morning post card from Ruby Lake, as kingfishers catch fire…

There’s a lot of cooking going on. Five pounds of spot prawns (thank you, Joe Denham!) briefly boiled, then served with tangy butter made with the succulent cloves of Metechi garlic. Sourdough bread. Salad from the garden. Last night, French fingerling potatoes dug with the help of Arthur and roasted with a bit of duck fat and olive oil to have with prime rib beef. Raspberries picked in the morning by John and topped with creme fraiche. Tonight friends are coming for barbecued sockeye and a galette of gooseberries and blueberries. Arthur helped mix the berries with some honey and lemon zest. And then he measured black beans from one container to another because he’s not yet two and he wants to do things himself.


After we cooked, we swam. We were the only ones at the little park and the water was green and lovely. Arthur looked exactly like his father Forrest looked at his age and John and I were taken back more than three decades. Same place, same water, same trees, but all of us older. A kingfisher flashed by, rattling, and settled on a limb of cedar hanging over the lake. Name the poet, I called, reciting the first verse:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
(And to be honest, I couldn’t remember the whole verse but the first two, and last two lines…) There was some delay. (My husband a poet, my son a scholar.) Think Jesuit, I said. And no, not Dylan Thomas, not Roethke. Hopkins! Selves, what I do is me. Morning light on the water, ravens klooking nearby, our bodies cool and buoyant, the prospect of coffee on the deck with lemon pound cake and the scent of tomato plants. (Wish you were here, too, Brendan, Cristen, Kelly, and Henry.)


Last night we had a great party to celebrate John’s birthday. There were 18 of us gathered to eat sockeye salmon (barbecued with preserved lemons), boeuf bourguignon, and hazelnut chocolate torte; after dinner we were treated to another kind of feast: a performance of our friend Jeffrey Renn’s Poetry Night in Canada. When I finally fell into my bed around 1 a.m., I was completely sated — poetry, fine wine, good food, and the warmth of friendship.

Earlier in the day, John, our lovely daughter Angelica, and I walked over to see the spawning coho salmon in Haskins Creek. Readers of this blog might think, “O no, here she goes again. The salmon…” But honestly it’s something I look forward to every year: the cycles of birth and death, darkness and light, the beautiful bodies of the fish in cold water and then dragged to the shore to feed the hungry appetites. The music is ravens klooking in the big trees and mergansers muttering in the quiet lake.

When I put the salmon on the white platter, I remembered the carcass on the banks of Haskins Creek, partially eaten.

salmonYesterday I watched a coyote trot past my study window and wondered if he’d come from the creek. We all long for the sweet flesh in winter — whether it’s eagles or ravens, coyotes or dinner guests hovering by the pine table. Jeffrey recited “St. Anne’s Crossing”, one of my favourite poems by the late Charles Lillard:

       …these beautiful fish

three lengths of silver on a flat boulder

bearing all the wilderness of cold fast

water my body can endure.

There was a collective sigh when Jeffrey finished reading and I said quietly, “He slept in this room.” And he did, years ago, the last time a few months before he died. Others were in the guest room and he bunked down on the long cedar couch, a quilt over him, the windows uncovered so he could see stars if he woke before morning. I remember his chuckle, his intense interest in the world, and poems like “St. Anne’s Crossing” summon him back, as the salmon are summoned back by the season, the urgency of life and death, and what Charles called the coastal sanctus: “…above this blue-edged water, a raven does a double wingover, calling, calling…”