Saturday, 9 July 2016

Daisies and Loons

There is a small field up the hill from Mum's old home on East River Road in South Bolton. Raphie, my extra special cat,  and I would head for the hills. (She was the once in a lifetime kitty who was so affectionate and talked to me all the time - real conversations). I'd start off at a run, call her, and she'd gallop past me into the woods, onto the path leading to the field, stop at the bend and roll ecstatically in something like catnip. Then she'd either follow me or dash ahead. My heart still hurts at the memory of her as a kitten, leaping above the evening dew-covered long grass with a miaou, disappearing and resurfacing over and over.

Circa 1992, I wandered up one day and found the field full of daisies. (See photo) I stood, overwhelmed. Then I sat amongst them, feeling I'd landed in a magical world - wishing I could become teeny-tiny - maybe three or four inches tall. I could run about amongst the daisies exploring the magical world, lie in the daisies and gaze up rather lie ON them...  crushing them.

I often returned to the field, even after Mum and Burton had died and we'd sold the house. I might find a few straggly daisies, but never a field full. 

This year, there are daisies everywhere. Year of the daisy. I expect Mum's field is carpeted - but I don't need to go. It's enough to know the world here in Quebec is full of daisies for a while - and I wonder what combination of factors brought them back in such profusion after more than twenty years. 

Awe. Thankfulness. Memories.

Photo taken in South Bolton circa summer 1992

From daisies to loons.

Thursday evening I went to stay for two days at Trousers Lake with my childhood friend Sandy and her husband, Tony - over for six weeks from the UK at their old cottage. A loon appeared and settled for many hours on the right pant leg in front of their cottage. Peace. Float. Dive. Pop up. Float. Dive... presumably catch small fish, repeat until apparently full... 

The loon is one of my totem animals - along with the tiger, closely followed by a badger. 

This past year has been difficult for many reasons. The light at the end of the tunnel is now not just visible in the distance, but sometimes, I'm actually in it. 

Yesterday, July 8th, was 66 years since Jim's and my brother, Lorne, drowned at Camp Kanawana. I was always afraid of water, even though I was only three at the time of Lorne's death. Especially water that's brown and murky preventing me from seeing the bottom or what might be lurking in the depths. Well, at least there aren't any sharks in Trousers Lake. My fear isn't rational. 

Seriously, though - we humans are weird and wonderful creatures. A few years ago, Lori and I rode a small ferry across the Richelieu River near St-Roch. I was staring into the brown, murky waters, and Lori asked me what I was looking for. "Bodies," I replied spontaneously. We laughed - and given that it isn't far from Contrecoeur, home of the Hell's Angels, maybe there are some bodies with cement boots in the river. It was a Freud moment and I was able to articulate the obvious after a bit of thought. I wasn't looking for literal bodies. I was/am still unconsciously trying to make sense of children (and others) drowning. Mysterious depths. 

This past spring a former volunteer at Mile End Mission and wonderful young musician was suicidal and stepped (we guess) into the frigid waters of the St. Lawrence River and drowned. Her body was found weeks later. There have been other similar stories lately of people taking their lives in this way in Montreal.

When I was seriously depressed in 1975 (breakdown become breakthrough) I'd often walk across the Longfellow Bridge heading home to the convent on Louisburg Square from my psychotherapy appointment - a grey November day - and stare down into the Charles River and fantasize how easy it would be jump in and drown. There's no logic in this, of course. A fantasy of escape from the unspeakable anguish and hopelessness of severe depression. No sense of a body being found later and a family bereft with unanswerable questions, guilt, and anger. And, of course, I didn't jump. I'd also go for long walks along the Charles River, sit under a huge willow tree, and watch the water flow - again fantasizing in some way that wind and water could bring escape and healing.

What it is about water that can seem to call us? Deep water? Dark water? 

Enter the loon. It was a male I discovered the next day when he showed up with his smaller female partner. Exquisite markings the subject of myths. Floating peacefully. Diving with nary a splash and popping up who can predict where? (Did you know a loon can dive up to 180 feet? And although dives are usually less than a minute, it can stay underwater for as long as 15 minutes?) Wuff! 

The loon symbolizes the wildness of our northern lands. And since I can only speak for myself - something wild and mysterious in me. Some longing. Its haunting cry, often at dawn or dusk, pierces the heart and soul. 

It appears. Just silently appears. No splashy landing; no splashy take-off. I hardly slept - sitting up often as dawnlight appeared - peering into the mists on the lake. Or staring out into the darkness wondering ... are you there? 

We heard the cry once. Not the wild 'crazy' cry - but the soft trill - p'raps telling his wife on the other pant leg of the lake where he was. Out for a fishing expedition. Alone. P'raps simply to hear his voice praising a creator for the beauty and peace of the evening.

When both appeared on Saturday, they floated aimlessly towards and away from each other, undisturbed by sheets of rain blowing in waves across the lake. Diving now and then. No hurry. No fuss. 

Mystery. Deep longing. Depths calling. Depths of mind and heart. Searching for understanding. Belonging. The human journey. We began in water, after all.

My search for roots is part of this diving journey. I read recently it's not so much that we humans yearn for meaning as that we yearn to live fully. I'm a both/and person. At any rate, loons may not be searching for meaning, but they do live fully - with a calm I envy. 

Still, there's a Peace that I/we can possess by allowing or choosing to dive into the depths. 

Feeling thankful.

Loon at Trousers Lake, July 1, 2016

Loon at Trousers Lake, July 1, 2016

Loon partners at Trousers Lake in the rain, July 2, 2016
(I'm learning to use telephoto lens but they were still too far away)

A dialogue between our two loons, Loretta and Lawrence (aka Larry)
(Sandy said if Loretta had a rather exotic name, Larry should be Lawrence).

Loretta:  Larry, why do people use the expression 'crazy as a loon?'

Larry: I have no idea, Hon. I'm not crazy. You're not crazy.

Loretta:  What's crazy, anyhow? 

Larry: Different? Unpredictable? Hard to understand? And why would they call each other crazy?

Loretta: Well, we do have this wild, haunting call. Do you suppose that's it? 

Larry:  So. Our cry is beautiful! Unique. Does that make us crazy? 

Loretta:  I don't think so, Hon. Must be their problem.

Larry:  Mmm hmmm. Fancy a fish? 

(They dive into the depths)