Summer

by janeeatonhamilton

buckJEH2016

Photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton, 2016

It’s a warm day on Salt Spring Island with my ailing, aged cat, where, for the most part, summer never came. These days, I stay in a ’68 school bus under a double roof that ensures it stays dark and no sun reaches it (both a loss and a gain, depending). The bus is both sanctuary and trial–come dark, rodent armies are let loose, and, alas, the cat dispatched a baby shrew. At first, I banged the walls for deterrence but lately I’ve noticed that human voices are more effective–leaving a TV running might convince them, if I had one. The cat seems to really love it here, though she’s alone a lot–she doesn’t have this kind of exterior access at home. Here, I see Puppy flopped in the sun having a dust bath; she sprawls across the steps; she curls up under a shrub or in the shade of the bamboo. I see her stalk dragonflies. Though there are no beasts to speak of, but something treed her on top of the metal outhouse roof last week on a day I was gone ten hours.

It was a fairly intense June. I did a writer’s residency at Historic Joy Kogawa House and ran near daily Shut Up and Write sessions. My novel WEEKEND came out to some hoopla. I co-hosted a launch at Kogawa House, had dental surgery, and befriended some crows in a particularly meaningful way.

102 Latinx and black people were shot in Orlando, 49 of them fatally, and I, like most queers, was crushed. Every one of us had to some degree cut our teeth in nightclubs like Pulse, and some of us had personal ties to the victims, to Pulse, to Orlando, to Florida. We grieved and still grieve.

I could not work out how to hold this brutality next to my personal joys.

At the end of June, I travelled to Ontario to blitz through a book tour in Toronto, Cobourg, Peterborough and Ottawa, meeting a lot of writers whose work has been important to me, and convivial, welcoming audience members, and taking in Toronto Pride. There was a lot of scooting from town to town (on trains, on which I get quite ill) and loads of bad eating. Meeting Facebook friends IRL was a great thrill–and seeing old friends likewise.

I’m here to help my child with her children. I spend long hours at her cabin pitching in. The big girl is a year and a half; the little one will be four months soon. They are what babies and children are–all-consuming, loud, messy, demanding, adorable, persnickety, touching, sweet. I don’t have any stamina. Ever since I had open heart surgery I fatigue in all the usual, draining ways, but also suddenly, in a second, with the kind of overwhelming fatigue that greets a post-surgical patient up walking for the first time.

But everything people say about grandparenting is true–one can’t get enough.

My older granddaughter has acute hearing. Out-of-doors, she says, “Wazat wazat wazat?” She’s made me understand I regularly tune most of the world’s noises out. And jiminy, there are a lot! Now I hear planes, dragonflies, bees, hummingbirds, sawing, trucks, cars, the croak of a great blue heron, tree frogs, thrushes, robins, chickadees. Sometimes, a pileated woodpecker chortles. Along the driveway, fledgling flickers try out their calls. In the trees, crows and ravens tell their stories. Crickets chirrup and tree frogs complain.

What do I hear now? The wooden bus door slapped shut, knocking, the little metal latch jangling. The slurp of my coffee. The cat’s purr. The riffle of the breeze through the maple leaves. The hum of electricity. My spoon against my ceramic bowl of yogurt and Granny Smith apple. The computer keys. The fan.

Just now, from bed, I heard a loud buzz and looked up to a hummingbird in front of me. She flitted around a bit, hovered near a window, then turned tail and flew back outside.