Coming home

24 04 2009


I am home. I sit in a bright eight by eight shack with windows on four sides and on the corners.The walls and ceiling are white. The floor, covered with an old carpet from the village dump is green. The shack sits in the middle of a cattail slough. The slough is frozen still and the cattails around its perimeter arise from he snow in ragged wigwams of crushed reeds.  A long extension power-line Mickey Moused on poles sticking up through the ice takes electricity from my pottery studio to  the swamp-house and my home which is beyond the ring of fir, spruce, cottonwood and birch that surrounds the pond. The sky is blue, the kind of blue you feel might rub off on your clothing and looks so phony on tourist postcards. It is utterly silent, utterly peaceful. The sun is brilliant, and the air warm yet chilled like champagne. How can that be? It just is. I feel the tension of sitting here and writing to no one in particular and to everyone, Dear World. Perhaps it is the tension called ‘writers block’ and it is physically uncomfortable in a curious way, perhaps like a sexual urge in a person whose genitals have been severed. I have the urge to get up, close the laptop and go and do something physical—anything—jump in the car and drive to town and buy a case of beer-even though, with deep reluctance, I have stopped drinking alcohol. And there was nothing noble about that decision I hasten to add. It was the old aristocratic malady of gout. Expedience trumps all—even vice sometimes. Tonight’s debate topic;- If survival is an instinct that is  hardwired in our genes why are injurious vices so attractive? Pleasure! Pleasure trumps expediency. But, I was thinking today, vices are a bit like purchasing things on a credit card. It is so easy to forget that a vicious interest rate ayttaches to the debt and that one is pleasuring onself into deep trouble.

In this cloistered silence my tinnitus twitters and rings in my ears and I can’t stand it; can’t stand this tension. I would do anything to stand up and leave for a while and escape into the comfort of action—anything—fix something, move something, phone someone. And that is perhaps because when I force myself to look and to see instead of merely looking, all the moments seem the same; different photos in a vast album differentiated only by their places in the succession. But I am willing myself to stay. And I am going to go back in time in this posting; a little flashback. Back to where? I ask myself, since it seems that all steps are the same, dancing or staggering through time until the moment of the last one, the one that has no echo, and is not heard. CIMG1446The Swamphouse

Well , if these increments of time are identical in effect lets return, dear World, to that swooping feeling as the 747 from Narita spreads its great metallic feathers for more lift above the approaching sea and drops over the tiny boats with their crinoline skirts onto the runway of Vancouver Airport. The passengers file off past the hostesses standing at the door and into the tunnel as nonchalantly as people leaving a city bus rather than as vulnerable mortals who have just entrusted their perishable flesh to the miracles of engineering for thousands  and thousands of miles over certain salty death should one faulty bolt fail in its duty. These are people  who would quake with fear at the approach of a ragged beggar or a dirty drunk or a menacing looking stranger. Is it not strange that the profound change that technology has written on our sub-consciousnesses are such that we are undismayed by the possibility of huge mechanical mishaps that would simultaneously maim or kill thousands but terrified of ourselves. Though more people are killed monthly by automobiles on the streets of America than in the entire American civil war, this flock of humanity striding through the Airport lanes ahead of their clicking carry-ons will confidently enter cars and drive away unperturbed by the probability that a certain percentage of the drivers around them are impaired, losing their vision, have diminished reflexes or are stupid.  I follow them resisting the impulse to cry out “Baa Baa’ in solidarity. Instead I ride on the mysterious moving carpets wondering why we couldn’t dig up our city streets and have three lanes of these carpets moving at different speeds that we could step between at 5km per hour differential  increments to take us around cities out of the weather thus enabling us to ban automobiles from the downtowns. The streets could then become landscaped and sculptured arcades, restaurants and gardens. Rent from station vendor’s stalls below and parking fees for their cars on the city perimeter, together with costs saved by not having to dig up streets to service water, power, sewage and communications and dimished bus expenses will pay  for the construction—perhaps assisted by a small ticket sale. It will happen when this idea enters the communal imagination and then our city streets  will be wondrous silent  gardens  indeed, with buskers, Blues, Bach and bagels. I am a technoptimist.

The customs man was civilized and seemingly devoid of Homeland Paranoia and appeared pleased that I had actually  declared the crate of seven hundred and sixty seven of my two latest books Child of The River and Shawandasse which were following me by boat.

