The Scotch Line trail that leads into Limerick Forest N used to be mostly track with a short roadway of about 200 m to park along. A large trail sign offered a satellite map of different routes, and online material is now ubiquitous enough that you could take your device or print a map before heading off for a hike.
In the winter months, snowmobilers use Scotch Line between Merrickville and the outskirts of Kemptville, as do x-country skiers, hikers, and snowshoers, and anyone else who wants to access the forest in winter. In the fall and summer months, it’s quite a lovely flat trek; there are side-trails in rough rectangles, so you can dip south and return north to the east/west trail. One spur leads to a bog, which has a lookout area; it’s quite a vibrant spot in any season.
To access the section of trail where Hiromi Suzuki’s poem, “A Swimmer” is situated, you’d have taken a side path SE-ish from the main trail and meandered your way through a lovely woodland before arriving a T-junction. At the T-junction, there are different objects each time, buried under leaf litter or exposed on the ground. The embers from a small campfire, cigarette or joint butts, a metal washing bin, beer cans (typically Canadian or Molson), a single sock, oddly familiar on hikes, curled over, a gritty haven for insects.
You’d then walk S-ish to the point at which (if it was full of water), you’d walk no more and see Suzuki’s poem to one side of the track. The track is flooded throughout the year, unless there’s drought or the water is frozen.
The track is lower than the marsh. “A Swimmer” was planted in 2015 on marsh-edge above the track. It seemed fitting to place it edging a landform which is shaped by biological forces and has fluid, transitional properties. Marsh, like most wetlands, is a cryptic space for species of all types. Hiromi’s substantial collage and other work makes use of physical forms, or evokes them, to create visual transitions toward movement — thinking here of her recent collage work, Andante (AngelHouse 2019), and Suzuki’s conceptual use of the roundabout as a point of intersection toward patterned directions: teared edges, letters, wave forms and netting, seasonal gatherings and forms of precipitation, crowd symmetry, train infrastructure, and interior/exterior dwellings uniquely counter static (pedestrian) impressions. Perhaps one of the neat things about the collage technique is that it disrupts habit, or the overexposure and dulling of routine experiences as to render them invisible or muted. Transitions, in this way, are quite important. Language in Andante, for example, comes around.
When I last headed to Scotch Line, I encountered the development of housing in the works there. The short road had become a long street with a wide turn toward a cul de sac just before the “trail”. The cairn marker, formerly about a 1km distance from the start of the trail, was now an established trailhead because of the road. Street lamps, fresh asphalt, and all the wiring necessary for utilities paralleled the road. Houses were coming into shape. Lots had been divided. Grass planted. I had half expected some form of built change for awhile, but also half expected it would never happen. There were, after all, lot signs for nearly a decade.
I walked up the new road to the side-trail that would take me to Suzuki’s poem. The side path was obstructed by a house and pile of dirt, and farther along, the edge of the cul-de-sac. Curious and feeling a bit disoriented, I carried onward, working my way past construction and the sounds of hammers. I walked partly through young forest and partly along bits of found trail, as its continuity was broken by a pile of dirt and a house or two. At the T-junction, I headed south, and looked for the poem. It’d come apart — the poem itself was in the marsh, the stake still planted. The plexiglass facing was cracked. The paper was a bit torn, and an insect was tucked into it. Language had come apart. At the midpoint of the flooded track, the water rippled, part of multiple other frequencies and textures, smooth and jagged. I moved the poem, placing it carefully to lean against the base of its stand and thought about walking the track to the southern end through the water. Another time.