We're returning from a trip to the Bruce Peninsula. We enjoyed ourselves, but I remain slowed down by my respiratory infection, which improves, but at a slow rate, too slow a rate. Circumstances meant I had to continue with work through my illness, though I now have a month to recover. It's the first year that people can book the Grotto in advance, and, though our hosts at the B&B insisted that, on Wednesday, getting in would be easy, it was pre-booked for the next five or six days. We'll have to return. I've never seen the Grotto, considered a highlight of the Bruce. Instead we hung out in Tobermory and took a ferry out of Big Tub Harbour and out to Flowerpot Island.
At night we look up. As Natalie Merchant sings, "the stars were so many there, they seemed to overlap." I recall showing photographers' shots of the night sky, the real night sky, to city teens convinced the image was photoshopped.
On Thursday, we hike, check out a lookout and a cave, and then make our gradual way out, with plans to meet some old friends in Hanover, Ontario, near where they live and both work. I met Carrie in the early 1980s, and she was once an integral part of my life. Dan attended the same university at the same time, but I did not encounter him until, I think, 1989, when he and Carrie were dating. We've been in touch, but I have not seen them in twenty years.
We stop en route in a small Lake Huron town, for lunch and rest. My current health requires regular rest, and a two-hour morning hike is pushing things. My wife and I walk out on a jetty which bends to form a small marina, and find a bench wide enough for both of us to sleep on. A woman has moored a boat nearby and sleeps. A twentysomething couple look out on Georgian Bay. Some kids play in the water on the port side, laughter across the waves prompted by splashing and fart jokes. Four girls, about twelve or thirteen, dive and swim on the other.
We ask the diving girls what the water's like. "Cold," one says. "Not too cold."
We awake; the boat-woman still sleeps, the kids still play, and the couple have departed. The adolescents sit on the rocks where the jetty bends. As we walk towards them, one says, screeching too high, "Ah! There are people!"
After that reaction, I have to keep an ear open as we walk back to shore.
"It was like, April."
"It was after April. I got mine in April. You had yours right after Insert Trendy Girl's Name's party."
"Yeah. It was May. I got it on the weekend."
"Aww," my wife says, when we're back in the car.
We drive on, pass an hour in the Hanover Library, and meet our old friends in the restaurant. Their daughter, who will be attending university in the fall, is ill, and does not come, but their son, a few months old when we last saw them, joins us. He's a kinesiology student who runs triathlons for fun.
"It was so weird to get your message. I was just thinking about you, because Emma's going to be starting at school this year." We last heard each other's voices, we realize, by phone, four years ago.
"I can't believe you still have that photo," Carrie says. It's a Polaroid, taken in her dorm room. She's the same age then as her daughter is now.
And so we catch up, though none of it's really news, with one exception. Realizing what Carrie's line of work is, my wife asks if she's ever worked with a certain company in our city. She has, though she's only ever spoken to the owners by phone.
The owners are friends of ours.
Our repartee remains remarkably unchanged, though rosy lips and cheeks within Time's bending sickle's compass have come. They invite us to stay in the future. They own an Airbnb place near their house. We can have it sometime for two dollars and a bottle of wine.
No direct route exists between their part of the province and ours (a province, German tourists we met on the Bruce remind us, that's geographically larger than any western European nation). One chooses from a long route that's easy or one of several shorter, complicated, circuitous routes. All require passing through several of the innumerable small towns that everyone else here lives in who isn't from a border city or Toronto. We clarify directions with woman and a trucker in a convenience store, drop off cleaned travel clothes in a charity bin, drive through one community too small for streetlights and past a group sitting with drinks around a blazing firepit in a front yard, and make it home later than we'd hoped, but no later than we reasonably expected.
It's not even tomorrow yet.