Sumer is Icumen in
It certainly is. We’re as dry as a bone here on this land. Unwatered patches of grass are crunchy. All my roses! So sad! Everything’s just limping along and I’m beginning to feel the same way. We’ve got it backwards. Why should we go away in the winter? In winter the well is filled up, we can bathe with abandon, like Romans, wash clothes, the walls, everything. Just keep the water trickling if we feel like it, for the pure joy of hearing it.
This, on the other hand, this glorious summer, is beginning to feel like hard going. We’re on the second well and the water is murky and stains the clothes. It’s not doing wonders for my hair, either. It feels like there’s grit in it. Because there is.
So, now that we all agree on the hardships of this wonderful hot summer…I’m always complaining every summer that it doesn’t get hot enough in this part of the world, or if it does, not for long. Some places get warm summer nights. Nights where if you barbeque you don’t have to throw on a sweater at 7.30. Well, those nights are here now. I just wasn’t taking water into consideration…
I recently bumped into an old friend on the bus to Horseshoe Bay, though Melanie’s not really a friend, she’s an acquaintance. We’ve only met a handful of times over the past forty years. The affection I feel for her is out of all proportion to our time spent together. I met her when I had just got married and before I had children, so she’s a part of my long ago past and the girl I was, and that gives her a special place in my heart.
I was overjoyed to see her because I had been working myself up to emailing her. She had recently written a short story that I had stumbled on in a collection of women’s travel stories. Her story was about revisiting an old lover in Nepal after forty years. It was wonderfully written. So poignant! The best piece in the story collection, and I had wanted to tell her this. Now here she was in the flesh! So I told her, and we caught up on each other’s lives.
We met originally at a party in Vancouver’s Chinatown in a house that’s long since been torn down. It was a relic from about 1890. There was a beautiful old tile and carved-wood mantel piece in the living room that I kept examining all night. I must have been intoxicated. The room was blue with smoke. People were sitting all over the floor and on every available chair arm. Melanie spoke with a cultured London accent. (But not too posh.) She was slim, with henna-red curly hair and the whole hippie costume. Her eyes, and mine, were ringed with kohl and I took her to be older than me. I was 21 and she was about 35.
I had been to Kathmandu recently and she had lived there for several years with her restaurant-owning Japanese husband and their little girl. She had been in the vanguard of western travelers to the region, working at the British Embassy in about 1965. The Nepalese royal family had attended her wedding. What cache!
She was exactly the kind of scintillating person that I assumed I would be spending my days with, now that I was an adult. I was out classed and awe-struck. And we both had Japanese husbands! (Kung Fu and everything Japanese was very popular at the time. It was a different world. Believe me, they were the best accessories we could have had.)
And then we didn’t see each other for about ten years. Then we met in Kitsilano, on the sidewalk on a rainy day, and spoke for a few minutes. And that’s the way it’s been all these years. I’ve raised my children on the fringes of middle-class life and she’s continued to live her gadfly, bohemian existence, without a care for polite society.
She has some kind of press pass that allows her access to interview people and over the past several years she has interviewed several famous people, people I would have liked to interview. (We have similar tastes. Obviously.)
Pico Iyer, the travel writer, said that the language barrier with his Japanese wife provided a layer of mystery. (And I knew just what he meant.)
Jane Fonda apparently looked fantastic in the flesh, at 77! (It’s monstrous really, though. Isn’t it?) And she was really friendly. She held up a “Stop Shell” sign as she was photographed.
Toller Cranston was a friend of hers and she ate many meals at his colourful, eccentrically decorated house in San Miguel D’Allende.
It was a vicarious thrill to hear about all these adventures. She’s never stopped having them, all these forty years. Now that we’ve re-established contact I hope we can visit each other on our respective islands. Come to think of it, we’re both redheads now and I’ve come full circle with long skirts and dresses. Melanie never stopped wearing them.
Anyway, both of us, still alive! Enjoy this long, hot summer and pray for rain!