Lasha Morningstar

WE ARE ONE

July 13, 2015

We wanted it. Remember those brutal days of winter when we muttered to each other, "Edmonton has two seasons, winter and construction." As the tired but true saying goes, be careful what we wish for. Now the pendulum has swung too far the other way.

Drought is withering crops in the farmers' fields. The homeless are suffering. A little known fact is the majority of the deaths of street people happen because of heat, not winter's cold.

Homeless shelters and those who feed the poor welcome donations of bottled water for their thirsty clients.

The city too put the word out that the trees and shrubs are in need of watering given the long period without rain. They – and the trees and shrubs – would greatly appreciate cool drinks of water from kind homeowners.

The farmers too are in need of prayers for soaker downfalls to save their crops and bring up the water table.

That is our reality.

Yes, these are horrid problems. Yet this hot weather takes me back to Ontario summertime. With all the lakes, summer meant escaping the torturous humidity of Toronto, packing up the car and heading off to the cottage. Two months of sunshine, swimming and no bedtime rules.

If it rained – which it hardly ever did – there were board games and the latest Nancy Drew mystery to read.

These were the days when skin cancer was unknown to us common folk. So I baked in the sun.

No hat. Just a T-shirt and shorts. No shoes. As the days passed, I turned deep brown and the sun bleached my hair. The soles of my feet dancing over the searing hot rock became as thick as leather.

My favourite holiday spot was a place called Honey Harbour in Georgian Bay. The clean, north air meant my eyes and nose no longer ran because of allergies to ragweed and golden rod.

We got to our cabin courtesy of a seasoned ferry. The cabins were built on an island, an island of rock sprinkled with blueberry bushes.

My mouth waters at thought of those berries. Huge. Lush. Wealthy cottage owners from other islands would hop in their motorboats and come over and buy a quart from us. (We measured them out in those long-gone glass milk bottles.)

SCREAMING GULLS

Such freedom. Sounds there were different. The toot of the ferry signaling she was docking. The buzzing and clicking of insects going about their business in the hot sun. Piercing screams of hungry gulls. The mesmerizing silken slither of snakes coiled on the dock as they slipped into the water.

The snakes were huge. They were Mississauga rattlers. We were warned time and again to be careful of the snakes. I just thought they were beautiful and would sit for hours watching them sun themselves on the dock.

One snake and I became friends. It was a tiny black snake, as thick as a pencil and about a foot long. Every day if it was sunny, I would go down to a cove where the rock edged out into the warm water. It would be just after high noon.

In a minute or so, the snake would arrive and draw his body halfway out of the water. I would talk to him just as I would to a human friend. He heard about things I had discovered on the island, the latest adventures of Nancy Drew or Anne of Green Gables, what it was like to be free of the stress of the city.

I would ask him questions about what it was like to be him. All the time he would gently sway back and forth.

SNAKE GOES HOME

After a while he would slide back in the water and disappear into the depths of his home.

The only other time I saw him was once when I was swimming. Suddenly he was beside me. I made a circle with my arms underwater and he swam through it and then disappeared.

I love Alberta. But I do miss the cottage life.

Sharing these memories with you, I cannot help but wonder what is happening to my island, Georgian Bay and the snakes. Friends tell me climate change has meant dropping water levels and falling prices for cottage getaways.

If ever there was a time for us to heed the prescient words of our beloved Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si', it is now.

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)