It was late winter in New Zealand when Pauline tucked her gift in a diaphanous gold pouch and pulled the stings tight to close it. Inside it glittered and prisms quivered through the fabric and spread across her face. Then she wrapped it in a styrofoam sheet and packed her gift in a box measuring 4 x 2 inches. It weighed 1.3 pounds. The postal worker stuck a label with the words International Par Avion Air slant-wise on the box, postmarked it August 1st, and dropped it into the mouth of a large canvas sack.
Meanwhile, in another hemisphere, I waited for the parcel to arrive. August drizzled by in temperatures lower than average, rainfall higher than average, gardens weedier than average. Ferns ran amok and tomato plants refused to rouge. The garden furniture cushions from my oasis spent more time inside on the basement floor protected from rain.
In the Rideau and the Ottawa Rivers the water stayed high and fast all summer long. The energetic current under Billings Bridge prevented me from paddling up to Carleton University.
I think there were more Great Blue Herons than usual fishing on the Rideau this summer and, thanks to the Barn Swallow condos erected by the City to encourage breeding of this threatened bird, every time we paddled under the Smyth Road bridge they announced their presence with swooping arcs above us. They feasted all summer long on mosquitos that bred like – um, well, mosquitos – in the never ending rain.
The solar eclipse came and, like a Biblical portent, tornado conditions formed and blew through the city and knocked down trees, lifted roofs, scattered shingles, overturned garden pots.
It seemed to me we had an awful lot of thunderstorms this summer. When I was a kid growing up in Prince Rupert – the rainiest place in Canada – fishermen used to say you could tell a storm was coming by the way seagulls circled. The seagulls constantly circled this summer and they thrived on an organic diet of bugs rather than French fries pulled from the dumpster at Billings Bridge’s McDonald’s for a change.
I checked the mailbox every day looking for the gift. Was it lost or had it gone on safari in Kenya or taken the Silk Road by camel or stopped off in Peru to see Machu Pichu?
Suddenly in September, the weather changed. Summer arrived. The Scarlet Runner beans I grew for their bright red flowers produced enough beans to feed us for a couple of meals. My front planters finally flowered. I got a sunburn. I wrote a short story one afternoon sitting in the oasis. I biked to work without fear of hydroplaning. I swam in Meech Lake on September 21st without a wet suit.
I gave up on the gift. I presumed theft. I railed against the International Par Avion Air company as co-conspirators in a multinational craft conspiracy. I spit on their name and composed a mean letter in my head decrying their evil joy-sucking enterprise.
I checked the mail box on October 2 looking for a gift I ordered for my daughter’s birthday. It was there! I ordered it on Friday, September 30th. Ha! Good ol’ Purolater came through. But what ho?! There was another small parcel at the back. I examined it. It came from a place called Dunedin. I knew no one from somewhere called Dunedin. I turned the package over and saw it came from New Zealand. Pauline’s gift had arrived at long last – 2 months after she posted it.
I pulled it out of its shimmery pouch and examined the strands. This was not a bespoken piece. It was a ready-made light-catcher Pauline offered as an experiment to hang
in the garden to see how it weathered. But I feel like this beautiful piece of art was crafted especially for me with its book, heart, angel, butterfly, and teacup charms all linked together with crystal and gold and amber coloured beads. It positively sings light. But the most delightful discovery was a small medallion hidden among the glitter. It said “Miracles”.