summer postcards, near Ruby Lake

morning swim

Our summer is still deciding. May was hot, June was unsettled, and today we are promised sun, warmth, and we’re still waiting. But it was lovely to begin the day with a swim and for a brief few minutes, the sun came out. Because the last few weeks were so cool and grey, we swam in the local pool. (Three weeks ago, we were swimming most mornings in the lake and thought that was how we’d continue.) I thought to myself this morning that my lake swims are a very qualitative experience. The light coming through the big trees, the swallows darting to the water’s surface for insects, the sound of ravens, the cold rush as I swim what must be an underground spring, the dense feel of the sand as I come out to find my towel.

In the pool, it’s about time and distance. I swim 50 lengths of the 20 meter pool. That’s a kilometer. It usually takes about 35 minutes (I’m no athlete) but sometimes a little less time and some mornings, maybe 38 minutes. The lifeguards play music and sometimes I like it. Sometimes I don’t get it. I know kids pee in the pool (and worse) so I try not to open my mouth. If I do, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

This morning I could smell newly-cut cedar. Last year’s extended drought meant that many young cedars died over the winter. We saw them lose fronds in late summer but didn’t realize how many had died until late spring. The Hydro guys came to our door a few weeks ago to say that they’d be coming in a month to cut down the ones that are close to the power lines. They identified 7. I know we have more that aren’t in the way of the lines and we’ll either figure out a safe way to cut them down or else leave them as wildlife trees. But at the lake, I guess the Parks crew have been cutting the dead trees. I could see one in sections by the shore. That’s what I was smelling. Another way in which the morning swim is qualitative. You stretch out your arms and move through the green water and you smell the incense of fresh cedar.

The other day John picked about half our gooseberries (we have the green ones) and because it’s still not sunny enough to be outside, I made a dozen jars of jam with a few blueberries added for colour and a lot of ginger. As I type, I can hear the jar lids snapping, one by one. Opening a jar in winter is like a postcard from summer, near Ruby Lake.



Half a glass

After 32 years, our drain field gave up draining and needed to be repaired. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, I know, but it’s really been the focus of my days lately. And it just so happened that we’d made our vegetable garden over top of the field, lovingly but carelessly, and although I have a small notebook with early notes about what I wanted where, it never really worked out that way. My novels are short on plot and my garden is short on design. It seems I’ve always been drawn to colour, texture, the atmosphere of abundance — this has never been particularly helpful when people ask “What’s your book about?” or when I need to remember where exactly I put tulips last spring and which peony is deep pink, which is red.

In May, this is what the garden looked like:

potato box

plum poppy

last of the pink crabapple

So, lush, green, with a (I like to think) spirited sense of joy.

And here’s what the new area looks like today after many days of fairly brutal work with a pick, shovel, rake, trowel.

new box of perennial greens                                                                                                    looking down

It’s not beautiful — yet. It’s not finished of course and it will be entirely different from its earlier self, mostly because we want to know the exact location of the lines in future, so we’re building the beds inbetween them. But today is the first day that I actually felt that the glass was half-full instead of half-empty. I re-planted many perennial greens — lamb salad, kale, arugula, blood-red sorrel — and watered them in with fish fertilizer. That big mound you can see in the foreground will be framed on Sunday, using lumber milled from the cedar I wrote about in Mnemonic: A Book of Trees: “…some planks which began as one dimension but then tapered as the logs narrowed. I could see them as benches or tables, balanced on stumps.” John has been working out the best way to use the boards we stored under the house and I have to say that for him, this particular glass has always been half-full. He could see that the mud-hole, heavy with rock, would improve day by day while I moped around, wanting everything fixed immediately, wanting the ferns back, the thickets of sage and columbine, the corner bed where the bean tee-pees went. He just kept sawing boards, filling the wheel-barrow with rocks, smoothing out the heaps of soil, plucking out roots that he thought might be day-lilies or tulip bulbs. The other morning we looked out to see the elk just to the right of this photograph, their rumps towards us, and we knew they’d been poking around, hoping for kale and garlic tops (which the deer never bothered but which the elk adore so we extended the black mesh fence to include the garlic box). That very muddy area in front of the fence used to be lawn. Well, to be honest, it was mostly moss with clover and dandelions (a perfect bitter addition to salad). I’ve been squinting, hoping that I can imagine the area in two or three months, cool and green on spring mornings, snakes making their way down to the garden from the rocks above.