Three Things podcast - Episode 37: Snap! Crackle! Pop!

Happy end of the week, friends! Here is this week's Three Things podcast (5:27):

I use this list to gently force myself to do a better job noticing the things I notice that make me feel a bit happy or a bit grateful these days. Because, these days. These days can make you feel obliterated. Maybe that's the play. Anyways, I don't have the words, the personality or the stomach to make my stand in the anger arena, so, as my friend Fish points out, I go micro. 

This week micro sounds like: 

1. Snap!

The wind was King Lear wind and it brought the curtain down on the mountain ash tree in our front yard in Parkview where it had stood and served for more than 50 years. Spring after spring, the tree was a public house for travelling waxwings out to drink in a bit of the shiny, new world. In summer, it gave us cool shade. In fall, the tree plugged into an invisible electrical current, and glowed. In winter, the red berries held tiny mounds of snow to resemble the hats of so many Russian Orthodox patriarchs.

The boys in the fort, by Amanda McRoberts

And now all of that is gone because the tree in which the boys had their tree fort is gone, gone like boyhood, a victim of a nighttime blast of September wind that tore the tree apart. Which is dramatic, but not quite accurate. The wind was only part of the force that caused the tree to splinter. It could splinter because it was, I learned while looking at the wreckage the next morning, hollowed out by wasps. The tree wasn’t as much felled by the wind as left unable to withstand the wind. It only appeared healthy because it wasn’t put to the test. When conditions changed, it didn’t bend, it broke.

Which makes the tree, in its final earthly act, a kind of truth teller. We may all live for sunny days—no rain, no snow, no clouds, no wind. We may believe we are at our best in those perfect conditions, that we somehow deserve and merit those conditions. But who we truly are might also be how we keep going when things change. Maybe we see this most easily with the weather, the wind and a broken tree. Maybe I’m not honest enough with myself yet to know the ways I hollow myself out. But I’ll keep a closer eye on the inside, with thanks to the tree we no longer have outside.

2. Crackle!

We had a nice, little picnic at site #2 in Laurier Park last week. It was a good day to sit on a chair. A good day to listen to the overhead geese on their test flights. A good day to throw a football, flip a burger, a good day to make a fire in the iron stove. It’s always easier to fan the flames than to start them. I am not a great fire maker. My method: crumple some newspaper into what I sometimes imagine my brain looks like (words here and there, lots of air) and set dry kindling around it, scratch a match head to life and watch as the paper catches fire and then wait and wait for the pine to say yes, I’m all in.

At home, when I pull the extension cord out of the wall socket once my laptop is back to a 100 percent charge, I sometimes see a tiny spark in the outlet, just for a split second, and I wonder about all the fire in the walls, and the fires under the hoods of the traffic on Whitemud Drive, and the fire in the mitochondria in my own cells. There are fires on the news on my TV because TV cameras, like moths, go for the flame. Just like I move toward the light on my TV. We had caps as kids, and if you were quick enough with your thumbnail, you could could bring out  the spark in the chemicals in the thin red paper, and smell gunpowder. I have always loved staring into fire. I used to imagine the sparks were tiny beacon lights on planes at night. Who’s in those planes, I wondered?

Fire is wild.

3. Pop!

Last month, my mom texted me an important question. Rewind: My folks are getting older. They’re downsizing. There are very human issues to be sorted out. 

“We are cleaning up,” she wrote, “and found these bottle tops. Are you interested?” 

It’s tough to hear that your parents are giving away their bottle tops collection. But life moves on, I suppose. I said thanks but no thanks only because none of the bottle tops on offer were Happy Pop bottle tops. We were a Happy Pop family, not Pop Shoppe. Happy Pop had a bottling plant on 127th Avenue in the northeast end.  Happy Pop was my first experience with the pull of graphic design and brand. The logo was a smiley, yellow faced, barbershop quartet-hatted, bow-tied fellow. Basically, an emoji 20 years ahead of its time.  

All of this came back as Mikey, our youngest son, arrived at the picnic last week carrying, somehow, out of time, a vintage blue and yellow Happy Pop pop case. He found it in an alley. He thought I might like it. He might have guessed how many memories he carried back in it.

This week's podcast has real sound from the chainsaw crew, Auntie Shelagh, the geese, the fire, Edmonton pianist Brendan McGrath and, on the end bells, Slavo Cech, the Hephaistos of Edmonton.


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