I stood in what seemed thunderous chaos. Horses galloped to the right of me, to the left of me. Lances appeared to whisk past my ears. The ground felt as if it were trembling beneath my feet. And I grabbed my dad’s arm, fearing if I didn’t I might topple over. Just audible above the din of the rhythmic panting of the horses and the pounding of their hooves, I could hear singing.
Remember those threatening storm clouds that rolled over town last Saturday morning. They popped off some lightning bolts, rumbled with thunder and then, just as Canadian Tire was full of folks doing last-minute Father’s Day shopping, inside the store there was a momentary blackout.
Simultaneously there was an audible sigh as everybody in the store realized what it meant. The store’s entire electrical system – from lighting, to security alarms to cash registers – would have to reboot before things got back to normal. What was worse, with everything at a standstill, the line-up at the checkouts was growing fast.
Almost as quickly, with the temperature among impatient customers (and the store itself because the air conditioning also had to reboot), a guy in a blue Canadian Tire shirt slipped past the queue, grabbed an armful of bottled water and began handing out the bottles for free.
“Sorry for the inconvenience,” Kevin the store manager said. “We should have things back to normal in a couple of minutes.”
My back was to the wall. Eleventh hour. Up against it. All those clichés applied. My Grade 8 history essay – on the causes and effects of the War of 1812 – was due Monday morning. It was Sunday night and the essay was done in every way but one. I pleaded with Dad to help me, not to compose the essay, but to type it for me. And he did, but not without an important provision.
“This is the last time,” he said. “From now on, you’re on your own. You’ve got to type it yourself!”
I nodded, not really understanding what had just happened. All I cared about was that my history paper would be delivered in class, on time and looking spotlessly professional. Why? Because my dad was a professional writer and he would never submit anything short of perfect.
I paced slowly and quietly across the back of the ballroom, last Monday morning. Keeping to myself, I was reviewing a few thoughts about the presentation I was about to deliver as part of the keynote to a local business club in Burlington, Ontario. Then, I tuned in to what the person at the lectern at the front of the ballroom was saying about the agenda that the meeting had to go through before the keynote speaker (that would be me) was introduced.
“We’ve got committee reports and the financial statement to table and accept,” the chair indicated, “and, of course, we have to introduce the incoming executive.”
My head suddenly snapped to attention, as I focused on what the chair was saying. I realized the business part of the meeting that preceded me had a lot of content. “This is going to be a long wait,” I said to myself.
It’s been a while since we stopped to smell the roses, as it were. But a few weeks ago, just relaxing on our back porch, my wife and I sighed simultaneously. Aloud we recognized, despite the abundance of rain and the not-so-warm temperatures, and its rather clumsy entrance, that spring had finally, thankfully and delightfully arrived. But Jayne noted something I hadn’t noticed.
“It’s awfully quiet this year,” she said. “The sounds of birds aren’t there like usual.”
Sometimes it’s as subtle as the songbirds in the backyard going silent. Other times in the house, the cats curl up together in a corner. In a more obvious example, my pet Kerry blue terrier pants as if he’s just completed a marathon run cross-country, and I know there’s a thunderstorm in the area.
I remember the story, a few years ago, about an earth tremor in the state of Maryland. And Mike Blanpied, a U.S. Geology Service expert, reported that just before the quake, animals responded because they were more sensitive to the slightest shaking.
Most of the time I sat among the back seats in the rehearsal room. But that’s OK. As long as I kept one eye on the music charts in front of me and the other down front where conductor John Rutherford stood, I knew I’d stay in step with the rest of the group. I just had to wait for Mr. Rutherford’s downbeat and I was part of the performance. And that meant a lot to me. He’d often begin the rehearsal with the same words of encouragement.
“OK,” Rutherford would say. “Let’s make a little magic.”
About a month ago, a CBC television reporter from Nova Scotia emailed me with a request. Being sufficiently old-fashioned about these things, I decided to phone him to offer a verbal (rather than texted) answer. He said he and a camera operator had just returned from an assignment in downtown Halifax. He said they had just shot video of the demolition of the Discovery Centre. I didn’t immediately get it.
“You’d more likely remember it as the Zellers store,” Dave Irish said. “It’s a building with much history. … I’m hoping to speak to you about Ms. (Ronnie) Egan saving it.”
Early in 1943, the military planners in London, England, coped with the ebb and flow of the Second World War, but they did so secretly. Squirrelled away in his tiny office at the British War Office, an experienced Canadian-born artillery officer grappled with a logistics problem about an upcoming military operation. But the stress proved overwhelming for hm. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t focus. To switch his mind off before bed, he tried reading detective stories. Then, he tried something completely different.
“I set up a fly-tying table,” Charles Falkland Loewen wrote in his memoirs, “and before going to bed sat down to tie a fly or two. I found that this absorbed one’s complete attention … and really unbuttoned my mind from current problems.”
The business report on the radio began with the latest dooming and glooming. The commentator used all the appropriate clichés about this poor outlook, that unexpected downturn, and, of course, the uncertainty prevailing. Then, he surprised me with his ignorance by describing this week’s outcome in the French election.
“European markets are surging,” he said, “because of leftist Marine Le Pen’s showing in the first round of the French elections.”
“Leftist?” I repeated out loud. “Does he have any idea what he’s talking about?”