" SpiritofSaltSpring:BC:Canada:GulfIslands:SaltSpring:Salt Spring:

December 12, 2007

Guardian Angel

I can still recall my feelings as she graced my presence that winter’s day. I was standing alongside the road in a town where streets swelled with tourists in the summer and turned sparse and lonely in the winter. I was waiting for a parade to begin. Parents had bundled their babies’ heads with crazy toques. Boys, doing what they do in winter, shoved, strutted, raced, and smashed each other with snowballs. Their shrieks were captured in clouds of frozen breath and held on earth for a moment like a comic book caption.

I was alone. Just me and my camera awaited Santa, sleigh bells and Christmas music to pass by and provide comfort through ritual.

The weather was the way it was there in December. Below freezing. I kept my legs moving. On left foot, on right foot, back to left. The crunch of the snow sounded underfoot like the breaking of Styrofoam packing chips. I cursed the wait. I checked the time with two mothers, heads huddled, comparing their children’s school-year events.

The sun glinted off the snow reminding me of the stucco we’d pick off the sides of my best friend’s house when we had been of the age where parades had really mattered. I began daydreaming about my favourite part of a parade. Xylophone notes piercing the distant air as the band marched closer. Parents dragging toddlers and squeezing their way into spots nearest the curb. Eyes squinting as the baton twirled too high reaching for the clouds the way children’s feet on swings tap the air. Older and bolder children dart bird-like into the street grabbing at the candy now strewn across pavement much the way bird seed drops in patterns at the base of a fir tree. The whine of the fire truck’s engine drowns out crying babies and little girls dream about sitting atop buggies pulled by Clydesdale horses. Those same little girls, hairsprayed and ironed, imagine waving to the crowd. They could not yet know, wouldn’t even want to know, that being crowned ice-princess wouldn’t really make anything more clear.

But for me, at this time, this parade didn’t really matter. Just another event it was. It could have been a minor hockey game. As they say in the ‘biz, I was searching for a "photo opp" hoping to replace white space with familiar faces on the pages of the small weekly newspaper where I was filling in as Editor. I was too cold and tired for this. Get the shots, get back to my desk, lay out the paper and get home I thought. I was soon to leave this small place to return to Vancouver.

I was distracted by anticipation and intuitions all proving, in hindsight, to be true.
I almost didn’t hear her greeting. “Hello,” she said, more through her gentle smile than through words.

Then, as if her soft-as-cotton-candy breath had crossed my cheek, my head turned in her direction. She appeared, apparition-like. Had someone painted her into existence when I wasn’t looking? She announced herself through her reflection off the south-facing window on a tooth-paste clean, wooden house. She reached out in brilliance as if to say, “It’s not so bad you know? I’m always here with you. Today I thought I’d let you see me. I think you need to see me. What do you think?”

I was silent. I held my breath. “Glorious,” I replied, surprised at uttering that word aloud. She was glorious. Gazing upon the flourish of gold and black and silver that formed her painted being, I could almost believe she was real. She was not a figment of my imagination. “Is she my guardian angel?” I asked no one in particular. I was embarrassed. What kind of a question was that?

Her shimmering presence filled that entire window. A swish of a halo floated atop her honey-white curls. But, mostly her wings held my awe. Their luminescence curved high across her back and melted into the black and grey and golden feathery lightness of each wingtip. I squinted into their lightness. I looked away. I stared back. She held my gaze. For a split second I thought I felt the gentle kiss of her lips against my eyebrows.

She would not permit me to focus on the slush and stones on the side of the road. Her slender fingertips, would have held my chin if my gaze had attempted to look anywhere but up.

For the first time that day, or more accurately, for the first time that week, I noticed the patterns of the winter sky. I compared the shades of the evergreens to the blue overhead. I inhaled the shiver of winter and felt it travel through my nose to my lungs. Children stood infront of me and behind. I noticed them. Each one had that expression that only blesses children when everything is for the first time and seems like forever and their awakening rejuvenates parents in a way expectant parents secretly and unfailingly hope a new baby might.

“Now you’re paying attention,” she whispered in praise. It was then, it hit me. I was standing in one of my own dreams. How had it crept up without my notice?

I was the only woman there that day holding a camera with the sole intent of capturing a moment of that town’s history. It wasn’t an important moment the way we think history must be. Nothing about that day in that place mattered to the world. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe anything could have mattered that day to anyone as much as that moment mattered to me. I was doing what I’d been dreaming of doing for years. The evidence spread out before me. I was doing what I’d dreamt about at 10 years old when I’d unwrapped a small blue, plastic typewriter for Christmas. My fingers had travelled instinctively across the rigid white keys of my newest gift. Twenty-two years later I was standing in that dream from the past.

I looked around and saw. I knew I must keep some of that happiness just for myself. I must horde it for when I needed it again, most.

Turning to my angel on that window, I focused and released the shutter. A little boy was watching me with curiosity. He quickly glanced away as my eyes met his and my attention snapped back to the procession on the street.

And now, especially if I’m having trouble believing in dreams, I focus on her by focusing on the ordinary right in front of me.

I wonder if I was to return to that same street in that picture perfect small town if she would be there?

For now she makes her home in an antique frame in my bathroom.

Yesterday she captured my attention following a lengthy indifference and asked with a motherly urgency and concern, “What’s your next dream?”

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