Veronica on July 5th, 2011
Summer in Vancouver is hard to take in. All those massive mountains, sparkling bays, wide sweeps of sun (when it’s out) and blue. It’s drop-dead beautiful on a hot, bright afternoon, but I find difficulty getting my two hands around it, stretching my sight to notice detail, not simply look in a sort of stunned appreciation. Sometimes, when sitting on a beach staring out over the water, I feel a gust of nostalgia for the lakes and hills I grew up with in Ontario. For canoes and driftwood. Trilliums and black-eyed susans. Roadside stands selling ears of corn and trees adorned with tire swings.
We have all these here, but they have always been overshadowed for me by the all-encompassing grandeur of the setting. I suspected that this was merely my child’s eye – the attention to detail that I experienced in Ontario and later in northern BC (a much more sparse environment where every dash of colour counts). And so I was startled when I read this short conversation in Elizabeth Hay’s book Alone in the Classroom (which is excellent, by the way). The first speaker has been living in Vancouver for seven years after a lifetime in rural Ontario and is beginning to feel homesick:
“I miss the East.”
“Mountains. I want to look at little things.”
“Little objects for the soul.”
Sitting on English Bay under a tree, I paused and reread the passage. Once. Twice. And experienced all over again why we read literature. To discover newness, yes. But also to discover we are not alone. To find that someone has found words for our experience.
So this summer, as I arrange flowers for my sister’s wedding, welcome another sister’s new baby, add to our window box garden and discover new recipes, I’m going to allow myself to care about the little things. Does it matter that Stephanie’s groom will have “Stephanotis” flowers on his lapel? Perhaps, not, but it’s a matter of detail, a way I can slow down and in my own way, show attention to someone I love. There’s thousands of little objects for the soul all about us, and I’d like to return to the childlike practice of simply noticing. Perhaps I can notice my way into feeling at home amid larger geographies, too.