“Mirages”, read by the author  (Also linked on the “Tell Me A Story” Page)


Cairn Island, as if strangely reversed,  appears to rise like a mirage of land far out in the shimmering water of the Saint Lawrence river. I stand on the dock and find myself transported back to the last time I looked out on that scene. I was about 6  years old.

Cairn Island, St. Lawrence River, seen from Lancaster, Ontario- Ellie Kennard 2016
Cairn Island rose like a strangely reversed mirage, from the shimmering waters of the Saint Lawrence River- Ellie Kennard 2016

We were staying with our grandparents at their beautiful, grand riverside house while my parents were away on a trip. The afternoon was hot and the water in the river had brought a refreshing relief when we children had played in it. I had gone in for lunch but was almost too excited to eat.  After continual (and no doubt annoying) begging and pleading by us, my young uncles had finally agreed to take my brother and me  in their boat over to explore Cairn Island. It was just far enough away that we couldn’t really see what was on it, except for a shape like a tipi that jutted up mysteriously  and so we had invented all kinds of tales about what it was and who had built it there. We could tell it was not a natural phenomenon, it must have been put there for a reason, but by whom?. My uncles who were not much older than we, perhaps 15  or 16 years old at the time, wouldn’t say anything about it except that we ‘would see’ when eventually we were permitted to go there with them. It was too far to swim and so we had no choice but to pester them to take us.

I was a little girl and that was enough to make me irritating to those two grown boys. Worse than that, I had really got myself into their bad books only that morning as I had gone into their room uninvited. (As I was never invited that was the only way to get in there.) Once inside I had discovered the stack of records that were beside their record player and had taken a few out to look at them. I had also opened my uncle’s saxophone case and peeked inside. My timing had not been good and they had discovered me in the act and none too kindly thrown me out with serious threats as to what they would do to me if they ever caught me in there again. What a way to treat a budding music enthusiast!

I ran to the boathouse, clutching my life jacket and towel and arrived a little out of breath- Ellie Kennard 2016
I ran to the boathouse, clutching my life jacket and towel and arrived a little out of breath- Ellie Kennard 2016

When the offer of the trip to Cairn Island came up shortly after that, I immediately forgave them for their rough treatment, not wanting to give up the chance of finally getting to see this magical place. I remember that it had taken me longer than my brother Gary to get ready and so by the time I arrived at the boathouse clutching my life jacket and towel I was a little out of breath. I flung open the door and stared in disbelief at the empty mooring bay.

I ran outside, sure that they would be there, holding the rocking boat to the walkway down the side of the building, waiting for me to arrive. And then I saw them. They were far out into the river, well on their way to the little island. I could make out the two figures of my uncles standing up in the speeding motorboat, staring ahead to where they were going. In the back of the boat, small and overwhelmed by his bulky orange life jacket was my little brother, his face looking towards me. I turned from the scene and threw myself on the grass, sobbing my heart out.

By the time they got back, a couple of hours later, I was no longer hysterical. I didn’t say a word to any of them and never even asked my brother what he had seen. It was never mentioned between us.

I lay on the grass beside the river, sobbing my heart out - Ellie Kennard 2016
I lay on the grass beside the river, sobbing my heart out – Ellie Kennard 2016

Shortly after this we returned home and I don’t remember going back to the house by the river again. A year or two  after this visit my parents separated and I didn’t see my grandparents, my uncles or indeed my mother, for many years. I was grown up when I next met my grandmother and grandfather, who had missed almost all of our childhood. We were strangers to each other, polite, a little strained and distant, both wishing it had been different. But how can you make up for those lost years? You can’t. How sad it was that we as children had lost our grandparents and they had lost their grandchildren. How it must have pained them to know that we were growing up not far away in a house in the city, but that they were forbidden to have any contact with us. How could I have known that, in the sad way that history has of repeating, I would become an unknown grandmother – a distant mirage – myself?

As I walk around that property, it seems that little has changed. My grandparents and parents died many years ago, but the house looks almost the same. The boathouse is still there, I’m happy to see, with the water of the river lapping against the sides. I am even more pleased to look out over the water and see Cairn Island with the pyramid of stones on it still in place as though no time has passed.

There is a beautiful weeping willow tree that has been planted in the place where the vegetable garden used to be, at the edge of the lawn where I lay and wept as a child. It stands tall and graceful, bending to touch the ground with the new leaves of Spring. This melancholy symbol is strangely comforting.

(Continued below..)

