Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Final Read

Like any man who wants to get anything done, I have my routines, largely Benedictine in nature. I'm almost canonical in the way I keep the hours of the day - and night - and this routine is only disturbed or set aside for the most important reasons. It has to be pretty clear that it is God who inspiring me to alter the human rule. From midnight to noon, for instance, is reserved for theology, meditation, and music research, as far as the mind is concerned, and lighter mental stuff for after lunch, which also means more often than not for after the nap which replaces the sleep lost in the very early risings. The evening is taken up with dishes, a dvd, a little more music practice, the bath, and the last readings of the day, that is, evening prayer in the divine office and something additional, in the last several months, a children's story. Recently, I finished the Arthur Ransome list from a to z and then for the first time in my life, took on Noel Streatfeild.
The set time for reading the Nelson Daily News, an afternoon paper in its last years, was before supper, although as our delivery boy for the past three or four years has been a very active all seasons athlete, his games sometimes put the News off until just after supper. He is a great kid and I'll miss him. I had assumed his little brother would take over when he moved on, as was the case with the Vancouver Province route that passed from me to my younger brother. The little guy has occasionally been relief man, if Dylan's games were out of town.
But for the last week of NDN, as it's summer holiday time, I didn't see either of the lads. An older man took their place and his schedule varied over the last five days. Once or twice before lunch, another time so late I did not find the paper until the next morning.
On the final day, Friday, I only found it on the top step - not the mail box where Dylan always put it - after the evening entertainment was over and the household had begun winding itself toward sleep.
But there was not simply the final edition of something that had been part of my life since 1964, there was also a mood. A spiritual mood. Something from You Know Who. I was actually pleased that the paper had shown up when it did and went off to the cell so I could leaf through it by myself.
For one thing, it was the last chance at seeing if the editor had decided to print what would be my last letter to the News, after more than forty years of writing in it, to it, or just plain appearing because of a play or other cultural activity. I had rendered a few words toward the prospect of rousing community interest in a successor. But the letter did not show up. Thus my letters-to-the-editor career ended as it had begun. In the spring of 1965, still utterly bemused by the leadership of the diocese and the university, I had taken pen to paper, waited for many days, then trotted down to the editor himself and retrieved it. I also forgot about it for years, until 1988 as a matter of fact, when I a reporter for the Province that I was backgrounding on the predatory Father Monaghan told me I had "known all along and done nothing about it!" In a few days the memory of the letter came back to me and I told the reporter about it. 
In the towns we lived in after Vancouver - Alert Bay, Ocean Falls, Terrace - there was no such thing as a daily newspaper. The first two communities were simply too small, and while Terrace was similar in population, this had happened only recently, and there had never been an impetus for a daily journal. I rarely read the weekly and I think I only remember it because it possessed on its staff a very fine amateur actress who I was on stage with in the Chalk Garden. I can recall being mildly surprised that the Terrace press should be so modest, UBC, with a not too much larger population, could boast a tri-weekly.
When I arrived in Nelson I became aware of the existence of a daily immediately, and knew it would be a significant part of my time here, that it would record to some degree the presence of prophecy and theology in the Kootenays, although I did not foresee then that so much of the presence would have to do with the arts. Nor did I foresee that an even greater coverage, I think, would be given to my beloved, through all her own work with the museum, and her weekly column. Her column, on heritage, was collected by some of the readers, and the advertising person told Shawn it helped sell ad space. It may also have made some readers feel more comfortable about her husband.
But because she worked at the museum after 1983, and because the museum was the place where they kept the old NDN's, bound in green or gray bindings, some months to a volume. I could easily walk in and turn over the pages dealing with earlier times. Not too often, mind you, for I could too easily get involved with the old days, which were the provenance of other writers, and try to think up stories about them, whereas my legitimate area was more current, and definitely more theological than anything in those pages. But once, just before I had occasion to write to the Vatican, I found on the table where the curator was indexing back issues, a pair of volumes decades apart. I browsed in both, and found that God was out to make a point about purgatory.
I took them in chronological order, and found the older edition, from before the First World War, full of the names of people who, as far as I could spiritually intuit, were in heaven and did not need praying for. But the more modern issues, from the 30s and 40s, were a different story. Ouch. As I basically like the human race, this made me grateful that I was a contemplative, and could help the poor blighters move along. And, of course it also made me grateful for the power of the Mass, which is even more effective.I am not suggesting, of course, that every name in the paper was that of a soul still locked up in spiritual purgation. There may in fact have been only one soul that was still in that situation, or perhaps the relevant symbol was merely the time factor, universally indicated. God had said to me previously: "Nelson is nothing but symbolic." Therefore everything in Nelson, like anything mentioned in Scripture, has to be taken with a grain of interpretation.
Thus it made sense, I suppose, that my final reading of the News should be a distillation of the spiritual history of the area and a wonderfully sweet and consoling realization of all the grace and mercy God and his angels had conferred on it for the last baker's dozen of a century.
Nelson Daily News, and all its staff and readers over the decades, rest in peace.


2 comments:

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cabbage ears said...

Oh Ken...the loss of the Nelson Daily News is even more magnified in your thoughtful and profound blog. I know that it meant a whole more to Don than he would care to admit. I know that he checked it out faithfully on our visits to the Castlegar library. I did not. I did not have that crucial bond to Nelson but I still understand appreciate the loss. Lovely blog