vancouver

At home

Last week I was volunteering, which mostly involved spending time chatting with someone — a super easy gig. The person was an urban nerd who spent a couple of years living in the Netherlands. We had a lot in common.

It didn't take long to get to how much we missed Europe, how life there is easier and better, how most of the streets and buildings in Vancouver are awful compared to where we used to live, that the only reason people in Vancouver feel good about the quality of our city is that the rest of North America has somehow managed to be worse, that our social programs are a joke and our healthcare dysfunctional. It's not that I hate Canada so much as that after living in places that are doing things way better — in easy totally achievable ways — it's hard not to look at Canada with a critical eye.

I am getting better at not being annoyed by these things but it was nice to talk to someone who knew where I was coming from. Once you live in Amsterdam or Copenhagen even the nicer cities in Canada still feel sprawling and awful and trying to endure the dysfunction that is our government is pretty brutal. 

I want to do what I can to make Canada better, to fight for my beliefs. I'm in this place, I have to do what I can to make it better. Still, sometimes it feels like I'm far removed from what everyone here seems pretty happy to shrug their shoulders over.

When I planned my studies in Scotland I had it in the back of my mind that there was a good chance I'd stay. I thought about moving to Sweden, there's the eternal pull of Copenhagen. I felt very at home in Scotland. Too bad about that whole Brexit and anti-immigrant sentiment thing. If they were independent I'd peace out for a cheap flat in Glasgow pretty quickly. As is when I left it felt like a place where even white well-educated Canadians weren't very welcome — this is more a reflection of UK policy than how people act in Scotland.

So I came home. Back to this place that I like a lot more when I'm not actually here, when I'm far away, when I go on dates with people I can only kind of understand even though we are both native English speakers. There is something nice about being in a place where everyone just gets things and you don't have to explain as much, where people have heard of where you grew up and went for undergrad, where saying give 'er once doesn't elicit stares and confusion because no one has ever heard it before then becomes a catchphrase.

When I told my sister about my conversation during my volunteer shift she said that she thinks I should go back to Europe. It's something I think about more and more as time goes on. I wonder where I can go that will be safe, that will be mine, that will feel like home.

My plan when coming out to Vancouver was that this would be it. I'd move here, settle down, build a life. Then I figured out what the housing crisis really looks like and my life kind of fell apart. I'm doing a lot better than I was but I still can't picture a future here. I want a decent affordable place to live that is mine that I can fill with well-designed things and paint various pastel colours.

Today the smoke is so bad that I can't go outside without having trouble breathing. It's only going to get worse. That's another knock on this place.

I'm editing some of my photos from when I visited Copenhagen when I was in Edinburgh. Those streets will always feel like home. I liked that place. Life there was good and I was really happy. It was one of those rare times in my tumultuous twenties that I felt like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing exactly where I was supposed to be doing it. I had my crew. I had a nice bike and a nice space to live in. I had everything I needed and it was great.

I'd like to feel that way again. I'd like to settle down and find somewhere that I can feel at home. More and more I wonder where that might be.

Getting into gear

I found this quote in Austin Kleon's newsletter — email I actually want to receive and that says a lot because I am drowning in email — sometimes I hit inbox zero and I'm like please no one ever try to contact me ever again so I can bask in the perfection of this glorious achievement.

It's about stuff, another thing I have just way too much of. I want things to be simple, and easy, but generally it feels like there's just a lot of stuff. Some of it I don't need — I am triaging some of my mugs before moving because apparently my new roommate also poses mugs and I don't want a box of them in my closet — but a lot of it I do. The light pad, the laptop stand, the camera, the lenses, the hard drives, the pens, the paper. I do too many things and they all come with stuff.

Having too much gear is one of the worst things in the world. The more gear you have, the less you do.
— Jim O’Rourke

I'm trying to get to that Goldilocks spot where I have everything I need and nothing more. One day.

I was on the Aquabus on my birthday because I've been missing the ferries in Scotland and thought it would help — it did. The boat operator noticed that I was taking a lot of pictures of the water and asked about my camera. He was a photographer too. I mentioned my wrist injury and he said that he has L Series lenses but they're really heavy so he never uses them, and likes the small and simple mirrorless way better. I couldn't agree more.

True or false creek

I wish I was a calmer person. I sometimes joke that my goal is to be lukewarm because I'm never going to be chill.

There is one thing that without fail makes me feel calm and at peace: going for a walk by the water. It's like magic.

There is something fantastic and irresistible about water.

After hanging out with some friends tonight I decided to stroll along False Creek from Olympic Village towards where I can catch my bus past Granville Island. It's a bit of a ways but it's nice and there are only going to be so many moments in my life when I have the chance to take it in. 

It's a beautiful walk.

Starting with the Olympic Village. The fact that I will never be able to live there aside the built form is nice and quite successful.

The Seawall is Vancouver at its best. Nature, water, landscape architecture, the False Creek Ferries, towers and podiums rises on the other side. A seal. A fresh stretch of pathway with separate spaces for cyclists and pedestrians with nice benches in between.

Flowers, trees. I stop to say hi to them and gawk at how pretty they are.

Always the water. Rippling and reflecting and serene.

It makes me feel small and peaceful in that way humans really need to feel small and peaceful. When all else fails the water makes me feel calm and like it will all work itself out. It's been a hard few months. A lot of things have gone wrong all at once. No matter what I know that the water is there if I need it. For a few moments I can stroll and connect to the beauty and wonder of this world. The same way I feel when I wander the forest near my house or when I strolled up the Salisbury Craigs in Edinburgh and my troubles melted away.

There are some Buddhists who believe that nature is a religious experience. That walking in the mountains or feeling the wind on your face is the manifestation of enlightenment. Walking by the water I completely agree.

Drive from Calgary to Vancouver

Here are some shots from the drive back out to Vancouver from Calgary, one of the prettiest and most terrifying stretches of road out there. Highway driving freaks me out, a lot, so it's nice to have someone to do it for you. I enjoy being the passenger and getting to snap photos out the window.

Lac des Arcs is always a good idea.

Car Free Day Westend cellphone

A couple of cellphone snaps from Car Free Day in the West End.

The first is a book that I am confident I will enjoy. The chair disappeared shortly after I sat down — I was waiting for some friends and the festivals was wrapping up — but I had good banters with the guy who was putting them away.

The other is a broken chair I saw after I was rendered chairless.