Island Stories: A Christmas Visit
by Sylvia Poirier
RED Magazine Volume Thirteen WINTER 2016
The snow glitters like diamonds, softly edging the branches of the spruce trees like boiled icing. It is a perfect Christmas afternoon. I sit beside my father in the jaunting sleigh. Belle, our little grey mare, canters easily through the light snow as she takes us down the narrow road to Ives Point.
My father, a man of few words, tells me that Lloyd is a solitary man who prefers the company of foxes and squirrels to that of people. I think to myself that is very sad that this man is alone on Christmas Day and that is generous of my father to visit him.
As we approach his simple dwelling, I am surprised to see that there are decorations on a spruce tree outside his door. They are unusual decorations - pine cones, bayberries, rose hips, faded Queen Anne's lace, dried elderberries and a small bird's nest. There are also strands of silver tinsel that have been carefully placed on the ends of the branches.
My father secures Belle's reins to an old fence post and places a blanket over her. He knocks on the door.
"Come in John," Lloyd says. The cottage is a small table, two wooden chairs and a woodstove.
My father gives Lloyd the meat pie my mother made and he nods his acceptance. Lloyd's hair is white and long, as is his beard. He has brilliant blue eyes. He wears faded blue overalls and an old frayed red sweater. Thick wool socks spills over his brown work boots. A greying black lab lies quietly beside him. Its name is Briar.
The conversation is quiet - murmurings really. There is some talk about the weather, the ice forming around the point, how the rabbit snares are doing. There are also comfortable lapses in conversation. Lloyd scratches the dog's ears and calls him "good boy."
The wood crackles in the pot bellied stove, the flames visible through the small glass at the front. An old aluminum kettle simmers on the top. The scent of the burning wood mingles with the fresh scent of the small fir which sits unadorned in an old brown pottery crock. Sunshine filters through the single window.
As I sit quietly and watch, I begin to see Lloyd in a different light - a man comfortable with himself, a man whose needs are very basic. He has no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no running water. On the other hand he has the abundant outdoors, his home is warm and peaceful, he has a kerosene lamp, a patchwork quilt and a faithful dog. He has everything he needs. He has enough.
And as I watch my father, I realize that this is no sacrifice on his part; he has much in common with Lloyd; he too is a man of simple needs and is at one with Lloyd's solitude.