Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day

Yesterday was Father’s Day. When I was growing up, our parents showed a certain disdain for the two “parent days” that were celebrated in the spring and early summer. I think they found it a little too commercial or North American for their taste. I on the other hand have not disdained Father’s Day over the years, but it has not always had a high profile, perhaps in part because of my father’s disinterest in the day, though I did always try to find appropriate ways to honour him on the right Sunday in June. And after I became a father myself, the day began to grow in importance, and I was always happy to be celebrated by our kids and by Lorraine.

One significant connection I maintain to Father’s Day is the Japanese split leaf maple down in the corner of the lower garden. It was a gift on this day from Lorraine and our children about ten years ago, and its happy presence, in spite of years of our absence and neglect, signifies something important about being a dad and what that might mean to our kids, now adults in their thirties.

I loved being a father from the moment of Toby’s birth. Here’s a small piece from the poem I wrote then, in my amazement:

this baby born the first
ever in the world
and I the first father

And there was no diminishment of my wonder when Jon Eben and then Ellen were born; it was (and is) a profound honour and privilege to be their dad, and I have to love the ways they celebrated that fact through their words and deeds yesterday. I felt that it was my day, as well as being the day of every other father.

One change I have loved to see over the years is the closer involvement of dads with their small children, carrying them in snugglies, pushing them in strollers, holding their hands as they walk and chat, nuzzling them, burping them, hoisting them onto their shoulders, or pulling them behind their bikes. It is an important change from when I was a kid, even though my father was affectionate and caring, and from when I was first a father myself.

I thought about it in the day or so before Father’s Day this year, and especially thought about three young fathers I know very well and how they are with their children (some of whom are my own grandchildren). I wanted to honour their fatherhood, their ways of being with their own small children, the gifts they give.

This is the e-mail I sent to them yesterday (Subject: Happy Father’s Day):

To you young fathers whom I know so well,
I have watched you with your small children,
seen the nurturing care you allow
yourself to give, seen the way you look
and the way you touch, heard the words
you say to them, who are your permission
for unmitigated and unequivocal expressions
of the love you have to give.

You are proud of your boys and your girls,
the light of joy shines in your eyes
without qualification or qualm,
they open you, allow you to open
yourself unreservedly, you are the fathers
they deserve, as you carry them
on your strong shoulders,
push the stroller, pull the wagon,
kick the ball, hug them and kiss,
console and hold them.

They cherish you (as I do)
for who you are and what you give,
that is, your love for them,
and for that alone you have from me
my own unabashed and abundant love.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Couple of Trees

I have had in mind a blog post about trees, a couple of specific trees that caught my attention, but I just haven’t managed to write the text that fits with the images. So now is the time.

The first tree is an amazing one that Lorraine and I came across when we moved to Istanbul in 2003, though we didn’t truly encounter it until the spring of 2004. That is because this tree, the Judas tree, looks a little more ordinary through all the other seasons, though if we had been paying attention we would have noticed the long seed pods hanging down all the way along each branch in the winter. The Judas tree, called erguvan in Turkish, is a member of the pea family (you can tell by both its flowers and its seed pods), and it is remarkably beautiful, because its profusion of pink blossoms, which appear before the leaves, cover the whole length of each branch.

In the latter part of April, both sides of the Bosphorus are dotted with pink clumps of colour as the Judas trees bloom everywhere, and I remember driving south one April and being amazed at the forested hillsides just north of Bursa covered with scattered pink patches of erguvan. The image I provided above is from the Elementary School playground at Koç; you can see fuller and more detailed images here.

The second is a plane tree that we had a memorable dinner under during our short stay in Gölyazı this spring. It is called the Weeping Plane, perhaps because of the mournful aspect of its long branches; it could certainly be a prototype for Tolkien’s Ents with their rooted wisdom from watching over more mobile creatures for centuries. This plane tree has been designated a historic monument because it is reputed to be 750 years old; certainly its aspect, like that of the opening image of this post, suggests a long and thoughtful presence.

One of the wonderful things about old plane trees is their hugeness – this one is big enough that you can climb inside it – and the way that their branches spread out so far and often require supports to keep them from collapsing onto the ground. And another is the shade they provide for tables and tea in the heat of the day.

Each of these trees has its own distinct presence, one perhaps the sprightly pink Elf and the other a thoughtful, patient Ent, and although they do grow in other countries, each speaks to me of Türkiye. It is the place we first met these trees, and they remind me of their presence and persistence in that landscape, the things we did and do there, and those people we know and love there.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Time of the Magic Light

I’ve been walking past the wheelbarrow for the last two days and thought every time about the loveliness of the tiny white moth that landed in the rain water collected there on Sunday, but I’ve always been too busy or too focused on other things to actually photograph it. Until tonight, that is. As I moved the camera in to eliminate the borders and show the moth closer, I realized how lovely the reflected sky was. So there we were – a little before sunset, some standard Nova Scotian clouds in the sky, and the time of the magic light – once again!

When I went upstairs I noticed the late sun illuminating a part of one of the maples below the house, but by the time I got the camera the light had shifted. So I closed in on Mauger’s Beach and caught the lighthouse glowing. Then I looked in the harbour at the container pier on one side and the refinery at Imperoyal on the other. One thing we have always loved is the shimmering brightness of Imperoyal on a clear night, something beautiful about it even if it is an oil refinery. So I turned the camera onto the oil tanks over there, lit by the low setting sun. It’s the light, a light I remember from so many places, the light that makes your skin glow and makes the world, for a short time, a little more glorious.