Saturday, August 11, 2018

Part 3 continued

You think you know how you will react to the unsettling news of a death in the family,just like you think you knew what the day would be like when it came about.But you don't know that either.I didn't.

All through life we were prepared for the fact that life ends eventually for everyone.So I thought I'd be prepared.All of my grandparents had long passed. I'd lost two of my best friends at this point too,and because they were both so young,it came as a shock.In both of those cases it was some time between the time of their passing and the time I found out. I've even known friends that had children carried away by death far too soon. During my childhood,my grandmother would write to my mother every few weeks.Those letters,which she would always read to us contained,among other things news that someone or other had died.Nearly every letter did.So we were used to the idea that people passed on.Most of those people were old people,so it would be truer to say that we were accustomed to the idea that old people died.At the time I wondered how long it would take for the town my mother called home to just all die off, because it was a town of the elderly,so it seemed.I even heard people joke about it.So I thought I was used to the idea of death.Intellectually I knew that there would come a day when both of my parents would be departed,if,of course death didn't take me first.So I thought I knew how to handle it,or at least how I would handle it,even if it were not the right way.I was wrong.

No matter how prepared I might have been,I was not prepared to function well in the days and hours following the news.In large part,that is because all of the great existential questions are there,and I'd never really thought of them that much,at least in terms of how they would effect me.Why is there evil in the world? Why does God allow good people to suffer while evil people prosper? How could God allow my mother to be killed when she was my fathers care giver,so needed?How could God have denied him the mercy of death in that same accident?Why must he suffer a few more years with all his current afflictions,then lose his life's companion as well? Where did my mothers soul go?And what of the young man who died with her? What did she really believe,and was it enough to secure her salvation? From the time the police car drove away,these questions would not let me be.There was immediate disbelief,and a longer struggle with these questions,and nothing seemed to make a lot of sense.In looking back,I realize I wasn't functioning that well,though I convinced myself I was,and convinced others as well.

For a long time I just wandered around the house.I looked out the window,at the thin layer of snow in the tall grasses out behind the house.I watched the planes come and go from the airport off to the north east.For once I was grateful that I didn't know anyone else in the house that well.No real civility was called for so I just stayed in my room lost in routine things.I would go to the refrigerator from time to time,hold the door open for a bit,but didn't eat anything,lost in thought that is impossibly hard to describe.I'm not sure even I knew what those thoughts were,and I really don't recall all these years later.I was just aware of thought,and not much else for a time.Certainly not for the whole content of that thought.A bit later I was able to sift through it all and try to impose some reason on it all,though not at all successfully.It was routine that got me through those first few days and weeks.I could respond to routine when I didn't have much response to reality.

"When death has come and taken our loved ones
It leaves a home so lonely and drear'
then do we wonder why others prosper
Living so wicked year after year."

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Welcome/Happy New Year

Welcome, and Happy New Year.I am glad that you've taken a moment to read this blog, which is a relatively new undertaking.To summarize,this is a sort of coming of age story, or perhaps the story of mid life  crisis.I don't know as I've exactly decided on it's interpretation yet.In any event, I am essentially a memoirist, and this is my story, of life in Western Canada in the earliest years of the twenty-first century. Yet, because I'm actually an Atlantic Canadian living in a vast country, culturally different from place to place, it's also a story of living in exile, in my own country.I don't mean exile in the normal sense of the word, but rather in the sense that forces choices upon us for the sake of economic well being.

While Waking Up In Winter is a relatively new blog, the idea has been a long time in the making. I began writing in the early 1990's, and from that time onward, the idea of writing a memoir has always been at least in the back part of my mind.And it's not even that I consider my own life as being especially scintillating.After all, I'm just busy living it. But I've come to realize, for a number of reasons that there are others who may not agree with me.So, primarily my writing of memoir began for my family, and from my family, as a realization that some of them had lived wonderfully interesting lives, yet had chosen to say very little of it, especially in print. Hence, I'm amazed, and dismayed about what has to be said about them by a process of inference.The problem with inference is that in speculation, I might get things at least somewhat wrong. To me, that is the great intolerable: the need for others to infer my reality, or worse, the construction of an alternate reality about myself by others.So, such as they are, my blogs are my life in my words.

