Hiatus 2.0 – Vacation from Vacation – Day 1

First Blood! …er First Beer!

We drove towards the ends of the Earth, caught a ferry, then kept on going. O’ Canada! I hadn’t been up to Canada in years, and admittedly felt a little nervous. What would it be like? Would I be judged for being an American? Would I fit right in as an Asian? Would I run into Nathan Fillion? But the suspicious customs agent shifted us thru quicky, and without a stamp…

I don’t know what to make of Victoria, B.C. as we walk up the main street to our hotel. We pass the typical tourist shops that sell the identical shirts at the same prices. We pass the untypical shops, the military antique shop where I hope to find a sword. My father reminds me I have no room in my suitcase for a sword. We saunter down the wee market street, and found a lone man selling home-made chain mail. I seemed to have caught his eye, rather than him mine. I stopped and he admired my subtly rude T-shirt. It wasn’t long before he had his phone out to snap a picture of it. Admiring my tattoo and piercing while at it, much to my mothers chagrin. I silently cheersed myself to being an International Head Turner.

We don’t find much in the shops on the drag. My father tries to feel the spirit of the Brits and we attempt to find him a woolen hat, but he scoffs at the prices. It’s not British enough here to warrant those prices. We head back down to the dockside stalls. Mother buys some icecream and father and I watch as a ridiculously small boat heads out for whale watching. The stalls sell handmade goods, jewlery, fabrics, wood work. I stop at a stall filled with box picture frames all filled with taxidermy bugs. The people hovering around all squirm at the sights, I lean in closer, wondering if the man has any larger spiders. He sells keychains of smaller bugs, and pendants of small animal skulls. I stare, longingly at the bird skull, but think of the joke. Wearing a bird skull around my neck, next to the cat tattoo.. 

Victoria boasts of Old English spirit, but I am failing to see it. Dinner is in a pub, though no pub like I’ve been in. It’s high ceilings and fancy chandeliers. We are seated in a booth facing the 3-4 man bar, each bartender buttoned up and skilled. Infront of us sits a young man with his pants halfway down his ass and us full view of his patterned boxers. Beyond him is a TV showing the Worst and Best plays in American athletics. Maybe I haven’t been in enough European pubs, but I’m thinking of those low ceilings, and the smell of old chips buildings. Cigarette smoke, and a game of darts in the corner. Floor might be a bit sticky from the beer. It sounds terrible. It sounds wonderful.

Give it time. I’ll try again tomorrow. The seagulls have gone to bed, music is rocking in the distance, Ma and Pa are passed out, better turn out the lights..

Hiatus – Day 11

Mermaid Treasures..

Sometimes people wake up to find it raining and begin to cry. We wake up to find it raining, and seek out other opportunities. We wait until shes finally just stopped, and head to the beach. It is thick with the scent of low tide and still too early for many to be out. The clouds hang low on the mountains and the thick treeline dropping down to the water reminds of days on the Alaskan beachsides, small fuzzy dog chasing tossed sticks…

We amble along, filling our pockets with the most colourful rocks, and unbroken shells. Mermaid treasures left by the tides for the land walkers to find. It is peaceful, and a gentle breeze pushes the sea onto the sand. It is absolute low tide and the ground is slick and squishy underfoot. It isnt until we find the round, unbroken shell the size of a fist do we head back up land. I poke at the dirt and flip large rocks over as I go. I find a pile of shells, only to realize it is a colony of crabs none to happy with my poking. They angrily wave their claws at me and scurry away.

We find a wooded path and I am surprised by how far from the sea it feels. It is thick with foliage and smells of tea. I step over dandilions, stretching the length of their stalks across the path, as if they too are craving the sea. Above us, long slender branches reach across, their bark coming away to reveal deep red skin. It is almost like the selkie that sheds its seal skin to stride upon the land on two feet. These trees seem like a snapshot, frozen in time mid action of doffing their tree skin, to return to the sea as something else. 

The return home seems almost hurried as the sun begins to break thru the clouds, chasing the morning mist and fog away. We hear voices seaward, but upon halting and turning, we see only the birds as the voices stop as well. We hear voices again, and again stop to see nothing. As if the very birds themself are speaking, mocking.

We finally reach the car, covered in sweat and muck, suddenly surrounded by civilization. We stow our treasures, then head off, the scent of the sea following us as we go.

Hiatus – Day 9

Kismet..

No, you didn’t somehow skip over a day and miss a bunch of juicy writing. I simply didn’t feel like writing yesterday. Not to say it was a bad day, on the contrary, it was quite a lovely day. There was lots of laughing, some arguing, some laziness, and a surprising amount of productivity. In honest, this writing business is somewhat difficult for me. Which is almost to say one has lost their very heritage… I had dreams of being a writer as early as age 5. A surprisingly concrete thought for a mush minded child. Too busy learning and absorbing life lessons to be thinking about adulthood. But simply perhaps, I was always going to be a storyteller, and books full of pictures of cakes and animals was my first forms. And though my mind has never stopped telling stories or pumping out its unique quirks, to form it into something I might smile with earnest at is a much different game.

