road impressions

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. What's not to like?

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. What’s not to like?

Too far, is what I felt, when I looked at the map, trying to figure out the next leg of my journey as I left Florida. I had a great time on Sanibel Island, almost entirely because of the company. No denying it’s a beautiful place, either. But there’s nothing like hanging out with family you like, and yakking. I think I’ve been missing yakking. Going long days driving with no one to comment to, is, well, a bit like being a tree in the forest falling down. I do think thoughts, and who knows, they may be deep, but by the time I show up at the next motel, well, I’m a bit beat, and not quite in the mood for writing them down. I do record things in my journal in the morning, but I don’t know whether there’s much there of interest either. The days are running together, as are the places. I’m not sure that this is much better than flying, it just takes longer, as far as getting a sense of what each place might be like. I get snippets. Bits of overheard conversation, but I’m not really there, each place I stop at.

I do hear occasional uncommentable-upon comments though: Woman in Tallahassee, at the free breakfast (lots of white flour goes into these free breakfasts) commented on the interminable (my feeling, not hers) coverage of the Pope’s visit. “Are you Catholic?” she asked me and another woman in the room. “No,” we both replied. She wasn’t either. But they agreed they like the Pope. They maybe don’t remember (don’t know) that their country was once hugely mistrustful of Catholics (the Irish, Kennedy). “What this world needs is more Christianity,” she said. No comment. I do know when not to yak.

Mississippi River, New Orleans.

Mississippi River, New Orleans.

I have been listening to the radio, and find myself quite amazed by how different the culture is where I’ve been driving. I mean I ‘knew’ this, but listening to radio, well, it’s sure not Canada. Of course yesterday was Sunday, but I didn’t listen to a lot of preaching in that sense. I did find myself listening to American Family Radio for awhile, which means Christian, consisting of Mom, Pop, and the kids. Anything else is a bit indicative of the Antichrist (Obama).

Another day (not a Sunday) I was listening to two women discuss how, while this is a tolerant country, they’re really worried about all those Muslim refugees trying to get into this country (no, they’re trying to get to Europe, I thought) and pondering how suspicious it was that none of them wanted to go to Russia or China or India. No, those Muslim hordes want to come here and irrevocably change the character of this country. So, as a defence, the two women thought it would be a good idea to close the borders for awhile to immigration, to keep out all the Un-American hordes trying to get in.

I will say that for awhile I was listening to Prairie Home Companion (liberal socialists, I guess) and they were making fun of the idea of the Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, who had been running for the Republican nomination, who thought that as well as a wall to keep out all the “illegals” from Mexico, there should be a wall along the Canadian border. I expect geography’s not his strong suit. Garrison Keillor was imagining us Canadians putting up catapults to get over the wall, we’re all so desperate to get in. But then he can probably pick up the CBC, so his thinking’s become warped.

I also listened to Ben Carson talking in an interview on a local NPR station a couple days ago, and he talked about how America is great (the greatest, though apparently it’s broken) and he said it’s the only country with a strong national character, unlike any other country in the world. He was talking about Being a Good American. How you can be Un-American (that’s bad of course, and I think involves supporting Planned Parenthood). He said you can’t be Un-Canadian, or Un-Swedish, etc., which I found a very peculiar statement. America is the only place…yada yada, I stopped listening. He has a very reasonable tone to his voice, and incredible credentials which leaves me a bit puzzled as to how he has such radically Conservative views. As a high achieving black man, he doesn’t seem to see any racism in his country either. Interesting.

One of the things I thought listening to the preaching on the radio, as I switched stations, trying to find NPR again, was that there was no difference in the tone of voice from those selling God to those selling cars or washing machines. It’s all a hard sell. Turned it off after awhile, and just listened to the sound of the air conditioner in my car, and the tires on the road.

You can tell some of the difference of the places you drive through when you drive straight for three days, as I’ve just done, from the sound of the road. First day Sanibel to Tallahassee, roads are pretty good. The next day I crossed into Louisiana the road was a lot noisier, and I bounced around a lot more. Also, I swear that the road was steaming. I was close to the Gulf of Mexico of course, and we all know that occasionally it overflows onto the land. In the meantime, well, there’s a lot of swamp. Anyway, the highways in Louisiana weren’t well kept. Not sure why not; there were enough casinos to indicate a fair bit of money flows around.

