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Salt Spring Tales

(I wrote this story, in 2006. Enjoy!)

Goto Chapter : 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14

Chapter One

The rumour started about one p.m., on a sleepy Saturday in the sleepy month of January. It
was Casey Thompson who first reported it to Emmy Springer, and then it went like wildfire.

On February 14th, it was definite, Mick Jagger was going to be on Island, and he was
looking for property.     

His helicopter would be landing at the Harbour House Hotel, he'd be staying at Hastings
House, and he'd be looking at that 160 acre property with the creek and the lake.    

At the Roasting Company, several people claimed insider knowledge. They'd heard from
someone who'd heard from someone else that Mick had already bought a property, that he'd
been here for three years, at least, and someone had seen him on a motorcycle, heading up
Beddis Road, and someone else had seen him licking an ice-cream cone, waffle cone at that,
on the Boardwalk, outside Oystercatcher.

Vera Bolton, with her hair pale purple this week, told her friend, Martha Creske, that she
had an appointment for an interview, for the school paper, on February 15th.

Martha snorted her disbelief, and continued with her quest to braid her horse's mane with
silk and straw ribbons. Martha only cared about winning each and every competition she and
Queen Juliana entered. So far, there was an entire wall of trophies.

Mikey Harris, though, was struck at the thought that his chance had arrived. He had won
the Rock Star Look Alike Contest two years running, with his rendition of Can't Get No
Satisfaction, and he craved an introduction to his idol, Mick.

His Dad, Kevin, laughed, and then flicked on Star Choice, to catch Larry King on CNN.

Rumours flare, like spores, flying off in all directions, landing, taking root, and
fluffing into full bore continents of interpretation.

After awhile, no one checks. It's been said, at least forty times, and so it must be true.
Mick's coming, by helicopter, by sailboat, no, it's on a B.C. Ferry, he wanted to sample
the Sunshine Breakfast, no, no, he's on his own floatplane, he's shooting a film, and the
Island is in it, what, the whole Island? Forget it! It's all a joke, it's not April Fool's
yet, but this isn't real, it's all a joke....

Meanwhile, the swans at Fulford Harbour glide in a serene line, up one side, across, and
down the other, waiting for their daily feeding, the same pick-up truck arriving, at the
same time, to spread grain for them. Meanwhile, the donkey, the two goats, the llama, and
the horse, plus three geese and several ducks, wait at the blue farmhouse, to be fed.
Meanwhile, the meals-on- wheels volunteers make their rounds. Meanwhile, the tarot card
reader holds court at the metaphysical store. Meanwhile, reputations are scissored and
repasted, at the three coffee houses in town. Two people decide to weed the park, because
it needs it. Someone drops off a spray of roses to a deserving hospital volunteer. A
developer paces the hallway of the Trust office, hoping that his plan will be approved. An
artist raises his brush and stares at the tree he's just delimned on the rice paper
backdrop...when it works, it's "there". Cars line up at the ferry terminal, while an eagle
soars overhead.

Just another sleepy day in sleepy January, with fields fallow, and an expectant pewter
glow over the Island's world.

Mick's coming, though, on February 14th....

