Saturday, 12 September 2020

when seasons sigh

just when ... that sigh of season ... fell ...
the smell of mud and fresh air
and a memory of hop-scotch
somersaulted on spring breezes
rolling down the chalk-drawn sidewalks
circling passed expectant gardens
and awaiting-waking fields

then when ... that sigh of season ... fell ...
floated on bucolic zephyrs
and the scent of new mowed grasses
and the summer flora ... drifting
in that gentle time of sunshine
when I wander in cloud stories

and then ... that sigh of season ... fell ...
a fantasy of dry leaves
threads of russet-gold and blaze-red
wildly spun in blow hard-gust-o-o-o's
a resplendent whirling arras
a flamboyant magic carpet
sailing in the autumn dusk

but when ... that sigh of season ... fell ...
in snowflakes ... big as bunnies
starstruck winter-glittered soft-wind
sparkling in the velvet night sky
turned the world into a snow globe
peace on earth ... was all around us
in that wishful wistful white

note: I felt like indulging in a bit of word-smithing, with this one .... which I haven't done in quite a while ... and had forgotten how much fun it can be.
photo:  When Seasons Sigh - W. Bourke
© 2020 Wendy Bourke   

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Like a Leaf on a Lavender Sea

It was after three ... when I closed the book ... and softly whispered, into the night ... "The End". Always, when I finish a book that I have found ... amazing ... I sit for awhile in dumb-founded consternation ... trying to wrap my head around the fact ... that mortals who can write like this ... who can think like this ... occupy ... or once occupied ... a place on this beleaguered, sorrowful planet. It is as if ... holding a brilliant book in my hands ... blown away by its contents ... I have proof: humankind can do better. What gives???

It just flattens me ... this strange, unnatural paradigm. How can this be? How can humanity bring so much intelligence and nobility and insight and empathy to-the-table ... only to be out-played by staggering narcissism and greed and cruelty and injustice? What drives this madness? In the constant contest of good-versus-evil ... how could there ever be any question as to the winner? How is it, that we find ourselves ... here ... in what should be the most enlightened of ages?

On this particular night ... the wind was howling, like a beast ... and that seemed wildly appropriate. Clearly, providence ... was not tip-toeing passed the irony that had settled over me like a cloud.  It was screeching ... like a wounded phantom ... in the shadows.

At length, I rose and drew back the curtains. The bright, full moon was at its most: take-your-breath-away ... white world in lantern light ... spectacular-esque ... and the outdoors had taken on that otherworldly soft purple luminescence that, can carry one outside oneself.

Immediately, I was able to match the yowling gales to the visuals. The lofty pine trees, that ring the edge of the property, were in throws of manic spasms ... lurching forward and back ... their heavy boughs flapping like dark, untethered sails.

The presence of the moon ... in scant ethereal wisps of smoky mists ... cast a mystical aspect over the modernity of the suburban street it hovered above. And yet ... it was ... that 'same-old-same-old-moon'. The same moon I gazed up at, from cottage steps ... in the last of a summer camping trip. The same moon I walked home casting glances at ... my hand in his ... on crackling leaf-carpeted sidewalks. The same moon ... I caught a glimpse of ... smiling kindly, in that moment ... as I lifted a sleeping child from a car, so many years ago.

The same moon my father went to war under ,,, the same moon explorers sailed under ... the same moon centuries of philosophers and poets penned under. That 'no man is an island' is never closer to mind ... than when thoughts come to rest under that 'same-old-same-old-moon'.

As I often do, I felt a quiet contentment, the longer that I stared up at that moon ... the longer I ... took in the force of the wind ... doing what it was doing ... with no direction from me.  A tranquility of hue, had begun to water colour the scene as it moved to dawn-of-morning.

I was tired ... and yet ... I felt more serenity of acceptance than I had felt since the conclusion of my book had steered my thoughts towards existence and meaning and mankind.

Tomorrow, would offer up, another chance ... to try and do better. But now ...I was tired. Even so, I picked up a pen and notepad and begin to write ... summoning sleep ... as the words fell to the page ...

and now
time rests ...
... and floats … 
as simple as a leaf
upon a lavender sea

... and drifts ... and drifts ...
eyes closed
it whispers
softly ...softly ... softly ...
just for now ... just ...

let it be

"No man is an island"

"Any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankind;
And therefore never send to know
for whom the bells tolls;
it tolls for thee "

John Donne (Poet)

- 1572 -1631

photos:  Let it Be - W. Bourke

© 2020 Wendy Bourke   

Friday, 4 September 2020

Of Whatnots and Whirlybirds

I was watching a movie last night and ... during a particularly dramatic scene ... the heroine observed: "You go through life, thinking that you are happy ... and then, you wake up one day and realize ... that you aren't." That line followed me, as I headed off to bed ... the words rolling round and round ... until I finally drifted off to sleep.