Weep Not For Me, Willow - Ellie Kennard Multiple exposure image
Weep Not For Me, Willow – Ellie Kennard 2016 – Multiple exposure image

As I got into the car to leave, the following poem came to me:

Weep Not

Weep not for me, willow.

Weep not for the child on the grass, sobbing for the boat, for the island mirage in the distance.

Weep not for the island forever out of reach.

Weep not for the sad eyed, brown eyed boy in the boat, looking back to the shore.

Do not mourn the broken records, the tracks repeating without end the sad history.

Weep not for the lost child, lost children, the lost labours of love, the lost mothers, lost grandmothers.

Weep not, Willow!

The spring, (like hope) springs eternal with the new and the green.

© Ellie Kennard, 2016

20 Responses

  1. What a wonderful story and so sad at the same time.
    I love your voice reading so clearly. It’s a voice you can listen to for hours and not getting tired.

    My parents separated when I was around 35 and I did not see my father anymore. It was complicated – as every separation I suppose.
    I regret not having contacted him before he died, just to tell him, that I still loved him …

    1. Thank you so much for that lovely comment, Geri! I am glad you enjoyed the story though, as you said, it has a tinge of sadness. So much sadness in so many lives… your own experience attests to that. Regrets come unbidden and seem to stay though unwelcome. Whatever we can do in the future to prevent their root cause, for ourselves and others is worth doing.
      As to having a voice that you could listen to for hours and not get tired… I don’t think my husband feels quite the same, as he seems to fall asleep sometimes when I am talking to him! 😉
      Have a lovely day!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Nigel. We were just talking about you, with Steven. He mentioned that you had liked the link on FB. Thank you.

  2. This is so beautiful. I am sitting here at dawn with the bedroom window open , listening to the birds singing in the backyard after having listened. I have spent much time over the last six years visiting places of my childhood that I haven’t seen in 40 or so years. You have so beautifully described a kind of feeling that I have no words for, and have been searching. thank you so much.

    1. Edie, this comment was absolutely lovely, thank you. On my About Ellie page here I have written the following “A story is successful for me if it brings you, my readers an added dimension, layers supplied by your own life and experiences which you feel inspired to share with me. I feel that I have achieved that when I read comments you send me. Thank you.”
      Your words fit perfectly into that for me.

  3. Beautifully read and written Ellie. As we get older poignant stories touch us on all sorts of levels. Thank you for a lovely few minutes.

    1. It is lovely to hear from you after all these years, Monica. Thank you so much for this lovely comment. I really appreciate your thoughts and I agree. Listening to the reminiscences of others often triggers our own, which is probably where mine are coming from!

  4. Very well done Ellie I so much enjoy your reading of it. It adds so much to hear you tell as to just read it myself.

  5. Ellie ,realmente me emociona saber que cada parte desse lugar te traz a doce infância !
    Apesar de algumas tristeza …
    Nem sempre o triste ,não nos faz mal!
    Crescemos …Vivemos…e Amamos !
    Faz parte da vida !
    Amo sua forma poética e natural !

    1. Muito obrigado por essa linda comentário, Damares! Não, não é tudo triste, você está certo.Espero que você é capaz de lê-lo em uma versão traduzida como não estou certo de quão bem ele se traduz em português!

  6. So lovely, Ellie. I have a special attraction to and love of willow trees, and particularly enjoyed your beautiful rendition of same. thanks!

  7. I sat spellbound listening to this. Then I sat in silence for a moment before I scrolled down and found the wonderful photos which accompany it. Ellie, I applaud you. You have touched my heart and brought the sting of tears to my eyes – and I have at last heard your voice! How do you do, my internet friend?!

    Congratulations on this piece. It is superb. x

    1. I am deeply touched to read this Prue. Thank you so much, my friend! I replied on a private post to someone with the following thoughts which I think I will put somewhere on my pages here: “A story is successful for me if it brings readers an added dimension, layers supplied by that person’s own life and experiences which they feel inspired to share with me. I feel that I have achieved that when I read your comments.”

  8. A very poignant reading and story, Ellie, and I can totally identify with it as my parents separated when I was little and I didn’t see my dad until I was almost 20.
    You have a fabulous reading voice, I was there with you as you read.

    1. Azlin I very much appreciate hearing how this touched you and the reasons. So many of us have such similar experiences as we go through life and the way we respond to them, the way they touch us defines who we are and how we live our lives. The sad thing is that I was determined that this would not happen in my life to my family. But I did not succeed in preventing it, despite my best intentions and efforts. I hope your own tale does not reflect the same result as mine. In any case we all have a hope which is what keeps us alive and looking forward to possibilities that are not, after all, mirages. Thanks so much.

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