Chapter Two: Florence Foster opened the letter at eight-thirty in the morning, over her second cup of coffee, and just after she'd waved goodbye to her two children, Kelly and Morton. The ticket was enclosed. Who could have sent it? To Buenos Aires, gratis, from an admirer of her Tango. To take lessons from the master, in Argentina, because of her soul on display, with every step. A pressed rose petal fell from the folds of the letter. Florence hugged the letter, and did a small dip and swirl around the kitchen. Dance was her passion....first, the line dancing, and then the ballet, and now the Tango, with all its smolder and innuendo. Florence the fiery, Florence the passionate, Florita the intangible, the soulful, the one and the only...she couldn't go, of course. Who would make sure that Morton took his shots, and looked after his diet? Juvenile diabetes, unresolved, led to death via blindness and amputation, everyone knew that. Who would make sure that Kelly did her homework and kept her eye on the future, the path to university, to success and a way out of this household of single mother with two children and never enough money.... Who had sent those tickets? Who had watched her dance her life into existence? She dialed Kathie's number. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. There! "You'll never guess!" "Florrie, I'm in the middle of something here...I'll call you back!" "Right away. Emergency!" One, two, three, four...ring, ring, ring. "Hello!" "Ok! What is it! The ewe is lambing!" "I have a ticket." "A ticket? For what!" "Argentina!" "Are you all right? What do you mean, Argentina?" "It's for the dance classes, with Julio Moreles, the ones the instructor talked about...I have a ticket, and instruction with him. It's all paid for!" "Are you kidding? I didn't know that you could afford this!" "I didn't buy it! That's what I'm trying to tell you! I just opened the envelope, and there it was!" "Wow! Look, I'll have to call you back, we're in the middle of things right now, with lambs dropping all around us. We'll talk!" "Please, please, I know you're busy, but call...I'm going to go nuts here!" "So who's your benefactor? Is it that cute doctor that you talked about, at the last class?" "Don't joke! It can't be...he has a girl friend." "Yeah, but that doesn't mean he can't dream...maybe you're girlfriend # 2. Look, I'll call you later...I have to go!" Florence stood, staring out the window at the dead stalks of the lavender, at the birds at the feeder, fighting for the seed, at the probing fingers of the crocus bulbs and the daffodils, pushing out of the earth below the kitchen window. Argentina. The name evoked passion and sun and incredibly handsome men who all danced the Tango, the dance of love, with rhythm and passion not known on this sleepy northern climate Island...isla pacifica...passive island...her blood drummed and dreamed...she must go, must go, must go....the future beckoned. Meanwhile, the eagle brooded from the fir above Grace Point Square, and the seal rippled across the Harbour in front of the Coast Guard dock, and the geese flew in formation above Sisters Island, and the tide rose and fell,slopping against the pilings off Moby's Marine Pub. Isla Pacifica...brooding in the pearl gray light of very early Spring, very late Winter.
Chapter 3 First, there was the fencing to finish, up on the third pasture. The rhythmic percussion of the posts, slapping into the earth, lulled his mind. The regularity of movement, going beyond thought, propelled his imagination. What would happen, here, if he left? Behind him, in the valley, smoke tendrilled from the kitchen chimney. Mattie would be there, elbows on the table, overseeing the homework for Bobby and Chris. Home schooling had become her passion, and she was determined that the twins would not be stifled by any teacher's insistence on the bare bones of the curriculum. Enriched learning was her watchword. Peter was worried about the social side, but Mattie insisted that going to the children's theatre group, and to the soccer matches, and to the riding club would make up for not attending the local elementary school. A hawk rode the air above him, catching a downdraft, gliding across the mountain and disappearing... easily...suddenly gone. Sweat pooled at the small of his back, and his breath puffed white in the morning cool. How had he ended up here, with his mortgage payments, and this family dependent on him, and these manual chores that sounded great, from the city, but which had just turned out to be dull hardship and plodding work. Today, the light shimmered around him, but it was just as likely to have been a sodden rain, cloud on the ground, further isolating him on this sliver of a farm, pushed into the hills above the Valley. Mattie was happy. The kids were in good shape, he had to admit that. Mattie belonged to the fibre artists group, totally absorbed in the carding and spinning of her wool, the dying and the creating of toques and sweater vests, and this whole thing of sheep to sweater, the "natural" way. She was a beautiful knitter and had won a prize at the last Fall Fair. Leaning on a post, Peter stared down the hill, towards the newest vineyard on the opposite hillside, and past it, across the lower valley, towards the sea. He wondered if Stefan was still moored at the government dock. Now there was a life...Stefan, living on his sailboat, casting off whenever he felt like it, and moving on...only the chores of the sea, brief interruptions in an endless day of whatever time would deliver...yes, there was a life, a life of a gypsy...not this endless round of same old/same old, trailing endlessly behind him, never finished, never different..."I've turned into a maintenance man", Peter mulled. "I'm like those sheep, following each other in a single line to the butcher's knife". A bell tolled him to attention. Lunch, already? Mattie had separated their day into neat segments, "so we don't lose track", she'd said, and, true to her word, their day was organized in predictable portions, all the more easily digested. Peter spat, his saliva disappearing into a clump of moss. The hawk had it right...he'd gone, already, over the other side of the hill, where it might be day, it might be night, but it wouldn't be decided ahead of time, each minute could still be a surprise. If this went on much longer, he'd be crazy...he'd be like the hitchhiker no one would pick up, muttering to himself at the sides of roads, walking the Island, ceaselessly walking...he'd have to talk to Mattie. He couldn't remember when he'd said he'd be a farmer, but it had to stop, and stop now. Look at that...all of the undone things stared back at him, mute and accusing, as he plodded the muddy trail back to the turn of the century farmhouse that Mattie had described, in such detail, over the phone, and he'd bought into her dream, her vision, her desires...she'd always been able to talk him into anything. Not this time! He opened the door, pulled off his boots, and dropped them beside the woodstove. The twins looked up, then went back to their workbooks. Mattie was stirring one of her pungent home made soups. A log snapped and sparked in the stove. The CBC announcer was giving the weather reports, for the province. Another lunchtime, another day. He'd speak to her tonight, after the twins were in bed...this couldn't go on. Meanwhile, an Orca pod was steaming and blowing its way up Trincomali Channel, and only five people were looking seaward, to see the whales on their journey north. Meanwhile, a weather system from Hawaii was blowing across the Pacific, to soon deliver a "pineapple express" to the Coast, pummelling with monsoon rains. Meanwhile, the cast of the radio theatre show were rehearsing their parts, and looking for 1950s clothing, for the one night performance. Meanwhile, the construction crew at the townhouse development were breaking for lunch, and the waitress at Oystercatcher was setting a surprise table for a birthday celebration. Meanwhile, the jazz group was practicing for their Friday night gig at Treehouse South, and, up at the North End, lambs were frisking in their farm field, while a man with three dogs, all on leashes, a Jack Russell, a Corgi, and a Lab, stood at the road's edge, staring at the lambs abandoned joy. Meanwhile...the Island drifted, in sun and fog and rain and January calm, awaiting Spring's rowdy emergence. Meanwhile....
Chapter 4 Billie decided to go blonde. It was just one of those things, a dare, really, and, she was as surprised as everyone else, when she saw her reflection in the salon's mirror. At the same time, the short hair cut released the tangle of curls from the weight of all that long hair. She didn't look like herself. She felt the same, though. The outside was more like her younger sister had come to stay, and, instead of the heavy coil of brown hair, stripped back from her forehead, neatly plaited next to her skull, there was this froth of platinum blonde, tangling and fuzzing outward, like an auriole around a sun. She would catch a glimpse of this head reflected in store windows, almost disembodied, above the familiar winter jacket, and the shock of it would make her recoil. Without these sightings, though, her thoughts were the same, tumbling around the usual track of her daily routines, until, there, right there, the hair caught her attention, and she stopped, literally, and a blankness settled over her features. Why had she done it? What on earth had she been expecting? Yes, she had watched with fascination the t.v. make-over of a young mother, someone so inured in her routine that she had lost herself somewhere over the high chair, feeding her child. Afterwards, the husband had taken her dancing, and it was clear, from the glint in his eye, that there might be another high chair before long. No, that couldn't have been it. Mike was never going to take her dancing, no matter what she did. He was too busy creating whatever it was he did on that computer...he'd tried to describe it to her once, but she hadn't understood, and it was too tiring to keep going over the same ground. It was like learning bridge, she'd tried to explain to him, and four different and patient people had given up, finally, at her inability to master the game. He had shrugged, and gone back to his hunched position, over the keyboard, staring fixedly at the screen, as if he might climb through it and be lost to her forever. So, how did all that anxiety, that followed her through her minutes and hours and days, end up becoming blonde? Maybe it was the quote she'd seen in a newspaper, someone called Montaigne, who had said that length of life wasn't life, or something like that, and she'd just walked in and made the appointment and walked out, someone different, if not on the inside, then, where it counted, where the outside would see her. Did the viewing of another, staring back at her, make her different? Was it true that blondes had more fun? Well, she'd have to stop filling in these hours and minutes, with self- inflicted chores, and go home. What would Mike say? How long would it take to go back to normal? She sat in the car, the dog, Buster Brown, jumping and hopping around it, confused as to why she didn't get out, and go inside, throwing him a dog biscuit from the pail on the porch.. Maybe she should just drive away, and come back later, much later, when it had all grown out? Would Mike still be here? Would the house wait? Would Buster remember her? Clearly, change was a bad idea, but she'd already known that....Buster's frantic barking had brought Mike to the door, and his shadowed bulk peered from the screened porch. Well, now or never. She almost reversed, and drove away again. Slowly, she climbed out, her toque mashed to her head, the straying curls hidden. That was it, she'd just wear the hat for the next several months. Meanwhile...two guard geese at the farm down the valley patrolled their hedgerowed garden. Meanwhile...the wraith of cloud cover peeled from Mount Bruce, and feathered across the Valley. Meanwhile...two children in blue overalls jumped in and out of puddles, splashing mud and rainbow water over themselves. Meanwhile...Polly, at the north end, poured a stream of pink paint in icy rivulets over the canvas she'd stretched between four clotheslines, and the trailing splotches solidified into thick veins...yes, she muttered, yes, exactly that, and turned to the pot of blue/green sultry paint. Meanwhile...Carter strolled his vineyard, grapevines stripped to stalks of sleeping sap, sun stored in the roots, awaiting Spring's engine of growth.... Meanwhile...the Island swam in that middling wave between winter's death and spring's genesis, with mists and rainbows and icy mornings and false warmth of late afternoons...brooding and flooding into a new year.... Meanwhile....
