L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
As I sit here on an early Sunday morning sipping my tepid and consequently distasteful black coffee, listening to CBC French radio classical music (religious chants and predictable piano numbers), watching sparrows dart in and out of an unexplained hole in the back yard cedar hedge, examining the gloomy grey and foggy skies in the distance and rejoicing that I have nothing better to do, I am thankful that it is drizzling outside. I have justification not to go bicycling which is the only physical exercise I get any longer. I have abandoned any interest in walking. My knees can’t take it and the pace is paradoxically too slow to satisfy my inextinguishable need to get on with it. Besides yesterday in the chilly morning air and brilliant sunshine we bicycled at least ten kilometers clad in layers of high-collared woolen sweaters, generous cotton jackets and toasty gloves so I’ve sufficiently expiated my guilt in that department.
Languidly surveying my domain I have the sense of examining the scene of a recent battle, at the very least a kerfuffle. Upon reflection so much commotion transpires even in a week, unexpected events and the accommodation of blips in plans, addressing unfolding essentials, analyzing picayune details, tending to annoying things, recovering from indulgences, coping with family, aging, dying and the daily prosaic burdens of living. When one is at last thankfully dismissed of obligation it is like surfacing from the suffocating depths for air, both invigorating and resentful. I am old and experienced enough to recognize that this temporary reprieve is to be relished. Securing the ravelled edges of life is no small triumph. When one is afforded the privilege of respite it is nothing more than standing motionless in the deceivingly calm eye of a storm. One step outside the arena of composure risks starting up all the machinery of life’s perpetual assaults once again.
The inescapable news of the day included a reference to the “Wealthy Barber”. As far as I can tell his secret is nothing more than deprivation, something approaching asceticism as a religion or maybe replacing it with an equally severe obsession with the accumulation of money. As they say “You can’t have money and things”. Take your pick. He makes a virtue of living in a 1,300 square foot house without a basement (purportedly because he has nothing to store). Give me a break! Nothing to store but the money he never spends! At moments like this – on a leaden Sunday morning when one has been granted an instant to think back upon what one has done – there is the temptation to embrace austerity. But it is a self-discipline which is about as compelling as being disinterested in tomorrow’s breakfast after having had a full evening dinner. Think of the starkness of consumption, the denial of all those trinkets. It is an abstinence which is not for the pusillanimous!
Last evening was a desirable Saturday night, an ornament to any Sunday morning. It was an escape to a candle-lit Italian restaurant where the heavy white porcelain dishes clattered and the rising wave of customers’ chatter blurred the invisible walls between us three and our dining neighbours. There were vodka martinis at the polished wooden bar first then at table our sommelier-in-training (James Dean celebrating his new leather bomber jacket) pored intently over the extensive wine list, having first spent the afternoon at a winery with his young companions, sipping Shiraz and Cabernet in promotion of their awakening life-time skills. “We’re going to enjoy ourselves this evening!”, he elatedly proclaimed upon informing the server of his considered choice. We settled comfortably into the shell and orbit of our convocation, loosening the tongues of tales and anecdotes, sharing some off-colour jokes and contemplating the taste of things to come, promoted by good bread and tasty extra virgin olive oil and Balsamic vinegar. Remarkably within the space of one week we have dined in the same place with people who flew in from New Zealand and another who is about to fly out to South Africa. On our lips was talk of an upcoming jaunt to the island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean. How magically the wheels of life turn!
Now I am back on earth on a comparatively dull Sunday morning examining the drops of water on the leaves of the trees outside the kitchen window. What purpose is there to speculate about the future? Does it matter where we’ve come from in the past? The once pleasant present has already evaporated, exchanging its manifestations for memories. Sunday morning is at best an interlude to contemplate. It does nothing to change what has been, is or will be. Yet how precious is the moment, that magic feeling of nowhere to go!