The sea ice is breaking up along the shore. This last incarnation of winter is a noisy affair with ice cakes cracking, dripping and splashing, and waves lapping thirstily at frosty bobbing triangles and polygons. Today the scene is idyllic; tomorrow a high tide and strong north wind might whisk all this beauty away.
Spring breakup up can be a metaphor for many events: new life, hope, the beginning of spring, really anything at all. This year I see it as the end of an era. With the recent death of my brother the ice sheet has cracked for a final time and our family’s shared memories and experiences, broken into fragments, are slowly floating out to sea. “Come back!” I cry. “Let me piece you together one last time!” But this cannot be.
Thus I recently found myself flying out West to bid farewell to Sam, my best childhood friend. “You were always Mom’s favourite,” I teased him the last time we talked. He laughed. “Are you kidding? You were!” We knew that all four of us children were our parents’ favourites.
Now in case you’re thinking of flying somewhere, let not your hearts be troubled. Flying is almost exactly like it used to be, only with masks. You get on a plane, spend several hours snacking, sipping and watching movies you’d have never thought of watching (like Boss Baby), and then you arrive somewhere else. All the way across the country our flight path followed Canada’s waterways: the meandering Mirimichi and St. John rivers; the mighty St. Lawrence; the canals and locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway; the black and white lakes, marshes and streams of the Canadian Shield; the Assiniboine, Qu’Appelle and South Saskatchewan rivers draining the prairies into Hudson’s Bay; and finally the Bow and Elbow rivers twisting and turning through Calgary.
Alberta was cold and blustery with lots of snow, just like home, and I was glad I brought my wind pants. My brother was being cared for at a hospice overlooking the Bow River Valley, so it naturally followed that my nephew and I would take a break and clamber down the riverbank to stroll along the walking paths. Sometimes we walked in silence, other times we stopped on a pedestrian bridge to watch mallard and merganser ducks happily bobbing in backwaters of the rushing river. “The ice is breaking up,” observed my nephew. “A good sign. Spring is coming.”
That seems a lifetime ago. Now back home in the Cove I notice that spring is coming here too. Weddings are being planned, babies being born— all good signs. Soon the Canada geese will honk their arrival, a blue heron will take up its one-legged vigil in the stream, and we’ll feel the warm south wind caressing our island.
I guess it’s time to dig out the spring jackets, prune the plum trees, flip the mulch off the garlic, oil the bike chains, look ahead… but first things first. Let’s go down to the shore and admire the ice cakes before they all float out to sea.