Chapter 5 "Did you hear?" "Hear what?" "Florrie's met someone. In Argentina." "Someone? You mean a special someone?" "Very special, if you listen to Billie!" "Is she going to live in Argentina?" "No, he's from San Francisco, and they met at the class with that famous dancer that Florrie was always talking about." "No kidding! It's like that movie that was playing last week, "Under the Tuscan Sun", or something. Maybe we should all go somewhere else, and meet someone!" It's true, though, Frannie thought, waving Cynthia on her way. Maybe we should all go somewhere else. That makes the third person, this week, who's met someone new, someone exciting, someone just for them. Frannie pushed the clay from the wheel, and dipped her hands into the muddy water in her lucky blue plastic bowl. It had been a long time since she'd thought about Paul. Paul of the shocking blonde hair, of the blue eyes that were more green than blue, in a certain light, Paul of the evangelical smile.... His death in the fishboat sinking, off the Queen Charlotte's, had sent her reeling into several blind alleys, fetching up, at last, on the tranquil shores of Booth Bay, an inhabitant in an old friend's Salt Spring guest cottage. There, she had begun to play with her past life, in fits and starts, beginning with simple coil pots and evolving slowly, with the spiralling rhythm of the wheel, into thrown vessels, rimed with leaves and pebbles and smashed bits of quartz, Paul's fractured eyes glinting out at her from the finished firing of each vase or bowl. Her mantra, now, was to share, to care, to do for the "other". Each time there was a need, she would write a cheque from her small savings and post it on its way...doctors without borders was her favourite. She loved the way they were always first, ignoring the chaos they descended into, dealing one to one with each person that presented in front of them. Brave, she would think, pressing down the stamp, taping the envelope shut for good measure. Each pot she threw would have a name, after that, with the most recent debacle as its legacy.... It was a way of obliterating the hole that Paul had left for her, his only bequeath to her being this constant craving for his closeness, his listening soul. Soul mate. Soul companion. Was it possible to meet one's other half without having fully appreciated who it was? This halfling wraith she had become did try to get through each day, and it was, on the whole, possible. Sometimes, wrapping her Mexican shawl closely around her, swathing her shoulders in its rough wool warmth, as she walked the gravel road to the mail box, she fought off the longing for companion footsteps at her side, tried to ignore the welling longing for another's voice, another's was the inability to share that caught at her, and always in unexpected ways. This time, no sooner than Cynthia had gone on her way, the gossip falling easily from her lips, Frannie had tried to settle back on the work stool, the unfinished pot drying on the wheel, the very thought of an Argentinian sun frying her into immobility. The interrupted work was ruined, though, and she had pulled the fractured clay into the slop bowl. "In my ending is my beginning", had promised the poet, T.S. Eliot. Frannie had studied poetry at college, and Eliot had been on the curriculum. Well, there had been a lot of endings, and a lot of circular meanderings in her life, to date, and she couldn't see where she recognized any map points on the way. It was more like lurch and destroy, not search and enjoy. Billie had once told her that Cynthia found men on the internet matching services, and was constantly going off Island to have coffee or dinner or indepth evenings called "dates". A odd. She must have dated Paul at some point, but she couldn't remember that, at all. How could one trust an internet date meeting? she'd asked Billie. Anyone could say anything, over the internet...there was no checking up, that was for sure! Billie had shrugged; it wasn't important. She had Mike, after all. Frannie scowled at the new lump of worked clay, dripping and solid, awaiting her pliant fingers and the rhythmic whine of the turning wheel. Maybe she should join Florrie at the tango classes in town? The paper had printed a new class roster. Florrie had described it like being reborn...the sinuous turns on the dance floor might promise seduction and allure. Frannie closed her eyes, her fingers probing the sleekness of the clay, and dreamed her dream of sunshine and fields and ocean glitter, a summer sound and smell, a past so distant, now, that it was kept from tattering by the scotch tape of her memories. Did she dare to begin again? Isn't that what Dr. Methuen had asked, at her last session? Did she dare? She opened her eyes, and pushed the wheel into action, excess water and clay flying off into the corners, splattering her canvas work apron with smears of mud. The elongated neck of a pot began to swoop upwards, too narrow, up, up, folded suddenly, gone, and the collapsed lump was swept off into the slop pot at her feet. This was stupid. It wasn't working today. She would go for a walk, a walk all the way down to Fulford Harbour, and she would concentrate on the path, on the pebbles, on the silvered strands of dead grasses, until she was on the beach. The swans would be there, gliding the length of the Harbour, beautifully unaware of anyone's anguish back on the shore. She would call Florrie when she got back from the walk, and find out the truth of Cynthia's tales. Florrie would tell her if there was room in the next class, if it was possible for short and square people to dance like acrobats, across a polished floor, bending and swaying like cobras to music. Meanwhile, the clouds at the north end began to lower, almost touching the farm below Southey Point, brushing past the sheep and the large pig...more rain on its way. Meanwhile, the floatplane from Vancouver arrived at the Ganges Village dock, and two people clambered out, slipping a bit on the wet rungs, one of them clutching a bulging attache case, two paper cylinders scrolled up under his arm. Meanwhile, the otters on the beach below Hastings House slithered into and out of the water, fishing in the outgoing tidal currents. Meanwhile, two seagulls patrolled Ganges Harbour, catching a wind current, gliding out past Powder Island to Goat Island's spectral trees. Late winter or early spring...whichever...a blurring of one season into the next. Frannie paced her way to Pattison's Store, at the Harbour's mouth, ignoring the lengthening lineup of cars for the ferry back to Victoria. Maybe it could start with the dancing. In this year of the dog, maybe anything was possible. Even shutting Paul away in the closet of memory was possible, to be dusted and fluffed out, every now and again, when needed. For high days and holidays. Right now, though, she needed another voice. What was that refrain from long ago? If you can't be near the one you love, then love the one you're with? Yes...that was it. Frannie mused and dreamed and plodded her way there and back, forgetful, in the end, why she had left the wheel and why she had ended up outside, in the tussle and hum of burgeoning spring. She sat on the scarred and nicked stool, scarf still wrapped around her throat, her hat pulled tightly to her head. She sliced off another slab of clay, and worked it, like dough, until she felt its slippery call. The wheel and the clay and the hands and the body pulled forth the elegant line of a bowl. She lost herself, the process in charge, and woke up, much later, staring at what she had created. Meanwhile, the Island dreamed around her. Waiting....
Chapter 6 No one could remember when the disappearance happened. At first, there was no sense that Old Sol had gone. One day, you'd see him, walking from the store at Fernwood, up to the trail onto his property. The next, you'd see him down at Fulford, waving at the line of cars weaving onto the Island, the ferry steaming at the dock. Or, maybe he was picking up the power bar wrappers flung at the road side, by cyclists, on one of those Salt Spring to Pender to Galiano bike tours, stuffing the litter into green bags, tagged and left at the road's edge, awaiting pick-up. Sometimes, you even saw him taking a breather on the picnic table at the edge of Ganges Village, staring at the docks, watching the floatplanes coming in and out of the Harbour; he'd always said he'd been a pilot in the war, but no one had ever asked him which war 2? Korea? Viet Nam? It was always just "the war". Generic. Maybe that's what war was; who was to say? Billie was the first to comment, over a latte at the Roasters, "so, haven't seen Old Sol around lately... have you?" That started it, right there. Suddenly, everyone noticed his absence. Peter agreed, only because Martie kept carping at him, to check out Old Sol's cabin on the trail to Musgrave. Nothing. Place was cold, woodstove didn't show any embers, just cold. "Looks like he's been gone for awhile", Peter pronounced, over a beer at the Fulford Pub. His drinking buddies nodded, as if it was just a usual thing, all of them thinking that some time or another they might just do their version of that famous Australian custom of the walkabout. Go responsibilities. Freedom, maybe? Unanswerable. They all stared into their Salt Spring Pale Ale, their Pender Porter, their Mayne Stout, as if those amber liquids could give them the answer. No one could remember, either, when Old Sol had turned up on the Island. The real old-timers said he'd arrived in the 60s, along with that group on the commune by Ruckle Park. Others said he'd only been on the Island a couple of years, someone who had once run a big company, and had had a nervous breakdown, then escaped to the rural peace of the Island. Someone else said that he'd been born on the Island, then lived away, returning when his marriage broke up and his kids were grown. Lots of stories, and no particular pattern to any of them. An Islander, through and through. Someone who helped out, and did his bit. Florrie