And there to meet me was my dear friend Carey who had taken the time off from his law practice to meet me in his wonderful technology with all the bells and whistles and GPS and a stereo and we switched the radio  to old Sinatra tunes and we played it too loud and swerved through the Vancouver traffic to his waterfront home in the harbour.  It was raining and cold in Vancouver and the sky was gray which Iowered my energy and it stayed that way for quite a few days. I was missing sunny Thailand. But we  went to see movies, something I hadn’t done for many months, including, at his recomendation, ‘No Country for Old Men’ which I considered another mindless Hollywood bang-bang. When will Hollywood get it that for death to be dramatically tragic there must be a sense of loss.When psychotic mass murderers whom we haven’t been induced to love even a little slaughter each other that feeling simply doesn’t exist. When I learned that the ‘star’ of the show earned high acclaim and kudos for his wooden faced ritualisation of execution I realized I must be missing something. Is there some Zen-like finesse to the way his trigger fingers curled that I failed to catch? But I kept my big mouth closed because my friend Carey doesn’t like it when I get critical and negative.  And we ate out in pricey restaurants which was lovely in such company though, for atmosphere and sheer flavour, none of them equalled the street stalls I had been eating at nightly in Bangkok at a cost of a dollar a meal. Of course I didn’t mention this to my friends either. In short I was suffering an attack of culture shock as usual. This in part perhaps because travelling is a little like sexual promiscuity. The more one experiences the more one expects to find until one discovers oneself looking for a lover who has the mouth of this one, the body of another, the legs of a third, the humour of a fourth the intelligence of a fifth, the sexuality of a sixth and so on until one has constructed a composite archetypal mate that no human can possibly equal.  So I find that I have to force myself to think positively and look at the pleasant things about each separate culture—only to fall prey to the  lust of travel for travel’s sake. It seems a truism that one can never go home. Never-the-less returning to my home in the mountains is a unique experience and  after a couple of wonderful weeks with Carey and Li my books arrive and I borrow Carey’s big SUV and head into the sheer madness of Richmond to try to discover where the shipping wharf was located, and , as usual in   Richmond, I got lost seven or eight times despite having a  Googled map. The main problem, apart from my own stupidity and ineptitude, is that Richmond’s street numbers are astronomical—in the multiple thousands– that a great majority of the businesses along the way don’t bother with street numbers, compounded by the fact that a small strip-mall running back a few meters from the  highway may suddenly decide to have its own numbering system relevant only to that mall and, to cap it all , if one slows down to search for street numbers the impatient traffic hits the horn to drive you forward  along highways that have been narrowed to single–lane by construction projects. Madness, sheer madness. Richmond also features the world’s worst drivers. At last I had paid the warehouse their $100 and returned  whence I had come to pay another middleman $30 ‘for the paperwork’ a single quarto sheet with ‘paid’ stamped on it, and then I was loaded at the first warehouse with nine large cardboard boxes weighing 100lbs each and I headed back to a friend who is ware-housing them for me temporarily.

The following day I loaded up my little 1989 Tercel with four of the book-boxes , my travelling rucksack and gear and crunched my folding bike in on top of everything. Then off to the Chinese supermarket for my supplies and squeezed those in as well until rear-vision was totally occluded. All that done I headed up the trans-Canada Highway a little apprehensive about the Tercel’s ability to make it over the dreaded Coquihalla Pass, which this time wasn’t dreadful.  The sky cleared over the crest as usual. The air lightened and freshened with a bouquet that was distinct even this early in the season and after the little town of Merit I switched off the Trans-Canada highway and wound along the exquisite 5A  with its varied series of little lakes like a string of uniquely coloured jewels  that I wrote about in my novel Shawandasse. Here I was forced by sheer beauty to stop and take in the  incredible landscapes of that sere cattle country and Nicola Lake. The frozen lake was just beginning to thaw and the wind had laid a patina of white taches that brought to mind the impressionists—Van Gogh, Sisley, Monet. The sun was warm and for the first time since I had returned I felt the land’s title on my soul.  CIMG1442  

                                             Nicola Lake


Lil’Red cruised sedately for the five hours to Kamloops where I crashed at the home of my dear buddy Roland.


There was still another forty five minutes to go to my home  and when I got there at least two hours walking in to my house, starting the fires, switching on gas and water and  getting the skidoo going so I could go back out to where the car was parked and bring in perishable food supplies. Little of this would fit into the remaining hours of light.So Rollie and I yakked the night away, catching up on all the extended family news. For one night I joined him in toasting our reunion and, as Rollie always does he brought out his endless feast of delicious snacks and nibbles—pate, sliced ham and beef, cheeses German rye bread and on and on and to my delight my son Krishna dropped  by on his way to Vancouver. By ten or eleven in the morning I was heading away from the Trans-Canada and up the road into the mountains. The last three kilometers were  gravel and finally I was at the gate of my property and then the fun began. There was still about eighteen inches of snow everywhere—two feet in places where the trees had shaded the melt. I had stashed a set of cross country skis when I left and  only then realized I had forgotten the poles.


