uu 8 – away with how it used to be

ways it used to be

26 August 2015 – At mom’s. Got here just after 10. No car in drive. Front door locked. Phone inside ringing. Knocked, rang doorbell. No answer. Went around back. Door locked. Checked under old milk jug—where spare key’s been stowed for as long as I can remember. Sure enough.

Made tea. Sat on the back veranda. Gazed at the lake. Its morning stillness. The marina in the distance. Soft clouds in the sky grazing.

Wandered the yard. Never seen it in such a state. Overgrown with weeds. Little indication that mom had kept up with her intent to garden—even before she caught the green bug she had a thing for weeding and making it look nice and keeping the paths clear. Especially the one down to the water. Crowded out now by a mass of thistle.

Suggesting that the lake itself rarely features in her day-to-day activities. Very odd. Mom has always liked being near the lake. Even if she didn’t go in, she regularly set herself up a chair at the water’s edge and could sit for ages flipping through her magazines.

I pushed through the thistle. Found the chair. On its side, scarcely visible in the maw of grasses that are spikily consuming it. Toed through the stinky muck of algae blanketing the soft shore. Stood on the dock. Sun speckling off the lake. All the trees surrounding. The bosom of land cleaved by sky. Turned around. Looked at the house, the neglected yard. Heard water lap wood. A thick goopy sound. Like something sick.

When I first arrived I didn’t think much of mom’s absence. Figured she’d just popped out and lost track of time. No biggie. But now almost two hours had passed. I was getting fidgety. Filling with resentment. She knew I was coming. We’d spoken on Monday. Planned to spend a good part of the day together. So where was she?

Maybe something unexpected had come up. I went back up to the house. Looking for a note in o-bomb places. Nothing. Then wandered the rooms. One after another gaining a sense that she hadn’t been there at all today.

Got myself righteously riled. Pissed off actually. Had it in mind it was high time I confronted her. Really let her have it.

I stormed out the front door. Got in the car. Was going to drive up to the community centre, where she was sure to be. But stopped myself. Had sudden thought that maybe me being there was too much for her. Sat there sadly. Had a sniffly cry. Wiped my eyes. Got out of the car. Walked the half mile to the main strip. Had a soup and sandwich. Walked back.

Out on the veranda again. It’s now past two.

Speedboats on the lake. A small squadron of paddle-boarders. Warm afternoon made pleasant by a mild breeze.

Marcus swimming to mind. And how we used to be. As a family. The nostalgic picture. Comprised of overlapping memories. Old photographs in shoe boxes turned upside down and emptied. A pile of photographs. By a fireplace in a front room of wood beams. Lights down low. Crackling wood. Guttering fire. The photos becoming blots of fuzzy colors with distorted edges. Could be anyone’s pictures.

A thought that you don’t get over losing a loved one. It’s too big a thing. A mountain made of memories. A thing you have to go around to navigate. And as time goes so do you. Every now and again looking in the rearview. Seeing the mountain. Getting smaller and smaller. So small you can hold it in your hand.

Dinner with dad yesterday. His comment that he didn’t feel like ripping out his hair anymore. That he thinks of Marcus as having grown up and moved away. Like he’s out there living his life.

The phone ringing.

Mom? Impulse to get up and answer. But remain seated. Hearing the rings out. Feeling them softly peal through me. And at their cessation something of an epiphany. I should leave.

And let her be.

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uu 7 – the look of lost

sandy beach

14 August 2015 – The end of the month looms. Was hoping to visit mom but she hasn’t returned any of my calls. So agreed to work an extra week. Wishing now I hadn’t. Time running short. Too much on plate. All the little things to tend to. Been edgy and nervous. Excited, yes. But also mildly anxious. Not having a job lined up is new for me. Shouldn’t bother me but it does. Don’t know why. It’s not like I’m leaping into an abyss of unknowns. Guess it’s just how I’m wired.

16 August 2015 – Lunch with Clara. Her wondering what she’s going to do with herself once I’m gone. Told her she’ll have to come out and visit. Simple as that. She tapped her head and said it’s in there for cogitation. Right beside her chief curiosity of the moment. Adulterers. And their not so anonymous online hookup club. She’d like to know if prospective clients have to prove they’re married to join.

