Saltspring

by janeeatonhamilton

It was that kind of day on Saltspring.  Hot, breezy, with Cusheon Lake rippled.  The night before, the people with the detachable dock had floated by cooking burgers on their mobile barbecue, some of them rowing; now a yellow canoe floated by in the slanted morning light.  I thought about my daughters, because I raised them for several years on Saltspring, and this, the lake view, the lazy swimming, the kids’ screams and shouts echoing in from other docks, was an every day thing in our summers.  About 4, after the burn-sun was over, I’d haul the girls to Blackburn, which was not at that time the nude dock, and we’d swim in the mud-green waters.  Now I yearned for Sarah and Meg; I wanted them to be here with me and Jules, partners and kids and dogs attached, laughter and kerfuffle and arguments attached.  And Jules’ son, too.  I was home, here on Saltspring, or as close as I come in Canada, but where were my babies?

Tangles of dragonflies fought mid-air in the reeds, above the lily pads and the yellow opening lily, and zoomed lustily close, mating while flying.  Males have testes on the end of their penises.  You can read about their lives here.  I couldn’t say what kind of dragonflies were here on Saltspring, other than turquoise, but they were undeniably aggressive.  Their buzzing was loud.  They spun over the lime green lily pads, hundreds of miniature, demented helicopters.

There had been a sound when we walked up the gangplank across the 2x8s, a hollow thwucky wood sound, and the feel of grass between our toes, still wet with dew.   In the yard was a Bat Condo, some nesting boxes for birds, and two hammocks. There was a boat upturned on Cindy’s dock, scratchy with age, and three Adirondack chairs that needed new varnish, and on the new dock, which Cindy and her brother, the amazing Dave, had assembled in the spring, a teak table and chairs.  You’d want to spend dinnertime there, I thought, with candles and bug spray, with wine and laughter, daughters and sons and grandbabies.  Cindy had a canoe, and kayaks, and red geraniums heating in the sun.  The water was very blue; across the lake cabins scooched between fir trees.   Jules and I were drinking coffee, decaf ground Turkish from the Bodum that absolutely needed a coarse grind, and eating goat’s yogurt and fruit after our previous day’s fast.  I was glad to be taking in food, but I couldn’t do it very quickly, and the sun was hot and getting hotter despite the breeze, so I dove in.  The dive was a mistake–the water was chilled.  I swam out a ways on my back, though, and then it was beautiful, floating through the heated surface water,

The night before, Jules and I had watched fish jumping.  Maybe minnows.  The lake was clear enough that you could see them darting, but I didn’t know much about fish to say for sure exactly what they were.  They made me think of going fishing with my father, about putting the worm on a hook, pushing the needle through the slimy thick body once, twice, three times, looping it, and about how to dislodge the hook out of a bleeding fish cheek.  Back then, when I was a kid, I kept lightning bugs in a Miracle Whip jar with nail holes pounded through the lid, falling asleep to their blinking lights, waking to a jar of death.  Here, now, a kingfisher dove, rose and flew away parallel to the water, and in the tall Emily Carr branches of the evergreens, Pileated woodpeckers pounded.  Jules sang ‘Summertime’ in her high clear voice that made time shiver and stop.  I thought back to her singing ‘Moon River’ the night of the fireworks.

I wondered if I was in love wtih Jules.  I thought I was, but sometimes I thought I wasn’t.  I was holding way back.  I wondered if it would make any sense to me or to her if I was, and whether, if we loved mutually, it would bring us happiness or sorrow, or just a blend of both that would make sense and be a life.  I thought about immigration rights for queer couples, and realized it was the first time in history, the last weeks since DOMA fell, where any of us could move to the US as part of a legally-acknowledged dyke couple.  When I was young, and getting a US green card, the officer made me swear to only two things, and one of them was that I wasn’t entering the US to be a lesbian.  He didn’t realize it, but I was just immigrating because I was in love with an American.  Was I again, now, at 59, and if I was, did it mean a goddamned thing, long-term?  At our age, would Jules and I actually toss anything over–a settled life in our home countries, or bits and pieces of that–for love?  And was I even well enough to contemplate the contemplation?

This made me think of my friend Dave Shortt, who runs Shortt and Epic Productions, because he loves an American, and my friends Leah and Terrie who respectively had a wife and husband overseas, and about long-distance relationships, and about queer rights around the world, and about Russia, and Uganda, and Zimbabwe.  I thought of Yogi Omar because he was a kick-ass agitator and we needed more people like him, and this lead me back to thinking about Liz, a Metis activist.  Then I thought about sustainability, about Sweden running out of garbage, which can be read about here.

Jules and I had come to Saltspring from Pride, and as I floated out in the lake, I thought about all the things we’d done together on this, Fling Two–dinner out at Seasons, the Dyke March, the Powell Street Festival to see my nieces play, the fireworks cruise, the Parade, a house concert at Kate Reid’s place.  We’d tried to have our reunion while my landlord was agitating at my door with new tenants.  Though we’d talked every night on FaceTime, and had been dating for months, we’d only spent one real time week together, down in SoCal.  I admired Jules.  I liked her strength and warmth and attentiveness and commitment and accomplishments and fortitude, and I thought highly of her noggin and her love for her son.

I thought again about my girls, Meg off somewhere camping for the long BC Day weekend, Sarah down in Utah working on a ranch.  I wondered what it would take for all of us to be together again.  A dragonfly alighted on Jules’ shoulder, and I watched it there, its striped gossamer wings, its over-sized head, bug eyes and long segmented abdomen.  Jules was very patient.  She just let it sit, the way she’d let the bee looking for the banana peel buzz around her the day before.  That was Julia–a sizable tender heart she wore thumping up there on her scapula for even flies to access.  The dragonfly was in no hurry, and I guessed neither were we.  In front of us, another dragonfly bull-dozed into the water, struggled a bit while other dragonflies zoomed down to it, trying to help or taking a bite or attempting bug-rape, I’m not sure, and then it was eaten by a fish.

Because the day was getting hot, the sun rising towards a Saltspring mid-day and a Tuesday market, we rose and went back to the house.