wild mountain thyme


Some days are easier than others. For me, for us, for all of us. Yesterday was dark. When we went to pick up mail from the day before, we saw that all the parcel boxes at the community mail boxes had been pried open. This was the second time. Someone has been going around the Coast, stealing parcels from the community mail boxes. In a year when our lives are reduced and constrained, when so many people are depending on Canada Post for parcel deliveries and Christmas mail in general. There was confusion at the Post Office itself when I stopped in to mail my final family parcel. Usually you have a key to the parcel box in your individual mail box if you have a parcel. Or if the parcel is large, you have a card asking you to pick it up at the post office. Can I assume that I didn’t have a parcel in the box that was pried open if I didn’t have a key or a card, I asked. But no one could say for sure. It turned out I did have a parcel card in that day’s mail, for a parcel that hadn’t yet gone out. I wanted to ask if two break-ins in as many weeks meant that the mail person would no longer leave parcels in the community mail boxes but the post lady was already cross with me about a postal code she insisted was wrong on the parcel I was trying to mail so I left in tears.

Tears that were never far from the surface throughout the day. Someone scolded me in the 1st grocery story (long story). I got wet everywhere I went. John was grumpy and although I know he has more reason than anyone to be grumpy these days (paralyzed foot….), I took it personally. In the library stacks I cried. I cried as I loaded groceries in the back of the car from the cart after my stop at the second grocery store, unbagged because the cashier spoke sharply to me when I said I’d use my own bags. You’ll have to put things in your cart, then, and do it out in the mall area, she said. We can’t have your bags on the counter. (I know this. I’ve been shopping at this store for 40 years, and once a week throughout the pandemic. I wouldn’t have put my bags on the counter. But I didn’t want to cry in front of her so I just wheeled my cart out to the car with the groceries heaped in any old way.) Wiping my face with the back of my hand as I closed the trunk of the car, I suddenly stopped. Was that “Wild Mountain Thyme” I was hearing? It was. The older fellow who plays his guitar outside the liquor store, the one who usually plays old Gordon Lightfoot songs, who sings with a world-weary voice, and into whose guitar case I’ve dropped many twoonies over the years, was strumming and singing (behind a face-shield).

O the summer time has come
And the trees are sweetly blooming
And wild mountain thyme
Grows around the purple heather.
Will you go, lassie, go?

Some days are hard. You think of all the people who will be alone this Christmas, waiting for parcels or cards, you think of the cashiers saying the same thing over and over, hoping that someone doesn’t infect them, the nursing staff in the hospitals consoling, consoling (I think of how kind they were to John when he was in pain), the people working in post offices trying to do their best with mountains of deliveries to boxes that are clearly not safe, the families lined up at food banks, and you wish, wish for the beauty of summers in years gone by, the garden flourishing, your loved ones sleeping in every bed in your house, the long pink sunsets, and even the scent of thyme you’ve cut for the lamb you are preparing for the barbecue, enough for everyone.

I will range through the wilds
And the deep land so dreary
And return with the spoils
To the bower o’ my dearie.
Will ye go lassie go ?

15 thoughts on “wild mountain thyme”

  1. Oh, you’ve brought back a flood of memories with Wild Mountain Thyme. During a dark chapter in my life, I used to find a warm and welcoming glow every Sunday night at the Victoria Folk Music Society coffeehouse at the Norway House on Hillside. Every week the folks gathered there closed down the night with Wild Mountain Thyme. I didn’t notice your link to Joan Baez’s version and my search for the song on YouTube yielded Mark Knopfler’s instrumental version. So beautiful. Sending you love and strength to grieve the losses and the absences you’re mourning – far more than a parcel.

  2. Oh Theresa. I can hear the sorrow. There is more, I’m sure and for that I wish you a softening and easing. I’ve had those times, usually when they are tumbled over top of something serrated and cavernous. Sending you warmth across the miles. I feel a need to hug.

      1. A friend lost her sister through all of this and she was / is so devastated. It genuinely physically hurt not to hold her. We must hug again, and we will.