Finally I abandoned the skis and slogged through the half mile by foot, but the snow was “rotten”– glazed on top by a melt and insubstantial beneath. Krish had made tracks I tried to follow but the crust would break suddenly tossing me sideways with the skill of a black belt judo master and my pack of food and laptop broke my balance. I stopped at regular intervals to catch my breath but eventually made it to the house and went in and began lighting the woodstove and turning on the propane back-up stoves. Then I went out to get my skidoo going so I could hitch it up with its trailer and go back out to the gate for the rest of the load. The skidoo was , of course under two feet of snow. I shovelled the snow off and levered the tracks free of the frozen ground and then began the starting game. After long periods of disuse the choke pump used to prime the motor empties of gas and loses its suction ability. I staggered back to my grain shed where I had a jerrycan of gas and poured some into a bowl and managed to get it back without spilling too much, but the ground was incredibly treacherous so that I walked with sudden unpredictable lurches and loss of balance as the snow crusts broke. Taking the top off the carburetter and pouring in gas I  got the motor firing but it stopped immediately it had used the poured fuel. This priming combined with seemingly endless pulling on the starter cord went on and on until my old ripped shoulder began complaining bitterly, but at last the gas flow reached the pump, and thereafter it worked and I was able to hitch up the trailer and head back out to the gate. For some reason the skidoo kept swerving and trying to bury itself in the snow or tip sideways —which it did several times. When this happened I had to get off and unhitch the trailer and lift first the back of the machine out of its bed where it was just spinning tracks , and then, the heavy front end. I was sweating profusely. At the gate I loaded the food and  my travelling bags and rucksack and successfully got that load back  to the house but the swerving was getting worse all the time.I was also freighting four one hundred pound boxes of Child of The River and Shawandasse .Because the skidoo was so erratic I decided to only carry one box at a time . They were so large that I had difficulty carrying them but managed to get one on the back of the Tundra which as bad luck would have it was the box that Customs had opened without replacing the strapping. The road to the house has a sharp curve at a rapid rise. As I gunned the sled around the corner it swerved suddenly and fell over on its side spilling eighty seven books across the snow. The steering rod of the sled had wrenched off the pin so that the machine was no longer steerable. In armfuls, seven or eight at a time I carried the books to the wood workshop and abandoned the project until the next day. I was hungry and I needed to eat and walked like a drunk back to the house  to prepare something . There was no water at the house but I suspended switching the water on because it was already getting dark and I  knew from experience that there was always a strong chance that the cold would have entered the house while I was away and broken pipes, tanks etc, which inevitably meant the best part of a day’s work to repair. But snow melt was dripping off the roof so I put out a couple of bowls to catch some.The following morning I went into  the basement to switch on the water. I scrambled back up the ladder to listen in case the dreaded hissing began from burst pipes behind walls or bath and at that moment the phone rang and I ran into the living room to answer it.

It was a friend. We talked for five minutes before I replaced the receiver and went back into the kitchen. A tropical monsoon had struck the kitchen which had an inch of water all over it—under the stove, the fridge, the cupboards – everywhere. All the bags and boxes I had brought in previously were soaked – everything was soaked. Welcome back to country living. The rest of the day was spent swabbing water and ringing out towels. If wood-block floors become too damp they swell and rise up and are destroyed. When the mop-up was nearing completion I got some tools and went to repair the skidoo. By the time darkness was falling I had repaired the sled and my hands were freezing and my body aching in muscles I didn’t know I had. But the next day the dawn opened to birdsong, bright sun, blue sky and a serenity that I realized I had been hungering for like a starving man. I was surrounded  by the great gift of silence and solitude and I am still there. For today, Good bye Dear World.




3 responses

22 05 2009
Bangkok Hotels Thailand

Great post! I like this blog and good article also.

24 05 2009
laurie Payne

Well! Thank you! It is nice to know that SOMEONE out there is in touch andI appreciate the feedback. More to come. HugsLaurie Payne

24 05 2009

Well! Thank you.! It is nice toknow that \SOMEBODY ‘OUT THERE; is in touch. More to come. Hugs and peace. Laurie

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