Sunday, August 24, 2008

Crystal Clear

At first I worried that I was being impulsive, that I was letting my emotions and a gut reaction to the world that I've known crashing down around me guide me. On the plane, I sat wired, flipping through the satellite channels, asking myself what the fuck I was doing.

The pleasure of driving my rental car along the winding roads didn't calm my nerves--until I started driving south, rolled down my windows, breathed in the ocean air, felt every bronchile in my lung open up and saw this:

Everyone keeps asking me why Nova Scotia? Why not Nova Scotia? (Nando once told me that his life philosophy wasn't "why?" it was "why not?" I'm adopting this life philosophy as my own.)
But the answer is a little more obvious: I went for the ocean. (Okay, and to check out real estate, because earth-sheltered homes consume more of my thoughts than they should.)

At Crystal Crescent, I let the waves crash down over me, and my nerves instantly settled. This wasn't impulsive. And even if it was, it was exactly what I needed. "Jess, sometimes you're really good at life," I whispered to myself.

Later that day, I sat in the setting sun, pier-side, watching someone from my past put away kayaks. I wanted to see myself through his eyes, to see how the past two years have changed me.

"I live pretty much the way I did in Vanuatu," he told me. I wear dresses and heels to work every day, and worry about the small things, I told him. I'm almost a yuppie. Sitting there, legs freckled and speckled with sand, my skin salty from the ocean, I almost felt like it was a lie.

I was surprised to discover that the laughter came so easily. And the strength and resilience, and the calm in an early morning seaside hike alone. And writing at a table wet with last night's rain. And how easily I agreed to whatever came my way. "Should we camp tonight? It might rain." "Why not?" "You should try some smoked salmon." "Why not?" I was falling in love with myself again.

But as it turns out, there are two disadvantages to vacationing alone:

1. All my vacation photos are self portraits of me in front of stuff.

2. There was nobody to tell me that my back was burning into a brilliant shade of red or to help me reapply sunscreen.

I kept testing myself, trying to envision the trip with someone else. But every time I tried, I kept coming back to myself.

In the four days that I was there, my eyes were crystal clear and white for the first time in a year.

The 10-year-old in me was ecstatic that I fulfilled my promise to return.

On my last night in Halifax, I dressed myself up to the backpacker nines (new midnight blue silk lace dress, kitten heels, but with minimal makeup and hair curly from the ocean). I went for a long walk, meandering through the public gardens, climbing Citadel Hill, strolling along the waterfront boardwalk.

For my final challenge, I settled on an expensive tourist restaurant, taking immense pleasure in requesting a table for one and ordering a large glass of overpriced red wine. The tables around me snuck glances, and the token child in the restaurant asked her parents why I was alone. I enjoyed every moment of it. I remembered, that at one point in my life, not so long ago, I let my impulsive nature and gut instincts guide me. Sometimes, I really do feel like I'm good at life.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tossing the pigskin

My patio has become an oasis to me. Every day, when I get home from work, I grab a snack, whatever book I'm working on (I recently finished both Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, the Dominion of Wyley McFadden by Scott Gardiner and an anthology of stories written by Peace Corps volunteers), my journal and if I have one on hand, a drink. This is my routine. I sit in the same chair, prop my feet up on another chair and bask in the sunshine until it sets behind the church across the street. Occasionally I chat with my cute neighbour, who I've been harbouring a minor crush on. He sometimes eats dinner on his balcony, asking me for advice about his tomatoes and apologizing for their random garden.

Today I came home to discover that my cute neighbour had put up white paper seperating our two balconies and blocking out the sun. I cursed him, but figured the fresh air was worth it to stay outside. (Not that Toronto air is fresh, but that's beyond the point.)

I was comfortable, writing about the day when the wind picked up, blowing the paper away, and revealing what was happening on the balcony next door--laying on a table covered in white paper was a small pig, and my neighbour and a friend were cutting away at it.

"What the fuck?!" Profanity was the only viable choice in the situation--it's not often you see people butchering a pig on their balcony in downtown Toronto. And what were they going to do with it? Roast it on a spit in the back alley?

"Oh my god, I'm so sorry," cute neighbour's friend said. "We tried to cover it up. I guess we should explain." I knew where it was going, before he even started. Mentally, I begged him to tell me that they were going to a barbeque. "It's an art project. We're trying to skin the pig whole to create a pig leather."

I couldn't help but laugh. "It's a good thing I've travelled to some strange places," I told them.

"If it helps at all, you can come over for pork tonight," they offered.

"It's too bad I'm vegetarian."

"Oh shit," they moaned, trailing off. I kept laughing.

As I type this, all that seperates me from a group of guys skinning a pig for the sake of art is butcher's paper and a few feet. I would go inside, but this is my oasis. And besides, the conversation I'm eavesdropping on is priceless.

And my minor crush on the neighbour? Needless to say, it brings the phrase "thoughts of the flesh" to an entirely different light.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Cusp

A couple of weeks ago, a friend told me that she sees me as one of the strongest, most independant women she knows.

I felt like a fraud.

I had been slowly fading, slowly slipping into something, someone that wasn't me. I was being worn away into a semblance of a life that somebody else could have had once.

My heart is broken, but I feel like I'm on the cusp of something good. It's a strange feeling. I'm writing again, but this time it's for me.

Within a day, my flights were booked. The water's waiting for me.