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Trying to make sense of it all

BY Sonny Orr Sep 9, 2023

Nearly every time I stepped outdoors over the past few days, there was a flock of geese flying by. I checked the calendar and discovered that it’s still August. Meanwhile, oodles of ripe berries drooping from the weight of their plumpness are begging to be picked and turned into some sort of jam. 

Wait a minute, isn’t fall still a month away? What’s happening with the weather? Is it winter already? Of course, somebody from the far fringes of the North Pole posts pictures of snow-covered hamlets, causing a communal shiver in the populace. Yes, time is jogging on and has stopped marching at its usual historic pace and sped up, causing worldwide confusion.

As far as confusion is concerned, kids who often enjoy the long lazy days of summer were strangely anxious to get back to school. That’s not surprising. Most of the summer was spent not going anywhere nor doing the usual summer stuff. Instead, we were busy trying to breathe during a war against forest fire enemies that didn’t know when to quit. 

Some conspiracy theorists have ideas about why the flames kept on going and going. A common theme is that it’s the work of evil modernists. Those who only see the world as a store of resources to be turned into useful things, such as tin xylophones or plastic tomato-core removers.

Myself, I need a jumping bangle smashing monkey with a small basket to collect change. Not for entertainment, but because my lazy cat still doesn’t understand a simple command like “sit”. In the end, it’s difficult to define the conspiracy: whether the fires were man-made or caused by a malevolent worldwide lightning storm.

Turning to the homework handed to me by one of my conspiratorial grandkids (where did they come from, anyway?), I loaned my expertise to some complicated mathematical questions. It turned out that my old-school multiplication skills have evolved into a four-way calculation method that involves a lot of arrows. I was totally confused until the five-year-old corrected me. Hey, didn’t math used to start in Grade 4? 

Anyway, I double checked it all with my razor-sharp 60-year-old mind, happily discovering that I can still do complicated math in my head without a sharp pencil or even a 40-year-old calculator. 

I now see where the last generation of mathematicians went wrong. The emphasis was on trying to get the right answer quickly without understanding why or how. Like trying to figure out if zero has any worth or if it is an actual number that can be counted.

Now, if only we could concentrate on real-world skills like fixing a vehicle or cleaning a ventilation system. Or repairing dryers and washing machines. I did some research and discovered that, within a week or two, I could repair a dryer once the replaceable part arrived, costing me only $30. 

Or how to bake that fresh blueberry pie without burning the crust or liquifying the pie filling so that it drips onto your skin with a temperature comparable to molten lava oozing from a volcano. 

Yes, dear homemakers, cooking can be a deadly activity. If you make any false move, kablooie! There goes your deep fryer or high-pressure cooker flying through the wall in a ball of flames. Learning life skills really means staying alive and cooking something that can actually be eaten without a grimace and a choked-back swallow. 

A puzzled teenager once asked me what kind of language I wrote in. Was it from Indiana Jones? Either the one in India or the one in South America I respond, you know there are more than a few languages in the world. 

The one in the classroom, they chirped. I quickly retorted, that’s my handwriting. One bright kid piped up, “You mean cursive?” 

Yes, yes, I affirmed, handwriting. Now, if I could only explain what I write about to my readers.

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.