The Boat Of Eternal Return


By Stephanie Rayner

Boats are like Shamans – they move between worlds.
Being of neither world
they glide over the taut membranes that separate
the Opposites

Throughout time and disparate cultures it is the boat that has provided mytho-religious
passage across the dark straits that
the living from the dead

Being gently rocked by water attends one’s beginning and one’s end
the wake stirring the membrane edges of what was
and what is to be

People ask, “The rib boat, how did it come to you?”

In the beginning, all creation starts, I believe, with a small still point: infinitely small
enormous with potential
Then, a blink of an eye, and one can only grope half-blind
along the red shift ripples left by that
expanding energy

For me, ripples from Eternal Return lead back to a scene
half horror, half fairytale…

hair as black as ravens
lips as red as blood
skin as white as snow

 In a January, twenty years ago, I was taken to the necropolis pit in a wilderness park
There, out of the crystalline snow, arched great racks of ribs – red
with ragged flags of flesh drooping between the white of bone
Black trees ringed the pit
tall and massed with ravens as thick on the limbs
as leaves

It is from this pit
the boat’s thirteen pair of moose ribs come
* * *
A ripple moves across the black water of a small lake
It is
a perfect circle
set in in the center of a dense forest
so the wind rarely makes the dark water sparkle
The lake is one
of only two of its kind in the world

There is no shore

It is a cylinder of frigid water, tinged with tannin, eighty feet deep
The lake bottom is so cold the eons of leaves that have fallen in its water do not rot
Without decay or the stirring of wind, the water contains so little oxygen that it will not support life

It is my father’s small lake – and the long slim boat his Inuit kayak
And it is here, in the lake’s warmer surface water, I learn to swim
I am allowed to flash around in the thin skin boat
With the painted double paddle, as long as I trail behind
a black inner tube tied to me by
a long rope

My father says that if I drown he can pull up my body by this rope so it will not spoil the
lake for others
He calls it a lifeline

To me, at seven years, this perfect black circle is a deep, darkly abiding, unblinking eye
looking back
at God
Some days I try to do the same, lying flat in the kayak
all but my head enshrouded by its canopy
eyes open wide
while far below, deep down in the dark water
my lifeline

This is where the kayak part of the boat may have come from
* * *
I place the hard black circle to my eye socket, open my eye, and look into gray mist

My artworks deal with science and spirituality, and so I have been granted access to one
of many labs working worldwide on
The Human Genome Project

I begin turning the knob on the massive electron microscope
and see nothing but grey mist – and then
I begin to fall
through the rabbit hole of smaller and smaller
past wisps of darker grey

down, down…

coming up to a piece of black screen
to the screen
through a hole in the screen

down, down

and then, very deep down
there it is – –
A tiny black rope of


The DNA sequencing gels
in the black bier
floating between the ribs of the boat
come from the kindness of a geneticist
working on the Genome Project
* * *
I have heard of a Japanese religious ritual that involves
the cutting down of a mature plum tree just before it is about to blossom
It is then taken to a shrine
and venerated
for opening
into full blossom even as
it dies
It is the coming together of opposites

Creation and Death

Geneticists have not found a gene
for the spirit that infused Mozart’s dying body as he wrote
The Requiem

Though, by strange coincidence, every set of DNA has the
exact number of lines needed to write music

The music on the DNA sequencing gels
on the bottom of the boat’s black bier
is a copy of The Requiem score as the dying Mozart wrote it:
staffs, adagio, treble clefs…and notes
row upon row of pits and black pools
all with lifelines attached

The Requiem is a great work of art

And great works of art, I believe
come from the far side of what I will call The River
the collective unconscious
the world soul
There is no time, no gender, nor any one culture in this River
It flows with the distillate of what it is to be human
It is not always beautiful
it is always powerful
* * *
I have wondered if art and creativity are a balance to the great weight that is the knowing
of our own mortality
If so
spirit levels are needed

And if all things come into the world bringing
the balance of their opposite, is it then the same boat
now returning from its
dark crossing
moving like a loom’s shuttle
between opposite shores
that weaves with its recurring rippled wave
a matrix for Art?

What I do know is that all Art is the language the soul speaks

It speaks louder than death
has always been
humanity’s lifeline
* * *
But, where the source for the spirit that moves the boat
comes from – that I do not know

To that spirit I bow my head

Completed in 2012 by Stephanie Rayner, THE BOAT OF ETERNAL RETURN is 30 feet long and of varying heights, with the stern of the boat standing 9 feet high. It appeared in a museum show in Canada in 2015-2016. Rayner’s work deals with one of the great themes of our age – the transformation of our spirituality through the revelations of science and technology.
If you are not able to see the images, please go to

Marilyn Phillis wrote about another work by Stephanie Rayner in the June 30, 2017 WINN post titled, The Gifts of Goodness.
You can learn more about the artist at her website

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  1. says:

    Celia, thank you for this most extraordinary most beautiful post. M


    Mary Rentschler, M.Ed. Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI) Family Constellations 202-244-8280 _______________________________________________


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