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Green is the Colour May 8, 2012

Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.

“Close my eyes so I can see you.”
— Pink Floyd, Green is the Colour

Studying has its own Odd diversions that have nothing to do with picking up the Hansel and Gretel fire hazard of papers strewn through the house, the one plate and cup you keep rinsing off for the next meal and putting in the dish drainer. You fill the coffee pot in the bathroom.

You realize you are supposed to read something you have entirely forgotten,a few chapters of a wonderful nature book written by Aldo Leopold back in the 1940s (1949, you are supposed to remember the year of publication by 10 a.m. tomorrow, fool) and you realize how much Edward Abbey cribbed from it but that’s not important. There is a section entitled Clandeboye about a marshy area in Manitoba.

You once live not too far from Manitoba. Winnipeg was about the same distance from Fargo as St. Paul but you never made it there in spite of the lure of legal Cubans. As It Happens on the CBC was about as close as you got. Clandeboye doesn’t ring a bell but Leopold’s description is intriguing.

One thing most of us have gone blind to is the quality of marshes. I am reminded of this when, as a special favor, I take a visitor to Clandeboye, only to find that, to him, it is merely lonelier to look upon, and stickier to navigate, than other boggy places. This is strange, for any pelican, duckhawk, godwit, or western grebe is aware that Clandeboye is a marsh apart. Why else do they seek it out in preference to other marshes? else do they resent my intrusion within its precincts not as mere trespass, but as some kind of cosmic impropriety?

I think the secret is this: Clandeboye is a marsh apart, not only in space, but in time. Only the uncritical consumers of hand-me-down history suppose that 1941 arrived simultaneously in all marshes. The birds know better. Let a squadron of southbound pelicans but feel a lift of prairie breeze over Clandeboye, and they sense at once that here is a landing in the geological past, a refuge from that most relentless of aggressors, the future. With queer antediluvian grunts they set wing, descending in majestic spirals to the welcoming wastes of a bygone age.

It is not 1941 but just over sixty years later. You launch Google maps and chose Clandeboye, MB over Clandeboye, New Zealand and Google in all helpfulness drills down on a tiny village of a dozen streets. If you zoomed close enough you could probably read the water tower, find the cafe and gas pumps, the silos on a siding that make it a place. You zoom out looking for this place of wonder and notice as you click the zoom bar in just a certain place the pixelation of the area, as if you had zoomed in 1000% in Gimp. This is Odd, so you zoom part way back in and notice the grid of fields, the Mondrian regularity of the various crops, the very thing Leopold railed against so eloquently in his book. Off to the side somewhere is a Canadian national park, a road snaking toward it. It is not named Clandeboye.

You cannot go back to reading Leopold. You take the pile of books and notes on the couch next to you and place it on the floor among all the others. You close the Kindle window and email and Google maps and open this page. The image of the pixalated fields won’t go away, like the green spots you thought were forever when you stared too long at the rising sun that last morning on the East Coast, saying farewell to the ocean before you moved to the interior, to Fargo, to a place a few hundred miles from Clandeboye.

Give up on studying. Everything you need to know from all those books from Thoreau on fills that one screen. Open a beer, close this page, go to bed. Try to make the pixelations go away. Remember the skies filled with geese one Saturday during your son’s peewee football game, a carrier pigeon armada honking south to Louisiana. You wanted to go with them.

Try to get some sleep. The world we have made for ourselves, sparrows on the blacktop, the starling whorl over Decatur, will still be there tomorrow. For a while at least.


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