John and I are in Courtenay for a few days because his mum is in hospital and we’re trying to help with arrangements for the next phase of her care. My own parents died in the last year – well, November 2009 and November 2010 – so we have the sad sense that certain chapters of our lives are coming to a close. We’ve taken the ferry across the strait of Georgia so many times to visit our parents and increasingly now we come to settle their affairs. We passed a field of swans on our way to the hospital and young eagles jousting in tall cedars above the estuary. Things change, and don’t change.
It was very nice to find a wonderful place to eat this evening. Go Mango opened in December, we were told by the personable young man in the bright restaurant on 8th Street. He recommended the evening’s special: Tandoori Showdown. We each ordered that, as well as a bottle of Crios Torrontes from Argentina, a perfect crisp lemony wine to accompany the excellent food that arrived at our table. Tandoori chicken, deep red with spices and tender with its yoghourt marinade. A skewer of prawns, in the same rich sauce. Cubes of paneer, spicy with peas and chilies. Potatoes and chickpeas. A lovely fresh raita and a complex chutney. Fragrant basmati rice, of course. There was also a platter of naan bread and paratha stuffed with potatoes and aromatics. John had dessert – Gulab Jamun, deep fried morsels served with rice pudding and rosewater ice-cream. Luckily we had a long walk back to our motel.
I know it’s the style now to offer enticing photographs to accompany descriptions of meals. You will have to use your imagination for our dinner. Long white platters with arrangements of well-prepared food, a bottle of chilled wine beaded with moisture, little planters of green grass on the table to remind us of spring.
Our friend David Godkin organized a poetry reading last evening to celebrate (belatedly) the spring equinox. The Gumboot Cafe in Roberts Creek was packed with people. Susan Telfer read several new poems as well as a handful from her book, House Beneath, followed by Joe Denham who read from Flux as well as a section of his astonishing long poem, Windstorm. After the break, John read a range of his work from over the years, including “The Veil” from Blossom: An Accompaniment (a favourite of mine). He concluded with a poem from his forthcoming collection, crawlspace. I thought, listening to all three poets, how much poetry has to tell us about the world, how lucky we are to have the opportunity to hear it.
One of my favourite moments in late winter is seeing the first salmonberry blossom. It’s usually February – last spring I found them in bloom on February 17th in Connor Park in Halfmoon Bay and the spring before that, it was February 23rd. I still haven’t seen any this year but it’s not for lack of looking. We walk most days and I’ve kept my eyes open for them, that sudden glimpse of deep cerise. Today we went up the Klein Lake trail, as likely a place as any, but not a bloom in sight. When we stopped for water on the high bluff, I did find lots of death camas shoots. They don’t bloom here until late May or early June so it’ll be ages yet before the bluff is covered in their creamy flowers.
I know that we’ve had a long cold winter (for the coast) but there are little signs of spring. About a month ago, on our walk over for the mail, we rescued a rough-skinned newt who’d crept out onto the shoulder of the highway, drawn by a brief spell of sunlight on the pavement, and then became too cold to move. I held it on my palm, a tiny dragon, and then tucked it down a bank, under some of last year’s foxglove leaves. The other day we heard tree frogs. I noticed that there are tiny beginnings of self-sown kale in the vegetable garden. Robins are at work on the mossy area behind our house, turning over the moss for worms and whatever else they can find. And how lovely to find crocus in bloom yesterday, with their promise of everything to follow. Can salmonberry blossoms be far behind?