The Outsider: Gasping for air
|By Will Jones - The Outsider | April 21, 2017|
It was as if I’d been scuba diving and there was a malfunction with my breathing apparatus. My chest was tight and panic had begun to set in. I felt like I was drowning. Thankfully, decompression was at hand, albeit of a different kind to what you see in the movies when the limp body of the leading man is thrust into an oxygen tank and his good looking co-stars battle to save his life.
My decompression came in the form of the view of my first tree-lined lake and the first large expanse of unbroken forest, as I drove back from the airport towards Haliburton County.
Visiting my dad back in Blighty had been a difficult week but there were lots of lovely moments, catching up with family and friends. I’m glad that I went. However, possibly the most disturbing part of the trip was not my dad’s condition, I was kind of prepared for that. It was the realization that England is way too crowded for me.
Houses are stacked, row upon row in their tens of thousands wherever you look, their so-called ‘back gardens’ are the size of your garage (and no I am not exaggerating for effect), bordered by six-foot high fences. The tiny lawns in almost every front yard have been dug up and replaced with paving stones, to enable the owners of these boxy little abodes to park yet another car on the driveway.
And cars! Sooo many cars. All small, rounded edges, looking like brightly coloured beetles. But beetles stuck in slow-moving procession, as traffic jams cram every major route. Their drivers; they look like beetles too, angry little insects, their pincers waving wildly at anyone who dares to cross their path. But what got to me the most was the often grey, miserable demeanor of people as they bustled around the towns and villages, being annoyed at the constant need to shuffle, shift and sidestep to avoid other grumpy pedestrians.
And so it was that I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw that first lake, drove through a rock cut, over a hill and was greeted by a vista that consisted entirely of sky and trees, no sign of human existence other than the skinny line of the road that snaked before me, devoid of a single car. Here in Canada there are areas where it is intensely busy, bustling and vibrant and that’s OK because sometimes crowds and a cacophony of noise are fun. We can dive to the pressurized depths that are our sports events and theme parks, shopping malls and city streets. We can immerse ourselves in the exhilarating crush of the urban human condition. But when the time comes or the need arises, we can kick our flippers and float away from them, travelling back to our solace of lakes and forests, our villages and our open spaces. The places which, until you have been trapped down deep for too long, you don’t realize are your salvation, your decompression chamber.
I can breathe again. I’m so glad to be back.
WILL JONES - is The Outsider