Getting back home is not the private affair it once was. Slipping under the radar is quite impossible. Even the Headmaster of my former boarding school St. Andrew’s College has sent me an email as a reminder that, “If you are returning to Canada, the government has requested that you self-isolate“. His solemn interest no doubt primarily affects those parents with children who may be coming back from a “March Break” before delivering their son to school. This unique vacationer’s stigma has unwittingly attached to the singular act of returning to Canada – pointedly without qualification of the infection from specific social gatherings such as a cruise, staying in a large hotel on the Mayan Riviera or attending birthday and cocktail parties (none of which I hasten to add has any resemblance to what has engaged us for the past month at least). We arrived back in Canada on March 21st which aside from being close to the First Day of Spring is indelible in view of the historic importance of the global epidemic from which we are all sheltering in one way or another. Nonetheless today was outstanding in spite of the guilt we carry as threatening foreign agents!
My gorgeous and exceedingly talented niece Julia and her gentleman of a husband Matt have landed on home territory today as well. They plan to take a cottage in rural Québec. Their arrival followed what I assume was a gruelling 3-day motor vehicle excursion from California. I was enthused by the similarity of my niece’s uncompromising ambition and that of Henry David Thoreau as accounted in his book, “On Walden Pond”.
First published in 1854, Walden details Thoreau’s experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts.
My niece and her husband should have no difficulty meeting the government standards for self-isolation in their rural retreat. I speculate that momentarily – and perhaps for longer – they can also bear the deprivation of Los Angeles traffic and urban congestion.
Meanwhile we gratified ourselves today by cheerfully tackling the sunny day and fulfilling several needed homecoming attendances – such as fuelling the car and seeing what if anything remains open for business. Unquestionably things everywhere are spookily closed or quiet! As historic may be this social and economic scourge its rendition had for the moment no bearing upon me. The surrealism escaped me entirely! I shamelessly relished driving my favourite roadways beneath the azure dome, on dry pavement with nothing but new and pleasant events in mind. We absorbed the bucolic veneer of our travel. Though the fields were yet showing a rude dull brown the proverbial Promise of Spring is on the immediate horizon. At the gas station I purchased another 90-day car wash card and used the “points” to buy $3 worth of lottery tickets – a silliness I limit to the exhaustion of Petro-Canada Points. Yet gambling at this chary level amuses me every time as I continue to imagine “this is the one!” and foolishly divert myself into endless propositions of investment and expenditure – always embracing the underlying hopes and dreams.
A woman at the gas station openly questioned whether I was cold wearing shorts. I told her yes but that they were the only pants that fit! This quelled her cheek.
Upon our return to the apartment we immediately engrossed ourselves in domestic duties. Though I had already put away the clothing and pharmaceuticals from Longboat Key there remained the dreadful paperwork consistent with the taxable time of year. After completing these imposing matters I moved onto the more attractive matter of making a strong, black coffee and later preparing something for dinner. My culinary mission this evening was to put together a plate resembling my so-called “Caribbean Pasta”. I confess there was some help and advice from His Lordship along the way. But whoever is champion or authority for the resulting assembly, it looked positively artful!
At the risk of emanating too painfully the transcendental influence of Mr. Thoreau, there wasn’t a moment today that I did not praise the fortuity of my existence, the luck of it, the natural beauty of it, its unexpected effervescence and the conviction that this is indeed “the best of all possible worlds” no matter what any scoffer may think or explain. We crystallized the day’s emotion by permitting ourselves to savour the remainder of the day, the fresh air, the shafts of sunlight upon the precious Persians. I went so far as to polish my Tiffany sterling silver key chain which I purchased almost forty years ago on Bloor St W in Toronto. This obsessive satisfaction I repeated by cleansing a Scottish-type broach I purchased I can’t remember when or where or why. It is patently attractive – and its composition and hallmark engraving are bespoke.
It must by now be apparent that the thrust of activities today was to realign the past with the present; and to prepare for the future. I forgot to mention the simple morning ablutions which initiated the inconsequential but imperative agenda of the day – using the shampoo from Florida, exercising the last day of use of the razor blade, wearing a twilled woollen Viyella sweater in royal blue. Though neither of us was especially hungry this morning following last night’s take-out meal, I completed for us the traditional apple slices with a wedge of Brie cheese to get us started. And well it did! We were off in a flurry thereafter!
The one advantage if any of my notable impatience is the ability it affords to overcome interruption and distraction almost immediately. Though last evening I moodily complained of the disruptive effects of straddling two countries for six-months each year, I was today far more rhapsodic. The overwhelming obstacle had overnight altered its character. Indeed I can state that I have advanced to a state of mind of complete euphoria. I completed the animation by telephoning two people, my sister and another. The “other” was a another resident to whom we had rented our parking space which we ended reclaiming (though in keeping with the terms of the contract). The casual conversations suitably related the on-going interest for the well-being of the parties.
These trifling acts were part of the mechanics to complete the structure of the new reality. The knee-jerk suggestion of overstatement is normally warranted but in the present instance our entire world has taken upon itself what is yet uncharted territory. As well-intended as may be our leaders to convey hopefulness and optimism the inclination of most is to react viscerally to the pandemic. This means the preoccupation can be anything but resourceful or energetic. We have nonetheless adapted to the circumstances. It is a petty gymnastic is some respects but it still requires undeterred dedication or otherwise the escape from anxiety is ephemeral only. This chronicle demands as well that I report the ceremony last evening of winding the clocks – a grandfather clock, a mantel clock and a carriage clock. Naturally the are all mechanical, not automatic, electronic or battery powered. Two of the clocks are from my late mother to whom my sister and I first gifted them.
If that remedial behaviour were not enough we further immersed ourselves in the minutia of resettlement by adding a tiny stream of liquid glue to the underneath of a plastic cover on one of the Bartlett placemats. This succeeded to elevate our assiduity to new heights!
The wallpaper to these fleeting high spirits has been Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber’s “Missa Alleluja” followed by a collection of Beethoven symphonies. Collateral to this relaxation was the connection of my Bose headphones which are far superior to any other device I own for the production of sound. Contrasting the cost of the Bose headphones is the Canon printer/scanner we have. The printer/scanner required some endurance to connect. We’re accustomed to the technical hurdle of this cheap device but when at last it is properly connected it is a faithful servant.
As a final purge of the salt sea air and white sand of the past I have resolved to attend the car dealership early tomorrow morning to have the air pressure in the tyres adjusted as a result of the ambient temperature change. We also completed the laundry of our clothing from Longboat Key. The purification and alteration are thus complete! Onward we go to whatever it is that awaits!