December 03, 2013
Pack Creek Ranch - San Juan County, Utah
The first week in December, 2013
Promise of snow
The Salvation Army is back out on the streets for the holidays.
You may see only one or two bell ringers by the kettle.
But they’re out there - in 126 countries, saying hello in 175 languages in 126 countries, with the help of 4.5 million volunteers.
You could be one of them . . . you won’t regret it if you are.
Dinkly, dinkly, dinkly dink . . .
A man I know is out in front of City Market, standing by the Salvation Army kettle, ringing a little brass bell.
He does it every year.
I saw him yesterday.
He looked like Santa Claus – complete with an elf.
A little kid - so wrapped up in red hat, red snowsuit, red boots, and red mittens that I couldn’t tell if it was a girl or a boy.
But the kid’s enthusiasm was unambiguous.
Ringing the bell like it was a fire alarm, not an invitation for charity.
And passers-by were filling the kettle.
“Is that your grandchild?” I asked.
“No. I don’t know its name or if it’s a boy or girl.”
“What’s the story?” I asked.
“Well, this nice lady had the kid stuff a $20 in the kettle, and then she said the kid wanted to ring the bell, and I said sure, and so the kid took over the job, and the lady went into the grocery store, and here we are.”
“Do you know the lady?”
“How long has she been gone?”
“Maybe half an hour – but I’m glad to have the company - the kid is good with the bell - and the lady did put $20 in the kettle.
I’m OK doing child care.
The Salvation Army is a full-service organization.”
I asked my friend why he didn’t just write a nice big check and send it into the Salvo office and save all this standing around in the cold.
He said he always sends the check, but doing kettle duty was the best part of being in the Army – he wouldn’t miss doing it.
He said that he was always too busy most of the year to stop and think much about anything important.
Whenever he went into the supermarket he saw lots of people, but his attention was focused on his list and the shelves and getting in and out.
But . . .
When he stood outside ringing the bell he really noticed people.
And he did a lot of thinking about the human race and his place in it.
Inside the supermarket he never had a conversation with other people.
They were all just part of the furniture of the store.
Outside he got to interact with them.
People stopped to talk, wished him a Merry Christmas, thanked him for helping the Salvation Army, offered to go in and buy him coffee, and – right in front of him - put a surprising amount of money in the pot.
He became a witness to their generosity.
He said he learned a lot about the people in his town just by standing still and ringing the bell every year.
“What do you learn?” I asked him.
He choked up – tears in his eyes.
“That . . .most people . . . are . . . basically good, more often than not.”
He composed himself and went on . . .
“I know that’s true – I believe that - but I lose track of it -and I relearn it every year about this time when I’m out here ringing the bell.”
Dinkly, dinkly, dink . . .
The little kid was still raising the alarm with all its his heart.
Just then the mother rolled out the door of City Market with a cart full of groceries and a wreath stacked on top.
“Sorry I took so long – hope you didn’t mind.”
“No,” said the man I know, “I was honored by the company.”
The kid didn’t want to leave.
The mother took the bell and gave it back to my friend.
She said to the kid, “We have to go – you can come back another time.”
“Promise?” asked the kid.
“Promise,” said the mom.
“Right,” said my friend, “People will always need help – and The Salvation Army is always there in time of need – that’s a promise, too.”
The kid will be back.
Dinkly, dinkly, dink.
link to this story
December 01, 2013
Pack Creek Ranch - San Juan County, Utah
The first week in December, 2013
Clammy cold with thick fog.
PARIS AND PIE
Paris Hilton was here for Thanksgiving.
She called in the middle of the night.
Said she was just down the road and knew it was late, but she’d like to drop by.
Said she heard about our pecan pie and wanted to try a piece.
Well, hell . . .
I rolled over - seeking deeper sleep.
Then the doorbell rang.
Ding-dong, ding- dong, ding-dong . . .
Well, hell . . .
I rolled over again.
But stayed put on the shore of sleep.
What if it is Paris?
Freakier things have happened.
Is she alone?
Probably has a driver.
And maybe a limo full of her Las Vegas bimbo brigade?
I could hear giggling out on the porch.
There goes the pie.
And the rest of the vanilla ice cream.
Ding-dong ding-dong ding-dong . . ..
