stories of snow and shooting stars

We spent five days in Edmonton, visiting our family there. It was cold. Of course it was. Walking from the car to the house, I slipped on ice and my feet shot out from under me. Maybe I cracked my tailbone. The pain was (and is) pretty intense. But this is an injury for which there’s no treatment apart from pain-killers and time. It was wonderful, though, to spend those days with loved ones. One afternoon, John and I stayed with the kids while their parents worked. We made a gingerbread house which was a big hit, particularly the gumdrops. (Our house had long drippy streams of icing and did not resemble the suggested version on the box. And luckily Grandpa John was able to repair the broken wall with extra icing, though it kept threatening to cave in again.) Afterwards he read Kelly and Henry a story about other houses and a wolf who was able to blow them down.


Aunty Angie came for three nights from Victoria and so there was a trip to the new museum, tickets for a performance of “Nutcracker in a Nutshell”, and a sleigh-ride around the snowy streets of Strathcona, pulled by Sugar and Spice, blond Belgians from Rattray.

sugar and spice on whyte avenue

On our last day in Edmonton, I wondered at the shooting stars, long streams of silver, I was seeing to the side of my right eye. And the tangles of, what, hair?, that kept drifting across my vision. After some calls to various medical facilities, Brendan and John took me in a blizzard across the low bridge over the North Saskatchewan, its surface a constellation of ice stars, to an emergency room where I was examined, then examined again because I was lucky enough that a resident ophthalmologist just happened to be in the hospital, and told I almost certainly have a posterior vitreous detachment. I won’t say I wasn’t a little scared but it was also strangely beautiful to have a glimpse of my inner eye. The ophthalmologist was puzzled when I asked why I was seeing a particular landscape and a skyscape and thought maybe it was my brain trying to make sense of the instruments and their intense light. Her immediate concern was to try to make sure I could have a follow-up examination at home this week or she was going to insist I stay in Edmonton for further retinal examinations. But finally we left, drove back in the blizzard, and ate Cristen’s delicious dinner (saved for us to enjoy with the bottle of good wine John had bought and the box of assorted macarons I’d chosen at an excellent bakery the day before).


The next morning we woke to a foot of snow over the cars on our street. But people were out and about and so we packed our rental car and drove carefully to the airport. Shooting stars were the least of my worries as we passed abandoned vehicles along the Calgary Trail. We flew home with stories of snow and those silver stars and beautiful children on a horse-drawn sleigh and the mystery of what my eye saw, and didn’t. I am seeing a specialist tomorrow to have another dilation but I think that I will be fine. I think of that wonderful poem, “Stories of Snow”,  by P.K. Page—I was lucky enough to hear her read this several times in her beautiful patrician voice—and what it tells us about vision:

And stories of this kind are often told
in countries where great flowers bar the roads
with reds and blues which seal the route of snow –
as if, in telling, raconteurs unlock
the colour with its complement and go
through to the area behind the eyes
where silent, unrefractive whiteness lies.

8 thoughts on “stories of snow and shooting stars”

  1. Did your fall have anything to do with the retinal detachment, or just a coincidence? I hope you heal quickly from both! And glad you had a wonderful time with your family. Take care.

    1. The doctors say no, Leslie. But how likely is it for me to fall hard on my butt, harder than I’ve ever fallen (and I had a horse, fell off frequently!), and three days later have a retinal problem? But thanks for your good wishes. (It was wonderful to see my family. Sigh.)

  2. Strange! I have just been dealing with eye problems and the bizarre (quite beautiful) effects, such as every light turning into a star with long tails. And distorted print that appears and disappears, changing shape. Was scary but I too got great care. Will start treatment after my son’s wedding. I was awed by the equipment. Good luck with everything–so sorry for your accident.

    1. Interesting, Susan, and I’m so glad you had good care. I’m grateful for both my eyes and for the people who’ve helped with them, esp. this morning as I read in bed ( small print!) and look around at evidence of a life well-lived.

      1. A friend lost sight in one eye from the exact same problem as mine. That was in 1993. I am so grateful for the amazing technical advances since then! My eyesight will remain poor but it’s always been poor. But there’s a huge gap between poor eyesight and blindness! Have been looking very closely and with wonder at my beautiful paintings. Good luck with all of this. The joys of aging. I’m having trouble with my wrist too and am waiting for an MRI!

      2. I wish you every kind of luck with eyes and wrist, Susan. I had a small laser surgery last week which should repair my eye and am trying to do all the right things — rest, not straining, etc. Maybe it’s not a bad thing to come up against one’s frailties sometimes? It makes me so grateful for what I do have.

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