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A short story: A Canadian summer
Kate Harty of Coláiste Muire, Ennis, at the Clare Champion Short Story Competition awards ceremony. Photograph by John Kelly.

A short story: A Canadian summer

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As our holiday in Canada drew to an end, I longed to be alone in the perfect beauty of mountainous British Columbia. In the late evening after dinner, I excused myself from the campfire evenings and headed towards the shore, mere minutes from the campsite.

Settling down by an old log, I glanced down the empty stony beach. Far out on the tranquil sea, a few kayakers paddled silently through the blue water, sending ripples across the bay. The sun hung low over the distant mountain, gently changing the Pacific waters from blue to yellow to orange.

On the mainland, the distant mountains turned orange as the light hit them. Far off to the south of the hills, the faint lights of the city flickered and twinkled in the fading daylight. I sat down and leaned my head against the log. I turned it towards the sun, closed my eyes and felt the rays of its soft light as it warmed my face. Tiny waves broke on the rocks and hissed as they sucked the pebbles back with them. I heard the gentle crunch of the stone as the kayaks were pulled out of the water, dripping wet. The droplets sparkle in the fading sunlight.

I heard the beating of wings and a flock of Canada geese flew close to the water. They flew on and settled a little farther down the beach, flapping and started to clean their wings. A heron flew down, landing on a rock, suspended on one foot, the other tucked beneath him. He watched me, motionless and unblinking. I stared back, echoing his stillness. The sun sank lower and lower into the mountain, making it look like a volcano. I watched as the last little bit slipped out of view below the horizon.

There was still light in the sky, but it faded quickly, and I could just about make out the first stars hanging in the dusky sky above me. I looked at the water and saw the reflection of the stars, identical to those suspended above the bay, I saw a crescent moon, just above the eastern horizon, rising in a perfect arc over the bay. I checked my watch, the moonlight just bright enough to read the large, round face. It was getting late, yet I stayed for a little longer and watched the gentle waves contort the reflection of the moon. Eventually, I got up and walked back down the beach toward the camp site as the gentle crunching of the pebbles broke the silence in the untouched night.
I woke up early the next morning and lay in my warm sleeping bag, listening to the sounds from early daybreak. After a few moments I sat up in the cramped tent and pulled on my jacket. The noise of the zip sounded loud in the quiet morning. After pulling on my boots, I stepped out of the tent onto the wet grass, straightened up and listened to the sounds of the early birds starting the dawn chorus. The dewy grass darkened my brown leather boots as I walked to the rusted gate. I opened it cautiously, aware of its squeaky hinges. It opened silently for once and I slipped through, unheard by the sleeping campers.

I made my way down the wooden steps towards the stony beach, reached the rocky shore and walked along the small pebbled beach to the log I sat by last night. I settled down on the knobbly stump, the wood slightly cold, but not as cold as the grey rocks that lay by my feet. A low cloud of sea fog obscured my vision of the distant hills. The sea and the mist mingled together, unaware of the other lying just above or just beneath them. The moon had slipped below the western horizon, not to be seen for another day. I looked upwards to the pale blue sky and watched the last stars fade and vanish in the light of the coming day.

Hearing a sudden rush of stones down a slope, I whipped my head around to face the far end of the beach and my heart skipped a beat. A small black bear sat patiently by the water’s edge, watching intently. A tiny dark shadow moved in the shallows. The bear swiped its paw quickly through the water and brought it back up to the surface, a fish caught on the long sharp claws. I watched as it tossed it into the air, snapping at it like a dog. It chewed once, swallowed and licked its lips contentedly. It looked like it was no more than a year old, so I was wary of moving at all in case the mother was somewhere close by.

Staying motionless, I watched him lie down again, waiting for the next dark shadow to appear by the water’s edge. Soon he grew tired, and lumbered off into the forest. I glanced back towards the mountains, now visible, the mist having disappeared. I watched, entranced, as the sun suddenly burst over the hill behind me, bathing the mountains in the pale rays of dawn. A roar in the distance started. It grew louder as it approached. A speed boat passed across the bay, the sound of the engine shattering the silent stillness of daybreak. I watched the even waves as they rolled in towards the craggy shore, breaking over the grey stones loudly, sucking out again, bringing the stones with them with a clattering. The sound subsided as the waves decreased and the boat sped on towards the mainland. I watched the sunrise on the mountains a few moments later before standing up stiffly, stretching my arms and walking slowly back to the steps.

The bustle of the campsite at noon was not unusual as some campers packed up their tents and belongings, ready for the boat to the mainland, but I longed to be on my own again in the beautiful nature that I had travelled so far to see. After a hurried lunch,I slipped away quietly, unnoticed in the busy afternoon. I walked slowly down a stony path, the gravel crunching under my feet. The birds sang loudly above me through the noise of my footsteps. I wandered on, the trees above arching their branches over the path, meeting at their tips, forming a cathedral roof. I followed the path to the lake, where the iconic conifers grew large and tall all the way down to the still blue water.
The tree-lined path led right down to the water’s edge, where it stopped at a small sandy beach. At one end of it was an uneven wooden jetty, jutting out into the deep water. I stood for a moment, taking in the beauty of nature, before taking off my sandals and walking along the creaky jetty. I reached the end of the jetty and stood there for a while, taking in the silence of the lonely lake. It was a peaceful loneliness, untouched by noises of traffic and cities. At the end of the jetty, I sat down and dangled my legs in the cool, clear water.

A few tiny minnows swam up, nibbling at my feet. It tickled slightly. A dark shadow swam below me silently. The minnows disappeared instantly, sensing the danger. I watched the dark shadow streak through the water right out to the centre of the lake. A little minnow jumped high into the air, but was snapped up by a large salmon almost immediately. I watched the drops tossed into the air as the minnow struggled, before falling limply into the salmon’s mouth. The droplets glistened like a thousand diamonds in the sun, before falling onto the calm water, sending ripples across the lake.
I was anxious to explore the rest of the island, so, after a few minutes; I stood up and walked slowly back to the shore, leaving a trail of wet footprints on the pier to fade slowly in the midday sun.

By Kate Harty, Coláiste Muire, Ennis

As our holiday in Canada drew to an end, I longed to be alone in the perfect beauty of mountainous British Columbia

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