“Joy, is a Well-Made Object,” Bill Reid, and the Birth of Symphontree Music
“Objects have a way of becoming more than objects through the skill, intensity and love that render them well-made.”
Gwaii Haana World Heritage Site
The grass here is green all year. The temperature rarely dips below 46. In this part of the world the land never stops growing and it nurses itself back to health. When the fallen have felled and the storms have stormed the remains are devoured by the forest in heaps and bounds of passing time. The totem pictured above embodies a wealth of strength and stamina to remain proudly breaking the shore. It is here that this totem has become more than a symbol, grave marker or artifact of pacific northwestern art. Time has gifted this totem the ability and strength to speak, not in syllables and gestures but in tones, shapes, and colours. Only while staring face to face with it in its true form will you feel these stories come alive and unravel and shake you to your core.
Here in the Lower Mainland the rain pours as the traffic roars and this sense of strength and stamina takes shape in a different form in a different kind of peace. The pace of the day is shrouded in constant conversations and sounds of the contemporary world. For some, this is where they belong and in this belonging they find joy.
I too once longed for the rush. Under the arousal of so many distractions and shapes, my urban lifestyle gradually became based in repetition and wealth rather than the fine details of what would actually make life better. My version of “joy” was more part of the whole of the city and less of myself.
I ventured high into the mountains and deep into the rain coast to discover what is now known as “Symphontree Music”.
What you may not know is that Symphontree was given to me. Not by man or beast but by joy. Allow me to explain. Before the birth of my first son I embarked on the West Coast Trail, a rugged 80 km hike through the Pacific Rim Provincial Park. It was there in the forest, mud, sand and debris of the coast that I was touched and enriched with such a joy that I longed to bring it home. Standing at the gate of Nit Nat Narrows I met Symphontree for the first time. This was a moment that I will never forget. Symphontree presented itself in hues of red, green, yellow, and brown everywhere the light touched. The rattle and knocking of the trees, birds, and the ocean orchestrated a perfect “Symphontree” of music. And it shook me to my core. Symphontree became a verb to describe the joy and excitement that I felt at that very moment.
Then it happened. Not in the same way a morning thirst is quenched with a thick hot coffee but in a deeper more profound way. I learned to share on a whole new level. Here on this new plane my “thirst” was not only quenched, but it sequestered a more fundamental degree of warmth fueling my passion for life. When at “Symphontree” I found myself joyful in every sense of the word. I was neither relaxed nor exhausted: just inspired.
I needed to share this experience with someone else. There was no object in the world that made me feel more at “Symphontree” then my beloved Guinevere. I realized I needed to share her with the world and allow her influence to reach as many people as possible. In her loss I learned that sharing joy with someone, whether through an object or words, is very powerful.
Because she was so dear to me I placed here neatly in the flowers, where I felt she belonged (sidenote: to this day I photograph all guitars outdoors). We went to university together and taught in classrooms for the first time together. We played live shows and serenaded creeks together. We conquered the world in years of musical growth and inspiration. So many songs, tears, laughs and sighs are trapped within the walls of this instrument. Indeed it was an object which brought me great joy. Parting with Guinevere meant that I was giving all of this away. An experience that was absolutely crucial in order for me to be at “Symphontree”.
I now know that Symphontree is more than a verb or feeling–it is an asset forged in joy.