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BATES, David Merrill With heavy hearts the family...

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Reflections from the SwampThe Leaning Outhouse of Corkery

The Leaning Outhouse of Corkery

Reflections from the Swamp
Richard van Duyvendyk

Dear Reader

It’s been a long time since I’ve written to you. The news in a world filled with wars, fires, floods, conspiracy theories, and gloom often depresses me to the point where lighthearted humour in writing seems like frivolous prose amid a storm.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the gardens. Often, I get up early on these long days, make a coffee, and figure out the next moves in the garden. During these early hours, glimmers of inspiration float like rainbow-glistened bubbles, sometimes popping on their own or drifting up over the fence and into the fields.

We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope. Only in this way shall we live without the fatigue of bitterness and the drain of resentment.  
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

We have to relearn not to take ourselves so seriously and learn to laugh at ourselves to fully enjoy this life, which, at a deeper level, is a miracle. Laughter also helps to keep us sane. Through writing, I will try to avoid the gloom, focus on happiness and write about ordinary events, random thoughts, gardens, plants, or even famous outhouses.

My bride and I have split the garden down the middle and have the final say on gardening techniques on our respective halves. We help each other when asked but respect each other’s jurisdiction. We have learned that there are many ways to garden; however, the more gratuitous input you get on your garden, the less the garden belongs to you.

On my side of the garden is an ancient outhouse, slowly but steadily leaning north at a precarious angle. I’ve considered petitioning The Corkery Council to declare the leaning outhouse a heritage site, much like the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. Our Leaning Outhouse of Corkery could become a significant tourist attraction. Finding exciting landmarks can be challenging since we don’t have a downtown or even a town to attract tourists. Outhouses of Corkery could be coffee-table favourites.

Our culture must have changed over the years because not many of us relish the thought of joining family members out in a two-seater outhouse during a blizzard, and reading an Eaton’s catalogue before using the pages as toilet paper. Like the new Parliament buildings, most of us have nongendered washrooms, but few have two toilets in the same room. The Parliamentary architects should plan for a multi-seater washroom if a subcommittee needs a place for long, boring meetings specializing in unloading copious quantities of BS.

I know Edmond rented out the old house before we moved in, and it is not hard to speculate that he may have had a pair of sumo wrestlers living here, enjoying the swamp and the double-seated outhouse. Two sumo wrestlers seated on one side of the outhouse could explain the gradual tipping of the structure, known as the Pisa effect. Several antique whisky bottles unearthed from the basement of the outhouse may help explain why, even today, one feels tipsy while seated there.

I sometimes wonder why we have such a big garden and put away so many vegetables for the winter. Both my bride’s family and my parents were gardeners. Going through a war when there was so little to eat led to a mentality of self-reliance and a need for food security. Climate change, questionable food additives, poison chemicals used in growing crops and increasing instability in the world make growing your food a logical alternative if you’re willing and able.

For my bride and I, it’s more about liking the smell of dirt, the joy of seeing tiny seedlings sprouting after the rains, the serenity of the early morning, and finding yourself when you want to lose yourself.

Gardening is the job God gave to Adam and Eve in the Creation Story of Genesis. Gardeners feel connected to life and new life in their gardens. It’s as close as possible to being present in the here and now and witnessing life unfolding around us.

Life is good, mysterious, and full of joy and peacefulness. That’s why we want more of it.


Hairy Peanuts



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