Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Stanley Park Totems

A colorful Thunderbird sits on top of a grizzley bear holding a human.  A moon sits on top of a mountain goat.  There are kingfishers, ravens, wolves and frogs.  A giantess.  A wild man of the woods.  And so begins a two week odyssey to unravel the meanings behind these creatures; to learn about the stories which were handed down from one generation to the next.

I begin my journey in the rain.  These beautiful totem poles are located at Brockton Point in Vancouver's Stanley Park.  Because we are here in late October, the trolleys are no longer operating.  We must walk in the pouring rain.  It seems appropriate somehow to see these cedar posts under a gray wet sky.  The First Nations people have lived in this environment for thousands of years.
I become most intrigued by the Raven.  Ravens are everywhere in British Columbia.   They are bold birds, fighting for territory even with the mighty Bald Eagle.  In First Nations lore they are tricksters and transformers.  The Raven is an agent of the Supreme Being, taking care of the details of creation.  His long, heavy beak often breaks up a flat surface of a totem pole.  

All my life I have used the phrase, "I'm the low man on the totem pole," in a self-deprecating manner.  I learned, however, that just the opposite is true.  The lowest figures are the most important ones since they are at eye level and can be seen more easily.

As we traveled up Vancouver Island, stopping at every totem pole along the way, my travel buddy and I devised our own family pole.  On top would be the Raven, of course.  In the middle would be a grizzley bear holding a cub in each gigantic paw.  On the bottom is me--a hybrid between Crying Woman and the Wild Woman of the Woods.  The mother, the wife, the traveler, the dreamer and writer is at the bottom of the pole--the most important figure of all.  Imagine that!

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