Just wait –they’ll go away.
But she knows I’m here - I answered the phone when she called.
(Some facts you should have before reading on.
1. There is no phone at my house – phones are in another building.
2. There is no doorbell at my house.
3. My brain does a lot of weird stuff between deep sleep and wide awake.
It’s like leaving an orangutan alone overnight in a toy store.
4. It’s also true that I am one who takes chances on very long odds.
I still remember when the Village People came to visit in the middle of the night and I waited too long to go to the door and they left.
I regretted that – I wanted to sing YMCA with them.)
It could be Paris – she gets around.
And word about my wife’s pecan pie also gets around.
Willow makes the finest pecan pie in the western world.
What an idiot I would be if it really was Paris and I didn’t answer the door.
She and her carload of Las Vegas ladies would drive away into the night.
Leaving a little note on the door in girlish scrawl . . .
“Sorry we missed you , Bobby . . . and the pie . . . kiss, kiss - Paris.”
Still, I waited . . . .
Wider and wider awake.
It’s a real compliment that Paris would come all this way for our pecan pie.
I could see the headlines in the local newspaper:
HOLLYWOOD CELEBRITY COMES TO PACK CREEK FOR PECAN PIE!
They say that Paris and her friends often go around wearing trench coats with no clothes on underneath.
Maybe they would take their coats off when they came inside.
And eat pecan pie naked.
That would be fun.
I got up.
Wouldn’t want to wake my wife.
“Willow - get up – Paris Hilton is at the door – wants pecan pie.”
No . . . I don’t think so.
I crept down the hall in the darkness.
Realizing half way that I had not put on my bathrobe.
I was naked.
(Pajamas in bed are for old people and sissies.)
But if it really was Paris at the door, then she wouldn’t mind, would she?
She’d get with the program and take her coat off right away.
And besides, she just came for pie.
I opened the front door.
Paris and the babes had departed.
I thought I could just make out the red rear lights of the limo in the far distance.
So now I’m wide-eyed awake – at three in the morning.
But there’s pecan pie in the kitchen.
So I tip-toed back down the hall and got my bathrobe.
Even I was not going to eat pie naked – unless Paris was there to share.
Returning to the kitchen, I set the table with full midnight expedition gear:
Pecan pie, plate, fork, vanilla ice cream, cold milk, napkin. toothpick.
Go . . .
The pie was real.
And I went quietly, contentedly, back to bed, thinking, as I fell asleep:
“People jump out of cakes on special occasions, but they never jump out of pies.
Why is that?
A gooey mess – pecan pieces all over the floor . . . but that could be fun.
Imagine cleaning the pie off Paris. . . .
Maybe she’ll come back for Christmas.”
* * * * *
link to this story
(see Facebook photos http://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum)
November 25, 2013
Pack Creek Ranch - San Juan County, Utah
The last week in November, 2013
A cold front got locked into place over southeast Utah, and a conveyor belt of moist air kept moving up from the Pacific. As a result we’ve had three days of on-again off-again snow of the finest kind - an infinite variety of flakes falling straight down, with no wind to redistribute it – making sculptures out of ordinary objects.
When I was up at 4:00 a.m. the power was out.
Giving me a chance to be outside without seeing any lights in the valley.
Got dressed – went out – and down the road . . . .
Not really totally dark –- because the moon lit the clouds with a soft glow and I could easily see my way without a flashlight.
Too lovely to sully with more words . . . .
(See Facebook page for photos http://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum.)
And now, for something completely different:
“It’s Party Time! – Eat, drink, and twerk your ass off.”
“Sex up your Holiday – 38 Naughty games and hot moves.”
“The sexiest and skankiest moments of 2013.”
“Have a sex-a-thon – How to do it all night long.”
“Get a Brazilian butt lift – no knife required.”
I’ve never written much about sex.
For one thing, the culture is flooded with the subject – you can read all about it.
And on the internet you can see anything and everything you want or imagine in live-action and living color with full sound – and it’s free.
So, why should I add to the glut?
Besides, sex is a touchy subject.
Once upon a time, when Captain Kindergarten was on a roll, he wrote an essay entitled “All I Really Wanted to Know I Learned in the Alley Behind my House.”
It was about what little kids say and do when adults aren’t around.