Waking Up In Winter is the second of two blogs that I write.The first, Only A Large Hill, came into being in summer of 2016, but again, is the product of much writing that went before it.  Only A Large Hill starts at the beginning.In fact, it starts a little before the real beginning, by setting context, explaining who I am, and why I'm writing. Then it continues onward through my early life growing up in Atlantic Canada.As of this point, I've yet to get myself through the schoolhouse door for the first time. There is much more to come in 2018 and beyond, and I hope you will come along for the ride.

I'll need to take a moment to explain to you how both blogs are structured. Firstly, the two are parts of a whole, even though writing and presenting them concurrently sometimes seems a bit awkward to me.Waking Up In Winter is much less removed in time from the events being written about, so the memory is much clearer in my mind in most cases. It picks up the thread of my story around the turn of the Twenty First Century, when I'm living far from home, confronting some of the more profound things that all humans encounter, and experiencing a rather intense identity crisis. Although it is far removed in time from Only A Large Hill, and although the setting has shifted westward by several thousand miles, it is, and was intended to be a memoir about being an Atlantic Canadian. Identity is the whole essence of it's events.In part, it's propelled, and has moved forward as a result of having been identified by others as being "From Away", something that I've had to come to terms with through this century, and a contention I take issue with in the strongest possible way. Finally, I note that Waking Up In Winter is in every way post 9/11.It came out of, and belongs to the different world that was created in the late summer of 2001.In reading and editing it, I'm struck by it's grittiness, and loss of innocence, something that would not be justified by subject matter alone.

In closing, then, let me invite you to read and to share my world.In 2018, it's my goal to up my readership considerably, and to publish both of my memoirs every few days.I would also invite you, if you are one of the few people to whom I send out blog entries as they are published, to actually visit and follow my blogs, and to make comments as part of the record of those blogs. It's fine and good sending them out on Facebook, but I would really prefer that you were all more active participants. Also, if you are, or know of someone who is writing a memoir about living in Atlantic Canada, I would like to carry your blog on one or both of my own, and have you carry my blog as well.

So welcome.Come along and read, get to know me.Happy New Year.I'm looking forward to writing more for you as the year goes on.       

Monday, December 18, 2017

Part Three,Continued.

                      "To everything there is a season,and a time to every purpose under Heaven..."

When those two soldiers, or two policemen come to your door,you think you know what it's going to be like. How could you not.Most people are not ignorant of such things.It's been talked about before.In very few places is the possibility of such things ignored. So you think you know what it will be like. You've imagined what the day will be like, and you think you know.But you don't. You think you know how you will react, what the sensations will be, but you have no idea. You might even imagine,as you reach for the phone that you know exactly what the news will be, because you've been prepared by circumstance and situation.So you just say, on your way across the room, this is the day.It's not really unexpected. You might well be surprised.

I crossed the floor, toward my open door.Where is that damn phone anyway?I'm going to have to spent time hunting for it.But it's right there on the bed.Sit down.Pick it up. I thought I would be steady, but my fingers are not and they fumble. My father's been sick for years.Drinking,two packs a day,driving the car at ninety miles an hour. Stroke after stroke. I can barely track his conversations now.Today's the day. Some things slow to a crawl, some things speed up. I can nearly feel the house as it creaks and breathes, weathering a Calgary winter.

And then I'm talking to my sister.For the life of me, now that some time has past, I can't remember which of my sisters it was. But I heard these words:" Mom and Dad were coming back from Fredericton. there was an accident on the Berry Mills road ,and Mom didn't make it."

She proceeded to tell of the events.They'd gone to Fredericton to pick up one of my sisters kids, my nephew. The weather was bad, visibility poor. As they were passing the city dump, only about ten minutes from home, a young man just getting off work crossed the center line and collided with their van.Both he and my mother were killed. My father was taken to the hospital, already crippled with infirmity, and now with all of his ribs broken. My nephew was in the hospital as well.

