All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

When the tide goes out, the table is set

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The refinery on Burrard Inlet - squint a bit, you can pretend it's totems poles.

The refinery on Burrard Inlet – squint a bit, you can pretend it’s totems poles.

“Our people have a saying: ‘when the tide goes out, the table is set.’  Here in Burrard Inlet, my grandparents used to dig holes in the sand and build a fire.  They would put clams and cover them with seaweed.  My parents replaced the seaweed with burlap bags, because the seaweed was harder to find.  My kids don’t do that any more – except for crabs, nobody eats shellfish from Burrard Inlet anymore.”

That is what I remember of the introduction of a speech by Carleen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.  The speech was delivered as part of an event organised by the Tyee called “how is climate change reshaping our future?”.  A very interesting event, even if none of the speakers really adressed the title.  Stephen Rees wrote a good summary of the evening (here).

But Carleen Thomas’ words reminded me of a song that I heard a few years ago.  It is played by a band called Fraser Union.  I couldn’t find the song on YouTube (imagine that!) but I managed to get a a bit of audio clip here.  As it turns out, Fraser Union have been active in the movement to protect BC’s water against tankers and pipelines; you can hear them here as part of a July 2012 event in Kitsilano hosted by Mel Lehan and Ben West.

So here goes another entry under “environmentally-themed music.”  It’s a nice, simple song, but it is deceptively simple.  It isn’t just bemoaning pollution (a single line in the last verse); it is really about the sense of belonging to a specific environment that feeds you and gives you a sense of identity. (I wish I had taken better notes, because Carleen Thomas was quite eloquent on the topic.)

 Another of their songs (this one on YouTube) is indeed called “Home, dear home”.  (A studio version of the song Pipeline Blues, with gorgeous video, can also be found here.)  It is certainly remarkable how much the tar sands, pipelines and tankers have inspired indignation among artists.  Speaking about Neil Young’s recent tour (here in The Tyee), Ian Gill noted that “Our national voice has been drowned out for so long that we’ve almost lost the language to express what we want our country to be… who but our artists are capable of stirring our emotions, giving them expression, and releasing the trapped energy in our national psyche?”   

So we need artists, poets and singers to express what is at stake, and who we are.  So, here are some of the lyrics of “when the tide goes out”- a song that answers that call quite well.  (Yes, I know that’s not how you spell gooey-duck.) 

When the tide goes out, the table is set / And the sea serves up her bounty bless’d

Come with me while the sand’s still wet / When the tide goes out, the table is set

I know some people whose minds are stuck / To them low tide means slime and muck

When I go there I’m prepared to shuck / The oyster, the clam, and the gooey-duck

Now go a little further put your foot in the sea / Try wading out, say up to your knees

There are crabs and abalone and even seaweed / Fix’em up right and they’re bound to please

Here we are by Georgia Straight / She’s a part of us, we share her fate

And all this poison, she just can’t take / We’ve got to stop it now before it’s too late


Written by enviropaul

January 28, 2014 at 10:10 pm

One Response

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  1. Thanks for that – just finding it now as I’m looking for the lyrics to the song, When the Tide Goes Out” . It’s by Brian Robertson who I haven’t been able to reach. Maybe I’ll just sing it and put it on youtube myself. Will let you know if I do – I have to figure out how to do that.

    There’s another song you will probably be interested in,”Pipeline Blues by another local singer and song-writer, Barry Truter.

    FYI – if you can or just want to spread the word, a friend of mine and I are planning an art-making and installation at English Bay this Saturday (April 18) to give people a chance to show their love of the ocean and hopefully be a springboard to further action following the recent oil spill.

    I would like to pursue some kind of civilian clean-up training so that we can become active immediately when a spill occurs. This will give us skills and knowledge not only about the actual cleaning procedures and processes we need to learn but also an idea of the logistical procedures we need to develop.

    Here’s a Facebook page on the event


    April 15, 2015 at 9:14 am

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