Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

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Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Tipping and tailing snowpeas for a stirfry, remembering my father.

Peas were one of the earliest-ripening crops in my father’s vast garden which took up most of the backyard, and they were delicious, as long as you didn’t let them overripen and become tough and starchy. In order to open the pod easily to get at the little green pearls of goodness inside, he instructed me to grasp the tail end and pull back, effectively removing the “zipper” along the top edge of the pod. It then opened easily with a little pressure from the thumbs.

He also taught me how to remove the inner membrane from the pod, rendering it edible. It was sweet and crunchy, and a just reward for the tricky job of peeling back that translucent layer of cellulose. Little things, like preparing snowpeas for a stirfry, bring back these memories of the man now dead four years who played such an important rôle in the formation of who I am today. He taught me how to husk corn fresh from the yard; how to crush grapes to make wine; how to save tomato seeds for next year’s crop; and how to wear a can on a string around my neck to free up my hands when harvesting raspberries.

So many memories of my father are connected to the garden, perhaps because he was truly happy there among his plants which responded to his loving care, which did not answer back or question him, which unconditionally gave of themselves without asking anything in return. He was not comfortable around people unless he was the centre of attention, telling jokes or giving lectures. He was not comfortable around us, his family.

Growing up, I had feelings of ambivalence at best toward this parent. He was a strict disciplinarian, possibly making up for an inferiority complex fed by his own childhood emotional baggage. He could not stand to be contradicted, and so offered his opinions hardly at all. I cannot remember having deep philosophical discussions with him, or any discussions at all that did not somehow centre around the things that interested him: his garden, the Castle organ, the Canadian Shield.

And how has this all affected me? I love growing things, although I am not as conscientious about my own garden as he was about his. I am not trying to escape though, as he was. I love geology: rocks, caves, mountains, the stories written thereon that outlast us. It is the sense of age and timelessness that awes me. I do not know what awed my father. He never said.


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