Thursday, November 11, 2010


The other night was the first baby-free night out I'd had in maybe five months or more. A friend and I caught Royal Wood, in a much more intimate venue this time, right around the corner from where I now reside. Walkable, in fact, though I had to drive my car so that I could drop off and pick up my son at my parents' place.

I managed to walk part of the way. The night was crisp with nary a wisp o' wind so it felt a lot warmer than is usual for November. And let's just say my body temperature increased considerably once inside as not only Mr. Wood was clad in his trademark suit, but three other gentleman graced the stage similarly ensembled. Yum yum yum.


Now I am not the kind of gal who generally goes for a man in a suit. Honest. The kind of men who have won my heart have been, let's just say, a tad more casually clad. And that's an understatement. But there is a certain era of fashion I am enamoured with and it stretches from the 1930s through the 1940s. When women wore garters and men wore suspenders. There was just so much support back then, garment-wise. Maybe Casablanca is too damn hard for me to watch without my heart bleeding all over the damn place, but when a man dresses in that way, in such a way that evokes that era and makes you think of the past, of history, of a more romantic time. Well, that just makes my knees weak. He wouldn't even have to sing as beautifully as Royal does, so the fact that Mr. Wood has such dulcet tones. Well. You get the picture. It's enough to make a girl swoon. And I just don't get the chance to swoon very often of late. So I grab 'em when I can get 'em.

Part of the fun of the night, besides the exceptionally fine company I kept, was the fact that I became rebellious. And by that I mean, I brought my new Canon Rebel 2Ti with me and snapped away. It's one of a few fancy-ass gadgets I have purchased since moving. Once again, I'm having a lot of fun with photography, a near-perfect (though not quite) method of prolonging the memory of a moment. I'd missed a few months there due to the breakdown of an old camera I'd been using. It wasn't even my camera but one that my sister had graciously leant to me. Thankfully the Camera Gods have since smiled candidly upon me.

And thankfully the venue was so cozy that I was able to get up close and personal for some shots. In all honesty, I was thankful to have the distraction of the camera in my hands, the distraction of my friend and our chatter. Because sometimes the lyrics Royal sings are, as my ol' pal e.e. would describe, words "i cannot touch because they are too near."

Arousing not only the suspicion of the neighbours

And a few times, I admit, I weakened, along with my knees. And I listened a little too attentively to what he was singing (and I'm sure the G&T I was drinking didn't help matters), but the tears started flowing and I had to excuse myself to powder my nose.

See, remembrance isn't always joyful. It isn't always fun or funny. It's sometimes like the quick jab of an extremely sharp dagger. Right under the breastbone. In and out like lightning sometimes. Other times it ain't so quick. It can linger and haunt. It can feel like surgeon's hands exposing parts of your insides during some kind of intense, 8-hour operation while you are definitely not under. It can be, sometimes. Excruciating. In its clarity. And thoroughness.

Thankfully Royal's voice is soothing. Compassionate. Humble. And maybe these qualities are what is also evoking certain memories for you of Some Other. Whatever. My point is, remembering isn't always pleasant or painless. And sometimes, really, it's not supposed to be. Sometimes, compared to the kind of pain suffered by those who fought wars long before we lived, remembering is the very least we can do. Literally.

This morning at the cenotaph

After the concert, driving across town to get my baby boy, I turned on the radio. The CBC was repeating a broadcast of Stuart Mclean's most recent Remembrance Day episode of The Vinyl Cafe. It was close to midnight so I only caught the last bit of it. He was reading from a story written by a CBC listener. A young man named Chris Erwin. About Chris' trip to France with his family. How he had miraculously been able to locate the proper reed with which to play his bagpipes at the memorial at Vimy Ridge. And then, as Stuart finished reading this incredibly moving story, he introduced its author, Chris, who was waiting in the wings and had begun to warm up his bagpipes which he then slowly proceeded to play. The lament he played was The Flowers of the Forest which is the song that is apparently always played once wreaths are laid on every Remembrance Day.

I had just turned the corner near my parents' home and I had to pull the car over because my vision had blurred with tears. When I wiped my lashes, what I made out in the mist and cold of the night were three words lit up in the parking lot of the school beside which I'd parked.


My heart flooded with memories. Some of people I'd met. People I'd known, now gone. People I'd loved, not in the least forgotten. People who were absolute strangers to me who had moved me in some way or other.

I began to think about war. The World Wars were not so far removed from me. My grandparents and parents had lived through each of them. Had survived them. I thought about my parents' era. The 30s. The 40s. Maybe the reason that time seems so romantic is not because of films like Casablanca. Rather, films like Casablanca exist because what is romantic from that time is that everyone KNEW life was PRECIOUS. That any day could be your last one. Literally. No one living then needed that spelled out for them. So people squeezed in every emotion they could into the seconds they breathed, the steps they danced, the food they chewed and swallowed. The scripts they wrote. The celluloid they shot. The love they made. Each action was savoured and cherished.

When the bagpipes ended, I thought about that scene in Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement. It is the moment Mathilde is hoisted and carried on shoulders through the long, waving ocean of grass that had been such a desolate, barren scene of battle not so long before. I remembered sitting in the dark of the cinema when that scene begins and how it quite simply took my breath away. It is the absolute balm of that grass. The vibrancy, the verdancy of its new life. The hope of it. You cannot fathom that this green and peaceful place had been that same small patch of land where so many lives had been lost.

Regrowth of soil. Of spirit.

And I thought, whatever wounds we carry, war- and otherwise, may we all know such peace in our hearts. May we all stand in long grass and remember what was sacrificed in order to wade through it. To feel its blades caress our thighs. And not the barbs of wire it once sprouted.

Peace to you all.

Music: Royal Wood: Thinking About


Brian Miller said...

smiles. glad you had a nice night out...and been a few days of heavy rememberance...

Grace Kary said...

Nancy - this really touched me. Thank you for sharing.

Kerry O'Gorman said...

Thanks for such an intimate look into your heart. I too have thought about remembrance and those who I never knew who were lost forever. I recently discovered my great great Uncle's resting place in France. He died at 28 on the first day of Vimy Ridge. But it's important to feel those things in order to preserve a life once lived. By the way...Royal Woods 'Juliette' is one of my all time favorite sad romance songs.

Susan Fish said...

Nancy - Every word of this is important and exquisite. Thank you.