|two years ago: saturday, august 24, 2013 - sun and rain at Butchart Garden, British Columbia|
1 Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth;
for the faithful fail from among the children of men.
2 They speak vanity every one with his neighbour:
with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
- Good-bye, I've said again to my oldest daughter.
- As I am always saying lately.
- Good-bye, I've said to her tall and slender husband.
- Hugs and hugs again.
- And I've filled my lungs with the sweet air that emanates and eddies around this woman who once was my first baby, whose liquid eyes and golden skin I used to drink in, marvelling.
- We wave good-bye with a window between us now.
- I was sad yesterday at the thought of this morning's departure.
- But not today.
- Always the opening road makes me glad to go.
- Plenty of desolate partings I've sat through.
- Being driven away, a passive passenger.
- But there's always some tiny glee when it's my hands hold the wheel.
|two years ago: saturday, august 24, 2013 - setting out from our weekend flat in Brentwood Bay, B.C.|
- Maybe it's just the distraction of having decisions to make.
- The pretense of getting somewhere new by going somewhere else.
- The illusion of flight.
- The privilege of small choices.
- Which way should I turn?
- Which route should I take today south and away?
- I plan to take as many Main Streets as I can.
- I want to stay off the interstate as long as I'm able.
- Torn between leaving Eldest earlier than I have to and regaining YoungSon as soon as I can.
- He has been staying with my parents in a valley south of here.
- I've missed him.
- Enough to pull me forward, not enough to make me hurry.
|two years ago: saturday, august 24, 2013 - whoever sticks with it longest, chooses pie! Saanich Peninsula Country Market|
- I glance behind to see that Mijo has his seat belt fastened.
- He has his book.
- I've got the open road.
- I put a CD in -- Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music.
- I bought it because I've loved Berry's books of essays on traditional farming, protecting the land, the right balance, what it means to be human.
- So many long summer afternoons I've sat nursing a new baby, rocking and reading about plowing by mule, scything beneath hawk's wings, before going out to weed around my peonies and wild flax.
- I am, though I say so myself, extremely well-read on small farms, organic farms, farm policy, forest farming, permaculture, and the evils of agribusiness, aka BigAg.
- Though what have I ever done with that book-learning, except grow flowers and read more books?
- All those hours weeding what will never feed me.
- Even the lettuce I've begun planting by my front door to quiet down my conscience?
- I let it spiral into towers crowned with little yellow tufts of flowers.
- Loving the way sunlight shines through the veined leaves that much better than the salads I could make if I chopped it down and reseeded.
|two years ago: saturday, august 24, 2013 - content to sit out this silly contest, Saanich Peninsula Country Market|
- I don't know Berry's poetry, having read only his essays, but expect it to come intermixed with tunes a little Appalachian-esque, a little Aaron Copeland-ish.
- And I am not disappointed.
- But first, on the first CD in the 2-disk set, the first song made of chanting voices, naked of accompaniment, riding in and out like tide or wind, takes me by surprise.
- Listening, I wind down into the town where I was born, the town my first baby first opened her eyes in, the town this grown daughter lives in now.
- Past front gardens that are a riotous hodgepodge of flowers, or weedy and sad, or clipped with steely restraint and careful blooms in rank and file.
- I drive past fruit tree standing in the lawn and an empty chair beneath.
- Past grapevine on rusting chain-link next to the cemetery.
- Over the hills, through the next town south where I first brought my first babies home so long ago, not so long ago.
- I find tears on my face, though I am not sad.
- I will play this for my father who always cries at Mozart and bluegrass and old hymns and any music that he loves.
- All these years later I'm still trying to find ways to talk with him.
- All those years when I was growing up in Midwestern exile and we only mowed grass and planted impatiens.
|two years ago: saturday, august 24, 2013 - Fritz and his Eldest, jazzercise champions! which means it's rhubarb strawberry pie, Saanich Peninsula Country Market|
- Now he and my mother have returned to live on the farm where he lived as a boy.
- His garden now shames me, rows and rows of vegetables.
- And beyond that an orchard newly planted.
- And meanwhile I've lost State Street again.
- State Street, I've always been told, is a road built in pioneer days to bead together all the Main Streets of these little mountain towns.
- Times have changed and the roads also.
- Nowadays all the roads keep trying to drive me onto the freeway.
- Too soon I'm zooming too fast with three lanes rumbling right beside me.
- I'll still get there: all roads run only north and south through the long valleys here unless I climb up over the mountains.
- But what I'm looking for are little brick buildings with fancy false fronts, tiny banks with neo-Greek pillars.
- I want to see tidy front yards, abandoned houses, swing sets, a goat tethered in the weeds, easy flowers billowing over the sidewalk.
- Not billboards of the happiness I could try to buy.
|two years ago: saturday, august 24, 2013 - listening to music, having eaten pie with fingers, Saanich Peninsula Country Market|
- Maybe I will not play this music for my father after all.
- Because he may not, after all, get satisfyingly teary when he hears it.
- I remember what he thinks of college professors who make a living writing about life on the farm.
- My father who left the farm because there was no living to be made there.
- "Who are these small farmers you keep talking about?" he teases.
- "Like leprechauns? With miniature cattle?"
- And besides, before the end of the first CD I've grown weary myself with listening to all this earnestly hagiographic husbandry.
- Which I realize with every mile burning up more fossil fuels I will never actually come to live.
- And also, the way the composer repeats every line of the poem again and again against his melodic lines is beginning to ride me.
- First with the music going up, then with the music going down, as if the composer can't quite find the tune that's true.
- Better is the second CD in the set by a blues guitarist : more true to the austere line Berry writes.
