Thursday, May 9, 2019

Joanna Streetly : Mornings at the Floathouse

Sunny spring mornings at my Tofino-area floathouse don’t allow for sleeping in. Light bounces off the water, flashes through gaps in the curtains, plays with closed eyes until they open. Forced awake, I view the shining world that only a fool would pass up. I take a mug of tea outside and look over the edge of the float at low-tide beings going about their lives: tiny fierce crabs claw-waving at their neighbours over an invisible fence; twoonie-sized flounders, appearing and disappearing in puffs of sand; raccoons digging in the mudflats for creepily-long wriggling worms they devour the way teenagers eat pizza. This is how the day begins: silence, plus observation, plus sunshine, plus caffeine. It’s not always this good, but today—yes.
CBC Radio, breakfast, teenager management, teenager off to the bus, partner off to work by boat, dog walk. Today’s is a quiet thoughtful walk. Other times I walk with friends, compare notes on life. Either one is helpful. I used to believe I had to caterpillar myself straight from bed to computer, staying cocooned in a semi-conscious, right-brained state. I swore this was the Only Way to write. But a few years ago I began noticing feelings of fatigue by mid-morning—a head-and-body fog that lasted all day. The bracing early walk dispels that tiredness. I seem to have survived the switch, maybe even benefitted from the ideas that come with outdoor exercise. Yesterday a killer line of poetry arrived mid-hill on a bike ride. I stopped to write it down and a second line popped out too. I added them to the poem after supper, so this morning I’ll go back in and see what things look like without wine.
Empty of others, my 380-square-foot home transforms into an office. I opt for the small table over the couch, open my laptop and set a mental stopwatch on Internet time. It’s National Poetry Month so I’ve been running a series of daily poems on the Poet Laureate website. I do the required social media links in the morning, after bleary late-night website-wranglings. This morning I do the Facebook page, then Twitter. Twitter snags me and I glance at the clock. Do I have time for world news, literature, new books, old books, posts by fellow writers, environmental catastrophes, obits. . . . Aaagh! I click off the browser, take a deep breath.
The writing goes well, a chapter unfolding, work accomplished. My mother approves of me from her place in the ether. Then the printer stops responding. I find the dreaded Help tab, scroll through possibilities. Reconfigure wireless network? Ugh, please no. I start with the least complicated solution and work my way through. Do I really need to print this thing? Can I leave it for later? I consider the day’s agenda as I climb up to the loft. I jab at the printer with no success and climb back down to try something new. I’m downstairs when I hear the printer start again. I go up. Shit, another test page. I open the loft window, gulp fresh air and look across the Tofino harbour at the green slopes of Tla-o-qui-aht territory. Green and blue are supposed to be calming. I go back down to the computer and this time my document prints. I retrieve it from the loft and go outside with a pencil to edit in the sun, only 40 minutes wasted.
At this exact moment, my partner arrives home in his boat. He’s been diving all morning—the type of work that has visible results. When he left I was walking the dog. Now I’m sitting in the sun. When I say I’ve been hard at work, I cringe a little. I look at the gorgeous Painted Anemones in the collecting tank. I think of the gorgeous words in my computer, all of them invisible.

Joanna Streetly’s most recent book, Wild Fierce Life: Dangerous Moments on the Outer Coast, is a BC Bestseller published by Caitlin Press. Other titles include Paddling Through Time (Raincoast Books) and Silent Inlet (Oolichan) as well as This Dark (poetry, Postelsia). Her work is also published in Best Canadian Essays 2017 and in anthologies, magazines and literary journals. Joanna has lived in Tofino since 1990, where she now is the inaugural Tofino Poet Laureate. She lives afloat in the Tofino harbour. 


  1. I love this! If i lived in your float, i would get precious little work done, in such magical surroundings. You say "chapter". I wonder: a sequel to Wild Fierce Life? We live in hope!

  2. Thanks Sherry. No sequel to WFL--I think if I had any more "dangerous moments" I might be dead by now!