I have always taken it, as 'a-given' that ... the billions of beings, that occupy this planet, differ wildly in their beliefs and values. How could it not be so? But, in spite of our many dissimilar views ... I tell myself, that ... where people are warm and dry and clean and fed and reasonably shielded from the prospect of ruination and/or extinction ... contentment will follow and ... for most of us ... colour ... our hugely disparate opinions and ideologies ... with compassion.

choose to believe this because, I believe ... for most people ... this is true. Perhaps, if we could all work towards nurturing our compassion ... we might find a bit of universal happiness in that. For likely, is not possible to truly be happy ... to always be happy ... in the absence of compassion.

While I concede that people diverge greatly in what-they-think, I suppose I hadn't really given much thought to how-they-think. Unlike the heroine of the movie ... for example ... I have never gone through life thinking that: 'I'm happy'. I suspect, that ... those of us prone to ruminations on the state-of-the-world (and we are legion) will always have to search for that which makes our spirits bright ... for that which makes us feel happy.

I believe that emotions ... are felt. If you don't feel 'happy' what-it-is that you are referring to, if you claim to be happy? On any-given-day, I may feel a wide range of emotions: anxiety ... sadness ... surprise ... fear ... and so on. What elevates a-day, for me ... I have come to realize... is not necessarily feeling happy, the whole live-long day. It is about feeling good. ... and I feel good ... often ... over and over again. Sometimes I feel REALLY good. That feeling ... I have discovered ... is in the splendid details ... the pleasing little whatnots that fall to me like whirlybirds ... like helicopter seeds loop-de-looping off of maple trees ... delightful curiosities ... and inspirations ... and gestures of affections ... and wonders to behold.

Some of my strongest recollections of the way of such things to luminate and excite an ordinary hour, come to me from childhood. The smell of Mom's bread from the oven and the anticipation of the treat to come ... slathered in homemade raspberry jam. Somersaults off of the swing bars in our backyard. The cozy comfort of freshly laundered flannelette pajamas after a bubble bath. Stories, read aloud, by bedroom lamplight ... on the cusp of a tucked-in slumber. The late night sounds of shunting trains, on nearby railway tracks, mingling with all-aboard-whistes ... and dreams of faraway places.

Then there was the stuff of nature. Rattling thunder storms that mesmerized with shards of breathtaking light ... the same booming clap of thunder ... both terrifying and exhilarating. And blizzards, that could bring a city to a standstill while painting it in billows of sparkling white downy pillows. The vision of glittering snow ... in the hush of moon glow ... deeply emotive.

Some of these whatnots and whirlybirfs, were big deals. Some of them were so small they probably went unnoticed by others. What they had in common is that they moved me in a way that ... as a little child ... raised feelings ... feelings that were new to me. They fascinated with their spectacle. They calmed with their comfort. They fired my imagination. And they lit up a moment .... that has remained lit.

As my lifetime unfolded ... I noticed ... I had begun ... watching for them. I guess ... the thing is ... for a minute ... or an hour ... or a morning ... or a evening ... they made me feel ... happy.  They still do.

It may not be realistic to 'live happily ever after' ... or to get happy and stay happy. But, who's to say ... that there may well-be ... greater serenity to be gleaned, in the knowledge that ... if we put the onus on ourselves to look for it ... we will find happiness.

"Happiness, not in another place but this place ...
not for another hour, but this hour."

Walt Whitman (Poet)
– 1819 -1892

photos:  Whirlybirds on Maple Leaves - W. Bourke

© 2020 Wendy Bourke   

Sunday, 30 August 2020


Serendipity is one of my favorite words   For one thing ... it sounds wonderful ... musical ... magical even.  As it rolls off the tongue, you can practically see pixie dust swirling in mystical auras ... flittering bursts of blue-bell-blue butterflies and granny apple green grass and sunflower sunshine.   Even serendipity's definition is splendiferous:   events playing out ... by chance in a happy and fortuitous way ... much like a dawdling wander that leads to an unintended ... though, never-to-be-forgotten destination.  To me, serendipity is 'good luck' (for serendipity always works to the good of things) but ... with a splash of enchantment ... a special something-in-the-air ... a je-ne-sais-quoi ... you can't quite put your finger on ... added into the mix.

