what are you hoping for (how does it feel)


This morning I swam–imagine me in the lane on the left; what you can’t see are the huge windows looking out to snow–and I thought about the upcoming year. What are you hoping for, I asked myself, stroking on my back, looking up at the slatted ceiling, the little flags. (When I woke in the night to pee, I saw a few bright stars glittering above the mountain and I asked myself the same question.) My immediate hope was that the pool stays open during these perilous times and that I can continue my slow kilometre, three mornings a week. And then I hoped for better guidance during this pandemic because there are things I think should happen–free N95 masks (two years into this, it seems to me that in a province with an active pulp and paper industry, there could have been more effort to manufacture masks for our population); better ventilation in our schools; better attention to the needs of vulnerable citizens. We’re told to be kind and yes, yes, we need to be kind. But we need to be smart too. What do we do about people who refuse to be vaccinated but who want to be part of the social fabric? I don’t know. But can we continue the way we are, with people willing to stand outside our hospitals and schools, harassing others?

So I swam and I tried to think my way into the new year. And as I swam, the music played. The lifeguards often ask what we’d like and I tell you that doing a slow kilometre to Mozart’s 23rd piano concerto is sublime. But so is swimming to bluegrass or the Supremes (you can’t hurry love) or Adele. This morning no one asked. Roy Orbison, some other stuff I didn’t recognize, but then when I heard the opening chords of Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” I smiled to myself.

How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone
I swam and listened and thought about the novel I’m finding my way back into after (mostly) finishing up the edits for Blue Portugal, thanks to the wonderful Kimmy Beach, who asks the right questions and knows all kinds of stuff, like diacritics for passages of Greek. I thought about what Blue Portugal might look like now that the designer can apply his magic to completed pages, with text that uses margins like poetry does, with gaps and spaces and passages running down the middle like rivers. how excited I am to see how it evolves, and how I am drawn back to Easthope, the working title for my novel. Easthope is really mostly Egmont (though there will be some differences in both geography and characters) and when the pandemic was first declared, we had just been out for supper to the pub on the edge of Jervis Inlet where we saw whales and where we’ve returned when times felt safer — summer, because we could eat on the deck with wind blowing viruses to kingdom come; and in the fall when one needed to show proof of vaccination to come into the pub. It was never crowded and the tables are set far apart, Twice we sat by a roaring fire and ate steelhead tacos with chowder, feeling both the strangeness of the times and also blessed, if that doesn’t sound too emotional.
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hanging out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging your next meal
What are you hoping for, I asked during my last lap, and for a moment it was this, this, this. The water, Dylan, my husband in the next lane, daughter and her beau waiting at home, dough for cinnamon buns rising in the big bowl, our own fire warm as icicles form on our eaves, a novel to write, a book coming out in April with the most beautiful cover, everyone in my family healthy (so far), the world white and mysterious, All the irritations eased out as that kink in my shoulder eased out, the anxieties (for now), the last lap, the final strokes. I’ll do what I can, hope for what’s possible, wear the masks, stay clear of the wild-eyed people with the signs near Davis Bay, and remember the beauty of those whales as we sat by the window overlooking Jervis Inlet, my notebook at hand, the sound of a boat approaching the dock, tok-tok-tok, and cormorants fishing as though nothing else mattered.
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him he calls you, you can’t refuse

2 thoughts on “what are you hoping for (how does it feel)”

  1. That is quite the soundtrack. Heheh But I like it. Mostly I follow with classes online for fitness, but occasionally for a technical reason, I put the music on shuffle and things like this happen and I am glad that I’m not in charge of curating a list for a class myself, because I would be all over the place and happy with that too!

  2. On Monday the playlist was mostly Canadian women. Very low-key — the Wailing Jennys, Kathleen Edwards, Sarah Harmer. Not the usual high energy swimming music but I’m not a high energy swimmer so I was very glad to do my slow laps to the Parting Glass and Asking for Flowers!

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