We Were Lions

You can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl.

in that long, tall faraway summer

we were lions

in that long, tall faraway summer

we were lions

and the trees were writing their names on us

the fields were tattooing our skin

bright as the sumac

dear as the queen anne's lace

we were lions all over the place

underneath the oak saplings we roamed

and we smelled of lilacs

underneath the oak saplings we roamed

and we smelled of lilacs

the trees bore the stars of our handprints

the earth knew the shape of our feet

huge as the hillside

fresh as the newly mown hay 

we were queens of those golden days

second star to the right 

and straight on 'til morning

that's where i'm going

i'll follow you there

in the slick urban night

when the rain's blowing sideways 

i dream of the lions we were in those days

in the frozen marshes of march

and deep in the briars

in the frozen marshes of march

and deep in the briars

the call of the red-winged blackbird

gave us the hope of new spring

hungry from waiting

eager to reclaim our planes

we were queens of those golden days

'though we'll never be lions again

we'll still have that summertime

written all over our skin

'though we'll never be lions again

we'll still have that countryside

written all over our skin

'though we'll never be lions again

i'll always have you tattooed here on my skin

From the time I was two until I moved out to attend university, I lived with my parents and sisters on farm in south-eastern Ontario that is almost unbearably pleasant. This wasn't (and still isn't) a working farm at all, just a big house surrounded by fields and woods where my mum could keep horses and chickens and my dad could comfortably avoid most human interaction. Today, this farm is called "Willowbrae" and some day soon you'll be able to pay money to stay there. Check it out. In the collective psyche of my family, this place has achieved a sort of mythological status, and anybody lucky enough to have visited there can understand why. The house and hills seem steeped in happy memories and anticipation of good times to come. Everything smells organic, it's mercifully quiet and being there just feels good. I was lucky enough to spend my formative years muddling around in this general goodness - it's a wonder I ever decided to leave. 

This song is for my sisters and for the home where we grew up. The name comes from our late-summer adventures in the long grass, crawling around pretending to be lions and tigers, jumping on each other. Having sisters is interesting, especially ones so close to me in age. I'm the middle kid - Cat two years older and Fiona two years younger. Our relationship(s) with each other have morphed and evolved over the years but there's always this core of mutual understanding and recognition that comes from growing up together in a particular time and place. It helps us get through the times when we're being despicable with each other and it makes them forgive me when I inevitably steal their clothes. 

Favourite line: the trees bore the stars of our handprints

That might be one of the best phrases I've ever written. 

© 2016 by Zoë Robertson. Photography by Robert Zbikowski and Vincent Fugere. Proudly created with Wix.com

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