Vancouver’s summer has been spotty, to be polite, but I have managed to go elsewhere to feel the heat. I made an early escape to North Carolina in June, leaving this city in clouds and drizzle and cold. Cold! But NC didn’t disappoint. It was toasty in Durham, somewhat cooler at the coast. I went down with one of my cousins to Emerald Isle, on Bogue Banks, one of the barrier islands that line much of the southeast coast.
We were only there one night, but the first day we managed to rouse ourselves to go for a swim in the Atlantic from one of the public-access beaches. (You can swim in the ocean in BC, but it requires a lot of resolve, given the temperature tends to be pretty chilly. I’m always astonished that you can just walk into the ocean somewhere and not need immediate medical attention.) The Atlantic side of the island is much more dramatic, waves crashing and nothing on the horizon except more water, unbroken except maybe for Bermuda, before you might get to Africa.
The next day we took our time just hanging out, the silence occasionally broken by the “sound of freedom,” military planes practicing takeoff and landing over on the mainland, which somewhat interfered with the contemplative mood, but still. There is something about being by the sea that causes drift. I drift to a book to read, I drift to look out at the water. I think. The water reflects the sky. I reflect on my life. Thoughts drift. The different pace is encouraged by the sight of distance, for some reason.
It’s been a summer of family, so far. North Carolina is home to an uncle and cousins. It had been more than five years since I’d last drifted down for a visit, and this time I found the place the same but different. Like anywhere, things change. There was an overlay of sadness for me this trip, because one of my cousins is very ill, but also because I used to make this trip to visit my aunt. She died thirteen years ago, so it’s old news. But still, I miss her.
I came home via Ottawa, which also didn’t disappoint in the sunshine department, and I soaked up what I could in daily walks by the river. It’s easier to feel optimistic when visiting a young family, something about babies and life and hope. At four months, my daughter’s daughter was quite the little thinker, but after many antics and much juvenile jumping around by myself, I got her to smile, even bless me with a little chuckle. Some things are worth working at.
I came home to the same lousy weather I’d left, which brought me back to earth quickly. It suited the mood too, because the building where I live was supposed to be undergoing some repairs/renovations, and I was hoping to miss the worst noise of the construction. No such luck; the contractor went awol, and now we’re looking at next spring before the job might be done. If we can find another contractor.
Such is life.
Then it was off to Salt Spring Island to hang out with my partners family for a week. This was not a hardship. The weather, true, was still struggling to be summerlike (we talk about the weather a lot in these parts) but there was enough sunshine and almost no rain, so it made me hopeful that summer really would come to our (I must face it) temperate rainforest. Anyway, who can complain when they have a place to stay right by the water. People took turns with the kayak, one day we went down to the southern end to walk through Ruckle Park. There was time to read, not one, but two books. (Summer books, both good ones: Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George, and Lonely Hearts by John Harvey) Lots of outdoor decks to read on or just watch the water. Canada geese floating back and forth. A pair of eagles nesting nearby. An otter family to watch. Good company, good food.
And now I’m back in the city. I have noticed though that there’s no shortage of water to gaze across here (not just coming down). This week I went for a bike ride with friends visiting from summer in Ontario (they appreciated the cool weather, go figure). Starting from my apartment we went, mostly via seawall, to and around Stanley Park, which really is a pretty spectacular park; the view across the water, all that busy harbour, boats, planes, is worth all the pedaling, especially with the backdrop of the North Shore mountains. We stopped in English Bay to have an early dinner, right by the sea, then pedaled the last few kilometres back home; somewhere in the range of 23 altogether, if anyone was counting. Yesterday, just to keep that outdoor flavour going, my brother and I had a nice long visit while slogging up the Grouse Grind, on an actually sunny, warm day. We sat up top, soaking up cold drinks, gasp, gasp, with the view stretching out below us. No clouds, and clear enough to see to the islands across the water. And even though today has been a grey, cloudy day (again), right now I see a hint of blue sky, and a suggestion of sunshine. I’d say that summer is pretty much afloat, whatever the weather.