Lisa Ravensbergen and I only hike in the rain. Today we hit the drippy green grey endowment lands in our wickables. Shortly in, we hadn’t even finished discussing our kids, a flock of golden-crowned kinglets fluttered down in front of us. They are so tiny, at first I think it is a shower of rain drops. We both gasp and stop, still as statues, as the yellow striped fluffballs pick at the path with delicate temerity. (No, Lucia. Not temerity. Temerity isn’t timid. It means confidence. I wonder if it will change its meaning over time to sound more like what it is? Like nonplussed traditionally means gobsmacked and now it means unfazed?) The birds hop lightly towards us as I ponder my vocabulary, closer and closer, darting at grubs. I feel honoured by their trust because I could totally stomp on their pretty little heads. I suppose they do have temerity. I can use the word now. Five of them peck their way towards us, past our feet, and down the path, like pedestrians puttering their way through, under the Arc De Triomphe.
It is an entire day dedicated to forest, precipitation and sharing rare face time with my dear friend. We live in the same city, separated by a bridge. We mostly keep up with a few quick “hi”s and “bye”s while trading off kids, or witty texts and Facebook fancies. We have an epic chin wag about three times a year. This is modern friendship. It takes us five hours to do a half decent job of covering all the major subjects. We head down one path off of sixteenth and Bianca and come out another further west up the Avenue, cross the street, and loop around another path towards the avenue again. We walk the Endowment like one might lace up a skate.

Endowment. Every meaning of that word has positive connotations. I love it. I love how I have to use my whole mouth to take it in. Something rare in the English language. Endowment doesn’t let you be lazy. Not even with your lips.

We talk about our children’s tragic responses to report cards, and how we responded with compassion. But alone in the woods? These two mother hens? Oh we cluck! We snicker and guffaw as we mimick their faces: aghast, horror struck, inconsolable, desolate…for some reason this is very funny. “Mommy, WHY WHY WHY did I get a C in gym?!?! It’s MY FAVOURITE SUBJECT!” or “MOMMY, I CAN”T get a C in grade four math, I might as well get a FAIL!!!!!! I will never NEVER NEVER get into college!!!!!” We howl through the woods as we wander. The poor dears. Someday they will understand it doesn’t ultimately matter.

We talk about trying to parent around the near impossible things. Shoot for the top but don’t rub it in. Be competitive but don’t compare. If you have to make yourself smaller so that a friend feels comfortable around you, then maybe they are not your friend. Be a leader but don’t be bossy. How? How? How to achieve the right balance of things? As Lisa and I discuss our careers, it seems to me I still have some things to learn.

“Sometimes I worry I don’t have a right to speak.” I say. “Do you ever feel that way?” And Lisa doubles over in a huge cackle, in a way only she can do. Her dimples are deep and her eyes are shiny. She points to her cheek. “Excuse me, did you forget that I’m BROWN?! Of course I feel that way all the time!”
We talk about our creative process, especially in regards to the challenges of working collaboratively.

“You raise your voice a lot, Lucia” Lisa says. “I do?!?!” “Oh yeah. You have a lot of feelings. And you show it with your body. It took me back at first, but I soon realized it wasn’t personal. It was all about the work, but still, some people may not think it’s worth it.” “Just because I get a little loud?!” As I ask this, I am loud. Oh damn it. Have I been an ass unwittingly, again?! I sink. But then I swell. The Italian in me thinks this whole being afraid of loud people is utterly ridiculous, which of course means I will not change. I will simply warn. “Hello, I’m Lucia. I get loud. But not at you.”

She asks about my trip to meet my Fellow’s family and the conversation is rather short because I have nothing but positive things to report. “Oh his sister is so much like him. Straight forward and genuine and kind kind kind, and she married this generous gregarious sporty guy and they have two adorable kids. And I met the mother and she’s warm and loving and smart as a whip…the only problem with this family is perhaps they are so kind they could be taken advantage of.”

Our conversation turns to the moments we have faced our own mortality, in one way or another, as we age, and realize so much of what we worry about doesn’t matter. And so much of what we care about has been waiting, dormant. We talk about enduring the hard times. We talk about endurance as a way of life: no way to live. We talk about being forty and being young enough to start again.

It’s always these conversations with Lisa that thrill me, suspend me and terrify me a little. For a moment I think of being something other than a writer. Other than someone who lives in Canada. Other than a constant lover. She keeps asking why why why why why why – until I want to bash my head against cement, see my own grey matter and pluck out the answer and loudly shout “BECAUSE!” And then I am renewed by my own declaration. Ah. “This is why I live.” I love my craft, my country and my companion. When I snap back home, I am always that much more grateful for the informed choice.

I have to pee behind a tree. I trundle off and Lisa respectfully looks away. I secretly hope my sporty friend is a bit impressed that I have no qualms about urinating in nature. I feel pretty tough, actually. Flattening that fern. Once I’m done I head back on the path. She hasn’t noticed me. I stop and watch her for a while. She has her lovely face pointed upwards, looking at the top of the trees. In my mind she is asking why why why why why. I think of her big beautiful brain and the tremendous heart she has been endowed with. God, how I love her temerity.Unknown-2

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