I first read this book a long time ago; I can tell by my name written on the inside cover in rounder, more careful handwriting than I have now. And I found a folded note inside that reads: Damon, Just gone for a walk. Help yourself to a cupcake. Slap some icing on it (them) L. And a phone number in different ink (not my writing; I never crossed my sevens). The note, written by my long-time friend Laurie who lives in Winnipeg and is still with her partner, Damon, suggests that either I lent this book to her, or I borrowed it from her, kept it and eventually wrote my name in it, thinking it was mine. Then again, I rarely write my name in my books unless I'm lending them.
The book smells like an attic and someone has written in it, in ink GUN=SELFHOOD, POWER. That was neither me nor Laurie because neither of us would do that to a book we loved. Whoever did it also underlined "Burrard Inlet," "Stanley Park," "Lion's Gate Bridge," "golf course," "New Westminster" and "outraged endurance," but then the underlinings peter out and past chapter nine, it's clean. I feel an instant dislike for the person who did the underlining. It's as if the book was mined for uppercase meaning then abandoned once it'd given up its goods. That's probably unfair; it's not like I've never approached a book in such a businesslike way. Just not this book.
|Skagit River at Sumallo Grove|
I was re-reading Swamp Angel because Shelter has been shortlisted for the BC Book Ethel Wilson Prize and when I heard, it reminded me of the book and of the writers like Wilson and Margaret Laurence and Gabrielle Roy and Adele Wiseman and Margaret Atwood, who I read when I was in my early twenties, those iconic McClelland and Stewart New Canadian Library books. I envied Margaret Laurence her cigarettes and coffee at her desk overlooking the Otonabee River and I wanted to do that. I don't have the river or the cigarettes but I spend my days writing at my desk looking out on the hills around Penticton and I feel a kinship to those writers who wrote things like "'I shall be all right. Just set me down near the river.'" (Ethel Wilson, Swamp Angel, 1954)