I remember my father, at the end of the day, standing at the edge of the lawn, smoking a pipe and silently looking at the view. Quite obviously he was involved in a complex state of mind. The view is and was a grand one, looking out over a lake a half mile away, and through distant farms into ranges of rising hills. In those days he was transforming a beat-up old survival farm of the Eastern Townships into something of an estate.
His old Nova Scotian training in raking pebbles from the garden soil, carefully tending, and by infinite labor coaxing vegetables from a patch of ground, served him well. Such was the depth of the Depression that middle class people grew gardens for survival and spare cash in the 1930s. The training in care, saving everything, and living modestly never deserted him.
I once asked him why he disliked to play bridge. He replied:
-“Do you know how much a movie cost in the Depression?”
-“Twenty five cents. Do you think we had twenty five cents?”
Thus he found himself in his early fifties repeating the labour he had experienced as a child and teenager, but this time around he had a big spread. He had made it. The success that generally attended the well-educated and the survivors of World War 2 was his to enjoy. So he stood, smoking a pipe, gazing immobile at the view, and not doing anything, after a day of raking the soil of stones that would make, in a short time, a beautiful lawn.
I thought of him tonight, as I stood outside, smoking my own pipe, looking at the stars, the inheritor of the same property he worked on, and I still work on, fifty years later. Cutting trees, mowing fields, tending to things that do not pay money.
Though he has been dead for the past fifteen years, I only think about him these days about once a week. Whoever he was, he thought large thoughts. Life is good. Enjoy it. It does not last.