NewOrleansFrenchQuarter

French Quarter, New Orleans

New Orleans. I stayed two nights just outside town, in Metairie, suburb, massive amount of traffic. Drove into town to have a wander about the French Quarter. I find I’m there too late in my life. Should have come when I still liked to booze it up all day (oh, I never did, not all day). Certainly I needed company, because I had no desire to be there after dark. But I walked a lot, saw that the French Quarter does indeed look like it does in the movies, and there is music on many corners (with the pot set out to gather donations, fair enough). A thriving web of streets catering to tourists. And tourists everywhere, reminding me of my own status. But I’m a lousy tourist; with all my belongings at home in a storage locker, I’m not looking to fill my bags with stuff. Not a big foodee either, only want to eat when I’m hungry, and only things that nourish me, a bit hard to pull off in most restaurants. And what a sad case to be slogging through New Orleans! I can’t eat peppers, not really, and all the hot sauce does bad things to me. So I walked, along the river for a while, and past a very large casino (I don’t gamble either) and so found the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, which was a good respite, even without the air conditioning.

I did stop and have a po-boy sandwich, just so I’d know what one was. Dave Robicheaux always has one (character in many of James Lee Burke’s novels). I had one with fried shrimp, and later had a salad from Whole Foods, back in the ‘burbs, as an antidote. Should have skipped the fries, too much grease.

When I left New Orleans, I chose to drive through New Iberia, again because of Burke. Didn’t quite get down the main drag, as it was cordoned off by police, but still, I was there, saw enough examples of Antibellum houses, oak trees covered in Spanish moss. Drove with my windows open for awhile, so I could feel the steamy air. After that, straight to Texas. I’m starting to feel impatient to get home, even though there are a number of stops still along my way

But I was talking about the road sounds. The highways in Louisiana, at least near the Gulf, must cost a fortune (or must have once upon a time; they could use some work now). Miles and miles of raised highways, like one giant bridge, so that you drive in the treetops. I was on US route 90, not an interstate, but still, not a local road. A lot of rattling and bouncing in my not-heavy car. I noticed the change as soon as I crossed the line into Texas, because the road suddenly smoothed out (I had left the bayou behind). Guess there’s more money for roads in the land of oil. (Alberta’s roads were pretty good too, all those kilometres ago.)

Interstates have a generic, tedious look to them. I’d say it was meditative, driving on them,  but it’s best not to try to empty your mind too much, so that you can react when you notice cars trying to mount your bumper, in case you need to speed up, before they finally move over to pass (even when there’s no one else near they do this) or suddenly cut in front of you too fast, forgetting that things are closer than they appear, or perhaps they’ve forgotten about shoulder checks. All the speeding suggests a scofflaw attitude, but they pay attention to the signs that tell them to stay in the right lane and that’s why they’re so quick to jump back in. It’s a given that everyone’s going too fast, given no one likes to go slower than the speed limit and the limit is too fast. Oh, I’m beginning to be an old lady, I guess, but I don’t particularly like going 75 mph (121 kph). All the blown out truck tires make me think about how I’d manage my car if it blew a tire. But after awhile I find myself travelling along at a mere 70 (113), with constant waves of cars catching up and flying past me. There’s no discernible slowing when the speed limit drops near big cities, either, so the fact there’s not heaps of crashes is quite surprising. (I have seen a few cautionary examples, but no one seems particularly cautioned, though we all enjoy the lookee-loo moment.)

Maybe I don’t think I like driving as much as I thought.

Cactus in Buffalo Gap, Texas.

Cactus in Buffalo Gap, Texas.

