Where life makes sense, I turn. I stop in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, for a cup of tea, exiting Highway 1 just beyond the sign that proclaims the town’s motto ‘where life makes sense’ to pull into a Husky minimart.
I peel open the white envelope that holds a bag of Red Rose tea and drop the bag in my thermos cup. Very hot water makes sense, I think, but this reflects my narrow view. It takes hot water to steep tea, bringing-out the flavors, fragrances, and colors. I press downward the red lever for the water.
‘Where life makes sense’ is epigraphic. The phrase gives pause, leading me to consider life on the Canadian prairie. My initial ‘feel good’ thoughts, as my tea steeps, give way to Camus’s sense of life as absurd. It’s difficult to see life making sense when absurdities arise to bash us each day. In Camus, I appreciate his sense that it’s possible to wend one’s way through those absurdities through creativity. “Creating is living doubly,” Camus says. He writes of Proust’s collecting flowers, wallpapers, and anxieties not as sensible in some given scheme of a proper life, but as acts that create life. I wonder what Swift Current means to claim in its motto that here life makes sense.
There’s a line at the cashier. We wait for a man who wants more than he has brought to the till—he walks away from the cashier while we wait. The cashier mutters to another man behind the counter.
What would Camus do in Swift Current? I think about him working here at the minimart as a cashier. In his time-off, he reads Proust and Nietzsche and writes essays. The locals, having a good sense of humour, make soft jokes about his pessimism. He talks too much about suicide and crime. A few of the women like to chat with him about Proust, but Nietzsche . . . no, all they say in that regard is “Nietzsche, eh?” Would Camus find some greater sense of life in Swift Current than in some other place?
At the edge of Swift Current, I pass a Walmart and begin to fear that life here has succumbed to bits of nonsense.
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Quote from p. 70 of The Myth of Sisyphus (1955; Vintage paperback edition) by Albert Camus.