There is something magical about the very moments when the darkest part of night begins that unstoppable slide into dawn.
Sitting on the floor beside the window in my bedroom, I watched it all, wrapped in warm chocolate coloured chenille throw. The softness of the chenille felt comforting to me, like a good hug, and as the nearly imperceptible changes began to move the night sky outside, I pulled it tighter around my shoulders.
I couldn’t sleep last night at all, my mind as full of thoughts as it were. After tossing and turning for what seemed like an hour in the bed, I got up to look out the window and was surprised to see the most remarkably bright stars for this urban area. And so, as I would when I was a child, I grabbed the throw, rolled up the blinds and sat to enjoy the night outside my window. I’ve always had a fascination with space, often dreaming as a child of travelling far away, exploring new galaxies and discovering new planets and new civilizations. Stuck here on Earth, I had to satisfy that deep longing by watching Star Trek,reading the Rendezvous with Rama series ,and laying outside in the snowbanks at night in Prince George, in awe of the northern lights dancing and embracing the sky above.
Yes, I suppose you could say I’ve been a geek since birth. Only rarely in my life have I found another person to indulge this passion with. Once, as a very young woman, I did have a friend who loved the stars as much as I did. We would often drive out into the country, park in a field or open area high on a hill, and then lay back on the hood of the car to drink a couple of beers and watch the heavens. We would count satellites, find the constellations, and sometimes have deep philosophical conversations about the origins of life and everything that has happened since. We spend many nights that way over one summer, driving back home through the bush only after the rosy glow of dawn revealed Venus in the morning sky.
Of course, it all came to an end one night when I pointed out a particularly spectacular pulsating star and he suddenly turned to me with big puppy-dog eyes and revealed his true thoughts actually revolved around romance, not stars…
I guess there were many ways I could have responded, but I was young and unfortunately what came out of my mouth was less than sensitive : “Oh geez, gross!!! You’re like my brother!!”
The innocence and beauty of youth. I still feel bad for how I responded, some 20 odd years later!! It was a lesson for me, and for him, of that I am sure, and that is what it is all about. Life is a process, one that never ends until we do, and even that ending will become a part of someone else’s process of learning.
Earlier last night, I watched The Last Lecture – again – likely the 15th time for me, and this time I watched the shorter, reprised version, with no less impact. It did, as usual, put some perspective back into my life, but it also made me really think about how important it is to appreciate the journey every step of the way.
Having been through not the easiest life, most of the things I value are intangible, meaning you can’t hold them in your hand, or see them, but they are there, nonetheless. Honesty is above all, for me.
I love my kids with every fiber of my being. Each one of them has taught me more about living, love, patience and forgiveness than I could have ever learned on my own.
I have a few great friends, and several more good ones. I don’t need much as long as I have all of that. Simple really, but I certainly didn’t make it through the tough times without a few angels dropping in now and then. And trust me, I do believe in angels, but if you are looking for some fluffy white wings, I can guarantee you that isn’t going to happen.
And there have been others. Big Jim was a man who lived next door to me for a while when I was with my first husband. He was a big man, full white beard and a belly to rival Santa’s as well as a reputation for being a hard ass. We used to walk past each other like two porcupines, wary as I was of his wrath, and he of mine should he open his mouth and make some stupid,sexist remark as he was known to do. We never did warm up to each other while we lived side by side, but it was only when we moved that I saw another side of Jim.
I was packing up the back yard items, and he called over my son and asked if it was ok if he gave him something. My son was only young at the time, but already his affinity for woodworking and design was evident. Jim gave him a work bench with grips, so he could build and carve safely. I was surprised and wondered what all the change of heart was about. Wandering over to his back yard, I thanked him for that, because my son was clearly overjoyed with his new gift. Jim turned away and muttered something, then gestured to me to come into his shed.
I did so, not without a fair amount of trepidation, not knowing what was in there, or what awaited me. Jim rooted around in some musty old boxes, took some items off a high shelf and finally pulled down a dirty old nasty package. He blew the dust and cobwebs off of it, opened it up and took out an item that took my breath away.
It was a stunning, blue glass Japanese fishing float. Having lived in Steveston for years among the fishermen, I knew what it was immediately.
Jim took my hand, put the float into my palm, and folded both his hand around mine. He leaned over and looked me in the eyes, his blue ones sparkling and fierce with emotion.
“I’ve heard what it’s like for you through the wall sometimes. I know what he does. ”
Caught completely off guard, my insides clenched and I looked down as I tried to draw my hand away from his… but he held fast to my palms and that float.
“This is a very old Japanese fishing float that I found off the coast of Prince Rupert when I was a young guy fishing. I’m told it’s very valuable, so I held onto it all these years. But I got to thinking about that float when I heard your husband knocking you around and thought it might do you some good.”
Tears welled silently in my eyes, and dripped down onto our hands, seemingly in slow motion, but he wasn’t done.
“I’m pretty sure it’s been knocked around a bit too, you can see the wear here and there, yet it made it all the way across that huge ocean. And that’s the point, ya see? It made it through the roughest storms, it made it on the shores here and there and it’s pretty damn hard to break. That’s the point. It survived a journey harder and longer than one would think possible and it’s still just as pretty as the day it was blown. And it’s yours now. Get it?”
I did get it, and I hugged him hard then, standing in the dirty old shed with the float in my hand. We didn’t really talk again much before we moved, but I hid that float to keep it safe and right now I have it perched on a bowl of shells on the mantle. The kids dropped it once and it’s survived several moves unscathed.
It’s a remarkable thing, that float. It just seems that it can’t be broken. And neither can I.