I’ve never been laid off from a job before. Luckily I was only planning on working there another day and had known the week I’d been there that the task us general grunt labourers were completing would be finished by week’s end. Still, there was a different sort of attitude amongst the workers. Not a feeling of loss or fear, it was more of freedom and release. A convivial attitude emerged from my colleagues. One spoke of leaving to go for a hike in the afternoon before needing to go and pick up her daughter. Others simply left. I went into the lunchroom after I’d decided to not continue the afternoon labour rustled up for us and made a few calls. They’d promised us a full days work and they were going to deliver. Another three hours of random tasks was not my idea of a fun afternoon.
The task I was there for had been tree thinning. Thousands upon thousands of styrofoam blocks had been seeded with trees ordered by tree planting companies. My task was to ensure that each small hole in each block had only one tree in it as opposed to the anywhere from zero to seven or eight that had germinated in it. It was simple work, piecework so the faster I moved the more I could count on making it’s way into my bank account. I was happy to have been called in for this seasonal, temporary work.
I’d been feeling like a glass of water poured out of the ashram onto a large slab table. Sure, there were chunks of ice holding the atoms of sections of my being tightly together but most of me was thinly spread by gravity’s unyielding pull, moving wider and wider across the expanse of the table. Nelson is a great place to sidle into cracks and crevices. I had some great experiences and met some great people. I was, however, beginning to feel as though a blob of water with quickly melting ice cubes was not the metaphor I wanted to describe my life as for much longer.
Shortly thereafter the Proctor Nursery called asking if I could come into work the next day. I happily agreed and found myself hitchhiking in the rain at 6:15 the next morning. I was sure I would find a carpool to hook up with but still needed to get there in the first place in order to ask around for who did the half hour drive in from Nelson. I made it on time, I got my reflective safety vest and was escorted across the property to the “range” where I’d be working. We passed by the 32 or so other greenhouses on the way, my orientation facilitator rattling off details of the place and scurrying across the hiway, reminding me to look both ways before I crossed, “It’s the mother in me,” she said. Tina, the supervisor, is the kind of woman who calls people sweetie and genuinely means it. Except for occasional interactions with her I enjoyed working mostly alone. In fact I kind of made it a point to. There were ten rows in the green house we were working and each one took two people about two days to finish. With everyone spread out within the place it was easy to not have sustained human interaction. Plus we were too busy pulling out inch tall trees as fast as we freaking could to talk much.
Tina would come by every so often and check to see how we were doing. Bending down low to get her eyes at the level of the trees she’d look for multiple stems poking up out the same hole as she’d taught me to do. With transplanting tool in hand she moved skillfully, like a seamstress hemming a dress, and it was clear she’d done this before. The way her hands flicked out the notched small metal rod that would pull the roots of a double down into the earth of an empty hole with such ease and grace, her eyes already moving along to the next block. Excess trees threading into her fingers.
I enjoyed the mental space for myself and the trees. I had time to chant mantra and reflect. Time to watch how my imagination can so often run far away from myself and then time to bring it back in to reality. I’d wanted to have another day, hoping that once we finished the giant greenhouse there would be other trees amongst the throngs of greenhouses ready to be thinned. We got laid off anyway, the bosses promising to hire back around the second week of June. I knew by then I’d already be long gone from the west.
Upon telling Tina I wouldn’t be back I gathered up my things and headed to the short ferry ride that would take me across the West Arm of the Kootenay lake to head back into Nelson. I’d had luck getting rides into town by going from car to car on this ferry before and today proved no exception though the neurosis of someone questioning whether or not I would sue them if we got in an accident is an interesting thing to share a car ride with. Luckily I’m used to neurotic.
My time in Nelson has wound to a close. I’m grateful to have spend this time in diffusion in a place I love so much. I’m excited about the next stage of my journey. I remember learning about this type of algae or moss that, once it dries up, gathers it’s cells together and turns into an organism. I feel like that algae. I’ve been poured out of the container of the ashram and am now gathering myself up, dying out and moving on to the next step. I’ve mastered the grocery store and doing the dishes and now I’m ready for the next challenges that post-ashram life has to offer. I’m ready for the extraneous to evaporate away and the bulk of what’s left to gather together leading me on into the East.