He stood at the apex of that last long hill, the one west of Calgary, where you first see the city skyline. Heading east, looking back to the west as I passed, hitchhiked the vagabond Godfrey.
He wore brown, muddy boots and a much mended kilt of plaid, he carried a red and black suitcase. “Do not pick up hobos, lectured my dad, but I liked the peaceful look on his face..
“In my rambling adventures, I have lived in contentment , most all I have asked for eventually has come to me”. He answered when I asked of his life, I gave a long ride to the vagabond Godfrey. “But if I had my youth to live longer, I would choose without question, the very good life of the beachcomber”.
“From flotsam and logs build my home where the morning sun, makes prisms on the ceiling to gently wake me” My T.V. the wind, and no one to fuss over how much sand gets tracked in”. “Fossick for gemstones washed down from the mountains by the cold winter rain”. Work when I must, but never have to toil in the city again.
“But that would be lonely for most, asked I. “You are never alone in the mountains or by the sea”, was his soft reply. For with pen in hand, and notebook kept dry, strong legs to clamber and clear eyes to see, “I would write the stories long years kept inside me . Write the poems I find washed ashore, send them off with the outgoing tide, perhaps somewhere a loner, an across the world roamer, finds my poem and knows as I do, the very good life of a beachcomber to.
But what would you take to begin such a dream? Step clear from the bounds of society? Pot and bowl, tarp and axe, water, matches, fishing line, candles for dark of night. “I will make healthy Yogurt the tramper way, put the mix in a jar in my sleeping bag, leave it in the sun all day” Have my guitar, a guide to edible mollusks, bivalves and plants, a chart for the stars and tides, one for clouds, build a very good life as a beachcomber.
With the bay for my grocers, the seabirds for crowds. Would you not fear what lurks in the wild? “I saw a cougar once, cross the road ahead of me on my bike, spring without effort up a rock face, glance down indifferently, melt into the wood” Same year I saw one, skinny, dirty, cringing caged in a squalid zoo..”I fear more the human than that free creature, how about you?”
When I was a lad back in Wales, watched the moonlight through water at night, droplets and frost on my windowpane trickling down, dreamed of places not on a map, far from track and town that when grown I’d see. “In my mind I’m still the boy who dragged kelp behind, who bears barnacle scars, who told all who asked, “Teacher I desire, the very good life of the beachcomber”.
“Yes, we met up with your Godfrey, we talked the night through heading east cross the plain. We parted where golden fields, give way to forest and stony shield, he was wistful of passing this way again”. In the rumble of the highway, the hum of truck wheels, his words to me resonate over, and over. “I think I understood, the vagabond heart, where lives the very good life of a beachcomber…