Like playing doctor-and-nurse – and I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.
Panic at the publishers.
My editor recoiled at the essay and asked me to bury it.
Wouldn’t want to spoil Captain Kindergarten’s “nice” image.
But that was then and this is now.
And I’m not as “nice” as I used to be.
Maybe it’s time I revived and revised that essay.
Stay tuned . . .
But I digress.
The five sentences at the top of this journal are just a few actual quotes off the cover of two current issues of Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Headlines - right out there on the magazine stand for anyone to see.
I say “two current issues” because one is specifically labeled “For Latinas.”
I suppose then that the other one is for White girls or wanta-be-White girls.
Black girls have their own magazines.
City Market in Moab doesn’t carry them.
No Playboy, either – just Cosmo.
Racist? – sexist? – maybe – I don’t know - but it is the case.
Did I buy these two versions of Cosmopolitan?
For one thing, a plastic surgeon once told me I might like a Brazilian butt lift.
I was afraid to ask for details.
But now Cosmo will tell me how to get one – “no knife required.”
And I’ve always wondered how to do “it” all night long.
And it might be fun to “sex up” my holiday with some games and hot moves.
Christmas is coming and something special is to be hoped for, right?
(It’s already been Christmas Season for two weeks at City Market.
Poinsettias are in, along with candy canes and all the Santa stuff.
Maybe Christmas will be over by Thanksgiving.
That would be a relief.)
Getting back to the cover of Cosmopolitan . . .
Do I want to know how to “twerk my ass off?”
It’s hard to say – I’ve never twerked – twerk is not in my vocabulary.
Maybe it goes with getting a Brazilian Butt Lift?
(I looked up “twerk” on the web – saw a video of it being done – now I know.
If you want to know, do your own homework. See it to believe it.)
But I digress again.
I’m a magazine junky.
And City Market has a wall of magazines I peruse once a week.
I look them over thoughtfully - and often buy magazines way outside of what might be considered my appropriate realms of interest.
Because I want to know what’s going on over in worlds outside my own.
This week I came home with a bow-hunting magazine, one about raising chickens, another devoted to muscle building, along with both editions of Cosmopolitan.
Reading Cosmo is like having access to the other team’s playbook.
You wonder what goes in their huddle.
Since I want to know what women are thinking and doing and wearing, Cosmo gives me a clue.
Don’t misunderstand – Cosmo does not feature deep philosophical discussions or political activity or a truly wide variety of female sexuality.
It’s focus is on heterosexual enterprise – and that’s it.
Superficial? – Trashy? – Narrow?
You might think so – and some people do.
Cosmopolitan is the most popular women’s magazine on the planet.
First published in 1886 as a family magazine, there are now 64 international editions, published in 35 languages and distributed in more than 100 countries.
And available online everywhere the internet exists.
And if Cosmo says women have some pretty lively views on sex, I pay attention.
I might learn something I could use.
The magazine is about women’s self-image – beauty, appearance, and sexuality.
There are no nudes – no erotic illustrations – no dirty stories – no cartoons.
Cosmopolitan is about sexuality.
And it assumes that women have the right to think and read about their interest – and possibly improve the quality of their sex life.
What’s not to like about that?
Cosmos’ approach is that sex is basic and essential - not shameful or dirty.
Sex can be fun, if you have an open mind.
And the more you know, the better off you’ll be.
You may not agree – you may not read the magazine – or approve of it.
Like the man show saw me looking through Cosmo at the City Market and said,
“Why would you read stuff like that?”
And I said he was a fool if he didn’t.
“I’m interested in twerking,” I said.
“My wife’s coming,” he said, and walked quickly away.
Guess he wouldn’t want her to know what he didn’t want to know.
As if she doesn’t already. . .
Twerking is probably not part of their program, I suppose.
Think about it.
We live in a world where men still force women to go out in the world completely covered in a black bag – so as to deny their being female or sexual.
But the bag doesn’t cover women’s minds or their feelings or their needs.
I believe with all my heart that knowledge is a good thing.
It’s what you don’t know and refuse to know that leads to trouble.
The more we know, the better off we are.
Ignorance is not bliss – it’s catastrophic to human relationships.
And fatal to healthy sexual relationships between men and women.