My one thought, the one thing that mattered most to me at the time: did my mother die instantly?Or did she suffer? "No," said my sister. "She lived for a short time, but was declared dead at the scene." Impaled upon the steering wheel I'm told, her life pouring out onto a cold icy road. And I wondered what her last thoughts had been.My great fear is that they were "There are only moments left now...and I haven't seen my son in over a decade." There is no way to know for certain, But that's what I imagined them to be.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Part Three.

           "I am a pilgrim, and a stranger, while traveling through this wearisome land..."

Time passing.People passing. the first funeral I ever attended was in grade seven.My paternal grandfather left this world, probably too soon, for want of taking care of himself. Thomas Graham followed in the early 1980's, a man well aged, nearly one hundred. His wife, Alta Graham, my maternal grandmother followed in 1987. Her life spanned the twentieth century, and I though I'd never see her fade.But she did, of pancreatic cancer. I wanted to go home for the funeral, but did not.

In the mid eighties, a co-worker, Charmaine, called "Charlie" was taken while driving a cab at night. Stabbed fifteen times. In her casket she looked sallow and melted, and we followed a long procession of taxis to the graveyard where some small amount of ashes were place in a slot in the ground.So small! Steven Bascom passed in 2003, of natural causes. He was sickly, but what is natural at the age of forty two? In 2005 John passed of a  ruptured abdominal aorta. Aged forty six. I didn't get the news for months.He was a room mate and a best friend, but I only heard from him from time to time after I moved to Calgary.

The two policemen were gone, and it was a long way to that red cellphone,somewhere in my room, in the house I lived in, up on Calgary's north hill. Wind blew small wisps of snow through the tall yellow grasses out back, and an insidious frosty draft leaked in the edges of  my closed window. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Part 2 continued

Perhaps one of those native spirits blew down from Nose Hill with the wind.I'm told they wander up there. Down across the houses clinging to it's edge.Perhaps it brought the dream, as I dozed yet again on this lazy Sunday,with the television on low and a cool draft seeping in my north facing window,covered in frost.

I'm in what seems to be a laundromat, with washers churning and dryers spinning.In the window something yellow tumbles past, the something blue.Up through the center of the room there is a tree growing.It's lower branches are tree branches, but up in it's crown it turns into an eagle, a huge eagle that is the whole upper part of the tree. I look up and the great eagle sees me and lifts off, flying away, through the laundromat, which has no roof.As soon as it has flown, it is replaced by another, which has grown out of the tree,and appeared as though the tree were never without an eagles body.Then I'm walking through tall yellow grass with snow blowing all around.

Slowly I awake to the muted television.I haven't been asleep that long.Beyond the door there are muffled sounds.Someone talking.I can feel the draft from under my door, and I know the front door is opened. Then shuffling of feet.More than one pair. A knock on my door, and I cross the small room. I open the door.It squeaks. It needs to have the hinges oiled. Open it slowly.

At the door there are two uniformed police officers, a man and a woman. Another draft of cold air. The woman is tall, hair done in a topknot.Her name tag says H.Broughton. She's almost as tall as her partner. Her partner asks"Sir, are you Michael T.Davis?

"What can I help you with."

"Are you Michael T.Davis?

"I am"

"We've been contacted by your sister in Moncton, New Brunswick.You need to call her as soon as you can."

"What's going on?"

"Sir, we wouldn't be here if this were good news.Call your sister"

I ask which one and the officer says her name.Then the two of them are gone.I watch them climb into their car, then turn southward down the alley.A cold wind is blowing in and I shut the door, then go search for my phone. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Part 2 Continued

Images of the first years. Scenes and sounds and scents.Locked in my mind now, making this place home, or as much so as it can be.Images. I can see the pictures.Two buildings dropping to the ground.Burning first,inward parts melting.Soldiers off to war. Two soldiers approaching a doorstep. The soldiers are outside the door. A wife, a child, sibling or family awaits within. Two soldiers outside, they don't see the soldiers yet. Eating the evening meal.Rising in the morning.Telling bedtime stories.Once upon a time...

