where I am

brick

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.

The People

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)

7 thoughts on “where I am”

  1. Oh God that’s a beautiful poem! I was at a wake today for a neighbour friend my age – 71, much younger than you! – a fit, energetic artist and art teacher who dropped dead of a massive heart attack last week. We were in her home, full of colour and life, only she was not there. I understand your melancholy, dear friend. But we are here. We are still here, and determined not to go gently anywhere for a good long time.

    1. Barbara hadn’t been well for awhile so her death wasn’t unexpected. I’m really glad we were able to work with her to make her Wanda such a lovely volume (her writing is beautiful) and for her to be able to take pleasure in its publication. Thank you for your comforting words, Beth.

  2. A beautiful poem to read on a shadowy, rainy October day. I was sorry to read of Barbara Lambert’s death; I “discovered” her writing years ago, with The Allegra Series, as a younger reviewer, and now I’ll look forward to reading Wanda. It sounds like a loving ceremony for family and friends both.

  3. Oh gracious, that poem. I was reading Kerry Clare’s “Gleanings” and one blogger wrote about Wanda. And then a couple entries (gleanings) down, here is a link to this post. Talk about connections.
    I’m sorry for your loss of your friend, Barbara. It’s heartwarming though to know she lived a rich and fulfilling life. Even though I didn’t know her, I genuinely feel a contentment simply knowing that.

    1. Yes, isn’t that poem a beauty? I just had a peek at the Gleanings and am delighted to read the link to Matilda Magtree. Carin had a good connection with Barbara through a regular Wordless Wednesday thing a group of people shared on a website. I’m in Victoria for a day or two, not as long as we’d planned because of ferries cancelled yesterday, but the city is full of memories and arriving here fresh from Barbara’s celebration of life on Saturday has me thinking deeply about friendship and the past.

      1. Theresa I always enjoy and appreciate your thoughtful responses Diane

        Sent from my iPhone

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