Day Four … Rows And Flows Of Angel Hair

“And ice cream castles in the air.”  So said Joni Mitchell, a Canadian singer-songwriter.  And that was my life behind the wheel yesterday as I crossed a lot of prairie on my way to Weyburn, Saskatchewan.  The flatness of the land embraced the vastness of the sky.  Clouds billowed.  Others wisped their way across my windshield.  I was enthralled.  Sometimes, as I was rocking and rolling to my tunes, a shaft of sunlight burst through a break in the clouds to say hi.  “Pay attention, Bruce.  The songs are nice, the lyrics and melodies transforming, but look past your nose to the beauty of the world.”  So I did.

Then all those clouds would just go poof, and I was left with an empty blue sky.  Maybe somebody had called for a celestial coffee break.  First of all I was disappointed but then the blueness seeped inside. and I got to see another vastness … of the soul, of all our souls.  Compared to our daily routine of tasks and responsibilities, there’s a silence of love that falls upon us all.  The sky didn’t have little flecks of darker blue activity in it.  It was all one.

I also loved sloughs yesterday.  They’re pronounced “slew” … little ponds ringed with tall grasses and usually populated by small ducks, or so my prairie memory told me.  I started seeing the waters in southwestern Manitoba but there weren’t any birdies.  I was sad.  Where were the ducks?  And then … “There’s one!”  Happily, their numbers multiplied as Scarlet floated west.  I was happy.  I’ve been in some environments where it seems that the wildness, and all its creatures, have been squeezed out.  Not yesterday.

Then there’s the world of pumpjacks, the devices that pump oil from the ground.  They look like the mechanical beasts  from The War Of The Worlds.  Their elongated heads continually dip down towards the earth.  At one point, there was a slight rise to my right, and two of the pumpjacks were silhouetted on the horizon.  I could just imagine what was going on over there – assorted Saskatchewanians being devoured by the aliens.  Horrifying!

Did I mention yellow?   The greens and browns are usually muted on the Prairies but once in awhile a mass of canola blasts my brain.  So bright.  Another time I passed at least two miles of sunflowers, stretching to the ends of the earth.  They were all lifting their happy sunflowery faces, welcoming me to their land.  I nodded back.

***

Okay, how about a pleasant interlude?  I’m staying with my friends Henry and Louise in Weyburn.  It’s morning and I’m sipping my coffee.  Here comes Louise.

“I think we have enough milk for cereal.”

(Why not, Bruce?  Go for it.)

“I once put a box of cereal on the floor and stomped on it.  I was arrested for being a cereal killer.”

(Giggles)

***

One cool thing about travelling is that you come across things that jolt you, things that the locals probably don’t even notice.  Such as logging trucks and “Do Not Feed The Bears” signs in northwestern Ontario.  Somewhere east of Weyburn, I saw this billboard:

Do you have a problem getting your casing to the bottom?

Truthfully, I’ve never really thought about the problem.  Things seem to be working fine.  But it’s nice that someone wants to come to my aid about such a delicate personal matter.

Now, Henry and Louise.  Henry and I went to social work school in Ottawa and were roommates.  One evening, he was clearly distraught.  “Bruce, I’m getting old.  [25!]  I need to find a woman.  [Sex is great but I think Henry was especially referring to a life partner.]  I’m going to the lounge at the Chateau Laurier to find someone.”  So he did.  He met Louise that evening and invited her to dance … and so began a waltz that’s lasted 43 years.  Wonderful.  Last night the three of us sat in a restaurant and laughed and laughed.  Love means being able to pick up with friends where you left off … in our case, in 1980.

Quite often, I forget my life.  Someone says I did or said something years ago and I have no memory of it.  For instance, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t walk around Ottawa one day with a roasting pan on my head.  I mean, really.  What fool would do something like that?  Henry told me that I used to say “Go shit” a lot.  Hmm .. that doesn’t sound like me.  Then he added, “No, you were saying ‘Gauche it’ as I was driving, as in ‘Turn left.'”  Okay, it’s coming back.  Louise and Henry also reminded me that I went to a Hallowe’en party in 1972 wearing a sleeping bag over me.  Ahh … I remember, especially the part about having trouble breathing.  My costume was actually an orange mummy bag.  I came dressed as a penis.  Think I called myself The Pumpkin Pecker.  These added details were news last night to my friends.  We laughed.

