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“To Reach a port, we must sail; Sail, not tie at anchor; Sail, not drift.” ~Franklin Roosevelt

So I sat in my car today and I watched as a huge SUV tried to back into the tiniest of parking spaces.  I contemplated reversing and trying my luck in another row of vehicles further down, but decided there was no where I really had to be.  I was in no rush at all. So I just watched and waited and gave myself kudos on my *choice* to drive a small *economy* car (It’s an ’87 Jetta).

I patted my own back while wearing a smug look on my face, all the while subtly cringing at the nine-point turn the gas-guzzler was struggling through.  Who doesn’t know that it’s easier back into a lane or road than it is to back into a tiny stall?  Really.

As I had so much time on my hands to judge others and self-affirm my positive life choices, I also had a moment to realize an overwhelming sense of Déjà vu.  I swear I’ve done this before.  Actually, I know I’ve waited for this exact vehicle in this same parking lot…..I did this here…. I did this last year!  It was pre-Christmas.  I wrote about it!  Ah ha!  HA.

And so it is that I re-visit my little blog.

I had to have a look at what I wrote last year at this same time.  Where was I in my own head?  What was my mood?  I had just settled back down on Vancouver Island and I was surrounded by family and new friends and the excitement of living and breathing the snowboarding lifestyle and getting paid for it with a job at the mountain!  It was time for me to put down roots and explore a new community – how exciting!

The handful of entries I’ve managed to post since that time a year ago, don’t really give light to all that’s been going on in my life.  It’s hard to write about your thoughts and feelings and outlooks when you’re in one place and the people you see every day are directly contributing to your thoughts and feelings and outlooks.

It really ups the level of accountability when you don’t get to just pick up and leave every few days!

Although, in saying that, I did manage to move to Nanaimo briefly.  I got the opportunity to move in with fabulous friends and go back to school.  Well, actually, school fell through…. and after a few weeks (it was days) slugging through a less-than-stellar job, and the realization that we were all so busy I wasn’t even really spending time with my room mates, I decided to pack a backpack (it’s my default I guess) and go up north.  I had been asked by my uncle to help out as shore crew for the Van Isle 360 – a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island that happens every two years.  It’s an elite sailing race and I was happy to have the chance to be a part of it.

I arrived in Port Hardy ready to do the team’s laundry and cook them warm, hearty meals upon request.  Luck was with me – the boat was short-crewed and I must have struck them as the perfect Weight-Distribution-Specialist, as I was invited aboard.  This was amazing for so many reasons.  One being that I had entered (and lost) a contest just a few weeks before (see previous posting) where I was trying to win a trip aboard a sail boat.  Kismit or what?  This was waaaaaay better than any two-bit prize…. I got to do real sailing, in a real race, with my (yes, real) uncle.

Among an amazing array of other scenery, I saw the beautiful northern tip of the Island and spent a fun-filled night in Winter Harbour.  I’d like to say I picked up a lot in the way of sailing knowledge, but everything moved so fast, it was hard to keep up…on the water, and off.  Sailors really know how to party.  We had a night to recover in Ucluelet after being battered for hours and hours (one of the other boats broke their mast in the storm) on the longest leg of the race – 140 nautical miles – over the rugged west coast waters.  The wind was so bad and the rocking so incessant that two of the life-long sailors aboard our boat couldn’t move – couldn’t even sit up for over 12 hours.

We had the wind at our back as the danced into Victoria’s inner harbour.   And we got caught in the narrows for hours on our arrival into Nanaimo, but this was a great opportunity for the Coast Guard to deliver Tim Bits (donuts – to all you non-Canadians) out of pity, as we anchored and tried not to move backwards.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it was so perfectly timed (the whole trip – not just the donuts).  I got a much-needed reminder that I love the adventure – I’m always up for the adventure – and although I’m trying this settling down in one place thing, it doesn’t mean I have to settle.

I realized I didn’t want to live in Nanaimo.  I moved away when I was eighteen for a reason.  And although I’ve changed, and the city has changed, I wanted something different.  I missed the little life I had started to set up in the Comox Valley.  And so I returned to Courtenay, once again with a backpack on.  My family put me up, yet again, while I started looking for employment.  And employment I got.  All of a sudden I was ironing trousers and blow drying my hair.  Within a few weeks I had my own place… and my cat and I found ourselves living together for the first time in 3 years.  Sometimes these things happen that fast.  Well fast may be a relative term….

Anyway, we all move at our own pace and there’s no point in pushing it.  Things are feeling like they’re falling into place for the most part, and that’s pretty awesome.  This life has proved to be quite the incredible journey so far, and my guess is: it will only get more incredible as we continue sailing forward.