Because serendipitous occurrences are unplanned, they can take you by surprise. Their import and potential magnitude may even go unnoticed and unappreciated ... at the time. This, I have observed, is especially true ... in simmering matters-of-the-heart ... in slowly-arrived-at, resolutely-held convictions-born-of-chance insight ... and in those affinities that strike us ... at our core .. with such intensity ... they intertwine with our existence.   Sometimes their game-changing life-altering significance may escape detection altogether.  Thus ... it is best to proceed, in this world, with eyes-wide-open ... lest you miss out on what 'good-fate' attempts to offer you.

One of the greatest pleasures in my life, I believe, has a serendipitous beginning (as is the case with many of our greatest joys).  Some may choose to call such happenstances 'accidental' ... but, let's face it: when you're talking about a life-long joy ... that's no accident.
~ ~ ~

There were enough students to fill two grade fives at the school that I attended, in some long-ago year.   For reasons that I still don't understand (if, indeed, there were reasons, and not simply a lack of accord amongst our educators) that first week of school was a complete shemozzle.  Classrooms were moved.  Students were moved. Teachers were exchanged. Students were exchanged.  And then, for a while, it looked at though the dust had finally settled.  But no ... there would be one last tweak of the seating plan ...  when it occurred to the principal to do a final head count of each class and ... as is the way of musical chairs ... discovered ... there were two more of us in one grade five, than in the other.  

The desk that I had "ended-up-in" was next to the door, and ... as the principal was standing in the doorway when he shared the news ... I was the lucky duck who caught his eye.   It was that serendipitous ... the random decision to move me from the Spelling-Obsessed-Grammarian to the Lover-of-Poetry.

"You!" he barked, as he pointed in my direction, in a tone that might lead one to believe, I had committed several Board of Education conduct violations.   "Gather up your things and get yourself down to the other grade five." 

By Friday ... I was in 'Poetry Heaven' ... where I remained ... blissfully ... for the next ten months ... listening to poetry ... reading poetry ... memorizing and reciting poetry and yes ... writing words of poetry.  All of these occupations ... a passion, I would pursue ... and rest in ... all my life.

"I am a part of all that I have met."

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (Poet),1809 - 1892

photo: My son, Michael, on a Vancouver Island, cabin deck - magically - photo-edited. - W..Bourke

© 2020 Wendy Bourke

Thursday, 27 August 2020

The Lightness That Is There to be Had

One of my mother's most enthralling activities, when I was a child, was to visit the local cemetery ... inaptly named: Riverside ... for I never laid eyes on a river ... nor a stream ... nor, in fact, any water .... other than the water that flowed from the garden taps that poked, like metal croquet stakes, at intervals, amongst the head stones. Ostensibly, the purpose of these visits was to see-to-it, that the graves of the family's departed were 'nicely' maintained ... occasionally, even seasonally maintained. Poppies were added on Remembrance Day ... plastic poinsettias at Christmas ... colorful tulips in spring ... and so on. Whatever her reasons ... summoning forth the memory of those she had loved .... was a task that she embraced with gusto ... often spending the better part of a morning, yanking weeds, setting down bedding plants and watering them.

It wasn't the horticultural aspect of these missions, though, that intrigued me the most. It was the stories that Mother told about the things my deceased relatives had gotten-up-to in their episodic 'and-then-there-was-the-time' lives ... funny tales of sins and peccadilloes ... foibles and frailties. Early on, it was clear to me that Mother was far most generous in her toleration of the fumbles and missteps of the dead ... than she ever was of the living ... occasionally cracking up in peals of laughter as she recalled a particularly hilarious 'shenanigan'.

While she worked away at pulling and planting and storytelling and laughing, it was not unusual for her to fuse the whole production together with soliloquies to the perished and the floral and the fauna gathered there ... as in ... "Sorry you ... I'm all out of yellow and down to pink and purple. Anyway, petunias do well in full sun ... you're going to love it here, aren't you, Petunias."