For me, it is almost like digging deep down, and rediscovering myself. I close my eyes and I see three spheres orbiting themselves. Just around and round, like some sort of machinery. And each of them holds a thought, constantly changing, constantly swirling around in my mind. It is never peaceful in there, but for a while it felt as though one of the spheres was dim, blurry, orbiting slower than the others. Maybe like Pluto, there, but in the background. When I use energy to speed that sphere up, to clear its thought, it just wears me out a little. I am constantly feeling like none of my writings has an ending, rather I just get too tired and simply quit writing.

Today, a lot of little things happened. None of which was earth shattering, but put together and it felt a little bit like Fate. Those weird moments when you almost audibly hear pieces falling into place. Have you ever just met someone and felt that instant connection. Not necessarily a romantic connection, but an absoluteness that you are meant to know this person. Have you ever laid your eyes on something and knew you needed it. For whatever reason, but you simply can’t take your eyes off of it. Almost as if your soul is drawing you to these things..

Today felt like one of those days. I can’t say if any of it is real or just my imagination. But what I can say is, my soul feels alive..

Hiatus – Weekend Roundup

Just a Mocha..

This place defines Timelessness. In that, one’s sense of time becomes obscure. It is one thing to step off the boat, onto an island of oddities, but here, it is as if you step off the track of time itself.

We had coffee at 2. The shop wasn’t closing and the usual baristas still had fire behind their eyes. We sat on the dock among the sail boats and the sailors. Strong breeze from the west whipping sails and tossing the surf onto the beachside. Sipping the hot elixer, no sense of time.

We arrived at the brewery by 4. Heavy in the thump of music, some nameless garage band, its members in the typical cut off shorts, brightly coloured plastic shades, and ragged metal band t-shirts. They were an image of Eugene, and for a moment I was lost. Microbrew filling cups and the smell of Texas BBQ in the air. But no sooner had we arrived, than they stepped from the stage, and the portly Australian man took their place. He wore a light mens sun hat and a hawaiian shirt and didn’t seem to care much whether he knew what he was talking about or not, as he read off items up for auction. I look around, squinting in the sun at all the aged people, and remember where I am.

There is no coffee the next day. Just the leisurely pace at which we chose to rise. We make it to the small, dusty market by 2. Inhabiting one small corner of a parkinglot, kiddy corner to the gas station. It is bright with fruit and vegetables, as any market, but in the afternoon sun we don’t see much. We don’t need much.

We arrive at the cidery just after. It is a playground full of families. The smell of wood stove pizza is in the air and a band stands on the stage. The farm seems set up for entertainment. We eat pizza on thin crust and sip crisp cider as the band plays a tune. Someone orders shots, and my father and I down 3 oysters each. I look around, smiling into my cup at the children running everywhere, not sure of who I am.

I woke up and we headed to the theater. The oldest theater in the state. I am not surprised to be surounded by heads full of grey and white hair. No one sits infront of me, and I kick my shoes off and curl my feet under me. The movie starts, and for 2 hours, 240 minutes, I let Christopher Nolan take control of my mind, play with my sense of time. I watch as he flawlessly weaves 3 different stories, about 3 different groups of people, over 3 different frames of time. It is like tasting the richest chocolate cake, hearing the most beautiful poem read aloud, being witness to true magic. I step from the theater into the sun, and I am timeless myself.

Hiatus – Day 6

..

I don’t know how to sit still when I’m feeling stirred up. I harnessed the pooch up and set off down the path. Amongst the evergreen trees of the Pacific Northwest, these are the forests of horror movies. A hundred films roll thru my mind as we stroll on. I had forgotten she has an inquisitive nose and found myself stopping every five or so paces. It is quiet for an afternoon, and we are only yards off the road, but she keeps stopping and looking behind us. I hear no birds, just the crunch of my own footfalls, and the occassional snap of a branch. Much too large for the wind. Always behind me. And the trees with their moss and greenery too thick to see any distance around me. Just the path ahead, and the path behind. I see angry ghosts, restless and alone, waiting for one to stumble thru. They’re always angry, no ghost ever reached out to give you a hug. I try to quicken my pace, but the dog keeps halting, yanking me back, to sniff, to look up, to look back. Would she defend me, if an angry spirit stepped into the path ahead? We keep on, at our lurching pace, I wonder what it is she smells. The many animals that have traveled here, the people, could she smell if someone was murdered here? Would she tell me if she did? I spot a long discarded sock, half hidden in bush. If I peeked behind that bush, would I find a dead body? How long would it take someone to find a body out here, in all the bushes and behind all the trees? I hear another branch snap and executively decide to walk faster, giving a hard yank on the lead each time I feel it yank me back. How far does this trail go? Why can’t I hear any sound except my own footsteps, my breath coming out in pants, those damned snapping branches..

