Sections

Russell Wangersky: Taking stock of the good things


Published on June 6, 2017

Man hands with carpenter's plane on wooden background

©© by Artem Merzlenko

It’s funny how a long spell of cold weather, especially if it’s capped by heavy rain, can sap so much of your goodwill. Or how world events, from the repeated recent attacks in Britain to the almost breathless news fear-mongering those attacks engender, can make you close your door, if even just metaphorically, and hide inside yourself.

Russell Wangersky
File photo

It’s not hard to understand that there’s a group of people who just seek to disconnect from the world, to escape the steady cold drip-drip-drip of inhumanity that seems to fall upon us daily. It’s hard, sometimes, not to want to be one of them, not to want to hang up the news and the Twitter account.

So here, instead, is a collection of small, and, to me at least, perfect things to think about, the sort of thing that can wash your world clean, if only for a minute or two.

Running a hand plane along the long side of an unhinged door, and having a great long curled wood shaving emerge from the tool, long enough to run from the door’s toe to top, unbroken.

The pine smell of that shaving, clean and bright and somehow reminiscent of the smell of grapefruit skin.

Split new spruce firewood, all in the pile, the wood still bright-white and fresh, the sap still thick and sticky and running onto your gloves.

A rumpled bed in an upstairs room on at least one hot day, everything about it exuding the definition of “languid.”

Trimming out a window, and having the last piece of wood, that angled-down rain-cap overhang, fit perfect and true.

Tearing old siding from an outside wall, and finding the wood behind to be in far better shape than you could imagine. Seeing the rake of chisels and old block planes along the face of very, very old clapboard, and wondering about the hands that held those tools.

Seeing the way lettuce seedlings crane hopeful towards the sun.

The sound of a distant lawnmower coming towards you, pulling away, coming towards you. The smell of cut grass, early in the year.

The iodine smell of an ocean beach, especially of kelp drying, even the rich sulfur smell of clam flat mud. The sea wind, once it’s not hiding ice in its teeth.

The wind on your highway elbow out the driver’s side window, the air whipping by, feeling your body tilt, obeying physics as the car fights gravity around a deep turn.

Wild strawberry flowers, simple and white and staring flatly upwards.

The ache in your calves after a trail has risen further upwards than you expected it to, and the view you unexpectedly have earned. The sound of moving water, big or small, over step-falls. The smell of newly turned dirt. The sweet taste of really fresh trout, and the lemon-sharpness of sorrel, a salad-leaf that might be hiding right there in plain sight in your lawn. Watching fish sip flies down through the surface of the water on a slow river.

A cold, cold glass of water when you’re sweating and you’re just down off the top of the ladder. The warmth of the sun when you’re lying fully stretched out on a bench. Walking home and passing through a band of the smell of someone else’s barbecue, and trying to decide what they are having for dinner.

I come back to some of those things over and over on grey battering days.

The world can be a better place. Heck, it is a better place. We’re better than this, better than the small-mindedness and the hate. And those of us who aren’t driven by hate sometimes have to fight to keep pulling up on small but important bootstraps.

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 30 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetelegram.com — Twitter: @wangersky.