A walk to the library

I need to return a book to the library. As I usually do, I’ll walk. Want to come along?


I live in an 80s-something building here in Tsawwassen, B.C., in a third (top) floor corner apartment, where the view from my balcony is of another building in the complex with adjacent parking lot, 16th Avenue just behind it, and –happily– trees, both surrounding my place and in the distance.

I take the side door out and go down the back lane. It’s a sunny 22 degrees today, and the air seems mostly clear of smoke. At the corner of 16th and 56 Street, where I turn left, there’s a Shell station. The price of gas is $165.9 L today. I have no good idea why we pay such a high price for gas, but this is a car-based community and people simply pay. If I happen to be in Ladner, a mere 7 kilometres north, when the tank is getting low, I fill up there, because invariably it will be several cents less per litre, which doesn’t amount to that much on a tank, I know, but it’s the principle of the thing and it’s the best I can do.

I walk along 56 Street, the main road into Tsawwassen, a busy road, lined with little strip malls, fast food places, and apartment or condo buildings. Fortunately there are boulevard plantings, including –yes –palm trees, to draw the eye. Once I’m up the bit of incline into “town,” there are several ways to get to the library. I’ll take my favourite way. (I remember how excited I was to discover it.) I turn right off 56 into a quieter street, and then through an archway (is there anything more intriguing than an arch?) and through the “common grounds” of a condo complex, which happens to be a shallow lake. It’s like a little taste of Venice I suppose, in that the water comes right up to the buildings, though there are no canals, gondolas, or singing gondoliers. 


There are no benches to linger on and enjoy this lovely sight — I guess the sitting and enjoying belongs to those who live in the condos, though I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone sitting on their balcony and doing so. I cross the wooden bridge over this little shallow sea, go around the fountain at the end and follow some other paths that weave around the buildings until I come to a last slightly elevated path up, and there, the town’s library.

The library recently set out artificial turf and some chairs and the town supplied some bright flowers made of that polyethylene foam used in pool noodles. These blooms have been rotated through different parts of town, with the hope to cheer us up. Unfortunately they prompted a huge, even nasty, debate on the local Facebook group, on account of some decrying the lack of regard for the environment, because the foam is difficult to recycle, and others decrying those concerns as grumpy pettiness, and on and on it went. Honestly, this town is the friendliest place, people greet when passing on the sidewalk and so on, but some exchanges on that social media site have me shaking my head. Although I next-to-never post, I did venture a comment about the undesirability of leaf blowers once — citing a California community that banned them — and landed in a hornet’s nest; did I expect people to rake and sweep? One guy said he would find out where I lived and come blow his blower outside my window until it ran out of gas. Seriously, though, this is a friendly place.

So I drop off my book, then take another way back to 56, through a pleasant patch of water and rocks at the centre mall. I decide to stop at one of Tsawwassen’s two thrift stores, to check if there were any “new” jigsaw puzzles (I like 500 piece sets for a quick puzzle fix) and run my eye over the books. This store now organizes their books by colour — a long shelf of red, another of blue, black, yellow, and so on — and the usefulness of this baffles me. I remarked to a volunteer shelving some books that it’s actually more difficult to scan through the books that way. He replied that it was too hard to alphabetize them. I hadn’t suggested that as the option, it would be fine, in my opinion, to have them all mixed up. But, speaking of books, I forgot to mention that Then the Fish Swallowed Him was an excellent read, “convincing, unnerving,” as one review put it, about a man named Yunus (Jonah) in modern Iran, caught up in the prison innards of a repressive regime for a slight involvement in a bus drivers’ strike.


But homewards now, back down 56 Street. On very clear days, the far mountains are visible as I come over the bit of the incline. Walk, walk, walk. I look up at my apartment, left side corner, top floor. It used to be that when I walked to do errands, Helmut might be on the balcony when I returned, and we’d wave, or, when he was still able to go out, he might be coming back and I would see him, so same thing from a different perspective, that exchanged gesture that always provoked a tiny spike of happiness.

And now I’ve nattered and chattered all the way there and back, and I thank you for your company.


23 thoughts on “A walk to the library

  1. I was on that walk with you every step of the way – and I have to say tears welled up when I read the penultimate paragraph! What a shame there are no benches to sit on after you go through the archway! M xx

    • Wonderful. Learned to share the puzzle addiction. Never thought of thrift stores as a source. Bits and Pieces has been my source with 500 pieces as my limit as well. Pass the puzzles on to my grandchildren and great grandchildren. (4) 😌 keep well and keep writing!

  2. i loved this very much. i am not doing nearly as many outings these days and i felt like i went on one with you. i just enjoy and appreciate your writing so much. the words about helmut in the final paragraph: poignant. mom died a few weeks ago, and the things i am missing about her are sometimes very unexpected. love to you!

  3. Beautiful description of your walk with both words and photos. It felt so real! One of my favorite parts was when you turned off onto a quieter street after passing under the archway. I chuckled about your leaf blower post on social media. Not only did you make this walk feel real, it was a very interesting walk, as well. I’m glad you’re able to post about the things in life you miss without H. You are one gifted writer!

  4. Dora, thanks for taking me on a walk with you, and especially to one of my favorite places, the library! I always wondered what it was like where you live and now I have a better idea and can picture you in your surroundings. Someone missing though, a piece of the puzzle no longer available.

  5. Such a beautiful way to share your place and your self with us, Dora. I love BC but have only ever visited Vancouver and Victoria, and then as a tourist. I love arches too. They dramatize the liminal places where one thing meets another. I’m glad H. has become Helmut. He is a very real presence in your work. Thank you for sharing these understated thoughts. We can only imagine.

    • Thank you Shirley. If you ever return to B.C., I’m not far from the ferry that crosses between the Island and mainland! And arches as liminal places; yes. Reminds me a little of your recent post about porches. They sort of are too, not? A person is somewhat somewhat enclosed and separated and “inside” and yet also “outside” and in touch with a larger world. — And only a memoirist, Shirley, would notice the shift from H. to Helmut. For years, if I happened to mention him here, I tried to give him that minimum of privacy, not that he would have minded, probably, one way or the other, but it seemed right to me. And I’ve continued out of habit, but today I didn’t, and I’m not sure I was thinking about it, but yes, it feels good, and thanks for saying what you said.

  6. Even though you were probably very aware of every movement around you, every new nuance in the scenery, even the molding of the sidewalk, and were very purposeful in your journey, I sensed such a “gelassenheit” in your stroll. Made me take a deep, settling sigh! Thanks. Edith Adrian Matthies

  7. Pingback: A walk to the library – talk-librarian

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