Today the three of us will see what beckons.  Scarlet gets to rest.  We’ll all have fun.

Visiting Kym

I was looking forward to yesterday.  It was time to drive west for two hours along the north shore of Lake Erie.  Kingsville is the home of Kym Brundritt, an exquisitely gifted artist.  Months ago, Kym had given me permission to have her painting “Cosmic Tree” grace the back cover of Jody’s book.  It was so kind of her.  I drove with a copy of the book nearby.  I knew that I wanted to meet Kym and give her the book face-to-face.

I found Kym’s art shop – Paisley Dreamer – parked my car and started down the sidewalk.  A woman turned towards me and said, “Are you Bruce?”  I certainly was.  “Kym’s father has just died.”  Maybe an hour before I pulled in.  The woman was Kym’s mom.  We hugged.  Such overwhelming sadness.

I decide to give Pam the copy of Jody’s book and then head back.  But she said, “Would you come to the house?  I think Kym wants to meet you.”  I didn’t want to intrude on the family’s grief, but the answer was natural … “Yes, I will.”

I followed Pam’s car and parked behind her.  A woman crossed the street and talked to her through the driver’s open window.  I recognized Kym from her photograph.  She was walking towards me as I opened the door.  She was crying.  We hugged.  I don’t remember if we said anything to each other before we touched.

We talked a bit – I don’t know what about.  I gave her Jody’s book.  Then Kym asked me to come inside for a drink of water.  We sat and talked.  Two old friends who had never met.  She mentioned that our timing was surreal.  As the funeral folks knocked on the door, I said that I should go.  “No” was her response.  “Stay.  You’re family.”  Oh my God.  How beautiful.

Kym and I decided that we’d go for lunch someday in Kingsville.  Whether that will be weeks or months away, I’ll be there.  Hugging people I’ve never met.  Isn’t that lovely, Jodiette?  “Yes, husband.  It sure is.”

Donna and Pete

During the summer of 2012, Jody and I spent two weeks visiting her brother Lance, our sister-in-law Nona, and their three boys – Jaxon, Jagger and Jace. They live in the village of Longview, Alberta, in the foothills of the Rockies southwest of Calgary.

We had a great time, camping in the Kananaskis, hiking in the mountains, sitting around watching TV, and talking at exquisite length to people we love.  I wanted to spend some time on my own as well, and so dipsydoodled around Longview to see what’s what and who’s where.

I wandered into a gift shop on Main St., and was thoroughly welcomed by the woman behind the counter.  She was Donna.  We just fell into conversation as if we’d been bosom buddies since the beginning of time.  We talked Alberta and we talked art, since she was selling originals and prints done by a local artist, Bernie Brown.  I ended up buying a drawing that showed a medicine man in mid-dance, but that wasn’t the important thing.  Donna was important.  She glowed.  It didn’t matter the topic – she breathed life into every word, and the wrinkles by her eyes got a workout.  Other folks came into the store and she lighted up with them as well, drawing out their humanity and humour with ease.  Then she’d chat with me some more. Ahhh.  I went back to visit her two more times.  Such a pleasure.

One day, Jody and I were walking along a residential street when along comes a gentleman dressed up cowboy, complete with a ten-gallon hat.  He was smiling at us from way back.  And then we to him.  He was Pete.  As we got near each other, I noticed that he had a large pink price tag on the toe of one boot.  After a few minutes of good-natured Easterner razzing on Pete’s part (and a similar repartee from Jody and me), I decided to broach the footwear topic.  “Oh, that.  Still haven’t decided if I want to keep these boots so I left the sticker right where it was, for an easy return if need be.”  We laughed. He laughed.  Pete became an instant friend.

Later in the week, I was sitting on the front deck of a bar on Main St., having an orange juice (or some reasonable facsimile), when I spied Pete strolling along on the sidewalk across the street.  He spotted me too, and started waving madly.  I naturally waved back, and yelled “Hi, Pete”.  Neither he nor I was remotely troubled by the looks we received from the other sunning patrons.  Truly, who cares?

The following week, having found out where Pete lived, I knocked on his front door.  How did he respond to the unscheduled visitor?  “Come on in.” (Big smile)  He was preparing supper and listening to the day’s rodeo on the radio.  Sure, he wanted to hear the results of the bull riding and the bronco busting, but he kept me and our conversation front and centre in his brain. So very much like himself.

So .. friends around every corner?  I think so.  Just gotta say “Hi”.