Monday, April 25, 2011

March of the Pines

I really don't have any use for Easter or for birthdays but I gave mom a card with an astronaut on the front, congratulating her on her successful mission to Pluto, and spent two days at the parents' place to celebrate. It had once been my grandparents' place and I'd spent portions of my childhood summer holidays there. Today mom and I went for a walk around the property but I suppose I was not entirely present.

Of the six-paned window of the spring house, one pane remains. I remember when they'd built that raised hut to shelter the old bathtub that received the fresh spring water piped in from it's remote source. I'd used the remaining materials, and more scavenged from the barn, to build a ridiculous little fort of my own. It's any one's guess now, which bits of debris might once have been part of that little endeavor.

Inside the hut, old Uncle Ernie's mug still hangs from a nail above the outlet pipe. I remember his 96th birthday party at the village recreation hall. He'd looked down at me and couldn't remember who I was.

I've never seen the old tub before, not brimming with water, the constant overflow splashing into the pond of its own making; source of a winding stream that turned the non-tilled low-elevation north-west field into a myriad wetland; home of ducks, frogs and fireflies. Now the White Pines have taken over. They grow and proliferate like weeds, turning the scrub field into a little forest home for coyotes. The tub sits empty but for a dark layer of sediment. Staring at the pipe I finally catch the fall of a single drip.

From the doorway I look down at the dry bed outside. I used to pry large rocks from the ground and hurl them in to the little pond. The splash they'd made was nothing compared to the one that followed. Cocoa would leap in after them, submerge his head and bound joyfully out again with the slimy rock clamped in his jaws. We'd do it again and again. Later we'd return to the house, wet and green and smelling like algae and grandma would give the dog hell for going in the "crick" but he didn't care after all the fun we'd had.

One wing of the two-storey bank barn is gone now; collapsed and hauled away after too many years of wind and rain. The remainder is a patch-work of expensive repairs. Inside I spy a few remaining relics from childhood memory but we don't stray too far. It's dangerous with the floor rotting away. The warnings have come. The barn's days are numbered. It is just a facade now; something to block the view of the suburban style housing development that now looms on one horizon; something to preserve the feeling of a country sanctuary that is starting to become an illusion.

Returning to the house we pass the row of maples that have matched Uncle Ernie in their longevity. They're beginning to fall apart. My favorite one; the one I once climbed religiously; the one we'd fixed with rope and bucket so I could eat my lunch in the sky - is the first to go. Even the stump has been burned away.

For the moment I feel like a boy made old too suddenly.

Inside the house, the only man who deserves to be called my father is thinking about hawks and turkey vultures. "Did you see anything?" he asks.

"Just the sobering passage of time," I say.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Food Glorious Food

Tomorrow I'll receive my first paycheque in well over a month. Well - it'll be half a paycheque strictly speaking but it'll feel like a fortune.

Through the last week and a half I expected to finally be testing the weight-loss effectiveness of the good old-fashioned starvation diet but it never quite evolved as such. Two different co-workers each invited me over to dinner and one sent me home again with a bucket of delicious leftovers. Another slipped me a box of crackers for no apparent reason. Another dumped a handful of winning Tim Hortons food prize tabs into my hands along with the lame excuse he wouldn't use them. And coworker number five asked me frankly if I needed to borrow some cash and then handed over a tidy stack of twenties.

As I see us all coveting our jobs, fearing unemployment, belittling ourselves before our so-called superiors, working overtime (itself a significant contributor to unemployment if you think about it), distancing ourselves from our children, etc., in order to "make a living" or some overblown facsimile thereof - it's interesting to me, speaking cautiously and subjectively of course, in the wake of my own personal experience: that it's pretty hard to actually starve to death around here.