Off the Blanket

The Influence of Our Past


I suppose one of my most vivid pre-school memories was of summer afternoon naps on a prickly picnic-blanket, under a spreading elm in our backyard in Burlington, under the sometime watchful eye and window of Mrs. Cairns, our neighbour. Mom, of course, was out in the field helping Dad, on our three and a half acre market garden farm.

My mother was especially protective – overly protective (?) of us three kids, and so as I grew I was forbidden passage: ‘Don’t go outside the fence!’ ‘Don’t go near the road; don’t cross the road!’ Don’t go near the water; don’t go in the water!’

It’s made me more of an observer of life instead of a participant. Because, to actually risk drowning – even in learning to swim, to go someplace that necessitated ‘crossing the road’ was fraught with all kinds of uncertainties and dangers. (I’ve since noticed that some kids that literally play on the road seem to live forever while some who are kept more secure get hit randomly when they dare venture forth.)

So, I’ve spent a good part of life trying to get off the blanket, out of the backyard, across the road. It’s made me an adventurer of sorts – but often in my own mind – encyclopedically lateral rather than linear; curious, observant, linking to everything and everyone I can on the web – a watcher, journalist, recorder, writer, artist (but too often not a true participant in the actuality of life).

To be sure, I’ve been a traveller on four continents and all over North America, smelt diesel fumes in Nairobi, sat under spreading acacias near Garissa in North East Kenya, crossed the Bosporus from Europe to Asia, scoured lands and villages in Ireland, Scotland and England pursuing family roots. But too much, I feel, I remain limited, intimidated (?) by possibilities of what might happen if I were to get off the blanket, actually go -- and not only see the world, but enter more deeply into its dangers and its glories.

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