Rolling into town on a Greyhound.Muscles aching,dark rings of sweat and grime around the eyes,hair dust saturated. Back sore from hauling brick and timber. Settled into the seat, trying to find comfortable. Like a pile of twisted rebar, removed,cast into the corner of a lot, waiting to be hauled away, cut down maybe.Reused? Dusty blue jeans leave a print on the dark blue seat.Dust and mud and grime.In the cargo hold below, a small bag of clean church clothes. Fouled yellow bandana, covering a white spot, mid forehead, extending around.Heather sees me in the bandana and she calls me Gypsy now, has been doing it for some time. Buses are smooth these days, no rattle, no heavy diesel smoke.Quiet,like a magic carpet.Down the road, straight and true.Rock me to sleep if I could sleep. from one town to another, from green country to yellow country, both now fallow with November. Down the North Hill. What's that blacked out spot to the west? Nosehill, high and vacant,sages and tall grass, inhabited by Native spirits. Colonized all about, for grain and gas and oil.For real estate. Downtown buildings twinkle, beckon; corporate phallic symbols. Down across a tilted bridge.Lions on one end.Then left, easing into a downtown canyon. A few more blocks, then up a ramp, into a bus barn and out into bright neon lobby. A line of taxis below. Close to downtown, but not much around.A black snake of a river, running almost straight here. She waits in a drive-in pick up area,slim and lithe, grey eyes,long yellow hair.Into a warm and lingering embrace, the into a decrepit red car. Conscious of the need of water now,to wash me clean,to take away the day.A few blocks along a well traveled strip. Nightclubs.Still warm. Crowded with pedestrians.Police car flashing by. On to a dark street, one block off the main drag, behind a gas station. Hand in hand through a dark urban outback and into a building.

I can see the pictures.Hear it all too. A building starting to groan, under the weight of history, because the stripes on black flesh have not been atoned for, far away places have been colonized. Groaning and starting to tilt, their years complete, for better or worse. The silent sound of a world turning. Two soldiers outside,taking another step. Safe within, singing the anthem.Lost in studies or stories, writing of letters,not knowing of the last few hours or days of those being addressed. Scarred land and people.Water, washing clean.Two soldiers approach, another step. Shadows and tangled sheets,and a child says"I love you." Two soldiers drawing closer, removing hats and holding them,dignified in their hands. Once upon a time.It's strange for a story to end with Once upon a time.

May as well work here now.Busy streets. Rushing of in dark hours. Down on Ogden Road, the air smells of paper fiber and mash from the distillery from the treatment plant.And it all clings to a body, choking a bit at a time. Walk along the road.It's too far, and a silver van operates a photo radar in front of the metal re-cycler. Old ovens piled by the gates.A corrugated fence and a mountain of rust beyond. One machine lift, another devours.Dusty and windy in this town. Up along the tracks.It's shorter, but sometimes there are coyotes.Old boxcars. High yellow grass. Once a sirocco wind blew up on the walk home.Twelve degrees leaving the factory gate, twenty eight an hour later in a thunder of dust, eyes gritty,skin blasted. Out on McLeod Trail an olive army truck rolls by.Don't work at the mill now.Everyone hates each other, it's a wonder anything gets done. The tall foreman stares lifelessly at his peons, laughs and calls them racists.Have to leave.Going to strike him down with a board. The bottle depot oozes stink, every poison, every known drink that's unfit to drink.Pours out onto the floor.Bottles stacked in cardboard flats, soldierly, or tossed into canvas bags, like pits. Left the mill, working again ,a day later. C-Train home, conscious of booze stink,little sticky patches.Hands poisonous and black. Needing water to wash me clean.Passengers on the train, thinking me uncouth.Needing water.

