“Pack up all your dishes; make note of all good wishes”

Red truck, Kincaid House and mock orange

A happy photo taken this morning, showing Raymond’s bright-red truck, the historic Kincaid House next to the Manse that Raymond and I are now the proud owners of, and the mock-orange shrub that is sprouting its way to a return from what we thought last year was dead – all under brilliant sunshine and a beautiful blue Queensborough sky – pretty much epitomizes the happiness I feel about being home for good.

Two things happened in this past week that were a big deal for Raymond and me here at the Manse. And as it happens, they kind of connected with each other. In chronological order, they were:

One: Guy Clark, a matchless American/Americana songwriter and performer, died, and you can read a well-done obituary and appreciation here. The year 2016 has been one of tough losses in the music world, what with David Bowie and Glenn Frey and Prince all moving on from this particular plane; and though Guy had been in poor health for some time and his death was not unexpected, his departure leaves yet another big gap.

Two: We said a final goodbye to our life in Outremont, Montreal, Quebec. This past Friday we packed up the very last of the stuff that was kicking around the condo we had owned there for the past 11 years, signed the papers that will turn ownership of it over to another family as of Tuesday, May 24 (when you’re probably reading this), and – with both red Ford Ranger truck and grey Toyota Corolla loaded to the gills – headed west on Highways 401 and then 7 one last time, to permanent full-time residence at the Manse in Queensborough. I have irrevocably returned to the house and community I grew up in. My dear Raymond has, uncomplainingly and endlessly supportively, come along for the ride.

Bill and Raymond packing up the red truck

Our dear friend and upstairs neighbour Bill (left) helping Raymond pack the red truck with the last of our Montreal belongings.

As we packed the red truck in Montreal under a hot sun on Friday morning, with the help of our upstairs neighbours and dear friends (and fantastic musicians) Bill and Sue, I couldn’t help thinking of one of Guy Clark’s best-known songs, the first track on his first album (Old No. 1) released way back in 1975. (The very year, as it happens, that my family moved away from Queensborough after my happy childhood there.) It’s called L.A. Freeway, and it’s about moving from huge Los Angeles to a very much smaller and more rural place.

“Pack up all your dishes,” Guy counsels his beautiful artist/songwriter wife Susanna at the start of the song. “Make note of all good wishes … Throw out them LA papers, and that mouldy box of vanilla wafers.
Adios to all this concrete.
Gonna get me some dirt road back street – ”

And then he goes into the well-known chorus, which also resonated with me, given that Montreal, for all its wonderful attributes, has (as I learned on the very first day I drove in to live there, way back in summer 1997), horribly designed and downright terrifying highways. I couldn’t get the words out of my head as I drove the packed-up, non-air-conditioned red truck west out of the city one last time:

If I can just get off of this L.A. [Montreal] freeway without getting killed or caught
I’ll be down the road in a cloud of smoke to some land that I ain’t bought…

Well, Raymond and I in 2016 weren’t quite like Guy and Susanna in 1975; we had bought land, or at least a house – our Manse – on “some dirt road back street,” and we had already built a life there, and we were on that day bringing the last remnants of our old city life to it. And here are the kinds of things we saw and appreciated once we were home on this gorgeous holiday weekend:

Phlox, spring 2016

The phlox that I planted very successfully are returning for another year.

Day lilies soon, spring 2016

The day lilies that will soon be a sea of orange loveliness behind the Manse’s old garage.

Wildflowers and dandelions on the lawn, spring 2016

Purple wildflowers (who knows what they are?) and bright-yellow happy dandelions on Victoria Day 2016 at the Manse.

Laundry on the clothesline, 2016

Laundry on the clothesline on a great drying day!

The maple tree and the Tree of Life, Spring 2016

The maple tree that we planted a few years ago, doing very well; and the Tree of Life in the background.

The Manse's elm tree, spring 2016

Our happy little elm tree, getting a whole lot bigger.

As you can probably guess, I am happy to be in Queensborough.

But let’s close off by listening to Guy Clark’s gorgeous song about leaving the city behind for a better, simpler life. This video shows the cover of that great first album, Old No. 1, and the painting on it of Guy’s denim shirt by Susanna. Those two were a wondrous creative pair. Guy’s words to her in the song ring so true: “Oh Susanna, don’t you cry, babe; love’s a gift that’s surely handmade. We’ve got something to believe in. Don’t you think it’s time we’re leaving…” Adiós, Guy, and thanks for everything – including the inspiration.

16 thoughts on ““Pack up all your dishes; make note of all good wishes”

  1. Loved you post this AM. reading about your move reminds me of a Garrison Keillor tale about someone moving away from Lake Wobegon and “Thereby improved the IQ of both areas.” Glad to hear that your roots are going deep into the rocky soil of paradise…GnG

  2. Look at that clear sky, K. If you and Ray haven’t at least thought about getting a good-size telescope, you aren’t doing the Manse site justice. If I lived there full time, I’d build a massive Dobsonian — but maybe that’s just me. Enjoy the great summer that has just started.

    • Thank you so much, Charles! Interesting that you should mention the possibility of a telescope – I just noticed recently that a neighbouring family has one set up in the back yard. I haven’t yet had a chance to go over and check it out, but hope to do so soon. Yeah, the skies over Queensborough are SO clear – and on a clear night, the stars and constellations are absolutely amazing.

      • I don’t know how light-polluting your neighbourhood is, but the Lennox-Addington Dark Sky Viewing Site is just south of Kaladar on the 41. So conditions in Queensborough can’t be too shabby. As it happens, Saturn will reach opposition on June 3 — the brightest it will get all year (it’s already bright and the rings are nicely tilted). A perfect excuse to grab a bottle of wine and invite yourself over. Venus is hidden, so Jupiter is the brightest thing in the evening sky right now, aside from the moon. Enjoy.

      • Thanks, Charles, for the timely tip on viewing Saturn and Jupiter! I am sorry to say that Raymond and I have not yet visited the not-far-away Dark Sky Viewing Site near Kaladar, but it is on the (long) list of things we must do. Have you visited it?

  3. Yes, I also thought violets – with the heart-shaped leaves. Sorry to lose you from Montreal, but I’m also jealous of your clothesline. Drying laundry on a rack just inside my open back balcony door only gets me about 60% of the way to real country-smelling linens. May you have many, many good years in the Manse together.

    • Thank you so much for your kind wishes, Sandra. Indeed, I love my clothesline more than almost anything, most especially the way the clothes smell when I bring them in. One of the best things about living in the country!

  4. Such mixed feelings reading this — great happiness for you and of course a selfish sadness that your time in Montreal is truly over. Those are the feelings of one of dozens of “Skinny Dennis” wannabes from your Montreal life. I too have been playing Guy Clark over and over, so maybe a few bars of Step Inside This House will do for now. With all our best wishes; I’ll catch up the next time I am driving down the King’s Highway.

  5. This seems like an open-and-shut case of re-mansing the milestone. Or rather, many cases. As they say in your old métropole, un gros félicitations aux both of you!

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