Letters from the Pandemic 14: A Madeleine Moment

A Madeleine Moment
by Kerstin Stuerzbecher


I have spent this year of the pandemic “in search of lost time.” Some formerly automatic moments melted away from my presence: the daily commute, the take-away coffee in a traveller’s mug, greeting friends with a hug. Other moments formed in their novelty: walking the long way around the river, reciting Blake’s “Tyger” for the handwash routine, meeting the Book Club on-line. Yet there were losses, experiences that irrevocably happened in absence: my father’s death in my home country, the ritual of his funeral, the consolation of shared grief in the company of those who loved him.

The last photo of Kerstin Stuerzbecher wth her father, October 2019

Recently I noticed a particular hemlock tree on my walk. Branches draped in moss, its awkward grace led my eye to a clearing resting in translucent harmony. Muted greens, languid mist in the air, steam rising from the leaf-covered ground. I inhale the musty smell and unbidden — as it must be — there rises a Chestnut tree before me. It is an imposing tree, and the Gordian knot of branches stretch from the garden over the narrow sidewalk onto the street. Fallen leaves and burrs and nuts cover everything.

I pick up a perfectly round chestnut and watch my father perform the yearly ritual of raking the leaves. He moves with deliberation and efficiency — just how, as a boy, he learned it from his grandfather on a small farm in Silesia. He creates careful piles, and his hands, touched by the last vestiges of a late autumn sun, grab armfuls of leaves to throw into the wheelbarrow.

For a precious second I am there beside him — then the image collapses, my dog is barking at a chattering squirrel, and I stand by the hemlock and the river, bewildered at the passing comfort of memory.


Kerstin Stuerzbecher

Kerstin Stuerzbecher is a PhD candidate in GLS.


The Ormsby Review. More Books. More Reviews. More Often.

Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie

The Ormsby Review is a journal service for in-depth coverage of B.C. books and authors. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Wade Davis, Hugh Johnston, Patricia Roy, David Stouck, and Graeme Wynn. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Provincial Government Patron since September 2018: Creative BC

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