Monday, January 21, 2008

What if we are never, ever really gone?

It’s been hard to settle into writing something for this blog in past weeks. Every time I sit down to cobble some words to the page, they seem trite and superficial. How do you confine great, empty feelings of loss into mere words?

New Brunswick has been robbed of much of its future in recent months. Car accidents have stolen nineteen young people…gone with the passing of a single breath.

Last summer, Harrison Trimble High School lost five teens – one young girl in July; four boys in a single car crash in September. They were just teenagers doing what teens do. Having fun.

In October four more teens from Kent County. Gone.

Days before Christmas, my own Albert County lost three young men – Shaun Williamson, Dana Butland and Kris Irving - when their car left the road and flipped into Shepody Bay.

Then this past week, images of the Boys in Red from Bathurst - Codey Branch, Daniel Hains, Nick Quinn, Nick Kelly, Javier Acevedo, Justin Cormier, Nathan Cleland and teacher, Beth Lord - have filled our newspapers, TV screens and our hearts.

I delivered a eulogy at the funeral of a dear friend last week - an elderly man who drifted quietly away after a long, well-lived life, leaving each of us with special memories. Part of it included this quote from Carl Frederick Beuchner, which is, perhaps more appropriate than any words I can find within my own heart:

"When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are.

"It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me.

"It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.

"For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost. When I'm feeling most ghost-like, it is your remembering me that helps remind me that I actually exist. When I'm feeling sad, it's my consolation. When I'm feeling happy, it's part of why I feel that way."

Yesterday, I stood outside in a gentle snowfall and caught several large snowflakes on my bare hand. I had just a moment to appreciate the unique fragility of each one before they were gone...and I was left with a single drop of water in my palm. Just snowflakes in another form. I touched my lips to the water.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

What if we never had snow?

“Are your roads snow-packed?” my cousin (from the city) asked. She wasn’t asking for safety reasons, but for something a little closer to the heart. She continued, “The other night, I walked home from a neighbours as it was snowing. It was so beautiful, soft snow glinting under the streetlights and the roads all white. It brought back the memories of my childhood, when they didn’t use salt to clear the roads.”

Her comment brought back my own memories. Living in a rural area, I’ve become accustomed to white roads and clear stars in the night sky – they are a fact of life down here. I smiled at her words, because there is something about snow-packed roads and the winter landscape that brings out the child in me as well. I still love to fall on my back in a pristine drift to make snow angels, and then just lie there watching the world from this angle, until the coldness seeps through my clothes.

On Sunday, she brought her four-year old daughter down and we joined a gang of other children tobogganing at the golf course, wailing and whining down the hills on crazy carpets like forty years hadn’t passed since the last time we’d done this. Pure joy.

The past two winters have been barren, which makes for good walking and hiking, but I’ve really missed the snow. However, during the past week or so, we’ve been socked in by no less than four snowstorms bringing 131 cm of wonderful white fluff. While snow removal can certainly be tiresome , I am thrilled with mountainous snowbanks that call to mind my childhood and a fresh, white winter, wide open to possibilities.

Monday, my husband and I donned our back country trekking skis and skied right down the road to the woods trails, where we followed a single track made earlier in the morning from a lone snowshoer.

The forest, laden with great marshmallow pillows, was serene and quiet, yet the creeks still bubbled clear. Our snow came early and thick this year, so the creeks have remained open in spite of some bitterly cold temperatures. Sometimes we were up to our knees in snow, ploughing through and laughing as the dog bounded through the drifts like a rabbit, stopping every 20 feet or so to chew the snow from her paws.

It was a good day.

I think if I never had snow, I might get old much faster.