The Telegram (St. John's)
Because we don’t get enough — and because sometimes, we don’t slow down enough to enjoy what we do get.
I used the butane torch — the blue-cylindered one with the lit flame that sounds like ripping fabric — to heat up the rusted screws on a seized door hinge on the shed, then heated the hinge again, safely removed from the door, to let it cool and pull the penetrating oil inside.
The shed full of smoke, blue in the shaft of sunlight coming through the door.
Next job: the barbecue regulator won’t draw, and it won’t come off the barbecue, either. Even penetrating oil knows its limitations, especially when two metals are fused by weather. But the hinge is fixed, so that’s enough success to deserve a break.
I watched a seagull circle above and effortlessly release a lariat of droppings onto the roof of the house, then I went inside to the upstairs hall to sit in the chair that leans back, listening and waiting for the approaching thunderstorm. It was already wet and warm outside, the thunder off in the distance, rolling.
There was trim to paint outside, other paint to be stripped, lawn to mow, but none of it until the rain passes, and, as seasons go, it’s halfway to wild strawberries.
If I plugged a phone into that empty and disconnected jack by my foot, there will only be that phantom hiss of the empty space — and the lingering fear of hearing a hollow and sibilant distant “Hello?” that there is absolutely no answer for. Once, when we still had a land line there, someone left a message on the answering machine, angry: “Crystal? Pick up that goddamn phone. I know you’re there.”
It didn’t matter that I wasn’t Crystal: menace is contagious. Social media breathes that message constantly.
The best thing is a job that will take a long time but doesn’t need to be finished today; the best smell is fresh pine sawdust drifting out of the table saw, or its companion, blue-grey clapboard wood smoke from the chop saw. The best drink? A tall glass of cold, cold water, condensation beading on the tap. The sound of someone else singing, distant.
Down on the high ground near the water, the blueberry bushes shake in the steady wind. The seagulls kite, and my open shirt blows behind me like a cape.
In the water of the shallow cove beneath, a ragged chevron of black ocean ducks — white flashes tight in on their wings near their bodies when they fly — are swimming evenly south, bucking their way into the face of the waves. Two loons, low-slung in the water, heads and necks like periscopes, pivot their heads and then dive, slipping through the surface of the water as if simply parting the curtains and passing through.
At the very top of the cliff above the stairway of seabird nests — each group to its own zone — there is one particular spot where a crow or an eagle or some other avian predator brought gull eggs, opened them, and left the sedge-coloured and brown-spotted shells scattered around like bowls abandoned at an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s an eyrie of shells and bones and guano, a high-ground mound already atop a 50-foot-high cliff.
The owner of the eyrie wasn’t there, though I did see one hawklike shape dip and hide behind a nearby spruce thicket.
It wasn’t the only predator around, either — last year’s desiccated and decaying sheep carcass, off a cliff near Bradley’s Cove, is this year’s disconnected, dis-articulated bones, the sinew and ligament tooth-marked and clearly chewed.
The ground is dry on the top of the point. The partridgeberry bushes hiss, still in rude pink flower, and sitting to watch the water shift seems like something that could last an entire afternoon. Iceberg in the fog, visible and invisible. Schools of caplin, like huge dark fingerprints on the blue of the sea.
There is one moment, exultant. One moment, to reach out your arms and wrap it all in. When you appreciate what you’re lucky enough to have received, knowing none of it is ever guaranteed to happen again.
There is one moment when you can move slowly, and feel it all roll into you like current recharging a failing battery.
Don’t waste that charge.
Iceberg in the fog, visible and invisible. Schools of caplin, like huge dark fingerprints on the blue of the sea.
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 30 Saltwire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @wangersky.