by Greg Blanchette, Tofino
It starts with signs, tiny things we barely notice. The creak of cedars in the wind goes up a half a tone. The one-millionth cloud of the year floats over, exhaling drizzle. Dogs won't jump up on couches anymore. A blue mist, barely visible, runs like a river through town. The old people take up tuneless humming, the teenagers tap their fingers and toes.
Then airplane passengers report strange hieroglyphics written in wind on the waters of Grice Bay, but only on the flight in to Clayoquot Sound; on the trip out, everything looks normal. The faint call of a trumpet echoes from the harbour islands. Business owners double-check their bank balance. Hippies twist their dreads up tighter. Graffiti appears on walls around town, trailing off as if interrupted mid-spray: "down the ...," "save my...."
Soon everybody yearns for the heat of the jungle -- a fraternity of longing that never meets. People drive faster, talk less in the Co-op as they shop. Soft cheese and pickles sell out. The liquor store can't keep apricot brandy on the shelves. Door handles grow sticky with surf wax.
At the exact geographical centre of town, a gangly man drops to one knee and kisses the hem of a woman's skirt. I'm a stampede waiting on a parade licence, he says. At the fringe of town, another woman grits her teeth and grunts: What counts in this cosmos, she mutters, is bench pressing your own weight.
Friendships hang in the air like goose down, waiting on the puff of a single word. A girl's hand crumples up a poem, a boy's foot hooks a root up Radar Hill. On Fourth Street dock the fishers laugh and laugh. Past the pilings, a river of tide hustles yesterday's dinner out of town.
Catface Mountain and Colnett Peak exchange their first words since the ice age. "Anything...," says Catface. After a thoughtful pause, Colnett replies, "In essence...." The discussion shows up on seismographs worldwide.
The horizon off Chesterman Beach takes on more curvature, the world wrapping on itself like an experiment in special relativity. "Rock walls can't save you now," somebody shouts. Sea lions and surfers catch a listless wave and wipe out simultaneously.
The moon moves into Libra. A hospital nurse breaks down and cries; the miraculous healing property of her tears goes unremarked. Tarot cards in the Tonquin end of town jump into the air during the shuffle. Their owners, sighing, pick them up and wrap them back in velvet.
Somebody buries a shoebox full of gold dust under a rhododendron. Somebody else hides a pink gumboot in a doghouse. Someone else writes their will on the skin of a lingcod. A purple fog settles in and people with hearing aids are sure they hear a voice calling Celeste! Celeste!
Cash goes missing and is found again in strange, unlikely places. People getting a massage claim they feel more than two hands on their body. Construction workers take to wearing beads and patchouli. Cedar tea trickles down the curb past the Maquinna and there's a run on lavender oil at the drug store. Drumming is heard, but nobody can trace the source.
Townswomen start craving mocha; townsmen start carrying flowers. The hospital lab measures blood hormone levels "off the scale," but samples sent to the city for analysis come back normal. Shocking infidelities sweep the sound -- strange pairings between the unlikeliest of partners. The ensuing break-ups are fierce, the reconciliations legendary.
The heat of empty rooms bubbles out over the ocean in a river of warmth that startles surfers: You feel that, dude? People dig out unseasonably colourful parts of their wardrobe and gather in the playgrounds. They look, from a distance, like a maple forest in autumn.
On local beaches the sand migrates south for no discernible reason. Parks launches a study but it gets lost in the computer system. A carver in a cluttered cabin utters a shriek as a raven lands on her roof. People nap all afternoon and wake up breathing deeper, as though their lungs have been picked clean.
Late one night the hieroglyphics are finally decoded, into a message nobody understands. As the sun cracks over Meares something leaves town forever, trailing a plume of white smoke. A whole village bubbles up through the solstice morning, teetering on the pacific edge of anything.
Greg Blanchette is shank deep in experiment these days, in both writing and life. He is the firstname.lastname@example.org. And he's going to be doing something significant to mark winter solstice, which happens at 4:04 on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 21.
Tofino abstract - an essay by Tofino writer Greg Blanchette.