Maxed Out 

Seasons and chimneys on the mind

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Overnight, or so it seems, 2006 has entered its dotage. The aspens, dogwood, saskatoons and the lone out of place maple bordering the Dog have dropped their drab, end of season colour and switched on their ironically warm reds and golds. Any day now, a wind storm that seems to come out of nowhere will strip away all pretence of warmer months and they’ll dance naked in the crisp autumn air, revealing neighbours’ houses I generally forget are just on the other side of their bushy borders.

Fall arrived officially while I was traversing the prairie. Fall in the prairie isn’t announced so much by a change of colour as it is by a change of texture. Fields of wheat, oats, canola and other cereal crops stop swaying in the relentless wind and become stubble as combines lumber toward the distant curve of the earth… then it snows.

Unhappy cottage owners have shuttered summer away, drained their water systems, trailered their fishing boats and shrugged grudgingly toward winter. Locals, so few in number and rich in years they can’t keep the neighbourhood firehall running anymore, are laying in firewood, tuning up snowblowers, hoping they can get another year out of their Ski-Doos and wondering who among them will still be around when things green up again.

Me, I’m dreamin’ so much about skiing I can smell ski wax in my sleep.

Or maybe that’s still fear.

As Dog days dwindle toward just a few, all the jobs I’ve been procrastinating doing — pretty much all of them — loom large. Largest of all has been the job I’ve been trying to avoid all summer… and all last summer if truth be told.

I was puzzled a year ago when I arrived to open the cottage and found something that looked vaguely like a chunk of asphalt lying beside the house. There being nothing paved for several hundred feet, it was a curiosity the origins of which I couldn’t begin to fathom.

Later in the summer, the penny dropped. The long discarded object could only be the top of my chimney. At least that was my best guess. The top of my chimney is high. Very high. Running along the outside of the house, the chimney and house depart company at the lower roofline. The hip roof goes off in two angles — steep and steeper — and the chimney just keeps going and going and finally ends somewhere near the 40-foot elevation. It is the CN tower of chimneys. And when I looked up, with the aid of binoculars, wondering if it was the source of the puzzling detritus, I could clearly see one of its topmost bricks was loose.

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