There is a bier of ribs in the ditch along highway 37. A cage on its side, bound by a backbone. The ribs curve and form an open-ended oval, an entrance. Red flaps of meat, white-grey strings of sinew hang from these bones and are pulled at by an unkindness of ravens. And on the serrated edge of the red circle, where it fades to pink and snow again appears, are magpies, like small ready storms waiting for the barometric pressure to shift and the large black clouds to lift off the carcass.
Magpies, unlike buzzards whose joy is anticipation, find it hard to wait, and they fly in with their hit-or-miss attitude. They are easily turned aside by the ravens’ glare; but their winter-will and carrion fascination will be enough to keep them coming back to suck the remaining marrow from hammered bones.
And there will be no waste. After the magpies leave the spring will come with its melt-water to leech out the nutrients and chase the new amorphous carbons toward the Sturgeon river. The summers will come and the flies and mites will pull the hair and hide further into the soil and finally even the weather-whitened bones will turn to dust. And the dust will go on.
In the meanwhile we will drive by and fail to see.
We will scorn the new black storms on the horizon. Our wastrel role we deny, then contest and defend, will nevertheless be countered and overturned by a jury of gales and quakes, floods and drought, white suns and desert nights. We will be alarmed by the changing tectonic pattern and will fear the protean climate as it increasingly returns as an unkindness. And we will be pulled into the fissures of changing landscapes and into the brown foam on every beach. And the earth will leave us to our dogma of perpetual economic growth; it will give us over to our cold-will and carrion wish.
In the meanwhile will I merely walk by, secure in my own projected scorn?
I leave these thoughts and sense the loss that they too will decay and will be composted, along with this wooden chair and concrete floor, by time and wind and dew. The words and wood will turn to dust, and the dust will go on.
But in the middle of this blizzard, while waiting for a light to change on Scona road, I see no fewer than four cars stop. Young and old jump out, some with shovels. They pitch the snow away, and heave and push out an elderly man’s car that had slid into the ditch.