Lund Retreat Autumn 2007 (3)

This morning I wake up at a more decent time, drink coffee, meditate in a world of chaotic voices and impressions.  I microwave a bowl of the oatmeal left here by guests, and after fussing with the phone for a while manage to reach Jan. She tells me the doctor she saw in Santa Maria confirmed that the lump wasn’t a problem. Ian was just arriving in Halloween costume with Dennis. He said he missed me.

I find the red handled axe I bought at Canadian Tire this summer, gather some rounds of firewood scattered near the house and set up a chopping block. The first big round shows traces of previous efforts, is twisted in its grain, and has spongy outermost rings. Go slow, I tell myself, find the fine cracks, focus eyes where the blade should hit, angle the axe head with the grain. The first few blows are off and the blade buries itself in the soft tenacious outer rings. After about ten my aim improves, but the wood remains intact. After another ten, shoulders sore, I’m about to quit. Then with a loud crack a half inch gap opens across its diameter. My “yeah!” echoes through the woods. The next three rounds go quickly. Instead of asking to borrow a chainsaw or buying one or trying to get the old Homelite going, I roam past the perimeter of the clearing and find twenty or so rounds strewn in brushpiles. I throw them up on the road, carry them to the block and split enough to last for my stay. In the woodshed I separate three categories; kindling, starter wood and fuel.

I bike down the driveway. I have to dismount a few times to move the derailleur manually. It’s a thrill to speed down the curve toward Malaspina Farm. I find Peter working alongside Lucien, yarding out huge rounds of freshly cut alder that a faller had just taken down along his hydro line.

He tells me to borrow his bike which is smaller and better. We take his dog on a walk down a steep road to the edge of Okeover Arm, stopping at a lovely house, lawn and orchard with a landscaped stream winding through it to the shore. It reminds me of the stream on the Marx farm in winter rushing under the bridge and alongside the house.

We talk of children and grandchildren and my hopes to spend more time here with and without them and his hopes that S and W and their children will locate here at the completion of medical school. We come back to the house where Lucien is making lunch and Ronnie is coring and peeling apples for drying and adding to their homemade granola.

She’s recovering from the flu, but as animated as ever. She says, “Steven will know this,” and asks me a question about the proper ritual for unveiling a gravestone a year after her mother’s death. I have no idea, and I fail to link the question to the fact that today is Halloween, the day of the dead and of my father’s death. I do know that on such an anniversary it’s customary to light a Jahrzeit candle and say the Kaddish.

After lunch of two slices of bread and mustard—I turn down cheese and salami much to Peter’s disapproval—he drives to Lund to pick up the Globe and Mail for the word puzzle to which he’s addicted. At Nancy’s over coffee he tells me the story of Sacha and Wendy’s trick announcement of pregnancy by giving them an elaborately packaged giftbox with a positive pregnancy test stick inside.

Back at Knoll House I make a fire with my new wood. Jan calls and mentions mourning for Henry. I remember with shock.

The sun starts doing amazing things with the clouds behind Savary.

I go out on the deck and down to the bluff to take pictures.

I light the kerosene lamp for Henry, gather his pictures on my computer and read my account of his death on October 31 1995, my eulogy and my obituary.

I collect the pictures in my computer of other dead people I cared for and put them into an album. There are 11. Actually 10, since I find out a few days later that Terry K. is still alive.

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