It starts hitting in eclectic pieces strewn trailside. A large empty bird seed bag. A shopping cart beside Bruce’s bench, half-full of random items: an empty Huggies box, a red and white knit scarf, Monopoly money (as if consideration was given to purchasing a way out). Further along, a couple of white rectangles that turn out to be pillows, some of their stuffing in clumps that look like ice on the other side of the trail.
I picture the pillow fight between unmoored humans, their half-empty paper cups of Tim Hortons tossed aside as they embrace this fun way to keep warm.
A little further and there’s an empty laundry basket beside a white plastic bucket labelled “DEV” barfing – among other things – more Monopoly cash, empty pill bottles and Elivis Lufungulo’s high school soccer MVP plaque from 2011-2012. A small encampment with just one green tent sits beyond, camouflaged well by leafy green bushes adorned with red berries. Could anyone still be sleeping here on these cold cold nights?
Emerging from the bog, where the burbling, gurgling black waters soothe my soul, I’m jolted into the awareness that this is it. Fall colour is gone. Trees are black skeletons. Once tall weeds droop, dead brown.
Death. That season.
An unbelievable nineteen years will soon be marked without that person. Husband. Father of my children. Years and years of one-sided memories and conversations and love …
I like to think that we’ve grown. I’ve tried so hard to, as “they” say, “stand in your power”, but I’m a passive person, a go-with-the-flow type. Perhaps I’ll never find my power?
Snippets tumble back. Life’s debris. Strewn. A peck good-bye at the front door of a house I no longer live in. A failed attempt to get into the Christmas season; I was not ready. And the next night his family telling me news I couldn’t possibly fathom. “He did not make it.” What? Did he not make?
I stand on the high walking bridge and study the Thames River. I watch it flow, hear and feel its rapids. I see the ghosts of Indigenous people on the trail down there, talking, walking, hunting. Being. In peace with nature, time. Living in the flow.
Ah. Sweet peace. Is that not all we truly ever want?
Enough to eat. Shelter. Love.
I think about my high school friend’s daughter. She’s expecting. And her new husband just died in a car crash. Another November tragedy. Her grief journey is just beginning, with new life on the way. Is there anything more heartbreaking, unimaginable?
It’s our unfortunate bargain with life that there will be death.
I make my way back past the silent tent, pill bottles, abandoned pillows. Seasonal debris once unseen, unfamiliar on my trail. Past Bruce’s empty bench … Bruce has a daughter on Bowen Island, BC like me. I haven’t seen him for a while. I think of it as his bench; he often gets his coffee from Tims around 9 am, then sits, has great convos with passersby. I hope he’s good.
I pick up the bird seed bag, toss it in the trash can at the trailhead, wondering who was feeding birds out here, but also thinking I should come down with gloves and a trash bag before the snow flies.
Perhaps I’ll set up the Christmas village when I get home? The grandkids are coming for US Thanksgiving; they’d probably enjoy it. I suppose Christmas can be considered before November ends. It is only a few weeks away.
But, like Dr. Seuss’s Sam-I-Am, I emphatically do not like the rotten things November tends to serve.