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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

8.15 a.m. A loud cicada zinging like a high wire, a squirrel gnawing, my fingers pattering, and that’s it for noise. For now. No, my stomach growling too. Breakfast is needed.

Now that it’s winding down, I have to say – this has been a perfect summer. Just hot enough, with tons of rain for the garden, which still looks spectacular. There has been a bit of travel and a great deal of time for creative work, which for a freelance writer is what holidays from paid work are for. On second thought, no, it hasn’t been perfect – I didn’t get into the country or the wilderness at all, no Ontario lakes, no cottage, no hikes. My own inner-city garden has provided the tranquil vista.

But mostly – there has been a small sun-browned body to watch enjoying what summer offers. Yesterday, his mother took both of us to Sunnyside Pool, which is newly refurbished, an enormous sparkling facility on the edge of the lake. And our little man, now 15 months old, spent an hour flinging himself from the edge of the pool into the waiting arms of two women and seducing many others – so many stop to watch him and exclaim, He’s adorable! He’s also brave and fearless. He’d pull himself out of the water, stand for a minute and then fly. You have to watch him every second, said his mother. I realized why she is so good at this job – because she is very relaxed and yet vigilant. She lets him take risks, much more than I ever did as her mother, but she is always there to make sure the consequences are never too serious.

So we splashed and floated and then went to the nearby café for lunch overlooking the beach. Summer.  I realized then why I started to get fit at the age of 40. It wasn’t that I was newly divorced and needed something to fill the hole left by the end of my marriage, no. It was that I knew, somewhere, that in two decades an extremely energetic and strong young person would be born and need a relatively strong and energetic grandma. And here we are.

Spent last night reading Neil Gaiman’s new book The Ocean at the End of the Lane cover to cover, after the library kindly made it available. I’ve only read Coraline of his other books, years ago, finding it absolutely gripping. And this one is too – I could not put it down. Shades of Harry Potter, yes, especially in the dementor-like hunger birds, and also, like those books, perfect for mature child readers and immature adult readers. What Gaiman does so well is portray the horror of a child dealing with adults who are not what they seem. The most devastating scene in the book is not where the 7-year old hero is dealing with mythic, primeval hauntings, but where his own father punishes him blindly and cruelly. Horrifying. In the powerful climactic scene, the narrator says:

“I saw the world I had walked since my birth, and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality I knew was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.”

Made me think, of course, about my own book, and whether I have granted my child narrator the true depth of her fear and pain. Not sure that I have. Neil Gaiman rams that child’s reality right into you. And – as perhaps I have mentioned, not that it matters or anything – he’s cute, too.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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