This morning I was listening to Iris DeMent sing her versions of Anna Ahkmatova’s poems. I was listening and I wasn’t. I was also making pancakes. It’s the final day of my Edmonton family’s visit and we had an early swim in the lake. Then the children picked blackberries while I went home ahead of them to get things ready for breakfast. Kelly helped me make the batter and then I began to cook on the old cast-iron griddle given us years ago by an elderly woman who wanted it to go to a good home. My father had a griddle like it, though I’ve no idea what happened to it after his death, and when we were children, he made pancakes on camping trips. I remember the taste of them, slightly toasty with buckwheat, and the curling fillets of bass he fried along side, dusted in cornmeal. He was there as I cooked this morning and in that strange way that happens sometimes, I could also sense others at the stove. Maybe it was Anna’s words, in Iris’s voice, that conjured them:
And it seemed as if ages walked with us
unseen, and as if an invisible hand were
striking a tambourine,
and there were stranger sounds, like
something we must mark,
secret signals that whirled about us there
in the dark.
It wasn’t dark but there were secrets as I ladled batter onto the griddle and turned the sausages. As we sat at our table and ate pancakes with maple syrup, sunlight pouring into the kitchen.
At breakfast, John mentioned the map he’d found in his study. He told the children that it was old and that no one had ever been able to figure it out. Of course they were eager to see it. Their father and Aunty Angie remembered it (they admitted, with secret smiles) and confessed they’d never been able to figure it out. Which made Kelly even more determined to see it and try to decode its clues.
From the Oxford Living Dictionary:
Late Middle English: variant of clew. The original sense was ‘a ball of thread’; hence one used to guide a person out of a labyrinth. clue (sense 1 of the noun) dates from the early 17th century.
So a series of clues, leading to locations around our house:
Beware of the snakes, one of the clues advised. And when the treasure—because we finally determined that the map was a treasure map—was found, after Kelly pulled on a rope under the old dog house and something wrapped in an old rug (the kind of pirates might have used) emerged at the end of the rope, when the tin was opened, look what was inside!
Gold coins (of the chocolate sort) and articulated wooden snakes and tattoos. Clues satisfactorily solved. For two small children, that is. As for their grandmother, she is still wandering through the labyrinth, caught by the tendrils of memory and love.
…mind my wish, however belated, oh, be kind
and send me, waking or dreaming…