Tak­ing stock of the good things

Sackville Tribune - - OPINION - Rus­sell Wanger­sky East­ern Pas­sages Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 30 Saltwire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetele­gram.com; Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

It’s funny how a long spell of cold weather, es­pe­cially if it’s capped by heavy rain, can sap so much of your good­will. Or how world events, from the re­peated re­cent at­tacks in Britain to the al­most breath­less news fear-mon­ger­ing those at­tacks en­gen­der, can make you close your door, if even just metaphor­i­cally, and hide in­side your­self.

It’s not hard to un­der­stand that there’s a group of peo­ple who just seek to dis­con­nect from the world, to es­cape the steady cold drip-drip-drip of in­hu­man­ity that seems to fall upon us daily. It’s hard, some­times, not to want to be one of them, not to want to hang up the news and the Twit­ter ac­count.

So here, in­stead, is a col­lec­tion of small and, to me at least, per­fect things to think about, the sort of thing that can wash your world clean, if only for a minute or two.

Run­ning a hand plane along the long side of an un­hinged door, and hav­ing a great long curled wood shav­ing emerge from the tool, long enough to run from the door’s toe to top, un­bro­ken.

The pine smell of that shav­ing, clean and bright and some­how rem­i­nis­cent of the smell of grape­fruit skin.

Split new spruce fire­wood, all in the pile, the wood still brightwhite and fresh, the sap still thick and sticky and run­ning onto your gloves.

A rum­pled bed in an up­stairs room on at least one hot day, ev­ery­thing about it ex­ud­ing the def­i­ni­tion of “lan­guid.”

Trim­ming out a win­dow, and hav­ing the last piece of wood, that an­gled-down rain-cap over­hang, fit per­fect and true.

Tear­ing old sid­ing from an out­side wall, and find­ing the wood be­hind to be in far bet­ter shape than you could imag­ine. See­ing the rake of chis­els and old block planes along the face of very, very old clap­board, and won­der­ing about the hands that held those tools.

See­ing the way let­tuce seedlings crane hope­ful to­ward the sun.

The sound of a dis­tant lawn mower com­ing to­ward you, pulling away, com­ing to­ward you. The smell of cut grass, early in the year.

The io­dine smell of an ocean beach, es­pe­cially of kelp dry­ing, even the rich sul­fur smell of clam flat mud. The sea wind, once it’s not hid­ing ice in its teeth.

The wind on your high­way el­bow out the driver’s side win­dow, the air whip­ping by, feel­ing your body tilt, obey­ing physics as the car fights grav­ity around a deep turn.

Wild straw­berry flow­ers, sim­ple and white and star­ing flatly up­ward.

The ache in your calves af­ter a trail has risen fur­ther up­ward than you ex­pected it to, and the view you un­ex­pect­edly have earned.

The sound of mov­ing wa­ter, big or small, over step-falls. The smell of newly turned dirt. The sweet taste of re­ally fresh trout, and the lemon-sharp­ness of sor­rel, a salad-leaf that might be hid­ing right there in plain sight in your lawn. Watch­ing fish sip flies down through the sur­face of the wa­ter on a slow river.

A cold, cold glass of wa­ter when you’re sweat­ing and you’re just down off the top of the lad­der. The warmth of the sun when you’re ly­ing fully stretched out on a bench. Walk­ing home and pass­ing through a band of the smell of some­one else’s bar­be­cue, and try­ing to de­cide what they are hav­ing for dinner.

I come back to some of those things over and over on grey bat­ter­ing days.

The world can be a bet­ter place. Heck, it is a bet­ter place. We’re bet­ter than this, bet­ter than the small-mind­ed­ness and the hate. And those of us who aren’t driven by hate some­times have to fight to keep pulling up on small but im­por­tant boot­straps.

“I come back to some of those things over and over on grey bat­ter­ing days.”

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