Gabriola Museum and the Arts
Gabriola Island often styles itself as The Isle of the Arts, and it has inspired many different art forms through the years. On this page, we plan to celebrate some of these works, beginning with poems by Naomi Beth Wakan.
Poet, Naomi Beth Wakan
“It has taken me many years to unlearn a lot of things and recall that I was once an imaginative, inventive child who knew how to play. I tap my dreams for my writing, my island for the natural forms found in my artwork. But my island also is a background for my haiku and my life on it enriches my dreams. In this way all my creative works blend together… the essence being play. From play comes freshness, frankness and joy.”
Naomi Beth Wakan reading her poem, ‘Our Flag’.
Photograph courtesy of Steve Struthers.
First Gabriola Cubs and Beavers raising the Canadian Flag.
Photograph courtesy of Elias Wakan.
This poem was presented by Naomi Beth Wakan at the Museum’s Canada Day celebration on July 1, 2015.
We could have had
a beaver, or a moose,
or a hockey puck, or
a jar of maple syrup
on our flag.
Instead, we have
a simple maple leaf.
No image that divides
our nation, but a reminder
of Fall days when we gather
to admire the colours
of the maple trees.
How those times draw us together.
And doesn’t the red
on our flag pull our attention
and quicken our hear beats;
so we think of our luck
that our country is at peace,
and that justice here is possible,
and that our voices can be heard
without fear of reprisal.
Such things are brought to mind
as we raise our eyes
and see our flag fluttering bravely
in the wind.
Naomi created and recited four poems for the Museum’s Opening Day, May 17, 2015.
The poems explore and expand ideas celebrated in the Museum’s new 2015 exhibit and film Gabriola Roots: The Land Provides.
Working the Land
First were the indigenous people,
gathering clams and oysters,
salal berries and wild garlic.
Then came the others,
fleeing the mills and mines
of Britain, and, loathe
to enter the mines of Nanaimo,
they chose instead the toil
of logging the firs and pines,
and pulling the stumps, and
clearing the brush, providing
land for their sheep and cattle and pigs.
Cabins were built, and
forges started up to make shoes
for their work horses.
The Grays, the Degnans, the Edgars,
The McGuffies, Hogans and da Silvas
Settled in, and some married
First Nations’ women who
knew well the ways of the land
and the surrounding waters.
And orchards flourished with
Gravensteins and Kings, and golden prunes
And sour cherries.
And fields were planted with potatoes and beets,
and turnips, and rows of strawberries.
And these cleared fields
Fed the families of Gabriola,
and also the settlers in Nanaimo;
the harvest rowed slowly over.
And looking back at their labours,
it’s as if we can see their footprints
in our own ploughed fields,
still see their harvests in our own.
We bless our farmers
and bee-keepers, and
the permaculture bunch,
and the farms that raise
our pork and lamb and beef
and chickens and turkeys
for the carnivores.
And we praise those who grow
herbs and veggies for the purists.
And our good wishes to those
who’ve turned barren land
into orchards, and those who’ve
readied land for community gardens.
And let’s not forget those who have
piles of stashed manure that allow us
to do the best in our own backyards.
Let’s tie flags and float banners and ribbons
To all the Gabriolan barns, and greenhouses,
and road-side stands, so we can
celebrate in passing all those
who sow so that we may
flourish in their harvests.
The Island Trust
Our island has beaches and forests
and wildlife and our life…
and all need protecting.
Our tides come in and recede.
You can’t step in to the same wave
twice – we all know
that change is a constant, yet
how we long to preserve things
just as they are.
And that is why we trust the Trust.
We trust our beaches won’t be stripped
of mussels and clams and oysters and sea-weed.
We trust our parks will stay parks
and our waterways stay clean;
and that the bays will stay sheltered,
the malls kept at bay, and that
developers stay bridled.
Rising each morning, fog or shine,
we still have hopes that
though we may age and wrinkle,
the things we came here for
will merely shake themselves a little
as the wind comes up from the beach.
Homage to creative Gabriolans
and the retreats that refresh
It must be our soil
that flourishes artists.
And our arbutus and oaks,
and shining views that inspire
their pens and brushes.
It must be the shoreline,
the overlapping of water and rocks,
that encourages our initiatives,
for all know that it is
at the edge of things
that change best happens.
It must be our forests
that quieten us from our busy-ness,
and encourage us to make
our own personal paths,
our own labyrinths to our cores.
And we who are drawn here
seek balance and healing,
for it’s on Gabriola that
creativity and healing walk
hand in hand and we find ourselves
replenished and refreshed…
as can only happen on islands.
This poem was written and read by Naomi Beth Wakan on the occasion of the Gabriola Museum’s October 2014 fundraiser, “ A Night for the Museum”.
It crystallizes the mission of the Museum, which is
to tell the story of the island by preserving and sharing its cultural and natural heritage, and
to engage the community in reflection and dialogue about themes and issues that impact our present and the future.
Who cares that
it took five hours to row
to Nanaimo bringing
fruit and veg and lambs and pigs
to sustain the miners there?
Who cares that
the only teacher on the island
rowed to Victoria with
three of his students for their exams
and rowed back.
four teachers at the oars?
Who cares that
the islanders cut millstones,
and baked bricks and
built ships so that
fathers could sustain their families?
And that their wives baked and preserved
and scrubbed and helped in the fields
alongside their men, equal energy
in those pioneering days?
Who cares that
canoes and rowboats
moved to sailboats,
moved to gas boats,
moved to ferries
for the comings and goings of the island?
The museum cares
for it knows for sure
that if we don’t well heed
our island’s past,
we cannot well guide
our island’s future.