The new CAO may be gone from Watson Lake, but now we have rats. According to rumour, a recently vacated house was home to folks who raised rats and when the people left they loosed the rats to become creatures of the wild.
There is still quite a lot of snow here, though the roads are bare; a fairly reliable sign that spring is coming, and this year we have the promise of rat babies to frolic amid the garbage that litters the landscape when the snow is gone.
This, my third Yukon spring, is proving to be a harder time for me than the previous two; I believe I am suffering from a mild case of depression, possibly brought on by the seemingly sinister combination of the arrival of rats and the departure of the town manager, less than two weeks after his much-heralded arrival. Is there a connection, I want to know; did the town manager know something we do not? Something that caused him to get out of Dodge?
I was telling Cee about this unfamiliar mood over cups of tea and she reminded me that such a feeling is not an uncommon one for those who have a winter season.
She also suggested I spend far too much time concerning myself over things I cannot change, things I discover while surfing the internet or gazing out the kitchen window. She went on to say I tend, in her opinion, to get caught up in one thing only to discard it in short order and go on to the next.
There is an element of truth to what she said; I have a homeless mind, ceaselessly searching for the next idea that resonates, holding forth the promise of some sort of salvation for the human race. Though I have almost been forced to the conclusion that civilization is doomed, the question of what it is doomed to keeps me busy. Will there be a dramatic extinction or will it be a slow decline as the environment decays? My preference is for anything but the worldwide homogenization and vulgarity we are presently witnessing.
There seems to be nothing worth taking a stand on, no moral imperatives. Is there nothing that is just flat-out wrong? We no sooner ready ourselves for action, for adopting a cause, when there is news that throws our conviction into disarray and doubt, a condition that soon sees us quiescent and passive once again.
Our leaders are no help, with their endless equivocation; and as Yeats so eloquently said, “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
Walking home from Cee’s house, I was musing on the article I saw in an opened magazine on her kitchen table. My friend is preparing herself for another round in her never-ending battle to lose weight, a battle that begins every spring when the threat of lighter clothing reminds her that her body is all wrong. The article contained recipes for losing weight, an oxymoronic idea if there ever was one.
It made me think of all the ways we are told we are wrong. All day and everyday the media is informing us of the myriad ways we can change and improve our sorry selves and our wretched lot.
Firstly though, we are bombarded with information telling us in lurid detail what we are doing to ensure the continuation and worsening of our pitiable existence.
We are fat and we smoke and we drink.
We are poor at romance; we love too much or we love too little, depending on our gender.
We are lousy parents, either cosseting our kids or neglecting them. We send them to inferior schools and feed them in a manner guaranteed to cause permanent health problems.
Our parents suffer from our neglect and there are quizzes to prove what bad friends we are.
Even our pets need better treatment from us; despite the billions of dollars spent on food, accessories and veterinarians, we are made to feel bad if we don’t take them to doggie daycares, or send them to obedience school.
Bosses are cruel and employees are lazy. Sexual harassment is rampant in the work place, as are toxic working conditions.
Nothing we own is good enough – there is a constant need to be ‘trading up’ with our homes, our furnishings and our vehicles.
Our physical appearance is never even remotely good enough and now there is a proliferation of surgical procedures that are within the economic reach of those not necessarily rich or famous. With the advent of the metrosexual, men too are falling victim to the knowledge they are sorely lacking in having a pleasant aspect and they are flocking to be manicured, pedicured, waxed, dyed and Botoxed.
Our bodies not only don’t look acceptable, they are sick inside. Most medicine cabinets reveal a huge variety of pills for headaches, insomnia, backache, indigestion and even skin tags.
For those disinclined to take drugs, there are vitamins and minerals, enzymes and proteins, powdered stuff to mix up into foul-looking sludges and drink in hopes of achieving health.
Of course our mental health is in a desolate state; the numbers of people on anti-depressants is really shocking and even children are given the magic pill for happiness and high functioning. For those of us who don’t want pills there are thousands and thousands of self-help books, therapists, “groups,” and expensive weekends designed to make us better than we were.
We are too serious or we are too frivolous, too smart or too dumb, too selfish or too giving, too passive or too aggressive, too sexy or not sexy enough, work too hard or don’t work enough, spend too much or spend too little.
We live in homes that are dirty and disorganized or we are living in a manner described as anal retentive.
Then, to add to the stew of anxiety, there is the news that many of the products we buy to fix ourselves up are toxic to the point of danger.
Our new car, if it doesn’t kill us first, will likely be recalled.
Cosmetic surgical procedures can go terribly wrong.
Furnishings, if not made a certain and expensive way, release gases that may cause all manner of illness.
New shoes can cause permanent foot problems: did you not discover first if you pronated inside or out? Tsk tsk, and aren’t you stupid.
Medicines can kill or cause lasting health issues.
Toys have been known to be murderous, as has baby furniture.
Pet foods often are made with unlikely things such as old rubber boots, or sawdust.
By the time I’d reached my own door, I was feeling pretty damned good, having realized that if indeed I am depressed I am not alone, and that we all have been given good reason to be down in the mouth.
I pulled off my gloves, noticing how soft and supple was the leather, how perfect the fit, and how ideal they were for wearing in this transitional weather.
Making tea in my sunny kitchen, I was aware of a growing feeling of deep happiness. I took my drink in my favourite mug, the one that always pleases me with its green and blue glaze and the way it fits my hand just so, and went out to sit in the porch. The sun was warm, and there were pussy willows on the branches of the bush in the back yard. My clothes were comfortable and my chair was, too.
Nothing in my body hurt or ached; I was going to have a cold moose roast sandwich with horseradish for my lunch. Life was very good for me, here in this place, with these people, in this vast and beautiful land of peace.
There will be another town manager, and the rats will find their place.
I think I am going to be just fine.
Heather Bennett is a writer
who lives in Watson Lake.