Lamenting the Loss of Summer

Oh Summer, Summer, where did you go?

You’ve left us all without your glow

Where do you go when the season’s done?

Are you hiding just beyond the sun?

Warm nights are gone, you’ve left us cold

The pool supplies have all been sold

The cottage at the beach sits still

To bring you back, we’d probably kill

Summer fun’s been packed away; the soup is on the stove

There are no more beach days, or swimming at the cove

We’ll wait for you impatiently, till you show yourself once more

We’re all a little worried what Old Man Winter has in store

School is in; it’s that time of year

When all you want is pumpkin beer

Summer sun, we’ll see you soon

For now, I guess, we’ll have the moon

I love to watch the seasons change

I know to some that might sound strange

Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall

But you, I’ll miss you most of all

Oh Summer, Summer, where did you go?

You’ve left us all without your glow

Where do you go when the season’s done?

Are you hiding just beyond the sun?

I’ve Been Marked

I’ve been marked.  Literally.

By fate, by God, you decide.   But the truth is there is a large, splotchy brown birthmark covering most of the left side of my neck.  The type I have is called a cafe-au-lait birthmark, because it looks like spilled coffee.  Needless to say, it’s quite visible to the rest of the world, unless I’ve chosen to wear a turtleneck that day.  A babysitter once scraped my neck raw with a washcloth thinking it was dirt and she could wash it off.  I don’t know whether it occurred to me to tell her it was permanent and she was wasting her time.

As a teenager growing up in rural Nova Scotia, this aberration irritated me to no end.  I realized that people were struggling with much greater problems in the world than an innocent birthmark but to me, it felt like a big deal.  I looked different from everyone else and when you’re a teenager, being different is not good.  Your adolescent years are all about fitting in and sameness.

And I wanted to fit in.

I wanted to be the same.

I got teased about it some (kids called me dirty) but my worst bully was myself.  I hadn’t asked for this stain and I didn’t want it.  No one on TV or in magazines had a big birthmark on their neck.  I thought of it as separate from me, something that I had been burdened with enduring for all time.  Naturally, I started asking my parents if I could either cover it up or get rid of it.  My mother could see that it bothered me so she indulged me a little bit.  We tried a couple different types of makeup but nothing really did a very good job of hiding it.  And removal seemed out of the question.

One day my uncle Chappy was visiting during one of my tirades.  I don’t remember if I was asking for a new kind of makeup or some procedure I’d heard about that could laser off birthmarks but I was definitely making my distaste for my ‘mark’ known.

My uncle just looked at me and said, “Why would you want to cover it up?  It’s part of you”.

I was stunned into silence.

From that moment on, I stopped asking for makeup or laser treatments.  I realized Chappy was right and the birthmark was part of me, whether I had asked for it or not.  I’m not going to say I got over it completely right away.  I was still self-conscious about it sometimes but I never tried to cover it again.  After a while, I kind of forgot it was even there.

And the strange thing is that once it stopped being a big deal to me, it stopped being a big deal to everyone else too.  Occasionally I still got asked about it but that was rare and usually a new acquaintance.  One thing I’ve found is that people pick up on our insecurities about our so-called faults much more than our actual faults themselves.  And in kind, people are often much more willing to overlook our ‘faults’ than we are ourselves.

My uncle probably doesn’t even remember our conversation that day but I will be forever grateful to him.  He said exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.  It was not THE birthmark, it was MY birthmark.

A part of me.

Not something to be looked at as a burden but as a single puzzle piece in a much larger picture.  And now, with the benefit of 36 years of self-reflection, I’ve come to think of my birthmark not as a blemish but as a symbol of what’s unique about me.  I’m not like everyone else.  And that’s a good thing.

Just as we celebrate what is unique about the Maritimes here, we must also celebrate what is unique about each other.  Our differences define us.  They don’t make us better or worse, just individual.  Sometimes we need someone to tell us when we can’t see it – like I did.  In case you are struggling with a similar issue and don’t have your own Uncle Chappy to tell you, please allow me to pay it forward: some of the things that you might dislike most about yourself now is what makes you, you.  It’s part of you.  Embrace it, celebrate it, learn to love it.  You’ll be happier for it, I promise.

It’s true, I’ve been marked.

By fate, by God, I’ll let you be the judge.

But I’ve been marked.  And I like it.


The Perseverance of Light

A province waits with bated breath

A killer’s on the run

Our friends and neighbours are in harm’s way

When will all this be done?

