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

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Fishing with my Father

Gorse bushes. I do not know what they are. They figure in English literature, they decorate the countryside, and in my mind’s eye I see a rounded shrub with prickles, although I have no idea of the leaf size or shape, and if the fruit it bears is a berry or a plum.

My father took us fishing when we were small on those occasions when the conservation area stocked the river and opened its doors to avid amateurs. We never caught anything, and my father was vigilant about hooks and barbs. He carried wire cutters with him to snip the fish hook should it enter an unwary child’s finger and emerge from torn flesh. I am amazed that a man who did not believe in spending money frivolously would buy fishing rods, reels and line with an array of hooks and weights. Even now the word “lead” conjures up the little lead weights hanging with the lures from the colourful cork floats.

Some fishermen were successful on these outings. I remember seeing people with trout hanging together in a bunch like grapes, as in the painting of the fisherman found in the ruins at Akrotiri. My father would have loved to see those ancient frescoes, but he would not travel, either because he feared it or because he was too cheap to spend the money.

He was clever at many things, resourceful so that he could do his own repairs and avoid the costs of a third party. Traveling through Ontario with him and my mother once, we experienced a flat tire, and as the two of them put on the spare I wandered through a patch of wild raspberry bushes, eating my fill. The warning from my father that we were in rattlesnake country did not diminish my enjoyment and no rattlesnake made its appearance during my impromptu lunch, but my father revealed how he carried a sharp razor blade in his wallet to slash an X above the site of a snake bite and suck out the poison from the wound.

My father has been gone for over four years, and we had very little to say to each other when he was alive. Yet I find myself missing him when I experience something that I know he would have enjoyed hearing about. My sister-in-law told me recently how she once asked him why he didn’t go to see the places and things that most interested him, and he answered that the knowledge itself that these things existed was enough for him. I can see how that was true. It describes a lack of curiosity but a confidence in existence in general. He did not need to rush around the world, making sure that the wonders travelers spoke about were as they described them. For him the descriptions in themselves were enough, and he didn’t feel the need to have a first-hand experience. So now when I travel and see geological wonders or man-made monuments, I want to share my experiences with him, to describe something he will never see. But I cannot, and the story remains untold. It becomes a gorse bush, an unidentified shrub known only by its name, or it disappears down the stream of time like the lucky trout who escaped our hooks and nets on those long-ago fishing trips.


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