qu’allez-vous faire de ces moments?
how life sometimes folds in and back on itself and makes everything fit together and relate.
i am sitting in the chair by the woodstove, khurue is in my lap, making typing awkward. the roof vent is open because i am still used to lighting winter fires. odario williams is playing the tunes on the cbc, singing soothing my soul. outside les grenouilles are in chorus. dusk settles in all around us, this grey/blue/black blanket of night. i am eating fresh local nettle-tomato-smoked-salmon soup. the nettles were picked a mere few hours ago on a ten minute walk down to the ocean. i am sitting here revelling, can you tell? there is much to tell you, but let us start here. i arrived home last night off the last ferry. when i crossed last, a bunch of dancers were on the boat. they had come over for an intensive, and some were using the upright ferry roof supports as monkey bars and doing cool shit à la kevin bacon in footloose – you know – how he’d hold himself out horizontally from a vertical bar using only his arms and core strength and magic. they were having sooo much fun and were making it look so easy that i wanted to join in, but i didn’t know any of them and was feeling shy. i figured i’d just try to find some monkey bars somewhere, but that is plenty difficult in this age of accident-proof playgrounds. so i thought i might as well give it a go this time, and…… fun!!! i definitely am nowhere near being able to hold myself out horizontally, but i can get the feeling of supporting myself by my arms. there is something about balance in there that i need to figure out. it was a bit crowded back there, so i couldn’t try it out it as much or as fully as i wanted, but i have got the taste now. i was lamenting to sho about how i would like some monkey bars, and she pointed to the bar i was currently using. she’s right. i decided i could just attempt to use the ferry bars every time i cross, assuming there isn’t too much freight or people around, which will probably get harder now as summer approaches, but i did pretty good given that it’s a long weekend, so maybe i’ve got a few more months. the boat was still pitching and heaving, but i wanted to go inside to rouse ben to see if he could do it too. though it’s only a few metres from where i was to the door, i was shot back and forth like a pin-ball. lisa j reached out and grabbed me, keeping me steady as i walked, until i had a hold of the door, and she did it again on my way back out. this is community. though i barely know lisa – we have probably shared less than a handful of exchanges since knowing each other – we reach out because we live in the same place. (still revelling).
i have been working in nanaimo for the last month, and though i did come home for a weekend a couple of weeks ago, this weekend is a 4-day long one and comes following last weeks news that i have long-term full time work in nanaimo. this is very welcome considering all of the hubdub with the cars, but meaning also that i will be away from home much more now, which makes this weekend here a working one, as probably all the rest of them will become as well. luckily there are 4 days in this one, so i am reserving some time for play too. last spring was when i started spending more time over here (this was before the land came through), and it feels soooo good to have now felt all the seasons on the land. it is feeling like a return. a full cycle. a coming home. perhaps it is due to being away for so long this time, but i come home and am struck again by the fact that i l i v e h e r e. whhaaaat? standing down the by the ocean tonight, picking nettles, i couldn’t get over it. thank you thank you thank you. when will it really settle in, i wonder? it’s so interesting how it takes being away and coming back for it to hit home true. so maybe it will settle in this spring, as i continue to be away working, every time i come home, a bit more home will settle into me. today was divine, i woke in the early morning hours in the midst of a delicious sleep, not knowing where i was, totally disoriented, thinking i was in nanaimo, but the light didn’t make sense, nor where my pillow was – the bed was too wide. it took maybe a full five seconds for it to sink in. i have gotten so used to this moving around that it is easy to forget that i haven’t always loved this sort of lifestyle. indeed i still don’t fully understand why i am so comfortable with it now. all those years in winnipeg, i was so antisocial, i loved being at home. i loved quiet time, and would spend hours writing or making art or sewing or reading or what have you. now i move from house to house with ease, sometimes staying with a different friend each weekend. going from adventure to adventure. i haven’t taken too much time to examine the why of it all, but as i write i wonder if it’s simply because i didn’t want to live in winnipeg, so i holed up in the safe cozy place i created within it. the older i get, the more it is driven home how adaptable humans are. we might not like something at first, but give us time and we get used to doing it anyway. we think nothing of it, even. it is a good way to be, but of course can also get us into trouble.
