How do you define progress?  How do you define presence?  How do you define commitment to your life and beliefs?

For the last two days I have housed a young Norwegian man who has been walking across the United States for three years.  He has walked through 48 states and is on his way to Alaska.  His travels are not direct and his philosophy not goal orientated.  He is alive and he is walking 50km a day, almost every day for over three years. 

Dan is a kind and gentle human.  He is intelligent and enlightened me in politics as well as  various historical actions that have changed the way the world operates.  I hired him to reclaim several garbage cans of clay for me and he spent all day yesterday in my basement running the pug mill. 

What is curious to me, is how I wanted to tame Dan.  The worn out clothes on his back and his sparse packsack were his possessions.  I want to buy him new clothes and find out what he was going to do with his life once this journey was over.  I want to put him in a box that was easier to understand because I could not quite accept that he was just walking.  That he did not read books at night and that he was a creature of motion and his existence was in the present moment. 

Dan showed me photos of mountains, road and people that he had encountered.  Dan showed me how to take photos of stars.  I learnt a little and I learnt a lot.



Ocean has taken a hold of me.  I find myself thinking of her when I am alone.  I can smell her on my hair and taste her on my skin.

Ocean, I watch you moving.  Your breasts dark grey and swelling, creating currents as your heart leans towards the moon. 

Calling in the coloured languages of the sea birds, you sing in a racket of feathers, blue, black, white, and brown.   A siren’s lament, the companion who keeps you, but leaves you aching and pulsing, pulling you in steady waves against the shore. Lover moon, large and heady, caressing your horizon lines, giving you the briefest of kisses to rise distant in the sky.

Ocean, how your brother wind torments me.  He pulls at my clothes, hungry to take what warmth I have secreted away under layers of lanolin wool.  I hear your laughter rough and echoing, clouds and barnacles colliding as I shiver.

Ocean, take my paddle and guide me to your secret places.  Take my voice and I will alight on the winds with your songs.  Take me away, Ocean, and I will build you a boat as beautiful as your deepest blues.



I am working by the sea.  The gulls fly in the currents above me and the eagles call to each other over the din of concrete trucks, pile drivers and jack hammers. Tug boats and commercial fishing boats turn through the water, a highway of commerce for the hardened North Pacific sea farer.

It has taken a month for my body to strengthen to moving lumber and concrete form work and it has taken me a month to grow accustomed to this ever raining climate.  Today the rain fell sideways while the wind blew so hard that I was thrown off my feet.  My five woolen shirts and rain jacket were sodden and my gum boots filled with water as my damp woollen long underwear drained into my boots. Today was September 9th and I didn’t know how I would survive a winter when I was already so wet and cold walking the frayed edges of summer.

I work with a humble man.  A guy who eases into the back ground and observes.  Someone who's skill and keen intelligence is left unnoticed until you draw him out like ray of sun through a storm.   In my depth of undoing today, I turned to him and said, "I don't know how I am going to survive this weather".  In that moment, he changed my view of the wild ocean.  He made me fall so deeply in love with the sea.  He said, "this is the ocean at her best.  I love the Pacific when she is wild like this.”  And then I saw what he saw.  The gulls unfathombly catching the drafts through torrents of rain.  The sighs and heaves of an untameable force. 



When I was 16 years old I began to white water kayak.

The Kootenay River, where I learned to paddle is a surge of glacier-melt   turquoise, water. It winds down through a valley of unfathomable beauty, flanked by hoodoos and river rock. My body learned how to move in and out of rapids, my heart discovered joy.

It was on one of these beautiful stony beaches that I became a maker. I had decided to become a stone mason. I was obsessed by giving homage to the simple beauty of those river stones. Later that summer I was introduced to a book called Handmade Tiles by Frank Giorgini. With bold contrasting designs, Frank Giorgini made simple forms beautiful and timeless. His book initiated my journey with clay.

Almost 20 years later, mountains and rivers have remained my most passionate muse, and craft my strong and sure footed life partner. I work as a potter as well as a carpenter. Pottery allows me quiet time alone. My hands form clay pots made by the contrast of centrifuge, compression and tension. Carpentry on the other hand is loud, rough and all extraversion. My head slips and slides over numbers and sequences while I visualize, translate and organize wood into precise cuts. My body leans into my movements, trying to add force to my actions, muting the noise of the other saws and hammers on a job site.

It is said that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master craftsman. I would love to think that a house I build, a teapot I create or a mixing bowl I throw will become a person or family’s life long companion, and provide thousands of hours of use and enjoyment.  For sure, nothing lasts forever. The mortar of every arch will begin to crumble, wood will weather and decompose and pots do eventually crack. But quality is timeless.

Kaitlan Murphy

aintthatswell@hotmail.com  250-837-3597