thought she remembered him walking onto the ferry at the Long Harbour terminal. Maybe he'd gone to Vancouver for the day? Maybe he'd gotten off on Pender, or Mayne, or Galiano, to visit a friend? Did he have any friends? No one knew, for sure. The R.C.M.P. asked questions, and put the tracker dogs onto the trail leading from his cabin, but nothing turned up. Someone else thought they'd seen him on Galiano, hiking to the north end, somewhere out past Dionisio Marine Park and past Spanish Hills. This turned out to be a rumour, and soon faded. After awhile, everyone kind of forgot that he'd been there, and had disappeared...forgot to keep thinking about it, as days lengthened into weeks, and they became immersed in their own thoughts and rhythms. Florrie and her dance ensemble gave two recitals, and one workshop, proving the value of going to Argentina for those special lessons. Don, her friend from San Francisco, spent some time on the Island, and Florrie went to visit him, taking her kids, too. Mattie found a new supplier for her pottery, a gallery in Sidney, which opened up the Victoria marketplace, and her specialty orders began to climb. This meant that she didn't have the time for the home schooling, too, and Peter finally prevailed that they should send the twins to the Salt Spring Centre School, and stop all this nesting instinct. Mattie watched him, thoughtful, knowing that there was more to this than concern about the twins social development, but unable to ask the right questions. She remained silent, her thoughts in a tumble, uncertain for the first time, ever, where Peter was in this marital equation they'd created. It didn't seem possible, right now, to ask. She turned away, and stared at the order book. It was easier to contemplate decisions about colour and texture and shape and size, to narrow her vision to the demands of her clay, and to let her fears about Peter's evading of her, except in the night, to dissipate. Maybe Peter could wait.... After awhile, something else popped up in the Island's chat mode, and Old Sol's disappearance became background noise, diminishing to something that only dogs and deer could hear...people even forgot he'd been there on that picnic table, overseeing the unfinished boardwalk, the floatplanes regular gliding into and out of the Harbour, the traffic snarl as two ferry arrivals at the same time disgorged lines of cars into Ganges Village, within five minutes of each other (when is that traffic light coming, muttered the lineup, until they were through the bottleneck and on to their destinations).....Old Sol was ancient history. Meanwhile, lambs cavorted in newly green fields, daffodils pushed snowdrops and crocus bulbs out of their way, tulips began to unfold, and gardeners put in Spring potatoes and lettuce, under plastic coats. The earth smelled new. People stood, sniffing like wolves, as Spring burrowed up from under their feet and burst into bud and early camelia and rhododendron florets, and early flowering magnolias whispered into being. Everything felt stale, from behind grimy car windows, and spirits lifted, dissatisfied with winter's hibernation, desperate to be out and about.... Meanwhile, baby eagles tested flight patterns, and fawns docilely followed, single file, their skittish mothers, and seagulls screamed over Chocolate Island, and seals smacked the Harbour, fishing for herring and rock cod, and the crab fishermen checked their traps, and kayakers went to sea on calm days promising summer.... The world came alive, and Old Sol's disappearance faded to something beyond background music. No one had time, suddenly, to linger at the Roasters or to contemplate other's lives. Spring...spring...spring. An alarm from within. Quick, quick, quick....create and create and create. The Island lifted from its winter dreams, its motor churning out of idle into first gear. Meanwhile....
Chapter 7: Frannie decided to pack at 6:30 in the morning. The old leather valise, kept at the top of the crowded armoire, took two changes of clothes, and her sketch book. She locked the door to her cabin, shutting away the loom and its insistent call to stitch and interlock, spooling up the wall of yarn into fabric creations that would sell at the ArtCraft Summer Festival. A Fran Siporsky creation carried resonance, and the sales reflected this. Usually, her work had sold out before the end of the summer season's display. Unfinished scarves, and vests, and fabric reincarnations of the views from her cabin fluttered to the floor. Her key turned heavily in the lock, stiff from disuse. For three years, now, she had tried to recreate this thing called life, had tried to ignore the ache within since her husband's death. Fishing was a dangerous life, the way logging was a job full of disasters, and no one seemed to care. One day there, the next...gone. How to plug this hole? How to allow the loss to dissipate? She had thought that moving to Salt Spring, a cabin in the forest, looking out on a hay field, sheep moving purposefully over their fields next door, and a weaving task that took all of her ingenuity and attention, would be the solution. Lately, though, a restlessness had attacked her, and she was unable to settle to her work. She had tried to discuss this with the few guild members she had become friendly with, but hadn't been able to articulate what it was she was truly feeling. One of them had thought she might suffer from SAD, and had suggested that she should sit under bright lights for an hour, early each morning. Desperate, Frannie had tried this, but the restlessness and the ache within had persisted. Then, just like that, she had wakened in the night, and the idea of moving to Pender had struck her. She was on the wrong Island, that was all! Pender would still allow her to fulfill these new obligations, with the gallery in Victoria, it was still only a 35 min. ferry ride from Swartz Bay, Victoria's terminal, and it might hold the gift of forgetfulness that she craved. She wanted to let Paul go, to forget his crooked smile and his floppy golden hair. He had persisted in going north, with the fishing fleet, and he had managed to elude her. Would he have thought of her, as the boat sank in the sudden squall? Would there have been too much happening? Was it a case of one minute here, and another there? Once, she had looked down from a kayak lesson, with Mattie and Peter, and had seen the yellow swirls of kelp beneath the sleek craft, tendrilling out like mermaid's hair, and had immediately left the lesson...would she never get rid of this image of Paul sinking, thrashing, calling her name? The early morning frost crunched beneath her feet. She had to scrape her windshield. An unexpected Arctic coldfront had swept down the Coast, chasing away early Spring promises with a final reminder that it was still Winter. Frannie loved the clarity of this cold snap, the waning moon still hanging in the west, the pale pink and yellow and greeny-blue of the early morning eastern sky beckoning her forward, as she nosed the car out of her driveway and onto the main road to the ferry. The Valley was still asleep, lazy tendrils of smoke wisping from chimneys at scattered farms, a lighted window showing here and there. The Treehouse South cafe was open, and she picked up a warm from the oven cinnamon bun, and a cappacino to go. People in cars read newspapers, books, marked up job related paperwork, already at work on the morning commute, ignoring the Island's stark beauty, just beyond the ferry railings. Some few stared out to sea, savouring the mountains and islands and rippling pewter of the early morning ocean. Frannie was one of these. She brushed the crumbs of her breakfast from her anorak, and watched two Canadian geese glide past, almost at water's surface, keeping pace with the ferry's slow procession out of Fulford Harbour. She'd worked it out, poring over the ferry schedule, that she could make the first trip to Pender's Otter Bay, with five minutes to spare at the Swartz Bay terminal, between the arrival of the Fulford ferry from Salt Spring and the departing Gulf Islands run from Swartz to Pender and beyond. She could do it all, in a day trip, returning to Salt Spring via the Twssassan to Long Harbour route, which would pick her up at Pender's terminal and deliver her back to Salt Spring, by ten p.m. It was all easy, it would all was clearly meant to be. The excitement of the "new" caught at her throat. She remembered, though, that same excitement, when she'd first arrived on Salt Spring, three years earlier. This would be different. Paul had never been to Pender. Once, long before she had known him, he'd helped with the water taxi business out of Ganges Harbour to the Outer Islands, and so he'd known Salt Spring. It occurred to her, for the first time, that she may have decided "for" Salt Spring on this flimsy piece of ancient history. Had her choice, then, simply been this transparent effort to hold a piece of Paul, even a piece that hadn't been hers to know? She blinked away sudden tears, refusing to allow this meandering into emotion. It was too much, all too much! As suddenly as it had come, the rise of tears evaporated, and she relaxed back into the car seat, watching the looming docks sweep into view as the ferry nosed and jostled its way into the Swartz Bay terminal. She knew the Islander's trick of keeping to the median, turning into the ticket wicket line-up, while still in the terminal confines, & was just in time to go through to the Outer Gulf Islands line-up, and onto its two storey ferry. This route offered a coffee shop, and she bought another one, even though she didn't need it, as her passport to a table and quietness, with a view that put Salt Spring on the horizon, apart, in the other direction, and she almost laughed aloud. Too bad that Mattie wasn't with her...Mattie was someone she felt at ease with, and who seemed to have understood about the kelp that long ago day. Mattie appreciated an adventure, and might have liked the day off, too. Day off. Day removed. Day apart. Salt Spring's mountains faded off to the west, as the ferry slowed for the Otter Bay arrival. Only two cars got off, the rest of the ferry's passengers going further, to Mayne or to Galiano, with maybe a sortie to Saturna. These Islands were just names to Frannie...she had never thought of visiting them, and knew no one on them. Summer places, someone had once said, but that could hardly be true...the school boat regularly brought middle and senior students to the high school on Salt Spring. Someone had to be living there, year round. She followed the other car, a maroon station wagon, up the hill and out of the terminal parking area, and pulled over to the side of the road. A large wooden sign, with a painted map, loomed beside her. She pondered it, realizing that, just as on Salt Spring, there was going to be more than one little community area...well, she had time, nothing but, and she would "do it all". Her heart lightened, with the sky, and she swooped around the corner and down the hill to the Driftwood Mall, a tiny plaza at the road's edge. Another coffee, a map from the tourist outlet, and she could subside into Pender's rhythm, and try to see if this could be the place for her...just for her. A new beginning...that's what she was wanting. She closed her eyes for a moment, and then clambered out of the car. Please work, please work, please work, she intoned, under her breath, and pushed open the steaming door of the bakery/coffee shop....