this weekend is all about wood. i went around flagging trees i want to cut down for both firewood and to bring more light to the house-site. i hauled out the winter-dormant chainsaw, sharpened it up, fuelled and oiled it and vroooooommm! oh, have i mentioned? i l o v e my chainsaw. the vrooooming induced a fit of giggles, and off i went to buck up a big fir windfall. after the mild tennis elbow i got in the fall from a full day of chainsawing, i figured i’d only buck up as much as a full tank of gas, a good way to ease into it. after that it was time to haul round after round up the hill to the bus, then split kindling, then clear out a potential space for where i want the woodshed to be. intermingled in there was putting up some tyvek on the shack up top, over where some pink fibreglass had started escaping, and washing out a couple of carbuoys to filter a supply of water into while there is still water in the pond, and there is still so much on the list to do!
i am incredibly grateful right now to my body. it has felt so healthy and strong lately. my legs feel like the way the incredible hulk looks. this last month i have been walking non-stop for about 4.5 hours a day at work, have gone snowboarding twice and cross-country skiing once, have been doing yoga daily during the work week, have been biking to work everyday, and oh, we hiked up mt.arrowsmith. in the snow! (more on that later). i am so glad that i no longer have a daily 90 minute commute to work, i am so glad that i get to ride my bike so much, i am so glad that i have been getting walking routes at work. my body feels like right now it can do almost anything i want it to, i can’t recall ever having this much stamina. i was thinking that if i plan to do any long distance hikes, i should do them now, or plan to still have this job before embarking on one in the future. it’s pretty sweet if your job can double as training for future fun adventures.
[this post spans several days, if you are wondering about my use of present tense, etc…] saturday morning i went for a short hike with about 40 other folks, a community outing to promote donations for a piece of land the nature conservancy wants to purchase. then i came home to fall trees with doug, my land partner. doug is now the 4th person i have asked to help me fall trees, he has shown me a third way to make the cuts, and i think i like his method best. my notch cuts are improving both with practice and the technique he uses. so far this has been the most complex in my short tree-falling history. the trees i chose were in thicker forest, with other trees close by, and no completely clear area in which to fall them. we were doing pretty good, and had fallen six good-sized trees – mainly doug fir – when we got to the seventh. it was slightly heftier, maybe 1.5ft wide and the direction it needed to fall was still crowded by the surrounding trees’ branches up top, and there was not too large a gap to fall it in. because it had to be so precise, we finished off the fall with a wedge, which i had never used before. i sure felt like a lumber-jack while i was swinging my axe at that wedge, jamming it into the trunk. despite the extra effort, the tree still started falling a little too far left and ended up getting caught in the branches of a neighbouring tree, AND leaning up against another tree, which then acted like a springboard. doug looked up at it and placidly declared: “this is what we call a conundrum”. i burst out laughing. dougs years of expertise managed to fall it using techniques i would not even try, and it ended up where we wanted it, with little damage to the surrounding trees. despite the fact that i am killing trees, i still really love the act of falling, the precision and grace of it. it is both thrilling and humbling. i hope it remains so. we quit there for the night and i was too exhausted sunday to begin the bucking, so i have a TON of work to do next time i am home. so it goes. saturday night was a late night up at annas for her birthday dance party. i was in food and music heaven. the spread was deeeevine. it was a potluck, but oh lordy, all of the foods were so rich and tasty and oh oh oh… everyone was all dolled up in lace and jewels and the lush garden-scape created by annas hands was right out the wide curved window and the fire was hot and the conversation was happening all around me and adam was spinning the beats out into space… if only i could eat and relish and dance all at the same time. so staying up way late combined with two days of chainsaw work made it difficult to stay awake on sunday. which made me make the safe decision to not use the chainsaw that day. instead i did more general puttering like diverting water from the cisterns now that pollen season is coming, covering up the bus wheels to protect them from sunshine, which i have been meaning to do for months, and going to my last band practice for awhile. monday morning was for another last for awhile – dance. the whole weekend was so beautyfull, mainly calm and sunny, and the bike ride to dance felt like every pedal stroke was a thanks. thanks for being here. thanks for existing. thanks for sun. thanks for the trees. thanks for this community. thanks for the changing seasons. it was endless and overwhelming and joyful. sometimes i feel like i simply cannot give enough thanks. the leaving this time was bittersweet. i haven’t been gone from the island this long since moving there. haven’t had this long of a work stint. though i am so happy to be making a chunk of money again, it is harder to leave knowing i won’t be spending much time there for awhile. especially hard now that it is spring and i am craving having a garden, growing my own food. i would be happy to even grow just kale. but to do that i need to build a garden bed first! and a fence! i cannot simply sow seeds, i need the infrastructure.
