Opinion

Impressions on a Saturday morning

It’s morning. He dredges up the red preserves with a spoon from a Mason jar and smears it on toast. Even though he doesn’t know what it was made of, it’s certainly jam, an indistinct flavor and sweet. That’s all that counts; sweet red muck on a shingle.

Tea by the teapot, growing cooler by the cup. A churlish sentiment on his part; a man should carry himself upright, laugh at adversity and take his tea strong and black. There are those in a bygone day in Allagash who would agree.

The neighborhood is seldom quiet on summer weekends. There is always the tap-tap, tap of someone repairing something badly with a hammer, or grinding noises that penetrate the morning air, halted only by an abrupt screech with some encountered obstacle. Worse still are the lawnmowers, always roaring, the louder the better to shave grass down to ground and call it conquered.  

It may be the height of summer, but winter is coming. It’s a favorite phrase of his; stolen from “Game of Thrones,” a show he’s never watched. The poplars have taken on that dry olive color of leaves about to expire. September will prove deadly, finishing them off such that they flutter to the ground as if to say “Farewell summer. Winter is coming.” Oh, but autumn is so lovely in Maine, even with tourists.

He’ll take the autumn over spring and summer as the penultimate rounding out of the seasons. Spring is that Russian thing, a word they have which translates into something like “ocean of mud,” bogging tanks and infantry columns down, swallowing whole armies. Ours translates into the single word “slop” and things go uphill-ish from there. He never took to summer. Sticky heat and the danger of being blasted into oblivion by a thunderstorm.

He acknowledges having been chased off the water too many times by what his late brother called “thunderbangers.” Worst place to get “caught out” is on a river in a rowboat with no place to hide, reduced to making noises like a mushroom under an overturned rowboat while the heavens blaze and blast overhead. He misses his brother, the comradeship. The fishing was good, however.

Down below in the railyard, a train engine idles at a steady rhythm. People don’t pay attention to trains anymore, particularly when they’re idling. He grew up with the train’s decrescendo and crescendo roaring as it picked up another loaded boxcar. There would follow the metallic ‘bang, bang, bang’ of the cars settling into each other behind the potato houses; back when potatoes were stored for shipment by train. The sound lulled him to sleep in his attic bedroom.

The engineer, a friend of his father, once asked why there’s a light on in the attic late into the night. The father said, “Oh, that’s the boy, probably reading.”

In his newspaper days, they let him run the engine once; the power of the diesel’s throb turning into a roar and the whole engine shuddering at the push of the throttle. A boy should experience this once in a lifetime — raw horsepower moving tons of rolling metal.

He is a child of the fifties, unimpressed with the technological flash and fancy of today’s modern gadgetry. It’s all light and electrons, he thinks, when the world he knew as a boy was made of steel and wood and really hurt if and when you ran into it. Nothing is ever as well made as it was in those days, but he thinks that’s an old man’s sentiment. A laptop does everything now, and they’re fast becoming obsolete. He thinks change for its own sake tends to cheapen the experience and make the worst people rich. The world, as usual, is heading in the wrong direction.

A cup of cold black tea refreshes and changes the mood. There are a good many wonderful things in this world, though a lot of them are consigned to memory.

He hopes that doesn’t become obsolete.

Dave Wylie’s life and work experience runs the gamut from newspaper editor to carpenter to grant writer to boat builder with lots of other work wedged in-between. Wylie currently is president of a management company that oversees an elderly housing complex and president of the local historical society. He resides in Madawaska.

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