Leaving the Gatineau

August 9th - Leaving the Gatineau is the usual mix of emotions. It always feels like the right time to be leaving, because I’ve always made sure to prepare my heart for departure. But it always also feels like the time spent has been too short.

  We put our travelling clothes on and we pack our bags and we survey the emptied rooms and the beds that have been made and the floors that have been swept clean, the dishes washed and put away – and we soak up the hollow feeling of having never been there.

  We take a last walk down to the dock. The sky is heavy and grey. The rain is coming. But the river is still and slow and mighty. Again the feeling that we may not have actually been there. A canoe comes up the middle of the current, its occupant flailing away, to get home before the rain.

  And I say a deep and heartfelt farewell. My return to this place feels such a long way off – a year to be filled with activity and work. Our suitcases are in the car and Anna brings William out to say goodbye. He is asleep in her arms, midway through his afternoon nap, sucking on his thumb and regarding us blankly. His eyes are open but he is not yet awake.

  Earlier, he and his brother had watched as I left to start packing and had quizzed me:

  - Where are you going?

  - Back to Ireland.

  - When will you be back?

  - Next summer.

  - Is that after October?

  - Yes, but quite a bit later.

  - Is that a long time?

  - It’s... quite long… But not too long.

  - Not too long?

  - No, it won’t be too long.

  His huge blue eyes. Working out the enormous distances and the cycle of months and miles.

Andrea and I go off to the station and in time, up the railway tracks out of Ottawa and towards Toronto. Outside, huge flat tracts of land roll past, with smalltown level crossings and forests and barns. Some lights coming up in houses way out in the country. Finally Lake Ontario, which may as well be the ocean, the horizon is so flat and wide.

  And I start to fall asleep too, as the train rocks me gently – a book open on my lap and a 'Toy Story 3' temporary tattoo already fading beneath the sleeve of my shirt.