the blues: a few sentences on a cold February morning

jay in winter


When the jay appeared in the fir beyond the deck this morning, I realized it hadn’t been coming for breakfast for weeks, hadn’t been standing on the post to look in, wondering when the seeds would appear, and I realized I’d been wrapped in my own winter blues, too distracted to notice its absence.


I am not yet accustomed to a phone ringing (or playing “Brown-eyed Girl” because that’s the ringtone I set and I don’t know how to change it) as I sit in the car, waiting, so it took me a few minutes to realize how to see who I’d missed and how to return the video call, which was my grandson Henry, who is 4, wanting to talk about Jupiter and sharks and counting to a hundred, not a big number he insisted, and then confided that most kids skip the 30s but he doesn’t, and when his face disappeared from the tiny screen, I was waiting, waiting, under a blue sky, thinking about planets and how long it’s been since I saw my family.


Every day I sit by the fire with the pages of Blue Portugal*, scribbling and scoring out passages, moving others so that they make more sense, pausing in my reading to remember things I’d written about — driving to Lillooet on a cold November morning, seeing stars quite literally after retinal damage when I fell on ice 3 years ago, looking out a train window in the night as we travelled from Kyiv to Chernivtsi in search of my grandfather’s village and realizing that Orion was right over our train carriage, the same Orion who hung over our house thousands of miles away, walking along the Red Deer River and seeing a little creek enter it, not knowing that I was in the very place where my grandmother lived with her first husband a hundred years ago, in another lifetime that led to my own.


When I woke this morning at 5:30, it wasn’t Jupiter I saw but more likely Mars, and so many stars in a sky the colour of indigo velvet, while John slept, and the cat slept, his position an ampersand between us on these cold February mornings.


The blue hour, the one we wait for late February when the sun slips down below the horizon and the sky deepens to the saturated indigo of a Maxfield Parrish landscape, a platter of truite au bleu on the long table, a glass of Modry Portugal poured and waiting on the counter. An hour to be accompanied by the music of Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell. Stitch, stitch the dyed linen into rough quilts, spread the Indian cloth on the grass for the evening picnic, your hands blue with cold.
–from “The Blue Etymologies”, part of Blue Portugal

*Blue Portugal and Other Essays will be published by the University of Alberta Press as part of their Wayfarer Series in 2022.

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