Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Daylight on the Bus Route

When I was in high school, I played the clarinet in "Division Band," which was a wind ensemble composed of students from schools all across the Arcola School Division. Or was it the Arcola School Unit? I remember something about Unit 10, and the office was actually in Arcola, housed in the old Land Titles Office, a wonderfully solid brick building with a brass elevation marker in the yard. The building has since housed a museum and gift shop, and more recently the offices of a trucking company. The school division has become much larger. Back then, though, we would wait after school on Monday for a bus coming from Stoughton and picking us up on the way through to Carlyle for band rehearsal. To fill the time and tide us over, we always had a bit of allowance money to go downtown to Chan's Cafe for a chocolate bar or a little bag of chips. Chan's Cafe stands vacant now, and my daughter works next door in the new "Michael's Cafe and Bakery." She played in Division Band for a while, but the bus was no more, and my understanding is that the band itself fizzled out a few years ago.

Little snapshots of memory remain, not of the music itself, but of scenes: our instruments in their cases waiting on the sidewalk by the gym; an older student silhouetted oddly in the hallway during a break; my favourite conductor Mr. Patterson's smile. We did get a standing ovation at one concert, for our performance of the William Tell Overture. But what I remember most was that particular Monday each winter when we would come out of rehearsal for the bus trip home and find that it was not yet dark out.

Back then it took a week's change for it to be noticeable, but back then I wasn't the bus driver with the watch. These days on my morning run to the school, I notice the difference in the sky from one day to the next, as I turn south or east toward the sunrise: how much brighter it is than when I passed this spot the day before.

Friday, January 08, 2010


I wonder if the acupuncture addiction treatment that Madcap was talking about could cure whatever keeps drawing me back to the ivory tower. She gave me a belly-laugh today, with a devilish edge to it. Please do go look at her definition of fundament. (Yes, before you read the rest of this.)

I just checked Merriam Webster online, and found her definition under #2, but #1 is intriguing: "an underlying ground, theory, or principle" - and oh, #3 could get me going: "the part of a land surface that has not been altered by human activities."

I am back home on the farm, for now at least, but my perceptual apparatus is tuned to the academic, the literary, the textual.

"Dirt is so 20th century," declares the slogan on the box Mom and Dad brought back from the city yesterday. I declared that I could write a deep analytical essay about all the societal attitudes and assumptions wrapped up in that slogan. Inside the box is Mom's Christmas present, an AeroGarden. I have been teasing her mercilessly, but I can appreciate her desire to have "her own" lettuce in February. And maybe the saving in trips to the grocery store in town would justify the spending on plastic baglet strips of precisely formed nutrient pellets. I just think I would rather use dirt, thanks.

Not that I have ever actually gotten around to it.

I was getting closer, when I (well, we) got those big windows put in. All I had to do was to get the construction debris out from under them and a shelf of pots in its place. Even one little shelf. Or table or stack of boxes or board on sawhorses or whatever. Something to hold the dear little green things (and their pots of dirt) up in the sunlight.

But now the sunny house is sheltering my kids and their father while I wander forth and not quite back, forth to further schooling, and now back to school-bus driving and seeking more lucrative short-term endeavours as a way of hovering nearby to be a little more present for those kids. Most dear, they are, and not nearly so little, but still needing me a bit closer for a while, or so I like to think.

I have been "home" since Christmas, all for the sake of the kids, but so far I have spent very little time with them. When I am not driving the school bus (cancelled for today because of the windchill), or chasing leads on employment and accommodations in town (closer to the kids), or attempting to impose some order on the debris of piles and boxes that one might (mistakenly) represent as my "roots" (though I would sure like to put them securely down somewhere), I am reading and musing and catching myself staring at some little phrase that captures my mind. Or sometimes I am just staring out the window at the sparkling frost on the winter-dried native grasses and wildflowers standing up through the snow. And thinking about something entirely different. I am sure it was a thesis topic, a fine one, but it's gone now.

There will be another. Or the same one disguised in another grand-sounding phrasing.

Yes, I am thinking theses. Further degrees. Yes, I am actually thinking about a PhD.

Of course, I am aware of the clever little wordplay that starts with a barnyard interpretation of the initials B.S. (ignoring the "c" in my B.Sc.), proceeds through M.S. (more, and never mind that mine was an M.A.) and concludes with the initials for "Pile Higher and Deeper."

Manure is good.

Although maybe not so good when too much of it is piled up in one place . . .