The Ve­ran­dah

Arabella - - CLAUDE LANGEVIN - writ­ten by Cyn­thia Reyes

The blue skies turn dark, a light char­coal grey. The air be­comes per­fectly still. As if all of na­ture is hold­ing its breath. And then comes the rain, in sheets and show­ers. Pour­ing down on dry sum­mer grass, hun­gry gar­den beds… and our fam­ily’s ve­ran­dah roof. The wa­ter streams down in front of and be­side the ve­ran­dah. It’s too much, too sud­den for the ve­ran­dah’s eaves trough; pow­er­ful streams tor­rent into the gar­den bed be­low. The white-bloom­ing Annabelle hy­drangea is tak­ing a beat­ing. Branches part and bend with the wis­dom of grow­ing things faced with the un­stop­pable power of wa­ter. “I should grab my cam­era”, I tell my­self. But I’m en­joy­ing this mo­ment too much to move. I sit back in my com­fort­able Muskoka chair and watch it all, from the shel­ter of my ve­ran­dah.

The In-be­tween Place

That sum­mer be­came known as “The Sum­mer I Took to the Ve­ran­dah”. It was a sum­mer of guests. It was as if I had sent a smoke sig­nal, far and wide, or at least taken an ad in a news­pa­per. My tak­ing to the ve­ran­dah, rel­a­tives and friends de­cided, must mean that I was turn­ing a cor­ner in my re­cov­ery jour­ney and ready to re­ceive guests. And fur­ther­more, they hadn’t seen me in a long time. It was time to visit. I had cleaned off the long bench – a place to rest when I needed. I wiped down the wide arms, backs and seats of the Muskoka chairs. Out came the brightly coloured cush­ions, the sturdy old wicker chairs, and the big old out­door table. Around the table, I set chairs for din­ing and on top of it, the white che­nille spread that had been on this earth far longer than I. The che­nille spread? Yes. Pressed into duty as an el­e­gant table­cloth, its two holes at one end care­fully hid­den out of view. “I should patch those holes”, I’d think... and promptly for­get. Once in a while, a guest sit­ting at that end of the table would ac­ci­den­tally en­counter the holes and we would all laugh.

A Ve­ran­dah is a Place for Laugh­ter

My friend Mar­i­lyn, an ex­pert tea som­me­lier, de­cided to throw a tea party for me on the ve­ran­dah that sum­mer – the sum­mer of my ve­ran­dah-liv­ing. My guests and I used the pretty but mis­matched teacups that our fam­ily hadn’t used in years, and de­lighted in the Buck­ing­ham Palace Gar­den Party Tea, the freshly made scones, Devon clot­ted cream, pre­serves and smoked salmon. We lis­tened to Mar­i­lyn’s tea-tales with baited breath. Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, Mar­i­lyn said, it was Anna, Duchess of Bed­ford – a lady-in-wait­ing to Queen Vic­to­ria – who started the af­ter­noon tea tra­di­tion. Anna had dizzy spells in the af­ter­noon, so the doc­tor pre­scribed tea with but­tered bread. Soon, the other ladies-in-wait­ing joined Anna in her cham­ber for tea and toast. Queen Vic­to­ria liked the rit­ual so much, she joined the tea party too. We ex­am­ined our cups and laughed

mer­rily as Mar­i­lyn fur­ther ex­plained that a teacup han­dle is called an “ear”. “They do look like ears!” ev­ery­one replied.

Vis­i­tors seemed to laugh and talk more freely on our ve­ran­dah. A ve­ran­dah is a place for shared ve­ran­dah, peo­ple found them­selves telling me about the things that wor­ried them. Per­haps they were even more re­as­sured by the like­li­hood that I wouldn’t re­mem­ber, I would tease later. Par­ents, trou­bled by the choices of teenage chil­dren; wives, con­cerned about the health of their husbands; friends puz­zling over what to do about a once-close friend­ship. An ex­ec­u­tive want­ing to change jobs. I did the only thing I was qual­i­fied to do: lis­ten, en­cour­age, re­as­sure. Pour a cup of mint tea. A glass of juice or wa­ter. These were the pri­vate sto­ries – the ones too

pri­vate, even, to record in de­tail in my jour­nals. And so, the head­lines are all I noted and all I re­mem­ber. Oc­ca­sion­ally, to change the mood, to al­low my vis­i­tor to re­gain her com­po­sure, I in­vited her to walk with me in the nearby gar­den, to carry the jug A cane in one hand, a sturdy pair of scis­sors in an­other, I’d turn to my guest and ask: “What do you think? Will these ones go well to­gether?” Some­times, the guest would gen­tly reach over, her­self, plac­ing them in the jug by our feet. To­gether, we’d walk back to the ve­ran­dah guest is guar­an­teed to be su­pe­rior at this art. I wasn’t ready to re­turn to the world. But there, in the in-be­tween space of that ve­ran­dah, I found joy. There will, I hope, be other sum­mers, other vis­its and other ve­ran­dahs. But the sum­mer I took to the ve­ran­dah will al­ways be spe­cial.

right page above, Sung Kim

left page above, Jill Louise Camp­bell, Din­ing in Blues, wa­ter­colour, www.jl­ fol­low­ing pages, left page bot­tom: Jill Louise Camp­bell, Le Jardin, wa­ter­colour, www.jl­


be­low, Janet Kruskamp, Sea Side Inn, li­censed by Bent­ley Li­cens­ing Group

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