Darkness resides within our souls

We cannot shake it free

A young man with hatred in his heart

Is all that we can see

Three men will return no more

Each a wound we cannot bear

Our sorrow runs an ocean deep

A lifeboat we all share

Families huddle in their basement cells

The dog goes on the floor

They anticipate the moment

They can go outside once more

The hours pass slowly by

The brave pursue the weak

Floodlights and sirens pierce the night

It’s Justice that they seek

Finally, the monster has been caged

Dawn breaks; a brand new day!

Like sunlight through a pane so black

Right always finds a way

 Moncton Strong

The Bandstand

I stand at the heart of town, in the square, surrounded by stone monuments, pretty flower beds and welcoming, tree-lined walkways.  In the growing months, the square is lush with colourful blooms.  At Christmastime, brightly lit fir trees replace the flowers and little green and red LED trees and bells adorn the light poles.  From my perch I can see straight down King Street, past its pretty brownstone shops and restaurants, all the way to the sparkling water of the harbour.  Behind me sits one of the most beautiful Victorian theatres you’ll ever see, the Imperial Theatre.  Across the square is the remains of the Paramount Theatre, once grand – left crumbling for many years – now just a gap-toothed space and some rubble.  This is a city of contrasts.  I have been here for over a hundred years and I have witnessed so much in this little square.  I am the King’s Square Bandstand.

I have recently had a makeover.  I was starting to get a bit drab, with peeling paint and a rusting rooftop.  The water fountain beneath me hadn’t worked for many years.  I was covered in construction tarps for many months and could see little of my beloved square.  But the long wait was worth it.  On the day I was unveiled, I felt like a brand new penny, with my shiny new copper roof.  A new copper spire and cornet tops my roof, honoring the City Cornet Band that first gifted me to the city of Saint John in 1909.  I’ve also got a fresh coat of glossy green paint on my iron arches and the fountain under me works again, creating a soothing, bubbling song.  On weekends in the summer, music played by bands on my upper level floats across the square and bistro tables nearby draw people to have lunch in my cooling shadow.

I have witnessed countless festivals and events over the years.  Somber Remembrance Day ceremonies, now held inside because it’s too cold in King’s Square in November.  But people still come to the War Memorial, surrounding it singly and in pairs, until there is a crowd.  They draw near the stone structure, topped by a large angel with outstretched wings, turned mossy green with time. They come from all walks of life – it’s a city of contrasts in its citizens as well as its buildings.  Some in heavy wool coats and soft leather gloves; others in dirty jeans and thin jackets, ineffective against the biting November wind.  When the bell tolls, one-by-one, they take the red poppies from their lapels and place them on the monument, all the while I watch.  No one told them to do that, but they do it anyway.  They celebrate lives they never knew.  They are fascinating and curious.  They are beautiful.

My whole world is this little square and those who visit it.  The warm weather months are my favorite, because so many people come to visit me.  Winter is cold and lonely.  People rush by with shoulders hunched, coats pulled up around their chins, just passing through.  I have watched this city grow and change.  I have stood stoically by through war-time rallies and peaceful protests.  Any important event in this town eventually finds its way to my square.  Decades have passed, fashions and customs have changed but the people themselves have remained the same hard-working and humble people they’ve always been.  I cannot speak to you.  I know your names only when I hear them overheard.  It’s a lonely life I lead but I draw comfort from helping you find solace in my quiet strength.

Most of the time it’s happy memories being made around me: graduation celebrations, with shining, young faces in satin caps and gowns, emboldened with the arrogance of youth.  Their parents wear proud smiles and yet sad eyes, as if they’re watching a piece of themselves slipping away.  Wedding photos, with happy, smiling couples at the height of their love.  And proposals, with all their hope and tears and screams of joy.  I’ve seen it all.  In recent years, even Zombie walks, where ghoulish creatures in white makeup and torn clothing limp slowly along, heads lolling to the side, some with their arms stretched in front of them.  These are interesting times.

I am the heart of noisy celebrations and quiet contemplation in this town.  I watch silently as you go about your lives.  I do as I have done for over a hundred years: I celebrate with you and comfort you with my constancy.  In the people who have and continue to visit me, I have been able to experience life in all its beautiful and tragic aspects.  I have seen the best and worst of you.  I have seen your capacity for compassion and your ability to overcome adversity.  You grow older, your lives change with the ebb and flow of life but I remain very much the same.  Steady and true, always watching.