an overgrown path

10.house in its place

That house you can see in the centre of this image is the house grandmother grew up in. Or so I thought. I’ve since learned that the original house, in a small village in the Beskydy Mountains in what’s now the Czech Republic, was taken down in the 1950s and a new one, on the same footprint, and in the same vernacular style, was built to replace it. The fields around it were my great-grandfather’s. He farmed. My grandmother left in 1913 and she never returned.

Tomorrow evening I’ll be reading from my new book, Blue Portugal & Other Essays at the Arts Centre in Sechelt. (If you are on the Coast, please come! I’d love to see you and there will be cake and keepsakes printed on our Chandler and Price platen press, embellished with hand-dyed cotton and shell buttons.) I’ve been looking through the pages, wondering what to read that might offer an accurate sampling of the book itself. And I’m listening — this is a coincidence — to a recording of Janáček’s “On An Overgrown Path” and “In the Mists”. These are such fine and poignant pieces, exactly the musical correlative of the photograph, fields soft with mist, leaves falling from the trees, because it must be October. So I’ve chosen one piece to read tomorrow night that follows my own hearing of these pieces for the first time, an encounter with an aspect of my grandmother’s background, because the small town where Leoš Janáček was born is just over the mountain from my grandmother’s village and the folk songs he based these piano cycles on were songs she must have been familiar with.

This here is the narrow path
as winds through the vineyards
that I would tread along…

                                                  Listening to the young pianist playing Janáček’s “In the Mists,” I close my eyes and imagine the landscape where you were born. Foothills of the Beskids, near Janáček’s home village. He was a folklorist as well as a musician and gathered the songs and spoken tales of Moravia-Silesia. Did you sing? Did your family have its own musicians? Did you listen to the bells on the sheep and imagine them into simple tunes? Listening, I am in Moravia, I am in a village of white buildings painted with ultramarine flowers by Anežka Kašpárková, I am myself a babička, stitching blue cloth in long red stitches, my four grandchildren running in the tall grass.
Listening
to the young pianist playing “In the Mists,” I hear birdsong, the brittle canes of winter roses brushing against my house, the sounds you would not have noticed in your daily work (a house without roses), feeding chickens, washing the laundry of a family of ten, then nine, then eight, then rising again, the deaths and births echoing the seasons, the river freezing, thawing, the return of green leaves on the cottonwoods in Drumheller, on the beeches of your childhood home in Moravia-Silesia, all of it hidden in mist, morning mist coming down off the Beskydy Mountains, frozen mist in your final years in Beverly, a stone’s throw from the North Saskatchewan River.
Listening to the young pianist playing “The Madonna of Frydek,” I am in the fields of barley, soft grasses, poppies. A blown-away leaf, the composer said, could be heard as a love song. The children are running ahead, a bag of apples slung over the back of the oldest.
Listening to the young pianist playing “The Madonna of Frydek”, I remember the sign for Frydek as we drove to your village. We drove on, past the sign, past the coat of arms for Horni Lomná, drove on, through snow, past the church with the spring of eternal waters (said to have cured those suffering cholera), past the graveyard inaccessible in snow, the miracles of Mary, and a road ghosted by the footsteps of my grandmother’s family, her two sisters, the brother who no one remembers, who died in his dugout house in a squatters’ camp in Drumheller during another epidemic, hearing them somehow in the snow, the light wind, and now in the penultimate chord as the pianist completes his encore. Now, now, now. I am applauding and I am brushing tears from my eyes in the dark hall.

redux: the crab apple archive

I’d just woken up when John said, There’s a bear in the crab apple tree. He was standing by the window I now think of as the wildlife window because every few days I pause in front of it and see a bear or elk or deer where our driveway meets the track we call Wood Lane.

I’d been dreaming of a meeting, some sort of planning meeting, where developers were talking about the lake where we swim. They wanted access to more waterfront for houses. Our local government people were asking for questions and I stood up to ask if they’d begun creating an archive of human and non-human history of the lake. The planners looked puzzled. I detailed our own family’s experiences over 40 years: the time John and I camped where the little park is now, deciding whether we wanted to try to buy land in the area; the big jugs we’d fill with drinking water while we were building our house; the summers of swimming, picnics on the little island we call White Pine (though the pines fell in storms decades ago), the winter fishing, the weeks of regular visits to take a census of the fall-spawning cutthroat trout in the creek leading from one lake to another (a science fair project), later visits to the same creek to sample aquatic insects to test for water quality (another science fair project); and so on. The planners didn’t know what to say so I explained I would make a motion to create such an archive—summer students could be hired—and that was when I woke up. To John, saying there was a bear in the crab apple.

