Author: Sarika PM
Dedicated to my hometown in Ontario, Canada. Every fall I miss the colourful trees across the river, and so this is my writing about it. Constructive feedback welcome!Rated: Fiction K - English - Spiritual - Words: 1,340 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Published: 10-28-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2268018
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I wrote this for my Creatuve Writing class as 'Creative Non-Fiction' piece. It's not really a story, I know, but more of a dedication to my hometown. If anyone has any constructive feedback for it, please send it in! Enjoy.
In autumn the Laurentian Hills are an odd quilt of red and yellow and orange. I thought they looked so pretty in the distance, from across the river. Sometimes the river would be tinged with their colours, or it would take on the shade of a dismal autumn sky. But it was the dreariness that cheered my heart; the vibrant colours of dead leaves made fall my favorite time of year.
Quebec was on the other side of the river. That was what my parents told me. Just across the Ottawa River was Montreal, I used to think, so why did we have to drive four hours to visit my aunt and uncle? I thought they lived just behind those hills; there was a city just beyond those trees. All we needed was a bridge right here.
My parents are talking in the gazebo, and my younger sister and I are clambering over the rocks down by the water. We stoop to pick up the heaviest stones we can and heave them into the water to see whose rock makes the biggest splash. We throw the smaller ones to see which one goes the farthest. My sister can skip stones; I never learned how to. Turning away from the water, I watch the ugly wolf spiders dart across the cold faces of rocks and into their cracks and crevices. Mixed with the rocks and stones and dirt are small shards of green glass and bottle caps. Growing tired of hurling stones, I climb up to the grass again, squeezing through thorny bushes and kicking at the puffy heads of dandelions.
There are people by the docks, fishing by the red and white lighthouse. The Deep River marina is hardly busy this time of year. The rows of boats seem almost abandoned to me. Fewer vehicles back their boats into the river; and fewer draw them out, each boat leaving a trail of water splotches as it's being driven away.
Mallard ducks, a plain brown one and one with a velvety green head, swim almost unaware of the people watching them. A little boy grins at them, stones in his hand. Running to the edge of the water, he narrows his eyes, takes aim, and flings the first stone. His father watches proudly, so I am afraid to say anything. The ducks aren't supposed to be here right now.
A rumble of thunder in the distance. Looking up, I see a dark swell of clouds hovering over the hills, lightning billowing inside it. I can hear the rain pitter-pattering on the water, like a whisper. I wonder if the seagulls hear it too. They are bobbing in the soft waves like little white bouys, their speckled heads twitching sometimes.
There is a watchtower perched on the very top of one of the hills. Are there people up there? I asked my dad once. What are they watching?
I can see along our side of the river, down to where the fireworks are launched from every Canada Day up the grassy hill from netted stones. Every first of July, a pit is dug at the very top, and a fire truck and police cars stand by in case anything should go wrong. Sometimes I wonder how the trees around never caught fire from the spray of sparks I saw fall on its branches. My dad parked the van here at the marina once on Canada Day, and we watched the fireworks from behind a rain-spattered windshield. They crackled over the river, muffled on the other side of glass.
There is a path, too, covered in summer by trees. On the other side of the marina is a sand beach lined with cabins and overturned canoes and kayaks.
My favorite thing to do during our visits to the arena is to run across the floating dock. I jump from the concrete to the wooden planks, the dock moving under me. I imagine sometimes that it might break away. I can hear the wood creaking; I can feel it rock back and forth. It touches the river like cupped palms hitting water. I run to the very end, and it's like balancing on a rail—even though there is plenty of room on either side of me. I sit cross-legged at the edge and unclench my fist, a small stone revealed from under white fingers. Peering over the water's surface, I extend my hand and let the stone fall. It makes a subtle 'sploosh' and then I watch it sink; it gets smaller and disappears into the blackness, leaving a string of tiny bubbles that push their way to the surface. I like dipping my hands in the cold water, making little whirlpools with my fingers.
There are no flowers that I can see—no daisies or yellow dandelions or purple clover heads. A stick will do for now to throw into the water. It's my tribute, I pretend, and I watch to see where the river would take it.
I left my jacket in the van; my mom forgot to make me wear it. The air is fresh-smelling; it smells of rain and wet dirt, of water-washed stones, of old wood. It's crisp like brittle leaves, their dried yellows or reds falling away from fragile veins so that they look like spider webs. On the road, the leaves swirl in small circles in the wind. I can grind them under my shoes.
My hands are cold.
A woman has caught a fish by the water's edge. Her line is tight over the railing; she reels up a small, flopping fish and laughs. I want her to let the poor fish go, but there is a cooler beside her. She rests against the little lighthouse, and I can't help but wonder if anyone lives inside it, even though it's really small. I tried to look for a door there once, but only found crevices filled with cigarette butts.
The water is dark, and I wonder if the river is as deep as the hills are high. It must be fairly deep, I know, or else the town would have a different name. In the winter the river freezes into a slab so thick my dad drives the van almost to the middle of it. I can stand on it; I can walk on water. Little shacks are erected here and there, beside parked vehicles, and holes cut into the ice for ice fishing.
I have to go now; I can hear my sister shouting my name. I hear the van door slide open; it sounds almost like the thunder if it's opened slowly enough. Before I run to the van, I watch as a concerned man wades into the water, teeth chattering, to where an injured duck floats lifelessly on its side, head in the water. I bite my lip and look away.
In autumn the Ottawa Valley is odd quilt of red and yellow and orange. It isn't the dull forever of evergreens; the colours appear for only a moment, it seems, and then they're gone. It is in fall, I think, that nature finishes her masterpiece then wipes her canvas clean to start again. I can take a picture and frame it, but I can't smell the decay of leaves and the air of fall until it's that time of year again.
A majestic ribbon, connecting me to Point Alexander and Mattawa, to Pembroke, Arnprior, and Ottawa. It is our life source; it is a border and a painting. It's so ordinary—and yet I will not be more content being anywhere else. I will live here forever.