Under My Umbrella

The world looks small from beneath my umbrella. It sounds small too. I can hear the fine drops of rain spatting onto the stretched canvas just above my head. I can see a few meters all around me. The greater world is there, always, but in this moment while I’m standing on the end of the floating dock jutting out into our lake, the world is small, intimate, within reach.

My scruffy shoes are level with the waterline. The dock is an old timber one and whatever sort of floatation there is to keep it afloat seems just as old. Water sloshes up between the slats and the windblown wavelets splat on top of them.

I can understand the fascination with ‘watery depths’ stories and monsters that might lurk beneath. (Jaws or The Posideon Adventure  anyone?) It’s an element that we humans, with our overblown sense of entitlement, can’t control … (oh, we can pollute it, build dams to contain it, we can freeze it, boil it, consume it in a gazillion ways, but ultimately it’ll always have the last laugh) … and what we can’t control, we both fear and are fascinated with.

I grew up with the Pacific Ocean in my back pocket. Land locked lakes are an unknown to me, and although I’m respectful of the brown-green watery depths right at the end of my toes, I’m also tempted to take one more step forward, just to see what happens.

Common sense tells me I’ll get wet, and probably lose my beautiful umbrella, (a present from Mrs Widds) but my uncommon sense asks, ‘what if’. What if it’s just another boundary between the worlds? What might be on the other side?

A wind sweeps the rain across the lake in shimmering veils, momentarily revealing the hills on the other side of the lake. I tilt my umbrella back and let the rain fall in my face. My world expands to include the whole lake. The hills and mountains beyond are all wrapped up in mist and summery, albeit damp, shades of green. The mist blows back in again and I feel like I’ve walked into Marion Zimmer Bradley’s, The Mists of Avalon

Maybe I took that step after all.

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“I am not feeling any better because I cannot stay in bed, having constant cause for walking. They say I leave at night by the window of my tower, hanging from a red umbrella with which I set fire to the forest”Camille Claudel, French sculptor, 1864-1943

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The ultimate ‘Under my umbrella’ song.

Rain

For almost of my time here in Canada I have lived in apartments. In OZ, the closest I got to an apartment was when I shared a duplex with two women who were in a rather intense and unusual relationship – but that’s another story.

Apartment living is not for the faint of heart. If you’re unlucky enough to be somewhere in the middle of the building, you are surrounded by the sounds smells and energy of your neighbours.

If you are somewhere above the ground floor then you are also isolated from the immediacy of the outdoors. You can perhaps open your patio doors and smell the roses, or admire your hanging tomato plants. I’ve actually known some folk who manage to grow almost all their summer greens on their 9th floor patio.

Mrs Widds and I always had our trellises of scarlet runner beans, and managed to claim our share of bounty before the first frost hit.

Our beach – to the left of the boat ramp

I grew up in the wilds though. Where rain fell so hard that it hurt. Where drought ravaged the ancient land and left desiccated skeletons of animals and trees as its legacy. The Australian bush is scruffy, harsh edged and harbours nasty stinging and biting things, large and small, that can kill you in minutes.

An apartment in the city never quite won over my heart, even though I liked living there.

Now I live on an island in the middle of a lake! I step out my front door and am greeted by a sea of green – which reminds me, gotta cut the grass! – rather than going through several fire-doors and an elevator to get outside.

Our various rooms are at different ambient temperatures, depending on their use throughout the day, and I feel like I am participating in my home environment rather than having been another component of a closed-in and controlled climate.

I suppose that as Summer draws closer, more people will inhabit their seasonal abodes but right now, the quiet is blissful. Mind you, on our street there are two lads who are in bands, but they are respectful and only occasionally rehearse at home, and then it’s in the afternoon and/or early evening – très civilised!

Our beach – to the right of the boat ramp

Apart from feeling like it’s rained every day we’ve been here (not really but it feels like it) I find myself responding to the rain differently. It splashes over the ends of the gutters and falls like a curtain in front of my window. The ground squishes when I walk out to get the mail. (The asphalt pavements in Vancouver never squished)

The most wondrous thing I’ve noticed (or reconnected to) is how immediate this rain upon the Lake is. It begs to be responded to without the buffering of apartment walls, door, or neighbours.

I must put on my wellies, go splash in the puddles, walk to the lakefront, and watch the mist tumble down the mountain, across the lake, and up the shore to where I stand, until nothing is left but a memory of Avalon

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“Don’t threaten me with love, baby. Let’s just go walking in the rain”Billie Holiday