Chapter 8: When Carter McCulloch emerged from the floatplane, at Ganges Village's Coast Guard dock, there were three separate reports of his progress up the gangway and into the Silver Shadow Taxi service's latest purchase, a grey Ford. The fact that he carried three rolled up documents, and a black attache case, and had only one small bag as luggage, was duly noted in each report. "Lawyer?" suggested one person. "Developer, more likely!" answered another. "Maybe both?" wondered the third. None of them were right. The taxi carried him up the hill behind the village, to the B & B which advertised the best view on the Island, and, if it wasn't, it was pretty close to being so. After that, the rumour mill churned the airwaves. By late afternoon, it was a confirmed fact that he'd arrived to buy the old Shickley farm, and that he'd be subdividing it into 1/2 acre lots, and selling them off for over 400,000 each. Maybe 800,000, for that knoll with the oceanview. Oblivious to all this background chatter, Carter took the taxi back to Piccolo's Restaurant, to enjoy an early dinner and a welcome evening on his own, relieved that he'd been able to come without his partner, Alice. He loved Alice, or so he believed, as there hadn't been any reason to have doubts, to date. Just the same, it was very relaxing to be without her presence, beneficial though that presence was. He stared at his menu, and gave a great deal of thought to the appetizer list, before deciding to pass, this time. A 'piccolo' of champagne, a salad and the wild salmon entree were served with a flourish and he sat, doodling on the pad of paper he always carried, enjoying the feeling that always came, after a very good meal. Some of his best ideas arrived after he had eaten and relaxed and before he felt sleepy. For years, he'd been going to bed at exactly 9 p.m., and was always asleep, almost immediately. Tonight, though, he felt restless. It was still fairly light out, when he emerged from Piccolo's, the clarity of Sarah Brightman's voice, on the sound system, following him out the door. was pretty well under his control, and, so far, he had been able to ignore any whispers of the past. He strolled down Hereford, towards the boardwalk and the Harbour view by the marinas. Leaning against the boardwalk railings, the village's shops and parking lots behind him, the patterns of light shimmering on the evening grey of the water, he watched a seal glide and dive. He kept expecting it to pop up in one place, and it would suddenly emerge, fifty feet to the left or the right. He watched for some time, but never guessed correctly where the sleek head would rise above the rippling waves. He felt himself smiling, as he turned to acknowledge the voice behind him. "What?...sorry, I didn't hear you." "I think you might have dropped this notepad?" Billie held out the heavily marked and scored paper, her dog sitting, for once, docilely at her feet, just observing the stranger. His run in the park had tired him out. "I don't...oh, yes. It is mine. Thank you." He patted it into his jacket pocket. The lopsided smile was still on his face, and Billie thought he looked sadly out of place. Impulsively, she asked him if he'd like to join her at the Glass Onion, for a coffee...she knew the group playing there that night, and they were good. Carter found himself agreeing, something he would never ordinarily do, and followed her slow pacing to the restaurant. It turned out to be one block over from Piccolo's, and, he thought, standing on its deck, while Billie tied the dog's leash to a railing, that it would be interesting to sit out here, in the summer. He'd be back, of course, if he got this job. The music was loud and no one had to try to talk. When the coffee came, a cappucino for Billie and an espresso for him, there was a pause, and Billie managed to get it out of him that he was an architect, from Vancouver, though really from Toronto, and he was here to do the preliminary design for a client who had just purchased a waterfront lot. He waved goodbye to Billie, putting down a bill to pay for the coffees, at a particularly raucous moment in the performance. He had no idea whether they were good or not. It wasn't his style. He had to walk almost a block before he could find a cell signal, to call the taxi to take him back to his B & B. Bed was looking good! Meanwhile, at half time, from the pay phone outside, Billie called Florrie, and she called Joyce, who called Mattie, who remembered to call Jill, who then called Caroline, and she always remembered to keep Frannie in the loop. "An architect. He's going to be staying for awhile. The couple that bought the old Salter place are going to build a new house. We should have a party, and make sure he's invited." Frannie was in the middle of a double glazing process that had occurred to her, in the middle of the night, and she had been desperate to try it out, all day long. Her attention was only half on Caroline's words, and she just wanted to hang up. "A party? Whose birthday is it?" Without waiting for an answer, she pushed the phone onto its cradle, and returned to the slow wiping of the glaze. Caroline was used to Frannie's ways and was already dialing Amanda's number. Frannie had been in some sort of dazed state since she'd gone off for the day, without telling anyone or inviting anyone for company. This had caused comment. Carter, unconscious of the interest his appearance on Island had caused, snored gently in the B & B's feather bed. Along with the best view on the Island, it also boasted it provided the most restful sleep. Meanwhile, the Island dreamed its way into real Spring, not just the promise of same, and the days lengthened, the temperatures rose, and daffodils and tulips danced and swayed into gardens, and the nurseries were busy selling fruit trees and some people had started their vegetable gardens, with early lettuce and radishes, and new peas. Meanwhile, the artists were organizing their studios for the "season", and store owners were stocking up for the tourists, and realtors were driving prospective buyers around the Island, and people were throwing open windows to the light and the sounds and smells of true Spring. Boaters were down at the marinas, making sure boats were ready, work parties were down at the sailing club, repairing docks, and, on clear days, sailboats could be seen tacking out the Harbour, carrying their skippers to a day's adventure. The magic of the season beckoned.
Chapter 9: After that first day of escape to Pender Island, Frannie had disappeared on three other occasions; once to check out Mayne Island, then Galiano, and, lastly, the distant shimmer of Saturna. There had been something on each of them that had caught at her attention, and, on Galiano, there had been that unexpected & exhilerating meeting with a fellow potter, someone who was clearly experimenting along the same lines, seeking to release the light that the clay had ensnared. It had eased something tight around her heart, to know that she had company out there, that the ideas that had her waking in the middle of the night, to make rough sketches of what had appeared, fully formed, in her dreams, weren't just a crazyness that had momentarily possessed her. Misery loves company, she'd thought, cynically. Cynicism wasn't Frannie's mindset, though, and this stabbing at herself soon dissipated. The work, as usual, caught at her whole being and swallowed up her attention, totally. When Ann, who lived a mile away on a sheep farm, and who took tourists out on horses, riding the trails around Burgoyne in the summer months, phoned to remind her to bring something to the potluck party on Friday, she was at a loss. Then she noticed her squiggling writing on the calendar by the phone, and, sure enough, it said "party", there, in lopsided letters, and an 8 p.m. time. She must have agreed to go and must have agreed to make her famous pavlova dessert. She couldn't remember either promise, but there it was, in writing. "What's the occasion?" she asked Ann, trying to appear sensible. "Not sure. Billie's the organizer. Call her!" Ann was always taciturn, monosyllabic, not great at small talk. Frannie stared at the phone, but she didn't dial Billie's number. Instead, she drew a looping concentric series of circles, around the date and the time, and propped the calendar back against the wall. She didn't always attend the various soirees that were organized, on a haphazard basis, simple suppers to potluck gatherings, often to welcome a new arrival to the Island. Maybe she should stop being so isolated? Isn't that what Florrie had said to her, the last time they'd met for coffee at the Roasters, in Ganges? "You have to make more of an effort, Frannie, or nothing will ever change for you. Running off to another Island isn't going to change things. You're the one that needs changing!" "Is that why you went to Buenos Aires, then?" Frannie had snapped back, uncharacteristically goaded into a reply. Florrie had ignored her outburst, slurping at her latte. Frannie had pretended to sip her cappucino, which was too hot for her taste. She preferred lukewarm drinks. So, maybe Florrie had been right. She could make a little effort. She would make two pavlovas, and she would make sure that she added passionflower to the cream. She walked to the door, left slightly ajar, as she hungered for air these days. Beyond the porch's overhang, the fields lay wreathed in early evening mist, the light growing, daily, as the day's lengthened into true Spring. She sniffed, tasting the freshness after the unusually warm day, the grasses, the earthy odour of the fields, the scent of some wildflower closing itself up for the night. What she hadn't said to Florrie was that she loved this space, this strange little wooden house, with all its nooks and crannies, and so how could she bear to leave behind the wheel and the clay spattered studio, with the view of the mountain framed so neatly in its off kilter window? Besides, she had buried that pearlescent stone, found on the beach near Cape Scott, where Paul's fishboat had foundered. It lay, inches deep in the earth, under the cedar tree by the gate. Whether she liked it or not, this was home, and Paul's ghost would have to stay out there, by the gate, ambling and mooning through her thoughts and dreams. He was in her blood, and that was that. She would have to accept his fitful presence and get on with things. Florrie was right about that. She did not, though, go to the wheel, or stare at the clay's inertness, waiting for her to pound it into readiness to accept her visions. Instead, she poured a glass of Billie's home made wine, a gift for her birthday, and sat, feet up on the Moroccan hassock that Paul had bought her, at a long ago garage sale. All this rushing about, lately. It had disoriented her. It had deflected her from her work. What was behind all this restlessness? Too easy to say it was Spring Fever. Well, she thought, lifting her glass to toast the photo of Paul, stuck haphazardly into the edge of the mirror, above the round dining table that had come with the cottage. Well... So, I will go to this party, whatever it's about, and I'll take two pavlovas, and I'll even dance, if anyone asks me. She frowned, and set down the empty glass. Who was she kidding? All that was over for her. Dancing! She started for the bedroom, and veered off, without choice, to the cramped little studio. She only felt alive in there, even without working. She leaned against the clay splattered wall, and stared at the stars, beyond the high window on the west wall. Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight...what was the rest? Oh, yes... I wish I may, I wish I might, get the wish I wish tonight. A tear dripped over her lip, falling into the blackness at her feet. Hello, Paul, hello, hello, hello. I'm still here. Meanwhile, beyond the window, a ewe dropped a lamb, in the fields beyond the house, and the wind breathed through the grasses in the upper pasture, and the distant barking of a dog echoed mournfully from the Valley and the whisper of cars from the last ferry for the evening hissed along the Valley road, and the Island sank into its individual pods of life, each to their own, while the night wrapped the Island in its net of peace.