Oh sure, openly addressing sexuality is still – and will always be – troubling.
I give you that.
It’s why comedians make a living off sexual material.
We laugh at what we fear.
We laugh at the fear that has power over us.
And sex has more existential power than almost any aspect of our humanity.
Cosmopolitan is just one window into a world men don’t live in or think about.
It only covers one aspect of the feminine mystique.
Nothing more – nothing less.
But it’s legal and moral and worth looking at by a man who wants to keep an open mind and a lively sex life.
If it weren’t for Cosmo I wouldn’t know about twerking.
Sex is always present and surprisingly in force.
For example, when I was out in the very early morning, the silence was broken by two sounds:
First, the mournful bleating of Batman, the Billy-goat, who was all alone penned up somewhere at the ranch.
Recently he’s been driven out of his mind by raging hormones.
Batman is worked up because all of the small herd of nanny-goats are in heat.
Ready and willing to mate.
They’re out in a separate shed in the field somewhere – and he is alone.
Last week Batman even tore down a section of the fence to get at them.
He was finally let in with the nanny herd for a day.
It was wild to behold.
But the goat gangbang was not enough for Batman.
Not only could I hear him pleading as I walked by, but I could smell his rutty male goat stench wafting out in the still air.
When I passed the nannys in the field, they were all alertly staring in the direction of Batman’s invitational bleating.
The only other sound was the soft hooting of a great horned owl from the trees along Pack Creek.
Owls mate for life, so he wasn’t in the same bag as Batman.
But Great Horned are the earliest owls to mate.
And the Mr. Owl was letting Mrs. Owl know it was that time again.
Hoot, hoooooot, hoot – let’s get it on.
Two sounds of sex in the still of the night.
link to this story
A Billy-goat and an owl . . . in a twerking state of mind.
November 21, 2013
Pack Creek Ranch - San Juan County, Utah
Mid- November, 2013
Rain, wind, snow in the mountains – below freezing tonight.
And maybe snow here at the ranch overnight.
Here’s some follow-up to last Sunday’s Week In Review:
MONDAY, TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY, THURSDAY . . .
Like most people I maintain an active Things-To-Do list.
But that’s not my only list – there are others.
Like The Things-I-Will- Do-Tomorrow-Whenever-Tomorrow-Comes list.
And the Things-I-Should-Have-Done-By-Now-But-Don’t-Want-To-Do list.
Plus the list of things I actually did, but in a half-assed way, knowing I should have got somebody who knows what they’re doing to do it.
There’s also a reality list of Things-I-Know-I’m-Never-Going-To-Do.
And all these lists tend to slop back forth over into one another.
I keep them – because I like to see the red lines drawn through the items that actually do get accomplished.
It’s good for morale to see tasks crossed off
It reminds me that I can actually get stuff done.
My favorite list is called The Special Pleasures.
I will come to that later, but first an accounting of the past few days.
Mondays are Consider-the-Lists Day in the spirit of get ‘er done.
I managed to haul and stack the pile of newly split firewood.
Big pile, neatly arranged. Check.
And I girded up my loins (as the Bible says – funny idea) and and cleaned the outdoor barbecue – a cruddy, greasy, slimy mess – probably breeding new life forms by now – but I did it. Check.
And while I was at it, I scrubbed up pots and pans accumulated over the weekend.
The possible holes in the roof that cause some small leaks did not get patched.
The weatherman predicted rain and sleet and snow and wind.
But I knew that I could just hold out long enough I would not have to get out there.
The job is on the list of Things-I-Don’t-Want-To-Do-But-Should-Be-Done.
But the weatherman seems to be having acid flashbacks and is out of touch with reality – so I’ve had to wait three days for hoping for preventive inclement weather to keep me off the roof.
Finally, a muscular dose of winter has arrived – rain, snow, wind.
Keeping me off the roof and in the basement workshop.
And that’s a good thing.
A reason to attend to the Special Pleasures list.
At the top of that page is the making of amulets, talismans and fetishes – like rock-stacking on a small, indoor scale.
I’ve elaborated on this subject before, but the thoughts bear repeating.
(And this time there are supporting photographs posted on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum).
Take a look at the general scene –more specific images will follow in time.)
