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ANDERSON: Finding contentment in a cardboard castle

Image Credit: Contributed by author
September 08, 2015 - 8:10 AM

There's nothing like sitting in a cardboard castle on the shore of a lake on the edge of the Rockies late on an early September evening, reading by the soft yellow light of a Coleman gas lamp to get the mind drifting down odd alleyways. The setup finished, a soft rain ending, and my dog Breagh (Breyah) sitting across from me, I took time out from the incessant worry of first world life to get up and look out across Mabel Lake to the west.

Those of us who live in Canada have won the lottery and those of us who live in B.C. have won the Grand Prize. There is something hauntingly beautiful about a loon call across the iron-dark waters of the Canadian Shield in Ontario, and the cloying closeness of a Maritime mist can be as comforting as a warm wool sweater. I've travelled through Afghan bazaars, English castles and Roman ruins, even lost myself in the far distance of the high Himalayas, overhung with the sweet scent of a blue dungfire haze, but nothing I've ever experienced will ever compare to the sheer stunning beauty of a Rocky Mountain sunset.

But it's so much more than beauty alone that makes us lucky to be here. Those who have never lived in the third world and whose travels have been to all-inclusives overflowing with booze and guided tours can never really understand the vast distance between here and there. The occasional glimpse out a bus window at the surreality of third world reality doesn't quite do it.

My castle, a 1976 Travelaire trailer bought last week for $500 from Raymond, an old French hunter in 100 Mile House, isn't really made of cardboard like the new ones are - it's made of good old fashioned tin, wood and the musty smell of a pleasant Canadian history. Overall it's in an amazing state of repair for its 40 years of existence, with all its appliances working and only a small leak in the bathroom that came as much of a surprise to Raymond as it did to me, or so he told me.

It's a box, 18-feet long and about eight wide, bought with a couple days worth of middle class income and it's more than about half the world can ever aspire to. And I don't mean aspire to own as a vacation tool, but aspire to as a home in which to be born, marry, raise kids, grow old and die. To be middle class in the third world means having a bike or a motor scooter and a cell phone and maybe, if you're lucky, pay the rent this month for the four bare concrete walls around you. To be middle class here means we could buy all that with a week's salary we worked half as hard to make.

And yet we worry like fiends over here. We worry about Harper selling our birthright or Mulcair blowing our wealth or when, if ever, Trudeau will be old enough to shave. We worry about Global Warming and our neighbour's cat and the broken vacuum cleaner and the endless minutiae of first world existence. Over there, far away across the water, much of humanity worries about their next meal. Their apocalypses are more real and much closer to the bone and yet with so much more to worry about they are often happier and more content than we are.

There is no instant cure for the gap in material existence between here and there, and there may not even be a long term cure — not one we would willingly contemplate, anyway. And that's not why I brought it up, frankly. My point is that maybe we should all take a little time to reflect on just how lucky we really are, in this place and time. We can't change the world overnight, but we can stop and take a breath and allow evening to fall. And be content.

Raymond told me he bought the castle 10 years ago from a pastor who owned it for the previous 10 and left it with his wife under the roof of a woodshed when he passed on. He didn't know where it had been before that. I'll patch the roof, own it for a few years, and perhaps pass it on to the next lucky British Columbian. May it see many more Rocky Mountain sunsets.

— Scott Anderson is a Vernon City Councillor, freelance writer, commissioned officer in the Canadian Forces Reserves and a bunch of other stuff. His academic background is in International Relations, Strategic Studies, Philosophy, and poking progressives with rhetorical sticks until they explode.

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