The Toxic Snowblower

I’m in Collingwood, recuperating from a grueling move out of Toronto at the warm and welcoming home of Lynda. I spent much of the morning laying in a lawn chair, wrapped in a sleeping bag against the slight chill of the air, soaking in the scent of lilacs and apple blossoms and the avian sounds of spring. I pointedly ignored Jake, who kept flipping a Frisbee on my lap and nudging my arm, until he finally gave up and curled peacefully under my chair. It takes 13 years for a border collie to resign himself so quickly.

The property is surrounded by trees, well back from the road and quite protected from noise. The faint roar of industrial machinery did not register over the sound of squabbling birds and neighbour’s riding mower until the noise became quite loud and ominously near. I finally lifted my head to get a better angle on the peek-a-boo view of the orchard, playfully imagining that perhaps a bulldozer was on a collision course with my comfortable position. In a way, it was.

What I saw shocked me. A giant machine, not unlike a snow blower, prowled the aisles of the apple orchard across the lane, pouring some kind of toxic white fog out of a giant curved chute over the tops of the trees. I’m sure Mr. Apple Farmer would insist that this chemical soup spread over dozens and dozens of acres just across the driveway was quite harmless, but, my thoughts went instantly to the local herbalist, who lives safely above the spray on top of the escarpment. She once told me that the cancer rate is extremely high in Beaver Valley residents because of the chemicals used on the orchards. In fact, Laird’s mother, who lived many years in this house, was taken from us far too soon by cancer, just a year and a half ago. As the fog drifted through the trees and settled on the ground, it struck me that this was the air she breathed, and the water she drank from a well dug in this earth.

Angry thoughts flashed through my mind. “How is it that someone can do something like this without warning anyone?”, I raged inwardly. “How is that I am legally protected from having to breathe someone’s cigarette smoke in a restaurant, but not from the spew of tons of chemicals into the air right next to my door?”.

I grabbed my dog and escaped into the relative safety of the house, and spent the rest of that lovely afternoon indoors. I couldn’t help but ponder the irony of a city slicker like me escaping to the idyllic peace and clean living of the country, only to have chemicals unceremoniously dumped on my head. In the midst of that fog, the real price we pay for cheap and unblemished produce became painfully clear.

Organic food has always seemed like a good idea to me, but a very expensive one, and the cheaper option usually ends up in my cart. Well, my close encounter with the toxic snow blower has certainly changed my thinking, bulldozing an abstract concept into painful reality with a thump.

Buy organic. The alternative is far too costly.