“Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly.”
~Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets
Sometime in June while I was living in my car, I saw that piece of poem written on a sign. I sighed happily (as I often do when I encounter unexpected poetry) and then wondered if June was trembling because of anticipation, or fear or just speed…and then it was gone and I forgot all about it.
I don’t remember the first time I saw the city of Vancouver. I was probably too young. I was born there, in Grace hospital (that burnt down and was rebuilt as Women & Children’s) but grew up in the suburb of Langley. The first few visits to the city that I do remember felt like a long journey – over the big orange Port Mann Bridge and then a seemingly endless stretch of nothingness until we were off the freeway. But even when I was asleep (probably most of the time), I always knew we had reached the city because I woke up when we stopped at 1st and Commercial and I would marvel at the gritty urbanness of the gun shop at that intersection, fiercely gated and barred up. Much later I lived right across the street from where it had been and felt completely safe, always wondering if I had just made it up. Our trips into town seemed to revolve around something my dad had forgotten at his office on Hastings Street or a Chinese food dinner at either Wok With Yan or the Beijing House. I remember trying so hard to get my hands around the chopsticks and playing next to the koi pond in the floor but I am suspicious of memory. Even though I can picture Wok With Yan’s restaurant where the White Spot is now on Georgia Street, I know I was very young. I feel like I must be getting something wrong – not least because I haven’t seen either of my parents eat Chinese food in maybe 25 years. To think of them making such a long drive into town with small children to eat it boggles the mind.
The last time I saw Vancouver was at Crab Park early in the morning. I took a photo because it was gorgeous out and it felt poignant but truly I have many photos of our dog park, a place that I have been to almost daily this past year. This time though, we were in a rush. We had cleaners to deal with, cars to pack, and then a whole lot of paperwork to fill out at the border because finally, after a long wait, we were moving to Seattle.
I went to university in Victoria but I’ve always thought of Vancouver as my home. I read a poem once in which ‘home’ was defined by wherever you had your heart broken. In a way, I think that’s true…it’s where you had your formative experiences. I lived in the West End, East Van, Cambie Village, Commercial Drive, Main Street, Oak Street and Gastown. I ate at SO many restaurants (sometimes even consecutive businesses in the same storefront), hiked in the forests, dove all over the coast, got married, worked for several different companies as well as started my own, and made lots of friends…for all of these reasons Vancouver will be home but also for all of those reasons it was also time to leave.
It’s always been a dream of mine to live abroad and I’ve dabbled in it (multiple home-stays in France an Germany and a lot of travel) and prepared for it (I’m a certified TESL instructor and a dive master and I have a filing cabinet worth of books and maps) but there has always been something holding me back, usually a boy or a girl, sometimes debt, at times common sense.
But we are finally here, just barely abroad, and that’s ok. It’s a step. From here we can go elsewhere and even this border hop has had its share of paperwork and problems. Had we moved to say, Poland or Japan, we would currently be standing in a drug store hoping we were buying toothpaste and not hemorrhoid cream, walking everywhere for fear of driving or taking transit and ending up in another city, and eating all kinds of interesting new food. Instead we are driving around in our same cars (minus one motorcycle and one truck), speaking English, eating sushi and burgers at the two decent restaurants in our neighbourhood and when we get lost, we pull up google maps to tell us where to go. Easy Peasy.
We are glad of the adventure, in any case, and ready for all the next ones.
A better quote for this month might be this famous one:
“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”