In the town where I came of age within the landscape I still know as home,
granite, lakes and pines, I look out on a corner that knows me, though
some of its storefronts are several times removed from those I passed
in snowstorm, sunshine and heat, in the cavalcades of colour
as defined by the autumnal brochures of my youth.
The church hall of my theatrical past, and of the dances of my loneliness,
is there on the hill out the cafe window.
The bridge, over which I sometimes pondered plunging into, in my not
so wonderful life, begat contemplations of how long I would last
in the cold waters of the river's open ice, just down the street, just out of sight.
I am decades away from that almost man, the no longer boy; the broken child
making his inchoate way into a future of heartache he would not have survived
if the crystal snow had foretold his future: his fortune, glimpsed in the narrow waters
of the otherwise frozen river, would have ensured his death then and there.
Blessed are they who cannot see what is to come.
What is bearable in part, could never be borne as a whole.
Like fairy tale breadcrumbs left on a forest floor eaten by birds and rodents;
carried off by insects, and turned sodden with rain to disintegrate before the return,
the way home, has an innocence, a naivetè that makes hope possible,
so that, here in this cafe window, more than forty years on, the miracle of breadcrumbs
keeps marking the trail of my passage with the remaining innocence of my hope,
gladly carrying me beyond the forest, beyond the desert, beyond the salt plain and
the mountains, beyond the swamp, the rivers, the lakes, the pines:
a pilgrim's progress to a faith stripped of pride, prejudice, and jaundiced I;
a faith that consists of the distillations of love out of thin air and thick, the ever willing
ability to trust my heart more than my mind, with just enough vision
of what might be coming, to believe in every new starting again and every continuance,
every grace and insight, every collapsing centre of every expanding care
around every bend in this unforeseen road beyond this corner where I sit,
because outside the door, the last period that will one day punctuate
the conclusion of my long sentence has been known
since well before I arrived here
It is no secret to me, that the boy inside never grew up,
no secret the teenager within, has an unrealistic idea of romance,
and dreams of ever more rarefied manifestations of devotion and service.
The young man I was never stood a chance of maturing in due season,
like this horde of teens and pre-teens in the diner, lining up to pay their bills:
the long haired girls in their riding boots and their perfect complexions,
the red-cheeked boys and their collective posing, too cool as a sum
to allow their insecurities to individualize: they are young and full
of their own fragile immortalities, but if seen as themselves, each alone,
they come apart at the seams into awkward anxieties, desperate to conform,
to fit in, and yet stand out.
They are the peers of my youth two generations later, like the ones
who thought me so much braver, so much more willing to go out on a limb,
as if I was not a damaged child making up constructive rebellions, not making it
up as I went. Despite what they thought, it wasn't confidence that made me other,
it was the secrets inside me, and no doubt, among these adolescents lining up
to pay for their lunches, there are a few a least partially like me, though the rest
are happily aging into the roles assigned them, with the provisos in their own minds,
that they will do it better, and so they should, but mostly won't, for all generations
are born to replace those that gave rise to them, unless now, in the coming age
of a rapidly changing climate, they alter the future in ways beyond all generations
that preceded them.
Some of these paying up and leaving this eatery, will die along the way,
have their names and dates etched into yearbooks; into the hearts and minds of their peers,
some lost, accidentally forgotten by best friends some drunken night, a night
of random choice remembered by the survivors forever, a choice that alters everything.
Others will perish in all the other sundry ways in which youth fails to become age,
because good fortune fails, because sickness or random occurrence or suicide
removes them from the stage.
It is humanity's lot to come and go, individually, and as a species.
There is only care and consideration, or their absence, to mark our passage,
the broken and the unbroken alike, we all end in the grave, or the ash urn or spread
on the winds, or lost at sea, or vanished into who knows where, though we each measure
our lives in love, or in its absence.
So let the young be naive, and the old be wise, let those whose innocence is taken
and those who retain some of the same all of their lives, remember:
we are creators and destroyers, we manufacture hope and despair, we grow families and friends
or fail to. So if you find yourselves, or your sons and your daughters, or those of others,
on the routine cusp of eternity, patiently - or impatiently - lined up to pay for their time here,
consider them with kindness, for we all carry a secret we don't always admit, to ourselves or others.
In a place I lived only through high school and slightly beyond,
but where my family still lives, a place to which I have returned to
over the decades for holidays and visits, I study faces for evidence
of those I once knew, most of the names are gone, and familiarity
does not place many faces, however much some seem like ones
I once knew.
Humanity only has so many variations of features with which to work,
and so at best I recognize possible and probable former friends and acquaintances,
without knowing almost anyone, just those vaguely reminding me
of people I may have known, mistaken identities and assumptions,
the partial memories of a jumbled puzzle.
There are too many decades, there is too much absence, too little prequel to my original arrival
followed by comings and goings, too many elsewheres, too many possibilities that faces
could be known from some other place altogether, and that they too are visitors, tourists
in a tourist town with long or short associations to the place.
My family would know, my mother, my brother, my sister: they are my continuity,
the custodians of my old who's who.
I am, of course, sometimes remembered, since my face and hair and body shape
are all unchanged, and thus, to those who are from here; who once knew me,
I am a face in context. They know my name, though more often than not, I don't know theirs,
unless I once knew them well. Most names for me, are echoes of memories, resonance
without substance: re-introduction, at best, provides only memories for the next time we meet,
some have stories with anecdotal triggers, deep reverberations
that cause an eruption of recollection, either from personal connections, or from shared circumstances:
of the we were in it together variety, either events from my student council presidency,
or from the two neighbourhoods in which I lived, or the swimming hole,
or hockey and soccer teams, because there was a life here, some of which even I
remember better than others.
The landscape, the streetscape, the landmarks of my first arrival here
alter more slowly than the people, except when they don't. Buildings are demolished,
new ones built, even the granite shield is now subject to dynamiting developers,
so that, where once there were forests on rock outcroppings, ubiquitous malls
rubber stamped by town planners across the province like bacteria spreading their wastes
on agar agar plates, now decimate the character of localized places I knew,
eradicating idiosyncrasies of less formulaic ages.
The landscape, the streetscape, the landmarks also age like people, they grow old and die,
albeit more slowly, they deteriorate, collapse and disappear altogether, while nature stakes
it's own inexorable claims on every demense.
Humanity is mist on a lake turning to clouds, and one way or another
we are a species on the verge of oblivion or evolution, we are a process, not a stasis,
so that, here, in this place where I came of age among people
I rarely recognize anymore, the temporal shifts
reveal transformations as unfoldings, not into flatlines,
but into still other folds within the folds;
what is hidden for a time, can be seen in a heartbeat between breaths;
revealed and concealed as wavelengths of life's momentum.
Jan 8-10 2016 Huntsville/Elora