Nov 26, 2013 / 5:00 am
My hand, chapped from protective washing, holds my wife’s hand on our journey down Bernard to the theatre. It’s her birthday, and she wants to see a romantic comedy. Our hoods are tucked neatly around our heads, and the street leads us through the cutting wind to the ticket queue.
Before eating popcorn, I again wash my hands; the movie begins, and twenty minutes later my wife and I look at each other with disappointment. The actors cuss, simulate sex and display values that we do not share. The manager is affable, he offers complimentary tickets and we emerge back into the wind.
We are in a huddled hurry to get to our car when a young man in a parka, pulling a shopping cart asks, “Hey, can you guys give me a quarter?” He solicits our favour through a cigarette which blooms between his lips. When we reply that we have only plastic, he expels a rill of smoke and asks, “Can you spare a dime?”
Ahead I see another buggy parked around the corner of a coffee shop. The cart is filled with plastic, odds and ends, and a pillow stashed beneath an upraised parasol in battered white. I capture this unusual juxtaposition of poverty and genteel society with my cell camera. But it feels like I am taking from the poor. My wife notices that this cart displays what seems to be a license plate; number 42 on a white background. She adds that the previous cart sported one too; number 35. And we bemusedly wonder if Bylaw has issued them.
Cold flails our pace to a car that welcomes us with streams of hot air. Driving upstreet I see pictures of Santa, the patron saint of shoppers, calling his disciples to the temple mall for worship. I satirically wonder what gifts Saint Nick has for owners of carts who do not possess credit cards. But on the steering wheel my dry-dry hands accuse me of complicity.
Next day we go for a cold afternoon walk in the neighbourhood. We meet a man who says that his spaniel, which we pet with affection, is timid. The dog has sad eyes and long melancholy ears but he is friendly with us and accepts our attentions with restrained delight. The man has a departing conversation with us when my wife says, “For being timid, your dog is sure friendly.”
“He’s not my dog,” The man replies over his shoulder, “I’m just taking care of him. I don’t like dogs…or cats…………….or people.” His honesty forces me to consider that in my hurry to bypass the street-person I wash my hands of what is more important than objecting to carnal movies. Later I telephone Bylaw but they know nothing about license plates on shopping buggies. I wonder where people of the cart will sleep tonight.
Nov 12, 2013 / 5:00 am
Beneath the burning trees of autumn my wife and I walk arm in arm through the exit of our community. The broken gateway pretends to keep us secure and releases within me a bubble of memory that bursts: because I forget to shut the garage door, my son’s high-fidelity speakers are stolen. He is angry; I am grievous. And the event slides back into the mud of remembrance with a grin that promises to return.
Through the innocent chatter of home bound children conversation about how safe we feel in a nervous world is belied when we arrive at a house where a mother has been murdered. Here, memory returns like a cat with a dead mouse: A boy of about four plays with his dog. When he sees me, he rushes to the chain link fence that separates him from strangers. I do not know him but he cries out, “Hey! Have you seen my dad?” And I now imagine that it is his mother who has been taken.
Arm and arm we go, along the tree-lined roadway where amber leaves fall to join their brothers. We make comments about the colour and disposition of homes, and wonder about the people who live in them. An older woman emerges from hers, and hails us with words understood only when she reaches the curb. Her accented voice arrests our momentum and talks as if she has known us for a thousand years. Without introduction she wants to bestow blessings upon us. And we are dumbfounded as four cascade from her mouth in rapid succession. When benedictions are succeeded by intimate questions we find a way to leave without offense.
A couple of days later we walk the same route, but this time my wife wants to avoid the street on which the woman lives. We head elsewhere and find a shortcut to Glenmore Boulevard. A plasticized sign is taped to the post which ushers the entrance. It warns people that cars have been robbed three times of valuable belongings, and to be cautious. The warning exhumes the grief caused by my son’s stolen speakers and returns to grin at me.
Glenmore Boulevard is a rush of vehicles. The din of autos combines with the belching roar of motorcycles racing into an uncertain future. And in the distance I see an old orchard home on Garden Valley Drive waiting for demolition. The marsh from which a choir of mating frogs has seasonally exulted is no more. It is a casualty in the collision between nature and development.
When we arrive home, our kitty of eight weeks asks us where we have been, and why we have left him alone. I tuck him snuggly into the cleft of my jacket where he purrs with a song of placid contentment. He does not understand that in exchange for his ministry to humans he will spend his life confined to the walls of their home. He is oblivious to the perils of coyotes, disease and the tires of unforgiving vehicles. And when television news interrupts the communion of animal and man I wonder where all the frogs have gone.
