Tuesday, June 11, 2013
In the spirit of one of my favourite books by Julia Glass, here’s the first in a series of June memoirs.
Three years ago I was still in Kingston. Earlier that spring, the love of my life bought a little piece of the wooded Canadian Shield paradise that is South Frontenac County, and suddenly our weekends together shifted. There was work to be done, ground to clear, boxes to pack. He was going to live that first summer in a trailer, if he could get the goddamned excavator to come the hell out to his property line and dig up the fucking road (I am paraphrasing). For some reason every goddamned excavator in the County was overbooked that spring, and as the end of his lease at the old lake house wound down, things got a little bit hairy. He was not exactly a patient man, prone to panic and worry (two peas in that particular pod is a recipe for disaster; I see that now). It was an uncertain time. Every night I'd fall asleep praying that the goddamned excavator would arrive the next morning. He had his buddies coming the first weekend in June to help haul the trailer up the hill, and there was no way that would ever work without a road to haul it up.
That first Friday of the month, I took the day off work. I woke up to my phone ringing (when you are in love with a non-technologically-inclined hermit, you spend a lot of time talking on the phone. After years of internet dating and passive emails, I found it insanely refreshing).
"That motherfucker is here!" my one true love shouted into the phone. Obviously the goddamned excavator had risen up the ranks to motherfucker status. "I've got a fucking ROAD!" I nearly wept with joy. Small miracles come in strange places.
I drove up to his place later that afternoon and watched as two trucks and one trailer somehow caravanned up a road that was a road in the very loosest sense of the word. I did what I always seemed to do: provide moral support and CDs to listen to and ingeniously weird meals cooked over an open flame. It was nearly dark by the time the boys finally had the trailer situated. I'd been promised a trek to the lake, but it was too dark for that now. I didn't mind, though. We’d have all summer to go swimming. The trailer’s stereo only played tapes (and came, it is worth noting, with cassette copies of both the Smiths’ and the Monkees’ greatest hits), so instead we blasted our music from the truck and sat by the fire till late that Friday night.
The next morning we hiked the treacherous path from the clearing to the water, and I jumped in off the old dock. It wasn’t my first swim of the year, but it felt like it was. No one else was out on the lake and the water was still and cool and perfect. It felt like a balm after a day and night of hard labour and hard drinking. I felt the summer coming on that morning, the promise of so many more days like that one, so much more of the freedom and stillness and the quiet broken only by Gord Downie’s voice on the stereo. I felt myself come home.
I drove home to Charles Street later that afternoon, after a baking-hot trailer couch nap. Jammie and Freya arrived a few hours later. We had planned to run the Beat Beethoven race the next morning, but when Freya got out of her car and realized she’d only brought one running shoe along, we kiboshed that plan (probably not a bad idea, given our horrifying track record at that particular run, but that is a story for another day). That night we made our way out to Wolfe Island, where the Great Lake Swimmers played a fundraising concert for the Swim Drink Fish project. We crowded into an old town hall and drank sketchily-prepared vodka cranberries and took the late boat home.
Walking home from the ferry terminal, I thought to myself, how lucky am I, to have the ones I need so close by, to love a man who loves me back tenfold, to walk into the water just steps from both my front doors. I spent most of my time in Kingston falling in love with the place over and over again. No place has everything you need, but my lord, did that sweet town and the countryside around it ever come close.