Opinion » Maxed Out

Yet another task force?... Been there, done that



Early in the morning of September 11, 2001, a warm, late summer sun was sparkling on the placid waters of Sulfuric Lake. Bald eagles traced lazy circles in the rapidly rising air, ignoring the trout dimpling the surface of the water, sucking up whatever was hatching at the moment. An extended family of Canada geese bobbed for edible tidbits they were finding in the marshy bay to the north. Loons relayed their maniacal call-and-answer cries seemingly across the length of the lake and an assortment of mergansers, grebes and mallards paddled past with no particular agenda but getting on with life.

Lost in my own ritual of getting on with life — strong black coffee and a meditative state brought on by staring unblinkingly at this scene — I was approaching the state of bliss most often associated with the phrase, "Ignorance is bliss." I was, truly, ignorant of everything else in the world other than the natural dance transpiring within my limited range of vision. Time, if it was passing at all, passed slowly, a trick of relativity.

And then the phone rang.

The phone was one of the few modern conveniences resident at the as yet unnamed Smilin' Dog Manor. In point of fact, the phone was one of the only conveniences, modern or not. Having taken possession only a few days before, the list of conveniences ran no longer than the ringing phone, running water, electricity, a propane stove and an ancient refrigerator. Furniture consisted of a few lawn chairs and the "bed" looked suspiciously like sleeping bags on slim air mattresses. We were camping... just with a much nicer tent.

Had there been a way of accessing the Internet — and thereby fulfilling my weekly commitment to this page — without the phone and its painfully slow dial-up connection, there would have been no phone to ring. Alas.

A friend from Montreal was calling. The half of the conversation I heard was, "We don't have a TV." "We don't have a radio either." "They're doing what to the World Trade Centre?" "That's unbelievable."

And so it was. I took in the information, third-hand hearsay at this point and returned to watching the eagles and finishing my coffee. The world, particularly the American-centric world of North America, had gone down the rabbit hole and the most pressing thing on my agenda was digging a garden bed and taking another small step toward beating back the wilderness encroaching on this tiny speck of Earth in the southern Cariboo mountains. Meh.

It was almost two weeks before I saw footage from what had, by then, been shorthanded to 9/11. It was still impossible to miss, still dominating all media. It seemed considerably more unreal than, say, watching eagles and osprey dive for fish swimming in blissful ignorance beneath the surface of the lake, which seemed like an uncomfortable metaphor for the people beavering away in the twin towers moments before hell rained down upon them.