I didn’t swim to the island


These days when I come into the house, I notice the windchime I made with my grandson A. in the summer. We gathered some small pieces of driftwood at Trail Bay and the shells mostly came from Francis Point, with some swimming scallop shells from a package given to us by our friends Joe and Amy who have a fishboat and sell seafood from the dock in Pender Harbour. We ate the scallops, which were delicious, and then we washed the shells, letting them dry in sunlight.

I notice the windchime and I think of how the summer passed, both strangely (the heat dome, the drought) and beautifully (the family visits, the sound of children shrieking and racing around outdoors). One day, maybe in late July, I said to John as we prepared for our morning swim, I think I’ll swim to the island this year. I didn’t mean the smaller islands directly in front of the beach area.

sky swim

I think I could reach those quite easily. I’m not a skilful swimmer but I’m strong. I meant the bigger island beyond the photograph, the one we call White Pine, the one that occupies a significant place in our family geography. I thought I’d try to swim there. But somehow the days accumulated until yet another summer had passed, and I didn’t swim to the island. I won’t try in winter, though I plan to lake swim again at least once a week, to balance the 3 mornings I stroke my slow kilometre in the pool, turning and holding to my lane, rinsing off the chlorine after. (I never rinsed the lake off my body but let myself dry in the sun.)

When I come into the house and notice the windchime, I remember searching for shells, pieces of wood that would knock together like summer mornings, calling me to come out, come out, bring your towel, this might be the day that you swim to the island.

The harbour is old, I can’t wait any longer
for the friend who left the island with the pine trees
for the friend who left the island with the plane trees
for the friend who left for the open sea.
–from “Mythistorema” by George Seferis, trans. Edmund Keeley

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