Oct 15, 2013 / 6:00 am
I walk with the crowd toward the giant apple at the center of Orchard Park Mall. Around the bronze monolith we are a storm swirling, unmindful of the morphing face of a valley on fire with harvest. I am a leaf in the stream of milling thousands who have passed this way, caught for a moment against this capsule of time. In the sealed darkness memories wait to be judged and woven imperceptibly into the fabric of an unknown generation. Without memory we do not know who we are. And I wonder how well we have listened to those who have come before us.
The babble of shoppers fades while memories of a northern kid on summer vacation surface. Sun-kissed beaches flood my brain. And my smile remembers holidays stuffed to the gills with fresh fruit and the freedom to be outside without a jacket. It is 1962, and my Regatta-stoked family is parked at the Restmore Motel. Across the street my sister and I play in a parched field where the Capri will rise like a forerunner of the changes to come. Regatta and motel now live in my memory like fruit-bits suspended in aspic. And I search for their threads within the fabric of who we have become.
I drive the thronged highway to the center of town, and walk past brick buildings crowned with dates from early past century. How would our ancestors counsel a city threatened with becoming a party town fuelled by drugs and biker gangs? In the hurly-burly to become a four season’s destination we must bend an ear to their voices. If we do not listen we will lose our way, and the forgotten souls inscribed on the fire-hall cenotaph will haunt us in our misery.
Several days later I am waiting for a movie to begin, and catch a glimpse of the future. A family of four children sits in front of me. The father is Caucasian, the mother East Indian. Their children are Chinese, Caucasian, African, and Native Canadian. It is their hands that will open the vault in the apple. And from the past I watch, with anxious uncertainty, a rainbow of fingers sifting the threads we have suggested for their vision of a people.
There is a story of a young hunter who was fascinated by a beautiful tweed coat. He did not have the money to pay for it so he gave the salesman his rifle. The hunter’s wife was very distressed, but he paraded himself before the village believing he had gotten the better part of the deal. When night came, the hunter and his wife were awakened by a hungry bear who wanted to eat them. “What shall we do?! Oh what shall we do?!” The hunter cried out. His wife looked at him and said, “Why don’t you shoot him with your new jacket!”
Let us not trade our rifle for a sport coat. The wisdom of generations waits.
Oct 1, 2013 / 5:00 am
I emerge from the RCA building to spritzes of rain that mist the railings, the benches and the yawning waste bins. Droplets hang on the underbelly of giant, silver rings emerging from the concrete like Olympic hoops. But no bikes are tethered there, and they entreat my camera’s eye. Through them it blinks in time to capture the intrusive strut of skinny jeans.
The monitor opens and relieves my disappointment with a perfect image: silver studded, black stilettos uplift broad shoulders and a honey-blonde mane to what I imagine is six feet. A large black purse hangs from a naked shoulder tattooed with the image of a heart entwined in thorns. My camera wants more of this now welcome intruder. But the lady walks the tiled pathway with clicking purpose, so I store my boldness for another occasion.
When I return from the bore of misty webs and wet autumnal shapes, I see that she has paused beneath a spreading plane tree. Boldness arises anew, withdraws a card and impels me toward her. She removes music pods when I arrive, but one gets stuck in a burnished ear-ring that hangs like a spangled chandelier. I introduce myself and confidently ask if she is willing to be photographed, saying that I will share the photos. She slowly untangles, and with sad surprise says, “Okay…why not.”
The rain stops, clouds mute the afternoon sun and nature collaborates to create a perfect light. Her bare shoulders are thinly strapped with a revealing scarlet camisole. It disappears into a black knitted skirt through which descends the duo of jeans and elevator pumps.
When I notice the red rose pinned to her hair she turns a stifled smile away from me and remarks that some guy gives her one every day. “Sounds like he’s in love with you,” I venture. “Yeah…” she replies, “I guess.” And says it like a woman who has given a man a tender refusal.
My camera captures several images but I notice that there are moments when her eyes shut as if she cannot help it. And when I ask her to look directly at me, they roll upward and eyelids flutter as if obeying an impulse that is not hers. When she sees the photos she likes them and says she will e-mail me for copies; but the request never comes.
As I type, the lady’s image appears and a thought reasons that a rose is only a heart entwined with thorns. Is that her suitor’s heart tattooed upon her arm, or is he the knot of thorns entwined around hers? Flower and thorn cannot be torn apart. The mystery of the rose is that two come as one.
Read more Finding Kelowna articles
- Confessions of a street photographer Sep 3
- In praise of summer's umbrellas Aug 20
- The priest was right Aug 6
- Men without chests Jul 9
- Running man Jun 11
- Brains leaking May 14
- The Age of Oakley Apr 16
- Kissed by spiders Mar 19
- Like a serpent in the belly Mar 5
- A pettiness to expiate Feb 19
- In praise of older women Feb 5
- Fonzie Jan 22
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