I burst thru the thicket onto a residential street. I don’t spare a look behind me, for fear someone might be looking back. There are birds chirping, and the sound of the ocean surf just below. A subaru drives past and an eldery man waves. I pass another woman walking two small dogs. I am back in the cheery neighborhood I woke up in. It smells of mowed lawns and blooming flowers. Everybody waves to everybody else. A woman passes me with a stroller. A boy plays ball in a driveway. This gated community is almost Stepford in its cheerful normalness..

Hiatus – Day 5

Not much..

It felt like a day for quiet reflection, recovery. I woke up pretzeled between my loving fur babies. After dressing and a quick cup of coffee, I spent the morning alone downtown. I walked to the end of the street to the local coffee shop on the docks. The baristas swivel around each other, sweating and smiling among the sparse, late morning crowd. A coordinated dance of pony tails, beards, and flannel. My order iss handed to me with a cocoa dusted heart and a smile. 

The streets are quiet and the tide is low, the smell of sea water thick in the air. It is 10am and only a hand full of shops are open. This is Friday morning with no expectations. Take your time, drink your coffee, no one is going anywhere, we’ll still be here when you’re done.

The sun threatens, but the clouds hold strong. It leaves the air thick and muggy. I wander in and out of the few shops open. The New Age shop, with the chocolate poodle standing in the doorway and the beckoning scent of incense. The kitchen store with its odd assortment of animal appreciation greeting cards and lady wine club napkins. The bright store with its games, books, and toys. The English store with its tall ceilings and collection of fine silver. It is a street for tourists and admittedly my handled paper bag gets heavier and heavier.

Later, my mother muses that I take a morning for myself, but come back with a bag full of gifts for others. I can’t help it. We head up the hill to meet my father at the old fort. Once used for military purposes, the square buildings all right angles and white paint, now converted to small school for the arts. The field between the buildings is packed with people, dogs, children, and fold-up chairs. An afternoon concert put on for the people. The music sounds all the same to me, but again I find myself witness to the leisurely pace of the local people, walking their dogs, eating their lunches, blowing bubbles, and napping in the grass.

We eventually return downtown where I am scheduled to have my scalp professionally massaged, like Hugh Grant in About a Boy. I close my eyes, unable to see the world around me without my glasses on anyhow. She waves her hands around my head, the open window bringing a soft breeze in, the smell of sea water and lavender all around me..

I don’t often take time for myself, maybe I still haven’t done so. I sometimes think I try so hard to live my life, that I’m not really living it at all. It is places like this, these pockets of the world, that remind me..

Hiatus – Day 4

…Sombre Thoughts…

We rose early, drove thru the rain, caught a ferry, and found ourselves at the hospital. Perhaps I’d been keeping the idea at arms length, to deny the truth of it, but as the elevator doors opened and we saw their familiar faces, the truth came crashing to the forefront of my world: She is sick, really sick…

At some point in my twenties, I think I just stopped. Stopped growing, stopped progressing, stopped moving forward in my life. I still run to my parents when my heart is broken. I still call my dad when there is something wrong with my car. I still have boxes of childhood things hidden somewhere in my parent’s garage. I’m not grown up yet, I can’t be. I don’t have friends whos parents are dead of semi-natural causes. I didn’t graduate with a small town guy whos dance group nearly won America’s Got Talent. Our closest family friend’s oldest daughter isn’t currently fighting a rare and aggressive form of cancer for her life…

We hug, and smile, and are happy for the familiar faces. Yesterday was a bad day, and at this point, they are simply getting thru each day. Unsure of what tomorrow will bring, or the day after, or when life eventually calls them back home. Who wakes up with a game plan for this sort of thing? We decide to go get pizza for lunch. 

I am not sure if I am quiet because I am tired, or if it is because I am unsure of what to say. I can admittedly lecture others on the sorts of things to think and say in this sort of situation, but I can’t find the words myself. How do you talk with someone whos world right now is this fight, without bringing up the idea of death? How do you talk with someone whos world right now is unknown, without seeming aloof? How do you ignore the topic of pain and fear, without ignoring the actual pain and fear? The ironic thing is, this is my job. I am strong every single day for my patients, and especially for their loved ones. “What are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to go home and sleep tonight?” Fear and pain in their eyes. And I will nod, place a hand gently on their shoulder or back, and say, “take care of yourself. Rest assured that your loved one is where they need to be right now. In the hands of people who are watching, and caring, and going to keep them safe. Take care of yourself, so that when you come back tomorrow, you are strong for them.”

But none of that comes to my mind as we awkwardly stand outside her room. Or once we are in her room. Or even once we’d left… I don’t realize I am holding my breath. Holding it as we ride down the elevator, holding it as we drive back to the ferry, holding it as we arrive back home, the sun still shining. It isn’t until the front door closes behind us that I release my breath and with it my tension. How do I begin to make sense of this reality?