Hot running water is helping me to deal with traffic lights and locked doors. I’ve found dwellings for the winter. To the relief of my many mothers - I’m indoors and out of the woods.
It was tough to pack up my gear and leave the three brother’s falls acre of gravel and pine. The roar of the falls has been replaced by the roar of the Peterborough Hwy 7 bypass. I’ve traded in my woodlands for suburbia. How did I get here? Not sure I can fully explain.
It was just a thought. Sitting by Little Lake after a rough mediation session with my estranged wife Carol, it came to me.
“You like Peterborough don’t you?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Why don’t you look for a place here?”
And that was the seed that led to a place here – within 48hrs that suggestion had sprouted into an opportunity. I did my duty and followed up on the opportunity – questioning, discerning, praying, balancing, watching for confirmations and rolling the questions over and over in the tumbler I call my mind.
In this morning’s first light, Canada geese call out their wild car-honking cries through the open window at my side. I catch sight of a dozen of them reeling over the fenced yards. Movin on. It’s time.
I spent my school years in a post-war suburb in the southeast much like this one. White bread, roast beef and boiled potatoes – a few green peas for decoration. Security and privileges taken for granted. A lower eastside attitude - an in-your-face defiance.
“We may not have it all – but who the hell are you to judge?”
“If you don’t have the eyes to see the invisible, un-named gems we cherish – that’s your problem.”
From Scarbro I relocated to Trent here in Peterborough. A young man on the loose. My thirst for life only matched by my thirst for alcohol. Sadly my thirst for knowledge came a distant third. I found an Irish Catholic beauty who could drink my friends under the table and fell in love.
And I loved the poetry of this place. Peterborough resonates with poetry in my mind’s eye. Between pub nights I dipped into the classics and listened to learned men (it was the seventies) sketch out their passions for the greats of literature.
My heart would soar with the beauty of a passage. I’d be honoured when their muse would visit me at my typewriter. I‘d pound out the words – always at the last minute – or just beyond it – to get the grades to keep me in that surreal artificial country club playground.
This Priviledge was the coat I wore – black leather armour against my own indictments. I’d been infected already by souls I’d met and knew by name living in third world tourist stops. Their regard haunted me. And I never gave up the workboots of my grandfather’s trade union farm family ethic. Honest work comes from the sweat of the brow and the play of the mind is to make an artisan of a labourer. A world of ideas without action is to toy with GOD’s purpose for a man.
So I became the character in an epic poem – new stanzas written on the ashphalt beneath my ever-moving boots. It left me without time to read and write – trusting in my recording angel to keep notes. My love of beefy books slipped away as the adventure of impossible tasks took hold of me.
And now the adventure has spit me out like a drunk who’s outworn his welcome – back where I was three decades ago.
I’m living with the avenging angel Michael. He never left the neighbourhood of my childhood. He never left the bookshelves that spoke to my heart. He’s read all the books I’ve ever heard of and more. He knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the words of wisdom’s ages. He knows what I’m talking about when I tell him my stories. He writes circles around me every night while I sleep to labour the next morning.
My children, my camp, my church job are just an urban commute away. We city dwellers are used to driving for an hour to get where we’re going. I get to drive out of the city and onto country roads – against the flow – to where my next day’s mission waits.
My nights though – my nights are getting crowded with old ideas come round.
“When trying to remember my share in the glow of the eternal present, in the smile of God, I return to my childhood, too, for that is where the most significant discoveries turn up.” Herman Hesse
(photos from Richard Choe
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