Joy & futility

It is, to be perfectly candid with gentle reader, one of those wonderful days in Ontario. It is that glorious day, in October, when the leaves on the trees have declared their fall colours, and a stiff, yet still polite, chill northish breeze, says that the summer is positively over. Canada, quite generally as her seasons pass, is the most beautiful country in the world. Our autumns are the finest. And today is as fine as life on Earth can be.

The summer is over, with its bags of dripping heat, and blackflies buzzing round them. We have reached a time when, if you haven’t got the harvest in yet, or landed the fish, you should apply for pogey. For our winters can be rude and humourless. God did not put the polar bears here in a moment of absent-mindedness. They were meant as a warning to travellers, that you have come far enough. Nothing north of where I sit now, could possibly be worth the trouble.

Some Warrens among my ancestors — not the main line, but close enough — learnt this after they were evicted from Zanesville, Ohio. United Empire Loyalists to a fault — a rather expensive fault, as it turned out — they next tried what I can only describe as rock farming, near Sudbury, Ont. Right next to Gauthiers, with whom they never talked. There is a place up there, with our name, not theirs, which I assume to be abandoned. (I once met a Gauthier, down here in the big city. She was still carrying a grudge.) There is another place north of Edmonton, Alberta, that the capitalists (stress on “pit”) have only got round to building a subdivision over in the present century.

Later, these people on my father’s side — the Sudbury rock farmers — decided that the rocks would grow faster in Hastings County, several days’ journey to the south; then Deseranto, one of Ontario’s more inhabited ghost towns. Later still, they just moved into Toronto.

They’d been masons back in England. I mean actual stone-masons, not the apron-wearing kind. Our affinity to rocks is thus deep-seated. You have to be brave, to truly love a rock; and patient, to wait for it to grow. Their handiwork could still be seen in the “new wharves” at Liverpool — until those silted over. The sight of stone and water, still fills me with a thrill. Surely there’s potential.

Everyone’s ancestors are like this, I claim; their lives ultimately futile. Do not bank on success in this world. Our future, anyway, lies in another. But we get glimpses of it, on such an autumn day.