Archive | February, 2021

Heroes come in all forms

23 Feb

The reminder email suggested patients arrive five minutes early for COVID vaccinations. It is more in my nature to arrive a lot earlier, so I made a plan. the first step: start the car to be sure I can get out from the snow that encircled it. With that in mind, I donned my coat several hours before my appointment and went outside.

tick, tick tick

After sitting idle for two weeks – an unexpected consequence of last week’s snowstorm – my car would not start. I tried again, went into the house for the spare fob, and tried again.

tick, tick tick

No luck. My heart started beating wildly. This was the worst possible day for this to happen. I returned to the house, feeling shaky and dug my AAA card out of my wallet and called. Then, I paced until the robocall came, telling me that Roadside Assistance was five minutes away.

I waited in the street and saw the truck down the block. I walked to the middle of the street and waved. The masked man who exited the truck was a sort of hero to me at that moment. He hooked up the cables, but the car didn’t start. I deflated a bit.

“Let me adjust the connection,” he said gruffly. This was a man of action, a man of few words.

Relief flooded my body as my car roared back to life. I gushed my thanks, then asked, “I need to drove for 15-20 minutes, right?”

“More like 30,” was his terse, but kind, reply.

I thought for a moment. My Advisory class started in 20 minutes and I needed to drive for 20. This was a dilemma, so I explained my situation and made a plea for further assistance.

“I need to send an email to my students telling them I am cancelling Advisory, but will be there for Humanities. Could you watch my car while I do that. I’ll be back in less than five minutes.”

He agreed and I was in and out in a flash.

Bu the time I settled into the driver’s seat, my hero had driven off. I shifted into drive and followed suit.

Al Purdy’s Snow

16 Feb

In my last year of high school, a wonderful English teacher introduced me to the poetry of Al Purdy. My favorite poem, “Snow at Roblin Lake” came from his book The Cariboo Horses.

Snow at Roblin Lake

The exactitude of snow is such
that even the Eskimo
achieved mere mention of the stuff
with his 20 names for snow:

the woodpile slowly disappears
all colours blur to white
the shorelines fade to infinite
distance in the white night –

In fifteen minutes more the house
itself is buried deep
in half an hour the world is lost
on a lazy nebular dead end street –

My little lake is not a lake
but endless ocean where I’ll fish
some cosmic Tonga Trench and take
Leviathan on a bent pin –

We had a very different sort of snow experience in Portland over the weekend and that inspired me to reflect on how different my experience was to Al Purdy’s.

Al Purdy’s Snow

Al Purdy’s snow
was gentle –
falling softly,
slowly,
blanketing the world
in a layer of time
and silence.

My snow comes
in a rush,
covering a layer of ice
then, itself,
covered by another
layer of ice.

There is no silence
the next morning
as limbs fall from trees,
ice snapping,
sliding from roofs
in the sudden rush
of a rapid thaw.

In his snow,
Al Purdy saw the
infinite,
the cosmic.
In mine,
I see only
the transient.



Best laid plans

2 Feb

After a year at home, everyday feels the same. I get up at the same time, and follow the same schedule. I live, teach, and relax in my living room. I take Richard to the park at the same time everyday. That’s why any change to the schedule feels almost celebratory.

Despite the sameness of every, I use my school planner religiously. I was thrilled last week to see “10:00 Library pick-up” written in Friday’s planner cell. I looked forward to it all week. Because I only go out when necessary, I try to consolidate trips out. I added to Friday’s to do list:

mail packages @ USPS
get groceries
pick-up library holds

I left home and ticked off the first two items without at hitch. I timed everything perfectly and arrived at the library a few minutes before it opened. A few people were in line, and by the time I arrived to join them, standing on the designated spots, the doors had opened. As always, the line moved quickly and soon, I was at the doors.

“Last name is Gillespie,” I said, smiling behind my mask.

Behind the table in the lobby, the librarian scanned her clipboard. She flipped to the next page. And the next.

“Did you say Gillespie?” she asked. I don’t see it here.

Suddenly, doubt stabbed my heart. The appointment was in my planner, but had I actually made it, I wondered. It’s amazing how many thoughts can pass through you mind in an instant. I remember thinking about making the appointment, weighing the pros and cons of each option, wondering if I should wait until more books were ready for pick-up. Had I written it in my planner, but not made the appointment?

“It’s not a problem,” continued the librarian. “We can check those out to you today. I’ll be back in a moment.”

I stepped out of line for the next person to give their name, and raked through my memories again. Beofre long, the librarian was back with my stack.

“I’m so sorry,” I said as she placed my book on the tray used to pass the books from librarian to patron. ” I guess I thought about making the appointment, but didn’t actually schedule it.

“We’d rather the books were going out instead of just sitting there,” she replied with a cheery smile in her eyes.

I thanked her and left, still wondering about my error.

Yesterday, I received a holds notice from the library. I scanned the appointment options, considering the most convenient time. I scheduled a pick-up time, and recorded it in my planner. I also saved the email message confirming my appointment.

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