A fire burned away, just across the river,the day after leaving the bottle depot. Talk of poor air quality.An exploding propane tank, a fireman being knocked down a latter. It the lawyers office, downtown. Everyone at the window, staring.Brown haze to the south, but how far? Better go look.Close to home...just across the stream.Multiple buildings. Cinder block apartment building.Springtime. Geese on the lawn, sometimes aggressive. Smoky inside, worse than the mill. Chopper in the sky, low. Talk about evacuation,maybe. River flowing by, Hell just beyond. Looks like a war zone. They parked the fire trucks along the road in the days just after the building tumbled, flying maple leafs and stars and stripes both.People honked, stopped to donate money to the families, right there by the roadside. Now the trucks are working, the neighborhood burning.Too close

Working.Food warehouse.Produce from Mexico. a scorpion scuttling across the floor.It came in with a load of watermelon. Stomp it flat, ruthless. Working,a linen factory. Shop steward says"I don't mind blacks...everyone should have a couple tied up in the back yard."He's unbearable, and he's a shop steward, ex-military.He lives to beat the system.Believes nothing good at all. Selling drugs on the side, locker covered in porn.Unbearable.

Talk radio.Iraq, Iran.Syria. Right wing all the time.Does any mercy exist in this town? "People are homeless because they choose to be. The Arabs hate us. They hate that we are free and successful.Why should peanuts be banned from a school just on account of one child? We have to close our borders. Don't work, you have no right to eat.Why shouldn't I jump queue to get the medical help I need, if I can afford to? And have you seen those palatial shelters? We need to stop making things so soft on people who won't work." Man walking down the alley.See him from the window.There is some kind of a thing growing on his cheek, blue and puffed up.Tumor maybe.Plastic garbage bag.Into the dumpster he goes.Looking for bottles and cans.Stomps the cans flat in the ice and show.Muffled...sounds like a gunshot in winter air.

Flood waters rising.Evacuate today, maybe in a few hours.Serene river's angry now. Apartment door left open again.Won't stop the water anyway.Might stop the crackheads if it was closed.Water creeping up.A bit muddy running from the taps.Won't wash me clean now.Cant drink it.Pitching sandbags end of the street.In the rain. The bridge just downstream is nearly awash.Waters rising.Then a cop comes by,with a city worker.Knocking on all the doors.Needles on the floor.One hour.Have to leave.Too much water.

Then up the North Hill.Number three bus.Sometimes late at night there are small race riots, really just fights on the bus.It's high up here.Not going to flood.Neighborhood looks hard and nasty. Three miles to work.Coyotes and skunks, and gopher holes.Jackrabbits. Rough cut here,for a city.Sidewalks just end sometimes. Walking underneath planes.Work is tolerable.Walking works out the kinked muscles, from pitching boxes and a flimsy bed. Hard to sleep, to get enough rest. Strong and able but feel unwell sometimes.Look up at Nose Hill. A few roads look like ruts. White piss stained porcelain.Beer cans.Stiff necked Mormons. Living behind a door, sleeping in cold winds of winter. Two buildings, two soldiers and the rest of the world.Approaching.Looking for water.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Part 2 Continued.

So now it's turned from a day with some urgency about making myself ready for church,to a rather lazy Sunday morning of laying around and watching television, and likely drifting off back to sleep sporadically throughout the day, watching a race and trying to fix something decent for dinner. Life is actually boring here, and,I think ,not sustainable.I can work every day I want to, it's so damn busy here, and in fact I've worked every day that I've wanted to, and a good many that I'd rather not have worked. Unloading the trailers is rather profitable because of the way it's paid out, but it's not much of a job.It requires no intellect at all, and those who employ me to that end expect me to have none, and treat me accordingly at times.It's been about five years since I've taken any classes, which bothers me.I think of applying to University Of Calgary for a class or two, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.Calgary has never really been a community that I've accepted as having any permanence.People ask if I like it here and the best I can manage is that it kind of suits me right now. I've never told anyone I like it, and I've never come to view it as home.The whole "Home" thing is just kind of way up in the air right now.If I were completely truthful to myself, I'd likely try to deal with this issue,before the economy turns again, as it always does, and Calgary becomes not the place to be.I really should try to figure out where I'd like to live, because this isn't really living, it's just being.

