Weekend in Port Stanley
In all of this floundering, an opportunity to get a breath; a weekend in an old villa with ten people in mid-March: Painters, writers, photographers, two pilots, a communications expert, and two lovely young students. The gathering, suggested and convened by Liz Kuzinski, a talented landscape and portrait artist. We are all tripping over ourselves to get there, packing, car pooling, navigating through capricious curtains of weather; sun one minute, then snow the next; the asshole wind shoving the van like a bully at recess.
We arrive and peel off our Zeitgeist armour at the door. The villa is comfortable, huge, and inviting like a favourite sweater. Knowing Liz, I am confident that I will be fond of her other invitees and I am right. There is nobody I am hesitant to sit next to. The conversations throughout the weekend cover the wavering strengths and weaknesses of humanity, interspersed by long, therapeutic courses of laughter. One painter, Robin Grindley, has only to tilt his head and the rest of us are on the floor. On Saturday, we head out like a cartoon cloud with numerous feet sticking out the bottom. We explore the town, lacing our way through the shops despite the cold, arrogant wind coming off of Lake Erie. We run to watch as the lift-bridge raises and lets an ice-covered fishing boat through into the safe harbour. Back to the house and an evening that fills with more people coming for dinner. I run into old friends of my family, a couple who had started an organic farm(Orchard Hill Farm) decades before it was the in-thing. This blows my mind.
The evening empties out into morning. We rouse, have breakfast, and linger, nobody keen to vacate. Time, the dictator, finally wins. We pack, load our van and leave the villa, but don't head straight home. One of the pilots is a volunteer with the Museum of Naval History in Port Burwell and has promised us a tour of the HMCS Ojibwa. How often do you get such an offer? Carl, our pilot, talks us through the sub, detailing the mechanism, the world scenario when the sub was in use, and the finesse required to live and work in such a rig. Me, I could not get over how little space there was. Hardly enough room to change your mind. I was floored at the engineering that went into this beast; a remarkable display of the ingenuity of man. I was also tremendously sad that all of this effort was sweated in order to fight a war against other humans.
It should be noted that Carl, well over six feet, hit his head six times during the hour.
The weekend was over. I found it powerful, wonderfully unique in that the winter light and the vastness of the lake out the south window made it seem like the villa did not exist in real time or space. To be in a strange house, meeting people, running into old acquaintances, and then having a tour of a submarine, well, you'd think I was telling you about a dream I had.
Whatever it was, I was grateful for the break.