My alarm clock died last night, but I woke up early anyway. Most of the sports that I watch I have been overseas, which means they often happen in the middle of the night. I saw the last set of the men’s final at Wimbledon, I watched a bit of the Tour de France, and I started watching the Fremantle Dockers game on my PVR (they didn’t get off to a good start).

I forgot completely that it was Sunday, and that there was a bike race happening literally outside my front door. This weekend was the Tour de White Rock, but I only remembered that once I got off my couch, walked down to the beach, and saw the last few bikes milling around, long after the race was done. I had reminded myself every time I saw the posters around town, but I didn’t set a reminder.

Life is forever re-learning that I can’t trust my brain.

Still, I got to sit on the beach for an hour or so. It was overcast when I walked down the hill, but then the sun came out, and it was beautiful. A little windy, but that means I got to watch the sailboats, the paddleboarders, and the kids flying kites.

The ocean can’t fix my brain, but I’m happy to let it try.

Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #14

  1. Even if I’m not posting here, I’m always writing. That’s why I take a notebook with me wherever I go. I even take it with me when I move from room to room in my house. (Except the bathroom.) (Usually.)
  2. This week, it would be more truthful to write about what’s not working for me. But that would be a very long list, and I’ve committed to picking four things. I’m really liking the number four lately. It’s a nice structure for a lot of things.
  3. I bought pre-ground coffee recently. It was on sale, plus there was a coupon, and it’s kinda local. (Portland, Oregon.) I don’t have a coffee grinder, so what I usually do is grind the beans by hand in my mortar and pestle. It’s not my most favourite thing to do in the mornings, but I’ve turned it into a kind of meditation. Still, not having to do it this week has been nice.
  4. I forgot my prescription sunglasses at my parents’s house last week. So this week I have been wearing my non-prescription huge pink plastic sunglasses. (These ones.) They don’t fit as well over my new regular glasses, so I’ve been wearing them without, which means I can’t see further than six inches in front of my face. As much as I believe it’s important to look around when you’re walking, the world can be a lot. You don’t have to let it all in.

It’s hot. It’s not supposed to be this hot in July in the Lower Mainland. Vancouver is known for its temperate weather. Never too cold in the winter; never too hot in the summer. Yes, it snows here. And in that second half of August, we usually get one good week of really hot sun. I looked forward to that week all year long. It was the time for the beach, the pool, the water park.

This year, it’s barely July, and I am already tired of the heat. This isn’t normal weather, and it hasn’t been normal for years now. It’s hard to sleep. I don’t want to go hiking. Our planet is dying, and all I want is ice coffee and ice cream.

Tomorrow, I have a day off. Because I teach kids, a lot of them go away during the summer, and I have fewer classes. Tomorrow will be the first day in my parents’s pool. I don’t care how cold it is. I’m jumping straight in.

Notes from the beach:

  • “Mermaid hair. I remember we used to say the seaweed looks like mermaid hair.”
  • Saw a jellyfish that was probably dead.
  • Do the fish stuck in tidal pools worry they’ll never get back to the ocean?
  • The couple taking photos of each other jumping at sunset are doing life right.
  • A stoned woman asked, as I was walking up the very steep hill, if I was wearing heels. (I wasn’t. But walking on the balls of your feet makes hills easier.)

The park down the block from my office is called Bakerview. I was sitting under a tree and researching the namesake when I realised it’s named Bakerview because you can see Mount Baker. At least I’m assuming you could in 1933 when they named the park. There are too many houses in the way now.

Mount Baker is across the border in Washington, but it’s a constant in the skyline. In the suburbs south of Vancouver, if you see a snub-nosed, white-capped mountain in the distance, it’s probably Baker. It’s so dominant in our landscape that many businesses, on both sides of the border, put Baker in their names and the silhouette in their logos. It’s on the Washington state license plate. But before this week, I had no idea who Baker was.

The places Canada has made into parks are filled with our stories—every mountain, every valley has a name and a history for Indigenous peoples.

