Monday, September 14, 2009

Arrivals and Departures

Buoyed by the blithest summer weather in memory, ‘The Resort’ continued to attract visitors well into September. Some nights the cabin sheltered as many as eight. Kathleen and Jon spent four convivial days with us around the Labour Day weekend, sharing Bigador’s abundant amenities with nephew John who came with Naomi, Hannah and Sara. We introduced the youngsters to some of our favourite cohabitants: red-backed salamanders, garter snakes, snowshoe hares, et al. We showed the little darlings some of the Carboniferous fossils cluttering the beach below the cabin. We flew kites – as many as three at a time – in Bob Nagel’s fields and waved farewell to the Bobby Labonte delta flier after it shed its tether and vanished eastwards, hell-bent for the Atlantic.

For the first time in years Jan celebrated a birthday at the cabin rather than the more exotic locations she has grown accustomed to: the WWI Western Front, the Scottish highlands, the Magadalen Islands. We have a fine new restaurant in North Sydney, The Black Spoon, that would shine as brightly in Vancouver’s west end as it does here. It made a fine venue for Jan’s birthday dinner.

I made more time than usual for reading this summer. I sometimes irritate Jan by saying life’s too short to waste time on fiction but lately I have read almost nothing but. Sublime Sebastian Faulks has rewarded me particularly well. I found Charlotte Gray in a Halifax used bookstore. Bob Nagel spotted On Green Dolphin Street among the books being discarded at the North Sydney Library. Jan found the only copy of The Girl at the Lion d’Or available in Vancouver bookstores and brought it back in August. I relished them all. With no other Faulks works at hand I reread Birdsong and found it even more astonishing and rewarding than at the first reading a decade ago.

On Saturday a superb new war memorial monument was dedicated at Big Bras d’Or. Along with an honour guard, decorated old soldiers, and a host of local people with relatives remembered on the monument, dignitaries included local politicians and Nova Scotia’s Lieutenant-Governor. Many of the soldiers named on the monument are my relatives, seven of whom died in the First World War. The monument pays worthy tribute to their memory.

I am not alone in feeling that the passage of time accelerates the older one gets. Bob Nagel, beloved by all, arrived at the end of June but summer flew faster than ever and he departed for Boston Monday. His second last evening was balmy and clear. We sat on Bob’s back deck under the glittering Milky Way. An occasional meteor flashed across the night sky while a pair of barred owls serenaded each other in the woods beyond his field. Big Bras d’Or is never the same without Robert but late September brings compensations: fine cycling weather, waves of migrant songbirds, the first taste of fall colours.

Alan

3 comments:

Ugly said...

Oh how I look forward to bringing little Lexi out one summer. I would say she'd have to be old enough to appreciate it, but I imagine she already is.

KAM said...

I have just finished reading Birdsong. For only the third time in memory, the final paragraphs of a book were read through the blur of tears. I won't mention the titles of the other two books for fear of improper comparison.

It is impossible to imagine that those who were "fortunate" enough to return from that horror were not left with eternal psychological scars. How could life ever again be considered peaceful and normal? It's little wonder that many could never speak of their experiences in the war. How could they ever convey what they had witnessed to the blithe uninitiated? What words could possibly suffice? Better to draw the curtains on that horrid, unforgettable nightmare.

Needless to say, I shared your other horror. My inner claustrophobic was left gasping for air. "Just kill me now. It would be so much easier", was my repeated inner refrain. Isn't the human instinct for survival an amazing reaction? Clearly it's innate and automatic. How can it be otherwise?

I'm sure you thought about Harrison and Wild Bill and the other "survivors". What additional innate and automatic human trait allowed them to return to the other side, a so-called "normal" life?

Alan said...

Well said.