Ripple: Notes to My Unborn Grandbaby
What I need you to know is how the air itself was orange, an orange crush, the night of the Sturgeon Moon—a perfect August evening before you were a ripple in your mama’s belly or a spark in your dad’s mind. On the trail above the Arm a rufous deer lurked, vivid red against the leaves’ sun-splashed green. The dog missed it, impervious to everything but a different scent, following her nose down another path—the path that preschooler-me and your great-grandma took many moons ago to go swimming.
At the bottom of the path lay the narrow inlet, peach-coloured in the sunset. The sea flat as pavement—a dead calm. A heron fished from the breakwater’s spilled rocks. Seaweed breathed in and out. Sailboats motored past, sails furled—without a lick of wind, the regatta was a stalemate. On the grassy hills that sloped to Fairy Cove, where the neighbourhood kids and I learned to do the dead man’s float, new Canadians smoked hookahs, inhaled peace. The same hills from which our white, freckling/burning/deep-tanning mothers trained lazy eyes on us: those mothers had trusted in lifeguards, teenagers like the one you will become if this world, our kaleidoscopic world, lasts.
If it lasts, you and your small aura will be every colour of the spectrum, and powerful—a prism, a rainbow. Back in that strange, old, white universe, only rain kept the mothers from sun-worshipping. They poured on baby oil; sunscreen wasn’t yet invented. The highest neap tide could not breach the hand-built, stone-piled-on-stone wall guarding land from sea—the wall that’s been replaced by granite blocks the size of Smart cars. Are Smart cars still a thing? Blocks as big as industrial strength heat pumps, say, and the letters of the Latin words that encircle and codify the inner dome at St. Peter’s. None of these structures any match for the rising oceans, the great flood that is bound to come.
But on the night of the Sturgeon Moon, little kids like the kid you will be played in the shallows of an ebbing tide. Grabbed floating plastic bottles, filled and threw them like bombs. Parents shielded their eyes against warning signs posted strategically about bacterial counts, dangerous levels. Shielding their eyes against the sun’s low blaze, along the seawall’s fortifications fishers cast lines that wrinkled the same calm surface and hauled up mackerel like mackerel was going out of style. Life free for the taking, buckets overflowed with fish. (You are what you eat, I might tell you someday, if there’s a lucky sea change.) Just out of reach, a safe distance away, a grey seal back-flipped, bobbed upright, kept watch. Could do nothing but keep watch, in case there were sharks.
And then the dark, seaward view opened up to me. I wish you could have seen it, I wish I could have held you high in my arms to look at it. The moon was a peach hanging over the Arm’s mouth, its reflection was an orange shimmer tangled in a yacht’s spars. Anchored there, the yacht was an ark full of partiers. People raising glasses, cheering on nightfall, their laughter bouncing from one shore to the next. Above this shore’s trucked-in sand was a playground, which, call me wishful, call me blind, I hope to take you to someday. A future promise—as I watched a man in a brilliant red turban push a tiny, cooing child on a swing.
Back in the ancient days, a canteen slumped nearby, a white-washed shack with signs that said “Sweet Caporals” and “Drink Coke,” which you will never taste, at least not on my watch. The spot is a parking lot now, go figure, paved and filled with cars—hard candies, seen from the air? Past the sand, seagulls yank mussels from the rocks then levitate upwards, drop them from a great height to bash the shells open on asphalt. A bedtime snack? Shards of mauve and dark, dark indigo are razor sharp—what damage they would do if you were to pick them up in your tender hands. What would I do to hold back the sting, the memory of red beading warm brown skin?
What I need you to hold in your heart is not the sharpness but the ease of light, the knowledge that from light comes colour. That our world had more shades, tones and hues than you will imagine, than your parents will remember—reds redder than red, oranges more orange than orange—even as the storm waters rose. Even as the ocean waves rose cold and black, slipped their bounds, replaced air, crested over our heads, broke and washed it all away: each leaf, each bird, each fragment of shell—as you slipped by unseen and swam like a seal. Amphibious.