“The borders always shifting…”

This morning I am at my desk, almost dizzy with lack of sleep because of worry about an issue in my immediate neighbourhood. I’ve alluded to it in earlier posts, the proposed erection of a 63 meter telecommunications tower across the highway from our property on a tiny far corner of land owned by a local resort, adjacent to a popular environmental field studies and interpretative centre. Imagine that for a moment. You drive up the Coast with your children, maybe you’re bringing visitors from elsewhere too, and you have in mind a few hours in a wetland location, looking at displays about flora and fauna, taking a walk through nature. The interpretive centre itself is a green building (it even has a green roof!) and you might make a note to attend a future workshop about sustainable energy. So this is your plan and you are surprised to find that you have to enter the site by driving under a 63 meter tower. You can hear it buzz as you pass it.

This morning things look a little more hopeful in that the letters several of us have written to our local government and phone calls made to contacts at the telecommunications company responsible for the tower as well as careful study of the paper trail leading to the decision to allow the tower have revealed a number of lapses in both protocol and, well, let’s just say ethics. It’s actually worse than that but right now I’m saying enough. Maybe more than enough.

What I want to do now to move away from the ugly mechanisms that are at play in the world. I don’t mean I will turn my back entirely. I won’t. But right now I want to think about my own work and the solace it provides me when I wake, sleepless, and come down to my little study at the edge of the forest. I’ve been looking at the individual essays in Blue Portugal, due out next spring. Sometimes when I read them, they are instructive in ways I’d forgotten. From where I sit, I can see a tendril of grape vine finding its way around the corner of the house, reaching for somewhere to hold, and that’s me this morning, reading the title essay and coming across this short meditation on the grape known as Modrý Portugal, “modrý” being Czech for blue. (Note: in the book, I use the page as a field of composition, with sections justified to both margins or else centred on the page, because I want them to move, to entwine, to shift the way we read just a little. This section is right-justified.)

The borders always shifting, archduchies and principalities, entire countries absorbed and then eventually released. Slovenia, Austria, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Burgenland, Illyria. And certainly wine would have been served, made from those ancient vines that never saw Portugal, never waited out an Iberian winter for spring and the wild irises at Sagres, the oranges and lemons bright on their branches in February, near Faro, the cool tiled churches. Perhaps a name gives a plant notions, that it could travel in winters to settle by the sea in a canvas lounge chair, sip a little wine itself (a dry vinho verde, a rich port), could stow away in a corner of a vessel heading to South Africa or the New World. To overhear a woman praying with her children in the great loneliness of steerage quarters, rough linen valise under the bunk, diapers drying on an improvised line.

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