what I need

sunset river, St. Martins

I am looking at this wide openness, my eyes drinking in the clear light, the bright ribbon of liquid gold winding to the far horizon. And for a moment, a brief instant, this is all I need.

* * *

My cousin recently returned from a two-week medical mission to Mali. Her photos show a loving community that by North American standards has less than nothing. When she returned, her mother asked her what she wants for Christmas. She said she’s realized she doesn’t really need anything.

* * *

At a Christmas party I attended last night, I was not the only who who ate more than I needed, then joked about eating too much. I heard someone telling a story about the frustration of parking at the shopping “maul”. The question “Are you ready for Christmas?” prompted conversations about family expectations, travel plans, food and gifts.

* * *

I already have so much more than I need. I am barnacled with stuff, it has stuck to me over the years like an extra layer of fat. I am holding onto unfulfilled dreams, books half-read, sweaters half-knit, materials gathered and gathering dust. I don’t need more, I need less. I need space and open air. I need to free myself for what lies ahead, to be open to the promise of a new year.

Photograph taken on November 28, 2010

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the world awakes

the world awakes

I grew up in Millidgeville, a suburb on the north edge of Saint John where it meets the Kennebecasis River. In the winter, we skated on the river, dodging snow drifts and cracks as we traced a path across the smooth ice. In the summertime, we swam at the beach a little way up the road. We had a good view of the river from our house, and I loved to watch the clouds, the sunsets, the early morning light change and glow as it hit the water.

I was in my old neighbourhood the other morning just before dawn, and couldn’t resist stopping for a moment to watch the river. A cold breeze was blowing from the west as I drove to the end of a nearby road. As I walked toward the shoreline, watching the rising sun redden the hills across the river, I found a small wetland next to a new housing development. I heard a hoarse call and watched a kingfisher fly swiftly across the water’s surface. As if on cue, two mallard ducks emerged from their nest in the tall grasses, wending their way toward the river. The sun rose, and the wind blew more strongly. My hands were frozen. Feeling cold, but awake, I headed home.

Taken on October 18, 2010

Red Head Marsh

There is diversity of life here in this wetland, wedged between the industrial park and Courtney Bay. The graceful curved wings of a great blue heron catch my eye as it flies to a fishing spot farther along the creek bed. There are ducks galore — mallards and shovellers and a pair of wigeons — and a scattering of yellowlegs probing the mud flats. On the far shore, a new sewage treatment facility is being built, and the shiny stacks of the oil refinery appear on the horizon. The rain squall that makes such a dramatic backdrop to this image reaches us a few minutes later, and we run back to the car. This is Saint John.

Taken on May 30, 2010