so that was the weekend, now let us back-up and tell you why i haven’t had a post in over a month…
it all started with the car (not the lack of posts, but the string of unfortunate events). the car died. i had to get another one. big money expenditures, lots of stress, not enough work to offset the spending. then the week after – my computer died. it was working fine, then all of a sudden the screen goes white, after that it keeps trying to restart and nothing happens. this is a computer i bought about three years ago. i did buy it used, but it is a macbook pro, and i did A LOT of research on it before buying it. i figured i was safe because it was a mac and not a lot of things go wrong with them. i was hoping it would last me ten years or more. i took it to a local repair shop and they said it was the graphics card, which apparently gives out on macs of this vintage and apple did nothing to fix it (for this model vintage), so even if i got it replaced, it could happen to the next one, and the price would be comparable to getting a brand new macbook. well. after they gave me that news i became completely overwhelmed. it was just too much money spending in too short of a time. i left the computer with them and just ignored it all for a week. after that i started researching new macs and again became crushed anew because new 15” macpros are RIDICULOUSLY expensive. and on top of that, part of the reason i got a used one was that it had a dvd drive and more options for ports. i don’t like how they are streamlining the new macs and getting rid of everything except a couple of thunderbolt ports. also, the main reason i got this specific model was for filmmaking, and though i have three short films in the works, i have barely used it for that yet. i need to at least get a couple of those out! after getting the first opinion, i thought i should probably get a second, but was too overwhelmed to do anything about it right away. eventually, two weeks later, and after talking with some friends – one of which is a local computer aficionado on the wee island, i brought it to another fix-it shop, nakeo computers. nakeo called me a few days later with their first verdict: diagnostics were inconclusive. at which my metaphorical shoulders dropped – because isn’t it their job to diagnose? but he went on to say that the graphics card seemed fine, it is just that the connection between it and everything else had failed. he wanted to start with fixing that and seeing what happened. for 245$ i thought that sounded like a great plan. and guess what? i am writing this from that same computer. it worked! thank goodness. so that happened last week, and i have desperately missed writing, but geez life is busy when you work full-time. it seems like i get home from work and it takes all of my time just to get together food, wash dishes, do yoga, and attend to the various other necessities of life. i am feeling this as well in general fatigue. for the first three weeks of work i continued my active lifestyle on the weekends, but by the end of the third, i was starting to feel the tiredness not going away overnight! what’s with that!? oh, it’s called working full-time. i’m sure glad i have managed to live the whole of my life thus far never stuck in a 9-5 job 5 days a week and i intend to keep it that way. i am sure grateful for this job that allows me such flexibility. it has been especially good lately, with all of the walking routes – 4 weeks in a row. last week i was delivering to the snuneymuxw first nation, which is right on the ocean, and for the life of me, it felt like i was up north again, like i was on the deh cho. it felt so good. like non-stop grinning good. it felt like i had just gotten out of the canoe and was wandering around a local town, looking for the grocery store. waiting for the people to pull me in with their stories and insights and wisdom. that route also took me over the cutest hilly streets with old quirky houses, painted purple and blue and red. stands of bamboo. wrought iron gates. hidden gardens. paintings on walls. it reminded me of old-town victoria and the time i spent wandering around there when i was 20. though i didn’t really love living there, i did love the wandering and the old houses and the thoughts and dreams they conjured up. another reason i love my job