Writing with the Wild
There are several locations on the Bruce Peninsula that inspired specific scenes in Perdita. Below are two, along with excerpts from Marged Brice’s diaries (1897-1898).
Cape Prius, April 17, 1897
“I love the sound of my skirts swishing through the dry grasses—as if I grow here, too, and am a part of this place, its flesh and blood.
They were having a bonfire on the shore, near the Lodge, but I could not hear any voices. Sometimes it is so still I can hear a single whisper, but that won’t be until later in the summer. Now everything is thawing and stirring and returning to life in a grand cacophony of whispers.
I cut Father’s hair today—a sure sign that the summer season is coming. His hands are dreadful, filthy from the paraffin, and they smell dreadful, too. They will be like that for the next seven months. He and Uncle Gil have been cleaning and cleaning and getting the Light ready. I helped them with the glass, but honestly I know they came and polished again after me. Uncle Gil handed me an enormous pile of rags to be washed, and I have hidden half of them from Auntie A. She will begin her complaining, and then we will have seven months of that, too!
Now Tad will be up all night—and Uncle Gil, as well. I shall have to be quiet in the mornings when he is asleep. I shall make Auntie walk with me and keep her from making noise, for she has grown a little clumsy with age—though I should never dare to even suggest such a thing. We will go to her little Luke’s grave, and we shall make it tidy, and I think while she is praying I will make up a story for him, just as if he were a living boy. Auntie A. will like to go—it comforts her. And of course we can leave Mother quiet—she always is restful in the mornings.
But I—I am so restless with all these familiar things! I will be nineteen this year. Will I spend all of my days here? Living through the seasons like a blade of grass or one of the rocks down below? I feel as if I am waiting for something to happen and all the world around is poised, expectant—and yet it is only the spring coming. And the boats, and the boaters from the city, and the fishermen…They all come year after year. And yet, why do I feel this expectancy—for something! For someone?”
Cape Prius, September 11, 1897
“I asked George about his canvas, and he told me it was a painting of the two buoys that flanked the entrance to the Basin….I remembered what Allan had told me and asked him if this were the painting he was going to call Good and Evil. He laughed and said that he gathered Allan had been spying on him. Then he turned suddenly serious and asked me what I thought of the title.
I was quiet for a moment, for to be truthful, I had not liked it, and yet I did not know why.
“Well,” I began, “one buoy is for starboard and the other is for port. I do not see how one can be good and the other evil, for both are guides and the one is necessary to the other.”
“Precisely,” said George. “But do you not think that good and evil have meaning for us only when they are in tension—when they are together, the one contingent upon the other?”
I nodded, for I understood what he meant. After a few seconds, I turned to him and said, “But do you not think that we can—that man has the capacity to truly discern the one from the other? If you are right, then all that we can hope for is passage between them and nothing else.”
He looked at me curiously, and then he asked me the most peculiar question.
“Which are you, then, Marged, starboard or port?” His eyes were looking intently into mine, and I could see the golden flecks shimmering in them.
I was silent again and sat looking out over the water, struggling to find the right words. Then I got up, and dusting off my skirt, I answered him.
“I think that I am neither, for I am more inclined to the waves that move around and through the buoys. The buoys are tied and pull constantly at their leashes. They are captive to man’s desires; they are his tools of navigation. I could only find but a passing reference in them, not a true course. For that, I would head for the open sea. Isn’t that what one really wishes for when one is sailing? It is the open water that is the best part of being on a boat; when the wind takes you where you are going, and for a moment it seems as if the boat and the wind are one and the same. That’s the true course.”
I do not know what possessed me to say such things to him, but in my way I think it was a gesture of my friendship, for I had answered his question with my real thoughts and had not twisted them in deference to any polite convention.
He did not answer, but he held my gaze for a few seconds, saying nothing but looking at me quite thoughtfully.
“Then where are good and evil?” he asked.
“Why, both are in ourselves,” I exclaimed, bending over to gather up the remaining food.
He placed his hand on my arm, arresting my movement….”