A real life in­ter­lude

Sackville Tribune - - OPINION - Rus­sell Wanger­sky East­ern Pas­sages Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 29 Saltwire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetele­gram.com; Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

Out through the fog and driv­ing the early-morn­ing high­way, the tem­per­a­ture just be­low freez­ing even though it’s well into May. On the bog ponds and the stead­ies, thin mist was wick­ing up into the air as grey wraiths, the wa­ter warmer than the air, ex­hal­ing.

Me, driv­ing away.

Just mu­sic in the car, driv­ing out of the fog and into cold sun, fed up to the gills with the elec­tronic world of rage and petty spite.

An hour and a half out of the city, I’m well past the reach of cell tow­ers, my phone dy­ing as it searched for sig­nal, and I couldn’t be hap­pier.

Keep­ing score with sim­pler things: com­post for the an­gry bud­knuck­led rhubarb, two clumps of quest­ing chives, 22 gar­lic scapes al­ready sev­eral inches high, planted last fall be­fore the freeze. Two ice­bergs – one tab­u­lar and flat, the other a small sharp and tilted peak – both bright-white in the hard sun, al­most too white to look at di­rectly.

Not both­er­ing to turn on any heat, the house colder than out­doors, clip­ping the tool belt on, head­ing up the stairs.

In a front bed­room, the spare room, the ceil­ing project that’s never quite done: the bump-out on the front filled in now with tongue and groove pine, the rest, old bead­board wait­ing for paint.

Putting mould­ing back up, and I thought that I had num­bered all the pieces when I took them down, but I hadn’t: I’d writ­ten scrawled pen­cil mes­sages to my­self that, at the time, I must have been sure that I would un­der­stand. “Back half side” might have meant some­thing to me once, but look­ing at the scrawl, it was like try­ing to stare back into time, try­ing to see back to the me who wrote those words. I re­sist the urge to take my car­pen­ter’s pen­cil and leave a few even more ob­tuse and enig­matic mes­sages for some later owner: “It’s near the well,” or “Seven paces south from the ground wire, and dig.”

(Tak­ing vinyl sid­ing off the old house, I’ve found the mea­sure­ments and math for its orig­i­nal in­stal­la­tion, writ­ten in pen­cil on the old white-painted clap­board.)

And the mould­ing it­self is such a col­lec­tion: all the same pro­file, but some is newer soft­wood; the rest, so old and heavy and hard­ened that if you don’t drill it first, you can bend two-inch bright fin­ish­ing nails just try­ing to ham­mer them in.

Out­side, the star­lings have come back and are nest­ing in a hole in the poplar, just like last year. There are robins, the black-capped chick­adees and the bo­real chick­adees fill­ing the air with song in a way they weren’t just a few weeks ago. A strange yel­low-shafted flicker makes its loud ad­di­tion, sit­ting on a power-pole trans­former which it oc­ca­sion­ally uses as a drum.

I can feel my strength re­turn­ing, can feel my spir­its lift­ing. Split some cut spruce, pull weeds, sit on the red bench in the yard for a few min­utes, just to feel the warmth of the sun beat­ing down on my skin. The world is pos­si­ble again, made of small tasks and short strides, made of driv­ing and walk­ing and think­ing. Think­ing pure thoughts, about mea­sure­ments and board feet, about soil and com­post and jobs to be done.

Then, back at home, the mis­takes of all mis­takes: plug­ging the phone back in, re-en­ter­ing the in­cred­i­bly small-minded world of the great wide web.

I can tol­er­ate many things, but the sheer depth of small-minded de­light in the mis­for­tunes of oth­ers drains my batteries faster than the sig­nal-less phone drains its own.

I’ve said this be­fore, but still true: there has to be a better way.

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