Notes for a Spring Evening


Collingwood sunsetLate spring, Saturday night, sitting here surrounded by the trees and garden in full bloom, everything lush and full of life, my view from the front porch of verdant trees and garden, everything so very green. Peaceful. Relaxing. Would that this evening could go on forever.

Glass of Sledgehammer Zinfandel to round off the evening, a couple of books to read on the table beside me, the dog and two cats outside with us. Doesn’t get much better than this. Well maybe if we had opened a bottle of Cardinal Zin… which we both think is a better wine. But we’ll make do.

Books beside me include Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, and The History of Hell by Alice Turner. The former for entertainment (after seeing the BBC series, I had to read the book, which is equally entertaining but richer), the latter to complement my studies of the mythologies of the afterlife. This is research for a novel I’ve been working on the past year or so. Well, longer, but seriously for only a year. It’s about… well, that’s another post. When I’m closer to completion. Only about 30,000 words so far.

Fiction isn’t my forte, but I am trying. I’ve tinkered with a couple of pieces, including a few chapters of a humorous novel about small town politics (chapter one was published on this blog some time ago – I’ll get around to posting chapter 2 soon…)

Writing fiction is as much a learning experience as anything else. But even in that it’s worth doing. Learn every day or you die, as my friend Stan used to say.

I had two books of nonfiction published last year, a third submitted to the publisher earlier this year, and a fourth in the works for later this summer. And I produced a rewrite of Machiavelli’s classic, The Prince, but no publisher found. Yet.

My real passion is to be able to write good fiction. I have tinkered with it – even written whole novels of 100,000 or more words. Scifi and fantasy mostly, and some mysteries. But they’re not very good. It’s a craft I need to work at, more. But not tonight.

Tonight is for enjoying a beautiful mid-spring evening with my wife, who happens to be my best friend. And contemplating how good it is to be alive and in Collingwood on such a night.

Spring is usually my favourite time of the year; garden’s in full bloom, the heat not too great, the air fresh and cool, the birds singing and everything seems right with the world. The woes and cares of the week fly away like dandelion seeds in a gentle breeze. The days get longer, the days get warmer.

Fall is a close second, with its overtones of colour, the imagery of sleep and death, the sadness that runs ahead of winter. We retreat from the porch, inside, away from the growing cold. But from this vantage, fall seems a lifetime away. Today everything is green, exuberant, lavishly alive.

Started the evening listening to musicians at the nearby Ashanti coffee house. Opened with some great acoustic blues, Geoff Muldaur-like; three guys my age playing (Steve Diver on wicked lead guitar, muted, albeit electric), followed by some nice folk music by a younger woman whose name I forget.

Reminded me so much of the mid-Sixties. I used to go downtown to Yorkville – then the home of beatniks and coffee houses – and catch performers like Gordon Lightfoot and Doc Watson playing in the Riverboat. Small jazz trios, or a poet reading. I was 15, or 16, and it was such a different culture, with its arts, literature and music, so very different from everything else around me.

But I digress. Once upon a time, I would have been up there, too, playing at the open mic. Maybe I will again, me and my ukulele. Or tenor guitar, bass or harmonica. Gods, how I used to love to jam.

Better get a few good modern songs under my belt for that… been playing a lot of vintage stuff of late and I’m not sure how it would go over (or if anyone else would be able to play along). Maybe it’s time to get a uke club going here so there are opportunities to jam, too. Otherwise, I have to wait for my friend, Bill, to visit us every 3-4 months, so I can play with another uker.

Would have stayed longer at Ashanti, but we had to get back to start dinner, and for that glass of wine. Had Ashanti a liquor licence… well, we’d still be there. Might have ordered a light dinner, too. Hint, hint…

Somehow the evening seems just that much crisper, that much more relaxed when we can enjoy a glass here on the front porch, facing west while the sun sets. Even when it’s overcast, like Saturday. A little rain won’t dampen our spirits if we can roll out the awning. Life is good on such days, too.

Part of Saturday morning was dedicated to being at Doors Open, meeting and chatting with people in Town Hall with two of my favourite fellow councillors – Lloyd and Cunningham. Great to be part of the event without any politics to spoil the moment. Met several out-of-town visitors in council chambers, too. Good event and good company. I have great respect for these men and their opinions.

Tried to get out in time to catch the Indian food vendor at the farmers’ market so I could buy dinner, but I arrived too late. Damn. I was looking forward to a nice curry. Ah well, there’s always next week. Or I could make one, myself.

Weekdays are my usual days to cook; Susan is the weekend cook. But it’s not an ironclad rule. She is the better cook of the two of us, but I can defrost a mean microwave macaroni… for a guy who worked in restaurants (a long time ago, I admit), my cooking skills are certainly not what they used to be. That’s another post. But suffice to say, I’m working on relearning my skills.

Shopping for gardening supplies this afternoon took us all over town. Susan went to numerous garden centres, I went into the other areas, my role being mostly to tote and store the soil, plants and other items. I too like gardening, but Susan is the Iron Dictator of the greenery. Bring us a shrubbery, she commands, and I lift and carry…

I managed, somehow, to get some DVDs on sale at Wal-Mart while Susan was picking over the plants: Life of Pi, Sherlock Holmes Game of Shadows, and season five of Mad Men.

Was a bit unsure about Life of Pi. Tried to read the book but found it thin and heavy-handed. Like some of Paul Coehlo’s works, it felt like it bludgeoned the reader: allegory told by sledgehammer. But I’ve heard that Ang Lee’s movie is brilliant, and has stunning camera work.

Sherlock Holmes – well, it’s just for fun. We saw the first film with Robert Downey as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson. While fun, it wasn’t Holmes as Conan Doyle imagined him. Still, it was entertaining enough to want to see the next one. I think the BBC series Sherlock is wittier, however, but what the hell. It’s entertainment, not high art.

I was really a fan of Mad Men through season three, but four cooled me off, seemed stagnant, wheel-spinning. I’ll see what five does (after we finish watching S2 of Game of Thrones, a gift from a friend who returned from Florida with it). But tonight’s a movie night. After dark, of course. Right now, while the light remains, it’s still reading time. And writing, of course.

At times like this, sitting on the porch with Susan, having a glass of wine, our dog Sophie lying near, a couple of cats on leads, or on our laps, books in our hands, the air clear and a gentle scent of flowers wafting from the garden, the world seems almost perfect (or “perfeck” as Pop Larkin would say). It reminds me again why we moved here, 23 years ago.