It was a complex spring last year, coloured by the peaceful death of a beloved man. Dad passed in the middle of the night on the 29th, the day before I presented my Masters capstone. I heard a train whistle, Mom texted ten minutes later.

The stream that runs beside the farmhouse where my Mom lives, last year on April 28

The leaves must have been budding, but I wasn’t watching for them. I remember only swans, shiftings, transformations, releases, openings. Ten days later I would sit myself down in the first of many airplanes for a solo trip to Dublin, Lyon, Tuscany, Florence, Edinburgh.

Last year, through my back window

I passed a grand piano in the Brussels airport on my way to the loading gate, wondered at the way we travel, now. So many of us on the move, and no time to play the piano.

The way we travelled, once. Could any of us have imagined this spring.

Brussels Airport, May 2019

I’m happy to say that the seven trumpeter swans I saw in Feb 2019, exhausted on a northbound highway, are all well. They are the central metaphor for the story I presented for my masters capstone, which has now morphed into a tale of transformation about these times we are in now.

I belong to a group of people who share photos and news of trumpeters in Ontario – all of them the result of a successful reintroduction program based in Burlington. There are now thousands of these swans naturalized here, where for 100 years there had been none. One of the greatest joys of this self-isolated spring has been seeing photos of these beautiful birds with their new crop of fuzzy grey cygnets.

The loons are back, too, where they have nested along the quiet shore I know in southern Georgian Bay. Quieter now that the holidayers are not playing with jet skis. The water is high and playful, the sunlight strong and bright through still leafless trees. I stay in my little cabin there while delivering masks to friends and family in my old community of 25 years. Grateful to be in a place that exists outside of human economics, politics, trauma and grief, outside of what we call time. There’s a blissfully poor wifi signal there.

The masks project continues to teach me. Online ordering from small family businesses is possible and preferred. The new Heavy Duty Singer I picked up curbside from the little place that has serviced all my machines comes with tech and service support that the ones you buy from Amazon or Walmart don’t have. She sells me all of her elastic and I can text for advice any time, imagine that. The elastic and batik quilting fabric I order from a little BC company comes with a call from Kevin the owner, who is charging his cost just to keep things going. I tell him about the loons.

It turns out that the masks are better used and valued if they are made and given in neighbourhoods, by neighbours. So I make kits now to send out to people who have sewing machines. People who order two get extras to give to others they know who are high risk.

I’m working more slowly now, steady like a tortoise while also attending to my other work. The orders still come in. Metro workers here have been told they must wear the plastic face shields now, or cloth masks if they can get them somewhere… I’ll make what I can, send out kits, put together a fun how-to video and post it online.

The fact is that for the foreseeable future we are in a world now where mask wearing will be like seatbelts in a car – perhaps not regulated by law, but acknowledged as a sensible and respectful way to be among other humans who could be high risk. I believe it’s possible to do this cheerfully.

Here on the twenty-ninth of April 2020, leaves are emerging from buds on the trees. Like a faint golden green glow on the top of the old giants in Gage Park – a new breathing of air that is freer from chem trails and just generally cleaner than it was a year ago.

A train chugs by through the houses with a bell, but without a whistle. I think of the peace my dad found and surrendered to, a year ago. There is so much to be grateful for, even in these times.

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