 

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The Alaska Highway

As I write this, I sit on the side of the Alaska Highway. I’ve just driven through the small town of Dawson Creek and glimpsed the “Mile Zero” post that marks the beginning of the epic highway built during WWII.

I’ve filled the car with inexpensive Albertan gas from the last Shell I passed. Engaged in pleasant smalltalk with the gas station attendant – as he removed bugs from my windscreen – I inquired as to where I could get a nice cup of coffee. He paused a moment, looked contemplative, and then earnestly suggested the place down the road. I’m now enjoying the suggested brew and can’t help smiling to myself. Esso gas station coffee isn’t necessarily “nice” but it does the trick. I guess. It was kind of the fellow to point out that the coffee at the competing station is way better than their own.

Yeah, you know, when in Rome….??
Well, I am listening to classic rock…
although I do draw the line at country music.

Up here in the northern reaches of Alberta and British Columbia, life is simple and pleasant – straightforward, if you will. The coffee is served two ways: black, or double double. Easy.

Moose Crossing

Bullwinkle...with a twinkle in his eye, he's about to make moves to cross the highway

Crossing Moose

I’ve pulled over, on this straight stretch of pavement because I wanted to get a picture of the “Moose Crossing” sign on the side of the highway. Doesn’t this image just scream Canada? A stark contrast to the “Wombat Crossing” sign I took pictures of, oh so many moons ago. On my way back to the car I glanced over to the side of the road and guess what? There, amongst the trees, stood a real moose!! Wow, are these signs accurate!

He wasn’t exactly crossing the road, but he had that look about him that suggested he was ready to travel.  He was eying up the south side of the highway, and it wasn’t lost on me: he had plans to make moves.

Anyway, I’ve also pulled over, on this straight stretch of pavement, because I’m having a moment. That kind of moment I find myself having every so often, where I have trouble wrapping my head around exactly where I am. I can’t begin to count the number of times I wake up and don’t know, often for many long minutes, where I am. Sometimes this happens in broad daylight as well…like now.  A hazard of travel, I reckon! Its not so much that I don’t know where I am, it’s just hard to absorb that I was somewhere so very different and so very far away only a few weeks ago.

On the other hand, it kinda feels like I never left.

Well this is another part of the adventure, isn’t it? I can’t imagine I would be drinking coffee from Esso and taking pics of moose in any other country besides here….
Home.

I’m back, and it’s going to be a fantastic summer!

Jill at Beaver Lodge

...

It’s been a nice, easy start to my travels.  Although I haven’t left the country, my only possessions are the ones on my back, so I think it’s fair to consider the traveling officially begun?  I have been living ‘elsewhere’ in my mind for a long while now, so it’s nice that my physical presence can finally catch up!

The city of Vancouver is beautiful and busy and each street is a contrast in terms.  Outside the high-end stores, the high-end shoppers dodge (and ignore) the homeless.  It’s SO busy and bustling but it starts raining and everyone disappears.  Luckily there are enough Starbucks to find shelter in.  The area outside the Art Museum is quite a thoroughfare during the average weekday, but 5:00 pm rolls ‘round, and the steps swarm with kids and homeless and hippies..  is there something artful about this….is it human art?

…I would think it may be considered installation art.

I have been doing a lot of walking in the last few days.  I consider myself somewhat of a local of Vancouver; the majority of the family is here and we did a lot of visiting growing up.  Canuck games and concerts bring me over periodically as well.  This past summer/fall – Kevin’s treatments took place here every two weeks.  I can now navigate through downtown (in a car) without wanting to impale someone with my bare fist.  I like to think that summer traffic at rush-hour taught me patience.

Anyway, I am now trying to see the city through the eyes of someone who hasn’t been here before. It’s hard to do, but not impossible.  The best part of pedestrian-style transport:  You have time to look up.  The clouds and sky seen from below, looking up between the buildings, are awesome.  The mountains in the background, with their dusting of snow, peep through the buildings…this is an incredible sight.  If I were not from here I would be awestruck.

Cupcakes from Cupcakes...the other beautiful aspect of Vancouver: the food!

Cupcakes from Cupcakes...the other beautiful aspect of Vancouver: the food!

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So I am on the plane soon – less than 24 hours….  I am finally doing it.  Thank you to everyone who helped me get here.  We did a lot in just under three weeks!  I admit I still have a few things to do before I head to the airport, but what a reward I have to look forward to.  The next time I write I will be in Australia.