Here’s an updated and edited version of what the making of amulets and talismans and fetishes is about:
* * * *
* * *
In the basement of my house at Pack Creek there is a crafts workshop.
Half is equipped for the making of jewelry – the craft of my wife, Willow.
She’s a trained, skilled, talented craftsperson – and her tools include torches and flexible shaft drills and drawers and drawers of specialized tools.
Around about is a vast collection of beads and silver findings and the odds and ends jewelers need but for which I do not know the names or use.
I do not have the skills, training, patience, or small-motor skills for making jewelry in any form.
So. I stay out of her turf.
The other half of the basement is my territory – for the making of fetishes, amulets, talismans and small whimsical sculptures.
My materials are stones, bones, feathers, leather, animal skins, pottery shards, wood fragments, and odds and ends of treasures picked up along the way in my travels around the world.
My tools are simple: a Japanese saw, sandpaper and super-glue.
I do use Willow’s flexible shaft drill once in a while, but she raids my feather and bone supply, so it’s a fair trade.
We spend winter evenings making stuff together in the basement – talking, laughing, advising on each other’s work, listening to music, and drinking red wine – which is cellared close by in the basement.
It gives me great pleasure to make fetishes, amulets, and talismans for family, close friends and those for whom I have abiding respect.
I am not an animist who believes every object contains a spirit.
I am not a shaman or witch doctor or magician.
And I am not an American Indian or a believer in occult practices.
But I am a deep believer in friendship and the invisible, non-rational elements of time and experience friendships contain.
I like giving a unique symbol of our connection that goes beyond the usual presents one may buy.
What I make contains memories of times past, and wishes and hopes and dreams for times to come. The amulets/talismans/fetishes are tied together with the invisible strings that bind people together beyond time and space and language.
The amulet/fetishes/talismans are made of materials such as these:
Smooth stones found on the banks of the Colorado River canyon; Anasazi pottery shards, pieces of Indian arrowheads, feathers from ravens and flickers, wishbones from a wild turkey, old beads from many lands, little wooden man-shapes from a tree hit by lightning, old silver coins, tiny statues of the Hindu god Ganesh . . .
And too much else to list.
The pieces are tied together with deer sinew or hand-made twine.
(Secured with super-glue – the inept White Man’s secret mojo.)
All these objects are old; all were collected by me over time and space.
And all were assembled by me while I thought about a specific person.
Whatever spirits the final object may contain, it is certain that it contains the spirit of Robert Fulghum.
The gift says:
“I hold you in my heart and mind. I am thinking about you and remembering you, please don’t forget me.”
I usually place the gifts in a red silk bag.
The bag itself also contains these invisible elements:
A shadow cast by a guardian angel.
The memory of the laugh that comes after a hiccup.
The end of a small rainbow.
A map a raven made when it flew across the sky.
The answer to the question of “Who knows where the time goes?”
The sweet smell of success.
The sound of summer rain on a tin roof.
A ticket for a free ride back from the edge of the abyss.
A fragment of Alice’s Looking Glass.
The morning after.
Memories of the day before.
Thoughts in the time being.
Hopes for the time to come.
And Lady Luck’s cell phone number.
Also within the bag is my abiding affection and respect.
The bag is closed with the sound of the Greek blessing/wish ‘Chronya Pollah’ – meaning may you have many years.
Nothing in the bag has commercial value.
It’s all worthless on the open market.
Yet all that is in the bag is priceless – together they are one-of-a-kind.
As is my relationship with those I give the gift to.
The making of these talismans/amulets/fetishes is a way of my expressing the unspeakable things I want to say to those I care about just in case they or I die and it’s too late to connect.
I want them to know.
The gift of amulets/talismans/fetishes obeys the second law of magic:
Those who were once in touch in a meaningful way remain in touch no matter the distance or time between them.
I tell you all this in part because the recent death of my friend and long-time Czech editor, Eva Slamova, is still on my mind.
She died in Prague, a long way away.
I didn’t know she was dying.
And I didn’t have a chance to tell her goodbye.
Then I remembered that I had made a talisman/amulet/fetish for her years ago.
A very special one in which I invested a lot of time and thought.
She said she kept it on her dresser, and often held it in her hand.
In remembering that gift I felt better.
The parting words I wished I could have said were un-necessary.
