Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Forty Nine, and Still Parallel

It was on the east shore of Tatlayoko Lake, in the southwest corner of the Cariboo, that as best I can remember, I first saw, most literally, the spiritual but also most sensible, blue light that is a manifestation of the Virgin Mary that has carried me along all these adult years. This would have been around the beginning of August, when I was on a three-week sabbatical from ordinary chain man duties in the more dense coastal forest forty miles further southwest, on the north bank of Moseley Creek. The lad who had been doubling as cook and pilot of our little freight launch on the lake had injured himself and had to be sent to hospital, so a new cook was hired, a local rancher, and I was reassigned to the boat. This camp, at the bottom of Tatlayoko, was our one permanent base, with a pair of engineering draughtsmen and our helicopter pilots stationed there. It had been the second camp we had set up, and throughout the summer was the only spot within traveling distance of civilization. My job was to load the boat with the food and other material trucked in from Williams Lake to the north end of Tatlayoko, then run the boat the fourteen miles to the southern end. Such leisure, cruising along with the gentle slopes of the Potato Range on one side, to the east, and the soaring red peaks of the Niutes on the other. And I was actually paid!
From the earliest days the Cariboo has been Oblate country, evangelized by as hardy and devoted a band of missionaries as ever settled amongst pagans, and as the Oblates of Mary Immaculate obviously have by their name a special relationship with the Mother of Christ, one should not be surprised by her firing off special messages in her own back yard. But, as I was to realize within a few months, there was more to it than that.
One of the most mysterious elements in the ultimate pairing of Shawn and Ken was the fact that the set of friends that we both spent so much time with in the spring and autumn of 1957, although it saw plenty of us, never saw us at the same time. Both of us, as throughout our lives, indeed already 'had a life', had other things to do and people to see, and simply never showed up with this set at the same time, until it was time for it to matter.
I was actually totally surprised to learn, as things unfolded, that a lad I had known well, and liked very much, for months, had actually been her boyfriend, and a frequent visitor to the digs I shared with two other lads, one a student, one working downtown like myself. Had I been a member of the Players' Club Shawn and I would have met, but in those days I had no thoughts of acting.
By the time of the blue light, Shawn and the lad had broken up, and faith was the main factor, because for all his other qualities, he had no interest in religion. Literature, philosophy, and good music - especially jazz - yes, but not religion. She had grown up in a mixed marriage, and did not look forward to watching history repeat itself under her own roof.
It was from him, however, that I first learned her name. It was a wet November night, and I had stayed on the campus so as to drive home the young lady I was then spending time with. She was rehearsing her part in the English Department's annual production of a classic, this year Ibsen's "Peer Gynt". Somehow I ran across the old boyfriend on my way to the auditorium and we had just arrived inside when three girls came down the stairs, led by the bounciest of the trio, in long brown hair and with eyes like saucers. They were all laughing. I knew one of the girls who was not my passenger, but the eyes of the dynamo I had never stared into before.
"Oh!" said the girl. Nobody knew then that she had just been confronted by the old and the new, least of all me. But she must have had a sense that something was up.
"Who's that?" I asked my companion.
"Shawn Harold," said he, without any reference to a former alliance. I drove my passenger home and life continued until Christmas Eve day, when I got a long stretch of the dark night for a vigil present and then on the night of the 27th saw Miss Harold again. For the second time I asked a question of a member of the set that had never seen us together, as we had all gathered for a party in a large house in West Vancouver.
"Who did you come with?" I asked him.
He pointed to the same girl, standing across the living room in a violet wool dress, very well cut. "That," he said. I gathered there had been some lively conversation in the vehicle that had brought them all, but I didn't have much time to think about it because my job for the night was resident minstrel, and all old friends were happy to see each other after Christmas with family; we had a great deal to talk about. The young lady I had driven home from the rehearsal was spending the holiday in California with the family of the young man she would marry before the end of the summer.
Later, I was told that the wool dress talked with my younger brother, who gave me, I think, a fairly good press.
January came and went, while I enrolled in law school for the second term and also had an intimation that I could become a judge and an alcoholic at the same time because I wasn't living out my life as a writer. This felt like a very good thing to know but I also knew I still had to hang on to my life at the university for the time being.
And then at the end of the month, in and around the production of "Peer Gynt" I discovered why, and a year-and-a-half later we were married, on this date, in a family only ceremony in the little chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help church on Tenth Avenue. My mother-in-law was so upset at the idea of her oldest marrying not only an aspiring writer but a lad already a veteran of strange 'headaches' that the usual big celebration was out of the question. Everybody cried except the groom. Mystics get an iron head at the oddest times. And I had already cried the night I saw her in "Peer Gynt".
In six weeks, we had left Vancouver. Eventually we also had six children. Two of them have worked as professional musicians, much respected for their work when they performed live, and this morning early I listened for the first time to our daughter Pauline's first CD, recently recorded, mixed, and mastered in Vancouver, not far from where the father of the musician went to high school. I had something to do with Pauline's vocal training, but it is her mother that has been the shoulder.
I heard the mother singing that night in West Vancouver, her incredible voice carrying over the sound of my banjo.
This week MT and I started attaching shoulder straps to our battery of instruments. Some are electric, some are acoustic, but even the acoustics have pick ups, and my wrists seem particularly unfrozen.
And tonight, for the first time, our new,Capuchin, bishop is to come for dinner.

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