It was the same bear I saw the week before last, just standing by the tree. Maybe it had tasted an apple and decided they needed a week or two more to ripen to its taste. But it remembered the tree and this morning it was up on a branch, feasting. John called out to it and by the time I’d gone out with my camera, it was ambling down the driveway. Not running, not in a hurry, but also not bold enough to stay once it knew we were wise to it. There wasn’t enough light to take a photograph. But it was big, with a good black coat.

Each year there’s a bear. Some years we see one (or more), some years we wake to broken branches and piles of scat, dark with salal and shredded apple. I know that bears have very good spatial memory and I’ve also read that they pass information about food sources from generation to generation. (They are quick learners as a species too and once one has figured out how to open a garbage can or car door, the information is quickly passed to others.) We’ve had bears in the past who were so accustomed to eating their fill from the crab apple tree that they would never have climbed down at the sound of our voices. This one for example who ate and then slumbered in the warm grass for hours afterwards:

sitting

It might have been one of the young I think of as the orchard family because we’d see the sow with 3, then 2 cubs, crossing our old orchard in spring two years ago.

this year's orchard family

You might be wondering why we don’t pick the crab apples and it’s because they’re small and scabby. We have enough fruit as it is and these are not easily accessible for picking. Not for us, at least. The tree is one given us by John’s mother nearly 40 years ago. There are two actually and I think of them as the bride trees for their beauty in spring, their pink blossoms loud with bees:

garden

Maybe it wasn’t an archive I was suggesting to the planners and developers in my dream. Maybe it was a psychogeography: “The study of the specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.” The bears remember and return. They’ve been doing this forever. I remember them and look forward to seeing that they’ve survived (some nights in late fall I hear gunshot in the area), that their young have grown, that they sometimes come to me in dreams in a place up the mountain that I approach with both fear and careless courage. That I look out a window and see them, all the years present in that moment of recognition.

evening visitors

Note: this was posted two years ago. Yesterday morning, I woke to bears. At dawn this morning, the cat was spooked by something moving around outside. “That I look out a window and see them, all the years present in that moment of recognition.”

inscriptions

clothesline

Yesterday I noticed how there were little threads of cold water just under the warmer surface as I swam in the lake near my house. I’ve been swimming daily since the middle of May and I don’t want to let the lake go, my relationship to it, with it. The way it’s held me buoyant for months, even when I didn’t feel particularly light. The way I saw the families of mergansers and loons swim just a little way out, the young ones growing, growing, until now I only see a single bird. Where have the others gone? (Where am I going?) Some mornings I swam full of anguish over the state of our planet. This was true in August when the ground was parched (it still is) and the sky didn’t have a single cloud to soften the sun’s passage. There were mornings I cried as I swam because of the latest news from Ukraine. I didn’t give up hope but what does my hope mean when villages were demolished, citizens killed, the Russians filling their tanks with washing machines and furniture. I imagined my own home, my cousin’s home. She wrote to say that so far they were fine though the children saw a missile pass over the village.  She is a teacher and said that lessons are online because the school doesn’t have a bomb shelter. Think about that.

So now the threads of cool water, the sun lower in the southern sky, and I am turning my attentions to winter work. I brought my quilting basket into the kitchen so that once we have fires again, I can sit in the rocking chair to work on my current quilt. I pieced the top last spring, thinking of how I wanted to try to represent how it felt to frame a house 40 years ago, the kitchen in particular. How it felt to build the walls on what would be the floor and then raise them with the young strength we had then, our baby sleeping in the tent. I chose long strips of cotton and linen for the 2×4 studs and oatmeal coloured linen for the top and bottom plates. The back is several sections of dyed sheets. It could be the summer sky because we worked under it for months. Years.

