“Thank you for the days
Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me…
And though you're gone
You're with me every single day, believe me”
— The Kinks, “Days”
It’s warm and wet and the autumn air is filled with the spicy scent of decay.
In the park, the ground is strewn with crumpled, spotted maple leaves. Twinned pine needles have fallen to make intricate patterns of yellow v-shapes, like birds’ feet, on the paved path — like one of those diagrams from an Arthur Murray school that are used to teach people to dance.
It’s fall all right, and much has fallen, though the dogberries still cling heavily to their branches.
The garden’s winding down, the irises and lilies slumped in their beds and the hostas yellowing and drooping and losing their definition.
It’s been a long, strange, hard year and I have been among the many heard cursing it and wishing for its bitter end.
There has been much to bemoan: sickness and death, job losses and uncertainty, isolation and separation and fear, much of it caused or exacerbated by this COVID-19 pandemic.
Even with some of the early lockdowns eased, many businesses, institutions and charities are still reeling and may not recover.
The more I think about this annus horribilis, as the Queen might call it, the more I’m determined to find the good in it and make the most of it.
It’s not hard to wish that this year was gone; Snowmageddon, coronavirus, our province’s economic crisis — it’s been one bad thing after another.
But the more I think about this annus horribilis, as the Queen might call it, the more I’m determined to find the good in it and make the most of it.
Even now, there is much to be thankful for.
I’m grateful for warm rain, brilliant evening skies, the sharp cries of bluejays.
For the beauty of Italian words as I learn them one by one, like pearls on a string: farfalla, fragola, uccello, zuppa.
For the companionship of books and the heartbreak of beautiful music.
The way the smell of wood smoke sends my brain tumbling back decades to crisp starlit nights around the bay.
For autumn cooking, earthenware tagines, curry, cumin, cardamom, hearty lamb stew. Red wine and dark chocolate.
For the satisfaction of punching down warm risen dough and turning it into loaves for the oven.
For my mother’s contentment. Even though grief lingers on and dementia robs her memories, there are times, still, when she is truly with us. At 89, her ability to laugh at herself has not diminished. At a birthday dinner in her honour recently, she brushed off her age with a line from Johnny Cash: “Just another year older and deeper in debt.”
For the rare find of unblemished fresh basil at the grocery store, tomatoes still on the vine and bursting with flavour, for black olives and toasted pine nuts, for mussels steaming in their shells and offering up a briny taste of the sea. For white beans cooked with olive oil and fresh rosemary, for crispy roast duck in all its bronzed glory.
For cool, still nights, perfect for sleeping with the window open. For the late-blooming white hydrangeas and the still-flowering oregano.
For the delicious ghoulishness of Halloween and the anticipation of Christmas, made bittersweet by the people missing from our lives.
In the park, some mature maples that have long since lost their blighted leaves are now sporting a new set — tender and green and unblemished. Wonder of wonders.
In the garden, the small rosebush I planted in June in my sister’s memory is on its second set of blooms, 20 perfect pink roses.
Il nostro tempo è breve. Our time is brief.
If she was here, she would savour every precious moment, never wishing any of it away.
Realizing that now, I will try to do the same.
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s managing editor. Email [email protected] Twitter: pam_frampton