“Is the heart still light?” (from a work-in-progress)

lac lejeune

In certain parts of the lake shore there is tulé grass growing out into the water, thick at the shore, thin and sparse as it stretches into the lake. Where the tulé grass – which is a tall reedlike grass – is sparse, its angled reflections fall into the water and form engaging patterns.” (SA, 86)

Turned off again on the road to Lac le Jeune because I wanted to see Three Loon Lake after all, what Ethel Wilson called it in Swamp Angel, though she had other names for it in another stories: Nimpish, Blue, and before it was renamed in the 1930s, in honour of Father Le Jeune, it was Fish Lake. Before that, for thousands of years, it was Chuhwels. She and Wallace loved the lake and took a cabin on the hill above the water, fishing daily for Kamloops trout.

Is the heart still light, does it balance in the scale as light as the feather?

In Swamp Angel, Ethel Wilson describes Maggie’s relationship with the lake as a union, like a happy marriage. And the Wilsons were happy. Casting their flies, from a row-boat, in deep water or among the tulé reeds; sharing drinks on the verandah afterwards, the water shimmering with sky. So to give Maggie the lake, with its rich presence, the birds, warm rocks, the pines, and even a gun, the Swamp Angel itself, to drop finally into the water, was to give a woman an everlasting place in a landscape. As horses ran through the grass of the Jocko Creek Ranch, the Two-Bit, and others unknown to me, women loved lakes also unknown to me, but Maggie’s was on any map if you knew the code. Knew the legend.

The lake was gun-metal, rippled, as I approached. No loons but what was that? A moose in the shallows eating reeds. Lily pads glittering, a chill in the air I hadn’t felt at the Two-Bit. But low cabins on one shore, drifting ducks, a dock pushed out into the lake and weathered grey. At the very far end, almost out of sight, a man in a small boat casting. One of those moments. It could have Wallace, it could have been. Ethel on the small deck of the cabin, reading. Ice in a bucket for cocktails late afternoon and a warm fire waiting.

4 thoughts on ““Is the heart still light?” (from a work-in-progress)”

  1. This post is a joy to read. And it reminds me of the small, hidden lake Chris and I found a couple of years ago when we answered an ad for a horse trailer for sale. We met a couple not unlike the Wilsons in some ways. They were Americans, with a winter place in Hawaii and a summer place in northern BC with its own private lake. They were in their 80s, and his terminal illness was forcing them to sell the summer place – and her beloved horse – and move full time to Hawaii. Sad as they were to give it all up, they couldn’t suppress their joy as they told us about their years of happy summers at the lake, no doubt “casting their flies, from a row-boat, in deep water or among the tulé reeds; sharing drinks on the verandah afterwards, the water shimmering with sky.”

    On a more banal note, I think you’ve just taught me the origin of my dad’s phrase “in the toolies” – thanks!

    1. Isn’t it wonderful to find these places and the people who love them? The Wilsons honeymooned at Lac LeJeune and I imagine Ethel in particular fishing on that lake. Would she have worn trousers? (I can’t imagine that, for some reason.) And I read an anecdote of their time there that very closely resembled something described in Swamp Angel and I realized how deeply and richly she drew from her own experience.
      I love tule (can’t do the accent here) and would happily live among them. Interior peoples made summer shelters of tule mats and I’ve often thought how airy and lovely it would be to sleep in one.

Leave a Reply to theresakishkan Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s