The Lingering Spirit
By John Warden
This article was first published in the Winter, Volume XI, Issue IV edition of Island Arts Magazine.
On the 31st of August in 1973 it started snowing at Comox and by Thanksgiving, we were downhill skiing at Forbidden Plateau. As I remember, it snowed everyday right through to February.
It was a cold and wet winter but snow on Vancouver Island can be a beautiful experience, so during a momentary break in the weather I went out for a drive along the water, following the scenic route around Cape Lazo. Where Comox Road comes down to the water, the sea and sky melded into a single, silver grey plane of opalescent light. The air was still and silent. Phantom like, an old blue and white row boat appeared out of the grey. No shadows, no ripples and no contrasts to reveal where the sky stopped and the sea began. Seamless. Just an old rowboat, layered in snow and suspended between sea and sky.
It was one of the most mystical experiences of my life.
I had an old instamatic pocket camera in those days and I took a picture— a snap shot. Weeks later, when the developed print came back to me by mail, I was disappointed. The photograph didn’t come anywhere close to expressing what I had seen and felt that day.
But the spirit of that moment stays with me. ‘Zanshin’ they would say in the Zen-related arts of Japan, the ‘lingering spirit’.
I left Comox in 1974 and moved to Edmonton where I bought an SLR camera and some lenses. Then I started taking pictures and in the clicking of my shutter, forty-five years disappeared. Now, with an artist’s eye and a poet’s heart, I’ve come back to the Island. I bring with me a library of tens of thousands of photographs and the experience of each of those artistic moments etched onto the pathway of my journey. More than just a memory. I like to think that such moments of wonder reward us with their lingering spirit.