- Though I find afterwards, reading the liner notes, that to achieve that more authentic simplicity sometimes the guitarist has had to rewrite Berry's words.
|two years ago: saturday, august 24, 2013 - right before it begins to rain, Saanich Peninsula Country Market, B.C.|
- Either way, either CD playing, I just keep driving down the long road.
- I've always said what I love best about our bike rides is taking to the open road.
- Which can't be true, considering the hours I spend plotting out best routes and counter-routes, spreading maps out on the floor.
- I have also said it's the planning beforehand I love the best.
- The perfect paper plot with all its interlocking pieces fit together.
- They can't both be best, though they are.
- The delicious tug between knowing and not knowing quite what to expect.
- Though so often expectations fail.
- Like when we cycled seventy miles to end up at what was, let's face it, a pretty dispiriting farmer's market at the end of a Canadian summer.
- So this is the Saanich Peninsula Country Market.
- My family glanced around at the scatter of booths.
- But at least they have homemade pies! I said.
|two years ago: saturday, august 24, 2013 - out of the rain into a room full of wings, Victoria Butterfly Garden|
- And at the same moment my oldest daughter said, But look, they have community aerobics!
- So after bouncing to the beat with a few hilarious white-haired ladies, we sat and listened with real pleasure to the live music played by a quartet of old guys, Out Stealing Mules.
- Retired dentists and school teachers on banjo, bass, mandolin and fiddle.
- Our fingers were sticky with homemade strawberry rhubarb.
- Because there were no forks.
- Because at this point, we'd invested too much in this enterprise to let it fail.
- And besides when it began to rain we were going to have to ride away anyway.
- Half hour later when it began to rain, we biked through feather spray from new puddles to a butterfly garden I'd resisted on earlier trips as a tourist trap, but which turned out to be a piece of paradise.
- Though maybe the riding through the wet and chill helped make it so.
- But the next stop after that, a few hours later, biking to a garden we'd loved in years past and cherished the memory of for years after, that day was tired and wilted and overcrowded.
- You never know just what you'll find.
|two years ago: saturday, august 24, 2013 - plumeria memories pulling her away, Victoria Butterfly Garden|
- Just as today all I really know is that as long as I am heading south I can't get lost.
- Not that I have ever really let myself be lost, not really lost, not lost lost.
- Maybe because I've read too many maps, or carry too many with me, or follow them too carefully, or am too cautious in my plotting, or only travel in places with such guardian boundaries -- long mountain ranges, mighty rivers, the ocean shore -- that I am always funneled back into my place.
- Or is it just that I don't mind stopping to ask directions?
- Is this a failing?
- As a teen, hired as mother's helper to a woman who ran a booming business from her home, I'd head out with the stroller every afternoon to try to lose my way for the rest of the afternoon.
- That is, once I'd washed the dishes and cleaned the floors and typed up her correspondence, whiting out typos.
- Or rather pinking them out, to match her pale rose stationery with embossed letterhead.
- After that and after I'd fed lunch to the baby and changed the baby and slathered sunscreen on the baby.
- And let the fluffy mop dog out into the fenced backyard.
- And locked the door behind us.
- Then I'd go out on the roads around and try to lose myself.
|two years ago: saturday, august 24, 2013 - riding the merry-go-round, Butchart Garden|
- But not seriously, because I had the lady's baby with me in a stroller.
- Every day I pushed the stroller through that wooded suburb a different direction.
- Every day the veins of the roadways etched themselves more deeply into my brain.
- Until by the end of the summer I couldn't even pretend that I could lose my way.
- I wasn't ever really trying.
- Reading the road names without meaning to.
- Memorizing how each led into another without trying to.
- Unconsciously tracking the minutes before we arrived back home.
- Right on time to change the baby's diaper and set her down on a blanket on the wooden floor in the air-conditioning.
- Right before the mother came home to lift her rested, clean, and smiling child up into her arms.
- "You are so good with her," she said.
- And paid me well for always finding my way back home
|two years ago: saturday, august 24, 2013 - off to explore, Butchart Garden|
- Home is where I always keep finding myself.
- Though I worry sometimes how I can ever really be found.
- If I've never really been lost.
- Even when I think for a little while I might be.
- For example, like right now, driving south between my married daughter's and my parents' houses.
- I don't know exactly where I'm going, but I know where I'll end up.
- Or I'm pretty sure I know.
- I dreamed once I had died and gone to heaven.
- It looked discouragingly like the chapel I attended weekly.
- To meet me at the door was a grinner with big ears.
- Welcome, he said, you made it right on time!
- Come in, come in! We've planned such a special treat this evening for you.
|two years ago: saturday, august 24, 2013 - horsing around, Butchart Garden|
- But all it was was a talent show.
- All the local offerings, a junk drawer of indifferent talents.
- Trumpet blarps and squonks, enthusiastic warbling, knock- kneed dancing.
- Everyone seemed so happy.
- Happy to perform, to sit in the audience singing along, to throw their arms around each other, to sway big bellied, to laugh with their mouths wide open, to bounce babies on their knees.
- They all let their children run around them, happy as crickets, bumping into chairs, uncombed hair floating around their heads like halos, unwiped noses, hands beating together, each leading their own parades.
- This can't be right, I said.
- But the grinner turned to me and nodded, tapping his knee in some syncopated rhythm beyond the music.
- I demand to see the Higher Up, I said, knowing he'd know just Whom I meant.
- He grinned even more, They're here. Just wait. You'll see.
- I woke.
- And since, I've wondered.
|two years ago: saturday, august 24, 2013 - walking home in the dark from Butchart Garden|