"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Readers Respond to ECHOES OF ELIZABETH BISHOP -- Part Two

In June 2013, the EBSNS launched Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop: The Elizabeth Bishop Centenary (2011) Writing Competition. The editors have asked a some of our readers to provide a comment, a personal response, to the collection. We will post them over the next few weeks. We hope these readers’ responses will tempt you to buy a copy for your own library. It also makes a wonderful Christmas gift!

You find out more about Echoes on the EBSNS website:
You can purchase online at: http://www.elizabethbishopns.org/publications.html or at Bookmark, on Spring Garden Road in Halifax, N.S.

Response from Sybil Flemming

There are echoes in the Village.

There are echoes from across the Bay; my roots clinging to the opposite shore, and perched on the mountain on the south side of the Valley. For years I was a “come from away,” tagged by those who were here first, but I have been able to stay and can almost say, “O, you’re from away.”

There are echoes in the Village; the church stands tall and proud, guarding the busy corner and the cozy house where Elizabeth lived and felt at home. Nearby the assurance of the fire hall, the busy gas bar, the former corner store where folks gathered to buy milk and bread and eggs. Now I can buy treasures and hear their echoes.

There are echoes in the Village; the aboiteau closes, its clamour unheard as it works to keep the muddy tides out of the peaceful river. The children splash in the Rock Hole near the iron bridge; the sun is hot, there is no school, no bell today.

There are echoes in the Village; what does the artist on her stool see today? I see the eagle soaring over the hay field next door, the crows perching in my aging maples, the young pheasants scrambling for cover under my pines, and the steady rhythms in my community.

There are echoes in the Village; a new generation of elms stretching upward replacing the lofty trees, “We’re coming back!” The power of nature echoes, “Respect me forever.”

There are echoes in the Village; I hear the voices of neighbors. “How’s your garden?” “Did you see Logan’s barn lately?” “Carl’s got a lot of cattle there.” Shared words of wisdom on growing, pruning, fixing, fishing and caring.

There are echoes in the school house; music and math, science and sports. This echo secretly whispers to me about helping young minds to grow, challenging them to try.

There are echoes in my hallway; footsteps from the past reminding me of others who lived here before me: the millionaire, the Cat lady, and nameless others laid here for visitation. I wonder what will be said of me when I am gone.

There are echoes in my garden; echoes of peace and tranquility; a place of searching and contemplating; the questions become more clear, but the answers remain elusive.

There are echoes in my mind; family taken, too young, too soon, too much suffering. But the past takes on a new face as cousins meet and laugh, tales of adventure and folly unroll. Ah, yes, those stories will live on, maybe even stretch and grow as we grow old.

There are echoes against loneliness; the family sounds the make a house a home. Sounds of kids, and Christmases, barbecues and music; Sophie’s excited barking announcing that guests have come; sounds of children’s laughter, sobs and fears. The echoes will continue, sometimes happy, sometimes nagging, but one thought will permeate, now I am home.

The book is awesome, a lot of vignettes from such a diverse group. Hope these reflections fill the niche you want. The Village has changed since EB was here; but I think the essence is the same.

Sybil Flemming grew up in Falmouth, Nova Scotia, just at the beginning of the Annapolis Valley. She attended Acadia University after high school, and at age 55 received an MEd from Mount Saint Vincent University. Her interests are as diverse as the subjects she teaches at West Colchester Consolidated School. Often found in her gardens, or on an organ bench, or gazing at the stars, she is just as happy doing an assortment of hand crafts or reading a book, especially on a beach.

 Photograph by Laurie Gunn

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