If a nearby tree, looked a little under-the-weather, it would be admonished to "do-better". If a bird ... or chipmunk ... or squirrel was bold enough to disrespect the sizable, albeit-unmarked plot boundaries she had allocated in her mind ... they were told ... in no uncertain terms ... that they had no business there. I swear that my lifelong penchant of periodically lapsing into day-dreamed personifications in nature ... wizarding green robed trees into ancient sages ... or white swans into mystic muses ... began at my mother's knee ... in that cemetery. All these many years later, I have come to understand the impetus behind my mother's rather odd graveyard shtick ... for I have seen the good-of-it ... over and over, again ... and that is: the way of humour ... to take the jagged edges off of so many of the hard realities of living ... and gentle the pain into something bearable.

~ ~ ~

The other night, as M turned off the television, he remarked, "We certainly stream a lot of really unhappy people into this house ... Why is that?"

"Well, I speculated ... I suppose that there are a lot films made about unhappy people ... because there are a lot of unhappy people in this world. There is, after all, a lot to be unhappy about. Then again ... there's a lot to laugh at. You know, I read somewhere, that people laugh because they have empathy towards others. When they see, for example, an actor in a completely absurd situation ... if they are empathetic people ... they relate to and identify with that person. They are, in effect, laughing at themselves. Laughter ... especially shared laughter ... is a very strong human connection. People that don't have empathy ... don't laugh .... or they pretend to laugh ... because they know that that is what people with a sense of humor do. But people who can laugh ... which is to say ... most people ... should laugh more. Or, at least, try to seek out what lightness ... there is to be had in this life."

"Works for me," M concluded, with a grin.

"Yes ... yes, it does ... it works very well.  Don't change a thing," and we laughed together , then ... as we often do.

"And if I laugh at any mortal thing, 'Tis that I may not weep."

Lord George Gordon Byron (Poet) 1788 - 1824

Photo:  Flower Graphic– W. Bourke 

© 2020 Wendy Bourke

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Little Rituals

I have come to realize that I am a creature of rituals. By 'rituals' I am referring to the non-theological interpretation of the word ... as in:  an action arising from convention or habit, that can be practiced daily, weekly, monthly or yearly.  I think of rituals as something between a habit and a tradition ... though, the case could be made that they, often, splash over on both of these entities. A habit can become a ritual. And a tradition, may be made up of several rituals. Well really, traditions can be made up of many things.

Rituals ... good rituals ... can be likened to lovely little arbors of serenity in the busy brouhaha of any given day. Rituals provide a measure of order. They give tacit permission to stop ... to take a break ... when workload or timeline would seem to promote continuing on, relentlessly. Thus a daily cup of coffee at three ... is less negotiable, because it is a ritual.   Rituals encourage good lifelong habits .... such as the ritual of a bedtime story ... or the ritual of family board games on Wednesday nights.  A simple proclamation such as, ending all telephone conversations to loved one with the words, "Love ya" can be an enduring family legacy ... that does not get lost ... in the drama between newborn to forty-something. It does not cause family members to question:  'what's-going-on' , as, I suspect, it does when it is seldom said.  It is a ritual that has endured because ... in the vagaries of human comings-and-goings it is better said ... than left unsaid.

Rituals have a way of adorning the years.  Fondue and a much loved holiday movie every Christmas Eve ... conjure forth a nostalgic retrospective of dozens of previous evenings ... similarly enjoyed:  the very essence of an awesome ritual. The miniature marshmallow and canned mandarin salad that must make it to the holiday table may not ... in itself ... be a ritual ... but the the round of mockery casting jocular aspersions on the family's epicurean standards ... definitely, qualifies as 'ritualistic'.

Rituals provide explanations for actions. Dropping off a box of homemade cookies to a friend going through a tough time, requires no words.   For that matter, when there are no words ... as is the case when a family is grieving ... the ritual of food brought to their door ... speaks volumes.

Rituals can bestow a measure of peace and well being ... such as daily meditation ... daily reading and writing ... a daily walk, run or workout ... and, for some, a daily observance of faith.

Beverages, it seems to me, are replete with ritual and meaning ... coffee to kick off a morning ... the celebratory toast ... the consolatory drink ... the romance of wine and roses ... hot chocolate after a day on the slopes .... and so on. Tea, I believe ... in its preparation ... serving ... accepting and imbibing ... is probably the most universal ritualized activity of all the rituals. The making and sharing of tea ... so ritualized ... it is often done with elaborate and purposeful ceremony.

My favorite tea ritual is my after-supper lemon balm tea ... as I make it tonight, thoughts of the girl with the sky blue bag ... beaded with butterflies ... comes to me.

