Les Choses Sont Contre NousWednesday, May 13, 2015
|Rosa 'Fair Bianca' May 12 2015|
Around 1970 Rosemary and I (and daughter Ale) were living in a Mexico City outskirts colonia called Arboledas. From my mother, who was living in Veracruz we inherited her big and very dumb boxer called Antonio. He had a tongue so long (longer than yours Gene Simmons) that he could not close his mouth without leaving part of the tongue outside.
We had a back garden and a patio and we were much too young and stupid to give Antonio good walks. I would call out for him to tell him dinner was served, “Antonio, Antonio!” About a year later just before we had to put him down as he was old and sick a few of my neighbours asked me if I had a son or a student living with us called Antonio as they had never ever seen him.
We went to the Mexico City Pound/shelter where they injected
our poor Antonio. Rosemary was so sad that we decided to bring home then and
there another dog. We went to the dog cage and all the dogs began to bark at
us. I thought they were trying to tell us (individually), “Take me home.” A forlorn gray mutt who may had some terrier
in her (not very pretty) just stared at us. So we made our choice and brought
Mouche (because she was gray/black and almost as ugly as a fly). She was a
spirited dog but gentle with Ale (around 3) who pulled her tail. She never
snapped back. Because we were young a stupid we did not know that one should spay
a bitch. This meant that our free ranging mutt had at least three litters of
puppies that I could never get rid of. Nobody wanted them. It was my job to drown them. This was a
terrible action on my part and I not only suffered doing this but I had to
suffer the sad expression on Mouche's face. I had nightmares. When we left Mexico
City for Vancouver in 1975 we gave Mouche to my compadre (Ale’s godfather)
Andrew Taylor who fussed over her and she finally died a very happy and spayed
|Antonio in Veracruz|
|Mouche & Alexandra Elizabeth in Arboledas Mexico|
A few weeks ago I went to Stong’s Groceries on Dunbar where my daughter Hilary works in the one-person health & wellness department. On that day they had plants that were leftover from their plant sale a few days before. I was on the lookout for a bougainvillea for Rosemary (which she was going to give as gift to our Lillooet teacher daughter, Ale. There was no bougainvillea but there were many very good plants. I looked at them and I was thrown back to the dog pound cage in Mexico City in 1970. The plants were silently beckoning to me, “Take me home.” Some of the more selfless ones were saying, “Take us home.” I would have had I been rich. I told Hilary about my feeling and she immediately told me four words that have affected me deeply now for weeks, “Because they are alive.”
As a little boy about five I remember taking a tub bath in our Buenos Aires home on Melián Street. I remember that I had a thimble-sized puppet like little man. He went down the drain and I cried for hours. The little man was alive to me. He was part of me and I felt very sad that he would be somewhere, very cold, dark and wet, without me to take care for him. In many ways most of my personal (material) possessions have been like that little guy since.
I have 4000 books and more cameras (in this digital age, since my cameras have been well used they would be seen as junk) than anybody who is not a collector could possibly have. I have 11 or 12 four-drawer metal cabinets with negatives, slides and prints since I started shooting in the late 50s. Many of those pictures represent and era of politicians, actor, directors, criminals, etc of Vancouver.
In some way they are all alive to me. I am constantly reminded of this fact by the curious and not too well known theory of resistentialism. Inanimate objects (we as humans perceive them as such) do not understand that they are indeed animate. We mistreat them, throw them around and generally do not appreciate how they make our life easier. My cameras break when they shouldn’t. My flash chords are constantly in knots and trip over black extension chords. These objects do not like to be mistreated so they revolt.
I should know better. In 1955 Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C., who taught me religion with a smattering of philosophy and theology, told us that in the scheme of things from atoms to humans there was an upwards spiral towards consciousness. He was simply putting it in a simpler way than Teilhard de Chardin does in his Phenomenon of Man. The upward sequence is something like this, atom, molecule, cell, virus, amoeba, invertebrate, vertebrate to mammal and finally to man. And it did not stop there. He explained that man was part spirit and part body. A dog or cat had a limited amount of spirit but probably no self-awareness. From Brother Edwin went to angels, all spirit but no body to the ultimate and all-spirit God.
My 18-year-old cat looks at stares at me as she lies on my legs when I am in bed. I imagine (?) intelligence and wonder if she knows who she is and what I am. As she meows (constantly) for food and attention I think she is telling me, “Alex, pay attention to me. I will not be around much longer, let’s make the best of it while we can.”
Casi-Casi, Rosemary’s 18-pounder cat is sweet, easygoing and mellow. I can feel not only Rosemary’s stress but my own dissipate as we hold him. Why cannot more humans be like Casi-Casi?
The encroaching large trees from our neighbour’s house (they rent so they would never consider any pruning) are affecting my beloved roses. They not only need light but they need sun. They are withering away very much the way I feel my body is going. We are in this decline together.
People ask me what my secret for scanning my roses might be. Invariably I tell them, “I talk to them and they talk to me back.” What I really mean is that I live with them every day and I observe them and I know just when to snip one or two to suspend over my scanner.
If you have a garden it is mandatory to walk it every day. You might observe weeds or pests that have to be dealt with if your friends are to do well and be (feel?) comfortable in the garden.
It is inevitable that the roses (my hostas do just fine in the shade, but would do better with more light) will say goodbye. On some days I wonder who will go first they or their owner.
But all this is becoming moot as our health and our constant bathroom leaks and problems make it ever more difficult and expensive to remain in our home since 1986.
We live in an area where for the last 20 years demolitions have been the norm. These demolitions usually begin with the chain sawing of trees. It does not take too much imagination to hear the groans of the trees. The terrible noise of the cranes smashing the houses (in some cases kitchen appliances, bathtubs, etc are part of demolition noise) makes Casi-Casi and Plata run into the house.
For me a house is more than a shelter. Even cave dwellers decorated the walls of their homes. For me a house is a living thing. In it children have been conceived and born. People have died in them. People have had dreams and made plans for the future in them. I believe in some sort of ghost that will occupy a house once the tenant is gone. I can still feel or imagine Mrs. Young who had a stroke on our kitchen floor and somehow survived, sold the house and moved to Toronto.
Can ghosts survive demolitions?
Twenty years ago the thought that our house would be demolished if we sold it was a problem always in our mind. Now our feeling is that we know it will go for and be replaced by energy efficient walls and windows and radiant heated floors. We know that. We also know that once we leave we will not look back or ever return. The demolition has already happened. It is the moving that soon will have to begin. Rosemary and I look at each other. We know this.
About a week ago one of the first roses of the season was my white English Rose, Rosa ‘Fair Bianca’. She is a difficult rose to grow in my shady garden. Her scent, the English call it myrrh, resembles a complex combination of Pernod, lemon, whipped cream and magnolia soap. I could in my memory (it is very good for scent) smell exactly as she did when I brought my nose to her.
We are looking at houses which are being nicely found by Tim Turner. We are ambivalent. But leaks are multiplying and Rosemary know that the opening of our garden in June for the Vancouver Rose Society will be the last one. If we leave by late fall, many of our plants might go to a couple of botanical gardens that might (just might) want them
The idea of having a garage sale depresses me. Rosemary has suggested we rent a bin and chuck what we don’t want into it.
There is one comfort. Wherever we go, Casi-Casi and Plata (if she survives the year) will be with us. And every rose in my garden is represented in hard copy (digital that is) scans that preserve them in their prime as they were.