When I woke this morning after a broken sleep–sirens, loud voices on the street–it took me a moment to remember where I am. In Vancouver, in the old hotel we like to stay in, with its brick walls and beautiful moldings. A tree grows so near the bay window I reached out to hold one of its tender branches for a minute while I drank my coffee at the small round table. Yesterday we joined a group of friends and family celebrating the life of my dear friend Barbara Lambert who died on October 1. To gather during a pandemic is kind of odd but safety protocols were observed and I only took my mask off to drink a glass of the rosé Barbara loved and to offer a short set of memories about our friendship over the past 20 years. For those of you who follow our work at Fish Gotta Swim Editions, you’ll know that we published Barbara’s novella, Wanda, in spring. It’s based on her childhood in the Okanagan and is redolent with its landscape and culture. As I listened to her children talk about their mother and the friends who had prepared things to say, I knew that hers was a life lived richly and well.
Last night we had dinner with my brother and his wife. Because of the pandemic, we haven’t seen them for two years. It was lovely to sit at a table, distanced from other diners, drinking lovely wine and eating good food, and talking, talking, talking. It’s almost desperate, this urge to catch up. To hear about their lives since we last met, a new great-grandchild, and to share our news. To talk to someone who knew me as a child (increasingly rare these days) and to remember our parents. I feel porous these days, mortal. I know what it is to live quietly during a period of fear and threat, though to be honest, the threat was manageable with masks and caution. And with my friend’s death, I know how quickly the end comes. Not that I’m anticipating my own. I’m 66, pretty strong and healthy. But in the room yesterday, surrounded by photographs of Barbara, hearing from friends and family who knew her as a girl, then a young bride, a young mother, I thought that our lives are somehow liminal. Between. And this morning, in my email inbox, a poem.
Some people have begun to come into my dreams
from a long way away,
traveling over the mountain passes
that nobody living knows.
Old people who smell like fog
and the soft bark of redwoods.
They talk together softly.
They know more than I know.
I think they come from home.
Ursula K. Le Guin (2018)