Ariana and I take the pedal boat out for an evening tour of the little lake outside our cottage in Val-David, Québec. We've flown out for a week to celebrate Pete's parents' 45th wedding anniversary. Ariana has twelve cousins here, eight of them girls. I see her at breakfast and bedtime. The rest of the time she's at the pool, in the lake or on a bike. I've given up on untangling her hair until we're back in Vancouver.
We churn away from the dock and through the lily pads. There's a puddle of water on my seat seeping through my jean shorts and a bug alights on my right shin. Ariana's hair is backlit by late sun slanting through the brush on the shore. The boat's steering mechanism is fickle and we chug along in overcorrected zig-zags. We're the only noise. The shores are deserted.
"Sometimes I get these feelings that I can't control, " she says. "Like sometimes I feel really sad for no reason." She's eleven. She's more self-aware of the subtle changes of adolescence than either of her older siblings were. To me, this acknowledgement is a greater milestone than buying her first bra.
"How long does it last?"
"I don't know. Twenty minutes." Our legs cycle in unison. For a small vessel a pedal boat leaves a massive wake. "Like right now, I'm thinking about how I always really liked doing stuff with you, but I actually wish I was doing this with my friends."
That smarts. I know it's not meant to. She's trying to sort out her confusion over her growing connection to peers and loosened ties to me. It's a normal part of paediatric development.
"I know," I say. "When I was your age my friends were more fun than my Mom, too."
I do know. I still feel the sting.
* * * * *
Val-David is hosting 1001 Pots, North America's largest ceramics exhibition. Saskia and I walk over to the village from our cottage. We pay two dollars for admission and receive a stamped ceramic disc the size of a quarter, good for five weeks of in and out privileges. The displays are outdoors. There's rainwater in the sake cups and leaves blown against the teapots.
We drift along. There are butter bells, casseroles and jardinières filled with plants. There are cups shaped like monkeys with ears for handles. There are tiny bowls glazed white with edges thin and scalloped as a crepe, and bowls in burgundy with a rim as thick as my finger. It's morning. It's cool and quiet. The people with name tags - all with hyphenated first names like Marie-Eloise - are serene as they tend to displays and visitors.
Saskia's one table over examining a container shaped like a cactus. She's wearing shorts overalls and a Blue Jays cap. Her hair is in a half ponytail. It looks casual but she's almost sixteen and I know every detail is deliberate.
"I don't know which one I like better," she says. "The cactus or the hedgehog." The artist has mastered spines.
"The hedgehog," I say. "I like how it's curled up." Then, "Saskia! There's no one I'd rather do this with than you."
She looks right at me. "Me too."
We wander to the rear of the grounds, to the Jardin de Silice, where wire cages of chipped bowls and smashed plates form walkways and a courtyard lined by a chicken run. The broken ceramics are displayed with the same pride that the intact ones were.
"Do you know what wabi-sabi is?" Saskia says.
"No." I love learning from my kids.
"It's the Japanese idea that there's beauty in imperfection. I think about that all the time."
"This reminds me of the time we were walking in the woods, and you told me that you loved that it was such a mess, but still so beautiful," she says. "Do you remember that?"
I do. She was eight or nine years old and I'd been reading Emily Carr's journal "Hundreds and Thousands." We'd been walking through Wickenden Park in Deep Cove when I'd turned us ninety degrees from the path ahead to look straight into the woods. "Emily Carr would paint in the forest and note what a mess it was," I'd said. We'd stared into the tangle of salmonberry bushes, rotting fallen trees with baby hemlocks pushing up from them, the newest growth of sword ferns arching pointed and green from a brown nest of last year's leaves. She'd been amazed, and she'd laughed.
I'm so happy she remembers.
They come and they go.