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Observations on life in Elmira

Paul Busch looks at a grove of trees with initials carved into the trunks and sees a story. Tales and poems tend to thrive inside his head, often telling of his experiences good and bad, connecting his imagination to reality. An adventurous tale of a bank robbery is inspired by the staff at his own bank; a poem, by a look from a stranger; and many more works, by the people in the town of Elmira where he lives.

Elmira’s Paul Busch is a lifelong writer who draws inspiration from past experiences and the community around him.[Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Elmira’s Paul Busch is a lifelong writer who draws inspiration from past experiences and the community around him. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
“I have several stories about specifically Elmira: about a kitten that walked into our industrial yard when that huge thunderstorm hit an apple farm back in 2012…. walking on a trail I wrote one that was called I Talk with God. It’s sort of a condensation of working through some personal issues in my own life, it has a tongue-in-cheek, humourous twist to it,” he said.

Busch has an extensive collection of stories after writing for many years, though his daughter is one of the few people ever to read the works.

It’s his third winter living alone in an old house; neighbours help to clear the snow from the driveway. Busch’s past has made him sensitive to such small good deeds and in them he finds inspiration.

“The thing is, when a guy takes a half an hour, in the winter, to talk with me, he didn’t have to do that. When I left, he shoveled out my driveway. The kid next door comes over with his snowblower since they moved in a couple of years ago. You talk with them, in the summer and in the winter, and it lets me know that I matter.”

After a devastating time in his thirties, Busch found comfort in the kindness of others, and writing became a form of healing. Unable to continue a career as a toolmaker, he started over as a handyman with Elmira’s Advance Millwrights Inc., but it took several years for the now-retired man to recover.

“The guys in the shop and my daughter and her children, that was a virtual lifeline between my daughter and that job. I was nurtured back to sanity and I started writing seriously in about 2007-2008. I did a lot of walking, a lot of thinking, talking, recording, and writing. Poetry, very serious stuff … but also humourous, romantic stories. Now almost not a day goes by that I don’t write.”

Busch’s work draws on a gratitude for his recovery, but many of the fictional pieces come from unexpected places.

“One story, I wrote it on tiny slips, I started with a couple on a Saturday morning. I made up a game that they play where they will turn the alarm clock so they can’t see it, and they wake up and have to guess what time it is. Whoever is closest is the one who can start the game. All kinds of ideas started to come and I started working backwards more and more where the girl was now an eight-year-old red-haired girl, and followed her as she grew up, went to school, fell in love.”

Today everything from a simple look or an outdoor scene to the local news, community projects and even the conversations around the New Year’s vandalism at the Woolwich Memorial Centre are fodder for Busch’s imagination as he works out his views on the human activity around him.

“When I open my mouth I get in way too deep about things that make it sound like I know what I’m talking about, but I’m really just an armchair politician,” he joked.

Paper and pen have been Busch’s chosen medium for years. Now armed with his first laptop he plans to try publishing some works and sharing them with the world and what he calls the sugar bush town of Elmira.

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