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JOHN DeMONT: Finding comfort in the mundane


Monday morning, looking out into the dark, I saw two lights leaving the land bound for the sea. Since this was the last Monday in November, I knew those were South Shore lobster fishers heading out, as they usually did on this day every year, to set their traps and kick off their commercial season.

This one, opening to the backdrop of conflict and controversy surrounding the indigenous moderate livelihood fishery, is bound to be unlike any other.

Even so, it was good to see those boats out there, just as they are supposed to be the last Monday in November.

I say this, selfishly, because the plague is upon us again, promising to turn late-2020 into the strangest Christmas in anyone’s memory, unless you have somehow already endured a holiday season where you must stare at friends and family from behind a mask, at a distance, with the cloud of mortality hanging over your head

Yet, amidst all the anxiety and weirdness of these unprecedented times, a little normalcy does sneak in, if you allow it to.

Traditions, if you pay attention, are followed, the rules of nature and civilization obeyed. People who were always there remain there still.

In these surreal moments we can take comfort in the familiar, in the yawningly mundane, in the things that are the same — for better or worse — as they have always been.

At least so it seemed to be, preparing to meet the day on Monday, which required running the car for a few minutes to melt the windshield frost, and then, as I have so often done before, pulling over at the last minute to scrape the ice from the rear-view mirror.

Only a man in search of normalcy — in need of some reminder of what life was, and hopefully soon will be again — would find delight in the woman in the fast-food drive-through who calls a man half her age “dear,” and the breakfast sandwich itself, which, it must be said, was like eating air, it was so devoid of taste.

Sometimes, though, you are not looking for an explosion of flavour, are you.

You are, instead, looking for a nodding, socially distanced exchange with a stranger at the gas pump, to hear the same old jokes from the corner crossing guard, or to find yourself in one of those quintessentially Canadian “you go first...no, please, I insist,” moments, when you and another safely masked person meet entering and leaving a grocery store at the same time.


In these surreal moments we can take comfort in the familiar, in the yawningly mundane, in the things that are the same — for better or worse — as they have always been.


You seek the things you saw before the coronavirus took over life, that now seem to ooze metaphor: a car stopping in the middle of an empty street to let a sole pedestrian cross; a neighbour making slow progress down the street with a Labrador Retriever that stops every foot or so to sniff and water; someone you have known for a long time hauling their green bin to the curb, down a sidewalk as bumpy as corduroy road; the guy who rifles through your recyclable bag on garbage day pulling his shopping cart towards your house as he has always done.

In days like these we find tranquility, or some reasonable facsimile, in the humdrum.

On Monday, for example, I understood that, as our COVID-19 testing increased, so was the number of new confirmed cases in this province.

Nevertheless, the universe seemed to be operating as it was supposed to on Monday when I opened the mail box and discovered the same magazine that has arrived at our doorstep on a weekly basis for the last couple of decades.

To be honest, I did not even open it up and flip through the pages like I normally do. It was enough to know that, though the pandemic surges all around us, my magazine had arrived.

Some good reading lay ahead, I knew that. If there were articles in there about the coronavirus, I could just flip the page. For a little while it would be like it just hadn’t even happened.

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