It is possible to be an island and at the same time, not be an island at all. Partridge Island was a polyp dangling into the Minas Basin from the Nova Scotia shoreline. A resistant, rocky mound tethered to the coast with a wetland sandwiched between two beaches. Had they considered other names, Partridge Head or Partridge Bluff? My empty pack flapped against my back as I walked. I was a little girl again, wandering with my head down searching for crystals hidden inside of cracks and vugs. Picking up three specimens, throwing back one. Dogs and walkers weaved across the beach and day-hikers slipped up the hillside into the forest. The rockhounds would be around the back on the island’s sea-slapped side. Their trip had started the night before, checking the tides and waking at four o’clock to drive to the trailhead and chase the falling water out to sea. Their precious few hours spent searching, scanning, and selecting the perfect sample of agate, amethyst, or stilbite before dashing back to the mainland a few strides ahead of the world’s highest tides.
I tailed Grandfather across the cobbles, leaving a gap that was just a little too large. We didn’t talk. I used to ask so many questions and every answer started the same.
“My Millie,” he would smile and sigh. “Always so curious about the world.” Then he would suck air in, pause, and launch into an extraordinarily detailed explanation.
Our trips were for wondering, hypothesizing, and comparing observations. He bought me my first field notebook when I was twelve. It was palm-sized and yellow with waterproof paper that worked best with pencil. I diligently started each page with the date, time, and comments about the weather. The rest was filled with doodles and the occasional leaf or flower tucked between pages. After I turned eighteen, I saw Grandfather less. Our expeditions were a regular occurrence when I was a child, almost every weekend, but the last decade had been a strain. I moved to the city for university, worked part-time on weekends, and then we had the disagreement. A heated exchange about civic engagement had become our Mid-Atlantic Ridge, splitting us down the centre and diverging with him on one side and me on the other.
We reached our favourite spot. Freshly broken rock liberated by the last tidal cycle spilled out of the alcove and onto the beach. I flipped a few pieces with my boot, looking for treasure. Grandfather pulled a magnifying lens out of his pocket and squatted down for a closer look. We worked side-by-side, combing through the rubble. In that moment, there was high water all around us. In between us. We were two islands, but beneath the transgression, we were still connected. I sensed our shared foundation and smiled. Tonight we would compare field notes.
#Calgary Story, Calgary writer