convergences Screen 17 | Motivation

Cook keeps his crew busy cutting wood,
replacing masts and spars, repairing rigging
and canvas, caulking the ships' hulls,
taking on fresh water, brewing spruce beer
to fend off scurvy. George Dixon, armourer,
sets up his smithy on the deck of the Discovery,
hammering out fittings for the boats
to replace those that have disappeared,
finding time to forge a few chisels and knives
out of remnant metal. The work goes on
under the intense scrutiny of the natives
who commit to memory these uncommon
incidents and images, as the Europeans
record their impressions with pen and paper.
These events will gradually affect
the delicate structure of human vision,
gradually change our world. These paddlers
will learn to fit wings to their own vessels,
as the British realize the commercial value
of the sea otter trade. But for now
during this first critical encounter
it is all spectacle, all raw information,
as both groups study each other carefully
and cautiously fall back on their old
formulas of approach and response,
their own known and trusted strategies
of diplomatic menace and manipulation.

Hand weapons: Nootka. Cook Collection

Stone hand weapons: Nootka. Cook Collection.

John Webber: detail

John Webber: detail.


How to direct one's activity? How to survive in the shifting context of one's life? It is the same for you or Tsaxawasip or George Dixon or me, though the specifics vary with our circumstance. Consider that word, circumstance: the circle in which we stand. But we never stand still. We respond to what is out there beyond our skins but inside the circle. The ships and the sea are the circumstance of these men's lives. This coast is the circumstance of these others. And now the two have come together to encircle and include them all, a textured loop of ocean strip, foreshore and coastline, forming a single context that each group must share, just as you and I seem to be sharing this text. The patterns occur out there. We perceive them and at each moment make our choices.

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