what I loved (with thanks to Nazim Hikmet)

Is it too early to write a reprise of this year, 2022, what happened, what I loved? Maybe it’s too early but this morning, a warm fire in the woodstove, bread rising in the big bowl, I am thinking about the months that led to this one. Some of them were long. Last January, for example. It was cold and it went on forever. But in February, our family from Ottawa came for two weeks and our daughter and her beau came for part of that. We had delicious meals, all of us together, and the weather was often mild enough for long walks, even a swim in Ruby Lake where Forrest and I stood talking on the sand afterwards, wrapped in towels as though it was summer. (The giveaway that it wasn’t summer? My tuque.) There was star-watching with grandsons, and the beauty of a pod of white-sided dolphins at Francis Point.

summer in February

I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below
or whether I’m flying at their side

It was a pleasure to do the final work on Blue Portugal & Other Essays in early spring, preparing it for a late spring publication. Everything about the process of working with the team at the University of Alberta Press was positive. John printed bookmarks to send to those who bought the book and I spent a few afternoons pasting scraps of indigo-dyed cotton onto them and fastening them with akoya shell buttons and red silk thread. And when the books themselves arrived, I kept going into my study to look at them over and over again. I wonder if a book of mine has ever had a lovelier cover?

book and keepsake

A few events to promote it through the wonders of Zoom, interviews, discussions, phone calls from generous friends, and the sense, reading it myself as a book after months of fixing commas, considering placement of photographs, etc, that my life has accumulated. So much living in the book! Travels and friendships, discoveries of family history, memories even of train trips across Europe.

I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
    to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
    watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

There were some disappointments. A planned trip to Ottawa had to be cancelled because that family all developed COVID19. (We were going to have a little party to celebrate Jen Falkner’s Fish Gotta Swim Editions novella, Susanna Hall, Her Book, in Forrest and Manon’s garden but had to cancel that too.) By the middle of May I was swimming daily in Ruby Lake, though John insisted it was still too cool. I’ve come to regular swimming late in my life, though I’ve always loved water. It was a health concern 7 years ago that flung me into the local pool 3 times a week during the months I can’t swim in the lake, with daily morning swims in the lake from mid-May to early October, and I feel I’ve become part seal. (I have the body fat to prove it.)

I didn’t  know I loved clouds

Outdoor dinners with friends now that everyone is vaccinated (at least 3 times). Mornings on Joe and Solveigh’s deck, talking among the flowers, a conversation we began in the summer of 1985 and which has continued, drifting out over Oyster Bay with the sound of ducks, a boat in the distance.

I didn’t know I loved the sea
                                                  except the sea of Azov
or how much

The summer was endless. John’s cousin and his wife coming, followed by all 3 of our families, overlapping, children racing around in the moss, playing football and soccer, swimming with us each morning, helping me with the watering, going for picnics and swims at Trail Bay, followed by ice-cream.

I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird

I thought summer adventures were over but then Howie called and asked did we want to go up Princess Louisa Inlet on his boat with Andreas and Sharon, overnight, and wild horses couldn’t have stopped me from saying yes, and even now I am still remembering what it was like to wake early, push up through the skylight above our berth, and see this (John’s photo):


Later in September, we drove to Alberta to see our Edmonton family, taking a few days for the trip, stopping at Nicola Lake for a swim, eating dinner at the Brownstone in Kamloops, following first the Thompson River, then the Fraser, then the Athabasca.

and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills

The trip back was a little fraught, with tire problems in Radium, but the long stretches of highway through rich valleys, mountains, trees turning, bighorn sheep grazing, farm stands with squash and bins of apples, and everything so beautiful on the cold morning out of Grand Forks (leaving early, because we stayed in the worst possible motel). the lights on just before 6 a.m. at the Copper Eagle in Greenwood so we were able to eat muffins hot from the oven and cups of dark coffee before going on to Osoyoos, Keremeos, Princeton.

I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind

A second trip was planned for Ottawa, with a promised picnic and maybe even a swim in the Madawaska River, but this time we were the ones who developed COVID19 and had to cancel. Two actual readings, my first since the pandemic, with generous audiences listening to me talk about Blue Portugal and read from it, not minding my tears as I remembered the magic of Ukraine 3 years earlier. The weeks pass, the months, with swimming, with daily work on both a novel and an essay that is becoming a memoir, they pass with stitching on quilts, planting bulbs, garlic, getting parcels ready to mail to my family for Christmas, which we will spend here, just the two of us this year, before heading to the south end of the Baja peninsula for a couple of weeks of sun and ocean swimming.

I know the river will bring new lights you’ll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long
    as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
                                            and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
                                           and will be said after me

Note: the passages of poetry are from Nazim Hikmet’s extraordinary “Things I Didn’t Know I Love”, translated from the Turkish by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk

4 thoughts on “what I loved (with thanks to Nazim Hikmet)”

  1. blue Portugal is such a gorgeous book! I can’t read books head on anymore, just dip in and out. Blue Portugal is excellent for that. Got your cards yesterday, made me smile.

  2. I finally got your Blue Portugal book. It will be my Christmas holiday reading. Thanks!
    And thanks for all your interesting writing of the last year.
    Best wishes to you and John for Christmas and the new year.

    1. John, thank you for reading and offering comments over the year(s). I hope you have a lovely Christmas too. We don’t have snow, though there was some a few weeks ago, and more is promised. Lots of wood to solit and stack, a quilt to sew, summer preserves to savour…Take care.

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