In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Monday, June 14, 2010

the elementary life

When the children were little they had a small boxed set of Laurent de Brunhoff's Babar books. The set was called something like The Elements. Each of the four tiny books was devoted to the discovery of an Aristotelian element -- earth, fire, water, air -- through the explorations and experiences of the elephants and their friends. In Babar's world the elements were as fanciful and enchanting as the king's own green suit. But out amongst the grown-ups the elements were abstract concepts: not really there. We had more important things to think about. I sometimes remember the sense of intricate wonder contained in those little books as I am slowly introduced to the elementary life.

Now that the daily provision of heat is not an issue, we have turned to the production and storing up of food. Most of next winter's wood pile is split and stacked, Greg's work of March and April. Since early May I've spent most of my time working in the garden or the greenhouse, getting ready for the brief growing season that is almost upon us. I think mostly in terms of growing what we can freeze for the winter. Meanwhile, Greg has become adept at pre-dawn visits to the gill net and at gutting the fish he finds there. He's at work on a small chicken coop in hopes that we can begin to have a few chickens after all. He is brewing more beer. All of this is absorbing and complex, time-consuming and labour-intensive. It's not so simple. But with each season, I think, we inch closer to the mysteries of the elements.

Time plays its part as well. I missed lots of what was really going on when I lived a speeded-up, multi-tasking, over-developed life. Because lots of what is really going on either changes in an instant, like a heron flying over, or takes eons, like the waves against the rock. My normal mode wasn't tuned into the extremes. Then there is the subtle unfolding and fullness and waning of each season, which I am only slowly beginning to recognize. I didn't realize that I was missing so much, though -- how could I know what I wasn't aware of? I just thought that life was somehow narrower than I wanted it to be, and I didn't want it to end like that, narrowing and narrowing.

I've been worried about our snake population, but as the weather has warmed up I've started seeing more of them. One or two are in the vegetable garden when I go up in the mornings. And yesterday a tiny twitch of a bright green fern bank revealed the hidden presence of a toad slowly making his way away from me. The snakes and toads are themselves fanciful, out of a children's story, and might even wear suits on occasion, though I have not yet observed it, and possibly the occasion does not often arise. Snakes and toads are mysteries too, enchanting, earthily elemental, present yet elusive. Happy the person who is fortunate enough -- and slow enough --to notice them.


Piecefulafternoon said...

It would be grand if we all took time to slow down - even in the city and small towns, slowing down brings us so many wondrous surprises. Today a crow came to the suet feeders and picked out all the nuts. She had a hard time hanging on - but she was tenacious and enjoyed her treat and I enjoyed watching her.

Karen said...

Beautifully written, this post. Words of wisdom.

Janet said...

I love to watch the sun moving during the seasons to set at either end of a wide quadrant at midsummer and midwinter solstices. Also the progression of bloom - yesterday while running errands in the car I looked for the best patches of lupins and deep fuschia wild roses. I just need to remember my camera too!