Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blackberries at the River's Fork. The Two of Swords.

I'm leaving for a visit to Vancouver Island in four days. I lived there before I went to China in 2009, in a small city called Courtenay, at the mouth of the world's shortest river, the Puntledge. I was as geographically happy there as I have ever been anywhere, except possible Paris. I love rivers. In China I lived on the Mekong and it flowed, and still flows, through my dreams. I remember walking along the Seine on a rainy October evening looking at the lights from the windows on the houseboates moored along the quais and thinking "Yes. Oh yes. Oh my goodness, yes." I learned to swim in the Saint Lawrence River, and the big flat rocks alsong its shore became continents in my imaginary worlds, its thousands of islands still call me.

The metaphor 'life is a river' is pretty hackneyed, but it's hard to find a better one. We swim along, looking back over our shoulders sometimes, trying to swim upstream to recapture what we think we've lost. It's not lost - the river always remembers. We swim in small groups or pairs sometimes, haul ourselves up on to a beach, light a driftwood fire, dance in the dark, watch the flying sparks, wake on the soft sand in the pearly morning and swim away again. The sea is always waiting. She's patient because she understands her own inevitability.

Carrying on the river metaphor, I'm at a fork in the river now. Am I waiting in a misplaced belief that I actually get to decide, or am I just waiting to see which way the river takes me? Hard to say. The moment is very still, the river eddying quietly above an island where cedars and blackberries grow, where maybe people have lived at one time, the water hesitating, pretending it's a pool, not a river, and then, splitting around the island, hurtling down in two completely different directions.

Facing Courtenay on the south side of the Puntledge River is a tiny place called Comox. A sleepy little town, deer browsing in the park, supported primarily by a small air base. Friends have invited me to live with them. I have no idea what to do, what will or should happen.

I've been settled in Nelson since my return from China, always knowing that I'd stay here till summer. Summer's coming. One of these days I'm going to go someplace, and it's going to be the last place I go. I lived in Nelson for almost three decades. A whole phase of my life began (and ended) here. Is it my home?

Waiting. It's the Two of Swords, an absolute standstill. The swords are crosses. Their stillness holds immense tension, and only a third agent can spring them. It's not peace. It's a still point prior to release. No one has really lived on that little island with the cedars and the blackberries - you don't get to stay here. I just wish I could relax with it a little, eat a few blackberries while I wait.

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