Column for January 2006: Text-Only Page

Perhaps you thought of the quotation upon the front page of this site. January is a month in which most people settle into quietude or hard work. They make some time for introspection, and for some meditation on the future, into the year ahead.

Most people make some sort of earnest resolution, although I imagine that most resolutions to improve, break down, in some manner or the other.
Here I sit, my nose reddening as I suffer from summoning the courage to walk in the cold for an hour- to and from the store. I love to walk, and it is not suffering, particularly, excepting the horrid state of the sidewalks. I resolved to excercise more.

Earnest Resolutions

I have always been a cusp person (on the edge, meaning transition between one astrological month or the other, but applied, rhetorically,  to the past and future of everything, or the heat and cold...whatever.)

Yesterday, I took photos and studied our snow and ice conditions (on my butt, at one point, because I was sore afraid that I would slip down a slope of pure diamond ice, and probably break my head, or my hip).

Speaking of cusps, I could see that, as the new highway I live next to (Terry Fox Drive) passed the first set of lights past shops, and into suburb on one side, and country on the other, the well-sanded and clear sidewalk instantly became thick with shining, broken rounds of tough ice. Someone with a thimble had sprinkled a two inch trail of the finest sand, so that mice of the area would be quite stable, thank you.
Of course, ice had formed over this, so that bare feet could have, perhaps, sought out the fine sandpaper effect of ten sand dots per half inch of surface.

As I watched a young son nearly slip from his sure, manly tread, I was convinced that I was going to suffer, big time.
I had taken photos of the ice hillocks preventing pedestrians from accessing the roadway, or the sidewalk from the road, easily.
I had shot images that had me scratching my head with a "go figure?" attitude, images of wanton abandonment, where snow fencing at least 100 yards long had been left, in a roll, and stretched vaguely across yet another public walkway access. This time, the snow fence had blocked another streets' walkway access along the Carp River. 

I wondered why - did someone slip down the ice slope, vainly yelling at their St. Bernard to slow down, as bowser rollicked lead, master and all into the icy depths of the boiling brown Carp? Had they died?
Worse, had the small snowploughs (the ones with the eisenglass windows) been toppled by howling gales, directly into the rushing gorge, below? Did the snowplough guy die?

Stupidly, the orange plastic fencing had been mowed down, and the bale of it hung, a single reminder that if you want something done well, you had better do it yourself.
Why in heavens' name the fence had not been slung along the river, so that master or doggie would not fall in, while the ice was being polished to a curved mass the equivalent of the back-end of a formica countertop, I have no clue.
It was obviously unsafe for pedestrians.

See my photolog of tough ice

My photolog was sent to the Town Council in protest, and I figured we hicks, on the farm side, were not deemed deserving of a clear sidewalk. Not even the doggies got a fair shake.
I complained about the difficulties older people have, in staying erect, and even with the enjoyment of walking. I complained that there are no buses from our area to the shops.

Then, today, my nose streaming with the cold that I got as penance for being too afraid to breathe and walk normally, (or maybe from sliding on my hands, knees and rump on the dog pee that ended up on the ice hillocks next to Terry Fox, because doggie was not allowed on the riverside grasses anymore) I suddenly got the picture.

I had just written to my son, since every once in a while I get a strong (and often loud) "hunch" that someone has fallen through some nightmare of a landslide and they might need help.

When I see someone in Toronto, I write my son.

This is after I have called (or written) several times. When he or his wife do not respond, I have this awful feeling that it might, of the ten million Torontonians, be them, and that they will need my help. Even when I am sure it is not them, I call anyway, to be on the safe side.


My son had, as usual, written a stuffy note back, claiming that he did not understand how anyone could be lost underground, and that this was in no way in his belief system.
My son is 36 years old, now, and I think that this is the first time in my life that I have felt truly aggravated by his usually kind, charming persona.
Why, I wondered, had he bothered to be a summa cum laude honours student in English Lit first, before switching to the arts? One may as well sit on ones' butt and watch Homer Simpson til the end of life.

Why, his communication was exasperatingly stupid! Not more than eight hours before receiving his note I had witnessed the trauma and heartbreak of miners who had been trapped underground in Virginia. 

When I had written to him, or called, I had not yet seen this piece of news. I suppose some peoples' minds cannnot put two together with two and make four, when it comes to seeing that if there is an explosion or earthquake in one part of North America, there, for sure, will be some other repercussion elsewhere. Now I knew.

I knew that whoever slung that ineffective fence was the same type of person as myself. If there is a threat to the community- do what you can afford and make sure no-one uses the area until you are sure it is safe.

Daddy, Let Your Mind Roll On

I also knew that, come what may, my son, a Torontonian and dude by nature, was the idiot who walked his pooch straight over the snow fence, beating it down in his 'hail fellow! fair-weather' stoned approach to life- or, what fence? He never thought there could be a poor, nearly frozen snowplough guy upside down under the raging gorge of the Carp River. He did not have sympathy for pooches who could not take their walkies on the ice path. No.

Like most young people, he lived in a bliss-shower of wellness and Canadian self-determinism.

Who had programmed this dude into not accepting earth disasters and the suffering of this world? Why, I guess it was me, his Mother.

I lived in an innocence, when I was young, that was heavenly Bach or Mozart type music when I woke up, and pale spheres of light around or to and from everyone. At one point, I felt everything as satin, even a cigarette lighter in a car. (at least, not its element). I walked around talking about oceanic bliss.

Have you felt oceanic bliss yet? Surely, everyone felt this way, and the Government of Canada loved us.
I did not hear moans, shrieks, grunts or mouse-trink repetition, neither had I a clue that anyone got buried in any mudslide or landfall that was not broadcast on national television. Of course, when it happened, I cried , and prayed, and then I cried again, not having more than a farthing to stick in some collection tin for those who had lost their loved ones.

Try Prayer

It's just that prayer gave me compassion (often through experiencing my own suffering) and it gave me tolerance and forgiveness. It made me wait. It made me poor. It made me care and gave me the inclination to save life, and to listen to the upside down snowplough guy with his boots full o' river water (if that had existed).

I wrote back to my son, and said, I thought there was someone of your religious group in trouble - I thought that you would pray at least, even if you did not know of any accident, and how come you didn't see the Virginia coal mine disaster? Then, I pulled a "ye hypocrites" and told him how pissed off I was.

So much for tolerance.

"I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable."

Joseph Addisons' statement is pretty timeless. As I suffered in the lonely knowledge of how deep the difficulty has been with earth and trauma, I realized that I was in mourning, not only for those who were grievously lost or harmed, but for the poverty in which my son was raised. Poverty had made him a work zealot, a rich professional who had no time for Mothers, mudslides, or who believed in anything but personal freedom and joy.

But, I had wished to him personal freedom and joy, hadn't I? 

I realized something else. As we age, we have to let the erosion of our health, and all types of loss eat away at our belief system, allowing ourselves the vulnerability that in some way blesses us with the wisdom to be those who only stand and wait.



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