Anyway, secondary highways, or the old routes that the Interstates replace, are tedious too, being endlessly repetitive of gas stations, fast food joints, and Walmart. I blush to admit it, but in Longview Texas, that’s where I picked up dinner, Walmart (a salad and some chicken wings). Next day more Texas, Longview to Lubbock. I did take another slight detour, wanting for some reason to drive by/through Abilene (read a lot of westerns in my early teens). I stopped to be a tourist at the Buffalo Gap Historic Village, just south of Abilene. Two of the buildings are original, the rest have been moved there. Sleepy place, but interesting. Sort of. Lots of guns in the museum upstairs in the old courthouse, original building. Interesting poster explaining about one ‘hero,’ an army guy, who helped slaughter a bunch of Comanche horses, so as to cripple the ‘Indians’ and get them back to their reserve in Oklahoma, and make life safer for the people wiping out the buffalo. Okay, so I read things from a Canadian perspective. I like that we’re about peace and good government.

TexasWindmillsAnd then many hours along very flat prairies, past gazillions of windmills, and then some oil well pumps, and then across the line into New Mexico. In due course the landscape changed and I found myself in mountains, whew. And now I’m in Taos, and have spent the day writing this, doing my laundry, and poking around stores and galleries (being a lousy tourist, I’m still empty-handed) as well as taking a drive out to look down into the Rio Grande Gorge, which shocks by it’s appearance in the middle of what seems to be flat prairie.

Tomorrow I’m off to Santa Fe, where I’ve signed up for a several-day writing workshop at a Zen Centre. I hope to feel very meditative there, and have a pile of pages filled, too. We’ll see.

Where the buffalo used to roam, New Mexico.

Where the buffalo used to roam, New Mexico.

Rio Grande Gorge

Rio Grande Gorge. Imagine trying to cross that with your wagon train.

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southern roads, taking me away from home

When you decide to drive all over the countryside, roads tend to run together (pun sort of intended) and you (me) can start to forget pretty fast just where you might have seen something. It helps that my camera dates things, because then I can figure out, after the fact, what the heck that latest, of course beautiful, photo is of. The ideal I suppose would be to spend a day driving and a day recording my thoughts, sorting my photos…but who has that kind of time? Or is that weird?

the Chimney Rock overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Chimney Rock overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This view is looking west, but the views go east as well, which is why stopping frequently is a good idea. But the speed limit is 45 mph, so there’s no road racing.

Anyway, my loose intention starting out on this trip, instead of ‘just’ driving home across Canada, was to go visit my American relatives (dropping by in my car, instead of flying, seemed like a good idea at the time I thought of it) and then plan my route around places I’d like to see, or had just heard of, along the way. Which I’ve been doing, after a fashion.

Though it would certainly help to have given myself a lot more time (about a year maybe) to do this. It’s not to say this country isn’t tremendously beautiful sometimes from the interstate freeways, it’s just a lot harder to rubberneck at 70 mph/113 kph (you know, when everyone’s sticking to the speed limit). The sun setting into the ocean, viewed from atop the Punta Gorda bridge in Florida was extraordinarily beautiful, judging from the quick glimpses I took over my shoulder, but I can’t provide any photos, and I certainly couldn’t spend much time admiring, given the speed and the traffic. And the interstates are full of hordes of people going everywhere (after all the US has ten times the population of Canada) but I find that often they aren’t driving on the secondary roads. Something to do with travel time. Which has been my problem too. In theory it’s a good idea to take your time, but then time evaporates, and you are driving in the dark. Not a good plan with my vision.

my car, illustrating the height of the forest

My trusty car, illustrating the height of the forest along the parkway.

So, to back up a bit, I left Washington, oh, months ago, and drove an odd route to Durham, NC, home of the first cousin on my list. The scenic route I was after was the Blue Ridge Parkway (which runs through Virginia and North Carolina). I got on it in Virginia, at it’s northern most entrance, and then for awhile traveled in a southwest direction. Slept in Roanoke the first night, then hopped back on the next morning, and followed it until I was about due west from Durham, then descended from the hills and went east again, rolling into my cousin’s driveway just before dark. I woke up the next day with a cold (which I blame on the freeze/thaw effect of going in and out of hot days and freezing air con in Washington’s museums) and so lounged about without much energy for awhile, but also went along to Durham’s Farmers’ Market, and to my younger cousin’s soccer game (her team won).

