Vive Les Differences

October by

A brave lady recently read my piece on failed leadership and came to visit. I allow myself hopes for this connection. Not of the ambitious type….erotic, economic. I’m not in a need situation there. The odd pang of the former, none of the latter.

We might not have hit it off but did it seems. A treat to anticipate a friendship with someone whose day to day reality is very different than mine, far more intruded upon. Perhaps she will come and visit once in a while to ground herself in my garden.

I’ve got a balance going on here that suits me, but have lived in other ways, quite happily, and have gotten pretty good at staking out some mutually satisfactory ground with folks grounded differently than I. It is entertaining….and stimulating….when it happens.

For example:

Somewhere in the mid 1970s my lady and our two lassies were living on Nelson Island beside a lagoon just outside Green Bay. Green’s Bay, some called it.

We were doing well. I’d worked awhile a mile up-shore at Doug Fielding’s large log-booming ground, sorting logs from the back of my sidewinder, spinning them by the tier into the bundler, stowing hairy yellow cedar logs of widely differing size into strict, straight-sided booms a hundred and twenty meters long….in slack-strung alleys. And so on.

I was a genius at it, let me say purely from honesty, even at the risk of presupplying the impression that I am overproud. Relax. I don’t believe in pride nearly as much as I believe in math. I outsorted and outstowed everyone wherever I got the chance. I squeezed that throttle from dock to dock and wrung every cutting-horse move out of that sidewinder that it had to give. Just to make the whole thing entertaining.

However that’s not what this piece is about. Merely a sweet recollection.

I have to briefly prep you on my other and eventually predominant occupation while we lived on the island. I was beachcombing westcoast style, recovering logs lost by attrition from inadequately put together or weather-battered tows of log booms being pulled from Beaver Cove and points south to Howe Sound and the Fraser River. It was highly competitive and had re-ignited my football, basketball and track consciousness. I played this game on the temperamental waters of Jervis Inlet and Georgia Strait. My audience was the beaches, the steep slopes rising from the water, the standing timber and the crests of hill and mountain. I was accompanied by a simple band of eight identical cylinders rumbling or roaring in operatic variations of tempo, conducted by my hand upon the throttle.

Ah there I go. I tell you, sometimes I get carried away by this writing thing.

My lady was wonderfully beautiful, for which I was always immensely grateful. It was she who provided me flawlessly from foundation to ramparts with a home from which to venture out and do daily battle. She loved me and was utterly and deeply engaged with our daughters, as, in my own way I felt myself to be.

Our dwelling was minimal, unelaborate but practical, our garden picturesque and bountiful, as were the oysters and the deer. The latter I hunted sparely according to need and season.. What had I to do with laws of a reality so experientially different from my own? Or they with me. Oh I paid taxes which, living as I did, subsidized for others services I made little use of. Tons of gasoline tax…for instance. Anyway I wasn’t unhappy about it. I dealt with it in terms satisfactory to me. As I did with a forest industry and its agents systematic ripping off of my hostile colleagues and me.

There I go again…………there’s just so much to tell of….to write of.

Anyway back to this resonant example of the pleasure to be found in the experiencing of difference.

In those days the seaplane included Green Bay and Vanguard Bay on the other side of Nelson Island as schedule stops. So it was simple and inexpensive for us, with a friend to look after the house, to load our four selves on to one at our very own dock, fly to Vancouver Harbor, take the shuttle to the International Airport and land eight hours later at Heathrow, just outside London.

England, don’t you know, land of my birth and of an early, somewhat unsatisfactory childhood quite different and far less broadly nurturing than later stages experienced in Saskatchewan.

My beautiful Italian cousin picked us up, drove us to her large and stately house in Potters Bar and showed my daughters upstairs to a bedroom containing two richly-quilted beds, upon each of which, reclining upon a pillow, lay a gorgeous, dark haired, poshly-clad doll.

Anon we rented a well-tailored tux for me, the most comfortable suit I have ever worn, and within a day or two were celebrating the evening at a long, shining white table sequinned with dishes de luxe full of food for all fancies, at the Connaught Club. The Connaught Club. Hah. That needs no exclamation mark. One reads about it in Sherlock Holmes.

I found myself telling, matter of factually, modestly if you can imagine it, by invitation and well attended, of our life on an island shared with deer, coyote and cougar.

And feeling utterly at ease, at home, relaxed…..even when the near breast of the exotically lovely and blushing debutante beside me popped out of her decolletage…..twice, each time to be quietly and, yes, somehow modestly tucked back in. (No, not by me, devilish little thought…..nor did I stare….indeed I quickly averted my eyes…..the mere glimpse to last in memory, obviously).

And so we Towered of Londoned and Buckingham Palaced and in no time at all, a day or two, an eight hour flight, a shuttle and a short hop of fifteen minutes in a Cessna, and we were back at our dockside, breathing in the salt and cedar-scented air, gazing up at our cabin high on the shore. So beautifully different. All of it.

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