Monday, June 9, 2008

MzOdell's day off

My day off, no work on the kayak. I am fairly religious about The Sunday Edition on CBC Sunday mornings, I try not to go anywhere between 9am and noon. After that is the Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean, then Wiretap. I can listen to Wiretap for short periods but lately I find it a bit grating. So if I get it together I have an hour to go out before Tapestry comes on at 2pm. CBC just takes up half my Sunday!

Stuart McLean did his show from a dome car on a Via train this week. He started out talking about Sir John A (as we Canadians like to call our "founding father"), how he had this dream of protecting the northern half of the continent from the voracious Americans down south. He was completely driven by this dream. Stuart said that the magic fairy dust that Sir John A used to achieve this dream was the railroad, he believed that an east-west train route would tie us Canadians together as a single nation, create an east-west axis to counteract the southward pull. And that the fairy dust of the railroad still works its magic in our lives, even though we think that the rails have long since been superceded by highways and automobiles. All our cities are on the old railroad lines, and many of out large and small towns. Many of these would never have existed at all were it not for the railroad. We Canadians are a very urban lot, far more so than Americans, and we all live in railroad towns. The rail route still ties us together.

The trains still run, mostly for freight but also for carrying people in a more luxurious manner than airplanes or buses. I could relate to that, I crossed this country several times by train, mostly riding coach but later being able to afford a berth. My first couple of trips by coach were epic journeys in smoke-filled coach cars. By the time you got to your destination, five days later, the air was almost unbreathable and everything you owned reeked of that awful coach car smoke and stale sweat smell.

On the westward journey some folks would start drinking when the train was barely out of Toronto and by the time we hit the prairies there was always one or more really unpleasant drunks rolling around in the stinky coach cars. At Hinton, the little godforsaken gateway to the Rockies, the train would stop and the Mounties would come aboard to remove the more obnoxious drunks. You had to put up with them across the prairies but they took pity on you when you were about to enter the magnificent mountains. Also at Hinton you could get off the train and stretch your legs, breathing deeply of the fresh mountain air before you had to return to the very stale coach for the final leg of the trip.

But I digress. I went into Wolfville in the afternoon to go to a concert with Carolyn, the Dazzling Divas. Carolyn's sister Heather played the piano while two women with magnificent operatic voices sang a selection of opera arias and show tunes. I have not heard voices like that in a very long time. Very powerful, they filled a large hall without any amplification at all. The divas were accomplished singers and actors, they acted the parts that the arias and show tunes represented most colourfully. Quite the show. The hall itself was wonderful, with great windows on either side that gave it a very light airy feel, and it was furnished not with rows of chairs but clusters of large couches, armchairs and coffee tables so that you could sit very comfortably and casually in groups or on your own. Most of the audience was my age or older, a few younger people scattered in the largely white and grey-haired folks. I guess that kind of music just does not attract youthful listeners.

In the evening Carolyn and I went to see the film "Bank Job" at the old Acadia Theatre. Very tense British thriller apparently based on a true story. I was on the edge of my seat right through to the end, and kind of glad that I had a long drive home afterward to calm down. But definitely a good film, if you can handle the tension.

On my drive home I realized I had no flashlight to get the several hundred feet down a windy forest trail from the truck parking spot to the house. But I did see that the moon was out so I was hopeful that there would be a bit of light filtering through the trees. I remember that I used to walk these woods at night without a light in my youth, and hoped I could still do that.

The other thing I remembered was one car drive home to the Harbour in someone else's car when the driver, Michael, wanted to see if we could coast all the way from the brow of the mountain to the Harbour, a distance of about 5 km. So after making the final turn onto the Baxter's Harbour Road he put the car into neutral and turned off the engine. We "drove" silently by the light of the moon alone, gaining speed on the downhill stretches, then slowing down as we climbed the next little hill. The car would come almost to a stop at the top, but not quite, and then we would gain speed once again going down the other side. There were three little hills like that, but the downside was always longer than the upside and we were successful. The silence and the darkness were so delightful, we didn't talk at all on that little trip, and there were great whoops of joy when we arrived at the Harbour without having touched the gas.

I am not willing to turn the truck off altogether and trust to the light of the moon, but still I do try to see how far I can coast without touching the gas pedal. It's fun.

And I did manage the dark walk to the house at the end. There was very little moonlight, just odd patches here and there. Mostly I felt my way. The darkness feels enveloping, almost claustrophobic, but I keep my eyes up and somehow that helps. Trying to see the ground just doesn't work, it makes the claustrophobic feeling worse. The hardest part was trying to get the key into the door, it turned out I was trying to insert the carkey instead of the doorkey.

And that was my day off.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Anne!

As you might tell, DS28 left today so I could enjoy a catch-up on your most interesting blog.

Long ago, my mother took the TransCanadian RR to Lake Louise and loved everything about the adventure. My grandfather on the other side of the family worked on the Southern RR, so railroads are near and dear to my heart.

I'm so happy that your brave venture to NS is full of happy adventures and friends. May I suggest having two flashlights so one can stay in the car?!