Prairie Messenger Header

Porch Light

By Stephen Berg


Late spring love

It started slow — a bead of warmth at the base of my stomach. It was an ordinary day, it may even have been a Monday, but this detail escapes me. There was nothing out of place, nothing out of the ordinary. Let me cement the point: for breakfast, whole-wheat toast, peanut butter and jam — breakfast of quotidians.

The car started, like it always did, always, in the case of my ‘71 Dodge was something like 95 per cent. I pulled onto 156 Street, drove north until I linked up with St. Albert Trail.

I moved through the regular traffic, a regular drive to work, to a regular Alberta community.

My job as a Wheat Pool elevator manager assistant in Morinville was now established, nothing to get excited about. My routine, also established. So like any other morning, by 7:30 I was heading north of St. Albert, eying the crops, scanning the sky, taking these few moments before being plunged into the grain dust of the elevator breeze-way.

I’ll mention here that it was late spring and there was a low sun. A promising day, a sun-kissed-farmer kind of day. At 7:31 the sun was glancing off the hood of my green Dodge, hitting a uniform line of poplar and willow to the west, just beyond the ditch. The tree line — a wind-break planted perhaps a quarter-century ago — was something I always noticed along this route.

But on this day, as I drove this stretch, there was, as I’ve said, a warmth at the pit of my stomach that slowly radiated up through my lungs and chest, shivering my breath and misting my eyes.

As this thing unfurled within, outside, the dimensions of space and time changed. The car slowed and slowed and came to a stop. And as it did the trees, like a friendly infantry, began to march south, faster and faster until they equalled my initial speed.

All of this happened within the space of a glance, mere seconds, but in that time I saw the eastern light refracting and condensing at the serrate margins of each ovoid leaf, while the whole parade — ditch, trees, horizon — became a brandy-coloured incarnation of the sun’s face.

I could say this was a flash from a bad mushroom, still in my cells from the ‘70s. I could say it was the peanut butter, maybe a touch rancid. I could say it was the hum of the 318 cubic-inch V8, running like a fine timepiece that morning. I could say it was the rural in me, my father in me, who had gazed often over black, green and gold fields. I could say it was my own odd anticipation of seeing oat leaves spiraling up past the black loam on the quarter-section just past highway 37 . . . good soil here.

But I’ve always known that it was love. A small love, more like than love, a kind, gentle, unobtrusive thing that made me whisper thank you to the trees, thank you to the windshield, thank you to nothing in particular, thank you to the little I knew about God — knew just enough, not too much.

Berg works for Hope Mission, a social care facility for homeless people in Edmonton’s inner city. His poetry and prose have been in staged performances and have appeared in such publications as the Edmonton Journal, Orion, Geez, and Earth Shine. He blogs at