For my mother, on the occasion of her 70th birthday.
I’m glad to be from someplace that is a real place, not some god-forsaken suburb built on any old former farmer’s field. I’m glad to be from someplace that’s not a destination (there is no reason to go unless you know someone) but when you’re here you know you’re not just anywhere; a place where streets end in bush that’s not for “trekking” (whatever that is), or “cottaging,” (even worse), but bush that goes on and on.
A walk will not lead to a celebrity sighting but maybe a shot-up old car, or a bear-scratched tree, a ground-down ancient mountain, or a weedy lake. It’s a hard place, built on rock: impacted, exploded, stretched, scoured, scarred, burned, blackened, mined, and smelted; a place of hard people: muddy boots, calloused hands sweaty in black leather mitts, thick French beards and toques, talking next to trucks, sleds in the back, getting ready to follow a trail carved from hard weather:
“How she’s goin? Goin’ out today?”
“Ya, goin to the hut on Wanapitei,”
Snow drifts against Inco Town houses. Inside, away from the clarifying cold, or at hotels, rowdy families and friends, too much cigarette smoke and not-craft-beer in the hands of the not-beautiful people, workers, foul-mouthed gallows humour, sardonic and cutting, salacious, maybe even cruel (to sucks, who don’t get the joke, so get it, or get lost).
Hard living (the birthday balloons didn’t go past 60), but soft hearts; wrinkles from laughing, not old age:
“Give ‘er till the end, boys, go-fuck-go,”
’til the heart attack or cancer.
In me, a hard trace still left after I shed my skin in the city.