Thursday, 17 August 2017

Day Trip to Steveston

It might have been the colors of the wharf where I had sat myself down – or the call and coast of the gulls – or perhaps the water’s scent, that conjured forth a mid twentieth century ambience and set off the parade of phantoms … this time.  My childhood family … stirring, yet again.

First to walk on water was Grandpa, mumbling, as he always did, in his deep Irish brogue - so thick - his words made no sense to me, whatsoever (although Mother claimed that he was speaking English).

He was followed by Nana – his interpreter.  Though Finnish was her first language, unlike her husband, she spoke without a hint of an accent, translating (and, I suspect, sanitizing) his gruff croaks and throaty warbles into mini communiques to his perpetually lost and confused progeny.  As always, when outside her home, she carried a beige handbag (that held a small paper bag filled with humbugs from Eaton’s).  She wore a dress of brown roses and from time to time, she issued a queer soft sound:  a combination of a hum and a sigh, exhaled upon a breath.

Then came, Mother in her black capris, carrying gladiolas from the Farmer’s Market and muttering: “I’ll never grow glads like these” – her inability to grow a decent glad:  one of the many banes of her existence.  (That and her failure to equal her sister’s meringues – topping her ‘bane list’.)  Though, the woman did lay claim to a mastery of fudge, that was (to-hear-her-tell-it):  the envy of the town – getting it to set ‘just so’, in an act of gastronomic wizardry, nothing short of divine intervention.

“Damn, I’m out of smokes” – that would be Dad, in his ‘we’ll-get-there-when-we-get-there’ dawdling steps behind Mom – “Bird” (his very odd nickname for me) “wanna go to the store for your old man.”   Dad, seemed to run out of smokes every night after supper.  Hence, his request that I make a cigarette run to the shop a block from our house, was practically a daily overture (certainly a major topic of our conversations, as I recall) … at least, up until his heart bypass surgery snuffed out his last butt … After that, he talked about how much money he was saving.

Ah, the 50’s:  strange days to be a kid.  If dancing in the mists of DDT, that City trucks rained down on neighbourhood streets to kill mosquitos, didn’t carry you off; the subliminal messages (and anything-but-subtle TV commercials) drumming into your developing psyche (almost from birth) that smoking was a swell pastime – no doubt, significantly improved your chances of a premature demise.

Off in the distance, I spotted my other grandparents in sauntering splish-splashes, just as I was joined (for real) by my grown daughter … “Whatcha doin’, Mumzy?” (her very odd nickname for me).

My attention was drawn anew, to the sight and sound of a flush of ducks, in a jumble of quacks and wing flutters, in what looked to be some sort of escalating duck squabble – or maybe, it was just regular old family stuff.  Family stuff can often look kind of peculiar to people looking in from the outside, I think.  Even in the 50’s none of us were Cleavers.

“I was just taking in the funny ducks,” I answered her … “They’re pretty far away now, though.”


sea and shore birds –
our summers
at water’s edge

note:  The Cleavers – the main (and very idealized) family of a 50’s/early 60’s American TV show, 'Leave it to Beaver', where Mom (June) cleaned house wearing high heels and pearls, and Dad (Ward Cleaver) dispensed fatherly advice and life lessons in white shirt and tie. 

photos:  Pictures taken on a recent day trip to the seaside village of Steveston, BC – W. Bourke

© 2017 Wendy Bourke 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

the final vicissitude


often – as I draw far closer to the end of my life 
than the beginning – I am struck – by how much thriftier
I have been with my money, than with my ‘time’ … 
occasionally, squandering the finite minutes of a never-again
afternoon, like a payday drunk on a spree – so recklessly –
I find myself inquiring where the ‘time’ has gone: 
a discombobulated time-traveller beamed into the supper hour 
having just finished lunch, a daydream-or-two ago … it is not easy,
 and perhaps not even natural, to embrace each moment

and yet … I have known people who were told that they were dying:
the reckoning hour, of their life, I suspect … when, whatever 
notions or indifference, the concept of ‘time’ had, hitherto,
occupied in their thoughts … ceased … as they began 
to speak of ‘time’ with an inspirited cherished reverence … as 

suddenly, ’time’ becomes a priceless commodity … with enchantment found
in any day … in every hour – in each moment of the final vicissitude – there,
before wondering eyes:  the flutter of a leaf … the splendor of a sunrise … or 
the simple joy of a child’s laughter … as abundant as the waves upon a sea …
all the purity and goodness under heaven … the sweetness of life … as precious 
as the next breath … time …. valued … finally valued … as it ebbs away …


note:  vicissitude: a favorable or unfavorable event or situation that occurs by chance:  a fluctuation of state or condition (in nature or in human affairs) as in the vicissitudes of daily life [Merriam-Webster].

photo: Pacific Spirit Regional Park, which is part of the University Endowment just west of Vancouver – M.S. Bourke

© 2017 Wendy Bourke