human beans, as souvenirs

 
When I come back from the east coast it’s usually sand and shells that come with me, the memory of cormorants flying a thin line above the ocean at sunset, the embrace of solitude in all that surf and space and horizon, the pleasure of spending time on red dirt roads that lead sometimes to a new beach where (I once overheard someone say) there is nothing to see.

But this time it’s more than the tangible, the feathers and stones, that have stayed with me… it’s the two women at the shared lunch table at Point Prim who have not only heard of the obscure Ontario town where I live but who lived there too, twenty something years before moving to PEI.

The guy who works at the lighthouse (also from Ontario) who says the ferry crossing over to Nova Scotia should be okay but calls ahead to check and then gives me his card and says if it isn’t I can phone and yell at him.

It’s the young man and his guitar who sings about the girl he left behind in Moncton, and a chef on the same boat, making free blueberry crepes.

And the owners of our B&B who tell us they’ve had 1200 people stay in their not so very large home in the past year and then invite us for a glass of wine.

And the photographer at breakfast, on his way to the Cabot Trail, and next to him a slightly addled couple with almost no sense of direction who you wonder how they drove here from Alberta and you just pray they’ll find the lobster supper they’re heading for in New Glasgow, and next to them the American who says her favourite part of Canada is the gasp, which, after a few questions, we understand to be The Gaspé.

The woman who runs the local co-op art gallery.

And the woman who runs a magical world of love, laughter and literature for people of all sizes.

The person who takes time to show us a ‘hotel’ room in an old railway car at Tatamagoush and the guy behind me in line at the Charlottetown Dollar Store who’s talking to someone in front of me about the number of frogs dying in ponds and rivers because of pesticide run-off from farmers’ fields.

It’s the group of elderly tourists, German maybe?, who arrive at Brackley beach as I’m sitting on the wooden steps, hello, hello, hello, they all say in passing and then take pictures of each other… and how there’s always one in every group that tears away from the herd, seeking a moment of solitude. The way that one plays at the edge of the water and jumps backward with all the joy of a child when the waves roll in as he knew they would.

And the woman who works at the tourist place in St. Peters who tells me that most restaurants are closed at this time of year and when I ask So where do the locals eat?  she replies, Well, at home of course…

It’s the server who says that winter on PEI is so quiet the speed limit on certain streets changes from 50 to 70. It’s everyone on the beach, including the guy who asked if I was Nicole Picot, the Minister of something for New Brunswick. (I am not.)

The discovery of George S. Zimbel while waiting out a rainstorm after seeing the wonderfulness of an exhibition that included Montgomery’s manuscript for Anne of Green Gables.

Familiar faces wandering around Summerside farmers’ market and a woman who sells me bags of freshly picked dulse.

The seaweed fanciers at a seaweed workshop where seaweed is fondled and used to paint seaweedy scenes.

The couple who, on a dockside patio, check their phone for info on Acadian history and then one of them reads out loud… loud enough for us all to hear. Go ahead, ask me anything.

The woman who is almost my friend and the warmth of her welcome.

The young people who on this beach of red sand discuss having once been on a beach where the sand was black but can’t remember where that was…

The people from the south shore who come to the north shore and stand in line for fish. But only on weekends.

And lovely Arthur from Florida, originally from Boston, embarrassed about Trump… and the equally charming people he’s travelling with and how they meet up each night to play cribbage.

Barb and Barry from Milton who in not more than ten minutes not only introduce themselves but list everywhere they’ve been on this driving holiday (because they’re retired; he from the fire department, she from banking), everywhere they’ve played golf, hiked (they “did” four hikes in Fundy in one morning “plus saw the tide thing”), where they’ve spent every night (because every day and every night are laid out in advance), as well as how one daughter who has a new boyfriend is studying in Guelph to be a vet while the other is working as a teacher in the U.K. but her landlord is giving her a bit of a runaround at the moment because his email has been hacked. The daughter happens to text while Barb is sharing all this so Barb texts her back then reads me the text her daughter sends in return. The landlord problem seem to be resolving, albeit slowly.

(The next day Barb and Barry announce “they have done the entire shoreline” of PEI. They also “did” Greenwich but can’t remember much and sadly have terrible things to say about the lovely woman at the St. Peters tourist place. Felt she was holding out on them about there being few places open to eat.)

The wedding party who take photos on the dunes beside the signs saying don’t climb the dunes and the guy who parks his car almost on the dunes at the sweetest beach but only steps out for a second, long enough to take a shot of the lighthouse then drives off.

A woman who made a museum of the place LM Montgomery boarded while she taught school and the view from her window.

A guy who knits socks.

A guy and his food truck.

A cat named Charlie (because cats are people too).

And his not necessarily best friend.

The painter who tells me about the land she’s just bought where she wants to build a studio. I tell her I’d love to move here.

She says do it, buy the property next to mine, I’d like to have good neighbours.

 

 

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the reason my house and car and pockets are filled with stones

 

They line stairs, window ledges and bookshelves; fill flowerpots and bowls beside my bed. And that little space in my car, the alcove-esque area above the gear shift, is for what if not stones…?

My theory for the why of this (apart from stones are lovely) is the way my dad would every now and then on a summer night after working in a factory all day and after mowing the lawn and after supper… announce that he was heading to the beach to get some rocks.

He didn’t ask me to come with him. I was a skinny kid with noodly arms. Not super helpful in the rock lifting department.

But something in the way he said he was going to the beach… different from the way he said he was off to Canadian Tire… sounded like an invitation.

And so we went.

He and me.

He to collect rocks for alpine gardens, to edge various beds or frame his collection of seashells.

