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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 38 page 18


Feeling the Breeze

by Alan Cohen

Once you've been working for a few years
Vacations change their character
What was once a hedonistic delight becomes a discipline
Like backpacking up a mountain
You start out under the trees, walking
But you're out of shape and breathe heavily
You don't see much because you're still wondering whether you gave that file to Mr. Caster Whether you brought enough socks
And did you lock the basement door
You're not hearing the birds singing
The ferns go unnoticed
And when you stop to pitch camp early that first day
Tired and hungry and bored and wondering if you chose the right thing to do with your time off You have just a moment of relaxed pleasure
Before you have to set up the tent
And make a fire and cook the beans for dinner
And you wonder "Why the hell am I cooking beans on a mountainside
Tomorrow morning I'm just going back down
And I'll drive back and spend the week at home"
You fall asleep and dream of work and of a childhood sweetheart
But wake up tranquil with no more thought of going home
You are challenged by the wilderness
And it demands from you the self you were before you ever started work And you begin to find yourself
Halfway up you even begin to have partial views of the flatlands
Things are not quite where you thought you would find them
The lake you passed in the car on the way to the base camp was not due south as you thought but somewhat to the southwest And it is not oval but pear shaped
You think so is the Earth
And begin to derive a similar perspective on your life
From a number of vantage points as you climb
Until finally everything from the top is laid out sensibly far away
And you think you have clear how you can correct your errors
And modify your life to be more useful and enjoyable
But by then you must descend into the working world
Before you go you take a last look around
Here on top of the mountain
You feel you are what you should be
You hear now the birds in the bushes and their calls and cries
You see the lichens in the crevices of rocks
Feel the breeze lifting the hairs at the back of your neck
Content without contention
And then you begin the descent into the real world