This morning I went down to Sechelt for an ophthalmologist appointment. In late November of 2018 I fell on ice in Edmonton, fractured my tailbone, and (although I didn’t know until a few days later) the impact of the fall began the process of retinal detachment. I had emergency laser surgery as soon as we arrived home and then I had it again two weeks later because my retinas just wanted to tear away from the back wall of my eyes. Regular visits to the ophthalmologist were the theme of winter, 2019, each time the doctor peering into my eyes through lenses, taking photographs that looked like planets. Today was a follow-up and I’m so relieved that I have no further issues. You think you are strong and healthy and mostly you are but then your vision is threatened and you lie in your bed at night and hold your hands gently over your eyes, apologizing to them for taking them for granted.
After the visit, I felt light as air and I walked over to Talewind Books because Bev Shaw called the other day to say my new book had arrived and she had a stack of copies to be inscribed to various people. I say “various” so casually but honestly? They are the best people. They request my books, they buy copies as gifts, they invite me to their book groups, and in doing so they help to support Bev—her business stayed open, in a safe and low-key way, during the first part of the pandemic and I’m more grateful than I say for her support of all of us on the Coast and further afield, writers who depend on booksellers to help us find readers. Unlike the huge mega-business that is eating North America, Bev is part of an intricate network of local businesses who carry the work of local writers, artists, potters, and textile workers; these businesses donate to fund-raisers, the food-bank, school events, festivals, and they deserve our support. I hadn’t seen my book yet (my copies are in the mail) but there it was on the counter—
—and when I asked if I could take a copy home and replace it once my own copies arrive, she said, Of course you can! That mega-business? I don’t believe it’s ever written my name on its windows or given me little gifts from time to time or hand-lettered gift certificates for my grandchildren to use when they next come to visit. Or encouraged me to take a copy with me so I could read it while John drove us home.
And speaking of hand-lettered…my husband generously printed a small keepsake to give to people who buy my book, while quantities last. Each card was put through our c. 1890 Chandler and Price platen press twice, once for each ink colour, and their numbers are limited. But leave me a message, if you haven’t already done so, and I’ll send you a keepsake.
There are passages in my book I’d almost forgotten writing. But dipping into the pages is like entering a body of water, ready to swim. Cool water, reminding you of tender ankles, warm wind, the way your heart catches just a little as you lower yourself in.
What the Thompson remembers:
The bodies of children in summer, brown and naked, some with inflated cuffs on their arms, pine cones blown from the sentinel trees, train-cars tipping their cargo—wheat, copper concentrate, coal, ethylene glycol, gold bullion. Rattlesnakes sunning themselves on warm rocks, the scent of Artemesia frigida, horse-sweat, a bale of hay tossed from a pickup to cattle and missing, falling down the rock slope and into the currents. Canoes. The cold water, from Mad River, Clearwater River, Chase Creek, Monte Creek, Tranquille River, Deadman River, Bonaparte Creek, Nicola River, Murray Creek, Skoonka Creek, Nicomen River, Botanie Creek. Fisherman washed from where their boots were planted in gravel near Spences Bridge, rafts, the long blue mornings at the dawn of the world when ash from Mazama settled on a small hunting camp on the banks of Oregon Jack Creek, some of it drifting into the water and rushing down into the body of the river.