the back

Winter work. I have this quilt and I have a novel in progress and the other day, looking at three portraits of myself hanging in our house, gifts to my children and myself decades ago from the painter who was kind of obsessed with me for a time when I was young, anyway, looking at them, I thought it was time to talk to that younger self. Maybe I’m a little inspired by David MacFarlane’s recent memoir, Likeness. I read it last week and thought it an astonishing book. His portrait, painted by John Hartman, is also a portrait of the city MacFarlane grew up in: Hamilton. My portraits are not that complex, or they are, but in a different way. As well as the portraits, we also have a folio of drawings, a gift from the painter to my husband. I’m not the subject of all the drawings but a couple are me, and they are slightly erotic. I didn’t pose for them, not exactly, but I did say the painter was obsessed and what he didn’t see (or at least not frequently), he imagined. I have a folder of letters written over many years and I have some other materials. It was a complicated relationship and troubling, in some ways, but in other ways I am hugely grateful to him for the attention he paid to a young woman, for the long discussions about art and life, and I think I am ready to write about it. (I did include a little of this in an essay in Mnemonic: A Book of Trees but there are areas I avoided. Maybe now I have the courage.)

words inscribed, as on a monument or in a book.
“the inscription on her headstone”

The other day when I brought my quilting basket out to the kitchen, I looked at the area I was working on within the taut confines of a hoop, and realized that it’s a kind of inscription.

the action of inscribing something.
“the inscription of memorable utterances on durable materials”
 

When I am sewing, I am inscribing a story onto (and into) the three layers of materials that make a quilt. And what is the story? The story of my daily swims in the body of water, back and forth under the green cedars, of nailing and lifting heavy walls, the story of paint on the surface of canvas, preserving a girl with flowers in her hair, reserved in a red robe (that I never owned, a pose I’d never hold, another imaginary Theresa), awkwardly feeding my first-born in a French restaurant in Vancouver in 1981. Is there a way I can stitch these together, to inscribe them both as surface texture and deep meaning in the winter of my 68th year, my 69th year? As the nights grow longer, as the lake cools, as Ukraine demonstrates extraordinary courage to a world that might have been skeptical (Russia, after all), I’ll be writing, in more ways than one.

inscription

redux: postcard, the long road down…

…from the Carpathian Mountains on our way to Lviv, the loveliest of cities.

IMG_20190916_102630903-1

Note: this is from September 16, 2019, the day after distant members of my family tracked me down and visited me up the mountain behind the man and his horse. They drove up this road and the next day we drove down it on our way to Lviv for the last few days of our time in Ukraine. Those days are so vivid. I dream of them, the scent of woodsmoke and the pears and apples drying in sheds for uzvar, the sun, the sound of water as the rivers threaded their way through the mountains, the Tisza, the white and black Cheremosh, the Rybnitsa.

the book of mornings

really

Almost every morning begins the same. I come downstairs (if it’s my morning to get up first), put the kettle on for the dark French roast coffee that is my mainstay, feed the cat, and sit in the rocking chair between the sliding doors and the woodstove. And almost immediately one or two or (this morning) three Steller’s jays come to the deck railings right outside the kitchen. For forty years they’ve come. I guess the current jays are great-great-great grandchildren of the original morning birds. They know when to come and they know what they’ll get: black sunflower seeds and peanuts.

This morning, John called down to say a bear was at the top of the stairs leading to the deck just outside his study window. He shouted at it and it ambled back down, not in a rush, and a minute or two later I saw the branches of the crabapple tree swaying. There’s hardly any fruit this year but the bears too have been coming for more than 40 years and the crabapple is on their memory maps. The back gate to the garden, the one they can pull apart if they put enough effort into it? That’s on the maps too. In a few minutes we’ll go out to pick the green grapes over the pergola on the front deck. They’re not quite ripe but that’s never mattered to bears and raccoons. Once I was sitting in the living room and I saw something big and black falling past the window. It was a young bear, tumbling off the pergola onto the cart where I keep kitchen herbs. It wasn’t hurt but pots holding thyme and winter savoury were broken and scattered.

prince of the apple towns

Almost every morning is the same. Coffee, the company of jays who were particularly scrappy today, one kicking the others away from the seeds, squawking, charging at the more timid bird that waited, waited in the stray apple. Almost every morning.

The morning we unwrapped the cloth we’d soaked in indigo, my granddaughter, my daughter, and I, talking quietly as we stirred the bundles with a long stick, bundles tied with string, pebbles, some clamped with small squares of wood, the morning we unwrapped them to spread on the dry grass, each length like a scrap of sky.

summer blues

The book of mornings would hold these things. The scent of coffee, the blue of the jays as they glide to the railing, the smudge of brown on the black bear’s nose. Was he coming for tomatoes when John saw him at the top of the stairs? Basil? Did he just want to explore the table where we sit after our swim, a cerise bougainvillea to one side, a Desert King fig to the other, a tin from Greek olive oil holding a rosemary at its roots?

