When I was back home visiting my folks over the Christmas holidays, I had the chance to sit down with Steve, an old buddy of mine, and catch up over a few drinks, during which he reminded me that our 10-year high school reunion was coming up this May. After hearing this, my mind formed three thoughts in rapid succession: (1) I'm getting old (2) has it really been 10 years? and (3) I'm not sure I want to go to my high school reunion.
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada (2003). Although I went to university in neighbouring New Brunswick, having the opportunity to be in Nova Scotia - and, therefore, Atlantic Canada - in 2003 after a three-year hiatus brought back a lot of memories. I took this photo of the lighthouse at Peggy's Cove on a rainy and blustery July afternoon with my Olympus Stylus 35mm. Interesting factoid: the Peggy's Cove post office is inside the lighthouse!
Surely, human memory is underrated in its capacity to hold vast quantities of information on past occurences, events, and incidents. But human memory is also a bit funny in that easily accessing much of what's stored up there can often be a difficult proposition and, by no means, an on-demand operation. Even funnier is how some old memories thought to have been long forgotten are triggered by something seemingly and completely unrelated.
So, that in mind, I think it's funny what I'm remembering right now: a book they made us read in English class, when I was in my senior year of high school. Namely, The Second Season of Jonas MacPherson, by Lesley Choyce. Good book, from what I can recall, but also a bit of sad book. Set in Nova Scotia (which is one of Canada's Atlantic provinces, for those of you readers out there who aren't from my country), the hero of the story is Jonas MacPherson, an old, lonely, recluse of a man who's mourning the recent death of his beloved wife while simultaneously struggling against the impending day of his own death. And in the twilight of his days, there are memories and flashbacks of his life. Quite a few of them, in fact, each representing a chapter in the novel. And for whatever reason, tonight, one of those chapters has been sticking out in my mind.
The chapter goes, more or less, something like this: imagine a gorgeous fall, Nova Scotia morning where the sun is shining but the air is crisp (or, if you're an American, think New England in October). Picture a teenaged Jonas hiking along the endless, rocky Atlantic shoreline. He hikes for miles and miles, further than he's ever gone before, crossing numerous creeks and streams that are emptying out into the sea. Then, on a whim, he decides to follow one of these creeks upstream into the woods.
Now picture a canopy of red, orange and golden maple trees lining both sides of the salmon-filled, fast-flowing creek. Jonas, filled with a sense of adventure, is overjoyed at the propsect of trekking through untouched nature. Something compels him to hike toward the source of creek, so he does. Deeper and deeper into the woods he goes until he finally arrives at the source, a bubbling brook. He stops for a moment, takes a look around and decides to dip his hands into water to get a quick drink before he turns the other direction to head back home. Except when he tries to do this, he slips on a slippery, moss-covered rock, bangs his forehead and is knocked out cold.
It must be hours later when he finally awakens. Standing over him is a beautiful girl who's dressed in rags - but even still, she's the most beautiful girl that he has ever seen. She has a look of pity, concern and compassion on her face. Without saying anything, she helps Jonas up and leads him by the hand, away from the creek. Jonas, still dazed and confused, follows without protest, as if this were all a dream.
They stop when they arrive at a dilapidated, ramshackle, log cabin. Silently, the girl takes him inside and sits him down on a tree stump on the dirt floor. Without a word, she dampens a cloth and begins cleaning the cut on Jonas' forehead. By now, some of Jonas' coherence is coming back and he starts to put a few facts together ... the rundown log cabin ... the girl's shoddy clothes ... the fact that the girl doesn't speak and appears to be deaf. All of a sudden, Jonas has simultaneous emotions of wanting to help her and feeling badly at how he's inconvenienced her with his clumsiness. So he blurts out something to extent of, "I'm sorry - I'm so sorry."
The girl reads his lips and takes offense. Immediately the look of compassion on her face turns to one of anger, then rage. She throws him out of her cabin, hitting him all the while, and furiously motions toward the creek, gesturing for him to leave, to get out of her part of the woods. Shocked and dismayed, Jonas obeys, follows the creek downstream back to sea, and goes home.
After thinking about the girl all winter, early the next spring Jonas once again hikes far along the shoreline, looking for the creek he had followed upstream the previous fall. He doesn't find it. The next year, he looks again. Once more, no luck. Then, finally, the year after that, he follows a salmon-filled creek lined with maples on both sides and, after a considerable hike, rediscovers the familiar cabin. Except now it's been completely abandoned, and any trace of the girl who presumably once lived there, is gone.
In this case, lightning doesn't strike twice.
Tonight, this is what I remember of a book I only read once 10 years ago. How accurate a depiction I just gave depends on of how well my memory recorded it - and if I were to guess, it probably wasn't all that accurate. But what I do know is that when I was reading the book at the time, I remember thinking to myself that if I had been in Jonas' shoes and had hiked up along that creek and met that beautiful girl, I wouldn't have fucked things up by saying something stupid like "I'm sorry."
Little did I know at the time that less than a year later, I would choose to leave the comforts of home to go to university three time zones away, clear across the country in Atlantic Canada. Funny thing, by the time I got there I had forgotten about the book and never once during my four years on the East Coast did I think of The Second Season of Jonas MacPherson. Consequently, I never did hike up a salmon-filled stream in the middle of the maple forest only to hit my head on a rock and meet a gorgeous deaf girl.
Well, at least not that I remember.
So there you have it, in my most crap-tacular post yet, that's about all I have to say tonight. Maybe there's a lesson to be learned here someplace or a moral to this story, but at this hour in my sleep-deprived state, I'm in no condition to think of it.
Before I sign off, I just have one last thought: I'm not sure I want to go to my high school reunion.