Thursday, May 8, 2014

'WELL THERE IT IS. A LIFE'...

This afternoon I logged onto my Facebook to find this amazing homage, posted by my very favourite Comedian, on his personal Facebook page. It moved me so much that I wanted to share. I immediately asked his permission and Ron enthusiastically said YES. 

Rest In Peace Farley.... Very well said Ron!

Ron James with his dear friends Farley & Claire Mowat.
This photo is personal property of RON JAMES.
All rights reserved.

I don't make a habit of posting the ubiquitous photo of me with my arm around celebrities mugging for a 'selfie' but when that 'celebrity' (and the term seems so tawdry and trite given his status in 'Letters') was one of Canada's literary lions, who recently passed into the 'Big Mystery', I make an exception. 

Farley Mowat and his wife Claire were my friends, who kindly invited me to lunch at their home in Port Hope while on tour several years ago. Look at them in this photo! Beaming! Lovers until the end! They were SO cool!! Authentic. How could you not be, given the world they were born to and the adventure they lived together?! Snug in their cozy cottage, packed with totems of a life fully realized, they shuffled from room to room referring to each other as 'Mr. and Mrs. Mole'. The cantankerous rebel who did not suffer fools was hostage to his woman's twinkling eyes and she to his. 

Over lunch they spoke of their travels to the far points of frontier, like the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland! You won't find that destination on a Carnival Cruise Line itinerary! They told me how they'd walked beaches there looking at spear points, awls and primal scraping tools from the last Ice Age. No shuffleboard on the 'Fiesta Deck' and buffet for this pair of octogenarians! They were engaged in the wider world of wonders. Curious. Searching. Exploring. As betrothed to each other as the planet they loved.

I sat at the foot of this sage all afternoon enthralled. Nursing my second shot of London Dock none-the-less that he poured us...before noon! I remember thinking, 'This is what it would be like if Yoda drank!!’ His World War 2 Major's hat on the wall…caricatures from earlier days when his beard was full and shoulders broad…photos of he and Claire sailing...he and his Labrador retrievers…bawdy jokes in the bathroom…myriad awards…on a late model television set sat a dory Paul Watson hand carved for him in prison…original leather bound editions of Franklin's expeditions! And then his books. They sat high on a shelf in the living room. 48 of them! 48!! And it struck me: 'Dear God Farley', I said, 'the titles aren't in English!' They were in every language but Romulan! 'Never Cry Wolf' in Arabic…'And No Birds Sang' in German…'A Whale for the Killing' in Spanish...The Dog Who Wouldn't Be' in Chinese…'Lost In the Barrens' in Dutch...Siberia', in some tongue you'd be speaking while you milked a yak in Irkutsk! 
Farley looks at me with a humble sigh and says, 'Well, there it is. A life'. 

And his life inspired. Sitting in a dreary classroom at Chebucto Road School in Grade 7, reading 'Two Against the North' and 'The Viking's Grave', sired a desire to commune with the power of Canada's holy lands beyond the tree line. I actualized that childhood dream ten years ago and kayaked Arctic Finger Lakes in the Barren lands, three hours north of Yellowknife. The world Farley's words had painted in a kid's imagination still shone bright in memory. I joined a Dene elder from Fort Resolution who’d come to hunt caribou for a pot luck supper in Fort Resolution. Cresting a hill in the chill of dawn, I saw a raven flying low to the land and remembered Farley's words in 'Never Cry Wolf', that when you see a raven, wolves aren't far behind. Sure enough, there they stood, Javex white and splendid proud in morning's magic hour. 'Farley was right', I thought! 'Wolves and ravens are buddies in the hunt!' And to think the disparaging moniker of 'Hardly-Know-It' was applied to him. Only in Canada could the ivory towered dilettantes and philistines he held in such justifiable contempt turn so viscously on their own. I beg to differ with their slander readers. I saw those wolves as well as many other things, because Farley Mowat taught me how to look for them in this world, thanks to his books.

'Well there it is. A life' 

And what a life it was Farley. What a life. Thanks for sharing it with us. ~ RON JAMES

(c) Ron James. All rights reserved.