Robert Jago writes about Canada’s parks as “colonial crime scenes”. It’s easy for those of us who are colonisers to protest condos and malls and casinos built on unceded Indigenous land. Those developments are very obviously evil. We can’t be as bad as them, right? Because the parks mean more to us. We believe they matter because they preserve Canada’s wilderness. We believe we’re saving Canada. Instead, we–and Parks Canada, which is offering free admission this year as a reminder that you normally have to pay for access to the land–are erasing Indigenous stories and names.

We are living on stolen land.

Mount Baker has an Indigenous name I had never heard before I looked it up: Koma Kulshan. It has as many names as there are Indigenous languages in the area. Baker, on the other hand, was the name of a lieutenant on George Vancouver’s ship. He gets his name on the most prominent mountain in the skyline because he “saw it on April 30, 1792.” He was standing on a ship and pointed at a mountain, and now his name is on the park where I spend a lot of my summer afternoons.

Emily Carr (I know, sorry, but she’s my project for the year) has many sketches and paintings marked with the initials “Q.C.I.” Those three letters stand for Queen Charlotte Islands, the northern archipelago off the coast of BC that we now call Haida Gwaii. Carr visited and painted the islands in the 1920s and 30s, but when I was in school in the 1990s, we still called them the Queen Charlotte Islands. The official name change happened only 7 years ago.

Nunavut, our third Canadian territory, didn’t exist when I was drawing maps and learning Canadian geography. That happened in 1999.

Down the hill from where I live now, beside the commercial waterfront of White Rock Beach, there used to be a park. In 1996, the Semiahmoo First Nation took the land back from the city of Surrey.

Reconciliation will not be as simple as renaming Canada’s parks. But this is something I can do right now. July 1st marks 150 years of Confederation and hundreds more years of European settlement in Canada. It’s the start of summer and the next 150 years of Canada. If we’re going to survive as a country, we have to change. I’ll be spending more time outside among the trees and paying more attention to the names that don’t belong.

I’ve claimed this land as my own too long. I need to learn more about the people who were here first. I want to hear their word for mountain.

Today was decidedly not tiny yoga. Today was my alma mater’s celebration of International Day of Yoga, and while I’m glad I went, it was four hours on a mat. I really earned that savasana.

But then I drank my juice box and ate my fig bars, and it was such a nice day (27C!), I didn’t want to waste it. I walked from W49th to Marine Drive via the Ontario greenway. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Vancouver Specials.

Out in the suburbs, every new house is a fake Craftsman or a fake West Coast Modern. It’s a lot of flat roofs (so dumb in a rainforest) and a lot of pointy gables. Downtown, they build condos because there’s no space for anything more, and we have a lot of people who need somewhere to live.

But there’s a lot of Vancouver history still standing on Ontario Street. I didn’t know this Vancouver still existed. We’ve always been a city quick to demolish and start again. I had almost given up hope that any of our messy past was still here.

After therapy on Thursday mornings, I go out for lunch before work. I could go home for the four hours between, but I live down a steep hill, and I work at the top, and it’s been so hot. I go out for lunch, I write in the food court, I browse the library, and then I go to work.

Lately, I’ve been going to the same restaurant, around the same time, and today my server said, “Nice to see you again.” It was a little moment that surprised me, a genuine recognition that so rarely happens in the world.

It had me thinking about why the baristas at Starbucks don’t seem to recognise me, though I’m there often enough. It’s the difference in the interaction. A server at a restaurant is with you through a meal, which is longer than a coffee. The time of day is more structured, too. There are breakfast customers, lunch customers, dinner customers, but people stop in for coffee at all hours.

I go to the same Starbucks, but I don’t always order the same drink. I’ve never worked food service, but I used to work in an alterations shop, which means I saw the customers when they dropped off and when they picked up. I recognised them because I associated them with their pants or dress. My mom’s Starbucks knows her because she orders the same thing every time (except when she gets a frappucino with her rewards).

