LETTING GO By Axel Conradi (Article)


Axel Conradi

Today I took the all-important first step. I did it slowly, one room at a time, quietly letting my thoughts take form.

My eyes go first to walls and from one picture frame to another. I gaze at wisps of blowing snow, at exquisitely paired trees denuded of leaves, at tender shoots of new life, at skyscapes that meld clouds and water and land in diaphanous light. They are all abstractions, the refined imaginings of Japanese print artists. Around the corner from them hangs a line drawing of a bird pecking the ground for food, a playful Brazilian reminder that life’s joys are found in simple things. Brazilian or Japanese, every one of them is a gift from people I wish I had known. They came to stay.

In the family room, I look at our vertical rack of compact discs. Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen live in this tower of song, Joni Mitchell too. Poets all, their lyrics and fame gave rise to my swelling sense that Canada could leave its mark on the world – a world from which Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour, John Lennon, the Beatles, Paul Simon and many more have been welcomed into our home. With them, I shared moments of grief and joy, illumination and doubt. They never left. I couldn’t possibly throw them out now.

Ubiquitously nested against walls or comfortably resting on floors, I look at burnished elm tributes to the art of daily living. They are chests; to store rice, to hoard gold, to stow blankets, to pile dishes, to keep medicines and to boil water for tea. They are the work of Korean artisans honouring daily tasks. They are antiques, caste aside by their country’s rush to embrace the shiny and the new. They almost fell into our laps. I promise not to abandon them a second time. I confess. I will betray my promise to some.

Everywhere I go I see books – on tables, on chests, on floors, on shelves. They introduced me to adventure. They fed my curiosity. They gave me my love of words. They shaped who I am. Books are like friends. Friends one holds close. How big will my arms be when the day arrives?

I sit down in my favourite living room chair. On the wall opposite, as she is every night, is a Navajo woman in a long, loosely flowing, white cotton skirt. Her dark hair is pulled back, her eyes closed. She is seated on the ground, her skirt gathered about. She leans forward, head resting on raised knees, a peasant with surprisingly delicate hands, a woman wise in the ways only women are. She too will come with me on the day, the day I am forced to leave this house.

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