The sailors respond to the rituals and songs
with a chanty chorus or two, and a few tunes
on fife and drum. Cook judges these people
to be mild and inoffensive, but he will change
his opinion soon enough. For now, however,
he encourages them with gifts and gestures
of friendship, and finds that they show
great readiness to part
with anything they have
and take in exchange
whatever is offered them
but are more desirous of iron
the use of which they know
and have several tools and instruments
made of it.
By us, nothing is so well received as skins
particularly those of the sea otter
the fur of which is soft and delicate.
Thus the trade begins, the Mooachahts
impressed by the quantity of metal available
on the ships, and the Englishmen glad to get
exotic trinkets to take home as souvenirs, oil
for cooking, fresh fish, and furs to use
against the damp and chilling weather.
It is the same for us, though sometimes we neglect to acknowledge it. Sometimes we fail to step outside our protective routines. It is difficult to accommodate the totally unfamiliar, difficult to grasp it or speak of it or even consign it to memory. If it cannot be made more probable it must be disregarded or rejected or ridiculed. Happening is real. We try to grasp it by storing it as imagery that falls into hazy sequence as we bring it back or speak it out or write it down, as it forms a structure that we must call something, so we call it time. And for those who store these experiences in words on paper, time becomes a line. But do not fasten on that line. The fascination is in the living.
John Webber: Nootka bird mask.