Theme songs of the day:

The Canadian Dream – Sam Roberts, from the album We Were Born in a Flame

California Dreaming The Mamas and the Papas, from the Album If you Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

If Venice Is Sinking – Spirit of the West, from the album Faithlift

So I’m heading over to Vancouver after spending the night in Nanaimo, with good friends. On the ferry, I watch the gulls fly around the boat; riding the wind. There’s a thin layer of white snow on the beach. The water looks COLD.  I won’t be back this way for a while and I’m realizing how beautiful it really is.  Cold and cloudy and beautiful.

Shades of Blue

I love that the house I grew up in can be seen from the boat, although it’s harder to distinguish when all the roofs are white!  I spent twelve years of my life watching these ferries come and go, from the hills surrounding the bay.  I get a special, nostalgic, feeling upon seeing Mnt. Benson, Gabriola Island, downtown in the distance…Harmac (the pulp-mill).  Anyone who knows Nanaimo knows the wonders of that special Harmac smell… how else would we know the weather is changing?

“Welcome aboard BC Ferries…our sailing time will be one hour and thirty-five minutes…”


Sky Mountain Sea

The cat has been safely stowed at a friend’s place. He adjusted well after a long, loud car ride (meeeeoooowwwwwww). He was mildly sedated and very comfortable; maybe a little too comfortable.  It was pretty funny to watch. His back legs stopped working properly and he actually rolled off the couch at one point. He spent the night stumbling around, exploring his new surroundings. He’s quite the little traveler himself! I’m so glad he will be taken care of while I’m gone.

The loose ends are tied up in a bow and I am, officially, on the road.  No car…and, one of the biggest indicators of freedom: no keys!  When was the last time you left anywhere without keys?

Looking outside at the mountains and water and sky – they are all shades of blue.  My leaving the island has many shades as well… blue in nature, but hints of bright white too.

Saying goodbye to friends is bittersweet. Aren’t we actually lucky, in a way, when it’s painful to say goodbye? The pain could be seen as indicative of the strength of the friendship. It’s sad but happy too.  We will all see each other again soon, and we will have so much to talk about.


Theme songs for the day:


In the Flesh? – Pink Floyd, from the album The Wall


Boa Sorte (Good Luck)– Vanessa da Matta & Ben Harper, (Deeplick Remix)

If I felt the early stages of freedom yesterday, today I just feel exhausted. I am realizing I can’t keep up this pace forever. My intent was to stay as busy as possible before I go, but I’m feeling the effects of very little sleep and an extraordinarily long list of things to get done.

I have loaded my plate to the point of brimming.

Take a left at Mitchel's Farm in Saanich and you come across this beautiful view

There are things that HAVE to be done: empty the house by Saturday, clean, pack, so on, so forth, blah blah blah. But the things that are keeping me really busy are the things I WANT to get done. Visiting and reconnecting with friends, taking pictures of everyone and everything, getting outside to appreciate the local beauty (who doesn’t start to take our surroundings for granted?), reading, writing, ‘rithmatic (ha, kidding), getting excited about where I’ll be headed in –wow- just eight days! – these are the ‘to dos’ that take me away from the former, more redundant activities. Who can blame me, hey?

The tough thing about getting over-tired is that my coping skills decline exponentially with every few hours of missed sleep. The emptiness creeps in…it’s like a vapor – a fine mist just enveloping me very subtly. It wraps around my back and moves through my chest, up the back of my neck. It’s not crushing, just a little stifling. It makes things harder.

Luckily, so far, I haven’t had these ‘vapor-bouts’ all that often, or for very long at once. Just an hour or two and then I get distracted enough to keep going. Actually, I think maybe I get bogged down by the big stuff I have to get done, and then I remember that I have a lot of fun stuff to get done too. This helps!

To pull a quote from an email I recently wrote to a friend: “One thing that seems to be getting me through the tough times is knowing that there is this huge web of inter-connected people; people that care for me…in SOME way.  Saying this, at times I also feel alone – even when I’m surrounded by close friends and family.  It’s very surreal and indescribable…?

Now that I read this back, I think I also find solace in knowing how much that inter-connected web of people not only care for me, they also care for each other. There are so many beautiful relationships out there, so complicated and simple and different. This is family. We are all family.

Theme songs for the day:

While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Paul McCartney & Eric Clapton, from the album Concert for George (*note: It’s live, and the best version of the song, by far)

Fresh Feeling – The Eels, from the album Souljacker

Phantom Limb – The Shins, from the album Wincing the Night Away

Driving at dusk - the clouds just glowed.

Driving at dusk - the clouds just glowed.

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