Lund Retreat Autumn 2007 (1)

Jan drops me off at the San Luis Obispo airport at 5:00 A.M. She says, “have a good time, that’s what you’re going for.” Nothing to see in the dark, I meditate. Waiting for connection to Vancouver in San Francisco airport I browse the bookstore. So many new titles. “Books have a short shelf life,” said rueful Ruth in her lecture a couple of weeks ago, consoling me, since it’s less true of true of hers than of mine. I’m immersed in her first novel, My Year of Meats, which is still selling all over the world, in many languages.

The cheapest low cholesterol breakfast I can find near the gate is vegetable sushi—freshly made behind the counter by a Japanese chef. On the two-hour Vancouver flight the buildup toward the novel’s ending alternates hilarity and horror.

Outside the Main Terminal in Vancouver Airport, I see Peter and Margaret back from a trip to New York, dashing toward the shuttle to the South Terminal I’m about to get on. We’ll fly up the coast together. No need to rent a car or take a cab or hitchhike the twenty miles from the Powell River airport to Lund.

As we ascend from grey rainy Vancouver above the middle of the Georgia Strait, the weather turns bright, the slant light of October golden even at midday. Looking out the window Peter and I identify archipelagos we’ve kayaked and mountains we’ve climbed. We eat lunch at Renee’s, the expatriate French chef who runs a little dive on Marine Ave. I have carrot ginger soup and fresh baguette, a lunch you’d love in Paris, and buy two more frozen soups and a chicken asparagus lasagna for provisions.

On the way north Peter stops at an organic farm in Wildwood, run by a sparkle-eyed grey haired woman in gum boots who grew up in Lund and says she took art lessons from one of the owners of the Marx farm before it got that name in the seventies. I buy goats milk in a square glass bottle—creamy but cholesterol-free—and little pear shaped tomatoes, still on the vine this late. We talk about the government crackdown on small farmers who no longer are allowed to slaughter meat without installing million dollar facilities. Pat, who’s supplied us with organic beef, pork, lamb and poultry from her farm across the road for decades, has been harassed by helicopters over her place counting the number of turkeys she raises and by men in suits presenting her with ever more onerous regulations. L. says she’d be better off growing pot or brewing up meth.

Slowing down to the posted fifteen miles per hour on the Reserve, Peter says you can hear the birds rioting over the salmon run. Despite jetlag from their trip, he turns off into the village, where he has taught Medical Terminology and now massages the elders. In thirty seven years I’d never gone down that road. He stops on a small bridge close to the mouth of the creek, shadowed by glowing golden leaved alders.

I see the large fish with ragged fins and peeling skins straining upstream to complete the final stage of their destined pilgrimage, finding the spawning grounds of their birth to lay and fertilize eggs and die.

Down at the mouth of the creek, ducks and gulls, three eagles and two dogs are feasting on white ones lying in eddies on their sides and backs, still gasping. The shore is littered with garbage and vomit.

At Peter and Margaret’s house, we unload their baggage and switch mine to Peter’s Tracker for the trip out to Lund. We take a mountain bike he lends me which should fulfill my transportation needs. He invites me to pick chard in his bluff top garden. I mention the irony of the government’s program to wipe out small meat producing farms while promoting the horrors of industrial feedlots and slaughterhouses I’m reading about in Ruth’s book. Peter says that his daughter, whom he just visited, works for one of those hog processing plants near Brandon Manitoba, where her husband is stationed in the Canadian Army. Her job is in the office importing and housing foreign laborers. She once took a partial tour of the facility, but said she didn’t like it.

Though carrying only a pack, I feel like a bridegroom crossing the threshold of Knoll House. Twelve years we’ve had this place and I’ve been here thirteen times, but each time the entry feels sacramental. The southern face is warm from the sun, which shines with a brilliance on the water only bearable to look at for seconds. The high peaked ceiling makes the upstairs like a mosque or a teepee.

I walk the bluff trail to visit the rocks I’ve thought about since summer. Mushrooms and moss are radiant.

Back in the house, I notice a bad smell in the bathroom—sweet and rotten. Sniffing around the toilet and sink yields no culprit. The baits that Jan placed in August are still around only lightly nibbled. No mouse or rat turds but dead carpenter ants strewn on the kitchen floor.

The house chills fast after sunset, temperature in the forties. I light the cast iron wood heater we bought from one of the renters years ago and try to learn its wishes. Open ash door and upper baffle to start up; once fully ignited close door, lower baffle and open lower draft; when the house warms up, shut lower draft and leave screw draft open. It needs only one log every few hours to keep going.

The ceiling fan upstairs on low reverse pushes down the heat. Thanks again, John, the uncommunicative philosopher-carpenter who built this house.

During evening meditation a vibration like someone walking up the stairs or tiny earthquakes.

The food I bought at Renee’s is forgotten in Margaret’s car. I feast on the gorp and fruitnut bread Jan packed for me, and feel her presence in the newly furnished interior. Margaret calls to say the lost groceries will be delivered by Peter U. on his way home from town where he’s at dog-training class. Here alone, I’m still provided for.

I unpack and download the day’s photos. Peter U. drives up with the food. He announces joyfully that S and W are pregnant with his first grandchild. Since September’s arrival of theirs, Peter and Margaret exude confidence in the value of their lives, the goodness of creation. It’s what I feel when Joe and Amy and Ethan and Abel are present, especially here, or when I’m with Claire and Ian and Luke. Passing through the First Nations display in the Vancouver airport I read a caption for the Thunderbird sculpture: “my grandmother, the creator of the universe.” This sentiment of the grandchild mirrors ours: my grandchildren, the creation. In both directions, we’re one generation away from eternity.

I make the bed downstairs and get under the covers to read. This late, I cant finish the description of the slaughterhouse in My Year of Meats.

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