Feral child of summer
It’s autumn now. Snow is falling.
Only yesterday it was summer – glorious summer of long days and warm nights; blazing sun and the cool refuge of deep shade. It was about cold drinks and barbeques; playing tennis and biking and hiking; casual road trips and the love of place.
How I immersed myself in those lazy days of summer. I was untethered and unproductive in the conventionally understood Protestant sense of the word. I was carefree. I was unencumbered.
All throughout the dark winter and turbulent spring I’d suffered through professional angst. My most important clients abandoned me or I abandoned them, one after the other. It seemed a calamitous alchemy had turned my endeavors into dust and ash.
At the end of six months, I had a litany of crumbled professional relationships. Like a spoken word poet I infused my list with drama imposing a lugubrious rhythm to the injustices, which like well-crafted bullet points slipped like honey from my tongue.
When I thought my luck was changing, my victory dissipated into thin air like appetizers on a passing waiter’s tray – without me having even started an assignment.
Finally my injured cadence became boring even to myself. I decided I needed time to reflect. And the dog days of summer offered an ironclad promise of nothing but time.
I’d revert to a more simple state, like a child without parental guidance. I’d let my still-intact feral instincts guide me without a clue of where they might lead me.
Rolling through summer
I’ll always remember this summer as green and rolling. Sometimes it was like a tennis ball, sometimes like a bicycle ride. Probably because I rode my bicycle to the tennis court – down the hill that curves past the church and into the sanctuary of the tennis club.
Tennis is my meditation. The mantra: the thwack of the racquet as it strikes the ball, the plop as the ball bounces. I’m calmed by the exquisite symmetry of the tennis court itself where players execute complex strategies and use mental and physical agility to gain control of the ball and cause their opponent to lose the point. Tennis is a sublime web of elegance woven with the strings of a tennis racquet, mingled with sweat and imbued with the beauty of a ball well hit.
This constant in my life – I’ve played the game since childhood – has become my elixir for good health, achieved through a regular challenging dosage of play. It stimulates the senses, sharpens the mind and keeps you nimble.
To soothe my soul I retreated to my garden.
Reclining in the hammock, I bathed in the cool glow of emerald shade enveloping me, massaging me. I read detective novels, listened to the birds call and watched the flowers grow. I daydreamed, like I did when I was a child, aimless and spacious dreams of no consequence.
Some time during my summer of the feral child I took off my ring, then my bracelet, my earrings and finally my amulet.
I took unadorned to a new level.
When I on occasion caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror, I saw a comic shock of misshapen hair and inside-out clothing. I would tug at my hair in a futile attempt at normalcy, but quickly gave up on such needless vanity.
I was in a psuedo-pre-adolescence, like when my mother would dictate bath days and remind me to brush my teeth. The mundane maintenance of the body was a nuisance. There was always way more important stuff to do – play with the cat, go to the park, read a book, build a fort.
Remembering Mr. Pounder
As I thought about my childhood I remembered singing – in school concerts and in the church choir. In our junior church choir, in which my sister Lissy sang too, we were under the tutelage of a strict choirmaster, a long cool drink of water – old Mr. Pounder.
We practised in the church basement. Mr. Pounder’s bald, scabrous head bobbed like a puppet on a string over his scrawny body bent over the piano as – true to his name – he pounded out Broadway hits, folk favorites and church songs.
I Googled some of the songs he taught us for our annual spring concerts and sang them, reminded of his dedication to us – an unruly collection of modestly talented adolescents sent from home for a couple of hours each week to give parents a break.
I loved to sing as a child and as I discovered this summer, I do as an adult too.
My sister’s place
“The past and my childhood again are befro me, the ash grove, the ash grove, how gently it calls.”
That song from my days with Mr. Pounder always reminds me of my big sister, Lissy. She and I were inseparable as kids. We shared a bed; and our lives continue to be intertwined, particularly through long rambling phone conversations that range from the minutiae of our day to global politics and family matters.
I needed to hang out with Lissy this summer. So I packed the car and the tent and headed to her farm. She’s taken up the fiddle, a remnant from our musical childhood when we’d practise for 45 minutes a day under our mother’s strict guidance.
Lissy reminds me of how profound the bonds of family and sisterhood are and how they grow ever deeper and stronger over time. Because she has been in my life since day 1, she also reminds me that life is a continuum. Everything changes, as do we. For better or worse – this too shall pass.
Summer refuge on high
From strolls through my childhood with my sister in the parkland of Alberta, I continued my pursuit of inner reflection in the thin atmosphere of the Rocky Mountain alpine.
Sky and rock; fir trees and wildflowers; mountain goats and otters. That’s the way it was on high this summer at Durrand Glacier Chalet in the Selkirk mountain range.
Full-on freedom in the wilderness is impossible while lurking about among predators. It’s their territory, after all. SME proprietors, Nicoline and Rudi, have claimed their own territory on their 90-square-kilometre tenure of Selkirk Mountain Experience. They know what wildlife is hunting in their back yard. And that’s about zero.
In the absence of predators, like the mountain goats that followed us as we hiked, I frolicked, scrambling along the rocky shores of eager streams as they rushed headlong down steep mountainsides. I followed them into yet-undiscovered pastoral meadows; sometimes I stopped to feel the spray of a waterfall as it tumbled from the cliff.
This is a selfie.
Shapeshifting, I stripped naked and otter-like, swam in the mountain lakes, eyes skimming the surface of the water. I rolled over on my back to see the mountains surrounding me as I drifted in the cool pond.
Summer days so close to the sky have a way of invigorating the mind and refreshing one’s purpose.
The feral child bids adieu
The empty daytimer and the wide open hours that tantalized me with their potential in June have now been filled. With the cold slap of an early snowfall, I look in the mirror and greet a more groomed reflection. I’m wearing my amulet, my earrings, my ring. I have a hair appointment this week. Work trickles in.
My self-imposed hiatus, my summer of the feral child nurtured me and prepared me for autumn. It led me down streets long ago crossed and forgotten; and it showed me that the essence of my life has always sustained me – it’s only the scenery that changes. By living as that quintessential being – I can continue to be bold, even with the inevitable setbacks that litter my life.
I’m ready to roll in the fallen leaves of my garden. I will put on a sweater so I’m warm to all the new that I will welcome.