A Nelson author who has self-published a book written in and inspired by Johnsons Landing is donating a portion of the proceeds back to the community.
Phillip Sarsons’ The Book of Gardens: A Lover’s Manual for Planet Earth includes 64 poems that follow the structure of the I Ching, a Chinese classical text. He describes it as “a message of emotional resiliency … Amid the changes upon us all today, what direction will you take?”
Sarsons wrote the book during a seven-month stay in Johnsons Landing in 2007-08, but didn’t publish it until recently.
He was first attracted by the Johnson’s Landing Retreat Center while living in Calgary, and as a result of a workshop there met a Nelson couple. Upon moving to the area years later, they let him use their house in Johnsons Landing for free.
“It was an amazing gift,” Sarson says. “It was two properties up from Gar Creek. I’d wander down the hillside to where a small plank of wood crossed the creek, balanced between two tree stumps. I’d sit on that plank and think Chinese philosophy.”
Among the poems is a long one entitled The Shorelines of Johnsons Landing. Its fourth section is about a “slow river that lives inside a mountain,” which in the wake of the deadly 2012 landslide “sounds rather prophetic.” (The property where Sarsons lived was untouched by the slide, although it was nearby.)
Twenty per cent of proceeds from the book’s sale will go back to Johnsons Landing, although Sarsons isn’t sure yet exactly how. He hopes to discuss it with community members. “I want to return that gift of quiet time of study. There’s no better place to study philosophy,” he says.
Sarsons has been studying the I Ching for about 18 years — he first became interested while touring Canada as a stage actor.
In addition to the poems, the book has longer essays promoting “mindful awareness” of ecology.
“It contains a message of urgency and certainly events like [the landslide], I regret to say, are going to become the new normal. This is what I can do as an artist to make a contribution and thank Johnsons Landing for being such an amazing host.”
The book is available at Otter Books, Booksmyth, Shanti Yoga, and through Sarsons’ website, thebookofgardens.com.