A gentle breeze off Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe. A brilliant sun- heavy on the UV rays. No humidity. Just a nice all encompassing warmth.
I was on my bike and had rode all the way to Tudhope Park and encircled Barnfield Point. I could see the whitecaps on Cooch. As I rounded the tip of Barnfield Point, I could see surfboards and sailboats everywhere as I look out across the lake.
Lots of people.
Tourists are carefree. They yak and yell at their kids.
They throw cigarette butts to the ground, pretending not to litter.
They yank their dogs along on short leashes. They seem like a bother to them.
Poor puppies. Warm in their fur coats.
Long, pink tongues hanging way down.
Their heads bowed as if to say- “Don't yell at me Mum. I'm on vacation too! I just want a quick sniff”
I made my way back towards Couchiching Beach keeping a wary eye for “tourists” who don't pay attention as they walk across the trail, neither looking left nor right. There was a lady pushing another lady in a wheelchair towards a wheel trans bus. She walked out from behind a parked van and right in front of me.
I throw on my brakes.
Touching my left foot to the pavement I come to a stop- almost falling off my bike, just barely missing a 4x4 sign post.
Do I get a response from the lady pushing the chair?
She barely knew I existed- even though she looked up at me with a startled expression.
Further along I pass two guys laying in the sun on a patch of green grass that hadn't yet been yellowed to the colour of wheat field.
One guy is “lily-white” and smooth.
Hope he had sunblock on.
The other- who could almost pass for his twin, was brown as toast, his chest and abdomen artistically covered in thick, brown fur.
Hello Daddy!- I thought from behind my Raybans.
I peddled along briskly- yet cautiously.
There were a few more older folks strolling along the path in the wrong direction, oblivious to the rollerbladers and bicyclists whizzing by. They were watching a sailboat gently rolling on a series of waves that were left by a passing motorboat.
The trail crossed the boat launch and wound around a pair of Maple trees.
What a beautiful day!
Then, just ahead on my right, I saw a lady relaxing in a lawn chair just a foot or two from the trail's edge. Her manicured and brightly coloured toes resting on the seat of a picnic table pulled up in front of where she sat. Her right hand was propped up against her right cheek. She appeared to be looking out into the waters of the Port of Orillia. As I came closer my initial thought was-
Oh, there's Olive. I hadn't seen her down at the Park before- at least not on her own.
Suddenly, I was dumbstruck.
Olive had passed from Cancer nine months ago.
This woman was a copy. Identical posture.
Same hair- both style and colour.
Dangling, golden earrings.
Powder blue sweater with white peddle-pushers- that's what I call them. You know, those pants that Laura Petrie always wore on the Dick Van Dyke Show.
She had a huge handbag perched on the seat of the picnic table. On the top of the table- well within reach, sat a can of potato chips and a bottle of Coke.
I slowed down and stared.
She didn't move.
I expected her to turn around and say-
“Oh, Hello Dear!” in that special, warm “Olive” voice.
It didn't happen.
I peddled on slowly but I kept turning back. She hadn't moved.
My mind swirled.
In another minute, I rounded the curve at the tiny train station near the Water Filtration Plant. I looked back across the park as I turned and saw “her” still sitting there.
What if only I could see her?
What if it was a request she had made on the other side?
Just to sit on a perfect summer day and gaze out across the blue water- even for a few minutes.
A few minutes is a long time in the next plane.
Maybe she never expected to see someone she knew- or knew her.
What if there was a major rule when you slipped back to visit this side: You cannot allow anyone you know to see you or speak with anyone who might know you.
I couldn't stand it any longer.
I had to take another look.
I turned left into the parking lot and rode across the grass near the Seymour Conservatory. Past the statue with the now silent fountains called- ”Somebody's Mother”. Then, over the road and straight across the wide patch of green that led to the trail and the spot where the women had been sitting only a few minutes ago.
I peddled up to a bench in the area where I had seen her, sitting there relaxing on her lawn chair. I balanced myself- still sitting on my bike, by placing my left foot on the edge of the bench. Now where was she exactly?
I looked left.
I looked right.
She was nowhere to be seen.
How could she have left the area so quickly?
She had been sitting there only a short couple of minutes ago
I saw her from across the park.
No one was seated close to her. It had just been her. The woman that resembled Olive, sitting there- alone.
I couldn't figure it out.
I looked out across the port's waters. The sailboat I had seen earlier was just passing by.
Where could she have gone?
I just sat there on my bike. Bewildered.
Had it been a dream?
I couldn't be sure.
Suddenly, there was a soft whisper in my right ear.
I turned around- still seated on my bike.
There was only silence.
Next, a gentle, tender brush of a hand crossed my cheek.
Finally, a light breath of warm air.
I shivered for a moment.
The warmth trailed away.
A child screamed as he caught a beach ball.
Bicycles rode past.
A dog barked.
A boat raced into the Port.
Tears began to roll down my cheeks from behind my Raybans.
An overpowering feeling of sadness was soon followed by euphoria. The sun was shining brightly as the lake breezes tussled my hair and dried the tears upon my cheeks.
I pushed off from the bench and rode for home.