Returning Home

I haven’t seen you with your hair down
parted middle, pulled behind your ears
in a while – you’ve been away and the
roof is crumbling and a decade is gone.

See how the grass has grown up wildly
and now we have to lift our legs high
to carefully meander through; thank you
for never complaining about dandelions.

Have you opened your upstairs closet?
You’ll want to fasten a ponytail for this:
when you left were you running toward
or away and is that why you rarely wrote?

Home again. Our front window is broken.
This is and isn’t the right time to review a
former life and old limbs trimmed so you
could flourish year-round away from me.

For thirty years I watched you, held you.
There is no surprise within my pine walls
to see you grown, waving new branches,
but you did return, if only to say goodbye.

(August 18, 2019)


Ferrying to Nanaimo

The Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay ferry crossing is long at nearly 3 hours and 43.5 miles (70 km). We readied to leave the mainland and I stood at the bow, alone until an elderly couple appeared beside me, all of us interested in the sweeping views at hand. I offered to take their photo; they took mine in return. We began to chat.

Sean and Sarah hailed from Scotland and were traveling the USA as many retirees do. It turned out the three of us had been on the same road all summer, mostly national parks and destination cities in the American West. Somehow our trio had ended up here, together, on board a Canadian ferry now slowly pulling away from its dock.

I remember these two so clearly because Sean shared a resonating truth: the more you travel, the more it takes for the next place to stand out. Instead of inspiring awe, new cities and landscapes begin to feel redundant.  What would appear beautiful in fresh eyes instead produces an “oh, that’s nice” humdrum response.

I imagine others have shared in this experience. A flight attendant friend once alluded to feeling similar dismay as she flew between (the world’s most exciting) international cities. To fight boredom she began creating missions in each destination, carrying out tasks prompted by friends. During her stay in London I sent her to Harrod’s to purchase strawberry black tea; it gave meaning to her trip.

But, on occasion a particular landscape can stun even the most weathered traveler, and this has more to do with coming home than venturing abroad. Sean had been right – but he had not made note of the enduring appreciation a person can carry for their native region. An appreciation that leaves us seeing our home region with the same fresh eyes we used when we were first traveling.

That day on the ferry I did not tire of the Pacific Northwest views but instead spent the trip’s three hours topside, cold winds tangling my hair and pushing aggravated tears from my eyes, full of life and reverence as I breathed the biting Northern ocean air once again.

(originally written in 2015; excerpt revised for ColetteKay.com)


First Photographs

There is no need to
remember anything, except
the way I looked at you in
the beginning;
overlapping palm fronds
were enough to call you
a jungle, or so it once felt,
as I’d not seen them before;
and the way water and opportunity
presented as plentiful, what with
coastline drawing near,
turning its edges over and under
its blue figure fused, somehow
and so many years still ready to
enter annually, bittersweetly
waving me in, saying
‘that one is gone, but
there will still be time.’

Time for travel
Time for adoration of each other
Time for two cups of tea before
the sun bleaches morning,
stripping what I have always viewed as
dawn’s quiet holiness from the air,
achieving this by way of my one
south-facing kitchen window.
Then it becomes time to face the day.

Later–not today–it will come time to ask
of adventures and lovers
‘is it all in the past?’
When the trees begin to look
more brittle, more browned
than once they appeared;
when ocean moves so repetitiously
we hardly notice what a gift
it is to see
and subtly
be pulled by the tides.
We will know the answer to this–
‘is it all in the past?’
–only at an end that does not
in so many cases
announce itself.
Best to believe, until that time, no.
Best to see signs even if
signs do not exist;
even if hope is only written
on the spine of a book,
tempting searching hands
to pull it from the shelf and
consider its contents potentially pleasurable,
possibly vivid
like the ocean has been,
whether I say so or not,
so long as it is still tumbling