Sunday, July 15, 2007
Dad and daughter
Stanley Park, Vancouver
Alone at Night
Something splashes in the water less than ten feet away from where I sit. For a moment my heart jumps, thrown into an irregular beat, but then it gently eases back into regularity as I imagine a silver backed, shimmering fish dancing nearby under the dark and glassy surface of the lake. A perfect half moon lights the sky. I sit on the end of the dock and let my legs dangle over the edge, feet immersed in silky darkness up to my ankles. The earth exhales the heat it has stored from the scorching day, and the night is deliciously warm, scented by fresh life and far off smoke.
As insects buzz and whisper in the long grasses surrounding the small lake, I think of my grandfather. As a young child, he used to tell me that if I listened carefully I would hear the words of the crickets, singing songs about life and the world at night. We would sit together on this same creaking dock and the hushed ripples echoeing from our dangling feet would be twice what they are now. Every summer my family comes to stay at my grandparents’ cabin on Spirit Lake. Only two other homes exist on its shores. Nature, as I know it in my life, booms and comes to a crescendo each summer that I am here.
This summer, it has become a nightly routine for me to silently sneak down to the water from the comfort of my bed and dreams. Something about the human silence of the night combined with the enveloping orchestra of the natural world around me creates the perfect environment for thought. I used to listen to my grandfather counselling his daughter (my mother) by these shores. He would tell her that loneliness is simply a word we use to excuse lack of personal strength and self-knowledge. Under the stars tonight on this dock, I understand what he meant. For the past two weeks, the relationships within my family have been strained and static, a strange combination of love and sadness. I find peace on the quiet of the water at night. It embraces me as I release frustrations of the day and reconnect with the pure love I hold for the people around me.
Fifteen days ago, my family sat in the garish, yellow painted kitchen of our small city apartment. With the usual laughter and teasing, we discussed and planned our trip to this lake. Fourteen days ago, our city was shrouded with clouds; an unexpected summer thunderstorm. With a simple phone call, I was faced for the first time in my life with the death of someone I love.
Something rustles in the tall, dry grass to the left of the dock. Looking in the direction of the snapping twigs, I see a shadow drift onto the shore – a racoon. The racoon looks up, and even at such a distance, our eyes meet. We are both equally alone on this warm and delicate night. However, neither of us is truly alone. We are both surrounded by life; loss, love, longing and the force of survival driving the creatures all around us.
His physical presence is gone, but as a watch the racoon scurry back into the bushes, searching for some unknown secret in the darkness, I feel the essence of my grandfather with me. Cradled by the almost purple, velvet sky, I have personal strength and self-knowledge. I am alone, but I am not lonely. I lie back on the worn, scratchy wood of the dock and close my eyes. These nights spent alone by the water are celebrations of my grandfather. Water, earth, sky and air subsume me and in the gentle darkness I listen to my own breathing. I am myself and I am a part of all life around me.
I like it.
An extraordinary vignette, well-worded and not overdone.
I like the imagery and the freshness of it.
I also like that, as it is, it could be any night at all, even tonight; timeless.
Thank you for sharing this.
And great photo!
I posted an entry here last night on this post ~it’s disappeared! , so I must have forgotten to update it!
What a lovely time to have with your daughter, as I gather it was after you have been both away for some time!! So it’s great you’re able to share in one another’s company in this way. I think as you get older a remarkable transformation can take place if you’re blessed as I think we may be! One’s daughters and sons are still one’s daughters and sons but they can become your best friends as well as they mature into adulthood!!
I remember your last posting about your daughter’s poem you published! This varied creative writing piece is equally captivating.
I would gather at the moment it may be difficult time for you, but you look very well and relaxed in the photo so I trust you’re holding up rather well!! My best wishes to you and your daugter~who is gaining wisdom from the thoughts and spirit of her dear grandmother wrapped up in the serenity of nature! ~ Not to mention the wise council of her Dad ~~
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