A Writer In Exile From Muskoka

By Martin Avery

This suite of 15 poems was written over the May Two-Four Weekend,
1999, inspired by my imminent departure from O.S. and OSCVI, and
my return to my old hometown in Muskoka .... It is dedicated to
my sister, Janis, who came from that place, too, but will not return;
to my students at The OSCVI, especially my writing students and my
drama club; to my future students at GHS, where I will be the
new Head of the new Arts Department next year; and to Big Phyl,
who was once stranded, stuck, trapped, in the place to which I long to

"In all beginnings dwells a magic force
For guarding us and helping us to live

Serenely let us move to distant places
And let no sentiments of home detain us

The Cosmic Spirit seeks not to restrain us
But lifts us stage by stage to wider spaces

We must prepare for parting and leave-taking
Or else remain the slaves of permanence

Even the hour of our death may send
Us speeding on to fresh and new spaces"
-- from "Stages" by Herman Hesse


The End Of The Exile

It's the May Two-Four Weekend and I
am so energised after
being depressed for awhile
you would think I was
by summertime
the end of winter in
the greening of the
northern landscape
after snowmelt
and greyness
I don't like pathetic fallacy or
My elation
has nothing to do with
as mundane as
the weather

It's life itself that has
me flying high
It's the May Two Four Weekend and
what do I have to do? -- Nothing!
Except move out of Grey County
and up to the District of Muskoka

I'll be leaving my Grey
and go home after a
quarter century of

It's the return of
the native
A writer in exile
from Muskoka
no longer

All I have to do now is
work on my move and
my homecoming like
taking a hit of




Hey! It was raining this weekend. It's not supposed to rain on the May Two-Four Weekend. We have been unusually warm and dry here for the past year and a half. Everybody's talking drought, but nobody's talking global warming, anymore. Conspiracy! The lakes are all down, even in Muskoka. You know, the Muskoka watershed covers an area equal to Prince Edward Island, and is regulated by an elaborate series of dams on lakes and rivers. So it's odd to see Lake Muskoka go down even though the Great Lakes are down. The Trent Severn waterway is the #1 priority of the region. This is the most pathetic excuse for a poem I have ever written. It's not even doggerel, like the best of the rest of my poetry.


Lilacs, Apple Blossoms, And E-Mail

The house-hunting was not turning out to be
as much fun as I anticipated so I took the
rest of the day off. Why not? It was a
holiday -- the May Two-Four Weekend
(Sorry, Queen Victoria ....)

After cancelling the real estate agent in Bracebridge
because he dissed Gravenhurst, I found Granite Realty
on the 'net and e-mailed them, instead.

Why drive all the way up north when
I can shop on the net!

First I went to the mall, visited
Computerland and Japan Camera
my fave mall rat stores, then I
wrote three poems in the parking lot
sitting in my Tracker.

If anyone saw me, they
would have thought I was
doing drugs or
high on drugs ....
Man, was I flying high!

Stopped in Collingwood to pick lilacs for the car.
How gay! But
you should see the apple blossoms in the Beaver Valley
the lilacs on the rail trail below the Blue Mountains
near Collingwood. It is unbelievably
this time of year

Wish you were here
as they say
Too bad I'm leaving
(in a way)



Collingwood Real Estate

I stopped at a real estate agency in
Collingwood, the small city we call
Condowood because of all the
condo developments there

Gravenhurst is to Bracebridge what
Owen Sound is to Collingwood: What?

The Collingwood real estate guy I
talked to was even more discouraging
than the Bracebridge guy.
He said most people who dream of
moving to Muskoka
find it
far too expensive and
wind up going to Haliburton
a little further east
which has the same landscape
but cheaper real estate.

He gave me a good tip, though:
has all the listings on the web!

Hell, I can check out all the listings
all over the world, including
real estate in YOUR neighbourhood.

Isn't life interesting in
the information age at
the turn of the century
the end of the millennium

The computer didn't turn up the perfect place, yet, but
I like a little cottage I found on the river beside Muskoka Sands

There's a townhouse condo in Bracebridge, too, but
nothing really speaks to me, yet, though.

I want to take possession
of the new place
August 1st. But
I go to Stratford for a month
at the start of July and
they want me in the writing marathon
on the August 1st long weekend

How can I be
two places
at once?
-- Watch me!


Moving To Muskoka Sands

moving to a condo by Muskoka Beach
would be a symbol of a great
victory for me
The Beast
and Poverty

I want to move back home
to the old hometown
to fight the old dragon
or is it a gryphon
(Gravenhurst is the home of
the gryphons (that's what they
call the high school teams))
I want to take on the
beast called poverty
that enslaved my mother
to a resort in Muskoka
where she worked as a
cleaning the
kitchen, cleaning the
swimming pool, cleaning

I was too young
to do anything about it
except work and go to
school and escape from
poverty and eventually
buy a piece of that
that symbol of
our oppression

I will live like a son of a
resort owner or
manager and
the facilities
instead of
cleaning them

And I do not mean to say
the working class can kiss
my ass because I've got
the foreman's job
at last

I will always remember
my roots in
in Muskoka
in the working class

moving to Muskoka
Sands will keep me
close to my roots

I'll buy a Roots windbreaker
-- that should help!


