Thunderstone Pictures)

Wilson Island's cobble shores, Ontario (Photo by Michelle Derosier, Thunderstone Pictures)

August 8, 2016 | by Kristyn Ferguson

In August 2011 I visited the Wilson Island Archipelago with Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) staff Brenda Van Sleeuwen and former NCCer Laura Mousseau, along with Pays Plat First Nation seasonal employees Gary Bouchard and Andrew Wynne. Our goal was to assess vegetation communities, particularly moist forest and inland lake communities that were close to the centre of the 5,000 acre island.

Again and again we walked a very specific transition of habitats, described in the poem below, and after endless marches through the thick spruce/fir forests (which are truly talented at stealing sunglasses right off your face!) we always emerged with a spectacular view as a reward at the end of each adventure. Thanks for taking a walk into the depths of Wilson with me.

Wilson Island

It starts with waves
Lapping at and sliding between the smooth gray cobbled rocks on shore

That stony beach gives way to a tangle of shrubs
That claw at tender legs passing through them

Then forest
Mixed at first, with conifers and broad-leaved trees mingling together at the party
Patches of sunlight warm the forest floor

Deeper in, light filters out and dark boughs of spruce and fir draw closely together
They interlock their needled fingers and stand tall to challenge any passer-bys

Trying to follow the four-legged journey of a deer in a line through the deep woods
I am no match
Those dark branches like arms hug me closer
       Wrap around my backpack straps
       Slip inside my belt loops
       Slyly pull my sunglasses right off my face
They tug me backward while I struggle forward

In the distance I see light penetrating the shadows
And march one leg at a time toward it
Ignoring the grasping hands at my ankles

Beneath my feet the forest floor turns into a moss carpet
A plush emerald cloud that bounces under me
My footprints disappear as quickly as I leave them

At last I burst out of the forest's dusk and meet the light
      The blue sky
      The puffy white clouds
      The golden sunshine
And an expanse of indigo inland lake alive with singing birds, splashing fishes and buzzing insects

I watch. I write. I rest.
Then I steel myself for my return journey to the big water
And all that lies between

This poem originally appeared in Kristyn Ferguson's blog Poems for Trees and is reposted with permission on Land Lines.

Kristyn Ferguson with a twelve-spotted skimmer (Photo by Mike McMahon)

About the Author

Kristyn Ferguson is the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) program director for large landscapes in Ontario.

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