Told her about my pet project. The woman and the minivan on the gravel road. She seemed more interested in my dabbling in stories than the idea itself. While describing scene to her Tom Jones song came on. Delilah. Think I have a name for my heroine. Ine?

18 August 2015 – Listed car for sale. Perused job listings. Got to pondering Delilah.

She’s retreated to her minivan. Sitting in driver seat with door open. Blank expression on her face. Hands loosely gripping the wheel. Through windshield she sees cloud of dust coming up road slowly. A tractor materializes. Shimmering in late morning heat. Delilah gets up. Stands behind open door. As the tractor nears she starts hailing it with jumping-jack arms and sidles to middle of road. The driver of the tractor waves. Hear the engine’s heavy roar shift to a low grumble. Tractor stops. The driver, salt of the earth farmer, tips brim of greasy ball cap in greeting.

G ecstatic. Told me he’s kissing my temples in celebration. I told him I don’t think I’m getting very far with it. He asked how far I want to go.

A good question.

Clouds this evening like a beach of rippling sand. Days getting shorter already.

19 August 2015 – Started file on laptop. To keep notes on Delilah. Got down some ideas about what’s going to happen (the arc, G calls it) and scratching surface of what’s put her on the road (back story)—the more I ponder the former, the more relevant seems the latter.

Forwards and back. Ain’t that just the way.

Possible exchange between Delilah and farmer:

‘You’ve the look of lost about you,’ says the farmer.

‘I am, I think.’

‘Where you after?’

‘Well…. Here. I thought. I mean, I thought there was a road around here. With a house on the corner? Yellow one.’

‘That were the Livingst’ns. Just up from where you come. Half mile or so. Gone now. Sold up some 2-3 years back. Nasty bit of business that. Took down the house. Dozed the road. Upset more than few in these parts I’ll say. Rightly so. The Livingst’ns though. Fine folk. They who you after finding?’

‘No. I’m trying to…. Do you know the Bridges?’

‘Peter and Mary, like?’

‘Yes.’

‘That where you headed?’

‘Yes.’

The farmer scratches at his stubbled jaw.

‘Terrible run they’ve had.’

20 August 2015 – Dad’s gone fishing. House feels like it’s readying itself to return to housing a middle-aged bachelor.

22 August 2015 – Finally a call from mom. Really should go see her. Timing’s tricky though. Marcus died on Tuesday. No getting around that. On Tuesday Marcus died. Still chills me. Doesn’t feel right not to be here. With dad. And I’m not sure being with mom on that of all days will do either of us any good. Plane’s on Friday. Christ. Too much to think about at the moment. Must to work. One more shift to get through. Then it’s dinner drinks dancing with Clara. C&W DDD.

uu 6 – establishing a scene

smooth terrain

11 August 2015 – Things that come to mind.

Since G was here been seeing an image of a gravel road in the country. The more I see it the more concrete the image becomes. A line scored between endless fields of tall corn. Narrow and weedmown ditches shoulder the road. On one side of the road grey utility poles hold up a shallow wave of cables undulating into the distance. It’s a bright summer morning. Mellow blue sky, high white clouds that bear a strange resemblance to a smooth and eroded expanse of rocky terrain.

A daydream of sorts? Maybe. But. How to put this….

Two summers back, about this time of year, I came across a job posting that got my attention. I wasn’t actively seeking a new job or even unhappy with my situation. But the possibility of doing what I do in a different place had some attraction and set me to imagining what it might be like.

Dad routinely buys lottery tickets on Tuesdays and Fridays. I chuckle at his dedication. He invariably repeats the common mantra, ‘Can’t win if don’t play.’ And has done for as long as I can remember.

While I don’t play the lotteries, I do tend to follow the logic of the mantra. In keeping with visioning exercises, when I find myself daydreaming about something I can actually do something about I will more often than not make the effort to do it—if for no other reason than to get it off my mind and re-inhabit my shoes, wherever they are.

So I cobbled together a c.v., sent it off, and got on with things.

A couple months later I sold most of what I could. Traded-in my car for a minivan. And drove across the country. To start a new job in a new city.

Structured impulsivity and composed reality. A personal guidance system. Driven by occasion to wonder. And daydream.

This scene of the gravel road though. How it’s coming to me, how it plays. Has an altogether different feel. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with me. I see it but am not in it. It’s in my head but I don’t consciously visualize it. I don’t sit with the intention of seeing the scene. It just appears. Like the long wide shot at the beginning of a movie. A movie I know nothing about. But keep watching (or, in this case, coming back to) to see what, if anything, will happen.