Several years ago, my back went into spasm ... that, by way of explanation,  is how I ended up in a hospital emergency ward ... sitting next to the girl with the beautiful hand stitched purse.

I noticed her breathing ... great spasmatic gasps ... before I put it together that she was in an agony far beyond mine.

When she caught my sideways glance, she shrugged and ... wiping her eyes ... whispered ... "Life."

I nodded ... my spirit: deeply sympatico ... having, myself ... not entirely, been spared ... the hard blows of anguish and despair.  Silently, I wished I could make her a cup of lemon balm tea ... or, possibly, chamomile would better suit for drying tears. The sharing of tea ... as I mentioned ... is filled with ritual, and infused with serenity ... custom made for contingencies, such at this.

~ ~ ~

There is the whistle of the kettle, which is an expression of cheer, in-and-of itself … there is the pouring of hot water over leaves … creating fragrant steam ... wafts of transportive magic in the enchanted still.

Then, of course, there is the cuppa ... the cozy warmth that it imparts cradled in hands ... the aromatic tendrils of vapour that have wisped round more tears-and-hugs and heart-to-heart conversations than anything else under heaven.

And finally ... the finale-of-the-sips, that are said-by-some to restore the harshest day and soothe the jaggedest of nerves ... a reputation I subscribe to with single-minded resolve ... lest questioning, diminish the potency of assuaging properties.

~ ~ ~

"I wish I could make you tea." I spoke gently, by way of acknowledging her pain.

She smiled a wet smile, then, and said: "Do you think it would help?"

Sometimes little rituals like sharing tea do help ... if only just a little bit," I responded ... my finger alighting accidentally upon one of her butterflies, perched on the arm of the chair between us. "And a little bit is better than nothing."

She tilted her head slightly ... thoughtfully, it seemed, and sighed ... '"Yes ... I think so, too … A little ritual ... is probably ... better than nothing."

'So I have found ... having navigated my way over many choppy waters. I think that, rituals are really just go-to-places ... good go-to-places ... when we need ... or want ... a good place to go-to.

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility:
they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.

- Charlotte Bronte (Poet) 1816 - 1855

note: I have been working on adding some prose pieces to an upcoming book and in several cases, such as this one, I have taken short flash fiction stories and pinned them to larger themes ... so if some of this looks a tad familiar ... you aren't imagining things. The meeting with the girl in emergency comes from an actual experience - which I wrote about, a few years back.

Photo:  Warmth and Tea – W. Bourke 

© 2020 Wendy Bourke

Monday, 17 August 2020


For my birthday, this year, I was given a beautiful blank notebook. It is covered in soft-as-a-glove grey leather, with a unique gold clasp which ... set against the casing ... gives it the appearance of a treasured heirloom. Thus far, I haven't been able to bring myself to write a word in it. I think that is because, it feels as though, it is far too grand a thing ... to hold my undeliberated impressions, penned in uncontemplated words.

The spark behind this thoughtful gift, I was told, is the copious scattering of random bits of paper ... that lie, like giant unmeltable snowflakes, on every surface within arms length of where I write ... corners of envelop flaps ... snippets of 3 by 5 inch advertising scratch pads ... and the remnants of flyers that passed through my hands before having their margins ripped from them, on their way to the recycling basket. Occasionally ... in an exercise that always puts me in mind of shoveling the driveway ... M scoops them up into a Lilliputian snowbank ... with a genial plea to "sort through". And what a wonderful sort though, it is. For each 'snowflake' contains a note ... a note-to-self, really ... with words and phrases such as ... vespertine shadows ... seeds of meaning ... unpromised victory ... time and mountains .... and ... well ... you get the idea. They are the castaways that fall to me while writing ... impressions ... that could not find a home ... but which ... I could not abandon ... scribblings ... that, one day ... just may ... flurry into a blanket of ... something.

Just now ... my glance has flitted upon a nonagon flake inscribed with the words ... 'subtle eloquence' ... and I pause to ruminate on 'when and why I wrote that' ... 'isn't eloquence always subtle,' I wonder ... 'or it is?' ... 'perhaps eloquence can be loud and noisy and make a great fuss ... and capture attention ... and affect good change ... hm-m-m-m ...'

Vespertine shadows had begun to cast ... as a medley of 'Eloquent Writers and Speakers I have Known' begins playing ... in a spirited operetta-of-the-mind. All of them ... I quickly decide ... were charismatic people. All them of them ... the mild ... and the loud ... and the somewhere-in-between ... made you want to read ... or hear ... more. The most impactful and articulate ... the most impassioned and committed ... could sometimes ... make you dream.

