Friday, November 30, 2007

Both sides, now*

Actually, the world around me right now is brilliant white. A major snowstorm blew into town on Wednesday and dropped a whole heap of snow.

I was thrilled of course with the snow, never mind the cold northwesterlies, never mind that my husband didn't make it much past the driveway because of the snow, never mind that I had to go rummage in the basement to dig out my son's old discarded winter boots in order to get to the 2 birdfeeders in my yard without getting clots of snow sticking to my socks.

Never mind all that, I was thrilled for the snow as, unlike last winter, the flowers in my garden have a chance to survive the cold hand of winter. Last winter we didn't get any snow until January or February yet the temperature was minus way down there and windchills were fierce. I lost the red beauty of the cardinal plant, the goat's beard (and he's supposed to be tough!), the black eyed susans were stunted, and even a long-enduring bleeding heart just stopped beating.

So, this winter has provided some grace as the flowers are already blanketed and insulated. Toasty warm roots. Batted down. Resting in peace until the first hint of green comes knocking.

If you look closely at the photo of the harbour, you can see the lights of the lighthouse shining out like the eyes of a bug peering back at you from a dusty basement corner. This was yesterday's photo; this morning it is -22 with a windchill of -32 so all clouds and chimney smoke lie in the air like flat pancakes. A sure-fire way to tell if it is really cold; just look out your window at your neighbour's chimney. If the smoke is flat, moving parallel, yet almost motionless, well, chances are it is below -20 celsius, edging to the -30 mark.

My daughter said to me as she came down the stairs this morning, mom, go look out my window at the clouds. They're so pretty.

Are you sure it's not pollution, I asked?

I went up to the third floor to look out of her south-facing bedroom window. A gorgeous sight greeted me. A solid wall of dense white pillowy clouds swirled low along the horizon of the lake. Nanabijou was blanketed. Gone. The clouds looked like a very effective wallpaper border. But, a peek to the right confirmed my fears. These aren't clouds at all, just pollution from the mill rolling across the harbour, trapped by the cold air, and instead of billowing off and toxifying someone else's landscape and breath, why, the toxic effluent was just hanging around for a change.

Yep, I told my daughter when I got back to the kitchen, they sure are pretty. But they're not clouds at all. Just pollution from the mill.

After my daughter left for her teaching placement, I sat down with my coffee to listen to CBC radio. Someone in town has written a new book about homelessness; the interview will be coming up. Someone in town dressed up as a homeless person and went out on the street to 'get the goods'. But, said the announcer, he got quite sick so he had to give up his project.

I turned the radio off. Probably this young man is a very nice young man. Maybe my neighbour. Could belong to a local writer's group. Or just a well-meaning I-want-to-get-the-'real'-story-out young man.

But I couldn't help thinking about the Anishnawbe fellow I saw from the overpass on Monday freezing morning. First, I thought it was a pile of green garbage bags that had blown up against the small shed by the traintracks. But no, I saw someone sit up. Crawl out of his sleeping bag on the ground. He seemed ok. I left him to his privacy. When I returned back from my loop, I saw he was gone. I wonder, did he also decide to 'give up his project'? I wonder if he too decided he had enough of homelessness and went back home instead? I wonder if he has the choice.


post script: Later the next day I read in the local Source community newspaper an article about the homelessness author. It seems the author himself may be Anishnawbe (not sure though). So, I thought, does it make his work then more legitimate? (not sure if the ethics of the project apply regardless). Interestingly, he was commenting on how the project did not turn out as he had imagined; in his words "We tried to do something that turned out to be a total failure." But, he states that he wanted to do something with the material he had collected. Currently he is a reporter for the Kenora Daily Miner. His book is for "mainstream audiences". Does that mean mainstream as in class or mainstream as in white middleclass? (not sure)

No comments: