Once around the dance floor with Death

Appeared in the North Shore News – December 16, 2016

I saw myself in a mirror where there was no mirror. I was purple on a shifting, sea-like purple background. My lips were most purple of all. And swollen. Thick.

My wife had called 911. Her voice was calm and clear.

Then I was standing on the edge of a dance floor wreathed in mist. Dressed in the elaborate dinner clothes of an earlier time, Death approached. He bowed with deep formality, so low that his horrible rictus descended to my waist level. I could hear the bony jaws click together like checker pieces.

He extended his hand. There was no rejecting it. We waltzed gravely, slowly, around the dance floor, once. He returned me to where I had stood, and bowed again. He straightened up, and his eyeless gaze did not leave me. He gradually dissolved into the enveloping mist.

Now this shift: Unseen men were all around. A woman’s voice quietly, expertly, directed them. Sound of furniture pushed back. Sense of doors being closed. I was in a white tunnel, like a big laundry chute lined with soft sheets. But not falling — instead being drawn swiftly upward, upward.

Then, as the poet said: No more time began. I broke out of the blackness and awoke, tethered and tubed and a human pincushion of needles.

I spent five or six days in the intensive care unit at Lions Gate Hospital, got outstanding attention, praised 911’s staff, learned, as only the stricken can, the priceless value of family, and mourned that I could never eat prawns again. I’d had an allergic reaction, whose serious possibilities I’d always underestimated. Like dying, for example.

Where did memory end and symbolism begin? The white tunnel was a clear memory, while the once-around-the-floor with Death was a mind’s imaginative creation after the event.

Yet they had equal claims to truth.

Christmas came early.

• • •

Extra, extra, read all about it! Women played a big role in Peter Lambur’s byelection victory for West Vancouver council!

It’s a cute story. Except for a male or two, a core of women of mature years with much cumulative experience in grassroots politics – not always warmly welcomed at West Van town hall – aggressively campaigned for Lambur.

‘‘They were a great support,’’ said Lambur, who handily won over second-place Andy Krawczyk, 1,262 votes to 939. “They brought a level of energy to my campaign that was great. Determining factor? Who knows?’’

During the campaign I was phoned by only one caller, urging me to vote for her candidate – Lambur. In my experience such political calls are rare bordering on unprecedented in West Van municipal elections.

Disgustingly suspicious, I had expected that special interests — broadly, pro-development money — would quietly back enabling candidates, or stack the deck with just one.

But if the election was a shadow referendum on WV development versus preservation, allowing that that’s an unsustainable black-and-white distinction, the result was clear.

Lambur’s campaign slogan was ‘‘Neighbourhoods First.” That played to his core backers, many of them members of the Ambleside and Dundarave Ratepayers Association.

Why such enthusiasm, at least among the 16.6 per cent of eligible voters who cast ballots?

Lambur and wife Rebecca are said to be very popular in their Ambleside neighbourhood. That he’s an experienced architect and urban planner were only Lambur’s qualifications.

What drew supporters was his character – “humble, kind, and very smart – a fine man … who cares about the neighbourhood, the environment, and the animals. He’s going to save Ambleside from chaos,” my Special Agent KW2T8u predicted.

This seems a heavy, saint-like burden for the new councillor to bear. We can only watch.

• • •

Canadian Geographic sought reader nominations for an official Canadian bird. The choice? I consulted my treasured copy — birthday or Christmas present, 1942 — of P.A. Taverner’s ageing but unsurpassed Birds of Canada. It lists that bird’s colourful vernacular names: whiskey jack, moose-bird, camp-robber, meat-bird. Its formal name, Canada jay.

The winner was … the grey jay, the Canada jay’s name today. Grey. Like most of the country, most of the year. The pulse races.

But there’s more: The grey jay actually was readers’ third choice. The loon drew 13,995 votes, the snowy owl 8,948, the gray jay 7,918.

But the Royal Canadian Geographical Society nullified the top two because they’re already official provincial birds. Have the mad electoral reform zealots seized on this? Is this a great third-place country for them, or not?

© Trevor Lautens, 2016