Also saw my uncle and his wife, lunched in Chapel Hill one day, drove down to Seagrove, NC with them another day. This was to see where all the North Carolina pottery came from, that has occasionally trickled across the country in suitcases, and been left with me as gifts. There’s no shortage of pottery being produced in BC, but it was interesting to get a glimmer of the longer history in this area of the continent. But mostly the interest I had was personal, as in the routes my Aunt Ruth might have taken when she was still alive, making regular sojourns back to BC to visit family and occasionally deliver some pretty nice pots.

The Atlantic Ocean at Wrightsville Beach, during a side trip to Wilmington, NC, to visit another contingent of the family.

I’ll admit that when I got to North Carolina, I had my doubts about continuing this trip all the way to Florida, but it was only a week moment brought on by the cold. Really, if you say you’re going to drive the long way home, then you have to drive the long way home (not that the short way is exactly short) or so my thinking goes. So I screwed up my energy, if not my courage, and decided I would get to Sanibel Island, on the Gulf side of Florida, in two days. Drove to Savannah Georgia for my first night’s sleep, mostly because I always like it’s name. Began with the scenic, ie secondary, road for the first while, back through Seagrove, because I wanted to ramble through a few more potteries. I have remarkable sales resistance on this journey, for neat things to buy, because where am I going to put them? so this wasn’t a shopping trip. Not the point. I can see beautiful things without needing to own them. Really. And as I said, I do already own some pottery from North Carolina, back on the West Coast in the storage locker.

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

The reason my day was so long between Savannah and Sanibel, was of course those scenic routes. When I started in the morning, I wanted to take a little drive through Savannah, but ran into a 5k run that had me detouring all over the place, and so after a bit I headed for the highway. But I couldn’t face the freeway just yet, so found myself using the coastal highway at first, very little traffic, relaxing, etc, until I thought, hmm, time, and jumped onto the Interstate through Jacksonville Florida. At that point I meant to drive down the east coast south of the Orlando sprawl, before cutting through central Florida, but I ran into some impressive thunderstorms, and figured being able to see the road would be preferable. So with the help of my GPS, I found my way with some interesting zigzags, and finally came out from under the thunderclouds. I managed to cajole the GPS to take me to the Ocala National Forest (where I really began thinking about how inadequate a descriptor the word forest is) and drove south that way, coming out into rolling farmland mixed in with sections of mossy oaks, which I’m sorry not to have stopped to be a tourist about, snapping photos.

Sanibel Island wildlife: sorry, no alligators spotted, yet, but one Gopher Tortoise, strolling by

Sanibel Island wildlife: sorry, no alligators spotted, but one Gopher Tortoise, strolling by.

But there was no easy way to connect with a faster highway, and now I knew I was going to end the day driving in the dark, so I didn’t stop. It was county road this and county road that, until eventually I was flying by Tampa and then across the aforementioned Punta Gorda bridge (which I remember the name of because it made me think of my brother Gordon), and eventually (at much slower speeds thanks be, off the interstate) through Fort Myers and onto Sanibel Island in the dark. And I’ll tell you, without the GPS, I’d never do this; I’d have pulled over somewhere and slept in my car.

more wildlife: a brown anole, invasive species, everywhere on the island

More wildlife: brown anole, hitching a ride on a sight-seeing expedition. (An invasive species; wonder how they got here?)

I’ve been in Florida for a few days now, but I’m hitting the road again tomorrow. I’ve recuperated from the marathon my car ran on Saturday, helped along by congenial company and good food (cousin’s a chef). But I’m really ready to turn the car north, which will mean I’m finally headed in the right direction for Vancouver anyway, where I will start looking for my next home. If I’ve learned anything on all this driving trip, it’s that home for me is the Vancouver area. Where people live is kind of arbitrary, or happenstance, really. I happen to be born in Vancouver, and so the air feels right there, the trees are the ones I’m used to. Driving through forests in Virginia/North and South Carolina/Georgia and Florida (it is a long way!) is extraordinarily beautiful, but I don’t want to live here (even supposing I could, different country and all).

