I awoke to a gloom out the window right there around seven or so, lookin' at it like it as though I'd awoken to find it staring at me through the window, inquisitive and curious enough. Darkened, dreary, the radio still shrilling some kind of rock, maybe April Wine I think. Ya, Sign Of The Gypsy Queen, there it is. So I pull the comforter up over my shoulders with me seeing it all unfolding outside and figuring any minute the cold drizzle will come sopping in through the screen to get me.
And so that's how the day began. I'd been up in East Gwimbellbury the other night to celebrate Dave's birthday which I'm told at his age and dads'age isn't something you really want to celebrate anymore yet everyone seemed to have a great time enough, there didn't occur any issue. Middle of a pandemic and people show up hopefully to be supportive of a friend and all, or in our case, an uncle.
Throw on a comedy special on the drive down and sure enough I pass out cuz' I'd been at it all day again, having a good time and fully aware of it. Now, waking up with all the low cloud coverin' the tops of the trees springing leaks all over the place and staining the asphalt a different shade of saturation, I figure maybe today I pay for the playfulness in retribution of my sins from yesterday and yesteryear.
Or maybe not. I'm head north later - you know how it is. A collective panel of inner restlessness voting in favour of exile for a little bit and just get the hell outta here. Charge the camera, phone, computer, pack a cooler, rifle, extra warm clothes and head for El Rancho in the heart of the Alvar. Listen to the Woodcock spook during a walk in the low area. Sandhills somewhere on the endless ranchland, or maybe coyotes at night just as the moon starts its sortie. That's where my heart goes and is what my heart needs.
Sanctuary from brake dust and dead end conversation under orange glow streetlights overtop manicure grass lawns cut drone bee perfect to signify the stature of the man and his lawn and his hedge. Here lives a respectable man, not a deplorable vagrant type with no direction, no nest egg, no means to fit in. And good, keep that behind me while I sit in the still of evening eating a well-cooked fireside hotdog listening to cattle bellow, loving every single second of it.
There is, of course, more purpose to it then that and that only. It always has been a place that a man can provide for his loved ones in a perpetual state of seasonal harvest. There is firewood here, berries, apples, deer, bear, hare, grouse, woodcock, duck and goose, and one can engage in the most primal instinct next to sex, which is to provide. To provide is to survive. There always was and always will be a tenative drawing to come here for sustanence for me, which may or may not be a hunters' drive nor may it be spiritual, but a calling nonetheless. One that can't be ignored. In no way has it ever been a camp-out-kill-fest of any sort.
Last time we were here a couple weeks back, we'd seen deer in the ranch grazing into the wind, so we'd just sat down and watched, and watched, and watched. Beautifully eloquent in all that they are, perfectly designed, survivalists. They faded into the cedar thicket, disappeared into the shade, we left and walked back to the trailer saying nothing but each alone with our own thoughts reflecting the world we live in at home and up here.
The alvar could be the only place in all of Sleepy Town, Ontario that remains beautiful all year, having no single season that lacks more than the last. In the winter deep, it's downright desolate enough to stop a soul dead in its tracks. It'll freeze a tear to skin with its cold comfort. Snowshoe Hare tracks tracing across fresh snow and then the Buntings out in the open as to absorb the wind in big flocks, taking off as I walk the gravel road past Mary-Ann's old place and then climb up onto the corral looking in thinkin' bout the cattle drives I never saw.
By then there isn't a heifer to be found on those ranches. It's a different kind of quiet without the symphony of the other seasons' collective. There's no telling if you're arrived on some different planet faced with chronic winter syndrome like Planet Siberia or something in the way of it. Then outta nowhere, you cut a fresh set of deer tracks, or maybe even turkey which do live out there too. Coyote walk up and down the road that maybe gets ploughed but maybe not, too. A pack of them usually in the winter, they're everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. Masters at their art and speaking of respect, I've nothing but it for those wild dogs out there scratching out a living right there in the middle of the Alvar.
And, like phantoms, you rarely see them cuz' they're always playing games with the night, two powerful allies covering one another. I'd have hunted them before, unsuccessfully, yet caught a brief glimpse of two that first time, looking like a hovering dog of grey, gliding effortlessly just the way it all intended them to. I couldn't have taken a shot even if I'd wanted to, then get up and question why the hell I was out there in the first place, emptied the rifle, and walked back to camp sayin' nothing. That same night, I'd heard them howling a couple properties over, stirring up those ghosts deep in my core, but also make me ponder a landscape without those howls at night.
So I'm heading there because it's what is needed.