Memoir of a Rural Sisyphus-Redux, First Spring

Bill Engleson



Memoir of a Rural Sisyphus-Redux

Bill Engleson

For a few years, I kept a diary of my inauguration into the Denman Community. This column, recently renamed Memoir of a Rural Sisyphus-Redux, will extract a few of my observations from a dozen or so years ago and share them. This particular extract was carefully and artfully prepared for the 2006 Audio Arts CD, Musical Chairs. It was significantly enhanced on the CD the musically artistry of Randy Duncan. Hopefully, it will have some modern times currency.

First Spring

March 2, 2004

It is near the end of our first full winter on Denman Island. Hibernation time is about to lapse. More’s the pity as it has been play up to now. Rural conjuring, a pretend sort of experience, at least on my part. My love has always had a more realistic bent. And a more complex work ethic to boot.

Today, sun beaming down and warming the 10-degree earth, we chance out into the yard. She shows me the work options. I am exhausted just contemplating any one of the tasks. I pluck a few broom plants, recycle some bottles, gather blow down and add them to a future bonfire. I seem the complete fidgeter, jumping from chore to chore like a giant hummingbird. I attempt to ignite the pile of accumulated forest refuse but all I generate is a flit of smoke. I pull some broom and contemplate cleaning out the gutters.

“Help me get rid of this big rock,” my love beckons. She is digging in the garden and is about eight inches down. A large rock impedes her way. I am of a mind to let it lay there, like some sleeping dog. Surely, we can grow vegetables around it. My arguments are obviously weak and betray a slacker’s inclination. We extract the stone, like the old molar it is. My love is delighted. We have one more sacrifice for her rock retaining wall. She is drawn to rock walls, to the methodical layering, one on another, rock on rock, boulder on boulder, not like Frost’s neighbour in Mending Walls, to mark property and keep land orderly, but for the sheer beauty of erecting an immaculate wall of stone. I expect that this hunk of granite is the first of hundreds I’ll be called on to remove. I see no reprieve from her master plan. I pity the souls of these stones; they only want to be left alone, left where time has placed them; either that or to be swept up in one mother landslide, some magnificent avalanche, the true calling of rocks.

Nonetheless, what a glorious day? A few clouds hover back of the Beaufort Hills but other wise the sky is as blue as sea.

Later, my ignition attempts improve. The bonfire is much more inflammatory. Well, perhaps not quite the right word but it catches fire well and burns most of the afternoon. Three properties over, a neighbour is burning one of his fifty feet tall piles but reports it isn’t catching. I have never aspired to skyscraper sized burning mounds. Small fires engender manageable pleasures.

I pull out of storage one of two original green plastic Adirondack style lawn chairs, crack a beer open and settle back to soak up the faint sun and sight of smoke. I daydream of rock walls built at a slow and meandering pace. Off in the distance, the sound of circling birds too early for the herring run. Down on the sea, a small launch inches along the sound. The fire crackles. I keep a watchful eye. The occasional plane scoots across the open sky. The sun starts to set, the evening chill sweeps up the hill from the sea, the fire’s smoke dances in front of my eyes and chases me down.I cannot escape it. In time, the fire falters, gasping for fuel. It has run its course.

I take a turn in the hot tub. And what a joy that is. The air is crisp, and the slight breeze gently slaps my face with a chilled hand as the trunk of my body is warmed by the heated water. The eucalyptus tree on the side yard was horribly misshapen by the weight of winter snow. It is bent at 90 degrees and hangs over the roof of the house like some cliff overhang, menacing in its deformity.

As I lollygag about in the hot tub, I am aware that I have let much of another sunny day slip away.

At night, my love and I speculate on beach bonfires, coolers of beer, sparkling spring night skies, full moons, endless walls of stone and mad cats.