is my co-workers, they are generally a really fun bunch of folks. apparently a customer called in the other day, and spoke with one of our supervisors, he started out by saying, “your pansy-ass letter carrier…” at which point our supervisor spoke up and said, “oh, hold on right there…”, and put the guy in his place. it’s canada post policy that if there is a dog in any way impeding your delivery of mail, you just keep going, you don’t have any obligation to deliver that mail. but this guy didn’t like that and wanted the letter-carrier to come MEET his dog. he decided to start the conversation out with calling the letter-carrier a pansy-ass. always a good beginning. anyway, due to that fabulous anecdote, the next day luke (and his scathing sense of humour), passes by said letter-carrier and says, how’s it going pansy? now as i write this i realize that doesn’t sound as hilarious as it was, but don’t worry, it’s all in good fun. i am not one to condone meanness. a few days ago i heard another supervisor say in passing, “…that’s not what my japanese robot is for…”. as emma and i were collating flyers today, luke comes by and says, “i’ve got one thing to say: never trust a fart when you’re sick…”. other than to mention that happened while he was out delivering, that is all i will say on that subject. the banter between the sortation cases in the mornings is also rowdily entertaining. it is loud, and some of the things i have heard on that work floor would just NEVER slide in any other workplace. sometimes show-tunes are sung. off-key. and one morning julia yelled “i’ll give you something to be sorry about!”, while our superintendent happened to be walking by. for which the only thing he had to say was “inside voices please”. in many ways it seems healthy just because everyone is saying what they really think all the time. gotta love this job.
a couple of weeks ago i was sorting the mail and it was going sooo slow. i was witnessing it going slow, and try as i might to go faster, i just couldn’t. i felt sloppy and spacey, it was the kind of feeling where you know something is really off, but just can’t figure it out. and you’re also kind of laughing at yourself, because really, there is no good reason for all the time it is taking you to get that letter to the right slot in the case. the day progressed and that night was heathers birthday gathering up island. i had it timed so that i could do a few errands after work on my way to the party, the first one being a trip to the grocery store. all was fine until the check-out. the huge bag of bulk mixed nuts i was buying came up as the wrong price. i am a stickler for getting deals when i can, and also for calling superstore out when they price things wrong. so i told the cashier the correct price, but she was having a really difficult time, first voiding it, and then entering it correctly. it just wasn’t working and we were getting all mixed up in pounds vs grams vs kilograms. finally i got out of there, and though my time was set back a bit, i thought i still had enough of it to make a quick trip to staples for some photocopying. again, everything was fine, until my copy card ran out of money. i got it refilled and then went to finish copying, but the machine told me my card had insufficient funds to make more copies. i went back to the salesperson and she verified that the card had another 10$ on it, but when we went to try it again, it still wouldn’t work. we tried a different machine. she checked the balance again. finally she just gave me the staff card to use while she transferred the $ to a new card for me. when i eventually got to heathers party, 15 minutes late, bethy was talking about how she had lost her keys that morning, and she never loses her keys, they are always in the basket by the door. she looked everywhere until she realized they WERE in the basket by the door, but had mainly fallen out of it, hanging over the edge. i piped up to essentially say, yeah! me too! my day was slightly off in the silliest of ways. and then brooke says: oh, mercury is in retrograde. ahhhhhhhhh…. it was then that i thought it would be soooo funny if instead of the staples copy machine telling me i had insufficient funds, it instead said, “we’re sorry, but mercury is in retrograde, please come back and finish your copying in a month.”
