Flying to Ottawa late last week, I kept seeing the message on the screen in front of my seat: Touch anywhere to begin, or press enter. When I fly, I almost never watch the movies but like to have the map so I can see where we are in relation to the land below us. Sometimes I look down to see mountains, tiny green lakes in clefts of rock, the scribble of rivers, quilted fields of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and clouds, lots of clouds. I read the New Yorker this time, drank water, wondered at the baby we were about to meet, our newest grandson Edmond. Touch anywhere to begin.
I began simply by looking at him when we came down the elevator to see his whole family waiting. His brother had cards for us, wild exuberant paintings. His parents had things planned: tea (with Manon’s mum Nicole) at the Billings Estate National Historic Site above the Rideau River (Forrest does exhibition development and research for a group of museums in the Ottawa area and this is one of those sites);
some time at the Museum of Nature (where I couldn’t stop looking at the blue whale skeleton, its elegant vestigial fingers, wondering about deep time and how a body changes over the years. Press enter.);
swimming in the Madawaska River and in the pond at the Caldwell-Carver Conservation area near where Forrest and Manon live; walking the boardwalk at Mer Bleue and talking about frogs, muskrats (I startled one when I was leaning over the boardwalk to look at some bog rosemary), larches, and how one day the little boys might do this with their own children; eating delicious meals, including duck tacos the first night at Ola Cocina with its little tables set up on the sidewalk and lights strung through the trees. There was ice-cream and lots of stories and talking about time, if not exactly deep time, with Arthur at the Madawaska River. (Press enter.)
There were perfect moments. This one, for example:
And others, not photographed. The feeling of Edmond’s fingers clutching mine as I held him under the grapes in the backyard. (Touch anywhere to begin.) Watching Arthur sing “Song of the Water Boatman” as his father read him that book at bedtime on our last night in Ottawa.
I didn’t take enough photographs. I wish I could show you what small boys look like when they’re sleeping in their car seats and you stop for ice cream in Almonte or how a face lights up when Grandma draws the faces in the windows of the school bus she has chalked onto the sidewalk outside Ola Cocina. Or three generations of Pass guys walking ahead on the boardwalk at Mer Bleue, their legs exactly the same skinny shape, leaning into each other, deep in conversation. I wish. I wish. Press enter.