Okay, so let’s talk about that big old heffalumping elephant sitting across the desk from me. OUR DAILY BREAD did not make it onto the short list of the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.
On the other hand, I’m not really that disappointed. To feel more than a modest amount of deflation would be, I think, to waggle my buttocks with ingratitude in the face of unexpected bounty. Let’s face it, if I hadn’t been on longlisted for the Giller, whether or not I got on the short list wouldn’t have even been on my radar. And being on the long list is AMAZING, utterly unexpected and totally thrilling. One can enjoy such moments, but one can’t need them. And the truth is that being on the long list has brought a number of new readers to the novel, so I’m deeply grateful.
But life is larger than prize nominations. I was in Nova Scotia a week or so ago, participating in the wonderful “Word on the Street” event, Halifax edition. I’ve posted some photos from the events here. From Halifax I went up to visit friends in Annapolis Royal and stopped along the way to visit Mitzi DeWolfe at the “Box of Delights Bookshop” in Wolfville and do a reading at “The Inside Story” in Greenwood.
Then, with a few hours to ourselves, The Best Beloved and I decided to head over to Delaps Cove on the Bay of Fundy for a wee bit of tranquility. We drove down the long road to the tiny harbor, past a number of fishing shacks, some red, some blue, filled with lobster traps and ropes and barrels and mops and buckets and buoys and wire . . . A couple of boats floated by the dock, and on one of them three men scrubbed and hosed the decks, getting ready, one said, for the three to four months they’d soon be spending at sea, fishing lobster.
“Best job in the world,” said one.
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” said another.
“I’ve had worse,” said the third.
The Best Beloved and I wandered over the concrete and boulder jetty onto the pebble beach beyond. As I stepped over a little stream something caught my eye. “Look,” I said to The Best Beloved. There, on the rocks perhaps a hundred feet away, was a bald eagle, tearing strips off what looked to be a raccoon carcass.
His or her mate stood watch on an outcropping of rocks. We gazed at them for several minutes, not wanting to scare them off, but at last it seemed they’d had enough of our attention and flew away. Their wing span was enough to take your breath away. The size of the talons, the lethal hook of the
beak. Somehow, in the wild, these characteristics seem so much more impressive, so much more powerful.
The Best Beloved set off down the beach to do what he loves to do best in the world: closely examine stones and bits of seaweed and the occasional shell. He is one of those people gifted in seeing the world in a grain of sand, I think. I am more drawn to horizons and lonely bleak stretches of beach or moor or mountaintop. And this was the perfect place for such things. The day was grey, with the threat of rain, and great, towel-rough skies. The sound of the waves on the pebbles, sucking and rolling and clattering with the out-going tide, was like a thousand castanets being gently played. I found a comfortable boulder and nestled in, my eyes on pewter water and sky. I sat there for perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes, just looking, singing softly to myself “The Deer’s Cry”, which is a prayer song adapted from St. Patrick’s Breastplate and says, in part, “I arise today, by the strength of heaven, light of the sun, radiance of moon, splendor or fire, speed of lightening, swiftness of wind, depth of the sea, stability of rock.” My mind wandered back to a silent retreat I did last year with my friend Sr. Rita, at Cape May, New Jersey — a different sea shore. Sr. Rita told me, as I wandered down to the beach, “Look for the welcome.” And as I’d walked along the sand there, a solitary dolphin played along the shoreline and seemed to follow me as I walked. Or so I like to think.
Just as I was pondering that, out of the water popped a doggy sort of face. A grey seal. I called to The Best Beloved, so he wouldn’t miss this. The seal’s liquid eyes, I was rather intrigued to note, gazed upward toward the clouds for the longest time, before he looked around him, away from shore, toward shore, toward me. And then he dove. And a few minutes later popped up again. This time with a fish in his mouth. And again, he gazed upward for period, before looking around and finally diving. And again. And again, until he began to move off in the direction the eagles had also chosen, and finally disappeared from sight.
I was, by this time, grinning like a lunatic.
A different sort of prize, perhaps, but how extraordinarily lucky I feel.