“I love this road at 6.30 in the morning” (Halyna Petrosanyak)

japanese bird

Smoke from distant forest fires hangs over my house. The Douglas firs are turning orange and the grass has been tawny since early August. This is the new world, the old world lost to our carelessness. Some days I am filled with something I can’t call grief but it’s close. A longing for the crisp fall days when the bigleaf maples turned reliably yellow, chrome yellow, the side of the mountain brilliant with them.

Instead of going outside today, I am working on my huge quilt inspired by memories of framing out kitchen. Here it is last spring, newly-pieced together:


I didn’t intend it to be quite so large but somehow I kept building the sections and when I’d finished, there we were. Within it, the blue windows of the kitchen, the sturdy north species studs (we bought a sling of framing 2x4s and sorted out the cedar to use for decks), the top plates holding the walls together. Small bursts of stars. The Japanese birds printed in the momen cotton. While I was swimming this morning, my slow kilometer at the local pool, I was thinking of how we will adjust to the world of smoke and loss. Of the thousands of salmon in northern creeks dead because the water levels were too low. The warm oceans. The memory of glaciers in the Rockies.

Yesterday I was working around the greenhouse, taking finished plants to the compost, watering the olives, wondering how on earth to prune the bigger one, and a tiny tree frog was going about its business in some empty pots on the long table John built with a plank of wild-edged cedar from one of our own trees, milled years ago. A ruffed grouse was poking around in the dry moss at the edge of the woods. There are mornings when I want to be up and doing everything I’ve always done and there are mornings when the smoke hangs over the world like a bad dream. Our bad dream, because we knew better, all of us.

I wanted a road trip and we had one. Parts of it were beautiful. Driving up Highway 5A from Merritt to Kamloops in glorious golden light. Seeing the Fraser River near its source, as blue as the pool I swam in this morning, but alive, alive, chalky with minerals, a single wild rose blooming on its banks. The geese at Canal Flats. The eerie Ktlil’k, or Spotted Lake, near Osoyoos, endorheic, mineral rich. By the time we were on the home stretch between Princeton and Hope, the smoke was so dense we could barely see in front of the car. I lost my bearings. Were we near the rhododendron grove? Was this still the Similkameen River?

Today I am working on a quilt inspired by memories. I have those, baskets of them, boxes stacked in my study, scribbled notes and letters. There are worse things than sewing, the strong sashiko needles taking thread in and out to keep the layers strong. Maybe the next quilt will remember the old familiar cartographies, the roads taking us away, and home, some of them still broken by last November’s floods, Highway 8, the Coquihalla still a work in progress, scribbled in blue thread, or red, the maps shifting, some of them useless.

I love this road at 6.30 in the morning, when
The solitary wind wakes up on a bench in the city square,
At a time of life, when you sleep badly no matter what
When you already don’t want to open every existing door,
Just certain ones.

                          –Halyna Petrosanyak, trans. Michael Naydan


Because I do, I love the roads at 6:30 a.m., at noon when the sun is clear, in evening light as they lead towards the horizon, its distant door waiting.

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