Even with my ever-changing coffee, when I go to Starbucks, I usually get a mug to stay and write a while. I get my free refills. I do the crossword in the paper. Maybe I just need to be better at small talk while I wait for the app to load. Because some days I really feel invisible.

Because I was going to be downtown to meet some friends, I went a little early so I could visit Emily Carr at the Vancouver Art Gallery. That’s the benefit of being a member–sometimes I go to the gallery to see just one floor, even one painting. They’re in a transition period right now, so 2/4 floors was all there was to see on Saturday.

The VAG holds the largest collection of Carr’s work. The fourth floor is usually hers. Until December, it’s an exhibit of her forest paintings, my favourite paintings. I haven’t seen Scorned/Beloved on a wall in years. That tree trunk up above is an early painting, as Emily was putting aside her totem pole project to explore the BC wilderness. That tree trunk below is a photograph by Karin Bubaš, a Vancouver artist in the second floor exhibit, Pictures from Here.

I only did a quick walk through the second floor (I’ll be back), but Bubaš’s photos struck me as I had just come out of Emily’s forest. It’s the same forest. They’re the same trees. Bubaš placed women in all of her photographs, faces obscured, like my own reflection in that selfie above.

We’re all making the same art, but in different ways.

Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #9

  1. The French Open is messing with my resolution to keep the TV off in the mornings. But my PVR helps. I only have a few shows set to record (Private Eyes is back!), but it means I’m not compulsively flipping the channels, looking for something to watch. I watch a show after work, and then I delete. I watch less TV, but I watch what I want.
  2. This Wednesday, I biked out to Crescent Beach. It was my first bike ride of the year. I wasn’t sure that the weather would hold for the whole day, and it turned out that it didn’t. It was overcast, and later it got windy. But just the chance to spend an afternoon on the beach, in the sun, in the ocean, made my week better.
  3. My new steno notebooks are working out pretty well. I filled the first one in two weeks. The thing I like most about them is the two columns. It means that the daily log I write at the back of my book takes up far fewer pages. The thing I like least about them is the paper. It’s rather thin and gets caught up on the spiral binding a lot.
  4. The inventor of the Hawaiian pizza died today. Hawaiian has always been my favourite pizza. But now that I’m vegetarian, I don’t eat ham. On my way home from work, I stopped at the grocery store and bought a can of pineapple tidbits, pizza mozzarella (on sale!), some mushrooms, and a tomato. When I got home, I made some dough. It wasn’t exactly the pizza Sam Panopoulos invented. But I made it on a whim, and I have leftovers for tomorrow.

Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #7

  1. Weekends. Dude, they’re the best.
  2. A whole week off.  I went on a weekend vacation last week–Vancouver to Seattle on a cruise ship, then Seattle to Vancouver on a train. Because I knew I wouldn’t have internet, I decided not to worry. Then I came home and decided to keep not worrying for the rest of the week. Just take a few days off from making stuff. It was nice.
  3. What I ended up doing instead was a lot of thinking about what I want this website to look like. It was last May that I stopped making a zine a week. I liked doing it. I’m proud I did it. But in the end, it wasn’t working for me. I’ve been experimenting these last few months to figure out what’s going to work for me now. Even if it’s not what I’m doing now, none of this has been wasted. I have to do the thing to figure out if I want to do the thing.
  4. Last Sunday was the first time I’d travelled to the US since the election in November. Washington is literally right there across the bay, but the last time I walked around Blaine, I saw a man run across the street with a rifle.  And that was before the election. I wasn’t scared about being in Seattle. I was worried about being in this city I know well and finding it changed. I was worried that I would find a different America than the one I know from my friends, from my travels, from living in a border city. I was so happy to find that Seattle is well. Seattle is fighting. I took so many photos of the words RESIST, PERSIST, DEFY in shopfront windows: appliquéd on calico banners or written on cardboard in black Sharpie. It felt good to be there, instead of watching on the internet from afar. It helped me to know that we’re going to be OK.