Sensorium

Something about late summer mornings such as these — the heavy dew and cool air, crisp, but devoid of the freshness of spring mornings — that makes me imagine the scent of eggs and bacon frying upon the stove. Because it was always late August when we’d visit him, my father and I, in his little house on the Saint John river. And the mornings were like this, when the river fog had only just begun to burn off, and the day’s heat had yet to settle in upon the land. Mornings like this, with the raucous rattle of a murder of crows descending onto the tin roof of his garden shed to devour yesterday’s bread crusts. The sharp odour of cedar trees mingling with the heavy but exciting scents drifting from the kitchen. Eggs and bacon. Toast. Tea. Entering through the doorway into the precise glow of the fluorescent circular to find him in a chair, hair slicked, nimbus of cigarette smoke settling around his lean Bogartish features, a diminishing Export clutched delicately between his still-strong fingers. The leather of his skin. A working man. A backyard farmer. A man of tools and sweat. A cook. His warm smile in welcoming. Stubbing of the butt into the ashtray as he rises to get your breakfast. Eggs cracked into the bacon fat-slicked pan. The smell of it simultaneously cloying and glorious. His quiet mannerisms. His obvious peace and joy to be performing these simple tasks for his son and grandson. Creation in consumption. Serving you with the pseudo-stern advice to eat it all up, lest it be given to the crows. And then out the creaking screen door, out into the dissipating fog to begin his day. Vegetables to be dug from the ground for the night’s supper. Potatoes. Carrots. Squash. Beans to be picked from the trellis. Raspberries to be served in cream for dessert. The sun pale and amorphous behind the thin layer of fog and his plaid flannel-clad back disappearing into its filtered light. On a morning like this — he, living on in memory, given life anew by the triggers of scents and sensation recalled and reborn. I take in the morning and these images are held within it, in a flash of near-incoherent and inexpressible memory, all of this, all of him, caught forever within a breath of air.

An old antique black and white photograph of a young, lean man standing, leaning against a tree in front of dark windows


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