My Watermark is Kew-Balmy Beach, Lake Ontario, The Beaches, Toronto.
There is a town in North Ontario. Dreams comfort memory despair. In my mind, I still need a place to go. I thought that was what he said. But he said with dream comfort memory to spare.
I thought my place was with the African veldt but it turned out to be the Beaches, East Toronto. Or do you say ‘the Beach?’ Do you say Trana or Toe-Ron-Toe? Are you an immigrant outsider or she-who-belongs? Either way, it’s along the shores of Kew-Balmy Beach, Lake Ontario, that I now call home.
I sat shotgun in a pickup truck on my way home.
What’s this place called? I asked him, of the quaint houses, leaning electrical poles and swaybacked lines.
It’s called the Beaches, he said. Everybody wants to live here.
But it’s so far away, I thought.
Later, I looked east from my downtown window. Me, a moth in a jar, with life outside. Me, hermitized, sealed away. Life was down by the water, life was at the shoreline of that giant lake, but it was too far away and I was just me by myself.
Helpless. The soundtrack of my teenaged youth. No. I was not despairing. But I fell in love with the aching aloneness of the Ontario sky, that memory of despair. Ontario? Was it near Cambodia?
You’ve come a long way, baby. Trana? Toe-Ron-Toe? The biggest, grayest, brownest small town in the whole world. I used to lie next to the record player, and listen to Neil. Big birds flying across the sky, throwing shadows on our eyes. Yellow moon on the rise. Yellow house on a hill.
I look down. I am a bird flying across the sky and all my changes are below me, at the beach on the shores of Lake Ontario, where the skies are pastel blue like the insides of sea shells, only its not the sea, it’s a lake.
Such a strangely unsalty unseaside beach of a lake. With water stretching to the other side of the world, water that gathers as ice on the rocks in winter. Water that soothes my soul. Water that never fails to offer solace.
Down by the water, I talk to God. Ancient Gods, merging Gods, Gods who are bigger than we can ever imagine. When I need help, I ask the water and if I find glass beads or the perfect stone or a feather, then the answer is yes.
God is in the clouds over the lake on the beach, the tissue-thin clouds. Everything in Canada is cold and pale and beautiful and ancient. How can water be so cold in the middle of summer? And how is it that I am here on the boardwalk among the polite Canadians, me so hot-blooded and inappropriately loud?
How did I get here and what took me so long? When I walk next to the water, I realize that it doesn’t matter.