As it is, I’ve been mulling the idea of home quite a bit during all this driving time, and I’m clear enough about what part of the world that is, for me. So I’ll be back in my home zone soon, and get down to the work of figuring out where I’m going to finally unpack my car. Still home-free for now though.

not hard to figure out what it is keeps my cousin in Florida

Not hard to figure out what it is keeps my cousin in Florida. The lake is apparently a good spot to keep watch for alligators. In Vancouver, it’s bears and coyotes that show up in people’s back yards. Not everyday, but they’re there.

 

 

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roaming now

Maybe it’s a function of the age I am, but time certainly does pass quickly. I hope I get some balance before too long between that (time) and my intentions and goals. Because I do have some, and time sure seems fleeting.

This trip is one of those intentions/goals, though I fluctuate daily about just why it is. I am on a pretty grand (as in long) road trip, yes, because I always thought it would be a good idea to drive all over (part) of the continent. And it turns out I am combining it with family history and with current family connections. And yet I quite often feel disconnected (probably because I am, eh?) I’ve temporarily cut off some of my roots in Vancouver, by putting all my belongings into storage, instead of having that ‘home’ to go back to. But that’s getting ahead of myself, I keep reminding myself. (One of the hazards of solo travel is having no one to talk to but yourself.) Soon enough I’ll be back in Vancouver (in a blink, really).

But I don’t only talk to myself this trip. I’ve stopped off in enough places since Ottawa (yes, I left Ottawa) and had a lot of conversations. It’s very true that saying goodbye to my daughter’s family was tough, especially the babes, because it’s hard to explain why Grandma has a place in town, but doesn’t really, and that she’s around most days, and then disappears again, for months likely till she’ll see them again. I felt like a bit of a rat, really, letting them get so used to me being around, and then poof, gone. So, yeah, conflicted, as I don’t particularly want to live in Ottawa, but I do want to know and be known to those little people (not to mention my daughter, who naturally enough holds a very large place in my heart). Life is full of trade-offs, and I hope that doesn’t sound like a cliche.

Outside Picton, Prince Edward County

But leave I did, and followed a zigzag route out of Ontario, going first to see a niece in Prince Edward County, one I don’t know that well, but want to, as she’s my mother’s first grandchild (unknown to my mother, who died before all these other family members were found, and yes, that’s another, very long story). And then to stay with a long-time friend who lives in Stratford, which also allows for lots of going to plays (I managed four, thanks to her booking me a bunch of tickets).

another visitor to Stratford, a cormorant

another visitor to Stratford, a cormorant drying its wings

After that I followed some quiet roads through Southern Ontario to find highway 3, which led me to the Peace Bridge, which I chose for it’s name, but also the peaceful approach through farmland instead of crazy freeways around Toronto, which is the route my GPS wanted me to take (don’t you think ‘they’ should program a sigh into the voice,  when it says “recalculating”?) The Peace Bridge brought me to a very short line and un-fussed border agent, and then I was in Buffalo, well, on the Interstate away from it, but I could see there was a real city there as I whizzed by, and voila I was really on my way, onto roads untraveled by me. The whole point I guess, to go see what there looks like.

first time in New York state, just past Buffalo

first time in New York state outside the airport anyway, just past Buffalo

There are many ways to travel of course. Take an airplane and you fly over a lot of decisions, and so the storyline stays focused. Ride a train, and you are in a little cocoon, decisions out of your hands, but a constantly changing landscape out the window, and it feels like you’ve been everywhere.

Taking the car is very different. There are long stretches of easy driving between large urban areas, where rubbernecking is possible, and that sense of the constantly changing landscape settles in. Then suddenly you can be in the midst of heavy traffic with multi-lanes, cars buzzing around you, huge trucks lumbering by, madness really. It reminds me of a documentary I saw recently about ants, all that motion and activity that apparently has some organizing principle that is very hard for the outsider to figure out. A not original analogy, but a good one.

