It was envisaged as a conversation with God in the land of Darwin, but turned out to be "more about losing God than finding God. I did leave with the best intentions," Quarrington said, "but things just didn't work out that way." At the time, he noted, there was "quite a trade afoot for spiritual books, so I hope it's clear we were having no part of it. We don't want to be seen as cashing in."
In keeping with his professed atheism, perhaps, Quarrington requested that he be given no formal funeral. But friends and family started to gather today in his east end Toronto home for a wake, and said a formal memorial would be planned.
Although he did not live to see his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs win another Stanley Cup, he did manage - courtesy of his friend Michael Burke - to have his picture taken with members of the team of 1967, when they last won the cup. "Two years ago, there was a reunion and they auctioned the photo op," Burke recalls. "People bid $500, then $1000 and then I bid $10,000 and we got to spend an hour with the team. Paul was in his glory."
In 2001, Quarrington was asked to write a short scene for a theatrical sketch on the theme of mortality. "Of course I just thought about me," he told an interviewer at the time, basing the scene on the moment in childhood when you first realize that life may not be infinite. It was loosely based on the time he fell off a piece of playground equipment at the age of five or six, and had the wind knocked out of him. The character was an adult dancer who recalls the accident when she finds herself short of breath during a performance. The shortness of breath triggers intimations of mortality.
"What I liked," said Quarrington, "is that she wants her breath back."
His final novel, The Ravine , was his most autobiographical - dealing with, he said, "a writer who squanders his talents in television, drinks too much, screws around and ruins his marriage."
In an interview with The Globe and Mail at the time, Quarrington acknowledged that moving between artistic mediums and idioms had probably led some people to judge him a dilettante. But, he added, "in Bali, they make no distinction between dancing, painting and singing. They're all sort of ways of glorifying one grander thing. It's always seemed like I'm doing the same thing, whatever it is, and the root of it all is character, ways of exploring human beings [with]... affectionate empathy."
After his diagnosis last spring, Quarrington and the Pork Belly Futures went to Labrador. Part of the tour took them through the majestic Torngat Mountains. "They took what little breath I have away from me," Quarrington wrote. "That's when I realized ... that what I wanted to do was spend a little time getting to know the third stone from the sun; it has been my home for 56 years, but I have spent much of it confined in the settlements. I wanted to explore and examine, I wanted to interact - yes, in the broadest, most spiritual sense, I wanted to go mountain climbing."
These, he said, singing and (spiritual) mountain climbing would be "the two main components of my plan for (what remains of) my future...I think I'll go fishing this week, getting to know Mother Ship Earth a bit better. I think I'll go stand in a river just a few degrees above freezing and toss a yarn-fly into the current, over and over again, in the hopes of convincing some chromium-silver steelhead that the thing is edible. Or, I may simply go walkabout, kicking stones and major rock formations. I will build inuksuit (did you know that was the plural? I learned a lot on my voyages...) and I will try to build them across as much of the landscape as I can. In the meantime, I will be singing, all manner of songs."