These are notes I am making towards a book. The book after the novel I am writing, taking time each morning to imagine my protagonist painting the ancient stumps on Egmont Road, preparing for a boat trip up the inlet I was lucky enough to see the week before last, the book after, and after. When I read Virginia Woolf, I want to write about mornings, about thinking, about climbing the aluminum ladder into the wide grape leaves to cut the clumps of green fruit from the shaggy vines, the jays arriving like a blue clock, and everything, all of it, held in the golden light of September, every September, the bear pushing his face into the crabapple leaves for the tiny bitter fruit.

And somehow or other, the windows being open, and the book held so that it rested upon a background of escallonia hedges and distant blue, instead of being a book it seemed as if what I read was laid upon the landscape not printed, bound, or sewn up, but somehow the product of trees and fields and the hot summer sky, like the air which swam, on fine mornings, round the outline of things.

                           — Virginia Woolf, from “Reading”

breakfast

some were golden beauties

the apples

1.

There’s a large basket of apples in one corner of the kitchen. I smelled them last night as I lay in the darkness. What will I do, what will I do? I used to make apple butter, apple sauce, chutney, jam; now they are the last things to leave the shelves. What will I do, I wondered in the dark. It was something to think about other than tanks and guns, new graves in the burned fields, and the politics of resentment filling the airwaves all weekend.

2.

Eve’s knees ground in the dirt
of paradise. Newton watching gravity
happen. The history
of apples in each starry core

3.

Measure out flour, butter, ice-water. Listen to news of war in your grandfather’s country, retreats, revenge (a small man in your own country announcing victory and eager for an election). Cut the butter into the flour, mix to a shaggy dough.

4.

                  The apple endures.
Born of the wild rose, of crab ancestors.
The first pip raised in Kazakhstan.

5.

Peeled, trimmed of their bruises (the wind-fallen, the overripe), cored, sliced, drizzled with lemon juice, sprinkled with cinnamon, ginger, a grating of nutmeg. Brown sugar. A little vanilla to round out the flavour. Let them sit while you roll out the pastry, let the scent of ginger overwhelm the bitter smoke from fires in Hope, the Interior, Washington State. Let them sit.

cinnamon

5.

Hard cider. Winter banana.
Melt-in-the-mouth made sweet
by hives

7.

Roll out the pastry on the wooden board given to you 45 Christmases ago. Line the pans with the pliant rounds. Try not to think of your missed swim (the particulates, the haze). Keep your hands busy.

rolling

8.

Some of the apples were green-shouldered, some were golden beauties. Fallen or picked, they were perfection, tart-fleshed. Their scent filled the darkness last night and now in the freezer, pies wait for winter. Keep the bitter men from power, hide the sharp knives at the back of a drawer, mend the gate the bear broke in eagerness to feast on apples the day after they were picked.

headed for the freezer

 

(Note: the lines of poetry are from Dorianne Laux’s “A Short History of the Apple”.)

 

 

 

“The passage into mystery” (Lewis Hyde)

reading keepsakes

On Saturday, September 24th, I’ll be reading at the Sechelt Arts Centre at 7 p.m. at the invitation of the Sunshine Coast Arts Council, the first in-person reading there for over 2.5 years. I’m thinking of the event as a launch for Blue Portugal & Other Essays and an even more belated launch for The Weight of the Heart, an opportunity to talk about the books and to celebrate them. To celebrate them in relationship to those who read them, who have come out to other events over the years, and who have provided support and friendship. Bev Shaw of Talewind Books will have my books available. I’ll be bringing a cake. I’ll also be bringing a small gift to those who come to reading. John printed little cards with a quote from “Museum of the Multitude Village” — Everything I am remembering is burnished with moonshine…”, a nod to our wonderful experience in Ukraine in 2019, when yes, there was moonshine provided at every stop, little glasses of horilka, flavoured with kalina or horseradish or mountain ginseng or orange peel. It was fiery and delicious and it was part of the welcome we received: bread, salt, and moonshine. Years ago I read Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World and I was very taken with his ideas about reciprocity and the value of creativity.

The passage into mystery always refreshes. If, when we work, we can look once a day upon the face of mystery, then our labor satisfies. We are lightened when our gifts rise from pools we cannot fathom. Then we know they are not a solitary egotism and they are inexhaustible.