My most memorable day here in Calgary was, of course the day that defined the era we are now living in.A cool, trending towards warm Tuesday morning in September.I'd gotten up early like I do most days. At first light I was already up and about.One of my first thoughts of the day was that it was my nephews birthday.I looked outside to the usual sights and sounds.A black squirrel running nimbly along the overhead wires.The creak of a dumpster lid swinging open.The Hollow and distant metallic clink of cans being tossed out onto the pavement.Just a bit farther away,the gathering of early morning traffic out on Twenty Fifth Avenue.

I was in the habit of keeping the radio on a talk radio station all night, dozing and waking,then listening either syndicate old radio shows, or the talk show  host from Nevada that talked the night away of subjects having to do broadly with the paranormal. As I was gathering up some fruit for breakfast, listening to the usual commercials, the weather, and traffic reports, the news of a plane  hitting The World Trade Center.I tried to visualize New York City, and as I did,  it occurred to me that it was most likely a small plane, since all of the larger planes seemed to fly out over Harlem, and there was never a lot of air traffic over downtown Manhattan to the best of my memory.Likely a plane running into mechanical difficulty after leaving Newark, or perhaps while attempting to land there.The usual local fare continued for a while. Still no real details, though the morning host assured us they were watching the story.

Then that terrible other shoe had dropped.A few minutes later.Another plane, the announcer said had hit the other tower, and I knew this was not ordinary, in fact I knew that there would be no more ordinary days for some time, and when ordinary returned, it would be of a vastly different kind, a much less preferable reality. That day had come by which time would be divided into the time before and the time after.I kept no television in that apartment down by the river, so I listened to the story take over the airwaves the way a malignancy takes over a body.At the last minute that would allow me to still get to work on time I walked out into a glorious fall morning and walked over to the C-Train, catching a southbound to work. The conversation is what I most noticed, how it seemed and angry,electric whisper, alternating with near silence, minute after minute.

At work the television was on in the lunchroom, and it was turned to full volume so that it could be heard throughout the shop.I poked my head through the door and saw for the first time that vision now etched forever onto the retina of every person living at the time. It was slow in the shop,very few customers coming in and they were all talking about the news of the day. I got a lot of chances to leave the floor and stick my head back into the lunchroom, to watch those terrible images.Two of the worlds tallest buildings penetrated by large aircraft, burning, then plummeting to the earth in the middle of Lower Manhattan. I tried to imagine what it would have been like to have been there gazing up at the scene, watching the fires.I wondered how far away I would have had to get to escape the falling rubble.The best I could do was think that I would be unable to outrun the debris before it overtook me, that by the act of being there, I would be consumed.

I guess in a sense I always knew a day like this would come.But I wasn't prepared for it when it did.Outside, emptying the trash from work I was most keenly aware of the yellow jackets swarming around, a malevolent presence,and I swatted them away to avoid being stung.When I went home, there was a man at the train station hawking an extra addition of the news paper, something I'd never seen happen before. But the most unsettling thing was the absence of planes overhead.I was born into the aviation age and had no conception of a time without planes. The birds and insects that filled the sky seemed so awesomely loud, so much more noticeable, so eerie.

That's the world we live in now.I can conjure the scene in my mind without additional stimulus,the exact pattern of smoke and flames,bodies dropping to the ground, seeming to take so long in doing so.the Americans are in Iraq and Afghanistan now and Canada is in Afghanistan.Soldiers are dying as politicians pledge to restore us to a greater state of security. I can see the pictures.Two buildings dropping to the ground.Two soldiers arriving on the front step of of a home, changing the world still further for some young wife and her children.

I roll over uncomfortably on the bed and set the television to the right channel.It's nearly race time but I'm thinking I will likely sleep some more. I'm seeming to be tired, much more so than usual. I've got work to do tomorrow and the luxury of rest right now.So maybe I'll use it.