What will I remember when I get old; when now becomes then? Will it be something from the rarefied past, cleansed of impurities and less dense?

Once I had the self-assurance of the very young. Now I realize that everyone looks better in the rear view mirror, and no one is very different from anyone else. Sometimes an artist’s first invention is himself, and it usually needs a little alteration. I never doubted that my direction was the right one, and plowed right through a problem till it was solved. Now I sometimes spend time doubting if I know what I think I know. Or maybe it’s simply a failure of the imagination.

We go through many levels of becoming in a lifetime. It takes more than a village to mold a memory; we are creating new ones every day. I will choose to remember the good things; the things no one else knows. Small fleeting bright spots which flicker through my consciousness unbidden like the swelling of the ocean beneath your boat.

Mt. Rainier
Mt. Rainier, photo by Jerry Johnson

A small sailboat easing round a bend on a sunny morning, and seagulls crying at the beach. The thought of Mount Rainier rising majestically through the clouds above the rabble below, or Mount Shasta in the moonlight. Just glimpses. Quick flashes of memory tying me to a moment in time. I will remember the smell of wet clay or the warm smells of sugary desserts coming from my oven. We all have them, and they are like the warm yellow windows of home on a dark night.

The larger memories of precious family, present and past, and friends who graced me with their presence, I will think of often, and I will snuggle in my bed smiling in contentment thinking of my husband, and the luck which led him to my doorstep so long ago.

I will hide the dark things, the roadblocks which come to us all. We have survived. There is no need to relive them. Sometimes nature takes pity and leads us to a better place.

Albert Schweitzer’s quotation says it better than I could:
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”


Emmett Oliver & Granddaughters

                                                                                 THE RIGHTS OF PASSAGE

“As the spirits of the past and those of the present ascend from the sky, we join and become one.”

Spirit canoes in the clouds are of the past, present and those of the future.  As the Salish canoe drifts down through the mist, it represents the essence of our traditional canoe heritage.

The “new” canoe reminds us of our commitment to succeed in our Journeys.  Our determination to pursue new and creative ideas is founded in tradition.

To ensure that our canoes are and always will be the best we can offer.  Share your knowledge with others as they did in the past.
The Raven canoe above them represents our kinship with our neighbors from the north.

Canoe Journey has no boundaries.

The village flames near the beach reminds us that our traditional Native values are burning bright.  Keep stoking the fire and never let it burn out.  Share and pass on your traditions for future generations to enjoy.  The petroglyphs in the sky are symbolic of the Squaxin people.  It belongs to them for others to appreciate and admire.  It looks upon us as one.  We are of one family.  A canoe family.

Mt. Rainier behind our Salish “village of the past” represents our majestic world.  Take care of it.  The raven among the clouds is our messenger.  He carries our stories and our songs around the world for all to hear.

A Salish welcome figure near the beach invites his guests to their village with pride and open arms.  Respect your welcome.

Emmett’s canoe, the Willapa Spirit, views upon the 102 invited canoes with pride and respect.  Etched in the surrounding waters of the Northwest, his spirited vision, once only a delightful dream, is now fulfilled.

In honor of my father,

Marvin Oliver, August 2, 2012

MARVIN OLIVER is Professor of Art,University of Washington.  His sister, MARYLIN OLIVER BARD,and daughter and niece, pulled in the family canoe for this long Journey.