The world I want to live in is one where people are generous, where a gift can be given without an expectation of receiving something back, where what we take from the earth is both a nourishing source for us and also a responsibility. I am endlessly inspired by this beautiful damaged planet and I am held up, supported, by a widening circle of family and friends. If you come to the reading, I can’t greet you at the door with moonshine but I can give you a token, something John and I have made together, and if you look closely, you’ll see the burnished light of a tiny moon.

I sing of Artemis, whose shafts are of gold

henry, fishing

Yesterday I was thinking about making dinner when the phone rang and it was my grandson H., who had just turned 6 the day before. It was a video call and he wanted to show us his birthday gifts. Lego, the Playmobil knights we’d sent him, a book about ancient Rome sent by his Ottawa cousins (and their parents), some games. He told his grandfather that his favourite game was chess and the two of them agreed to a game or two when we travel to Edmonton later in the month. What are you doing for your birthday party on the weekend, I asked, expecting a soccer game or a bike ride: H. is very competitive and athletic. It’s a Greek mythology party, he said excitedly. Maybe I should have known. This is a boy who also confessed when we visited last December that his favourite podcast was something called Greeking Out. Here he is with his ear pressed to his mum’s phone (because the rest of us were talking in the next room), listening to an episode.

greeking out

We read Rosemary Sutcliff’s wonderful retelling of the Odyssey on that trip and at one point he asked, with great seriousness, whether I thought Odysseus was real. Absolutely, I answered.

At his party, there will be an adventure game in which the kids visit the underworld. Luckily H.’s father saved the props from an earlier party based on Harry Potter, featuring a three-headed dog. Apparently Brendan was a hit as Cerberus. But H. confessed his favourite Greek deity is Artemis and I have to say she is perhaps my favourite too. Goddess of the hunt, wilderness, care of children, chastity:

I sing of Artemis, whose shafts are of gold, who cheers on the hounds, the pure maiden, shooter of stags, who delights in archery, own sister to Apollo with the golden sword. Over the shadowy hills and windy peaks she draws her golden bow, rejoicing in the chase, and sends out grievous shafts. The tops of the high mountains tremble and the tangled wood echoes awesomely with the outcry of beasts: earth quakes and the sea also where fishes shoal. But the goddess with a bold heart turns every way destroying the race of wild beasts: and when she is satisfied and has cheered her heart, this huntress who delights in arrows slackens her supple bow and goes to the great house of her dear brother Phoebus Apollo, to the rich land of Delphi, there to order the lovely dance of the Muses and Graces. There she hangs up her curved bow and her arrows, and heads and leads the dances, gracefully arrayed, while all they utter their heavenly voice, singing how neat-ankled Leto bare children supreme among the immortals both in thought and in deed.

                –from the “Homeric Hymn to Artemis” (27), translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White

There she hangs up her curved bow and her arrows… Did you know your grandpa was an archer, I asked H. and no, he didn’t. He still has his bow, a recurve beauty made for him when he was a teenager. And your dad has one too, a birthday gift when he was maybe 11. I shot a bow once, said H. Me too, I replied. And I loved it. Next summer we’ll get Grandpa to teach us. We can set up a course at the Lions Park where there’s some open space.

I’m going to look for a bow suitable for children, and arrows too. Throwing my ball of red yarn forward, forward, over the fall months, the long dark winter months, I sing of Artemis, her fierce courage, and a boy who dreams of her. And if you’re in Mill Creek Ravine this weekend, beware of three-headed dogs.

“Lay down these words” (Gary Snyder)

stones

Yesterday we swam at Trail Bay after our errands in Sechelt. When I stepped out of the water, these were the first stones I saw. On a beach of stones, millions of them, all beautiful, these were the first two. They’re keepers. I live in a house filled with stones. Fossils, slate, concretions from the beach below John’s mother’s house in Nanaimo, wishing stones (and now, another…), an agate from Haida Gwaii, brought to me as a gift, a geode from the Fraser Canyon, chunks of sandstone filled with clam stew, as the fossils in the Sooke Formation are sometimes called, and other beauties. My grandsons often hover by me as I sit at my desk, wondering about the stones on my desk. Mostly I can remember where they came from but not always. When we swam with the children at Trail Bay in the summer, I told them about wishing stones and they hunted for their own. What will I wish for, one of them asked, kind of worried about the concept. Only good things, I replied. I stood with my own wishing stone yesterday and thought hard about the climate emergency, the situation in Ukraine, a few more personal difficulties.

