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RUSSELL WANGERSKY: No room left for beautiful

Aftermath. — Russell Wangersky/SaltWire Network
Aftermath. — Russell Wangersky/SaltWire Network

Out the door in the 6:30 dark, and even with the rain, there’s still a thin scrim of snow left across the windshield of the car, punched into a particular lace by the fat droplets that have gathered on the bare maple branches in the tree above and then fallen, punching their way through to the glass.

It’s spidered lace with thumb-print-sized perfectly round holes, and I wonder if even the best of lace makers could ever replicate it with thread.

But then I see the footprints in the overnight snow, first to the front door, then down the side of the house to the back. First in, then out, and I know someone’s been checking the doors at night again. They’ve stopped by the driver’s side door on the car, too, footprints overlapping. I try the car door, see that we haven’t forgotten to lock it.

And I slip from the curious to the practical, wondering what I should do about the late-night visitor. Tell the neighbours? Call the police? Check the doors twice before bed?

And that’s the way it always seems to be now, beauty interrupted.

On the parkway, walking in the freezing rain and the chill fog, and I notice a parking lot where the lot owners have changed their streetlights to bright boxes of too-white LED lights. And how they behave in the fog is very different, with the lights cutting overlapping triangles out of the mist with the precision of an architectural drawing. The thing is, you can see the lines of the individual beams of light cutting through each other, translucent triangles piling up as the light marches away in an angled line. There should be some way to describe that particular pattern of overlaid light …

But I’m already thinking about the next editorial I have to write, digging through topics in my head. There’s a constant march of them, two pieces of commentary every single day, deadlines on deadlines. I feel sometimes like something important in me has been broken.

By the river beside the sidewalk, there’s a stick with an orange piece of flagging tape, the kind of marker you might drive into the ground to mark a muskrat trap or some kind of snare. It’s new, and it’s back in under the spruce, a few steps away. Curiosity won’t kill the cat (or break a finger) if I keep enough distance.

But there’s no time to investigate. Not anymore. At work, the electronic pile of ever-extending duties is growing, even without me being there yet. I don’t take my phone out while I’m walking, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel them out there, building.

Last weekend, a northern goshawk exploded a pigeon in my backyard, striking it in the air and then covering the ground in a great circle of grey feathers and bloody snow.

I wonder, passing at the slabbed sides of the Janeway Hospital, if anyone has ever thought that the building’s cladding looks exactly like the on-screen default settings for a computer-assisted design program. Did they just get tired and say, “Ah, just leave it like that”? Twelve new emails came in while I thought about writing those two sentences.

The day fractures around phone calls and webinars. Webinars are the first circle of corporate hell: limbo.

Have you ever noticed how, in the one-way world of webinars and conference calls, people always over-explain things to the people on the other end? (I think it’s because there’s no audience in the room for presenters to take their cues from, and they think everyone is as interested in the minutiae as they are.)

Last weekend, a northern goshawk exploded a pigeon in my backyard, striking it in the air and then covering the ground in a great circle of grey feathers and bloody snow. The unfortunate pigeon didn’t even have a chance to finish its meal; its crop was torn open, uncracked black sunflower seeds spread out as if ready for planting.

A job interview is going on in the office next to mine, and I’m pulling for the interviewee, who is answering slowly, reaching for words. You can do it, I think, trying to put words down.

I realize I’m speaking for both of us.

It’s harder and harder to gather thoughts. It’s not just the new multitasked workplace, it’s not just the Pavlovian constancy of electronics, it’s not just the need for more work from fewer people — but perhaps that is all part of the tipping point.

I could be doing so much more.

No — not more.

But better.

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 36 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at russell.wangersky@thetelegram.com — Twitter: @wangersky.


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