And me, to skip stones, bury my legs in cool nighttime sand and wonder how long it would take to swim across Lake Ontario and what, if anything, was on the other side.

It’s possible he took breaks from the rock gathering. He may have sat on a length of driftwood at some point, lit a cigarette and wondered too about the swimming and the other side.

I don’t remember the details of these beachy missions.

Only that cool nighttime sand.

And my first pocketful of stones.

 

 

 

home beach (with red sand still between my toes)

 
Have spent much of the last month on beautiful beaches that aren’t mine.

Mountain ringed BC lakes like mirrors and, most recently, those endless and magnificent PEI ones made of solitude, red sand, stone cliffs, cormorants and washed up lobster traps.

Now I’m back home.

And where I live the beach has no red sand and the cliffs are more cute than seriously cliffy. Sometimes there’s solitude, sometimes dogs chasing sticks in the surf, families and picnics and the smacking lips of lovers, people who have happily found another who likes ‘long walks on the beach at sunset’. The cormorants are sea gulls and hang around the chip truck. Beach litter runs more to Timmy cups than lobster traps.

Do I look like I care?

#homebeachlove #colourblind

dsc07516dsc07517dsc07519dsc07518dsc07521dsc07520 dsc07535dsc07523Saw a monarch that was caught in the splash of a wave, one wing pinned under a tiny pebble. I saw it as I walked past looking for beach glass, assumed it was dead but reached down anyway and moved the pebble… and the wings fluttered. I let it climb onto my hand and it stayed there drying in the sun until a group of young girls noticed and squealed about a butterfly on that lady’s hand!!  and came running over to touch it. Better not to, I told them. It’s already had enough excitement and has to fly to Mexico when it catches its breath. They were that age where their eyes go all bright when you tell them about insects and Mexico and as their hands went down to their sides I saw that they suddenly wanted less to touch it then than to hope for its safe journey.

The winged thing climbed up my arm as I continued along the beach and I worried it would fall off and be trampled on the sand before it dried, so decided to introduce it to a stand of milkweed where it happily fluttered off my sleeve and onto a nearby shrub to check its GPS.

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fave pictures taken this weekend, with not a care in the world (nor a chip in my camera)

 
Me on George the tawny horse with a butterscotch mane at the trail ride stables.  I say to the trail guide, “Take one of just me and George… I want to put it in my office to look at every day.” George is magnificent and uninspired to moving too quickly. His whole raison d’etre being to follow the lead horse at a reasonable pace and sneak the occasional bit of greenery, which is often as I have no ability to use the reins and George knows this. We are happy together.

Kayla the trail  guide.  All blonde hair and freckles, a country lass unaware of her sweetness and the charm of her stories about being home-schooled and how she lives for horses, has five part-time jobs to keep one horse and how a horse will tell you what’s wrong with you, emotionally or physically, because if you spend enough time with it the horse takes on your problems and you can see yourself in them like a mirror.

Children in my house eating watermelon and jumping on a mini trampoline. Occasionally at the same time. To which I say: “No choking please…  because
I am not in the mood today for children choking in my house.”

Tiny hands shoveling spoonfuls of peaches and ice cream.

Tiny hands picking fat blackberries. Also argument over how there isn’t an equal number of ripe ones for all three sets of hands.

Three orders of poutine at the beach. Most of which is eaten. None of which is mine. Mine is an order of fries.

Seagulls awaiting poutine.

Flip-flops flopping in the water.  Until they’re nearly stolen by the lake and the better idea by the wearer of the flip-flops is that I carry them.

Skinny legged beach cartwheels.  Dozens it seems, one sweeter than the next. Not mine, by the way. I have neither skinny legs nor ever been able to master the sweet cartwheel… only the kind that goes by a different description. After that, some other gymnastic moves that need only ribbons to make them an Olympic event. (Now there we have something I’m good at: ribbon dancing.)

Lad skipping stones. Correction. Lad trying  to skip stones. Lads, I discover, aren’t especially amused when aunties come along and say Want me to show you how it’s done?   And then do.

And other stones. Especially those as described in the wonderful Pinny in Summer, which is read aloud to the soundtrack of Lake Ontario waves. (Smiles all around when we find JUST THE PERFECT ONE.)

Cloud shaped like the skeleton of a rabbit.  Sad but true.

A radiant palm holding five colours of beach glass:  white, green, dark blue, brown and possibly yellow, or just pale pale brown. Either way, ridiculously exciting haul.

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thoughts from the sand whereupon i sat

 

multicultural beach today

DSC06200where stones

absorb laughter

in many languages

DSC06212DSC06202and hot pink sari struts sandy terrain

in search of…

…self?

DSC06205 DSC06207 DSC06208 welcome, we say

welcome to this sandy strand

of laughing stones

and now,

DSC06214hot pink sari.DSC06204

The beach was busy today and so many families of various cultures and dress and reasons for being here. Family picnics on the grassy bits, and BBQs fired up, all kinds of games and happy shouts and wet dogs and I sat there taking it all in as I’ve done two million times before because there is nothing especially unusual about various cultures and dress and reasons for being here but something about everyone today made me think that some of these people were new, that some of them had not long been in this country, this town. And the vibe, if that’s what it was, was especially good. It’s extraordinary really, people leaving their own countries for bad reasons and hoping for something good at the other end though they don’t know exactly what that will be and then on a sunny summer day maybe it turns out to be something as simple as a swim or grilled chicken or a pocket full of beach glass.

And I’m so glad to be a part of this day, to extend a smile to the wet dog and the laughing children.

To in some small way, say welcome

Welcome.