Chapter 10 Frannie wore her blue & silver caftan, and wound her hair into a turban of magenta silk. She pushed her beaded silver slippers into the pockets of her anorak, and knelt to pull on the old black boots she always left waiting at her back door.. Carefully balancing the cookie tray with its two pavlovas, she cut across the lower field, a short cut of ten minutes between her cottage and Peter and Mattie's farm. Maybe it was Mattie's birthday? She couldn't keep all these little celebrations straight, and relied on Ann or Florrie to remind her of these small niceties of friendship. She was late, though. Boots of all kinds were already lined up, haphazardly, on Peter and Mattie's back porch. The twang of John Coley's guitar and Peter's banjo welled out into the night, as she entered the steaming kitchen, pushing the tray of pavlovas, intact, onto Mattie's littered kitchen table. "At last!" crowed Mattie, bursting through from the living room, evervescent and brittle at the same time, definitely in party mode. "We thought you'd never get here!" "It's only 9 p.m. Nobody ever arrives on time." "Well, maybe not, but it's a special occasion. I began to think you weren't coming." "You need to put those desserts into the fridge, Mattie, or we'll all get food poisoning from the cream. It's too hot in here!" Frannie leaned against the door for balance, as she slipped on her silver shoes, and watched Mattie struggle to find room in her bulging fridge for the pavlovas, pale clouds of meringue and cream and passionfruit. "Well, don't just stand there! Put your coat over there, Frannie, and come in. You know everyone! Here...." Frannie took the glass of wine suddenly thrust at her, and followed Mattie into the crowded living room. She did know everyone, even though she hadn't seen many of them for months. Maureen Coley smiled shyly back at her. She and John always spent the winters in Mexico, but this year Maureen had to stay behind, as her mother was in the local hospital, dying by inches. John's bear hug of a welcoming embrace interrupted the music, and the room stopped swaying to its rhythm, to pause in clumps of conversation. "Here, Frannie. Come meet Carter McCulloch...he's going to be staying at the old Salter place for awhile...he's designing a house for the new owners." Suddenly, Frannie understood it all. They were trying to fix her up with the new person on the Island. If it hadn't been so sad, she would have laughed. She shook hands with the newcomer, who was finding it difficult to take his eyes off Florrie, who, across the room, was fanning herself with a piece of lace. Florrie was wearing that slinky black dress she'd brought back from Argentina, and looked like she might suddenly give a demonstration of her latest tango lessons. Frannie smiled hello, and drifted off to speak with Ann and Terence, knowing that she'd barely registered on Carter McCulloch's radar. Terence built beautiful stone walls, and Frannie had often wondered about creating a stone terrace outside her studio. "So, Fran, how's it going these days?" Frannie liked that Terence called her Fran. It made her feel grown up, somehow, and in charge of her life. Frannie was that little girl who had run away from home, and married young. "I heard you were presenting at that gallery on the Peninsula, now?" "Yes. They invited me to be a part of their Spring show." "Good. Do it. You're too big for the Island. You've got talent". Terence had been with Ann a long time, and now spoke with her bullet precision, no wasted words. Frannie found it a relief, and decided to stay put beside them. She wasn't in the mood to mix it up. If anyone else wanted to speak to her, they could come up to her. Salutory waves had welcomed her into the room, but most groups had already formed, and were now embroiled in what looked like deep discussions. It was restful to stand with Ann and Terence; they didn't care about making conversation. "We're like the sheep in the fields", thought Frannie. "We're just standing and looking." She giggled. They were even standing in a row, observing the rest of the room, their feet neatly in a line. This would never do. She should have stayed home, and she would leave, as soon as the pavlovas had been brought out. After all that creating, she felt like a piece, too. "So, Frannie, how goes it?" Frannie swirled, her silver slippers sliding her round to face the voice that had whispered behind her. It was Frank Roland, who raised horses at the north end, and commuted between Vancouver and the Island. No one really knew what he did in the city. One side of his face was mottled with a recent bruise. Impulsively, Frannie reached out and traced the welted outline with her fingers. "What happened to you?" "I fell". That was it. No further explanation. Frannie looked at him with interest. Maybe Frank was another short talker? What a relief. John & Peter had begun to play again, and some guests were dancing in the bare hallway, furniture and rugs pushed out of the way for the occasion. Frank continued to wait beside her, leaning slightly against the wall, and Frannie liked the way she only came up to his shoulder. She liked to stand next to tall men. She watched as Carter worked his way across to Florrie, trying to appear as if it was all accidental, not noticing that everyone in the room was following his seemingly haphazard route to Florrie's side. Florrie was blushing, but she agreed to dance, and Carter held her firmly in a tango position. Well, well.... Frannie was touched that her friends would have thought of introducing him to her, and shocked at how little they understood her. There was nothing about Carter that had caught at Frannie's innards. He could turn out to be a friend, perhaps, but that was all. There had to be that spark. Without it, there was no point. Suddenly, she wanted to escape from the stuffy atmosphere of Peter and Mattie's house, away from the harsh twang of the music, and out into the calm of the night. Crowds made her anxious. She found it difficult to draw breath. "Are you leaving?" Frannie jumped, having totally forgotten that Frank was still lounging beside her. "Yes." "Here, I'll walk you home." "It's ok, you don't have to...I'll be fine." "I know that. I'd like to, though". Without being rude, which was something that Frannie found it difficult to be, it wasn't possible to insist that she really just wanted to be alone. "All right," she shrugged. Outside, taking the long way back, by road, Frank began to talk about the stars that splashed across the night sky, naming constellations and pointing out the feathery streak of the Milky Way. "I once thought about becoming an astronomer", he volunteered. "How odd. So did I. Do all kids want to do that?" "Maybe. Maybe it's because we came from out there, and, when we're young, we want to go back." It wasn't a question. Frannie thought about his comment. Frank was a bit of a mystery. Did he mean what he said? She watched their feet, striding in unison on the gravelled roadway, and listened to the frogs singing raucously from the pond at the bottom of her land. Something lifted, where her heart had been lying, injured and faltering, for so long now. She was shocked to discover that she was happy. The stars pulsed away, above her, as she stood in the lee of her back porch, watching Frank's back disappear into the night. It looked as if he had taken the same shortcut back to Peter and Mattie's, across the same field path she'd taken earlier, but the darkness had swallowed him up, and it was hard to be sure. He hadn't asked to come in. He'd simply bowed, once, an oddly touching gesture, and saluted goodbye. He really had just walked her home. "Interesting", she thought. She hoped he liked the pavlova. She was surprised to find herself smiling.
Chapter 11 Marcus quit his job on a Monday morning. He'd worked at the forestry company for twelve years, and enough was enough. He would see his reflection, when he passed store windows, and be shocked...all that sitting in the office had created some middle age spread, there, looking back at him. His vision of himself was still the Marcus of ten years earlier, someone lean and trim, someone who wore jeans, and loafers without socks, and sweaters. Not this person in a suit, two sizes larger than his earlier self, and with a receding hairline. The reason he'd quit had had everything to do with the recent weekend visit to his sister, who had left her husband and family, and gone to live at their family summer place on Salt Spring Island. He'd gone over to talk some sense into her, after her husband, Sam, had turned up at his condo, loudly complaining about Rita's decamping from the city. He'd found himself promising to go over and visit, and to find out when she was planning to get over this "woman thing", and get back to her responsibilities. Sam was too busy running the garage, and making sure the kids had clean clothes for school...he needed Marcus to go over and talk sense into his sister. He'd found Rita very aggressive in her refusal to return. Her parting salvo had been to point out to him the waste that his life had become. The ferry trip back to the city had left lots of time for the sting of her words to settle into the wound, and fester into a full blown depression. Here he was, 43, overweight, balding, and with no prospects. He was a salaried desk jockey, with no future for promotion, in an industry under attack by the environmentalists, some of whom he found himself agreeing with. His days were numbered. He'd always been in awe of Rita, and her mouthy antagonism to their parents' blueprints for their futures. She was still the same, having told Sam where to put it, and had packed two bags and disappeared on her whole life. She thought it was about rediscovering her life. Finding it again. That's what she'd said. Finding it, again. After a sleepless night, and a day walking in Stanley Park, twice past Lost Lagoon, his whole life to that point unravelling in his head, he'd resigned, and the impression left was that he would have been fired, anyway, so he'd just put in his papers a little sooner. Small mercies; self-esteem intact. What then? He'd never felt comfortable with Rita, so no point in going to stay with her for awhile. A classified ad for a rental at Fulford had caught his eye, when he'd picked up the local paper on his visit to Rita, and he'd called the number. It was still available, $950 a month, one bedroom, a studio in the back garden, a six month lease. The owner lived in San Francisco, and wanted a