Taking Stock

Early Sunday morning and a light snow is coming down on the deck. October 28th and here we go again, though I’m not sure I’m quite ready for it. Sam’s been pulling winter clothes out of the basement for weeks. Baskets fill up with gloves and scarves. I feel somehow far too casual in my approach to the seasons - There must be a sweater in here somewhere - next to all her good organization. It’s feels as if without her we’d all freeze halfway to school.

The heat’s on and we really should get that old furnace serviced. There is only one cold air return in the house and so it struggles to circulate the warm air. There’s no balance to the system, and that feels, when I’m running around from one appointment to another, like something I could claim of life in general.

I’d like to write another novel. I have two or three started. One about a girl orphaned after her father dies in a whaling ship off Martha’s Vineyard in the nineteenth century. She’s shipped off to Prince Edward County to stay with relatives and falls in with some spiritualists who claim to be in contact with her father. It’s Moby Dick meets Ghost Story. I have high hopes for that book. I think I can pull it off, I really do. But I’ve also no time to do finish the research.

Another, titled Hide, is about a realtor who sells a grand old building cheap to a school, knowing that the site was used as a tannery a hundred years ago and the soil is full of heavy metals. When kids begin to fall ill he has to take a good long look at who he’s become.

There’s a thriller too, and that one opens with the protagonist’s brother begin run down in a market square after a party. He’s just bought a newspaper and the pages are thrown into the air like so much hellish sleet. A case of mistaken identity is what it looks like, at least to start with.

So I still have plenty of ambitions that way. But the real estate career keeps me busy enough it feels like it will be years before I can find the three months I need to get a good first draft written.

And most of the time that’s perfectly okay. I really do like this work. I feel useful and well-compensated. As if I’m making a small difference. It’s a job that stills my usually-anxious mind enough that I’m a better parent than I was going to be if I’d stuck just with the books, stayed up on the third floor writing pages in the morning and reading reviews of my work in the afternoon, and finally attending the odd sour party in the evening. The life I have is the right life, mostly. And I do still write. Little jogs to the corner store rather than the marathon that is a novel, but it all counts.

There are other things I should be writing, rather than this odd confession. I’ve had friends refer business to me lately and I should definitely acknowledge with a nice card, a bottle of something decent, all that trust and generosity.

There’s been some great music made in England the last year or two as well, and I’d like to go through that list - Idles, Shame, Beak, Heavy Lungs, Nadine Shah - and tease out some reviews, some thoughts on how the scene there seems as vital right now as any since I left that country way back in 1980.

There’s an asshole who just moved in up the street and has jammed a new driveway over his neighbour’s garden, claiming he needs “emergency access”, when it looks to me as if what he really wants is a bit more land than he paid for. The poor old guy who’s been on the street damn near since they were using horses on that long-dead right-of-way can’t let his dog out any more, and every time I drive by I want to pull over and knock on the new arrival’s door. It feels like the perfect illustration of the shit side of gentrification to me, and I’d like to have a lawyer tell me I can slot some names and addresses into this paragraph.

I’d like to write a perfect description of the walk from here to the water too. The dozen nondescript houses I pass, and the bent roadsweeper at the apartment building, the constant shade over the awkward five steps from the asphalt down to Doug Fluhrer Park and its turtle nests.

I’d like my heart for just a day to keep a regular rhythm rather than scaring me with its sudden weird dances, like it’s some nerd dad crashing the school dance.

I’d like to learn to draw. And ski well enough this year that my kids don’t have to cover their faces.

I’d like to take my job both more seriously and less. To drive off without my phone some morning and read a book at the edge of a field iced with frost and the sinking heavy breath of a dozen cows.

I’d like this. I’d like that. I sound about eight years old, don’t I? But it’s during these early mornings, before the mob awakes, when some minor sifting and filtering can take place of all the large and small bits that make up a life. It’s not as if a concrete plan often emerges from these solitary half-hours. It’s more just a slow taking stock, an easygoing audit that provokes once in a while some minor recalibration so my own life can settle once more around me sorta like the new snow outside - quietly and with no fuss.