She knew how I felt and why – all the way to the end.
So - now you know about me and amulets/talismans/fetishes.
link to this story
And if you understand, you may also make and give gifts like these to those you love and treasure and hold in your heart.
Don’t wait . . .
November 17, 2013
Pack Creek Ranch - San Juan County, Utah
Mid- November, 2013
Just a reminder that two manuscripts of recent books I published in Europe are available to download in English – free - from this website home page.
Look down at the bottom of the left-hand side – a short novel and a short memoir.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW
Sunday morning – well, actually more like noon now as I begin writing.
My wife and I try to observe the Sabbath as a sacred day.
Sacred in the sense of set aside from the ordinary.
It’s not done according to scripture or because we go to church – but because we need a day off from the ongoing busy-ness of life - if life is to flourish.
It’s a conscious choice – one best not left to casual happenstance.
Stacking the wood we split on Saturday can wait until Monday.
The grubby outdoor gas grill will still be there next week to clean.
And there’s an armistice in the ongoing war with mice – no traps set today.
A respite from plotting murder, even of small annoying creatures.
Our Sunday protocol is that you can sleep in as late as you want.
And anytime during the day you feel sleepy, go ahead and get down - take a nap.
You can eat whatever you want whenever you want, but if there is a mutual agreement to have a special Sunday breakfast, we do that.
Even though it’s usually a brunch or even lunch by the time we get it organized – but so what?
Or if you just want to be alone, be alone.
If you want company, hang around with somebody else, as long as they agree.
On lovely days like this one, there’s often a cook-up.
A waffle-and-bacon fest or a major omelet-and-toast event, or a round of real oatmeal-with-raisins-and-nuts.
Add a ready supply of butter and syrup or jam, brown-sugar, plus orange juice and coffee and we’ve got the fixings for a feast.
Whatever happens, we avoid a hasty pace.
The meter is just not set to run on Sundays.
When we went to bed last night we anticipated sitting by the fire watching snow fall in the morning.
The forecast was for the first real wintry weather.
But the storm tip-toed through during the night like an exhausted traveling salesman who had nothing left to offer but his samples.
When I was up briefly during the night I saw 9 snowflakes, 5 rain drops, and one pitiful little piece of sleet.
On the plus side, when I rose up again just before dawn I got to see the full moon drop down into the canyon-lands to the West – with sky so clean and clear that the moon hardly changed color as it slipped away.
So - now we’re back to fall for the rest of the week – sunny days, no wind, and nights when it’s worth staying up late to see the stars and constellations.
It’s afternoon now, and I feel like Jimmy Buffet.
What I mean to say is that I’m in the mood for listening to his music.
Upbeat, lively, with overtones of the Gulf of Mexico and margaritas.
That’s the music that fits the day.
Yesterday, Saturday, I felt like Luciano Pavarotti.
Some heavy, tragic Italian arias would have been appropriate.
It was one of those days.
Sometimes it seems not all of you gets out of bed at the same time.
Having a case of dropsy is a symptom.
In the half-light of morning, in the first half hour, I dropped my eye-glasses, toothbrush, watch, and a spoon-full of sugar
It was as if my hands had slipped their clutch.
Then I forgot to turn the gas on under the kettle, so it took forever to boil.
When I tried to drive off to split wood with a neighbor, the car wouldn’t run.
Because I had forgot to put the key in the ignition and turn it on.
And when I got to the neighbor’s I had brought two left-handed gloves.
I saw in the news that a guy fell out of a plane over Florida.
Could have been me.
Some days it seems like I forget how just to hold on.
This is a state I think of as ert.
In between alert and innert.
An inability to pick up the reins of my mind and take control.
It’s a time thing, I think.
There’s a slippage involved – akin to setting the clock back an hour last week.
On Saturday I thought it was Friday all day.
Ever have that happen – when the world seems a day ahead of you?
I haven’t lost a whole week yet.
But there’ve been a few lost weekends along the way.
But I digress.
Back to the news of The Week In Review.
Tuesday it was my turn to make the weekly re-supply trip to town.
In a grocery aisle in the City Market I overheard this conversation:
“Do you ever go out four-wheeling when you’re here?
“No my husband is a chicken. The riskiest thing Ed ever did was stick a Q-tip in his ear – and he only did that once.”
