Tuesday, March 19, 2019


No coat, the top down on the car, people in shorts and sitting outside on every surface. That was Monday on Gabriola. It was seventeen degrees by three pm; after record-setting cold a month ago to record-breaking heat now. It’s to continue today.
I took Jay to Nanaimo yesterday and came home to find Scott hard at work in the trees. I am thrilled with his work and its effect on my gardens and in my head—the canopy feels less oppressive now and I get much more light in my backyard. 
And it’s done. It’s over. There’ll be no more expensive projects at Pinecone Parkand no more strangers. From now on, my hands will be doing all the work here.  
I moved and extended the clothesline so that it serves as a privacy barrier between my lot and that of the incoming neighbour to my west.
Today it’s back to cleaning up the backyard. There are branch bits all over the yard due to Scott’s work. I’ll be moving my surplus soil to my beds and planting some annuals while I wait for the right time to plant my veggies. And best of all: I’ll wash my bedding today and then … and then … I’ll hang it on my fabulous new clothesline.
I got a request to say or write something for Cathy’s service, coming up in May.  
Henceforth, there will be no wearing of pink in the kingdom—especially upper outerwear and especially pink down ski jackets. Wear one of those, and you’re out of the kingdom. Cathy wore a blindingly bright pink ski jacket on most of our Spring and Autumn excursions and I will not tolerate reminders of our loss.
We loved our excursions. We even formed a club: The Wholesters. Six of us, on average, on the first Wednesday of each week—all of us retired seniors. We’d do something interesting together and have lunch. But it was my private sojourns with that pink-encased inquisitive spirit that were the best.
Yes, of course, some of our adventures were uplifting and educational. But they weren’t fun like our visits to the cat fanciers’ show in Kerrisdale Arenaand the racetrack. Cat owners … oh my God …. They’re the freakiest people you will ever meet who don’t own guns. It was kind of Waiting for Guffmanmeets Twilight Zonein the arena. Cathy and I lived on stories about that day for months.
And the racetrack—oh my God. It was like we’d slipped into a painting by Edward Hopper. Cigarettes and desperation; it felt funereal in there. The men, engrossed in their race sheets, would only look up when the bartender cranked up the sound on all the TVs when a race was starting. We were maybe fifteen people in a room built for two hundred
Cathy and I were enthralled. We ate hamburgers almost silently, taking it all in. I’d feel her elbow in my side, look at her and she’d nod towards people ink the man stirring sugar into his drink. We traded stories of things noticed all the way home on the bus.
We saw the musical ride together at the PNE and discovered we both loved men with big lances in uniform and on  horseback. We’d go to movies and exhibitions, and we’d talk and talk and talk. We were both “modestly” opinionated. 
She absolutely loved her little place by Stanley Park. We could meet at the Sylvia for drinks and walk in the park trails. We loved walking around Lost Lagoon and sometimes I’d walk and she’d wheeze around the seawall. 
We loved meeting at the Sunday farmers’ markets to shop and go for coffee afterwards. She walked east and I’d walk west on Comox and my heart would positively pound when, in the distance, I’d see the pink beacon coming toward me.
She volunteered like crazy. Ten Thousand Villages, the Writers’ and Readers’ Festival, the Jazz Festival, voter registration. She worked at the Convention Centre, went to courses at SFU all the time and attended many public lectures and demonstrations. She was a very mindful citizen. I, on the other hand, am a selfish lazy cynic, so I loved the patina of honour her company gave me.
I pine for the emails with lunch with a question mark as their title. I still hope every text message on my phone is her saying, as she often did, that she was in the hood and did I want to have a coffee. I still miss her explosive laugh that would almost … sometimes … give her whiplash. But most of all I will miss our walks.
When we walked, we talked… and laughed and we had wonderful unexpected experiences. Once, she asked me to take her on a walk through Chinatown and Strathcona that I walked frequently. I enjoyed pointing out to her and one was a lovely old purple Victorian home.
While we were stopped outside it, taking it in, the door opened and a woman came out. We fell into conversation and she invited us into tea. The woman told us the story of the house; her grand parents built it, her parents had raised her in it and she bought out her siblings when they collectively inherited it. 
As we left, Cathy said: “Only with you Chris.” She credited me for many little joys we shared; she was always so gracious that way. But she didn’t know that we wouldn’t have had them were it not for her. Her company and her joy for our experiences were my drug of choice; she inspired me—often while glowing pink.
Only with you, Cathy, only with you!

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