Vern Thiessen. Bluebirds (excerpt)


Dearest Grandpa. You’d love this. On a transport, chopping across the grey waves of the Atlantic, another world on the horizon. The things you’d teach me ! Like when I was a kid : 

Showing me how to dig deep for red rock crabs and purple sea stars. Teaching me to swim to the wooden buoys and back. Schooling me to catch fish straight from the ocean and fry them up right there on the beach. Training me to sail your sloop around the cove. And as we tack our way into the wind, leaving the safe shore behind, you tell me tales of the sea. 

(excited) How the Salish could tame these treacherous waters in their red cedar canoes. How the reefs of Juan de Fuca became the graves of sailors on the Tonquin, the Melfort, the Valencia. How, at night, when the lighthouse at Trial Islands sweeps past the dark waters, you can still see the ghosts of men waving for help. 

Teaching me to fear the water, but love it too. 

“The sea will keep your secrets, Bab. Speak to it, and it will always set you right.” 

Three years ago, they find your sloop, abandoned, on Thetis Island. And no sign of you. What happened to you, Grandpa ? A secret only the sea knows. 

People die, Bab. But stories never drown. 

Nursing school in Victoria. Graduate with honours. There I am, cap and gown, standing on Macaulay Point in Esquimalt. Staring out at the Olympic range in the distance, and only a great invisible border between. What now ? And I hear you say : 

“The sea doesn’t care about borders, Bab. That’s an idea created by men. Go around the cove, Bab. There’s always something new to discover.” 

Now here I am. On my way to France watching all those waves smiling back at me, I’m going to be like you, Grandpa. I’m going to discover things past the cove. I’m going to collect stories. And tell them to my grandchildren.

Vern Thiessen

Texte publié dans le No 35. Encrages et recollages

Excerpt from the play Bluebirds (Playwrights Canada Press, 2022)
Translated and reproduced with the publisher’s permission

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