The rain over the past few days has me remembering last November when the weather system known as an atmospheric river caused such damage and chaos in the province. I’d listen to the news and when it seemed that things couldn’t get worse, they got worse. Whole rivers were rerouted. Portions of Highway 8 and surrounding ranches, pastures, hillsides, collapsed into the Nicola River. If you’ve read Blue Portugal and Other Essays, you might remember the section of “How Rivers Break Away and Meet Again” about that length of Highway 8 in my family’s history of beloved places, written a few years before last fall, but somehow part of the ongoing story of rivers and what they mean to us over time. In November last year I’d begun to think about a quilt using red strips and blue ones, inspired, at first, by my regular swims from October til May in our local pool. I began these swims because of a venous issue and for a time I swam reluctantly because a pool with straight lanes felt like anathema to me. The idea of wearing a bathing suit in a bright public place: yikes. I was wrong though. No one is looking at a woman in her 60s in a black bathing suit. I should have known I’d become invisible. So I find my lane, swim, and it’s made all the difference. I wanted to think about that as I stitched. But then the news turned my attention to raging rivers and ranches washed away, highways collapsing, bridges tumbled into water. The top of the quilt was still a composition of lines, red ones, blue Japanese cottons, but I found a length of soft cotton, something I’d put into the dye vat after it was almost worn out, so the resulting blue is quiet, but I’d forgotten I’d batiked salmon on the surface, forgotten until I spread out the cotton to see if I had enough for a quilt back. I did, and I thought how appropriate those ghostly fish were, considering how many newly-laid salmon eggs were being washed away in those river systems.
How long have they laid buriedin the sludge and grime of industryerasing the river’s breath
…my old salmonberry moon under a skyas light as a tossed net, who remains,leaping with salmon for old emotions?