The White Church (part 1)

Emily Carr is a woman I admire. Passionate and true to herself, she rejected Victorian decorum to explore the world. This was something that young women just did not do at the turn of the century. She travelled to San Francisco, London, and Paris to learn her craft. Heavens! She even dared to ride horseback like a man.

courtesy of
Fearless, determined, and open-minded, Emily is so much more than her art. Travelling by boat and canoe, often with only a guide and her wee dog, she explored the West Coast, sketching and painting Haida, Salish, and Nuu-chah-nulth villages. Like a west wind, whispering and screaming with paint, she drew our gaze to vanishing peoples and cultures.

An independent women, Emily supported herself as best she could by teaching art, and running a boarding house; though these chores must have stifled her creative process. Still, through it all she survived, and she painted. And, when she could no longer travel or camp or even move around much, she began to write.

In 1929, Emily Carr visited Friendly Cove. In a famous quote, she described the Nootka Lightstation as a “strange wild perch” on a “nosegay of rocks, bunched with trees, spiced with wildflowers.”

I do, at times, feel akin to the eagles who careen by my windows or perch atop the rocks.

She painted the original small white Roman Catholic church.

courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario --
The rows of crosses in the picketed churchyard speak to the devastation that engulfed this community. Between 1778, when Captain James Cook appeared in Friendly Cove, and 1900, the population of the First People living here was reduced by nine-tenths. Disease, carried by the European traders and explorers, was the main culprit.

Built in a cove at the west end of the village, the original church burned down in 1954. You can just see it (the small site mark) near the centre of this photograph.

courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario --
I’ve been drawn to that cove since I arrived—I can see it through my windows—and finally walked there yesterday with my companion, Lucy. I’ve tried before, but couldn’t get past the barricade of barnacle clad rocks. The tide must be very low. This is how it looks today. 

Emily's trees still hug the beach, and spring water cascades down the rocks between the driftwood logs. At the time, I didn’t know it was the space once claimed by the white church and the graveyard. Are the graves still there, crumbling beneath the trees? And the spirits? The energy was incredibly peaceful and comforting. It felthomey. Then, Lucy got distracted by something in the trees

I turned, and at the last second, realized it was Raven. 


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