“Give us a place to stand and a place to grow, and call this land, ‘Ontario’ … a place to stand, a place to grow, Ontari-ari-ario.” I have no clue why that came into my head, but there you are. That’s a song we learned in public school. I must have been eight-years-old. Funny what stays with you.
Ontario is certainly on my mind. Our families are there and we are keenly aware of the distance, more than usual. I don’t think that awareness is ever really far from the mind of an expat, but these days … it’s more.
On June 1, however, we were still in first lockdown and it was all very new. The Goslings were still more cute little things than they were scruffy teenagers. And I was finally going to have my own bit of change. My gastro specialist had had to show the NHS that the procedure I needed had become urgent. It was a simple procedure that didn’t involve surgery — just swallowing a camera pill that would send digital signals to a gizmo I wore around my waist, that could then be analysed. What the NHS needed to approve was the use of medical resources for anything other than Covid-19, because working on my case, even for a few hours, would remove my gastro from play. I was keen to find out what I already suspected to be the case, so that I could receive treatment for it.
With the procedure a few days away, I was grateful to have the Canadians to distract me. You see, it’s one thing to suspect something to be the case; it’s another to be on the verge of having it confirmed. And there was no doubt in my mind, nor, for that matter, in the mind of my consultant. I had been adapting for it for years, in one way or another. Going back several decades, at least, possibly longer.
It’s all what you think is normal, isn’t it. What’s ‘normal’ for me is completely different than someone else’s ‘normal’. The challenge is in recognising that your ‘normal’ isn’t ‘normal’ for most people. I’d been trying for a long time, even before crossing the pond, to get answers, with no luck. I didn’t tick the right boxes when it came to the questions I was asked, so it wasn’t flagged.
So, over the years, I listened to my body and adapted my diet as needed. I’d had to learn to do this anyway, when I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, and years in the theatre had taught me a few things about adapting to the situation at hand. That gave me a leg up, in a way.
With June also came talk of lockdown ending. We’d been watching the news and reading reports. It really didn’t look promising from an outcome standpoint, frankly. We felt quite strongly that it was much too soon. But the news brought a burst of optimism from a nation that had begun to chaffe. People planned get togethers and holidays. We wanted to and waffled back and forth on it, but as students of history, we knew there was going to be a second wave. It wasn’t safe, yet. So, in the face of it all, we dug in for the long haul.
During their morning visit on June 2, I realised something was wrong with Papa’s feathers. There weren’t yet the signs of moulting season all over the lawn, and it was far too early for that anyway, so when Papa showed up that morning with his feathers decidedly in disarray, we were concerned. Clearly, something had happened.
The Canadians spent a good while outside my window that morning. By now, they were quite accustomed to me opening it as they preened or ate or soacked up the warm sun. Even Mama barely reacted, at this point. And then I saw the Movie Star stretching out her loveliness. Well, who could resist?
I honestly, in looking back at those photos, think the little guy photo-bombed her on purpose. Not long after, fluff and feathers as straightened as they were going to get, it was time to go. On legs that suddenly looked a little more spindly than they had a few moments before, they tried to fly.
The next day, the process began again. Eat, exercise, eat some more.
As the first week of June progressed, so did the Goslings’ metamorphosis from adorable little bundles of down to elegant creatures capable of flight. No matter how big they became, they never seemed to tire of becoming a tiny bundle of fluff at naptime. On the morning of June 4, I witnessed this little scene.
My goodness, and weren’t they growing! Their muscles were really starting to develop, now. Their legs actually look as though they could bear the weight.
I had opened the window to take pictures and the Goslings quickly made their way over, sensing a treat. By now, I am relatively certain they had come to associate the opening of my window with the coming of the Man With the Seed. Although, the Man With the Seed didn’t always appear, today, they were not disappointed.
Another thing was clear … even though their legs were stronger, their feathers were much scruffier as their adult feathers grew in.
They looked rather like I felt. Having had nothing but clear liquids for the better part of 24 hours, I’d had my procedure now and had to await the results. My follow-up would be in a month. I was feeling more than a little scruffy, myself.
Between the scruffiness and the facial colouring changes, by June 7, they really were looking like a motley crew, indeed. It rather matched how I was feeling. Physically, I felt horrible; emotionally, as my body continued to attack itself, I was beginning to feel worse.
I had been recording songs to post on my Facebook page since lockdown began; now, it became more difficult. There was a project I had been working on avidly for my pianist; now, it became catch as catch can, as to whether I would have the energy. But not wishing to stop, I pushed forward with both, as they had become interlinked. Singing was becoming increasingly difficult, as my mood slipped toward all out depression and my throat began to shut with unspent emotion. Still, I persevered.
Yet, our Family kept me anchored to reality, to nature, to life.
Sitting at my window, visiting with them, talking to them (yes, I talk to them) was more real than the chaos I was seeing all over the world, in the news and on social media … than the chaos I was feeling in my body. They are a constant, proof that life continues.
That is a recurrent theme in the story of the Canadians and their Goslings. It has been throughout the annual series I’ve done on them in this blog over the last nine years. They are a touchstone of purity, of innocence, when times are difficult. And I guess that’s the point.
No matter what, nature continues. Life continues. It’s a beautiful thing.