The long nights are back. Ice is forming on the brook. We’ve had snow, and expect more tonight. The brown, white and black world comes round again.
Three seasons have passed since New Brunswick declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus and we went into lockdown. Since then, I’ve had to focus more on the here and now, on what is close.
I want to share some stories and pictures of these seasons.
With the good fortune of having gardened here for fifty years, Peter and I worked hard on producing food. Instead of travelling, we walked our own land and the rugged beaches of the Bay of Fundy, only a half hour away. With the Atlantic bubble intact, we drove our pick-up truck camper to the furthermost tip of Cape Breton.
I began photographing for a new book I’m working on with horticulturist Bob Osborne, Hardy Apples, due from Firefly next year.
Over the summer, I finished editing my new novel, The Sister’s Tale, and am now in the final stages of tweaking before it goes into production—as the editor of my first novel, The Hatbox Letters, Diane Martin said, it’s like adjusting a child’s clothing on the first day of school, pats and tugs just before pushing them out the door.
Here we go, then—spring, summer and fall 2020.
Daffodils, rhubarb, fiddleheads and asparagus emerged from their cold sleep.
The chicken’s fortress came out of the barn and took up its summer quarters. The hens got busy. Or not.
The vegetables began their astonishing growth.
My mother’s 97th birthday was on June 10, and just as she’d planned, even in the midst of a pandemic, her beautiful memoir was published that same week.
Oddly, it was a summer like no other. The air seemed cleaner. On the rare occasions that a jet flew overhead, we stopped to point. There seemed to be more birds—had their migratory journey been easier? Butterflies, many swallows, wildflowers, perennials—lusher, more beautiful. But the guest room bed remained empty. There were no summer parties. And small disasters: the ruby-throated hummingbirds had a territorial fight to the death.
The climate is definitely changing.
Day after day, the sun rose over the forest, sparkling in spider webs, spreading heat over the land
until we worried about drought and began watering the garden. Crops suffered, particularly hay. We managed to get a year’s worth of strawberries at our favourite U-pick.
It was warm even on the shores of the Bay of Fundy. Cows sought cool breezes on the clifftops.
My editor at Knopf Canada, Craig Pyette, sent me edits of my novel, The Sister’s Tale, and I worked on them all summer, both indoors and out.
High school, for one grandaughter, had been shut down since March. And for the other, Mount Allison University also closed early. We were blessed with their presence and made rituals to look forward to: supper and a movie every Saturday.
Here are some of the photographs I made for Hardy Apples: stay tuned!
The gardens yielded a remarkable harvest. Gardeners across the region remarked on the effects of heat and irrigation.
In September, we travelled to Cape Breton. There were few vehicles on the roads. The little grocery stores and gift shops were 80-90% down in business, their owners eager to chat. Many of the campgrounds had already closed for the season. We made it all the way out to Meat Cove, where we felt as if we’d landed on a different planet.
We returned home to a beautiful book about Peter’s work, edited by John Leroux. It was to accompany a major retrospective, which was slated for the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in October. The show was postponed due to the pandemic, but the book is available from Goose Lane Editions and other sellers.
The autumn colour seemed more spectacular than usual. But we had so much time to contemplate it.
So here we are, in grey November, back in a one-household bubble, but knowing more about how to navigate our circumstances. And with vaccines in sight.
I am very excited to know that I’ll be sharing a new novel with readers in May. It has a beautiful interior design, and soon I’ll be able to share the cover. As I let ideas foment about my next novel, I’m writing a memoir about my grandparents. I’m knitting Christmas presents. And soon I’ll begin basket making again.
So the lovely seasons have passed on, bearing their miraculous creations: feather, leaf and cloud, green shoots cracking from seed, tendril becoming stalk, fruit blooming from dry bud. Now, in the short dark days, the emotionless spin of the planet continues, and I feel like a mole, gone to ground.
I miss family and friends, but know that you all do, too. I cling to hope and forbid fear, although it breaches the ramparts.
I think of knitters who live north of the Arctic circle, where the sun doesn’t rise for months. How their woolens are bright and complex, tiny stitches linked together, moving them towards the rise of the light.
May it return soon, in many guises.
With warmest best wishes,