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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

that Parkhurst girl

On our trip to the country north of Belleville this weekend, I made a long-hoped for stop at McArthur's Mills. No mill stands beside this pond today; instead a homey B&B gives the spot's beauty more attention that it got in the old milling days.

This is the loveliest spot in the village. The one business was a very busy gas-grocery-LCBO complex in an old house. We stopped in the crowded parking lot, and I dashed across the speedy highway to take a moment, and a photo.

to find the actual Parkhurst homestead
I shall have to enquire the way of Eurithe
1943 - courtesy E.Purdy
A few scattered village houses, then back into the silence of the country. On a farm such as the one above, carved from the forest and rocks, was born one Eurithe Mary Jane Parkhurst. In early years here she learned her determination, her make-do attitude, her strength and forbearance, her practicality, fearlessness and imperturbability.

She needed all of those as she made her life with Al Purdy.

Eurithe and son Jim, 1945
photo courtesty E. Purdy
It seems to me, in coming to know her, in learning their story through Al's autobiography, and in appreciating the stunning poems which she inspired, that Eurithe is too often underestimated - for her wit, her perceptiveness, her astonishing intelligence, her vast literary knowledge, her understanding of the world through a well-travelled life - relegated perhaps to that practical shadowy figure who fed authors and put up with shenanigans. But I don't need to speak for Eurithe.
Al can do it. In the poignant preface to his last book 'Beyond Remembering' , poems selected by Al and editor Sam Solecki, Al Purdy creates a image of Eurithe in this interchange:

"...And to thank Eurithe for many many reasons. I said to her a moment ago, 'What does it feel like to live with someone who write poems most of his life and yours?'
She said, 'To me it feels normal. I can't compare it with anything else. It was a life.'
Sure it was a life. But can't I wring even a modest superlative out of her like: 'Al, it was wonderful! I loved every minute of it!' Couldn't she lie a little just to make me happy? I tell you it's maddening to live with a woman who always has to tell the truth...."

Al could do it. And so could his poems. Read The Horseman of Agawa. And there are many many others.

It was quite a life. And still is. Eurithe is a difficult woman to keep up with.
photographer unknown.
Printed in The Al Purdy A-Frame Anthology
Harbour Publishing 2009

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