I open the pristine birthday book and turning to page one ... I commence writing:

Vespertine shadows had begun to cast ... my mind back to all the snow white possibilities ... I have wondered on ... here in this hour when the seeds of meaning are sown ...

When dreams make perfect sense. ... when mountains move in modicums ... but move ... when scribblings ... that have surfaced to mindfulness from the heart ... are the embers of a flame ... the start of a righteous trek to unpromised victory ...

This is the hour ... when that which requires taking on ... and tending to ... and sorting out ... and ending ... cannot be ignored . Wrongs-that-must-be-righted: they blow round stock-still feet ... like desert sand ... like the dust of a long journey ... come to get you going ...

This is the hour when scribblings become prose ... and prose becomes inspiration ... and inspiration becomes endeavor ... and endeavor becomes hope ...

This is the hour ... for white pages ... to get messy ...

It is a happiness to wonder, it is a happiness to dream.

Edgar Allan Poe (Poet) 1809 - 1849

photo: Whistler, B.C. - M.T. Bourke

© 2020 Wendy Bourke

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Between the Water and the Sky

It was a very touristy place ... with all kinds of visitors. The town was there because of the hot springs and the lake ... a small town, which looked as though, it had tumbled from a 50's sitcom television show. So much so, that if ... when I first came upon it ... it rose before me in monochrome black and white ... I think that I would have thought, it was ... as it should be ... captured in time ... like old VCR tapes of Mayberry.

The lake, on the other hand, was a glorious vibrant technicolor blue ... framed by a spectacular indigo mountain range.  Between the lake and town, there was a large hotel ... part old and part new.  After we had visited the area a few times, our curiosity won out and M and I booked a room there, for a night.

It was lovely ... though I couldn't shake the sense ... that we slipped … effortlessly slipped ... from monochrome to technicolor ... as we moved about the place.  It was as if, we were in some avante garde cinematic experimental film ... back in time .... and back to the future ... and back in time ...

The hotel was built around the hot spring ... with an expansive, luxuriously appointed pool and patio, dotted with tree shaded lounging spots. Definitely technicolor ... sparkling technicolor ... for, at night, it was lit up like a tropical paradise. The main glass doors, to this exotic oasis ... led out from 'THE BALLROOM' ... monochrome, definitely ... and straight-up thirties movie glam ... with a dinner-jacketed band straight-out-of the Big Band Swing Era.

Between the hotel and the lake was a lengthy meandering paved path, arrayed with little seasonal shops, filled with kites and beach balls and ice cream cones. Tiny buildings painted in fuchsias and mint greens, with polka dot shutters and candy cane striped awnings.  They reminded me of the cartoon towns where Archie and Veronica and Richie Rich and Audrey and Wendy the Good Little Witch once lived ... when I was a very little girl.

There was a bench on the lawn of the hotel, where you could sit and gaze out at the lake ... at the majestic mountains in the distance ... and, from time-to-time ... at the people on the footpath ... as they went by ... as they slowly faded to monochrome ... before, flat-out, slowly fading away.

Once, while I was sitting there ... something happened to me, that had never happened before ... and has never happened since. I thought I saw my kindergarten teacher coming down the path, towards me. I was surprised ... to-be-honest ... more-than-a-little shocked ... that I was able to recognize her. After so many, many years, I would have thought, I'd be hard-pressed to describe her ... let alone identify her ... though she'd hardly changed at all ... which, I must admit ... seemed odd ... eerie and odd. Nevertheless, the resemblance was so compelling ... it, literally, crushed all reason and reality.

As she drew closer, I realized that I had been staring at her ... fixedly ... gawking at her, frankly ... from the moment I first caught a glimpse of her. Shifting my concentrated scrutiny towards the lake ... I found myself grappling with what-to-do with my flagrant breach of manners ... just as ... she came to stand before ... in the very definition of AWKWARD SITUATION. Truly ... how could this woman NOT THINK that there was something seriously wrong with me.

"Beautiful Day," she remarked cheerily.

"Yes ... beautiful," I responded, red-faced with embarrassment. And then ... thinking to myself ... just-go-for-it: you have already been so rude, nothing you could say or do, could possibly paint your social skills in a more unmannerly light ... and so I began ...

