Summer, part 5: A pause.

Vancouver & around

For a few days towards the beginning of the summer I truly thought I would get a lot of writing done, that I would somehow cobble together a rough-rough-rough draft of the novel I’m working on. But summer’s over and, oops, I am nowhere near that; I didn’t even come close. It’s okay, though.

I’ve had a kind of psychological shift in how I approach/think about my writing recently. When I decided to get “serious” about fiction, I was in my mid-twenties and I wrote almost maniacally to meet internal deadlines I’d set in my head. I wrote and wrote and wrote and I sent out stories before they were ready and I took workshops and classes and sometimes I was lucky to get published, and then, a few years later, I was so incredibly lucky to find an amazing publisher that believed in my stories and helped me form them into something more solid for the public. After it came out I continued to write and write and write and after a few years (ugh, years? really?), I completed a novel that I still dearly love: my first long work, something I’d never put so much thought and time and effort into. Since its completion, it’s been in limbo – my agent is doing behind the scenes work and I’ve gotten some nice rejections, but as any writer knows, a nice rejection is still a rejection. Books are hard to get published. At this point I’m not sure what else to do about it other than wait, patiently, and keep writing and writing and writing like I did before.

Which sounds like a good plan, except for a while I just stopped writing. It was weird. I went from being someone who was annoyingly productive to… not at all. I wondered if I really cared so much about writing? I’d always thought that the thing I wanted to be most in the world was writer and then I realized that maybe it wasn’t what I wanted, and what was it instead? And what if whatever else I wanted to be was also some kind of unattainable goal?  Everyone faces this at some point and I suppose my turn was up. So I stopped writing, but I was busy figuring out other things in my life: I was moving cities, I was changing roles at work, I was seeing doctors, I was spending time with friends, I was being lazy, I was going through things that ate into the psychological space writing used to take up in my life.

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Summer, part 4: Vacation.

Vancouver & around

1.  We flew across the country and rented an apartment on the west side of Vancouver. Its layout was so similar to my first ever apartment in Toronto that in the middle of our first night I woke up blurry-eyed, briefly convinced that I was actually on Spadina Road and that it was still 2005. But there were seagulls shrieking – I’ve never heard them so loud! – and I remembered that years had passed and that I wasn’t home.

In Vancouver we walked along the ocean, drove towards mountains, stopped at beaches that had the biggest trees washed up on shore. Hiked in Lynn Valley Canyon and took off our shoes and socks to wade in cold mountain water. Got sushi and ate it on the roof of the apartment. On Granville island we bought 2 Dungeness crabs to eat later for dinner. They cooked and cracked them and while we waited we had fish tacos.

Mostly I just wanted to look out at the water, the hazy bits of land in the distance. Twice, while staring, we saw seals.

Vancouver & around

Vancouver & around

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2.  We set off for Portland early one morning and somehow stretched the 6 hour drive into 14 hours. We kept telling each other, this is the last time we’ll stop, but then we would see something and stop again. At first it was all green and rivers. We stopped to buy a basket of plums for a dollar, to have a burger and milkshake from a diner at lunch, to climb down a hill and dip our feet into a river. We kept driving and passed a town that was modelled to look like a Bavarian Village. Stopped at another roadside market that promised fresh peach milkshakes, and despite the milkshake at lunch, couldn’t pass one up. Got huckleberry candy, apples. Kept driving and then suddenly the trees dropped away and instead there were large fields. The green dissipated and everything was shades of yellow. Windfarms, handfuls of horses running in the distance, black cows. Stopped to look at all of them. Then there was a replica of Stonehenge and the Columbia river. Eventually it got dark and we got serious about making it to Portland. We got there.

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3.  In Portland, it did feel like Portlandia. Food truck breakfast sandwiches, good coffee, farm-fresh food, pinball at the bar, books from Powell’s. At night we would walk from our place to our next destination and it would be quiet and dark and then suddenly there would be another bar, another coffee shop, just right there on some unassuming corner.

One day we drove down to the Oregon coast and I had naively assumed we could go swimming, but when we arrived the Pacific was freezing and the waves roared up on shore, fierce and beautiful. We ate our lunch and walked along the edges of the water instead,  followed the coast for as long as we could.

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4.  We had just about 24 hours in Seattle. Had oysters at the Walrus and the Carpenter and pizza at Delancey and when we were stuffed, we went to the beach at sunset. It was lined with people having end-of-summer bonfires.  The next morning we were tired from more than a week of travelling and covering ground and almost wanted to skip the downtown core, but persisted: walked from the Sculpture Park to Pike Place Market and decided to go the aquarium to look at the sea otters.

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5. Drove back to Vancouver quickly, this time actually not stopping a million times, and had one last sushi meal before flying back home.

It was a lovely, lovely trip.