Pin It

Bottomwriting March 20th 

Our great uncle George greeted us with the same salutation every time we arrived at Springfield Lake-—skin pale and hungry for sun, limbs ready to push through cool, fresh water-—for summer vacation at the cottage. "Welcome to God's country!" Uncle George said with an expectant grin. I say expectant because he expected us to break into wide grins ourselves-—and we did-—to mirror his own. Uncle George was the youngest brother of eight Flinn brothers-—two girls, Mary and Adele (or Del) on either end. George was the one after our grandfather, Nicholas, or Nick. He and Aunt Marg brought their camper to a vacant gravel lot between our grandparents' cottage and that of Uncle Leo-—the one before my grandfather-—and Aunt Beryl. So you had three brothers with summer spots neighbouring each other on the same lake for several decades. Uncle George passed away last year, leaving only Aunt Del, the youngest of 10 kids. Uncle George was 90, or maybe even 91 years old. An avid athlete, solid family man and good Catholic, he went from God's country to the Promised Land-—heaven, eternal rest and all that. At least, that's what I'll say in his honour. Because I don't really believe it myself. Not because, or only because, I'm a lapsed Catholic but because I don't believe in promised lands, period. The promise of the promised land' is a slippery, if not empty, one. It suggests that you'll be alright if you're just here, in this place. Never mind what's going on inside of you, your mind and body. Place plays a part, but not the whole part, I've come to believe. I'm not a huge fan of U2, but I like songs here and there starting with *Joshua Tree*. I think Bono captures it best in the song "In God's Country": "Sleep comes like a drug, in God's country/Sad eyes, crooked crosses, in God's country." I'm sure I read more negatively into that lyric than Bono intended, but it's a good leaping off point. See, when I was a kid, or even a teenager and young man, and visiting-—vacationing-—in Nova Scotia, this place was very much God's country, a promised land. Indeed sleep came like a drug in the captain's bunk my grandfather installed-—a pair of them-—in the bedroom at the cottage my brother and I shared for many years. (Of course they were put in there years before we were born.) So I fell into deep sleeps with cool lake air coming in the window, exhausted by another day on the lake (playground, proving ground) and comforted by this idea of family going back and deep-—that I had a history, or was part of a history. Now, I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I have lived here for almost six years. And it no longer holds promise for me. Its place as "God's country" has more to do with sentiment, a memory of my Uncle George. Though it sounds dramatic, I see more the "sad eyes, crooked crosses" of the city now. But it's a city I love and hate at once. It's a stormy relationship we have, me and Halifax. I remember questioning the marketing *creative* used for the doomed-to-fail 2014 Commonwealth Games bid. I was on the ferry, crossing over to Dartmouth, and noticed the stickers plastered all over the vessel. They simply read: Here. That's it? Well, Here' is not an answer-—an end-—in itself. Here' is not enough, man, I thought when I looked around. It's hard to make a living *here*, harder than I think it should be sometimes. It feels smaller, more conservative and reactionary-—resistant to change or growth-—*here*. It seems, at times, less friendly and welcoming and more suspicious and accusatory *here* than tourism officials and government-—sometimes they seem one in the same-—might have one believe. ("Come to life." That whole campaign baffles me.) We pour shit into the harbour *here*, oil and nothing else into tanks to heat homes *here* and the sidewalks are cracked and jagged. It's not that much cheaper *here* than most other places and it's hard to get around by foot or public transit and it sometimes appears that a lively, enlivened downtown equates to how many bars you can get pissed in *here*. But *here* are the many things to love about this place: you can reach many unspoiled coastal areas, crossings of land and sea. You can see life from land and from the water, as a friend of mine said. It's tough to make a go of it, but all the people I've come to know and care about here are making a go of it in imaginative and versatile ways. There are amazing artists, musicians, writers and so on to be found here, doing what they do in unsuspecting ways, unexpected places, hidden rooms and tucked away corners of downtown and up the sloping streets into the central-north end, where I live. So, if there's any promise, it's in the people one knows. It's not the place. It's not *here* and the lame and unclear inference that's supposed to make. I go down to Barrington and sometimes get really depressed by it (especially when the blasted Harbour Hopper drives by in summer), its emptiness. It makes me wonder how my cousin, and Uncle George's eldest grandchild, Craig, is doing it at his restaurant, Chives. But he is. Whenever or wherever I move I won't find the promised land there either. I'll simply find more good, cool and kind people, like I have here. Prolific local freelancer Sean Flinn wraps up his tenure as arts editor this week at the Coast. Got any ideas for the bottomwriting? Stories? Rants? Novels? Send them to


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Latest in Literary

In Print This Week

Vol 24, No 21
October 20, 2016

Cover Gallery »

Real Time Web Analytics

© 2016 Coast Publishing Ltd.