is long since gone to ghosts—both upper town and lower without further
distinction. But in the bottom of
the long valley, from the abandoned kitchen gardens of the shanties of the
Chinese mining workers vanished in the 1920s, rhubarb has gone to seed, and
grows wild over the slag heaps.
It is a
place both mute and eloquent with human absence.Coal has given the valley a sooty cast.
rhubarb grows over what was the prosaic—the gritty—quarter, where the mining
operations were.Of all the
immigrants it was the Chinese who worked there in the tipple, appropriately
named—the place where loaded cars were emptied by tipping.
By a trick
of perspective the heaps of slack and slag, the wastes of coal considered too
inferior to sell, seem to dwarf the great mountains behind.The reaches of the vast Canadian
Rockies.And the homely rhubarb
growing in the coal and rock has outlasted the church and school, the pool hall
follow the meandering trail, one of those irresistible footpaths that rambles off
through overgrown grasses and wildflowers toward the distant saturated
evergreens and indigo blue mountains; a two-wheel path stained black with coal
dust; parallel tracks that have no purpose anymore but to suggest a way of
going—back, and on, into the heart of the suddenly heightened afternoon.
They lead unerringly
to the vanishing point.
And if you
climb up through the birch groves to the upper town, you find meadows open and sloping,
and here and there small pines grown through with cinquefoil, fireweed.Lovely light-speckled groves, like
Gustav Klimt’s blue-dappled Tannenwald, woods where the summer sunlight sheets
later, with the evening coming on, whether or not you have expected them, bits
of rock walls and foundations appear quietly out of the abandon.A roof tile.The grander houses of the more advantage have vanished as
surely as the shanties—the music and porches of the mining bosses, their moustaches
On one particularly dark day back in the Bush Era, when it was clear that things were only going to get worse, our writing group was greatly heartened by this story about poet James Merrill and a transformative green scooter.
James Merrill wrote in his memoir, A Different Person (1993), about visiting a doctor about his depression, saying that he didn't know how to live or how to love, he just knew how to write a poem. The doctor, he said, "listened closely, then acted with undreamed-of kindness and dispatch. 'Come with me,' he said, in a flash ushering me out of his downtown office and onto the back seat of a smart little pale-green motorscooter. I put my arms, as instructed, about his stout, gray-suited person, and off we went in sunlight, through traffic, under trees, past architecture, over the muddy river to lunch." (The Writer’s Almanac, 3/3/3)
Our hope is that this collection of writing will give readers the same je ne sais quois that brief but immense lunchtime voyage gave us—encouragement for going on; inspiration to do something simply good for ourselves each ordinary day; a smile; a moment of respite or recognition; time out from global numbing; a pause for weirdness, wonder, and delight. We want to share what gives us pleasure or some keener satisfaction putting down as well as picking up.
So hop on the green scooter with us. Read and be well.