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October 2013, vol 9, no 3

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Glenn G. Coats


Customs

It is a routine like kneeling down to pick strawberries in the spring, raking leaves in the fall or packing up to visit the children at Christmas. Each summer, for the past thirty years, I stop at the Duty Free Store before crossing the border into Ontario. It is a pattern that is hard to break.

One person has been working in the store for three decades. He was there when my wife and I came in with babies in our arms and there when our children followed us to the border in their own cars. Sometimes he recognizes us in an instant, "I know you, you're the folks with a Scottish name." Other times he is not as certain, "I thought you looked familiar."

I know little about the gentleman. I know that he once vacationed with his mother at a cottage not far from mine and that winters are long and lonely. Today there is gray in his hair and beard. He tells me there were three heavy snows this winter and he is tired of the wind always blowing a chill around his neck.

He does not mention my wife or ask why she is limping or why her hands are twisting like leaves in the wind. The man asks instead about winter in Virginia and how long we are staying in Newboro. I do not tell him that this is my last pilgrimage—that I will not be coming back. Some things are too private and we do not know each other all that well.

snow-bent trees
I cast again and again
into the shadows

ridge of pines
I pull them back in place
a circle of stones




crane