how the sky changes

This time last summer I was yearning for rain. There were dry weeks. Months. Mornings I’d wake to the clear blue sky and I’d begin the watering early, before the sun was up. This time last summer I was picking buckets of tomatoes and beans. The tomatillos were 7 feet tall.

This year the days are mostly grey. I think there might be one tomato just beginning to ripen. Beans are in flower. Tomatillos are perhaps a foot and a half tall — a couple of them. The others — and to be fair, these were only discovered in the compost a week or two ago — are maybe 10 inches.

So the sky changes. The garden is different. In some ways everything is different. With that grey sky comes a series of small dark shadows. Some of them are personal and some of them are global and I’m not sure where the division is right now. Or if there even is one. Or what to do. The clouds cover the sun most days. Their darkness is, I hope, momentary. Transitory. Yesterday when I woke, the sky was grey again. And I didn’t want to stay home, looking out at it, trying to shake its affect. Turning on the news every hour. Let’s get the mid-morning ferry to Powell River, I said, and so we did. I love the ferry from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay. Sometimes we see porpoises, but not yesterday. But the mountains, the water coming down off them in silver falls, a few eagles, isolated cabins on points of land. Groves of arbutus on south-facing islands.

We drove as far as Okeover Inlet, Lucinda Williams on the stereo, to the Laughing Oyster for lunch. It has the feel of the old coast — its deck of weathered wood, its view over water


And somehow the clouds were not quite so dark as those at home. (See that little strand of blue, stitching land to land across water?) I felt I could see as far north as anyone could want and the food was wonderful, particularly this lemon semifreddo I had for dessert.

lemon semifreddo

And the ferry home was that old familiar route, past Nelson Island, and through Agamemnon Channel.

Lookin’ out the window
Little bit of dirt mixed with tears
Car wheels on a gravel road

                  –Lucinda Williams

It was our gravel driveway, the car wheels bringing us home, and they were my tears at bedtime, for all that could not be clear and blue, a sky, a world, a darkness as clouds blocked out the sun.

Earls Cove Jervis Inlet Agamemnon Channel

say the names say the names

and listen to yourself

an echo in the mountains

(Al Purdy)

Where do the names go when we forget them? When we stop saying them? Not that Earls Cove will be forgotten exactly because it’s a ferry terminal; it’s where you wait for the small Island Sky to take you up Jervis Inlet to Powell River. Three cars on an Easter Sunday morning in the lot. When you arrived, you turned around to drive back a half a kilometer up the highway because there were elk feeding on the side of the road and you wanted to take a photograph of them. This photograph:

elk at earls cove

And when you opened the window to call, Where’s your mister? (because the elk travel in harems and you’ve never seen a group of cows without their bull), the middle one turned to you, as though agrieved, and you saw his small new antlers.

Earls Cove is named for a pioneer family who built this house looking out over Agamemnon Channel, out towards Nelson Island, and when you first moved to the Sechelt Peninsula, people lived in the house. Not the Earls but later pioneers. Then it was briefly a gallery, then an antiques shop where you once bought a linen table cloth and should have bought the Spode soup-plates and the silver sugar tongs which seemed entirely right in the small rooms with their view of the Channel and the ferry coming in. Where women came in marriage to live in these communities, bringing their family china and silver, and where a table might be set for loggers, visiting clergy, large families.It makes you sad to see the house abandoned, one of the upper windows broken, but a path still leading up to it, the path that might have brought a family to its generous rooms for Easter dinner.