Most days I get ahead of the morning. I’m up and busy with the mindless tasks that paradoxically fill my mind. It’s good to be engaged, interested, anticipating the challenges and rewards of the day unfolding.
Then there are days I awake anxious and for no particular reason. I don’t indulge these moods but despite my best efforts they prevail. I become disconcerted and irritable. Little things seem difficult, difficult things seem insurmountable.
On days like these I’m more keenly aware of intolerance and bigotry, of ignorance. I despair at people’s motives and am appalled by their actions. Frustration gives way to anger, gives way to cynicism, gives way to a feeling of hopelessness.
I’m running out of optimism. I know for a fact that everything is not going to be all right.
I would surrender, but to whom? I would retreat, but to where?
Nothing constructive or creative will happen until I shake this pall of despondency. I gear up and head out.
Even as I approached them my mood begins to lift.
The Maples of Kensington. Eight stately giants – so huge, so proud, so magnificently impersonal.
These are Bigleaf Maples (Acer macrophyllum), the largest of the Maple family perhaps 300 years old, maybe 50 metres high. Being tightly clustered they have developed a narrow crown supported by a trunk free of branches for about half its length.
I stand beneath them, I press my palms against their bark, I take a deep breath and listen.
And they speak to me.
High in their lofty branches the leaves rush and whisper and their sound soothes and reassures. Slowly their benign energy renews my confidence and restores my vitality. The desolation passes, and I feel unburdened, at peace and prepared.
The summer had inhaled
And held its breath too long*
A strange mood ascends on me as summer slowly draws to an end.
The days have a listless quality, time seems suspended. There’s a feeling of deja vu – though not of an experience, rather an emotion, a dream sense, vague and inarticulate.
It’s like a lost memory – tinged with warning.
It’s about ending – something good, something sweet and easy. It’s about something approaching – new, different, challenging. The anticipation of change sends a ripple of foreboding, but I feel resigned, accepting.
One afternoon I find myself at Trout Lake, the local swimming hole.
When I was a kid the entire family would walk here from our home on East 4th. Sometimes I’d go with my neighbourhood buddies. It was a different world then, no structured play dates, we roamed free seeking and finding adventures. Most of these people are gone now, yet standing on the shore I can hear their happy voices, catch glimpses of them splashing into the green water.
This lake was witness to many rites of passage and figures prominently in my writing. The beach is small and less crowded than I remember. The raft I nearly drowned trying to swim to is not so far. Could it possibly be sixty years since I swam here?
Suddenly I’m enveloped in a sense of longing for a phantom life that almost was, but never will be.
I run across the hot sand, splash through the shallows and dive in.
The water is cool, slightly murky, exactly as I remember it and for brief seconds it washes the years away. I kick hard, go deeper, then roll over. Up through the depths the sun sparkles, shards of diffused light. I’m eight years old until I break the surface and look back to shore.
And I’m still here.
*From Coming Back to Me, written by Marty Balin,
On Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, 1967
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs
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