When I first noticed John A. MacDonald on a bench at the entrance to Victoria Row in the spring of 2009, I was startled to notice that he wasn’t real. That is to say, I was fooled by him repeatedly that year, walking up Queen Street thinking there was a real person sitting on the bench; when I got closer, I was surprised to note that it was “only” a statue. John A. was a huge hit with tourists that summer (and last summer too). Every hot, blue-sky day that I walked by there was someone sitting with him getting a picture snapped by a travelling companion. Sometimes a whole family squeezed onto the bench. On a summer evening, a glamorous woman might be sitting on his knee laughing as someone took a picture. Sometimes he had 3 pretty girls draped over him and at other times, a grinning man in sandals and brightly coloured shorts. He’s also popular outside the tourist season with everyday citizens. A couple of times last week I saw someone (a different person each time!) sitting on the bench talking to him, having a good ol’ chat. He’s not “only” a statue to many. Last night, walking up Queen St. with my boyfriend after a delicious dinner at The Delta, I couldn’t help but stop and take some pictures of John A. in the snow. His visage was quite transformed, grown old in a day, poor man. Doesn’t he look like he’s living through some ordeal? I must remember to sit down the next time I walk by and have a good chat.
Brave souls rushed into the bone-chilling waters of Charlottetown Harbour. Teenagers who first piled their clothes in a mound, buff males with little butts, ladies in bikinis, a Rasta with multicoloured headgear, queen of the water with a pink tiara, gals and guys strutting tattoos, a grandmother who has done it 10 times, people in ball caps with Christmas plumpness, girls in flimsy flip-flops, swimmers in ponytails and a jester’s cap, tattoos and a Santa hat…. The mood was festive, we counted down, we cheered with gusto from the sidelines crunching our boots in the snow, clicking our cameras. After the rush in and back, the stragglers, the do-it-my-own-wayers, the “I liked that – let’s do it again” folks: two boys went in to impress the girls and one retrieved her flip-flops floating on the waves. A roaring dude tackled another and they fell into the water. A Dad took his young daughter in and carried her back. On her picnic table the gal with the tiara gave out certificates and hot beverages. The victorious chatted in beach towels and bathrobes. Pajamas were seen and bare feet. Laughter and whooping. Smiles all around. It’s not for me, I love to be warm, but I salute you, brave souls kissing the water with skin on New Year’s Day 2011.
It’s a hot day in Charlottetown. With the humidity they are saying 37 degrees. A lazy, lovely day. But we all know: a storm is coming. Hurricane Earl. When I got to the end of Pownal Street around 8 am this morning, I saw a dozen boats parked already in the lot beside the yacht club on their trailors. And all day, from my office window, I could see them raising the boats with cranes, taking them out of the water. At lunch, we watched them up close from the deck at The Treehouse. Lunch out because it was the last day for the summer student and last day of summer someone said. We enjoyed our meal, sitting outside with sunglasses on. Behind the cash I noticed this message on the chalkboard: Summer isn’t over until we say it is – The Management. Later, before I left the office, I checked the windows in the stairwell and the cafeteria — can’t leave an opening when the deluge comes tomorrow. Walking, I saw the sandbags by the Delta parking garage and remembered: Yes, it usually floods — I watched them sandbaging the driveway to underground parking a couple of years ago. Sandbags by the Merchantman doorway too. And everywhere downtown, the corner gardens flourishing – impatiens, geraniums, marigolds, coleus, petunias, alyssum. Hard to believe those crazy winds and buckets of rain are coming on a warm, sunny day like today. On Grafton, boys were playing street hockey in some kind of tournament and the road was blocked off. People on the sidewalk strolled by eating ice cream. I looked at the Spider lilies, spectacular outside the TD bank on Kent Street and wondered what they would look like by tomorrow evening. Does knowing everything is about to change make the enjoyment of it now, sweeter? I don’t know. It pretty much always is so damn sweet. Summer isn’t over ’till I say it is. The storm will come — blow and bluster — and things will change, transform, as they always do. I have spare water, a full tank of gas in my car, and cash from the ATM, just as the emergency gurus advise. I will bring in my hanging basket of flowers, stack my deck chairs, move my car away from the American Beech tree in the backyard. What else to do? Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy — this beauty, this languid summer day. This moment in time. This life. This calm. And this storm.
I’m walking to work on Monday morning before 8 am, and it’s a cold April day. In the distance I see a tree, lit with white lights, near the sidewalk. It is leafless, with grey branches. It is quite close to the “comfort tree” I looked for daily in December. I come closer and see they aren’t lights but buds. Large magnolia buds. I feel grateful for magnolias. I hadn’t noticed there were magnolia trees on Rochford Street before. I think of the mass of splendid magnolias I saw last year on the rambling bush-trees on Passmore Street; soon they will bloom again. My mind goes ahead to my morning walks past the trees on Rochford as the buds get bigger, plumper, the blossoms grow and spread and soften, my mind travels ahead to the blooming, so much later than the places I lived before, this PEI spring. But yes, magnolia trees in Prince Edward Island, and my heart travels forward to the blooming. And I smile. The rain is like sleet, but I keep the magnolia buds in mind and it all softens. It is all quite soft and not cold at all. I give thanks for magnolias.