now to the mountains people. in early march matt and ben and i hiked up mt.arrowsmith. this is something i have wanted to do since moving back to the coast, but i had never been and didn’t know the way, and what’s more, when i had inquired with people in the know, was told i couldn’t go up in winter because the roads would be impassable with snow. pshaaaw. i met matt and ben in port and matt drove us in as far as he could with his 4×4. it was snowy, for sure, but it only added maybe another 2 km total of logging road onto the hike. matt brought an ice axe, we all had cleats (though i didn’t wear mine b/c i trust my feet more than the work cleats i have), and two hiking poles between us. i t w a s b e a u t y f u l l. the weather was perfect, probably about +6ish, and sunny with rich clear blue sky. we were all basically in shirtsleeves on the way up. the snow was thinner in the trees and at lower elevations, so the hiking was easier. as we got higher up it got deeper (thigh deep!) and necessitated one person breaking trail as we went. kicking in steps, essentially, because at points it was an almost vertical ascent. as we were climbing we noticed these slide marks down the side of the mountain, like someone had gone down on a crazy carpet maybe, but we couldn’t figure it out, because the track would go between closely spaced trees and turn sharp corners. what could they have possibly used? it just seemed too dangerous. up and up we went as the sun beat down and melted the snow, forming tumbling snowballs down the mountainside. on far off chutes we would see and hear waterfalls of snow cascade down. it kept getting steeper and as the trees fell away, fields of snow opened up. matt, the expert among us, became more concerned about avalanche risk the higher we went, so we decided to call it quits within about a hundred meters from the top. the view from up there… oh my. it was a view like i had only ever seen from an airplane, mountain range after mountain range spreading to the horizon. i had never been so high up that i was higher than all of my surroundings. we could almost see over one of the passes atop the massif (to the ocean!), but it was too risky to continue on, so around we turned. and guess how we got down? first, we ran, but it was so steep it was more like bounding and then F L Y I N G. a m a z i n g. it was sooooooooo fun. THEN we discovered how the people before us made those tracks, they just SLID. the mountainside was our slide. somehow, even though we could go pretty fast, we could still control where we were going, make pretty sharp turns, and basically stop when we needed to. sometimes using the base of small trees and bent knees if necessary. i don’t think i am capable of describing to you how fun this was. the element of danger of course added to it. we did that until we were getting pretty low down and the snow was petering away, and then ben tore his pants on an exposed tree root. oops. back on the upper logging road, we were followed by a herd of whiskey jacks. i have always wanted to hold out my hand and have one of them land on it, and guess what? one did! these guys are plucky little creatures. i had nothing in my hand but my fingers, which the bird tried several times to ingest. then it started hopping up my arm to my face. ha! it did this for awhile before gliding back to its branch. as we continued on down the road to the car, the birds continued on with us. at the end of the day i came away with this thought: i need to climb more mountains.
the last exciting thing – running. as you may recall, i sometimes run. i tend to give it up if i am working a lot, because running on top of all the exercise i get at work feels excessive. usually i do it to keep my body happy during slack work periods. running is not something i feel like i can just pick up and do. i mostly do it first thing in the morning before i’ve eaten anything, because as the day progresses i don’t want to have to remember to not eat for awhile if i were to run later (i eat a lot. i like food. yum.). i also want to have on clothes i can get sweaty in, because i routinely wear the same outfit for days on end, which would be harder to do if i wear it running. then one day ben and i were out on a trail in the woods, we were both carrying small bags, i had on two sweaters, we were heading downhill on the way back to the house after being out in the rain and the wind, when the urge to run struck. off we went, vaulting over rocks and roots. downhill all the way, packs bouncing, feet swift and steady. no special clothing. no mind to too full a belly. no plan at all. and it was d i v i n e. simply because of all that. the impromptu-ness of it. the going with what you have. perhaps the best way to be in general, don’t you think?
*une des nombreuses choses qui fait plaisir à être ami avec ben c’est que je peux pratiquer mon français. je m’excuse pour le français que apparaît ici, mais c’est tellement amusent de parler (et d’écrire, et de penser…) dans une autre langue. et une si belle langue aussi.