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For sale: 1999 ‘Angelic Inspiration’ Barbie

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The Blue Umbrella

Reflections from the Swamp
Richard van Duyvendyk

Dear Reader

About a month ago, I drove through a neighbourhood on Garbage Day. Tuesdays are garbage days in Corkery, an excellent day to go on tour looking for lost treasure. One place, in particular, had some exciting garbage. I heard a voice calling me. The voice seemed to be coming from an umbrella. Someone had thrown out a large robin-egg blue umbrella that might fit into an outdoor table. I imagined that the windstorm had damaged the umbrella. Upon closer inspection, I saw that a pivoting joint had broken. I reasoned that a few clamps and some rope would mend the fracture and allow me to finally get the umbrella my bride had asked for.

I placed the umbrella on the deck beside the table, augmented with a bouquet of wildflowers which awaited the enthusiastic response of my bride when she got home. We had a heavy cement block with a hole in the center to hold up an umbrella. While waiting for my bride, the umbrella seemed to take on a life of its own. The wind kept moving the umbrella, revealing the need to add more ropes and clamps until the umbrella stood precariously on its own, providing shade on a hot sunny afternoon. My bride treasured the umbrella less than I did; she loved the flowers.

I wondered how the previous owner could throw out such a lovely umbrella that had provided shade for years just because of a faulty joint. Did they confine their parents to cheap senior homes or find flaws and imperfections in their friends? I imagined that the blue umbrella was thankful to be rescued from the garbage heaps of humanity. This umbrella wanted a second chance to provide shade to someone else; the umbrella wished to have a purpose in life.

Having both knee joints replaced gave me empathy for the umbrella. I imagined being thrown out in the garbage because my knee joints were faulty. Fortunately, my bride says she keeps me because I know how to open jars. Knees aren’t required. Under the intense heat, the umbrella seemed like a palm tree at an oasis. Umbrellas offer shade and shelter from rain storms. Like dogs, umbrellas are best friends.

After a week of flopping and falling over, my bride removed the umbrella and tossed it into the tall grass of the swamp. There It remained, fully opened, a parabola collecting rainwater and creating a home for mosquito larvae. Weeks later, my brother called me, telling me to bring an umbrella to Presqu’ile Provincial Park. “The beaches are endless, but there are no shade trees.”

We brought the umbrella to Presqu’ile along with our camping equipment. I dragged the big umbrella onto the expanse of white sand with a view of what seemed like an ocean. Gulls filled the sky. Other slighter umbrellas dotted the beach on poles augured into the hard sand. I dug two umbrella tips into the sand to prevent them from rolling around in the gentle breeze.

After a lazy afternoon of playing in the waves, sheltering behind the umbrella, and reading a book, it was time to return to our campsite.

I decided to experiment to see what I could learn about humanity. We left the umbrella on the beach. In the sand, I wrote, “Don’t steal. I’ll be back.” I wanted the “I’ll be back” to sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but that’s hard to do just writing in the sand.

During the night, I had dreams about the umbrella. Would it still be on the beach tomorrow? What if someone took it away? Somebody from Texas might take it; someone experienced in joint replacement therapy for umbrellas might see potential in my blue umbrella.

Early the following morning, I wandered out onto the vast empty beach. My friend, Blue Umbrella, was gone; only the gulls and a few cormorants dotted the shore. I sat on the damp sand and stared out into the waters. I wondered who was the new owner of the blue umbrella.

I thought of The Blue Carbuncle, a Sherlock Holmes story about a valuable blue diamond stolen by hiding the diamond in a goose. The umbrella was of great sentimental value. The geometric pattern of the panels resembles a diamond shape. Then I thought of the Littlest Hobo.

The Littlest Hobo was a TV show about a dog travelling from place to place, helping people. The Blue Umbrella was a reincarnation of the Littlest Hobo!

There’s a voice that keeps on calling me
Down the road is where I’ll always be

Every stop I make, I’ll make a new friend
Can’t stay for long, just turn around, and I’m gone again.

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down,
Until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on. (Terry Bush)

The robin-blue umbrella is on the road again. I could write a story about its new adventures and start a mini-series about a wandering umbrella! I’d like to know what happens next, don’t we all?

Life has many new adventures in store for us. They will unfurl like the blue umbrella. We will all seek shelter from the storms ahead.

Our umbrella, found in our relationships with others, hope, and an openness to what we see on the road ahead will determine our futures.

Every stop the umbrella makes, she’ll make a new friend.

She can’t stay long, just turn around, and she’s gone again.

There is a voice that keeps calling her;

down the road is where she’ll always be.


A Man Splitting Wood

Life Revisited



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