Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tracks In The Snow (#185)

The other day, I was washing dishes and looking out the window into the backyard. We own a dishwasher but it broke about 10 or 12 years ago. At first I couldn’t afford to fix it or buy a new one, and then I could, but other priorities kept/keep rearing their heads so...we keep doing them by hand.

Actually, I kind of enjoy it. Busywork occupies the body while freeing the mind. About the only time it’s necessary to focus is when pain or pink soap suds tell me to be more careful with the knives.

I was looking at the snow-covered yard and trying to identify the various tracks which criss-crossed it. The rabbit’s were easy, as were the squirrel’s and of course, Benny’s were everywhere. On the shed roof were what might have been a cat’s or a raccoon’s. Those tracks were older and a slight melt and re-freeze had distorted their shape. Plus, to tell you true, the kitchen window could be cleaner. And further to the truth-telling thing, my eyes aren’t what they used to be.

I got to thinking about tracks and leaving marks and how Spring would obliterate those outside my window. But for a few weeks at least, after every snowfall, my yard would be an historical testament to critters’ activities.

Which, I suppose, is why some of us write, some of us paint, some of us play music, some of us build bridges and most of us have children: we want to leave a legacy, our mark.

Now, this internet thing, and more specifically, blogs, have made it easy for people to leave their marks. As long as the net exists, so will the tracks of many millions of people.

I think everyone with access to a computer should have a blog. It doesn’t matter if you’re not gifted at rearranging the alphabet. It doesn’t matter if your mother is the only one who reads it now. What matters is telling your story, leaving your tracks. Someone, somewhere, sometime, will come across, and note them.

Right now, my sons have very little interest in what I write. It’s understandable. At their age, I wasn’t all that interested in what my father did either.

But I have a feeling that sometime after I’m gone, they’ll become curious about the marks I left behind and may even enjoy following my trail.

Your kids might too. And theirs. And so on.

And it’s cheaper and easier than building a bridge.


What could be better than enjoying good health and peace of mind?

I’ll tell you.


So, I wish health and peace of mind for you and yours in 2009. Happy New Year from me and Ben.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Gift For You (#184)

Yesterday, I started working on a seasonal column. It was a wish list chock-full of earnest pleasantries. I stopped at the mid-way point to continue writing it this morning.

Then, last night while watching Letterman, I changed my mind. Lemme s’plain why.

Along about 1972 I bought a Christmas album. It was a reissue of a 1963 release called A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. It featured songs by acts that Spector and his trademarked “wall of sound” had made famous: Darlene Love, the Ronettes, the Crystals and others. I was a huge fan of those girl groups of the early 60s and the album was a big hit at parties with its rockin’ take on Christmas classics as well as some new tunes.

The very first CD I ever bought (before, in fact, I even owned a CD player) was a boxed set of Spector-produced tunes called Back To Mono. I was delighted to find that along with dozens of famous songs by the Righteous Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner and many others, was a CD version of the Christmas album.

My favourite tune on the album was one by Darlene Love called Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). For the last several years, Letterman has had Love on his Christmas show, usually closing it by singing that song.

Last night I was privileged to see and hear her do it again. The woman defies time. She just gets better and better. Now, through the magic of computers and YouTube, we can all enjoy it.

So here’s my revised Christmas wish:

I wish you’d all turn up your speakers’ volume to Very Loud and let your spirits be lifted by the joyful sound of human voices raised in song.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everybody.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Walking In The Dark (#183)

We observe Daylight Saving Time where I live which means turning the clocks back an hour in fall and forward an hour in spring. Last month we turned the clocks back. For many years, this day vied with Christmas as my favourite. I could sleep an extra hour! Of course, it never worked out that way. I’d stay up an extra hour instead.

Turning the clocks back favours morning people. The extra light is noticeable only to early risers. For the rest of us, the sun is setting an hour earlier. At this time of year, that means around 5:00 pm.

For the last several months, I’ve been walking Benny in the early evening, before dinner. More often than not, those walks were during that special time of day when the western sun’s angle added golden tones to the greens of spring and summer and highlighted the multi-coloured facets of autumn. It was a terrific time of day to take photographs and simply enjoy the surroundings.

This year, I was not looking forward to turning the clocks back. I’m a napper. I need to conk out for 40-60 minutes most afternoons. I blame my Dad. He was one too. Somehow though, my five siblings were spared this minor family curse.

Anyhow, my usual nap time is from about 5 pm to 6. Even before the clocks were turned back, the latter half of our walks were happening in dusk. Now, with it, it would be pitch dark.

That first evening after the time change, my thoughts matched the surrounding gloom. It was a cloudy night so there was no help from moon or stars. I could see just well enough to avoid a misstep. It was difficult to keep Ben in view, so for the most part, we stayed on the paved portion of the path.

As I did some mental math, trying to figure out when it would be light again at this time of day, I listened to the burbling of the nearby creek. Actually, it wasn’t all that nearby - probably more like 50 or 60 feet. I didn’t recall hearing it from this particular part of our route before.

Then I became aware of the night breeze whispering through tall grass and tree branches. It sounded like distant surf or the sighing exhalations of a sleeping giant. As we approached the southernmost part of the walk, the hum of highway traffic underlaid the songs of the creek and the wind.

And I began to realize anew what I’d forgotten during the longer days of Spring, Summer and Autumn: the charms of walking in the dark.

My hearing was more acute in order to compensate for reduced vision. In a very real sense, as one’s field of view diminishes, the world shrinks. Because there’s nothing much to distract me or occupy my senses, it’s easy for my attention to drift inward. In some respects, it’s like walking in a bubble. I can examine thoughts without interruption. Encounters with other walkers, unlike the other months of the year, are rare. My daydreams, encouraged by the surrounding dark, become more fanciful.

But some nights aren’t dark at all. When the sky is clear, the moon is full and snow blankets the ground, it’s quite bright out. Yet the brightness is much different from that of daylight. What it lacks in warmth it makes up for in magic. Shadows abound. Homely, barren scrub trees are lent a ghostly beauty. Snow, ice and running water have a silvery sparkle quite different from the golden one of the sun.

But I’d be remiss if I left you folks with the impression that these evening forays were all soft-focus, romantic wonder.

It’s often really frickin’ cold out there and the footing can be treacherous. Walking, head down, into wind-whipped freezing sleet while trying to stay upright on ice isn’t particularly fun. Especially when you have to look around every 30 seconds to try to keep tabs on a small, four-legged perpetual motion machine. (Who happens to be the reason you’re out there in the first place.)

That’s when having a wee drop of belly-warmer in a small flask can come in handy. The small, inner glow of warmth, illusory or not, takes a bit of the sting out of winter’s bite.

And, like the guy who hits his head against a wall because it feels so good when he stops - arriving back at a warm house, cheeks burning and hands numb - is a pleasure worthy of the pain it took to get there.

From the winter solstice (Dec.21st) onward, the days will grow slightly longer. By March, Ben and I will be walking in the light again. And I’ll appreciate it, if only for its promise of warmer days to come.

Until then, I’ll bundle up and enjoy walking on a winter’s night.