short term tenant, for insurance reasons. It was furnished. "I'll take it". Marcus listened to the echo of anxiety in his voice. The details were worked out; he would be there at the end of the month. He decided not to tell Rita. It was entirely possible that he would not run into her; Rita had her own rhythms, and they weren't his. Siblings weren't clones, he thought, not for the first time, and put her out of his mind. Her life was her life, and his was his. Theirs had never been a close family. In the end, there were surprisingly few people to tell about his move. He'd easily found a sublease for his Vancouver condo, glad, in a way, that he'd left a small opening for a return, "just in case". Most of his friends turned out to be office acquaintances, and not friends at all. They hadn't lasted beyond his two week hand-over, after his resignation. On the way to the Island, everything he wanted to keep fitted into his car's trunk and back seat, he'd stood out on the deck, the wind straightening his remaining wisps of hair, like fine filaments, blowing straight back over his coat collar. He breathed deeply, letting the stench of his sense of failure dissipate with the wind. New beginnings, new beginnings...was it possible? Would it be the Island Spring of Marcus? Yes...yes...yes...the propeller's rhythm hummed the beat of his heart. Surely, yes.... Salt Spring's hills relaxed into Long Harbour, and the ferry slid into its welcoming embrace. He softened into his skin. Whatever happened, it would be better than what had been. He felt oddly expectant, oddly liberated, oddly...yes, happy. The first thing he would do would be to buy a pair of jeans. And, chop wood. And, go for a daily walk. And, try that vegetarian diet. for the shadow that wanted to sneak out from underneath this unwieldy carapace of the pretend Marcus, this shell that he had so carefully constructed for all these years. There was still hope, after all. Meanwhile, the eagles soared in pairs, above Sansum Narrows, and the lambs in the Fulford Valley strengthened into sheep, and the vineyard owners on the Valley hill were out among their vines, tending and snipping, and the artists were hanging out their studio signs, all over the Island, inviting early tourists to drop by, and the Saturday Market in the Park had opened for the season, and the floatplanes arriving in Ganges Harbour were full of seekers, and the Salt Spring Centre was advertising yoga retreats, and the peace and the fertility of Spring on Salt Spring was blooming into full measure. Meanwhile....
Chapter 12 It was Frannie who found Old Sol's remains. Old Sol hadn't left the Island, after all, so everyone wondered who had reported all those sightings on Mayne & Galiano Islands. Frank was the first person Frannie phoned about her discovery. He was randomly on the Island, that weekend, so was actually there to get her call. Later, everyone said it was a gift, for Frannie to have connected with Frank like that, as, of course, everyone knew that Frank's weakness was his desire to be needed. Later, no one was surprised that Frank asked her to marry him. Some people were surprised, though, that Frannie accepted. Florrie wanted to give the wedding reception in her new dance studio, out in the back garden of her village home. Although Frannie wasn't so sure about that, Ann prevailed, and Frannie had to agree that she wouldn't have time to be organizing a wedding, as she had to finish the Sidney gallery's commission for a dinner service for twelve. First, though, there was the slow descent of Old Sol's remains (better not describe what was left of him, Mattie confided to Billie, over coffee at the Roasters) off Maxwell mountain. The burial, at Ann's expense (Billie and Peter chipped in, when they discovered she'd designated herself as Old Sol's kin, since he seemed to be what he'd always claimed: a hermit, a loner), at the cementary next door to the movie theatre, was sparsely attended. It was difficult for the few who straggled to the graveyard service to feel anything at all, as Old Sol had kept so much to himself. No one had anything to share about why he would be missed, on the Island. He had died as he had lived, on his own. "I've always wondered why the cinema is next door to the graveyard", remarked Frank, who came, and Frannie thought about that, too. "Weddings always follow funerals", added Patricia, who had agreed to play the piano at the reception. Mattie thought the whole thing was like an Ingmar Bergman movie, but in colour, and that there was some spiritual reality to the movie theatre's bulk, looming over the gravestones. Frannie woke up for a few nights, the shocking sight of Old Sol's carcase sprawled at the bottom of a rock ("must have slipped on some moss", suggested Frank) shaking her resolve to be in the present, to look to the future. In her dreams, Paul's shimmering hand, reaching out of the dark water, a recurring nightmare since the report of his death (why did she always imagine that his last thought was a plea to her, to save him?), had awakened her into the longing for what had been. For a few nights, there, the lumpy corpse of Old Sol, nothing left of his smile or his charm, had slipped in front of Paul's ethereal hand. Then it began to settle out and to become calm. Work on the wheel always did that to her, and she spun and molded her heart into the special commission, glad that the fee coming her way at the end of it supported her efforts. How odd the way things had worked out. Did she deserve this? Frank seemed to think so, and he left her alone, mostly, even suggesting that they maintain separate residences, to start with, until they were used to each other. Frannie had always thought that Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir had been very intelligent to do this, in Paris, and it had been one of the things that had drawn her to their existential philosophy, back in college. How daring, to admit that you only needed each other for sex and intermittent conversation. The real business of the self being exactly that: of the self. "Well, of course, you're an artist," said Billie, helping to pack the finished commission in the bubble wrapped containers. As if that explained anything, thought Frannie. Still, Ann was right. It was ok to be happy. One had to give oneself permission, of course, but why not? "Just as easy to be happy as to be miserable", Ann had commented, tossing weeds into a pile at the end of each garden row. Frannie had thought about that for some time. Ann did not have an easy life, and yet, there she was, choosing for happiness. Were the sages right? It really was that simple? Either...or? "Left or right, at Main Street?" Her mother had said that, a long time ago, at a traffic light, maybe dropping Frannie at a music lesson...she had meant it as a joke, probably. Her mother liked fun. Had she been like Ann? A single mother, not much money...thinking back, Frannie remembered a lot of laughter and silly games. Yes, it was a choice. A hand clutched at her heart. How lucky she was, then, that she had made those pavlovas, and trudged through the fields to that distant party. What if the architect hadn't come to the Island? Her friends wouldn't have tried to fix her up with him, and she wouldn't have connected with Frank. And Frank...he was randomly on the Island. If he hadn't run into Peter at the lumber yard, earlier that day, he wouldn't have been at the party, either. It was too much, all these "what ifs" and "might have beens", thought Frannie. The fact that they might have missed each other shocked her into immobility. How lucky! How very lucky! She stood for awhile, at the cottage door, and she could just make out Paul's ghostly shape, drifting with the pale clouds in the night sky, over and away, feathering into the clouds, no longer distinguishable, evaporated now behind Mt. Maxwell's bulk, and glad that she had finally released him, no doubt. She would have to struggle with this fearful shell, this quavering heart. She wanted to meet Frank half-way. Lucky, lucky...she did not want to waste, to squander...she wanted to hold that luck. She needed to come to him without all that past baggage. Later, she got up in the night, and sat at her wheel till dawn, creating the ceremonial bowl that she had envisioned, in a dream. It would be her gift to him, on their wedding day. She stared at it, recognizing that it was the best thing that she had ever done. A gift. She covered herself with the afghan and curled into the corner window seat. She slept through for almost 24 hours, and, when she wakened, her heart felt light. She felt that she had lost years, and been reborn. She could not stop smiling. A gift. Meanwhile, the daffodils on Lee's Hill were replaced with elegant tulip globes in fiery red, and the hawthorn trees were redolent with blossoms, and the apple and cherry trees had sprayed their blossoms over the wind-tossed fields, and the eagles soared in their mating rituals over Mt. Maxwell's peak, and the sun coaxed everyone out to the explosion of Spring into Summer. Meanwhile....
Chapter 13 Florrie wasn't sure what had made her send her daughter to get a full check up. The strange lethargy of Katie had been ignored, to begin with, as just one more teen-age characteristic. When Doctor Baker called her into his office, after the tests, a cold hand clutched at her innards, and the strangling of her solar plexus tightened with his words. Leukemia. A vision of her long ago friend, from high school days, loomed into her brain. Her friend's brother had contracted this deadly disease, and he had wasted into oblivion. How could this be? Where had this come from? No answer. She could only take in some of the doctor's words, and kept asking him to repeat. He passed across his desk literature on the disease, and quietly went over it all again. There was always the possibility of remission, and there were things that could be done, immediately. It was important to act quickly. Florrie found herself standing beside her car, wondering how she'd arrived there, then opened the door and sat for several minutes, watching cars patrol the parking lot for a space, watching the traffic on Lower Ganges Road, heading off towards Vesuvius, watching robins dance on the government office's well tended lawn, heads cocked, listening...for what? This could not be happening. Katie was meant to graduate, the next year, and was already planning where she would go, maybe to the University of Western Ontario, to do that film course, maybe to Calgary or even to Vancouver, to the Film it might be that she would not make it into her final high school year. This was not possible! For the first time, Florrie wished she had a husband, that Carl hadn't left her for that young secretary at his office. She needed help with this one, and Don, her dancing partner from San Francisco, was too far away. What to do? Where to go? Who to talk to? Her mind darted, like those robins, to and fro, cocked and listening, but no worm of knowledge came writhing up. Later, at Mattie's home, she wailed and screamed and carried on, over the top, while Mattie plied her with herbal tea and stock wisdom. There was nothing to say, nothing to do. She would have to go home and be strong for all of them, more than strong...she'd have to be a miracle worker and will Katie into health. Surely it could be done. Wish it, and it will be so. Wasn't that the mantra of the New Agers? Surely, yes! Be