Moving To Muskoka

There are many options for moving to Muskoka
even though my first choice is out
My condo by the beach and
pool at Muskoka Sands
seems too expensive
-- out of reach
That was a fantasy
against my philosophy
I believe in
living below my means
living within walking distance
of where I work
not wasting money on
ego, property, owning
I believe in the town
I am moving to
I believe in living in
the town
I believe I believe in

Moving At The Millennium

My plan for the May Two-Four weekend did not
work out
I was going to get up early for
my usual work-out at the
fitness club
jump in the
pool t
then r
drive o
f a s t n
for a real estate agent appointment
with a guy recommended by a
an old friend
I didn't really like his attitude
about moving to my old hometown
so I cancelled on him
He wanted to manipulate me
into moving to the
next town up north
I slept in
phoned to cancel
swam at the club
and didn't drive up north
I can shop for real estate on the internet
Bracebridge just lost a
That's how we plan our moves
at the end of the century
just before the new millennium


Gravenhurst Graves

One more reason why I want to
move to Gravenhurst, Muskoka
is the graveyard where
my grandparents are buried
the graveyard where
escaping Nazi officer
Prisoners of War
were buried
where I will be

One more reason why I want to
go back home is to
but first I want to
play hockey again

that's a good way for an
old guy to die

I want to play
with my old team-mates
now playing
oldtimer hockey
with a team called the
Gravenhurst Greys

Maybe I can get them to
re-name the team to
The Gravenhurst Graves

Now that's a good
scary intimidating
killer name
for a hockey team


Gravenhurst Ice, Very Nice

I want to coach minor hockey
I want to coach a peewee team
I want to sponsor a
peewee team and
I want to change its name
from the Gravenhurst Cubs to
the Gravenhurst Ice

I want to change the names
of everything in my old hometown
I want to change everything
in my old hometown
I want to change
my old hometown

I want to change the name of
the arena from the
Gravenhurst Community Centre
how boring is that
to the Gravenhurst Ice House
or the Ice Palace
in honour of the old
ice business that used to be in
the same location

We used to call our teams
the Gravenhurst Indians
-- how
politically incorrect

The Gravenhurst Cubs
is an improvement
a step in the right direction
but it lacks
the power of allusion

Let's here it for
The Gravenhurst Ice


Captain Of The Graves

I want to be the captain of the Graves
the Gravenhurst Graves
oldtimers hockey team

That's my name for them
their new name

They don't know it

The Gravenhurst Greys
will be re-named and
I will be their captain

The current captain
doesn't know it

I hope he doesn't

too much

I want to be the captain
of the Graves
just I used to be
the captain of all those
minor league teams
called the
Gravenhurst Indians

That name is no longer
politically correct
of course
and neither is
The Graves
I don't want to be a Grey

My Grey Decade is over

Now I am heading for
the Graves


The Sawdust Pit

We called it the sawdust pit
and we used to play there
all the time although it was
forbidden -- or because it was
forbidden -- all that sawdust
they used to use as
insulation for the
ice they cut from the
local lakes
each winter
for ice-boxes all over
in the era before

That would be a good name
for the hockey rink, too:
The Refrigerator

Now they call it
something else
I don't know what
I've been away
for awhile
(25 years)

Now there's some
sort of senior citizens
down there where
we used to play

I guess I'll be there
playing there
soon enough

They said we could die
playing in the sawdust pit
and now we
probably will


The Barrie Chapters Of The Star Wars Saga

After the Collingwood real estate agency, I
decided to stop pushing and go with the flow ....
So .... Instead of racing up to Muskokaville, I
cruised over to Barrie, went to Chapters, my
fave bookstore in the world, had a huge dark
hot chocolate and browsed books and software.
That is such a pleasure.

I went to a few other stores looking for software, too.
I want to get some good word processing software for
writing novels and poetry in the marathons.

Barrie has a whole new commercial city on
Molson Park Drive, where there was nothing before,
across from the big beer place, and that's where
Chapters is located and a sprawl of malls .... And
there is a new state-of-the-art twelve-plex Odeon with
all the latest movie stuff -- video games in the lobby,
big snacks and a cafe with real food, and the latest
movies, and the theatre has raked seating, big comfy
seats with built-in drink holders, there's a big curved
screen, the latest sound system ....
I saw the Star Wars episode one thing.


The Zen Of Moving To Muskoka

After watching the first Star Wars prequel
(Darth Vader as a young Skywalker! Cool!)
I went back to my bookstore for another
dark hot chocolate, more reading, and then
came home, feeling sort of like Jar Jar ....
It was overcast so the traffic wasn't
typical May Two Four on Highway 400.
I cruised by Wasaga Beach and the
Blue Mountains of Collingwood
-- my second favourite region on
the planet, listening to Van Morrison
on the tape player, thinking about
leaving my Grey decade and
moving to Muskoka.
Rather than getting discouraged by
real estate agents, initially, worrying about
moving, thinking it is hard, I just adjusted my
attitude a bit, did some driving meditation
and relaxed like the landscape.
I am so well-adjusted!
This period in my life could be truly
crazy-making. I started to worry
but then I shut down my monkey mind
like changing the channel on the radio
I know it will all work out well
I have such a strong and good feeling
I'll have a blast!
I am like so totally into
the zen of moving
to Muskoka.


The Muskoka Zen Centre
My new place will be
called the Muskoka Zen Centre
Even if it's just an apartment
Even if it's just an empty lot where I can set up a tent Even if it's a campground or trailor park or a townhouse condo in Bracebridge

Poems by Martin Avery for BVL.