Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Day 3 - Coasting on Cruise Control

Day 3 - Staring out the window of the 283 Empire Service Amtrak train to Schenectady, New York.

It's different here. It's almost hideous, how grey and brown the white can be. What snow and ice there is is dirty, soiled. To paint this place I'd need a palate full of browns and greys and hints of steel blue and muted, dying orange. A little white, only ever in small bursts, because of how it is soiled by the mud or drowned in the river bursting through ice or dirtied by the animal who leaves its tracks and its waste.

It makes my heart ache, being here, having this be something I can't take for granted. It hurts, noticing these things, because their sudden unfamiliarity makes them remarkable. If I'd never left though, I'd never have known how much they are a part of me, part of the background, the scenery of my personal still life.

When I arrived in Vancouver, the first coherent impression I came to have of the city was that there were a lot more conifers than in Ontario. The pouring rain, the grey sky; those were a given, they were expected. No one ever told me about the trees.

Vancouver, as a city, is almost painfully green. I've begun to take it for granted, I've begun to not see how alive everything is all the time. Maybe that's why I'm uncomfortable there. Vancouver is so alive, all the time. I think I'm waiting for the cycle of seasonal death, a collective death which will never come - the trees, the grass, the plants, they don't die on a schedule in B.C. The city of Vancouver never goes up in flames of a thousand maples and birches and oaks the way Ottawa does, like a phoenix in its last gasp before rebirth.

In Vancouver, there are meteorological mood swings, some as predictable as a woman with PMS. It will rain a little harder in the springtime, like a temperamental toddler. It will be warmer and sunnier in June, like a giddy, love-struck teenager. October will be bleak, like a moody seventeen year-old going through his or her 'tortured' phase. November will suck. But November sucks no matter where you are in the northern hemisphere, so that's not saying much. Then winter comes with its indecisive precipitation; unsure of whether to freeze or melt, stay or go, rain or snow - like a young adult incapable of committing to a major or a career path or a romantic partner.

I feel stuck there, in that indecisive winter,wishing some era of my life would come to a definitive conclusion like the end of each season in Ontario. In Vancouver it never smells of spring. Each season seeps into the next in perpetuity. You never smell the cracked,dying leaves in fall or the the crisp, tangy warning of the winter's first snowfall. And you never smell that delicate, earthy perfume of spring - of life beginning anew. You don't revel in the early July heat waves because there are no -40 degree cold snaps to make up for.

Everything just coasts along the same as always - always the same. To a certain degree things don't really change on the coast, they just sort of coast. Like life on cruise control.

I don't want to live my life on cruise control. Maybe it's time I finally learned how to drive, really drive.


Val said...

...and how is that word Schnec??? treating you?

This was a great post, and a reminder to all of us to really drive!

Lauren said...

Remind me to tell you about my family's experience in Schenectady...it was bizarre, to say the least.

lauren said...

This was a really wonderfully written post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with all of us. :-)

mer said...

@ deets - thanks! i've been trying not to just be hockey-hockey-hockey all the time... glad I'm not boring you :)