SWORDFERN
Rooted, I used to think.

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Tuesday, Apr. 07, 2009 @ 8:48 pm
Days Off



I need to document this: my first visit to the city to which I will be moving. I need to document the expanse of brown and white, shades of brown, and grey. I did not take a single photo. All that remains is is my memory.

First, we drove up the Fraser Canyon, along the steep banks of the mighty Fraser. A highway that I have been a passenger on so many times. Each summer, at least once. Formerly a road of oasis-like rest stops: mowed green grass in the dusty rain shadow. Now, the road could be an extension of California's Route 66. The scent of sage brush. Elvis Rocks Cafe. Vacant gas stations, diners all Closed. Just a few Natives walking along the highways, and the roar of engine brakes.

We neared Cache Creek. The smell, overpowering, of poultry manure, or animal carcasses. And then, around the corner, we see the massive terraced mountain of garbage that is Vancouver's landfill. A swarm of birds above, like static on an old TV. Long PVC pipes, collecting gases and leachate, snaking over the surface.

We stayed overnight with my family in Quesnel. My uncle sort of vacant, my aunt enthusiastic. A foot of snow blanketing the lawn. We woke to snow falling heavily.

In Prince George, we drove around each residential area, imagining ourselves taking after-dinner walks. Standing at bus stops. Drinking iced tea on the deck. Shoveling the walk. We tried to find one without graffitied fences.

Downtown appeared to be a wasteland of sometimes-open vacuum cleaner repair shops. Big banks in secure buildings. The Bay, a Canadian icon, standing stoically in a mostly-vacant shopping plaza. We wandered inside: strangely upscale clothing, for a town like this.

Up to the University. Mushing through the snow in the parking lot, the smell of cold pine trees. Are we going skiing? Students walk purposefully to their cars. Inside there is light and high ceilings. People are friendly. There is comforting college chatter, and the smell of coffee and xerox.

We return to Vancouver, attempting to imagine ourselves as residents of that city. Just outside of Hope we are startled by an aggressive driver. It continues through the suburbs of the city. When we arrive at the quiet, now upscale street that my parents live on, we are convinced that if nothing else, the people in PG will have less of a me attitude than further south, in Lotus Land, where the beauty of the city runs thinly beneath its skin. Dog-eat-dog.

On Sunday, I wake in my childhood bedroom. Daniel is sleeping on a foamie on the floor beside the bed. In the pale dawn, I hear a bald eagle's high chattering. I hear the familiar sound of the toilet flushing in the bathroom. I hear my mother walking down the hallway. I notice that there is a tear in these, my favourite old sheets. The ones with the California poppies on them, that Mom bought in San Francisco, probably in the 70's.

We go to Grandpa's memorial.

There is wine and smoked salmon. There is my Uncle Bill, who I haven't seen in many years, since that part of the family 'stopped participating' in our traditional seasonal suppers. He's sort of slow now, since he fell from the roof of his house. I try to make him feel welcome, but I notice him later standing alone, chewing his lip.

On display is Grandpa's wooden-handled ice axe. His old backpack. A pair of forest green gaiters. I keep expecting him to burst into the room, sweep his arms around in the air, grinning. Oh, all of my friends, I have staged the most deceitful plot!

My aunt is raiding the bar of white wine while the wait staff are smoking behind the building.

My father has prepared an eulogy of sorts, that comes out sounding rather Toastmasters. He's trying to entertain, or something. He likes the science of the stage. Everyone is wishing he would just utter a half-choked Thank you for coming, mop some tears, and then sit down. He ends up talking about himself instead of his father. In truth, many people in the room know his father more than him, and for that, he is awkward.

We leave. Daniel and I. We're driving down the highway, and traffic is light. The weather is unseasonably warm, muggy. The fields are greening. I lean back and relax, my mind blank. Happy, sad, scared, excited, dreading, hoping... all of this I turn off. Golden setting sun, falcons hunting the fields, and an expanse of ocean ahead of me.

The ferry pushes off, engines growling, horn sounding: heading home, finally.


Roots | Shoots