Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book Review ... Day 16

I received your latest missive through the mail last evening. It started off, "A week now into my retirement ..." and I want to note how happy I am for you, even though your absence is our team's great loss.

You are one of the veterans, a scholar and a gentle man. You are the ideal bookseller because you love books and you actually read what you sold. 

You read so much more, too: history, politics, reference, essay, short story, novel. You have been kind enough to send me amuses bouches, if you will, of what you feasted on, whetting my appetite for more from the wide-ranging buffet of your interests.

When we were at a conference in St Catherine's you showed me the historic Shaw Festival offices, and told me about the productions you and Irma were hoping to see.

For my birthday you sent me a tome that could not help but delight me: The Glamour of Grammar ...

I was thrilled that it was I who got to introduce you to Mary Oliver.

No wonder, then, I was so gratified when you said you were going to pay a visit to the TH during the week late in July that you were on your last voyage across the Prairies for Carswell. In one masterful stroke you combined two of my great delights: whiling away a convivial hour or two with a dear friend and introducing someone to the magic of the TH.

And what a splendid evening it was!

After dinner we strolled down Main Street and in your elegant, understated way you revealed to me the beauty of living in a place like Trois Lumps. I might add that there is no doubt of what kind of salesman you are - you even persuaded me to let you take my picture in the gently fading light.

It was you who, borrowing from Shakespeare's Henry V, christened the academic team "We few, we happy few, we happy band of brothers" "- and sister!" you would add, twinkling. With your departure our band seems somehow disbanded, somewhat inconclusive, We look forward to raising a china cup filled with fragrant tea with you at the next April conference when we will be able to send you off in a manner that befits you.

Your great passion, of course, is sailing. I always enjoy hearing stories of your Irenes and I will always look back fondly on the Carswell trip to St Lucia where you kindly took my sister and me out on your borrowed craft and presented us with the gift of the sun, the breeze, the salty drops spattering our faces either from within or without on that year which held not much happiness for us as we adjusted to life without Mum.

This year has not been one of unmixed joy for you; but I see how you work with the winds, some gale force, that would seek to throw your vessel off course. Your courage and consistency have not gone unnoticed and I wish and pray for you smooth sailing in the very near future.

In closing your letter you speculated that I would be reading it in one of the comfy chairs that nestle into corners in the TH; you were right, as you are so many times. I am much comforted over the thought of connecting with you still over a word, a turn of phrase, a passage.

But today Mary gets the last word:


I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It's like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
       full of moonlight.

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Karyn, for telling us of a person who has chosen the way less travelled, "a better way" as St Paul would say, and for reminding us that there's more to life than empty shell; there's a world of words, care, learning, adventure and empathy. These make a lasting story even when the shell is cracked.

    And in the end, Karyn, you show us the essence of living the grand tale: you do what Mary Oliver wrote of. You notice, embrace, love, and gather together shells and selves, and skillfully, by faith, transform the misery and marvel of life into a miracle of hope! And you make us believe it especially happens in trois lumps! Well, at least in the TH.


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