View of Georgia Strait from Fred Gringell Park, Tsawwassen. Photo by Eunice Sloan (eunicesloan.ca). Used by permission.
My friend Eunice visited last week. Three nights, three-and-a-half days. We’re friends from way back, probably since four or five. We went to the same church and school in Linden, Alberta. Her family moved to Drayton Valley when we were going into Grade Nine. We wrote letters. Over the years our lives overlapped at times, then opened to gaps — because of geography and life in general. In the last two decades, we’ve re-connected again.
Some months ago, circumstances brought us together for several hours. She noted later that we’d mostly talked about the past. The reason was probably my curiosity about our childhoods because I’m doing memoir writing. Plus, in any long acquaintance, the past remains the solid, continuous reference point.
This visit, with more hours at our disposal, we added new, current reference points to our repertoire. We picked strawberries. We viewed stained glass windows at Christ Church Cathedral and the coliseum-like public library in Vancouver. We lost and found (whew!) a cell phone. We wandered sites in Tsawwassen. We discovered treasure in the Thrift Store. She sat with us through the livestream of the funeral service of my husband’s niece in Paraguay. We talked. We talked about aging.
We agreed that we quite like this stage, not least because we’re freer to pursue things we really want to do. For Eunice, it’s the capture and expression of life via her camera.
I think her photo above encapsulates the visit. I’ve become fond of blue (what choice do I have, now living near water and mountains?) but it speaks to me of long friendship too — any friendship, for that matter — which is comprised of subtle and changing layers within a dynamic whole.
I just spent several hours filling out an author questionnaire for Turnstone Press, publisher of my next novel, All That Belongs. They need information to market my book. A long string of questions. Basically, who am I, what have I done, where have I lived, who do I know?
It wasn’t my favourite assignment of the week but of course I did it. It’s among the things you do after the euphoria of a manuscript’s acceptance wears off. But it felt peculiar, vulnerable, like taking a slow 360 degree scan of one’s life, to see if anything’s still relevant. Fortunately I have an up-to-date CV I could use for my publishing history. I was also glad I could think of several places across the country where a cluster of friends and relatives might be interested in me and my book. (Glad too for a big family.)
There were questions about the work itself. A description in my words? Themes? What do I think people will like about it? (So I can’t hide behind “I hope they’ll like it”?!)
What about its inspiration? This was my answer:
I clearly remember sitting in the sun near my local library when the character of Uncle Must–a mysterious and haunted man, a kind of Desert Father, equal parts faith and fear–dropped into my head. Then, like the narrator Catherine, I had to figure out who he was and what he wanted, and who she and the other characters who soon gathered around her were and what they wanted. I was interested in the whole concept of shame as well as how the past remains with us and what we do with its legacy when we would rather turn away than embrace.
Now I’m going to reward myself with a break and go read someone else!