well, oh, please, god, be well! Florrie thought about that. God. She had never been religious. Was this a curse? No, of course not, that was crazy, no god would wish ill on was, truly, random. She believed that, but it didn't make it any easier. She took the very long way round, leaving Mattie's house, so full of tea that she had to pull over, and leap across the ditch, at the road side, to relieve herself. She found herself doubled over, in the field, laughing at the absurdity of it. The laughter oozed into tears, and she sobbed into the earth, the grasses tickling at her face. This could not be. In the midst of life, we are facing death. A truism, a part of every philosophy of life, something read and spoken, without meaning behind the words. This was the meaning, this crazy wrenching at one's innards, this desire to throw up into oblivion, this anguish that would not be soothed...death...absence...gone, annihilation...surely not, not for Katie, it wasn't possible! When she had sobbed to the point of exhaustion, the tears drying on her cheeks, she was able to get back into the car, to sit behind the wheel, hands on the wrapped leather steering wheel, to put the car into gear and to glide towards her driveway and the lighted kitchen window of her home. She had to get a grip. It was important that Katie was on board for this fight. She would have to prepare the way, to allow her daughter to be a part of her treatment, to desire to live, to beat that blood decimation, and to recreate health. It would be the fight of her life. It had to be. She sat for awhile, in the driveway, staring at the familiar bulk of her Island home, its sloping roofline cosying around the square familiarity of the house...they had weathered a lot of years here, together, after they had fled to the Island. Carl had kept the city house. The children were too young to have really missed him...this quiet neighbourhood, their friends, the Rainbow Road schools, within mere blocks of each other, had led them from elementary to middle to senior classes. This was their world. Did they really even remember their father? She had never asked, and they had never volunteered. What to do? How to cope? What? How? Somehow it would evolve, somehow she had to find the strength to perform this task. She got out of the car, picking a random bouquet of flowers from the garden, as she walked to the verandah style deck that wrapped her home, enveloping it in a country charm that would suit a calendar, maybe for April or the month of May. It was picture perfect, and she looked at it all, as if for the first time, everything sharper, totally in focus. How had she ignored all this beauty, for all these years? She opened the door and went through. Katie was sitting at the oval oak dining table, propped on an elbow, leafing through a magazine, a cup of herbal tea in front of her. "Hi, kid! Sorry I'm so late. Mattie had a lot to talk about." Florrie's heart skipped, as Katie's small oval of a face looked up at her. "Any tea left?" "I'll make some fresh. Are you ok? You look funny. You have grass in your hair." Florrie pushed her hands through her tousled head, and felt the mud and grasses from her weeping fit, back in Mattie's field. "I'm fine. I need to talk to you, though, Katie. Where's your brother?" "He's over at Christopher's. They're playing that game." "Right. Well, we'll talk to him, later." Florrie sat, facing her daughter, willing herself to be strong and in control, as if she had answers not questions, and felt herself enlarge to meet the demand. "Kate...." And so began the months of treatment. Later, when Kate did go into remission, Florrie kept repeating and repeating, how she could not have coped without the Islanders rallying around her, even people she hadn't met before. "It's amazing. Everyone is there. I can't believe it. If we'd been anywhere else, what would have become of us all? I found money in my bank account, just "there", when I needed it. People fed us, delivered food, cooked and ready to go, took Katie to her treatments in Victoria, when I had the 'flu, and it's just amazing..." There were usually tears in the telling, but the tears began to wash a soreness out of her heart and, finally, delivered herself back to herself. Florrie continued to dance her heart into the sky, but not the sinuous Tango, had become more of a stomping, blood beating, animal celebration of life, as she invented her own interpretations. They were all still intact, and Katie was there, day to day, day to day, day to day.... Meanwhile, someone won a lottery contest, and gave the money to the Lady Minto Hospital, for new equipment, and someone else won a prize for her garden, and gave it to the ArtSpring fundraiser, and someone else donated a classic car to the scholarship auction for the schools, and someone else anonymously gave to retain a first growth forest as parkland, and...the Island hummed and flowered and sang its way from Spring into Summer, and tourists arrived, alight with the beauty and the charm of the Island, their eyes shining with the excitement of discovery. Meanwhile, deep below, the community hummed and knitted and purled its way into a continuing web of connectedness. Meanwhile....
Chapter 14 Vera Bolton and Martha Creske had the chore, again, of putting up the posters advertising ArtCraft. Vera's hair was pale pink, this year, in a long fall of ironed straightness. Martha hammered in the tacks, as Vera held the posters taut on the telephone poles. The next year, someone else would have this summer job, as they would be off to college, and their own pathways. ArtCraft was a signal of summer to the Islanders, who liked to go through the Mahon Hall artisans display, just before the tourist arrivals, so they could buy the best things, as their early Christmas gifts. Katie, still in remission, had gone to Vancouver to start a summer semester program at the Emily Carr College of Art. Florrie had confided to Mattie that she was relieved, in a sad and haunting way. Her joy at Katie's recovery was a good sign, of course, but the absence of her daughter's heart-shaped face, looking up at her from homework or projects or sketch books was a loss that she was unprepared for. Chris had taken a job bussing tables, at the Oystercatcher, so was out always, it seemed. For the first two weeks, Florrie found herself aimlessly wandering the house and garden, not sure what to be doing with herself, now that no one seemed to need her. Then Mattie decided, almost overnight, to open a stall at the Saturday Market, and to be serious about selling her herbal teas. Florrie found herself agreeing to look after the stall, while Mattie gathered and prepared her tea ingredients, and, next thing she knew, Florrie found herself inspired to paint a heavy canvas garland, to wrap around Mattie's sales cart. Florrie had never really paid much attention to the Market, thinking it was really just for tourists, and discovered, instead, an Island within an Island, as she met her fellow vendors. She found herself with commissions for more canvas paintings, to decorate other stalls, and was suddenly too busy to mourn the passing of her motherhood moment, or to worry that Chris now spent more time away from home than in it. Peter and Terence got together with Marcus, who had taken to building stone walls around his rental home, as a way to keep busy, and the three of them worked out, after many errors and a lot of direction from Ann, who was paying for it after all, how to create a stone cottage, that would look, as Ann remarked, like something in Ireland. When it was finished, and they'd all christened it with a new local vintage, Frannie decided to rent its snug little space from Ann and Terence, and, finally, to dare to showcase her pottery works on the Island's studio tour. Carter, the architect for the old Salter property's new owners, who came to the studio's opening, commissioned the three of them to build a stone guest cottage for him, which led to more jobs, and they were suddenly all too busy to work at their other lives. Mattie chose the name for their new company, "Salty Scape Designs", and Florrie painted them a sign, which they stuck on the tree next to Frannie's studio. Marcus even had cards made up. Peter forgot that he hated the country, as he sweated and toiled to place the stones, carefully, into their exactly right spaces, forgetting everything in his measured movements, his heart pounding with the exertion of creating something stalwart from nothing. Billie put flowers, for awhile, on Old Sol's grave, next door to the movie theatre, at the same time that she would drop off food contributions to Fritz, the resident theatre cat. Then she got busy, too, helping Mike to hay the fields, and weeds began to spring up, feathering over the fresh grave look, and Old Sol's marker faded into an earth that seemed somehow undisturbed, and no one remembered to think of him anymore. Such was the rhythm of life, of, and then not here. Life is, disappears, continues...players change, but the story line is the same. Here...not here. Like light and dark. Both necessary. Mike, who had secretly been writing a symphony, much to Billie's shock, emerged from obscurity to full page writeups in all the local papers, including in Victoria, and the Island was astounded to find such talent in their midst. The ArtSpring was packed, for the local production of his Salt Spring Symphonic Airs, and Mike's blush of confused triumph lasted all evening, while people, mouths full of local cheeses and local organic fruits and veggies, came up to pat him on the back, congratulations rippling through the intermission food break. Rumours and counter-rumours, so rife during the "off season" coffee house meetings, sank to an underground murmur, like a summer creek, drybed with a trickle only. Everyone was busy. The artists were open at their studio tours, the Market vendors prepped all week for the Saturday rush, the retail owners vyed for the tourist dollar, and the resorts were busy, children playing in the lakes and on the beaches, and the marinas were full of boaters, en route to or from their Desolation Sound journeys, and the musicians played at both Tree House Ganges and Tree House South, and the bike and kayak tours between Salt Spring & Pender took place, and the tenters at Ruckle Park wakened daily to a panorama of peace and majesty, and eagles soared, seals and sea lions cavorted, fund-raiser salmon barbecues took place in the Park, and B & B owners opened doors to tourists, and the chamber volunteers handed out maps and information, and the restaurants needed reservations, if you didn't want to wait in a lineup, and fireworks soared into the sky for Canada Day, down at the Coast Guard dock, and the Island bubbled and sang through its summer warmth, with the Islanders dreaming of a post-Labour Day calm, when the Island would return to them.... Meanwhile, the hills swam in greenness under the sun and soft wind, and fawns followed their mothers along the deer trails, hikers sat on knolls and sank into peacefulness, and the Island held open its arms of welcome to all who sailed into its harbours...Fulford, Burgoyne, Vesuvius, Southey Bay, Walker's Hook, Long Harbour, everywhere. Enjoy!

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Contact Li Read at Sea to Sky Premier Properties (Salt Spring), 4 - 105 Rainbow Road, Salt Spring Island, BC, V8K 2V5; Direct Tel: 1-250-537-7647