Thursday, June 1, 2017

I Remember Nancy M Bell

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The theme for June is "I Remember When..." which seems fitting. Springtime always makes me think of the cottage we had in Ontario in the Kawartha Lakes district. Easter weekend marked the first trip north of the season. It was often still chilly with ice on the lake, but the north country bush never failed to cast its spell over me. To this day I can still hear the crystal bell like chiming of the porous ice pack being pushed by the wind on a sunny April afternoon. Like no music I have heard before or since. Every Friday night we drove two hours from the east part of Toronto, we lived in a smaller community called West Hill. As the season progressed I could watch as week by week the soft pink-green blush of the new born leaves cloaking the rolling hills become lush and green. Barley and wheat sprouted and grew long and graceful, dancing in the wind as we passed. Slowly the fields of green turned golden as August approached. Fields of clover and alfalfa sent their sweet perfume wafting through the summer air before falling to the mower to be stored in hay mows as security against the coming winter.

Most of the happy memories of my childhood revolve around the time spent at the lake. There I met my first boyfriend and received my first kiss at the top of our drive under the maples. My heart yearns to turn back time and relive those soft velvet starlit nights, firey points of lights reflected on the sable water, the bonfire flames leaping highlighting the faces of those gathered there who still live safe in the corners of my heart. Everyone sang, it didn't matter if anyone was off key, it was the unity of the voices lifted together that was important.

I can still name all the little islands in the lake. In front of our first cottage was Blueberry Island, because of course it had tons of blueberry bushes on it, Round Island which was straight out from out small bay topped with tall spruce trees, the small Volcanic Island in Hair Pin Bay, Cat's Island with its 3 big spruce trees, Rocky Island which was more a rocky outcropping from the shore. It was a magical place for a young girl to grow up with.

My early memories even find their way into my poetry. This one is about driving in the dirt road from Norland, Ontario.
Green and Gold Days of Summer

There is a field on the Buller Road
That runs between Norland and the Miner’s Bay Road
In Haliburton County, Ontario
The small pasture sits in the cradle
Of the bend in the road where it meets
The Spar Lake Road.

There used to be a little farm house on the corner
Of the opposite side of the meeting of three roads
From the field.
On Friday and Sunday nights every weekend
In the summer, we would pass this little place

The summer sun would lie like a golden blessing
Across the rumpled grasses where they dreamed
In the slanted light of late evening
Golden dust raised by the tires of passing cars
Hung mistlike in the heavy heat of summer

The scent of crushed grass and sunshine
Came through the open windows
Along with the pungent dry smell of disturbed gravel
Magic seemed to haunt the green and gold pasture

Fairies and other fey creatures danced in the
Slanted rays of the molten setting sun
As you came around a gentle bend and
Down a small incline to where the green and gold
pasture held sway over the encroaching bush

Sometimes a family of deer would be there
Half hidden in the long verdant growth
It holds me enthralled still in memory
Now in the autumn of my years
I can still dream of the Green and Gold
Days of Summer

This one is about my Grandfather (not lake related but he taught me to be kind and to respect all life, not by telling me but by showing me by example)

Grampa P

I was young when you left us
But I remember still your quiet ways
The way you bore the scars of the Great War
That stole your health and your youth
Not to mention your brother, Joe

I have the pencil written letter on crumpled paper
From his captain telling you of his death
You never spoke of it or the war
I can still see you picking shrapnel from your cheek
As you stood at the sink shaving

You taught me by example
That all life is sacred
From you I learned to nurse the sick and wounded
Animal, plant and human
And how to catch a bee in a cloth against the window pane
Carry it to the door and let it fly free again

I was only young when you left us
But thirteen is old enough to remember you
And your ways and your lessons that weren’t meant as lessons
It was just you going about your life
You walk with me still

This one recalls the summers I worked at Rouge Hill Stables near Scarborough, Ontario and the horses I loved.

Forever Young

In my heart I am still sixteen
All grown up, at least in my own mind
My world is taken up with horses
And riding through the Rouge River valley

Though the years have travelled on
I can still name every horse in the barn
In those long ago days
I can still ride the myriad trails
In winter and in summer

I know where the river course has changed
Where the hollow tree stump
Presides over the fairy pool at the end of Mosquito Alley
Where the apple blossoms glow ghostly in the moonlight
Below Spy Glass Hill, even though the Glen Eagles Hotel
No longer perches on the ridge

In my heart I am still that young woman
With the whole world before me, holding destiny in my hands
You, who never knew me then,
See only the lines in my face and the calluses on my hands
Glance past the bright blonde hair now gone silver in the sun

Few of you will look past the limp and the cane
And recognize the spirit unchanged with the passage of the seasons
In my heart I am forever young
And so I will be forever

This one August at the lake.

August Slow
When I was a child
It always seemed that June passed
In impatient anticipation of July
July is remembered
As a jumble of memories and visions
Action filled and swift with movement
Somehow August just happened
One day the frenetic pace of driven July
Just stops
And the lovely slow swim of August begins
Hot August sun baking our bodies
Where we lay supine on the front deck of the boat
Rocked into somnolence by the lake waves
Long August nights draped in black velvet and star fire
Our bonfire blooming brilliant in the night
As we toast marshmallows and taste first love
On the rocks at Green’s Point
Silver dollar August moon turning
The glass smooth lake to ice
And topping the trees with summer snow
The delicious cool touch of deep dark water
That holds us as we float on our backs
And trace the slow circle of the constellations
Liquid silver dripping from our hands
And sluicing over our bare shoulders
While we swim in the silver and black world
Following the argent trail of moonshine
Glittering on the still surface
Our eyes full of moon light silver
And our souls on fire with peace
There is no beginning and no end to us
The water that breathes against our skin
The air that feeds our lungs
The wide black satin of the sky
The star fire and the moon light
The forest that surrounds us
The shine of quartz in the granite rocks
The sleepy presence of fish below us
Harmony and peace cycle through us
In this slow silent August moment

This is written about the lake and the times we sang by the water's edge.

Every weekend we would drive two hours
Through the Friday night sunlight
As the day faded from blue to black
North of Toronto to the lake
We spent long summer evenings fishing
Then going to the dump to look for bears
Later we would gather around the bonfire
The flames reflecting off the black lake water
Family and friends gathered in the circle of light
Setting our marshmallows afire and dousing them in the lake
The mixture of hot marshmallow and cool lake water
Sweet on the tongue
Then, someone, usually Daddy
Would start to sing and the music would echo
Across the still water; hanging in the velvet black
Soon we all joined in, the sweet voiced and the not so much
Daddy always sang Old Shep
And he always cried and so did the rest of us
Wabash Cannonball, Casey Jones, Cheating Heart
So many others that have faded from my memory
Some would say it was a simpler time
But there was nothing simple
About growing up in the Sixties
Or being a teenager in the Seventies
Flower child, hippie
I am woman, hear me roar
Mini skirts, hot pants and granny gowns
It’s cool to have sex. You’ll burn in hell if you have sex.
No, nothing was simple then
It just seems sweeter now to remember
All the faces that were part of the circle in the firelight
More than half of them are gone now
And the rest of us are old
But until we are all gone as well
The circle of firelight will hold us all
In our memories.

My goodness, they should never have gotten me started on this nostalgic bent. I better stop now before I've bored you all to death. LOL

I hope you enjoy my reminiscing. Til next month, stay well, stay happy, stay healthy.

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