The palm trees down the middle of this small city’s main street still seem surreal to me. It’s not California, but Tsawwassen, north of the 49th parallel but just barely, tucked into the southwestern corner of the B.C. coastline, and somehow, in spite of our visits to our son and his family over the years, I’d forgotten about the palms. And now I’m walking by them nearly every day and they’re disturbing my notions of Canada. The cold north and all that.
It’s not a bad adjustment, I don’t mean that, just an adjustment. We’re here and more or less moved in, books unpacked, numerous trips to IKEA behind us, some pictures hung. Car insurance and driver’s licences and healthcare applications and internet installation are done and when I complained to our son about one of these procedures, which managed because of a system error to last several hours, he reminded me that these are things we only have to do once. Right.
And our daughter texted (following some other since-forgotten dilemma we were trying to solve), “Settling in may have challenges, but there is no deadline for it. Take all the time you need.” Right to that too. Things have switched up: I have to listen to the kids. The longer process of feeling at home, which involves friends and connections and sense of purpose and belonging, begins now and is not automatic. I hasten to add that we do quite like it here so far.
I’ve recently enjoyed reading Nino Ricci’s 2008 The Origin of Species (I can still remember reading his Lives of the Saints but had not kept up with his work; my, he’s good) and the poignant The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by the late Jean-Dominique Bauby.
Best of all, post the move and all that, I’ve got my Writer-self back on. I have an assignment for an anthology, about which I can’t say more at the moment. Settling in may not have a deadline, but this assignment does, so that will be my September work. And speaking of writing, I want you to know that my personal essay “Return Stroke” is in the current issue of The New Quarterly. If you can get a paper copy, you’ll be glad, because TNQ is a great journal. Otherwise, my piece is online here.
Bye for now.
It takes courage to do what you did. Congrats on making the move. Enjoy the warmth of family and of weather. I look forward to reading your words and wish you continued success. We’ll miss you here on the prairies, that’s for sure.
Hi Gabe, Sometimes a fine line between courage and foolhardiness, but thanks, I’ll go with the former. You’ve set yourself a few stretching adventures for your retirement too, I seem to recall. All best in your writing and thanks so much for stopping by.
Dora, I just read your wonderful essay “Return Stroke” and it resonated with me in so many ways. The older I get, the more I mourn the loss of my father’s side of the family, all of whom remained in Russia or were sent back there from Germany after WWII. My paternal grandfather died when my father was only six years old. All I know about him is that his birthday and mine are both on the same day and that he loved roses. I also have one picture of a handsome young man with his wife and first child. I only learned about his love for roses and the common birthday later in life, but I remember smelling roses for the first time at a funeral when I was about 9 years old and how wonderful and mysterious the aroma was. I think about this grandfather often and I am sad that I know only these two things about him. I think about St. Paul’s words “now we see through a mirror darkly, but someday. . .”.
I look forward to reading more of your posts. Today was a gorgeous fall day and we celebrated Bryce’s installation outside with a picnic. We miss you and Helmut so much!
Thank you Elfrieda for reading “Return Stroke,” and for the memories evoked of your grandfather. Only two things, but they seem powerful to me: a shared birthday and a love of roses. I guess there’s no way to discover more about him?
Yes, truly, how we know only in part. I think that’s so true even in relationships where we think we know a person well.But of course especially true when we only have a couple of tantalizing clues. I wish you best in your memoir writing.
Hi Dora. I’m quite delighted that you have moved here. It will be great to see you at events occasionally and now meeting for coffee is actually possible. I’ve just retired and although I am teaching one grad course, much more flexible time is in my future. Do you ever travel out to UBC?
Thank you Ruth, I have felt warmly welcomed by so many, and now you too! Grateful for all these connections. I have never been to UBC but there’s always a first time. Our son is doing a mid-life switch and taking his Masters in biomedical engineering there, so perhaps some time if he has a short day I’ll tag along with him… In the meanwhile, all the best in your retirement. I saw on FB that you caught a great fish for starters!
Update, Oct. 29, 2016: Re. “Return Stroke”: the essay was only online for a while, perhaps to entice people to buy the issue, but that period has passed.