First thing this morning Laurie and I swam out to the little island and back, then sat in the sun with a pot of tea, and wild blueberry muffins, and poetry.
Just part of my day, but important to me for many reasons.
It was dark when I rose; it would have been easy to stay warm in bed instead of making muffins. But baking is one of the ways I (try to) show love, and today, especially, I wanted to remind myself (and the universe) that “love” is a verb as well as a noun.
I have always been extraordinarily lucky. I am shy but have managed to surround myself with the most extraordinarily wonderful friends for my entire life. My four best friends childhood friends are still my four best friends (and our childhood was many years ago!) - but that’s a story for another day. This friend, Laurie, is a new friend, and to make a friend in middle-age is such a great joy.
We first met at the University of Ottawa at the Alice Munro Symposium held in 2014. I mentioned my connection to her northeastern Ontario city, but it took all my bravery to network with her as an academic. A few years later, I moved back to Canada, to that same city, and our paths crossed at a monthly evening poetry reading series. She contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in a volunteer position with the series, but by that time my husband had started sundowning, and I wasn’t able to accept her offer. We began a semi-regular email correspondence. She put my name forward for a job at the university, where she is a professor.
Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, her husband died.
When she invited me to lunch some months later, she said she wanted her world to expand, not contract. We had lunch, several times. We walked her dog, often. We talked about books we’d read. We started attending a course about living with grief. And then Covid arrived, and all our travel plans changed, and somehow, magically, we created a new-to-us morning routine. Some days I go to her end of town, and we walk her dog through the woods, frequently seeing deer en route. We’ve watched the summer come and go through wildflowers. Other days she comes to my end of town and the three of us swim to the little island, then sit on my deck with tea and muffins (well, her dog isn’t offered tea or food). In the woods, the lake, and on my deck, it has been easy to stay six feet apart, keeping each other, and each other’s loved ones, and ourselves, and complete strangers, safe.
Today marked the first anniversary of her husband’s death. Laurie chose to start the day with “our” swim, which is the only reason I endured the cold water. After we swam I read one of her poems, and one of her husband’s poems. We watched the light on the water, and a small group of mergansers feeding in the shallows, and listened to a pair of seagulls calling to each other off in the distance.
grace by Laurie Kruk McCulloch
Epilogue by Ian McCulloch