Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lament for a road

"The George" in Winter / Pencil drawing /

I'm back! It was a busy holiday season. Dreadfully weird weather January so far wouldn't you say? Here's a video I like for no reason other than I do and it is rather unique:

This column was published in the West Quebec Post in 2011. I am republishing it in solidarity with those human beings who climb ancient trees and those who are working hard to save a wildlife corridor in Larrimac. They are children of a greater God than most. []

Lament for a road

Across the road there is another road running perpendicular to the one on which I live. For almost twenty years while I have lived here this road did not change. It had two houses, really one old house and a cottage, tucked at the near end of it. It led quietly up through canopies of trees along the crooked creek. It grew narrow and rough at the end with wild flowers encroaching into its grey brown surface until eventually it became nothing more than a deer trail leading deep into mystery. I would walk the dog off leash there in the cathedral of the old growth forest dank with age. I rarely if ever met anyone on the trail, a deer maybe, a raccoon, once a black bear dark as the shadows.

The dog would snuffle in the undergrowth with such exhuberance that when we eventually returned home I would have to wash his black wet nose crusted with moss and the debris of the forest floor. It was what we did.

One long cold season they put in the highway 5 extension. The blasts rattled the windows and the birds would flash swarm from the trees like liquid running in the sky. The extension would cut off the end of the trail the road led to but even still it wandered here and there in cool light by the brook. The squirrels would flicker black and brown along the trunks and chatter in the branches and the taste of wet would always catch at the tongue like a wine well-aged.

When I did not walk the dog, my old father would go, his cane in hand. The dog would always run on ahead but still he would rush now and then back to my father’s waiting palm for a moment before moving on. They would dance this way back and forth as they moved forward. I would watch them before they disappeared around the bend. Sometimes when I look there I still see them but it is just a fancy on a sad day when I want what once was but can’t ever have again. It is a dear memory held close.

Even though those days passed, the road remained, swept wet with rain on some days and warm gold in summer suns. Its best days were in the autumn when the forest draped it with leaves but always each day, because it faced into the sunset, the road would be magnificent with colours, as many as there could be in a sunset. And at night particularly in winter the sheen of Orion on winter snow or the flutter of auroras would make magic there when all the world seemed cold and drab.

Now the trees have been cut back along the road. There are wires and poles and no less than ten new mansions have been erected. Ancient rocks were blast-crumbled into bits and areas of the forest were leveled; one house at a time. It is a regular little suburban street now with house numbers and recycling bins and far more traffic than can possibly be warranted for a dead-end road.

But even still, early in the morning or sometimes at dusk when night greets the weary end of day, the deer and the bears still make their way down the spine of the newly widened gravelled road to cross the highway over to the river. If they are lucky they will not be struck by passing cars that rush madly to the city. I remember the heart pain of witnessing the loss of bear cubs on the road and one young adolescent bear whose pain at dying crept into my heart and has stayed there. Sometimes I think only the road and I remember the swift shift of death that happened but really I am the one that carries the memory. It never leaves me.

I speak now from this quiet place to those of you I do not know. What could possibly be so important that you disrespect the quiet road? What could possibly be so important that you must kill the bears to get there on time?

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