P.K. (Patricia Kathleen) Page & It Wasn't A DogwoodFriday, January 15, 2010
P.K. Page’s picture caught my eye in today’s Vancouver Sun. I was saddened to find out it was her obituary. She was 93 when she died on Thursday. I immediately remembered my day with her and her husband Arthur Erwin some 15 years ago. Rosemary accompanied me on my assignment for Western Living to capture one of those At Home With… It was early spring and the only blooms in P.K. Page’s Victoria garden were bright red tulips. Getting ready for her pictures she told me, “I thought I would wear shoes to match the tulips.” While I had several chats with her the one who spent more time with her was Rosemary. P.K. Page confessed to Rosemary the problems with living with a man who was so much older than she was. He was not well and he was simply difficult.
I can attest to this. He was snarly with me so I opted to take his picture from far away in the garden and use the red rhododendrons as a foreground foil. At one point I shouted in his direction, “Mr. Erwin it is very easy for me to focus my camera on you because of the dogwood flower pin on your lapel.” Immediately Mr. Erwin shouted back, “Young man, come here.” This I did. He stared at me and using his index finger for emphasis he told me with a sneer, “Young man, this is not a dogwood, this is the Order of Canada!”
Spending the day with P.K. Page was like spending the day with my mother. I thought there was a physical resemblance and I got the impression that P.K. Page was a gentle snob just like my mother. I was posing her by one of her Garry Oaks and I asked her not to smile. She was reluctant. I explained that as a poet she could be romantically serious and get away with it. She gave me a full smile and then said, “You are absolutely right,” she turned serious and gave me an expression much as my mother would have that we in the family called the Sarah Bernhardt.
Of all the poems by P.K. Page that I have read my favourite is her incredibly romantic Adolescence. I live in a delightful anticipation of being able to read it soon to Rebecca who is now 12 but going on 15.
Adolescence by P. K. Page
In love they wore themselves in a green embrace.
A silken rain fell through the spring upon them.
In the park she fed the swans and he
whittled nervously with his strange hands.
And white was mixed with all their colours
as if they drew it from the flowering trees.
At night his two finger whistle brought her down
the waterfall stairs to his shy smile
which like an eddy, turned her round and round
lazily and slowly so her will
was nowhere—as in dreams things are and aren't.
Walking along avenues in the dark
street lamps sang like sopranos in their heads
with a violence they never understood
and all their movements when they were together
had no conclusion.
Only leaning into the question had they motion;
after they parted were savage and swift as gulls.
asking and asking the hostile emptiness
they were as sharp as partly sculptured stone
and all who watched, forgetting, were amazed
to see them form and fade before their eyes.