[Vancouver, B.C.]
Sunday [10 Sept. 1950]

Cayke duck:

You might be interested to know what a trilobite looks like. It lived about a billion years ago in the sea when the Rocky Mountains were under the sea. The Rockies by the way are not volcanic as was once supposed, but rather great plains under the water which were thrown up in tremendous folds thousands of feet high. On the top of them and in the middle of them where the tunnels are bored there are millions of low forms of sea life which have died and left their impressions in the petrified mud. Every time a pick-axe goes to work on mountain or canyon numerous crustaceans and softer fish are unearthed. The trilobite is like a crab. I shall give evidence of my draughtsmanship by drawing one from a verbal description given me by Mr Dalmage:

Almost human isn't it? I have known people whose faces resembled that. I could mention a few but my artistic modesty forbids elaborating on the resemblance for if you knew whom I had in mind you would say that I was seeking a compliment on my achievement. Suffice it to say that I have looked like that occasionally when a poem went bad or when I was turning over in bed vainly trying to get to sleep on the CPR. Those vertical lines represent plunges from a horizontal position when the train rounded a sharp curve in the Kicking Horse canyon. The eyes indicate vacancy and the mouth impatience for the morning and breakfast.

I shall now draw a crinoid:

This might at first glance look like a frightened duck with a piglet's tail, but nothing could be further from the truth. Symbolically it is a fish and one must use the imagination for the abstract to find its significance. I know some art galleries where this would be hung up as a triumph.

The brachiopod is a clam or close to it – a real bivalve with hairs on its legs so fine that when it is seen in the mountains only the magnifying glass can reveal them. Outside to the eye (if a person could have lived in those times to see it) it would be just an ordinary clam like this:

See the horizontal lines making it a bivalve but inside it would be like this:

The humps indicate the gelatinous movement of the clam in search of sea-weed. The tails (I have shown only five for space considerations though the hairs are numerous really). The beak X is not a beak but only intended to be such – a bit of marine symbolism known only to sailors who have the gift of second sight or possibly third sight which may be credited to me at midnight. Ponder over this Cayke for it is important as it may be the beginning of a new school of art.


sleep on the CPR
Pratt had not slept well on the train trip west. See the
letter to Claire Pratt, 9 September 1950.