The Hippies of Hornby Island
  LG Pomerleau

On a warm July evening
beneath Christmas lights strung across the open-air café,
a clarinet spills notes on mismatched tables.
Flamenco guitars growl.The Cajon sparks the beat high.
Rastafarian curls bouncing, tie-dyed sarongs swirling, arms and heads a-sway, Hippies of Hornby Island
dance.
The music draws more
to the vine-covered archway, inviting as a cathedral door.
Earnestly, they hug and kiss, greeting as if meeting
after a long absence.
Since wake-boarding this afternoon
or all the way back to hitch-hiking up-island, this morning
a girl sobs, another offers comfort, drapes trembling shoulders
with a rainbow-woven shawl. Why so sad? A summer heartbreak, or just
the intensity of the moment?
From your vantage point in the park across the street, you wonder,
will the young ones remain when September blows the tourists home?

All day, hippies wobble down the narrow roads on rickety bikes, stock canvas backpacks at the Co-op, then linger awhile in the park.
Beads adorn grey beards. Tarnished braids caress thin, tattooed arms. Woolen socks and hiking boots are more practical than your sandals, despite the heat.
Wrinkled brown hands pat a bear-like dog wandering amid the picnic tables,
sniffing out love and hand-out, from old friends.
Near sunset, a lanky woman wheels in, tosses the bike, criss-crosses to a massive cedar while fishing a thick book from her denim bag, marked, half-way:
to finish.
Slides down the trunk, lights a cigarette and bows her grey head to read, intently, in the misty, slanted light.
Suddenly she glimpses someone she hasn’t seen since...
Bracing against the tree, she rises, calls, “Hey! Sal!”
Like twins, they unite,
chat, laugh, smoke, in the cloud of music, until almost dark. Then, without goodbyes, they embrace,
and set off, in opposite directions, on their flimsy bikes.
The story will keep.

On Hornby,
distances are short, but days
spin silently to rest, like seconds in an hour-glass
from sunrise to sunset to sunrise.
No demands
except to discover caves and stone wind-carvings along Tribune Bay.
Scry a tidal pool. With one finger, disrupt the spiny, trembling dream shapes clinging to the rock. Don’t touch! Your shadow alone makes rainbow anemones quiver and barnacles retreat, relax, retreat.
Comb for polished stones, shells, opalescent sea glass, spindly tree roots, burnished smooth as sculpted silver by the surf.
Rake warm sand with fingers and toes for the prized white sand dollar emblazoned with a star.
Await sunset at Grassy Point, where you can be completely alone,
though many come to watch, of an evening.
Lie on the dry, scratchy grass and listen: Yessssss, that is Sssssilence,
played on the cool wind.
Even the gulls settle their endless quarrels by nightfall.
Only fires on the beach and stars light the sky. Softly tell stories or sing songs, then flashlight into the smoky mist, find the tent and snore ‘til dawn. Or later.
Let your next walk down the beach entice you upward,
to the cliff.
Under its lip, ancient waves fashioned seats for lost mermaids. Sit, and look,
waaaaay across, to the outstretched arm of Tribune. See it? The dragon’s head!
Transformed to solid rock, over millennia, or maybe yesterday.
The hippies know.
They’ve gleaned the island’s secrets since drifting like seaweed,
to Ja-dai-aich, four, five decades ago, seeking a peaceful shore.
They wove dreams of escape into nets, and stayed to mind them.
Wind and rain shredded the threads, even captured the weaving entire
and stole it away.
Sea-burnt eyes tell the lesson: design a simpler pattern next time.
Snails traversing the dunes at ebb-tide etch lovely jagged lines, soon erased by
incoming waves.
Start again... and then start again... and then...
Treasure friendships, nature, places.
The Co-op, the Free Store, the artists’ retreat, the potter’s secret gardens.
The smiling kayak guy at Ford Cove, grey ponytail bobbing as his bare feet slap along the wooden dock, rain or shine, all summer, still eager to point out
seals basking on the rocks, or bald eagles nesting in the cedars. Even after all this
time.

Can it last? With values counted elsewhere in dollars and cents?
Not sand dollars.
Not sense.

On Hornby even the slugs are beautiful,
dluidly shifting their mottled-green or charcoal-black bodies across every path.
Rocky or smooth. Paved or untamed.
Leaving in their wake sparkling lines that fade away in sunlight.
Poems that will disappear.
Like the hippies in their bright sarongs
who gather in twilight cafés
to dance.

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