The Abomination of Desolation Part II – Weltanschauung
7 May 2021

Weltanschauung; noun 1. a comprehensive conception or image of the universe and of humanity’s relation to it.  2. worldview.

The time of our quarantine draws to a close.  Travel plans are being made.  The last round of testing did not reveal any new cases.  At midnight we’ll be free.  The curve flattened.  While this was a brief setback, I have been fortunate this past year to do what I do.  As much of the world has had to endure lockdowns and countless other privations, I have been able to walk freely the deck of a ship, to work outside, to experience, with startling immediacy, the change of seasons, to watch the complexion of the sea and the sky, to get paid a wage.  These last weeks of incarceration are nothing to what many have suffered in the last months.  Those with young families stuck at home, the elderly and infirm, the ones who live alone.  Besides, it is perhaps the fate of the multiple passport holder to feel terminally restless at the best of times.  To imagine greener grass.  Even when content and happy, I will always wish to be in the country I am not.  And while these 14 days have been a challenge, they have not been nearly as bad as I thought they would.  I have had access to three meals a day.  Internet.  A space on the floor on which to exercise.  I have had the window.

I thought it would be apropos, for context, to read about St. John of the Cross, the famous Catholic mystic and poet, and his incarceration.  He was kept in a cell 6’ by 10’.  Tortured.  Fed scraps.  He was only able to read his breviary by standing on a bench and holding the book up to a narrow shaft of light which shone through a small hole in the wall of the adjoining room.  Despite these privations and humiliations he was able to write poems of serious beauty.  He composed the stanzas in his head, having nothing with which to write them down.  Five hundred years later they remain timeless celebrations of love, life and devotion.  

In Savasana, each morning, I lie back and imagine I am light as a balloon.  I’ll float out my hotel window, tethered to a large spooling drum by a silver ribbon wrapped around my right ankle.  It gently unwinds as I float upward.  Up out over the trees I have assiduously studied for these last days, over the Sault locks and the St. Marys river.  I’ll trace the rivers cursive line through the country.  Rock Cut.  Mud Lake.  Detour Light.  Higher and higher over Lake Huron and the other Great Lakes.  The world recedes until it is the plastic globe of my primary school classroom.  Eventually it is time to come back.  The drum turns, the ribbon tightens.  My eyelids flutter open.

Jeff, the chef on our ship, snapped a picture of me and Chris leaning out our respective windows in the manner we have grown accustomed to socializing. I have travelled in the past 14 days, not just in my imagination and through the view from this window, but also through these guys and the stories they’ve told me.   Jeff’s descriptions of his travels in India in the early ‘90’s.  The foothills of the Himalayas, food he ate and some intestinal mishaps along the way.  Chris, the son of German immigrants, told me how his grandfather, a soldier, was marched off to Stalingrad and never seen again. His parents met in a refugee camp after the war and subsequently moved to Canada.

I’ve watched now, for two weeks, an area no greater than a thrown stones distance.  Within it dwells an ecosystem. Though the fox has been conspicuously absent for five days, there are mice and voles here. Snakes and worms.  Creatures whose entire existence will be played out in this small space. The dandelions have appeared, their yellow heads bright orbs of colour, harbingers of spring, they have only just poked out between the blades of grass where sparrows forage for seed and grub.

But this is nothing new.  This is unremarkable.

Meanwhile, the Manitoba maple to my right sways in the light breeze, like a drunk commuter on the subway platform as he waits for the last train home.  Within the trees I can see pools of stagnant water.  Upturned mirrors, they capture the crosshatch of tall grasses and the branches above, and in between those dark lines, the silver glimmer of the sky.  I can see the line of shadow the hotel casts.  The demarcation of the tree line, before me and beyond.  Continuing outwards to the bright blue of this distant Northern sky.  Grades of light. Ascending.