Lay down these words
Before your mind like rocks.
             placed solid, by hands
In choice of place, set
Before the body of the mind
             in space and time
Last night I heard coyotes, at least two voices, though there might have been more. They were close, just beyond the house in the woods where we sometimes see them emerge from or disappear into. The phrases were long and intricate. Maybe this year’s young were heading out into the world on their own and the parents were singing them away, their voices full of advice and love. Lay down these words.
clam soup
In a house full of stones, I am holding a chunk of sandstone in my hand, a little seam of cockle running through it, and tiny flecks of shell scattered throughout. When I run my thumb over the surface, I am standing under the waterfall on a western beach where I found this rock. I am 19 again, 20, 21, a young woman who has been swimming in the ocean and rinsing a few day’s salt off in the fresh cold water of Sandcut Creek. (Before the body of the mind.) I am wishing for only good things. So many bad things had happened and in the absence of a wishing stone, I picked up fossils, 25 million years old, as heavy in my hand as my heart in my chest.
…each rock a word
             a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained
             with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
             all change, in thoughts,
As well as things.
Only good things, I told the children. Hold the ringed stone in your hand and wish hard. They are off in the world, far from me now, but I can hear them coming out of the salt water, pebbles as far as the eye can see. My advice is the advice of the coyotes in the night, finding their way in the dark. I’ll keep the new stones on my desk, a wishing stone, an orb like one of the moons of Jupiter,
Cobble of milky way,
             straying planets
Note: the lines of poetry are from Gary Snyder’s “Riprap”.

redux: dream, dream, dream (with thanks to the Everly Brothers)

Note: two years (and two days) ago, photographs arrived of the first day of school in Edmonton and in Ottawa. This year, the photographs arrived last week, and on different days, because one family has relocated (or will, next weekend) to Gatineau and school starts earlier there. So on Monday and on Thursday the kids went to school, the younger ones too. And I’m still dreaming here on the west coast.

_________________________

Dream, dream, dream, dream
dream, dream, dream, dream

This morning, photographs arrived: the first day of school for my older grandchildren. How the years have passed. In Edmonton, it’s grade one for K. She is wearing her favourite colour, purple, and her bike is ready for her, complete with ladybird bell.

first day, K

Wasn’t it just a month or two ago that we were driving along the Yellowhead Highway to meet her for the first time? Her father had called two nights earlier to say she’d been born and we spent a day packing up the car. We had gifts for her and her parents and I remember waking in Valemount at dawn after arriving there the evening before (a long day’s drive…), saying if we left right now, we’d be there in time for lunch.

kelly and grandma

When I want you in my arms

In Ottawa, it’s year two of kindergarten.

first day, A

This is a young man who knows the names of dinosaurs and the relative ages of fossils. When his younger brother was born, we visited, and I remember a picnic on the Madawaska River where A. and I sat on chairs by the slow river and talked about time. Well, mostly he talked, and I listened. He pretty much had it down. We talked about water and where it went and if Herakleitos didn’t actually come up, he was certainly in the air.

talking about time

When I want you and all your charms
Whenever I want you, all I have to do is
Dream, dream, dream, dream

I know that it wasn’t the school bus I heard coming from Egmont at 8 a.m. because school doesn’t start until next week in B.C. but I remember my children racing down the driveway to meet it, new clothes from the Sears catalogue, no lunch for the first day because it was only a half-day, and then listening again around noon for the bus to pause at our driveway to let them off. We’d have lunch and then head down to the lake for a swim. We could swim all through September and then one morning we’d wake and realize the time had passed.

It was quiet at the lake this morning. I swam, I thought of school, and how my mother took us to Spencers Store on Government Street in Victoria for clothing, and how I’d line up my blouses and skirts on my bed to imagine myself in them, a better version of myself, someone who would take more care with her printing, and try not to interrupt the teacher. I thought of walking to Sir James Douglas Elementary along May Street and then Moss, my lunch kit and school bag bumping against my legs, and how September in Victoria was always so mild. Like here. I couldn’t have imagined carrying a mask in my pocket, or wearing one, and keeping my distance at recess. I swam and thought of my grandchildren in this damaged beautiful world and when I came out to dry myself off, my face was wet with what might have been the lake and might have been tears.

Dream, dream, dream, dream