Cut to me in the shower this morning. Eyes closed, rinsing lathered hair.

Along the gravel road comes a stirred up fuss of dust. I watch it for a time. The billowing plume. Focus in on it. See the van at its head. A minivan. The color of ripe red grapes. It slows. Pulls to a sharp stop on the shoulder. Becomes engulfed in dust. Zoom in closer. Driverside shot of minivan. After the dust settles the front door opens. A woman steps out. She’s wearing sunglasses. And flipflops and mid-thigh khaki shorts and an open longsleeve button-up over a low-slung undershirt. Her hair’s in a messy ponytail. She pulls the sunglasses halfway down her nose. Squints against the brightness. She’s clearly agitated. Or confused. She pushes the sunglasses back to covering her eyes. Steps to the middle of the road. Hands to hips she looks up and down the road. Corn for as far as the eye can see. ‘This isn’t right,’ she says, bringing a hand to her mouth, tapping upper lip with index finger.

And then there was no more hot water.

Daydream? Or something else? G giddily figures I’m in the throes of making fiction. I wonder.

uu 5 – timewoof

cozy camper

04 August 2015 – G’s come and gone again. Arrived with the blue moon. Big and low in the summer sky. Departed under scattered clouds and the promise of rain. A four day blitz.

His farmer tan. And those workboot white ankles—at first glance I thought he’d shaved them.

That unruly facial hair. His participation in a summerlong beard-growing competition with the boys at work. A ticklish heap of scruff.

Long walks and drives without aim. Around here. Along the pop-up main streets of smaller towns and down rolling country roads.

Monkeying about in overpriced antique stores. Rummaging the incredible collection of junk. Donning vintage hats, twirling parasols and canes. Wondering what our lives would be like if we mangled our clothes and needed shotguns to ward off large animals and unwelcome visitors. Also wondering how antique stores could stay in business without movies.

A nursery on the edge of civilization. So that G could gawp at the plants.

Happening upon an artisanal farmers festival. All the stalls and activities. The music and people. Horses and donkeys and chickens and cows and llamas and pigs and sheep. Scarecrows. A corn maze. The display of tractors and trucks and other farming machines. Kiddlies running around with flavoured ices and sticked corn and sunflower pinwheels. The pyramid of hay bales. Our spontaneous picnic under trees in an adjacent field. Front row seats to passing train. Counting cars and losing track after 50.

A botanical garden. So that we could stroll in the decadent delight of plants let to grow in the arranged company of their green friends. An older gentleman there, handsomely dressed and roaming the roses with his hands at peace behind his back. He said hello, addressed the pleasant weather, and told us it was his 90th birthday. Reginald was his name.

Used bookstores. Eyes open for a suitable title to add to our ill-fated long distance bookclub. Which has become another inside joke between us. Neither of us being all that inclined to talk about what we’re reading. To date we’ve only completed All the Pretty Horses together. My pick. A fine book but I think the extent of conversation generated was to intermittently report how far along we’d gotten. To follow he picked Infinite Jest. After several attempts I had to call veto. The bookclub has settled into prolonged dormancy theresince. We’re figuring we’ll try another angle when I’m back at the house—a single copy of The Crossing, to read to one another in bed.

Parking behind a cozy camper with Hudson’s Bay stripes. Wanting one of our own. To cruise the highways and byways of this land. Dreaming out loud a time when such an adventure will be ours.

Coming home after work on Saturday to dad and G talking sports and getting drunk in the backyard. Calling Clara, who didn’t have Dustin and was just about to open a bottle of wine ‘to nurse herself through a welcome lonely night’. Her getting a cab. The four of us throwing lawndarts, eating BBQ, yammering nonsense well into the shortest hours.

And Monday night, playing around on the couch, the realization that neither G nor I knew from whence commenced our togetherment.

We read thru delivery. Discovered that it was some day after June 24th (‘a suddenly thick moment’) and before July. We settled on June 25th. Because that was the day I started this journal. Unbeknownstedly.

What are the chances?

Over a year now. How’d that happen so fast?

Time is a woofing barking thing.

Another pair of realizations: close to half our time together has been spent apart, and my contract is up in two weeks.

Near to nail-biting time.

Crickey.