It rained a lot in British Columbia. It wasn’t really wet, as rainy weather goes; In Victoria, “rain” seems to mean “a mist gracefully puttering from the sky.” The light sprinkle was a little lacking in pyrotechnics, at least by my standards. “Do you ever get, like, storm storms here?” I asked my uncle.
He shrugged. “Not really. Maybe 3 or 4 since I moved here, if that.”
I shuddered at the thought. “Man, I could never live like that…love storms way too much.”
Never. Overstatement, I know. Of course I could live like that. Besides, Vancouver Island’s water action trumps any old rainstorm because it is surrounded by the freaking ocean.
Downpours and lightening strikes might lose this round (though I do still love them).
Later, as I dipped my toes ceremoniously into the chilly West Coast ocean, I wondered why I cared so much about rainstorms. I wondered, too, why hitting both oceans in one month felt so profound and incredible–it’s just water, right?
My whole trip across Canada was watermarked. I don’t just mean I saw a lot of water flowing through the country (though, that too). I mean my internal responses to oceans and rivers and even rainy weather were hella powerful. Eventually, I caught onto the pattern.
Water. Water falling–from the sky, from a cliff, through the cracks. Water rushing past the train. Reading by rivers, walking through rain storms, tears. I’m a leaky faucet sometimes, and have no complaints when the world is, too. Watching the country I call home pass by my forever tear-producing eyes, with its tiny streams and life-giving lakes and salty oceans, I can’t help but take off my shoes and breathe it in because this is what being lucky feels like.*
Traveling across Canada, I became very aware of the water surrounding me, and intensely grateful of what it meant–for myself, for the life around me, for the very definition of Canada. I walked along a lot of rivers, you guys. I used 8 different showers, in 8 different cities, and had many people to thank for it. And, of course, this happened (and was awesome):
I also had those leaky faucet moments, of course. The only thing worse than being a history geek is being an emotional, embarrassingly patriotic history geek. Being an emotional music lover is just as fatal, especially since this damn beautiful country kept throwing me history and music…and water…and wonderful people. All at the same freaking time.
So I wept a few times, all warranted. Most notably, I broke down in the middle of a museum. Also in a train station. Also on the train itself. They were tears of privilege–I missed my guitar, I loved my country, I felt strongly about how my family got here.
And when I cried, it rained. Or I made my way to a waterfront. Or the train passed by a river. I was surrounded by water, and it started feeling really special.
I’m not sure what to make of this alleged connection between water and my soul and this country and the world. No guarantees, but I may just be re-entering “finding myself” territory. This experience may change my habits, or at least my outlook. I might try to get a little more quality time with the canal, appreciate the taps and tubs and scenery I take for granted, light that candle that smells like the beach.
Like I’ve said before, this was never my intent with this trip…but here I go. Growing as a person. Making connections. Damn it. Sorry, guys.
At least there were a few funny, awkward stories in between the oceanfront epiphanies.
Another thought bubble from the cross-Canada trip, one that I can’t seem to pop: Until last month, I probably would have claimed that I could never live out of a small, tattered school bag. Could never deal with not knowing where I was sleeping the next night. Could never sleep on a train. And, oh man, could never feel close to someone less than an hour after meeting them.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, double wrong.
When I have never done something, sometimes I assume it’s because I could never do it. This is one of the lies my brain tells. Maybe your brain tells it, too. I am forever grateful for the people who reach out and pull me out of that. Because as much as I was “traveling alone”? None of this was done alone. It didn’t start alone, and it hardly ended that way. I still remember studying with a girl in my history class, telling her about my trip. She looked at my small, black backpack, filled with a few books and a laptop, and said “Yeah, I traveled Europe using something about that size. You could do it easy.”
So I did.
I still remember when my co-worker, Julia, dropped off her ukelele at the office; “You can bring it with you if you want, I never use it anyways.” She insisted that she was sure I could learn how to play it, and suggested I cover it in stickers from across the country.
I did that, too.
An old high school acquaintance Facebooked me after reading my blog, offering her air mattress in PEI. Another friend told me his wonderful folks could host me in Saskatoon. West Coast family members welcomed me with open arms.
So I stayed with them.
Friends before me had conquered enough of the train that I felt I could take it on.
I trusted their judgement. And they were right.
After awhile, all these wonderful friends and prayers and instincts sent the message that “You can trust God. You can trust some people. You can trust yourself.” No one learns to believe something as crazy as that alone. And certainly, no one can confirm it alone. I needed a ton of help, coming from all sides–from upsides, downsides, from inside, outside, from everywhere.
Is this getting cheesy? I’m sorry. I promise it’s honest. I just owe a million thank yous. Even though my trip was through my own country, more of a backyard bash than an exotic adventure, it taught me some crazy things. And now I know Canada–I don’t care for it any more, or any less, but I know it now. I’ve reconnected with water, profoundly so. I am filled up with stories. I’ve visited my aunt and uncle in their hometown and it’s about damn time, really.
And now I’m home. I took the bus to work today, past the Ottawa river. My heart lept at the sight of it, just a bit–a new response, to say the least. I gazed out the window and smiled.
A Mari Usque Ad Mare.
* By the bye, the “being lucky” thing is pretty serious: lack of access to safe drinking water affects a LOT of people around the world. If you’re one of the lucky ones, consider paying it forward: http://thewaterproject.org/