Last evening it began to snow. The snow fell until this morning, a slushy combination of water and ice, falling more in globs than flakes, that never quite turned into rain because a cold north wind was blowing and causing the temperature of the air to drop by about six degrees. Walking into the wind, shortly before noon, wearing long johns, gloves, and a balaclava, I felt as though I was journeying through the heart of winter. For the last few months, it appears as if the seasons are blurring together and moving rapidly in and out of each other. Time has become confused.
The wind has been blowing like I have never seen it blow around these parts since I returned to them five years ago. It rushes and crashes like the waves I watched explode on the rocks in Georgian Bay one day with Jess, the spray rising more than one hundred feet into the air, us holding hands and picking our way across the stones to a cave we did not know was there, where we sat and held each other as the light from the day began to fade but still we sat, and I felt as though I was a little boat on a big ocean and the ocean was love and I felt then what I feel now, that I never want to be apart from her. About a month ago, the windstorm shifted to hail and it felt as though the sun had come out but, in fact, the clouds had ripped and formed a shelf across the sky. Then they began to bunch up like a carpet when it is pushed into the wall, all ripples and waves, and a great number of the seagulls downtown took off simultaneously, and, sparkling like white stones in the newly revealed sun, formed a “V” that flew westwards into the wind. Then the clouds began to roll up like a scroll and dropped into a vertical position.
“I think that’s a tornado, Ruby!” I said to my daughter.
“This is the best day of my life!” she said to me.
By the time I finished my lunch meeting and headed south and for home, the temperature had changed. The wind was no longer cold and the sun was shining. Chunks of ice that had formed around twigs and branches were blowing out of the trees and making splatter patterns on the sidewalk or drumming across the rooftops of cars and trucks parked in driveways. The river has flooded its banks, which is normal for this time of year, but many more trees than usual have fallen into it. One hundred years ago, people could drink out of this river. Two hundred years ago, all of this was forest. One week ago, I listened to an Indigenous elder speak about how, when she was young, one of her elders had prophesied that one day people would pay for water and the idea was so preposterous to her, clean drinking water was so abundant, that she said she couldn’t really comprehend the idea. Today the river – Europeans named it the Thames but it is the Antlered River according to the name given to it by people who speak the language given to them by this land – smells like an open sewer. But I only notice this after returning from a place with very clean air, a place like Iceland where your senses come back to life again because everything smells so clean, and pure, and alive, and, even then, it’s only a matter of a day or two before my senses shut back down again and I stop smelling all the chemicals and sewage in the water and can imagine the river is still alive. Of course, for as long as a river flows, it has life, but after having been dammed and poisoned and depleted of life, I think this river ebbs and flows like an animated corpse (“I beheld the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear”).
When I left London at the end of the ‘90s there was no army recruitment centre at the downtown mall—which used to be called Galleria but has now been renamed after a multinational investment banking and financial services corporation headquartered in Manhattan. Along with the recruitment centre, arms manufacturers have moved in to London to fill the gaps left by the collapse of the auto industry and the closure of other factories like the McCormick’s candy factory and the Kellogg’s cereal factory (I had a friend who worked there in high-school, folding cardboard into cereal boxes for ten hour shifts). Generally, the locals are very grateful for the arms manufacturers – General Dynamics Land Systems, Armatec, Militex, Davwire, Konsberg Defense Systems – which employ more than twelve thousand people. A co-worker of mine was recently hired by one of these employers. She’ll be making significantly more than she made working in social services.
“You should see this place, there are grenades and missiles everywhere!”
I thought about the Wech Baghtu wedding party and about how Canada stayed out of Vietnam and posed as morally superior to the USofA, all while selling millions of bullets and missiles and explosives to the Americans to use in Vietnam, and I thought about how little one can actually know about people one only meets in passing and I listened to this co-worker’s excitement and joy and I marveled, once again, at how thin the veil is between Christian do-gooders and the dogs of war. Christians and war and The London and Oxford Fusiliers (3rd Battalion, the Royal Canadian Regiment), who fought in everything from the Northwest Rebellion, to the Second Boer War, the Great War, the Second World War, the Korean War, and the War in Afghanistan (a history, it should be noted, which is book-ended by the killing of Indigenous freedom fighters). And the Wehrmacht, too, had “Gott Mit Uns” inscribed on their belt buckles. This slogan, “Gott Mit Uns” has also been adopted by the вор в зако́не, the “Thieves in Law,” Russia’s variation of a mafia, along with other Nazi symbols not because the criminals are inspired by National Socialism but because it was a way of giving the finger to communist authorities and turning one’s back upon Soviet society which lost an estimated twenty million people in the Second World War. In a similar turn of events, white people in America have given the nuclear codes to a malicious and delusional white man as their way of giving the finger to everyone who is not them and with whom, it is safe to assume, God is not with.