The alternative title of this story is “Olivia’s Flying Outhouse” for reasons that will appear.
Like the tides in front of the house, your life, your times and your fortunes come and go. Trouble is, sometimes your tide goes out so hard and so far you find yourself stranded in the weeds unable to return. This is a story of one of those strandings and how a personal art, something we all have if we look deeply enough, came to the rescue.
One of those industry down-cycles put Olivia out of work, but this time it happened along with a death in the family, which invoked a consuming loneliness and a wringing struggle. Olivia took up winter residence on a cot in the closet of a vacant industrial building. Her mood darkened. In this loneliness and cold, she picked up her pastels to draw Tibetan Mandalas, a round artwork of symbols both real and abstract used originally to illuminate a monk’s mind in meditation. Mandala begat Mandala. Colour and spring returned to Olivia’s life as scraps of paper art were nailed to a factory wall.
A further rescue came by way of a message passed in confidence along the rock people’s back channel - a place where mineral news travels, present location of souls recorded, fortunes of corporations and the future of your pension plan decided.
“I don’t know. Could be a diamond pipe. Is Olivia still over home?”
Diamond pipes look like little volcanic earth chimneys spewing raw diamonds out on the surface from a hundred miles down. Thought to shotgun forth at perhaps thirty miles an hour, no one has ever seen one in action. They are a great puzzle with garnets, kimberlite and an assortment of indicator minerals, including ilmenite coming along for the ride. (Curiously, ilmenite, the ore form of titanium, occurs on the surface in the Village of Hillsborough and contains radioactive elements uranium-238 and thorium-232. Our natural gamma ray and alpha particle emitters are the probable cause of the radiant glow displayed by Hillsbrolians.)
As fast as you can say “It’s the plane, Boss,” Olivia choppered far down the bald coast of the Labrador Sea and landed on a cobble beach at the foot of the Torngat Mountain Range. For very big bucks she would again swat flies and shoo polar bears at the sharp end of all our greed.
Unfortunately, this was not to be the smooth transition to field work she had enjoyed in past years. Pressed between the ice fields above and the cool sea below camp, her loneliness returned. Old friendships and familiar work could no longer mask her struggle. She was slipping.
Olivia got out her markers and fought back with new, even more colourful mandalas. They blew out of the tent, down the beach into the waves. Some were lost skyward. Resolutely, she gathered what was left and nailed them up in the outhouse, adding to them daily. The outhouse was a bit small for such an impromptu exposition, so lumber was flown in and a piece added on. It too was papered over, so a bucket shower and sauna with attached anteroom was tacked on. This ramshackle affair warmed the hearts and buns of everyone in camp that season. Decorating this lowly building, plastering it over with layers of art, broke her anguish and lifted all veils. Finally, Olivia stood up once again as the confident master of her mineral encampment and its fate.
Summer and late into the next season’s work passed over the tundra. A decision 3000 miles off was conveyed: “Break camp. Move to the landward side of the Torngats and set up for next year.”
The news fell hard on Olivia’s little band, gathered on a Labrador sea coast ledge, possessors of the finest bathroom and art facilities known to any prospecting camp in the Northern Hemisphere. Alone, she seemed not to notice. During the next few days, files were completed and stowed. The whole camp was packed up into chopper-slung nets of boxed gear to rise up over the glacier topped mountain crest behind them. Like unto Joshua before Jericho, Olivia purged her band down to a select few. With the naysayers and faint of heart finally dissipated, she revealed her plan with a quote from Steve Martin:
“‘They say you can’t take it with you…I’m taking it!’ I sent over a case of Canadian Club to shut everybody up. The Jet Ranger is on the way back!”
It was a risky venture. A chopper is not so good on a deadlift, doing better on a forward pull, but the outhouse was near the mountain wall, and the sea cliff just a ways distant, to say nothing of the thinness of air above the ice field on the top of the Torngats.
No matter. The outhouse, with all its art forms both spiritual and base was strapped together several times over and attached to the hoist hook on the chopper. In the chopper, the pilot believed one white-knuckled truth: If it lifted, fine. If it bounced, the building would demolish on the beach rocks; nothing ventured, nothing gained. Once the outhouse comes up the least bit, full power over the beach cliff, use the drop to the sea to swing an arc, corkscrew the load up the mountain. What could go wrong?
As it happens, another truth in the parallel universe on the ground under the stroking chopper was playing out. The chopper bounced the load but couldn’t pick it up. The soon-to-be-unemployed Inuit, well used to living on the edge of failing white man’s technology ran over and grasped the corners of the outhouse. Following their lead, the rest of the party did the same and together they gave a great heave. The chopper blades felt air and strained forward toward the cliff, picking up speed. Stumbling people fell away, some trampled in the run to the cliff, but enough made the edge to throw the outhouse off into space. The chopper caught the full weight and dropped straight down toward the whitecaps. Fearing all was lost, the pilot leaned the craft on its side at full power, going early into the planned arc. The outhouse slung around skyward, returning to narrowly miss the beach cliff. Spinning with dangerous malice, the outhouse sought to scythe down the Inuit horde now running for their lives.
Another unplanned turn above everybody’s head and the load was yanked far out over the bay where it could be brought under control. Last seen, it was spinning a gradual ascent over the ice cap with … is that mandala confetti twisting away in the airwash?
And in the end, if this really is the end, Olivia’s Art Gallery Outhouse, with attached anteroom and sauna, served one more season over the Torngats where the caribou wander. A new diamond mine was sunk elsewhere west. The backers of Olivia’s little venture lost heart, at least for now. But if you see a penny stock on the Vancouver Exchange referring to diamonds in “them thar Torngat hills,” you will know the little facility is back in service. Sleep assured that if Olivia is there, the seat is down, please.