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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