redux: wild mountain thyme

Note: this was two years, anticipating our first Christmas ever on our own. This year we will also celebrate alone. Busy airports don’t feel safe to me this time of year. We will save our visits for a quieter time. The other day, in Sechelt, the gravel-voiced folk singer was outside the liquor store again, though not singing “Wild Mountain Thyme” and at the mailboxes, the delivery woman said it’s a good idea to collect your mail daily because the thefts have begun again. So the spiral repeats itself, curling in as we approach the longest night.


Some days are easier than others. For me, for us, for all of us. Yesterday was dark. When we went to pick up mail from the day before, we saw that all the parcel boxes at the community mail boxes had been pried open. This was the second time. Someone has been going around the Coast, stealing parcels from the community mail boxes. In a year when our lives are reduced and constrained, when so many people are depending on Canada Post for parcel deliveries and Christmas mail in general. There was confusion at the Post Office itself when I stopped in to mail my final family parcel. Usually you have a key to the parcel box in your individual mail box if you have a parcel. Or if the parcel is large, you have a card asking you to pick it up at the post office. Can I assume that I didn’t have a parcel in the box that was pried open if I didn’t have a key or a card, I asked. But no one could say for sure. It turned out I did have a parcel card in that day’s mail, for a parcel that hadn’t yet gone out. I wanted to ask if two break-ins in as many weeks meant that the mail person would no longer leave parcels in the community mail boxes but the post lady was already cross with me about a postal code she insisted was wrong on the parcel I was trying to mail so I left in tears.

Tears that were never far from the surface throughout the day. Someone scolded me in the 1st grocery story (long story). I got wet everywhere I went. John was grumpy and although I know he has more reason than anyone to be grumpy these days (paralyzed foot….), I took it personally. In the library stacks I cried. I cried as I loaded groceries in the back of the car from the cart after my stop at the second grocery store, unbagged because the cashier spoke sharply to me when I said I’d use my own bags. You’ll have to put things in your cart, then, and do it out in the mall area, she said. We can’t have your bags on the counter. (I know this. I’ve been shopping at this store for 40 years, and once a week throughout the pandemic. I wouldn’t have put my bags on the counter. But I didn’t want to cry in front of her so I just wheeled my cart out to the car with the groceries heaped in any old way.) Wiping my face with the back of my hand as I closed the trunk of the car, I suddenly stopped. Was that “Wild Mountain Thyme” I was hearing? It was. The older fellow who plays his guitar outside the liquor store, the one who usually plays old Gordon Lightfoot songs, who sings with a world-weary voice, and into whose guitar case I’ve dropped many twoonies over the years, was strumming and singing (behind a face-shield).

O the summer time has come
And the trees are sweetly blooming
And wild mountain thyme
Grows around the purple heather.
Will you go, lassie, go?

Some days are hard. You think of all the people who will be alone this Christmas, waiting for parcels or cards, you think of the cashiers saying the same thing over and over, hoping that someone doesn’t infect them, the nursing staff in the hospitals consoling, consoling (I think of how kind they were to John when he was in pain), the people working in post offices trying to do their best with mountains of deliveries to boxes that are clearly not safe, the families lined up at food banks, and you wish, wish for the beauty of summers in years gone by, the garden flourishing, your loved ones sleeping in every bed in your house, the long pink sunsets, and even the scent of thyme you’ve cut for the lamb you are preparing for the barbecue, enough for everyone.

I will range through the wilds
And the deep land so dreary
And return with the spoils
To the bower o’ my dearie.
Will ye go lassie go ?

2 thoughts on “redux: wild mountain thyme”

  1. But how good it is to cry! I know that now, having been unable to cry for about 5 years. Then went off my meds and cried all the time! But was glad for the tears. New meds make me feel better but leave me still able to cry. Which I now know is a blessing.

    1. For the past (nearly) 7 years, I have felt very porous. I began to find forgotten family and their stories in archives, in the land itself (Alberta, Ukraine, the Czech Republic), and I feel them daily in my life, shadows in the house, visitants in dreams; I even hear their voices. Our lives and stories have somehow found one another and it seems that tears are part of the process. And I cry easily as a result! Given the times we are living in now, with daily stories of evil and horror, with fear of what comes next, after Omicron (thinking of the Greek alphabet: sigma? upsilon? chi? omega?), with our own health issues or the potential of them, tears feel like an entirely reasonable response…

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