Lost Lagoon / Lost in Thought

By Betsy Warland

Lost Lagoon / Lost in Thought
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After moving to Vancouver's West End in 2014, The Human is drawn to a small body of water called Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park. Daytime visits, with a surprising array of wildlife, are quietly revelatory; but so is suddenly waking in the night when owl hoots, or geese startle ... Read more


After moving to Vancouver's West End in 2014, The Human is drawn to a small body of water called Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park. Daytime visits, with a surprising array of wildlife, are quietly revelatory; but so is suddenly waking in the night when owl hoots, or geese startle in alarm at otter on the prowl. The Human savours this up-close relationship between wildlife and fast-paced urban living, questioning the interface between the urban and natural world.


Upon learning the lagoon was named by nineteenth century Canadian author E. Pauline Johnson, of Mohawk and English origin, Johnson then becomes a presence in the narrative. Pauline Johnson wrote evocatively about it: "Among the wild rice in the still lagoon/In monotone the lizard shrills his tune. "


During five years of intimate counterpoint between urban living and wildlife, The Human's notions are challenged and altered. Questions of how significant the specificity of place is to story, how our relationship to nature is altered by urban living, and how we might return to the natural world. Reminiscent of Henry Thoreau's Walden Pond, perceptions about nurturing, fear, inventiveness, delight, death, protection, humour, even tenderness change as the lagoon has exposed what being human in the twenty-first century actually means.

Betsy Warland

Betsy Warland has published 13 books of poetry, creative nonfiction, and lyric prose. Warland’s 2010 book of essays on new approaches to writing, Breathing the Page—Reading the Act of Writing became a bestseller. Author, mentor, teacher, manuscript consultant, editor, Warland received the City of Vancouver Mayor’s Award for Literary Excellence in 2016. Warland is the founder of Vancouver Manuscript Intensive, co-founder of the national Creative Writing Nonfiction Collective, and established The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University where they were director of the program from 2001–2012, a TWS Mentor in 2001–2003, 2005, and remains on TWS teaching faculty.In March of 2016, Warland’s Oscar of Between—A Memoir of Identity and Ideas launched Caitlin Press’ new imprint, Dagger Editions. The book evolved from pers new publishing template: an interactive online salon that features excerpts from their manuscript Oscar of Between, guest writers, artist’s work, and lively comments from readers. Oscar of Between was the basis for Lloyd Burritt’s chamber opera, The Art of Camouflage in 2018, which will be performed in the Indie Opera West festival (Vancouver) in 2020. Lost Lagoon/lost in thought is Warland’s most recent book, published in Winter 2020.


  • Fred Cogswell Award 2021, Long-listed


“Lost Lagoon represents Warland’s magisterial (and yet, paradoxically, minimalist) distillation of a half decade living nearby… Liminality is Warland’s great subject, and it resonates through her observations of life and death on the lagoon, and in her character sketches…”

—Tom Sandborn, Vancouver Sun

Lost Lagoon/lost in thought is stunning in its ability to capture the essence of what is still a wild space within the context of an urban one … This new collection of work asks the reader to question their place in the world, and to take up their responsibility as an active guardian of the natural world. ”


Lost Lagoon/lost in thought is an extraordinary love spell cast by a master magician. We listen as with almost mathematical purity—quiet or sharp, humorous or spare—Betsy Warland evokes the mysteries and beauties of her beloved lagoon, and cries out with wisdom and grief for the losses of nature, and the life that remains. This is the magic of a deeply noticing mind. Read this book. It will fill you to the brim with the rustle of the non-human. In her slice of nature, Warland makes us whole. ”

—Shaena Lambert, author of Petra and Oh, My Darling

“Always visionary, Betsy Warland creates textual mirrors of contemplation wherein we see both place and soul, in a voice that is plain spoken, tender and inviting: long after reading, her words will resonate with their simple profound messages. ”

—Renée Sarojini Saklikar, author of children of air india and Listening to the Bees

"A soliloquy on life and loss by a poet who has become attuned to the natural world, specifically the microcosm of Lost Lagoon in Vancouver, and its ecosystem. Warland's Lost Lagoon is an artistic affirmation of the sacred but humble space humans occupy in the cosmos, and of the magical reciprocity a human can establish with the flora, fauna and physical world around her. Lost Lagoon is a stunningly beautiful work. "

--Darrel J. McLeod, author of Governor General Award-winning Mamaskatch

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Becky Livingston

Lost Lagoon/lost in thought is a stunning book. Warland’s loyalty to both language, and the lagoon, is tenderly wrought, and instructive.

The reader is privy to the author’s deeply perceptive observations, and is reminded of life’s fragility, both in nature and in humans. The inverse relationship between Warland’s own griefs and joys, and lagoon life, is particularly powerful.

“Once again, it is time to let go. Be unmoored. /Adapt to lightness.”

Lost Lagoon/lost in thought provides a crucial perspective of one of Vancouver’s most endearing, and threatened locations. What a treasure!

Becky Livingston