  3. Isn’t his a beautiful version? I’m reminded how much I love his takes on folk songs. (Lily of the West…) And I remember those folk music coffeehouses. There was another one at Cook and Hillside? Somehow hearing the man in Sechelt yesterday eased every sorrow. Of course it’s relative — the sense of sorrow, I mean. I know how privileged I am, in so many ways. But some days I think of the line from Hamlet: Gertrude, Gertrude, when sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions. Ironically, on our way home, J. had an appointment with a woman who massaged his leg and foot in a particular way and so much of the swelling came down, so I’ll add that procedure to our days now.

  4. Once more, as always, I hear you, sister. We all have those days, when yes, the sorrows pile on in battalions, and on top of it all, we know we should not feel sad because we’re alive and have a roof over our heads and love and friends and food. And two functional feet. And yet, and yet. There are those days. Now I will listen to the song and send you a big big hug. One day in person, I’m sure.

  5. PS The song made me cry, Theresa. One of my favourite albums from the sixties, still in my collection – Farewell Angelina. Thanks for the tears. Needed today.

    1. I love those early Baez albums too, Beth. And next week I’m going to put a good donation in the guy’s guitar case (if he’s there that day; if not, in the New Year), because his singing carried me out of a dark place somewhere else, if not exactly into the light. But it’s there.

  6. Big hugs to you, Theresa, from the east coast. This year has been so, so hard. Cry when you need to. Smile when you can. Thank you for sharing the small joys where you find them.

  7. You should try dealing with the civil servants (glorified clerks) at the Prefecture de Police here in Paris. No-one knows the stress and huge inconvenience that Brexit has brought to British citizens living in Europe, people like me who, overnight, went from European citizens to losing their European citizenship. The paperwork we have to produce, the new dossiers we have to make, the endless trips to the soulless, mind-numbing administrative offices of the Prefecture and, worse, the clerks who don’t speak sharply to you, they verbally assault you with such disdain and disrespect that you want to strangle them.

    Just this week (Monday) I schlepped to the Prefecture to pick up my temporary resident card. Behind a thick glass partition the clerk handed me the card and asked me to verify it. Guess what they had written on it – Place of Birth: Toronto, Great Britain. When I pointed out the error, I received a deluge of criticism, as if it was MY fault.

    “Where is Toronto?” I asked the not-very-bright 25 yr old clerk. She hadn’t the faintest idea.

    Because of their mistake I have to repeat the procedure all over again which involves spending a month trying to make an appointment by logging on to a connection module on their website that’s always booked up, take time off work to schlep there again, go through all the security barriers and sit in a crowded waiting room for an hour – just to receive the corrected temporary resident card, temporary because the final resident card is yet another hellish procedure.

    I cry all the time here. People have this glamorized, romanticized, idealized notion of France which annoys me. Coming to Paris as a tourist for 5 days and actually living here are two wildly different experiences.

    I wish you and your husband a happy Christmas.

    1. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this, Juliet. And I wish you the best possible holiday. I am looking forward to watching The Tailor of Gloucester with two of my grandchildren tomorrow evening, separated by mountains. (We have the dvd, they will watch on YouTube, and we’ll use a video chat to share our responses!)

  8. Oh, Theresa, how grim to think people are taking advantage of the season to steal parcels! We have a similar rural mailbox and after reading this, I realize how lucky we are that it’s situated by a FasGas station with its 24-hour lurid lights and proximity to the highway. Too obvious a spot to tempt
    mischief. Grocery clerks must be at the end of their patience since snapping about where and how to load bags is happening here too. I’m sad you had a day full of tears, however it was oddly reassuring to know I’m not the only one who dissolves. I guess daring to bare your painful moments and conveying them so vividly is what makes you a writer. I only hope sharing it with the rest of us is a bit of comfort to you too.

    1. Susan, I’d intended to write about something else entirely the other day but somehow life conspired to send me in the direction it did. I am full of sympathy for grocery store clerks and it must get frustrating for them to have to say the same thing over and over again. Wearing a mask, Behind plexiglass. The mailbox thing sort of pierced my heart — you never know ahead of time what might do that! Parcels arriving in the best of times are such gifts but right now? They make all the difference. And to see the open doors of the parcel compartments, the crime tape across a whole box (I think there are 5 on the corner where we pick up our mail), well, it was so unsettling. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

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