I laughed and followed the ladies around the aisles at a discrete distance – playing supermarket spy and hoping for more humor.
Their soft accents intrigued me – they were speaking English of some caliber, but definitely not Australian or New Zealand or British.
What? Where are they from?
There was a slight flavor of French in the words of one of them, but not enough to mark her as a French tourist.
Then one asked the other this question, and I knew:
“How are things in Montreal, eay?”
Moab gets a lot of Canadians – the fabled Snowbirds – migrating to the warmth of the desert southwest ahead of the snowy deep-freeze of northern winter.
When I went out to load my groceries I did a survey tour of the parking lot and was not a little surprised to count 15 Canadian license plates – British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.
(Three quick questions to answer before you read on:
What’s the capitol city of Canada?
Who is the Prime Minister of Canada?
And who is the head of state?
If you got all three right off the top of your head, you probably are Canadian.
If you got two right, you probably live 50 miles this side of the Canadian border.
And if you missed all three, you’re as ill-informed as most Americans.)
It’s lamentable, but most Americans don’t give much thought to Canadians.
We know they’re up there – but they look and act so much like us that we don’t notice them when we see them.
They’re like distant relatives who live in the attic of our house and have a separate entrance.
And we resent them a little because they live in our house but they think the attic belongs to them.
Thanks to the ladies in the City Market, I spent this past week in Canada.
Seven days with Canada on my mind.
I read the entire Wikipedia article on Canada.
I considered their view of their history by reading several articles.
(Among many things I learned was that it is the second largest country in the world and that it is more culturally diverse than the United States and that Queen Elizabeth of England is still their formal head of state. And I was reminded that they’ve never initiated an attack on us or anybody else. Have you noticed that Canadians are always part of a U.N. force of peacekeepers? But we are not . . .)
I listened only to CBC radio from Ottawa (that’s the capitol, by the way.)
Stephen Harper (that’s their Prime Minister) didn’t make much news.
But the jackass mayor of Toronto did.
I read Google news from Canada and looked at several Canadian papers online.
I got out my atlas and looked over the maps of the Provinces of Canada.
I looked up the list of great and famous Canadians – writers, inventors, musicians, and artists and read some biographical entries on Wikipedia.
Finally, I went to Google Earth and studied satellite images of the areas of Canada that I knew about but had never visited.
I even looked up Canadian jokes on the web – here’s one I liked:
A Canadian calls the Canadian Mounties:
“Hello is this the RCMP?
I’m calling about my neighbor, Antoine. He’s hiding illegal drugs in his firewood!”
The next day the Mounties descend on Antoine’s house and search the shed where the logs of firewood are kept. They split open every piece of firewood, but find no illegal drugs. They apologize to Antoine and leave.
The phone rings at Antoine’s.
“Hey Antoine, did the RCMP come to your house?”
“Did they chop all your firewood?”
“Yep, they even stacked it before they left.”
“Happy Birthday buddy, you owe me one!”
I could go on but wouldn’t know where to stop.
A week’s immersion in Canada left me enlightened – appalled at my own ignorance – and embarrassed to be reminded of my limited view of what the term North American refers to.
It includes all those people up in the attic – worthy of respect and attention.
I commend the trip I took to you.
All it takes is a refocus of what you attend to you on your computer.
Worth the trip . . .
Al Purdy, the grand old man of Canadian poetry, put it this way:
You’ve never seen this country
It’s not the way you thought it was
* * *
Well, enough – it’s already three o’clock.
As I said, this is more a Sunday letter to friends than it is a journal essay.
But that’s ok.
Sundays are a day to stay loose and easy – to seek slow pleasure.
And it has pleased me to write to you in this way.
It’s afternoon now – time for me to abandon my desk and go outside.
Maybe stack some rocks . . .
As I take my leave, I offer you this as a summary comment on the day:
It’s a song by Alice-Alice from my novel, THIRD WISH:
Sweet Sunday morn abide
Extra bacon on the side . . .
Coffee in my cup
Eggs sunny side up
Short the life . . . but wide . . .
Sweet Sunday morn arise
link to this story
Sunshine, open skies . . .
Simple delight surrounds
Silence is the only sound . . .
May life’s joy surprise.