A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2006, vol 2 no 2

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Bruce Ross

Swept Away

On a faultless day we kayak past flocks of floating guillemot and a small rock island completely covered by sunning seals on our way to Hog Island. The island marks one quadrant of four seasonal points where from 3,000 to 380 years ago shaman of the precursors of the Passamaquoddy and the Passamaquoddy carved out their visions in the rock outcroppings. Now at low tide those closest to the ocean are covered by yellow bladderwrack and are all but worn away.

Here a simply drawn “V”-headed shaman holds hands with a spirit, both with spirit lines drawn down their torsos. Here a shaman merges with a spirit which is drawn inside him. Here a tiny spirit figure tries to enter the head of a shaman already merged with another spirit. Here a shaman has a little animal helper by his side. How haunting to search for these weathered rock carvings among the natural cracks in the island rock.

Not satisfied we visit one of the other quadrants, Holmes Point. After several false starts we come to an impasse. The point is now separated from the mainland by four feet of lake water rushing into the ocean. We leap and later find that someone has broken apart a beaver dam.

It is late in the day and we slog across the slippery sharp rocks to no avail. We climb an embankment to find an old deserted house and a makeshift road. Down the road a few people, descendents of the man who owned the house, are relaxing in lawn chairs. A young boy casually leads us to the site. The light is perfect to view the figures. The tide is sloshing just below the petroglyph ridge, the sun is going down, and here is a line of dancing shaman.

                                                        sunset . . .
                                                        she waits for her mate
                                                        to repair the dam