And driving means you have decisions popping up constantly. Road signs tell you about different options, all day long. Viewpoints you can pull over at, cities you’d like to see besides the one you’re aiming for, advertisements for folk festivals you didn’t know were happening, and constantly you have to let it go, and just keep the focus on where you are going. Another loose analogy, for life maybe.

My first day in the US took me to Clearfield Pennsylvania, a spot I’d chosen as a reasonable halfway point to Washington, DC, which was the big city I’d decided I would try and get a sense of. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, not to mention Quebec, and all of the Maritimes in Canada, well, you get my point. I’d be on the road for years. So I decided that having hung around Canada’s capital for the summer, I’d take in the US’s. A very different place, of course. For one thing, you tell anyone you’re going to DC, and they know where it is. Tell them you’re coming from Ottawa, and you have to mention Toronto (not that they maybe know where Toronto is, exactly, but it sort of clarifies).

there were slightly more than 1000 steps

there were slightly more than 1000 steps

From Clearfield I picked a route that took me through the Appalachians, and I did succumb to one of those choices that pops up. There’s not a lot of traffic on smaller highways, and regularly slowing down to go through small towns, past farms, up hills down dale. But at one point driving through the mountains, there was a surprisingly large number of cars parked at the side of the road and I saw hikers disappearing into the woods. I drove on for a bit, and then thought, whoa, when will I be here again? (talking to myself again) and so I made a u-turn, and went back, and asked a guy just leaving, what was there.

Seems I’d found myself at 1000 Steps, which was just that, a staircase of stones at an old stone quarry (and more than 1000, if the signs painted on the stones can be trusted), with some very pretty views tossed in. So I put on some proper shoes, grabbed a bottle of water, and went hiking, and I am so glad I did.

the view was to bonus for climbing those stairs

the view was the bonus for climbing those stairs, though the endorphins released in getting there are probably what made me feel so good

After that, driving into Washington was an enormous contrast, into a megalopolis, crazy number of lane changes, shifts from this highway to that, cars flying by, sailing by signs of places that I’ve seen in gazillions of fictional representations, on TV and in movies. And finally, swooping down the George Washington Parkway (The Pentagon? That’s a real place?) the Washington Monument comes into view, and I am pretty pleased with myself.

And then (thanks to my GPS, nicknamed Jack, because sometimes that’s all he knows) drops me into the Capitol Hill neighbourhood, and it’s pretty, and calmish. And indeed, thank the anthill of techies that have created this marvel of technology, or concurrence of technologies (satellite, computers, not to mention map-making, and all the people who enter data…) or I would still be looking for that place I’d arranged to stay in Capitol Hill. But find it I did, and stayed three nights, so I had two full days of prowling through museums and gawking at national monuments that are known everywhere in the world. Pretty cool.

Horse and Rider, by Marino Marini, bronze, in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden

Horse and Rider, by Marino Marini, bronze, in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden

live butterfly exhibit in the Museum of Natural History

live butterfly exhibit in the Museum of Natural History

I did a lot of walking in DC

I did a lot of walking in DC

Posted in driving, hiking, life

home, briefly

Once I’d had my fill of Fenelon Falls, I felt the draw of current family. I’m not sure I would ever have gotten around to driving this far if I didn’t have a daughter and her family (which includes two scrumptious granddaughters) living here. I did make one more slight detour though on my way here, a backtrack into Orillia, and a visit to Stephen Leacock’s house. I remember ‘studying’ Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town when I was back in university ( that’s a very long time ago). I can’t swear that I ever actually read the book, though; in the arrogance or whatever of youth, I just wasn’t interested. But here I was, just coming away from getting a sense of what a little town in Ontario might have been like eighty to ninety years ago, and suddenly it seemed to have some relevance, to see what Leacock’s take was on small-town Ontario back when that was my grandfather’s life.

I can imagine writing quite cheerfully in this room.

I can imagine writing quite cheerfully in this room.

Stephen Leacock is Canada’s model for writing with humour, or so I’ve read somewhere. I can’t tell you whether he makes me laugh, yet, but I did pick up a copy at the gift shop and I do intend to read it, finally, while thinking of this one branch of my ancestry. I know that you can travel by reading, but I find there’s some added bonus to imagining a setting when you’ve seen one like it. There’s a different feel to the air in Ontario from my home in British Columbia, and I’m not convinced that words alone can convey that. And here’s a confession. I’ve always lived in a big city, and my understanding of what might be good about life in a small place? Blinkered.

