Enjoy the lotus-eating while it lasts


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With the provincial election only three days away -- it's on Tuesday, in case you count differently than I do -- our thoughts are concentrated on that crucial vote. At least they should be. Certainly mine are.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/10/2011 (4145 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

With the provincial election only three days away — it’s on Tuesday, in case you count differently than I do — our thoughts are concentrated on that crucial vote. At least they should be. Certainly mine are.

Last weekend, for example, I was pretending to watch television news while my wife did busy-work around the house when I heard a squeal — actually, it was more of an anguished cry — coming from the kitchen.

I roused myself and rushed, in my fashion, to see what was wrong and what I saw would make your blood run cold. My wife was standing on a chair in the middle of the kitchen pointing at the floor. “Oh, my God.” I thought. “She’s seen a mouse. There goes all hope of serenity in this house.” In our home, crisis rhymes with mices.

Associated Press A Lotus flower rises above the water at the Fruit and Spice Park July 22, 2005, in Redland, Fla. The 35-acre garden, owned and operated by Miami-Dade County Parks, is billed as the only tropical botanical garden of its kind in the United States with more than 500 varieties of fruit, vegetables, spices, herbs and other plants. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) closecut close cut

But it wasn’t mice at all. It was something on the kitchen floor. Is that a spider, she asked? I looked closely and couldn’t quite tell because I didn’t have eyeglasses, so just in case, I stepped on it, scraped the remains from the bottom of my slipper and informed her that she could get down now, the “spider” was just a bit of foliage from flowers she had been taking out of a vase.

Peace, or what passes for peace in the Oleson household, was restored.

Right about now, you might be wondering what this has to do with the election. Well, it has quite a lot to do with the election no matter how skeptical you might be about any meaningful connection. As I was reflecting on the “spider” incident, it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a single real spider all summer. I assume they must have been out there somewhere, but they didn’t try to get into my house and they didn’t stop to greet me on the street as they frequently have in previous, less halcyon summers.

Everyone has noticed and commented on the dearth of mosquitoes this year. There were hardly any. The matrons of Wolseley didn’t even get to dust off their anti-fogging banners and lie down on the roadways to stop the trucks from spraying their neighbours’ properties.

But it wasn’t just the mosquitoes that didn’t show up. Bugs of every description seemed to be in short supply. Even common house-flies weren’t the nuisance that they usually are and the time we didn’t have to spend chasing them around the house with fly-swatters or shooing them away at picnics and barbecues we could spend sitting in the sun watching the grass grow.

That lack of food supply may be why the spiders stayed away as well and even the annual late summer infestation of wasps didn’t seem as bad this year as it usually does.

In short, we have just been through an astonishingly good summer. The sun shone, the weather was warm, the Jets came home, the Bombers finally found a way to be contenders. Even when it rained, it rained politely. Often it rained politely and only at night, just like in Camelot.

The notion of Winnipeg as Camelot is enough to send other Canadians into paroxysms of cruel laughter, but the truth is that this has been the summer of summers, a brief paradisiacal moment in which this became lotus land and we became like Tennyson’s Lotos Eaters: “Ah, why should life all labour be?” as we watched the grass grow, and grow, and grow.

But nature abhors a vacuum, they say, and so the election ensured that bugs of another sort would be around in abundance. Politicians were everywhere this summer and early fall.

It’s hard to tell if anyone was paying attention to them or not — the original Lotos Eaters did fall into a stupor that was their undoing. Certainly, according to a Free Press poll published this week, nothing much has changed during the course of the campaign except for the collapse of the Liberal party.

In Winnipeg, for example, the poll puts the NDP at 53 per cent, exactly what the party polled in the actual vote in 2007, while Conservatives stand at 35 per cent, up six per cent from 2007, an increase that appears to result exclusively from the migration of disillusioned Liberals.

Lotos Eaters, of course, don’t get involved. They don’t notice that the NDP is promising to do only what it promised to do but didn’t in the last 12 years; that the Tories in their lust for power seem to have forgotten that they are conservatives; and the Liberals — well, no one seems to care.

That’s what one summer in paradise can do. Whether or not we bother to vote on Tuesday we can still just say “shoo fly!” and the politicians will bug off for a while. At least until winter, when we’ll all wake up to reality.


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