In the distance you can just make out "God's belly-scratcher", the spire Purdy refers to in his poem, Wilderness Gothic, which you can read here.
October already, and I just mailed my letter supporting Jean Baird's initiative to save Al Purdy's A-Frame home on Roblin Lake in Ontario from being torn down. Here's the text of my letter:
To Whom It May Concern:
I’m writing to express my support for the drive to preserve Al Purdy’s house in Ameliasburgh, Ontario. Al Purdy is one of our best poets, in every sense. He wrote of the land. He wrote with humour and passion. He won awards. Earlier this year, a bronze statue of him was placed in a Toronto park.
In June I traveled to Ireland and took in such tourist attractions as the Irish Writers’ Museum in Dublin, the James Joyce Cultural Centre, the truly awe-inspiring library at Trinity College, and a literary pub tour. No, the pub tour wasn’t all about drinking; in fact, at the end of the tour there was an Irish literature quiz which was won by a fellow from Vancouver. After Dublin, I went to Sligo where I spent a lovely day visiting various Yeats-related sites.
This may seem like a digression from the subject at hand, but the point I’m making is that there are those of us who seek out the places where writers have written. We like to wander about where writers who have gone before us have wandered, imagine we’re traveling the same path, in both a physical and metaphorical sense. To walk such paths is to walk through history, for it is through words and images and sounds and movement we are able to discover vestiges of our commonality as human beings, a sense of our place in the world as it is now, and a glimpse of where we may be in the future.
Geographically, Canada is huge. Compared to other places on the planet, it is still a very young country. But already our writers have made an impression in the world, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that future travelers in Canada—from within this huge land as well as abroad—will make their way to the former haunts of some of our artists, if we have the foresight to preserve them.
Over dinner the other night, I mentioned to my husband that I was writing a letter to support the initiative to preserve Al’s house. “I went there once,” he mused, “it was 1972, the summer Judie and I drove across Canada with the kids. She grew up around there so we were able to find the place. Al wasn’t home, but his wife was, and she opened her house to us as I explained how I’d taken courses from Al at Simon Fraser and was a big fan of his poetry.”
This is how Al’s house has always been, according to those who have found their way there. I hope it can continue to be.
Linda Lee Crosfield
The pictures on this post were taken by Ted Crosfield when he and Judie and the kids were at the Roblin Lake house in 1972. That's a young Anthony and Shannon on the dock together, and there's one of Anthony, fishing. Ted thinks it was a neighbour's boat.
For those of you who are so moved, a trust has been set up and you can send a donation in a cheque made out to:
The Al Purdy A-Frame Trust
and mail it to:
4403 W. 11th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V6R 2M2
Any amount is welcome.