It was one of those Sundays in early January when you wake up to bright, stark sunlight streaming through your blinds.
My fellow Vancouverites might know the one. It’s been grey and dreary for months. You open your curtains to a brave new world and see, with sudden, startling clarity, all of the dust that had gathered in the cracks of your life while you had been hibernating through the long winter.
Every year, on this particular day in January, I find myself wandering around the city alone in an unsettled daze – one hand on this first pulse of summer, wondering how, with all of the dust and cracks, I can keep on pushing forward.
It was freezing out, being January and a cloudless day, but I needed to get out of the house.
At that point, I had been “home” in Vancouver for a month after spending half a year in Europe.
In that month, I spent a lot of time with my head between my hands complaining to friends about how torn I was between feeling the need to put my adult life together and wanting to get on a plane back to Europe as soon as I can afford being jobless for another few months.
My best girlfriend, a.k.a. The One That I Complain To Most, said to me, “Get away from the city. Go for a walk. Go to Stanley Park, wander into the forest and think about it. What do you really want? What makes you happy? Don’t think about what society says you should be doing. Think about what you should be doing.”
“But it’s coooooold,” I said.
“Oh princess,” she said. “Suck it up, bundle up, and thank me later.”
And so, on that particular day in January, I dug out my warmest clothes, which, either ironically or coincidentally, looked very Pacific Northwest – red plaid flannel shirt, TNA Sea-To-Sky sweater (that one every girl in the city owns), dark jeans, brown combat boots, fur-lined parka, knit gloves, and white toque.
I packed my fancy but compact travel camera as well. I thought that if I tried to look at my own city through the eyes of a traveler, I might find new perspectives that I hadn’t been able to see before.
I walked to the SkyTrain and rode towards the glass towers rising out of Vancouver’s downtown core. I passed the offices of the central business district (CBD) where all lights had been switched off for the weekend, to the far end of the downtown peninsula and to Stanley Park.
Camera in hand, I meandered into the park. West Georgia turned into Lost Lagoon into a forest trail where the light got darker and the trees thicker with every step I took.