"I know this is going to sound bizarre, but you look just like a teacher I once had.  Seriously, it's quite extraordinary," nimbly editing out the adjective 'kindergarten' from 'teacher', as I spoke ... I mean, good-grief, look-at-me, I'm circling old age.
"I thought it might be something like that," she said … and followed up her polite response with a friendly smile.  Clearly, she was one-of-the-nice-ones.

And so, I continued, "She was such a nice teacher ... a really nice person. I guess you could say that she introduced me to the value of nice.  In fact, I still think of her whenever I meet someone who is nice and pleasant and kind ... and ... I still think of her whenever I meet someone who isn't ... nice and pleasant and kind.  Though, I'm quite sure she would have passed away by now. Actually," I confessed sheepishly, "I know that she has passed." 

"Well, I'm pleased that I could bring her to mind for you, on this lovely afternoon ... although I think this place played a big part in that ... steeped, as it is, in eras and eons and timelessness. It has a gift of stirring up the themes of our lives ... and the ways in which we struck on them."

"Yes," I agreed, "I feel that very much too. Anywhere that sky and water meet mountains, has that effect ... that transcendence. But here in this place ... you feel it even more so."

She glanced briefly at her watch, shrugged agreeably, and began continuing her stroll after remarking, "It was nice meeting you," giggling a soft giggle at her incantation of the word 'nice'.

I watched as she walked away. Soon she would begin to fade ... on that long and winding way ... when suddenly, she stopped ... turned ... and looking back at me, called out: "You never know ... perhaps we'll meet again ... some day."

photo:  Harrison Lake, BC – W. Bourke (the beach in front of Harrison Hot Springs Resort )
© 2020 Wendy Bourke

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Nights of the Grand Soirees

Food doesn't seem to be nearly as much fun as it once was . But I suppose it is inevitable that all great enthusiasms wane ... at least somewhat, over time ... as we age.

I remember helping my Dad plant seeds in our back garden and harvesting what came from that. Long before I read that ambrosia was the food of the Greek gods brought to the heavenly feast on Olympus by doves ... I thought it was a recipe my Grandma made, from canned fruit cocktail and coloured miniature marshmallows. I remember my Mom teaching me, how to make Yorkshire pudding ... though she protested that I was far too young to tackle such a finicky dish. I wasn't ... Even as a kid, I guess I was a bit of 'Foodie'.

But, after I threw in with M … who was every bit as keen on all things culinary, as I was ... that interest became a passion ... ramping into overdrive, with a gastronomic gusto, it is hard for me to rap my head around, at this point in my life ... But, golly ... it was a blast.

What wonderful days those were ... as we gleefully sought out little off-the-beaten track delis and ethnic bakeries and fishing boats laden with fresh-from-the-sea bounty. Saturdays would find us at the seven-to-eleven a.m. farmer's market pondering which of the ten different varieties of potatoes in ten different colours we would ultimately determine to purchase ... or rhapsodizing over the size of a homemade apple and rhubarb pie ... or waxing nostalgically over a rare discovery of swiss chard ... which you could never get in the grocery store ... and which always carried the both of us back to our Mom's 1950's summer tables.

Even for folks, who don't have much more than a passing interest in what they eat, I think, that the sharing of food ... plays such a huge role in many of our most impactful memories. Food is often the centrepiece of an occasion ... formal occasions like holidays and celebrations, of course. But food can, also, create its own occasion. For M and I ... for a time ... we called those occasions: 'The Nights of the Grand Soirees'. 

A lot went into 'The Nights of the Grand Soirees' … hours and hours of planning, provisioning, preparing and envisioning was done. But oh ... what fun we had. It would begin with a theme. That, in itself was an excursion into a fantastical Xanadu-of-the-mind ... where nothing fell outside the realm of possibility ... coq au vin as served at a bistro in Paris replicated, to the last detail, in our dining room ... apres ski fondue and wine tasting a la St. Moritz ... likewise beamed into our extremely modest rental unit.  "We should probably take a course in Thai cooking," I might suggest … or even ... "Perhaps we should learn a little Italian."  From there, we would slowly work our way back down to earth ... as in:  "Can we at least afford a cassette tape of Mexican music for when we serve the avocado and black bean enchiladas?"   

After the planning, came the shopping ... the round of stops at every specialty food market and shop that might possibly offer up a hitherto never-heard-of morsel of wow-factor to add to the menu. And the ingredients for the evening didn't end with the edibles. There must be candles. There must be flowers. Occasionally, we would throw the budget to the winds and splurge on new linens ... Let's face it ... you can't 'fake' a Parisian bistro, without a checkered table cloth.

