Monday, October 5, 2009

Mud is Not for Sissies

It’s fall in the Gatineau hills, and I’m shacked up in my friend’s loft in the top of a converted old barn. From the inside, it could be a spacious Soho studio, with its polished cement floor, high ceilings, picture windows, fairy paintings, sexy/artsy furniture, and, (god has blessed me,) a piano! I feel coddled, lucky to have temporary, comfortable refuge in a period of extreme homelessness and transition, and happy to not be sleeping in the car. As a matter of fact, it’s downright luxurious, in a way, although the furnace and the kitchen sink aren’t hooked up just yet, the mice keep nibbling at my supplies, and I’m still living out of suitcases because there’s no place, really, to put my things. But I digress. Luxury is relative, and I’m a happy camper with a roof over my head and a view of Gatineau foliage. Yes, I am home again.

Just outside the door, it’s another world. You see, my friend's husband has a brand new tractor, and he spends hours and hours driving back and forth, pushing dirt around, creating new piles and potholes and generally rearranging the earth— I’m sure with some plan in mind, but one that isn’t left to settle for very long before the strategy, or priority seems to change. We all have our way of working things out, and the sound his tractor going back and forth and around the loft/barn is a comforting one to me. It reminds me of my dad, who processed life in hay bales, not mud, but with a similar down-beat on the John Deere.

I’ve been slucking through the muck a lot myself lately, and not only in the squishy rubber-boot path from the studio to the car, where I keep a selection of shoes to slip into once I get out of the driveway. Great globs of bureaucracy are decorating my days and ruining my shoes. From complicated institutional procedures to parking tickets, insurance conundrums, financial woes, health care line-ups and loose ends of all sorts, my problems are the inevitable result of the mail having to follow a zigzag path across North America to find its way to me, which mostly, it doesn’t.

It’s hard to explain my transitional state, which some more annoying people have started to call my ‘lifestyle’. Bollocks. I guess they have never experienced the difficulty of finding a roost: the right roost, on the right tree, in the right forest, with the right companions. Maybe those people just take life as it comes to them, or never leave home in the first place. I find patience to be the only missing ingredient within myself, and the rest is just a matter of persistence. “I’m fine,” I say, with an evasive half-laugh and a shift of eyes to avoid the all too natural ‘interviews’ of the curious. (“How are you? Where have you been? What are you doing? Where are you now?”— Hand them a drink, point to a flock of geese, make a weather comment, run.)

Other people require no explanation. They take one look at me up to my knees in mud, and nod quietly in greeting. They know that mud is not for sissies. One of these friend-saints gave me some words the other night. He explained to me how the early English settlers to Canada (his ancestors), came over here and toughed it out for years, all the while groaning over the hardships and getting increasingly frustrated, until finally they managed to lurch free of the new world soil to return to the warm breast of the motherland. Once there, they realized mud was much sexier than the queen, and so they turned around and came back. “They called it the 10,000 pound cure,” he says. I have no idea exactly what that means but yes, it does feel that heavy, and yes, I think that it may have worked.

I’m tired. I show up with globs of wet dirt caked to my sneakers which are falling apart from walking so far, only to arrive back where I started. Not so unlike my friend’s husband on his tractor at the end of another day -- the terrain now both different, and yet essentially the same, as a result of his muditations.

So for those who still don’t understand, I’ll let Eminem speak for me, rather than attempting to explain any further. “A lot of people been asking me,” he says, “where the fuck I been at the last few years. Shit. I don’t know! … But I do know one thing… I’m back now… Ha ha!”

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