Beginnings II: Spring’s the Word

The word of the day is spring. I’m going to wax on about it, at least in a roundabout way. I’m talking the season here, not the verb, though admittedly I’m guilty of spring-ing around like a frenetic dervish from time to time, “just cuz ah feels like it.” I can be supremely silly; just ask my husband; how he’s toughed it out with me the past 18 years is a true miracle of human resilience.

Waxing off with the verb now, and on with the season. Hmm, but wait …

In my customary stream of consciousness fashion, I feel compelled to veer momentarily in another direction, by harking back to the point in time when “Wax on, wax off” first crept into my mental lexicon. It was 1984 and the original Karate Kid film starring Ralph Macchio as Daniel and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita as Mr. Miyagi was playing in theatres across the continent. Here’s the video snippet of reference: http://bit.ly/NzTyu.

My scalp still tingles when I watch it and my mental hands rise up and swish the wax-on, wax-off motions as I inhale the words. When this film arrived on the big screen, I was 28, already 9 years married, less than a year into motherhood, and still sometimes as impressionable as a child. (Which I still am today, by the way, unabashedly so, I might add; a fact I’m convinced will keep me young well into the throes of numeric age.) But who among us in the genus dreamer wouldn’t remember such a scene, and such a message? Not this dreamer anyway. Waxing off …

And on to Spring, the season.

Springtime was always something I anticipated. You see, I grew up in a very small house. My dad was my hero in every sense of the word. He was an honourable, unassuming, self-sufficient, proud man, one who hadn’t counted in his own experience the luxury of education or the blessing of Lady Fortuna. He was a jack of any trade that could bring in money to keep his family fed and clothed, with a dry roof over its head. Innate intelligence was another of his graces. Entirely on his own, in the evenings sometimes well past dark, after he’d done for the day working the odd-job of the moment, he built our house out of sheds and lean-tos and lumber liberated from an old Orange Hall, which he cobbled together into a comfortable lowbrow whole. When I was growing up, the place was still in its growing pains, very small, and very basic. The entire building, whose exterior walls comprised a layer of Tentest covered with a skin of asphalt siding (similar to http://bit.ly/HAnzZE), was heated solely with an old Findlay wood-burning cook stove (like this http://bit.ly/HuQASz). The heat did not drift well round the angles and through the doorways into the outlying sleeping areas, so during the colder months of the year the six of us, when we were home, would spend any of the time we were not sleeping in our chilly bedrooms hunkered in the often melting-hot confines of the shared kitchen/living area.

What does all this have to do with spring, you ask? I’m getting there. Take a sip of whatever that is in the mug beside you and breathe. Patience is a virtue, at least that’s what I was told a time or twenty, so it must be true.

This kitchen/living area was roughly 12′ by 16′, or about 190 square feet—perhaps the size of a largish modern bedroom. Picture yourself in the space, dead centre, facing the front door, and then pivot on your heel, eyes following the perimeter wall clockwise, past the chesterfield, the stuffed armchair, the door to my parents’ and brothers’ rooms, the cookstove/woodbox, the doorway into the room I shared with my sister, past the old Frigidaire (this exact one http://bit.ly/HDen7G), the couple of lengths of kitchen cupboards/counters (one which housed the enamel sink, still unblessed with hot water), the wringer washing machine and finally a set of stacking stools. The TV squatted on a corner of one of the counters, and we had the choice of a single channel, the CBC. In the middle of the room, where you’re now standing, sits the arborite kitchen table with its four straight-back chairs; you can jump down off it, now that you’ve done the visual tour.

I don’t remember any fighting among us through these long Canadian winters, or any downright resentment at having to spend so much time in so small a space with five other individuals. Granted, we were, all of us, pretty laid back. I remember doing a lot of reading and puzzles and colouring and the like, a lot of daydreaming, a lot of exercising the imagination. As my mother worked (for it seemed she was forever busy), the old Bakelite radio would play either Dad’s Grand Ole Opry or ’50s/’60s whatever-was-current stuff. And we had cats and our dog Laddie as well, though the dog, wonderfully protective as he was, didn’t take kindly to much hands-on attention.

So there’s the scene, set. I loved it; don’t get me wrong. I was happy. I wouldn’t trade an iota of my childhood experience for anything … even the poverty part. The only (arguably) negative thing to come of all this was that I developed a profound dislike for hockey, to the degree where ever since, I find myself unable to stay in the same room with a TV that has the game flickering across its screen. I suppose that makes me “unCanadian” … but I also know there’s more to Canada than hockey.

We have wonderful springs, for one thing. No, no, I’m not talking water here, though Canada has water in abundance, some of it issuing from wonderfully pure springs. No, I’m back to waxing on about spring, the season. Stay with me people.

Well, given all that cooped-upedness described above, it can come as no small wonder that I was ready, come friendlier weather and warmer temperatures, to escape the claustrophobic confines of the house and plunge my hungry senses into the wonders that awaited me in the big wide world outside.

Freedom!

In spring, the warming world comes alive with returning birds, emerging flowers, awakening bats and curious alien-looking insects. Every sense is brought to bear in the experience of it. It was all the exploring in those years that brought me to the spring traditions I still maintain today. Even now, I revel when I see the first formations of geese honking their way north against the backdrop of a clear morning sky. I smile broadly with the sighting of my first robin, strutting about, poking its beak hopefully into the still-softening ground. I inhale deeply, sucking all the heady scents, from the warming earth to the mounding lilacs, into my thirsty lungs. I cheer when I attune my waiting antennae to the first jubilant chorus of frogs. I gasp at the first hint of that unique hue of green that glimmers along the tree branches in the sunlight. I watch the groundhogs peek from their dank burrow openings, keeping a low profile from the hawks who soar once again above the naked fields. And I still run to pluck the first glorious yellow dandelion I clap eyes on, to give as a gift to my mother, who is now 91 and living alone in the house my remarkable father kept growing and improving through the years before his death.

Well, enough with the waxing on; methinks the time has come to wax off … but wait, I feel another stream of the old consciousness prompting me to veer in one final direction before signing off … this time to sadness.

Sadness, you ask?

These days I look around and become saddened by how much I see the world has changed. People (generally of course; there is no absolute here) are becoming more and more wrapped up in their interior worlds, in the landscape of the me. The world that houses and nurtures us has become, for many, more an inconvenience than a blessing. People rush here and there, in and out and then in again, oblivious to their surroundings. They haven’t time to stop and smell the roses, never mind test its thorns, study its unfurling beauty, hear the buzz of the bee as it gathers its powdery pollen or taste the perfume of the rain-moistened earth that clings to the plant’s sturdy roots. I’ve seen people walking blindly, head down, messaging franticly on their smart phones, barely looking up to see the light change, never mind the wonderful gifts that the planet offers up to us, free for the experiencing. More and more, people are waxing off the joys of the natural world.

But not me.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. What a great romp of a post, Leenie! From one Canadian to another that was a message of pure spring joy. I, too, wax on and off, started by that karate kid–was it really 1984?

    Reply

  2. Thanks Elaine. I’m still working on getting the blogging length down. I’ve been told 300 to 500 words is ideal, but I soared way past that in this post. I need t get a handle on the old “chop chop.” Learning curves abound in this writing business.

    Yes, 1984, gad! … and apparently, there’s been a lot of water flowed under both our bridges since then. :-)

    Reply

  3. My wife wrote: “I can be supremely silly; just ask my husband; how he’s toughed it out with me the past 18 years is a true miracle of human resilience.” To which I, the hubby, respond: “Bah humbug. It’s been grand … silly at times, but grand.”

    Reply

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