'The Nights of the Grand Soirees' were some of the happiest nights I have ever known. From time to time, I chide myself for not taking pictures, though it is hard to imagine, they would add much to my vivid recollections ... and, I do suspect ... the light-hearted merriment and laughter, was so spontaneously charmed ... in chance strokes of timing and nuance ... any interference with its serendipitous origins ... might, very well, have stifled its flow.

Thinking back now ... it is the merriment and laughter that gives me the warmest glow ... the companionship ... the clever wit and engrossing conversations ... the good will ... the happy, buoyant hours that sparkled effervescently like champagne bubbles bouncing from flutes ... well into the wee small hours.

And while the planning, provisioning and preparing played a part in the great anticipation of making everything come together to create and catch that 'lightening-in-a-bottle' ... it was the actual evenings ... that live on, in memory.

To have experienced such happiness ... to be in a time and place where you know that life doesn't get much more jubilant than this ... that is happiness .. and that is a great gift to have had conferred on a life. 

"Prepare for mirth, for mirth becomes a feast" - William Shakespeare

photos: Shopping on Granville Island - Food Heaven, Vancouver BC Wendy Bourke

© 2020 Wendy Bourke 

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Water Spell

It might have been the colours 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 that set off the familiar parade of phantoms … my childhood family … stirring, yet again.   All those happy times ... shared ... at water's edge ... with nary a single harsh word-or-worry, remembered ... to muddy-the-bliss ... Such is the spell of water ... Alas ... it is not without end.

I was, momentarily, jostled from my reflections as she joined me there ... sitting down beside me … We dangled our legs off the pier … though, they did not reach the water … I had brought a picnic supper ... a rather late supper ...  OUR salad (as we had dubbed it) of couscous and lemon and parsley and garbanzo beans which we began to scarf down, hungrily, with buns and ginger ale. "You seem lost in thought," she said, at last.

"Being near to a body of water, has that effect on me," I explained. "It seems to kick up so many memories ... like flames from embers … or rivers from rivulets.  We're making one now, for you."

"And for you, too, she hastened to add," to which I offered no response.

"Are they all good memories," she asked.

"The ones that surface most often, pretty much are ... but perhaps, 'bittersweet' would be a better word ... as many of the people in them, have passed." She nodded then and issued a plodding sigh ... acquiescence to the hard truth of mortality.

"I often read at water's edge," ... I remarked … handily changing the subject ... and I find now, that passages from the books I read, sometimes play out against a shoreline canvas."

And then, suddenly seized by inspiration, I added, "Look over there, below those cliffs. If you squint your eyes, you can just make out the image of a women ... clutching a thread bare shawl ... obviously, waiting for her sailor love ... to return from the sea."

"Oh there he is," she quipped, getting in the spirit of the tale "... in a red jogging suit
 ... Hm-m-m-m:  completely bald ... with a foot long white beard … Golly ... it has been a long wait."

And we both burst out laughing in sprays of champagne soda bubbles. 

The day was coming down from its peak ... far more sunshine having shone than remained ahead. Out on the lake, two sailboats met ... and then ... passed each other. One of them turned back to shore ... The other ... sailed further and further out ... until, at last ... I couldn't be sure if I had imagined that I could still see it ... Finally, I was sure ... it was gone from sight ... For a moment I wondered if I had seen it, at all ... or if it had just been an illusion.

"Can I interest you in anymore," I prodded, as I began to bundle up the remains of the repast ... in the remains of the day.

She shook her head, 'No' ... and commented, "It was really nice, though. Too bad … all good things have to end."

"They don't end, entirely, as long as someone hangs on to the thought of them," I theorized, philosophically.  

"You called those memories 'bittersweet' ... more sweet-than bitter … would you say?"

"Absolutely …  As you get older, they surprise you, with their vibrancy ... and their warmth ... and their depth of meaning … The quiet, gentle ones are the best … They cast a special light … a warm and calming light ... upon all the days to come.  You'll see." And I patted her hand, for added assurance.

The tide was coming in and the two of us scooched backwards ... That didn't slow it down for a second.

'Light tomorrow with today' - Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1806 - 1861

photo:  the Picnic Place at Belcarra Regional Park - W. Bourke

© 2020 Wendy Bourke