Rideau Falls, where the Rideau River runs into the Ottawa River. Gatineau in the background.

Rideau Falls, where the Rideau River runs into the Ottawa River. Gatineau in the background.

Anyway, I’m in Ottawa now (yes, yes, a city) temporarily at home in a furnished bachelor suite in an old house in Sandy Hill (if you know Ottawa). The neighbourhood is home to lots of rentals, as it’s close to the University of Ottawa. So a mix of kind of shabby houses, seen better days, and ones that are marvelously kept up, lovely houses from an earlier era. Lots of embassies scattered around too, this being a government town. I’m used to wood-frame houses, and Ontario is full of brick. So it definitely looks different here from what I’m used to. Lots of trees, but few evergreens, so that’s different too. And I’ll confess that I miss the backdrop of the mountains. But there are lots of waterways, and there is plenty to like here. (I’m two blocks from the Rideau River in one direction, not that far from the Canal or from the Ottawa River and views over to Gatineau as well. One of my recent walks, I went past 24 Sussex, and the Governor General’s place as well, not an overly long way from here.)

A little pomp on Parliament Hill: changing the guard.

I’ve spent a little time being touristy, and stumbled on a bit of pomp the other day on Parliament Hill: the changing of the guard. I was drawn in by the bagpipes.

I lucked out in finding this place online. It’s a short walk to my daughter’s home, and a short walk to the market; slightly longer downtown. I’ve taken up my habit of tramping longish distances, but also have the luxury of hopping in my trusty car when I need it. Rent includes parking, which is quite rare this close to downtown.  Rent includes everything, actually, and at a reasonable price. And the landlady has managed to furnish the place in a homey way, and has thought of details that quite often get left out in places that are supposed to have everything you might need. (Really. There’s even a salad spinner in the kitchen.)

It’s called a bachelor because there’s no separate bedroom, but there is a separate big kitchen, and a back balcony, feels like a back porch (and I suppose technically is, as there are stairs down) where I like to sit out with my coffee on mornings when the sun isn’t baking down. I feel totally at home here. Lots of windows, something I didn’t have in my apartment in Vancouver. A window and a door in the kitchen. Two windows in the really big bathroom, and two in the living/bedroom, so lots of light. It proves my point (to myself) that the biggest thing wrong with the place I sold back in Vancouver, was that I had to turn on lights all the time, as it was so dark inside otherwise.

temphome

Grand old house for my temporary home. My place faces the back, but you can see my living room window on the second floor, on the side.

But home. That’s a topic I scratch my head about. This isn’t home, though it’s homey, and I dragged enough belongings with me that I’m not missing much, for now. I occasionally think of my things all stuffed into a storage locker at home, and I see that a lot of it probably doesn’t matter. (I would like to have a book case in here — one lack the place has.) But I still refer to going home, eventually. I’m going to pack up and leave here at the end of the month, and for a while my car will be home, I suppose. I’m going to make a loop through the States, visiting some more family, but given the distances, mostly traveling down long roads and breathing in the air, getting a feel for it, of places I’ve read about, or seen in movies too, I suppose. Becaue there’s no scratch and sniff in video. Not yet anyway. The soundtrack tends to be different too.

One friend who is here, introduces me as someone who is homeless, and I think, well, that’s not quite accurate. I have a permanent address back in Vancouver and a place to stay when I get back there. It’s just that I don’t own a home right now. And that’s the first time in slightly over forty years, that my name hasn’t been on a land title. Makes me aware of how fortunate I’ve been, something to be grateful for. Anyway, I’ve responded that I’m not homeless. I’m just home-free right now. It’s a temporary condition. Maybe. I can’t quite see that far ahead to where I might finally settle, and then unpack all those boxes, currently crammed into what’s essentially an indoor garage, in Vancouver. But it will be Vancouver, or close to it.

 

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