Monday, 12 December 2016


Do Do Do

I spend a lot of time looking out my back door. I call it writing because the typing part is mechanical. If I’m working on a freelance job, watching our eccentric neighbour put out peanuts for the squirrels, blue jays and magpies is billable time. I suppose if a curtain hung over the beveled window pane I’d be an expert at twitching it for a discreetly better view.

Beside me on my left is a white bookshelf, a little taller than me. Its top is stacked with wicker bread baskets and a cowl of quilted fabric which I think must be a tea cozy. Two shelves are crammed with cookbooks. One shelf is my staging area where I store my cigarettes. Often there is an open can of beer on a Butte, Montana Quarry Brewing coaster: WE DIG BEER. There’s an unopened tin of AC/DC Australian Hardrock Beer, brewed in France (?) that features the Black Ice album cover artwork. There’s the Bob Marley Exodus lighter I bought at the airport in Barbados, headed home and needing just one more cheesy souvenir to display alongside my Banks Beer ashtray. There’s a box of wooden Sun Studio matches, a thoughtful gag gift from a former colleague. There’s a grey Elvis tin that might hold ten or so cigarettes if I could be bothered to use it. There’s a figurine of Youppi! the defunct Montreal Expos hirsute orange mascot who now reminds me of Donald Trump because neither pear-shaped humpty is an Einstein. The wall switch for the back porch light is tucked in there too, covered with a Mick Jagger plate. The bottom shelves are plugged with gloves and footwear, slabs of suet and a bag of seed for my flock nestled up against my birding books.

To my right is framed sheet music from the Jazz Age: ‘When the Morning Glories Wake Up in the Morning (Then I’ll Kiss Your Two Lips Good-Night)’ and ‘I’ll Be Your Regular Sweetie (But I Won’t Be Your Once in a While).’ Beside the elaborately and gorgeously illustrated Gatsby tunes is a laminated Rolling Stones 1970 European tour poster, art deco design: radical rhythmic change in a mere 50 years. The boot rack on the tile floor is positioned over a furnace duct grille. Next to that is a reconditioned pine washstand that my father presented to me nearly 30 years ago. That’s where the current magazines are stacked, primed for perusing during my wee small hours walkabouts.

My back door is six steps above grade. I apply more stain to the planks every spring. The wrought iron railings are due for some fussing next year. From time to time when the low light is right, shortly after dawn or near twilight, the evergreens in the yard and across the alley shift hues, becoming rusted and black, and the shadows in the snow disturbed with hare and skunk prints change from blue to grey, to violet. For a brief, shining moment I see my immediate space in this world through the eyes of Lawren Harris, Tom Thomson or Emily Carr, painters who translated the Canadian landscape onto canvas using colours and forms I’d considered surreal until I saw them.

For a second I contemplate dropping an unsuccessful pen and taking up an untutored brush to capture December’s fleeting beauty. I recall a Bob Geldof song lyric from the 80s: ‘There’s so much beauty, I wish that I believed enough to pray.’ But the light changes swiftly and everything is linear again, like cursive writing in a lined notebook or edited type on a printed page. The curtain that’s not actually hung on my back door is drawn.

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