I am back in St. John’s and I see that Tim Horton’s is hiring: Full and Part-Time. For somebody that will be good news.

My haunts — Harvey Road, Military Road, Bonaventure Avenue —  I left them twenty years ago for Toronto and a paycheque I could count on. Those were the days of the cod moratorium. Nobody worked. Since then oil came, with it a boom in real estate, steady demand for tradesmen, every old car traded in on something better. And now the money has gone again. Failure comes and goes here like an exhalation.

I come back in the summers for a week or two — mainly to see my mother who at 88 is beyond ordinary conversation. She inhabits a wheel chair and what little she says has to do with dreams and her wandering jail-broken memories. In a long life of half-realized brilliance she was mostly unhappy. Now, with her meds calibrated, she seems content. Very occasionally, I think she knows who I am.

When I walk the downtown streets, there is a sense of the vanished and the vanishing that I do not find in Toronto. The grey stone of the Anglican Cathedral and the shoulder-to-shoulder clapboard houses enclose me in the last years of the nineteenth century. The narrows are like an eye half-opened.

But living here is different. Time crowds in. The day has its imperatives of work and food, family and friendship. Failing to see this makes you a stranger and sentimentalist.

But even so, life here is more aware of old roots, of waves that have rolled in and receded. The heart is different in St. John’s.