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The pleasure and pain of a summer top

I haven’t mentioned Theo because I haven’t spent enough time with him yet to say anything about him except what I have already told you – he’s nice. Pete came home alone and went back to the mine.

Dear Uma:

I haven’t mentioned Theo because I haven’t spent enough time with him yet to say anything about him except what I have already told you – he’s nice.

Pete came home alone and went back to the mine. Theo met some people in Whitehorse who were doing a trip on the Yukon River to Dawson City and he decided to go with them and take in the music festival there. Then he

called to say he was going fishing in Haines with some of the people from the river trip. Pete knows them and gave Theo permission, and that is the last I heard from him. He checks in with Pete every few days, as requested,

and I am told he is having a wonderful time.

For this I gave up dogs. For this I spent many dollars on books about step-parenting. For this I worried and fretted about having a youngster live with us and how we would deal with that.

Now I learn he is here only for the summer, and it seems little of that time will be spent in Watson Lake.

Glad as I am that he and Pete have established a relationship, I now feel at loose ends as I had cleared my work schedule to accommodate spending time with Theo.

It’s too hot to plan any trips of my own; it’s too hot to do much more than lie in the trailer, taking shallow breaths. The less one moves, the cooler one can be. Even turning the pages of a book can cause a film of perspiration

to form.

There are shady spots in the yard, but the millions of bugs are there, staying out of the sun.

Once again, the smoke from the forest fires hangs over the town and the sound of the water bombers fills the air. People are saying this is like the summer of five years ago insofar as heat and forest fires go, but I still like it

better than the two summers we have had here where cool temperatures and rain ruled.

I am not complaining, though I know it sounds as though this is a lengthy whine. I actually like heat, though I am not so fond of bugs, especially when they bite. I also don’t mind enforced laziness; in fact, I shine at being idle.

No, I am feeling deprived. I got just enough time with Theo to know I wanted more and I am missing the opportunity.

Though I have no children of my own, that I am aware of, your relationship with Jason always fascinated me; it seemed so effortless, intimate, and fun, at least until Sarah came along, but I didn’t know I envied it until Theo

presented me with the idea that I too could have a son, albeit a step-one. To my surprise, I found I wanted the experience. I was really disappointed to learn Theo didn’t plan on living with us.

You cannot have been taken unawares by Jason’s and Sarah’s news of pregnancy; it was clear even to me that this was a serious relationship. Andrew is right, Uma; you must accept Sarah as someone who is permanent,

who will not be going away. A grandchild will sweeten the deal.

I think your hesitancy about Sarah had little to do with her bisexuality and more to do with the recognition that she was going to be the one Jason wanted for keeps and you naturally didn’t want to relinquish your position as

the most important woman in his life.

I read that somewhere, ages ago, and filed it in case I ever had to pass it on. It feels good to have one less arrangement of words to have to store in my overstuffed head.

Cee and I are going to Atlin next week to visit with a friend of hers. I haven’t seen Atlin yet so I have that to look forward to; it is reputed to be stunningly beautiful.

When Pete comes in again we are going to Edmonton where I shall visit the famous mall for the first time. I think Theo is coming with us, but we will see. He doesn’t seem like the type to be interested in malls.

What have I been doing with these idle days? I have not been wasting them, as you might have guessed. I have been pursuing pleasure.

Pleasure is everywhere if one is interested in all pleasures from the gigantic to the minute. I am dwelling entirely with the minute, but not unhappily.

At this moment, I am seeking pleasure in making myself a fresh summer top using my newly acquired sewing machine.

Remember Bentham’s Hedonistic Calculus? We used to spend many a happy hour attempting to apply his elements to our pleasures.

Some critics argue that the happiness of different people is incommensurable, and thus a felicific calculus is impossible in practise.

Nevertheless, for pleasure, I have applied the elements to my little pleasure in making a summer top from a simple piece of cloth. I know this is not the sort of thing Bentham was thinking of when he came up with this

fascinating formula. It is not the sort of activity we applied it to in those long-ago days when we closely examined our youthful thoughts and deeds in an attempt to arrive at a philosophy by which to live the rest of our lives,

but it may be amusing. I am going to take you with me via e-mail as I embark on this experiment. Oh, how the mighty have fallen; it’s a long way from Anaxagoras and Heraclitus and entelechy to sewing a piece of cloth ….

1) Intensity: How strong is the pleasure?

Well, “strong” would be too strong a word, and there are variables. The pleasure is palpable when all goes well and vanishes utterly when, for instance, the thread breaks and the whole endeavour is brought to a halt while I

look at diagrams designed to confuse, trying to understand how to rethread a needle which is so small as to be almost invisible.

2) Duration: How long will the pleasure last?

That’s easy; as long as it takes to sew a top that is made only from two pieces of cloth, so how hard can that be?

3) Certainty or uncertainty: How likely or unlikely is it that the pleasure will occur?

Though I am trying hard to stay in the moment and make every step in the production of the garment a pleasurable one, I must confess, the peak of the pleasure will be when I drop it over my head and it transforms from a

wrinkled hunk of cotton to a stylish and flattering top.

4) Propinquity or remoteness: How soon will the pleasure reoccur?

It can reoccur almost immediately by the simple act of making another one, a possibility becoming less likely as I encounter difficulty after difficulty in the construction of this thing which at this point has come to resemble a

laundry bag with a narrow opening. I seem to have sewn up the bottom of the top.

5) Fecundity: The probability that the action will be followed by sensations of the same kind.

Not bloody likely.

6) Purity: The probability that it will not be followed by sensations of the opposite kind.

It has already been followed by sensations of the opposite kind, very intense ones.

7) Extent: How many people will be affected?

Three people and the two dogs accompanying them seemed to be affected by the sight of the sewing machine being thrown in the yard.

That was interesting.

The Jiffy pattern promised a top in 90 minutes. I made a sack, with one side inside out and the other one right side out, in 40 minutes.

I am choosing to feel pleasure about beating the clock.

No comments will be necessary, Uma; I think I know already anything you may have to say about this effort. You have to admit, though, that I am a living example of “the hope that springs eternal.”



Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.