we haven't stayed the same [first thoughts after arriving back to BC from Europe, April 2009]

I woke up on Friday morning without the slightest idea where I was. It could've been that I had gone 50 hours without sleeping. And then the fact that I took gravol to really knock me out when I finally did get to bed. But somehow the walls that have held my bed, my clothes, my books, my time, for the last 17 or so years, were un-recognizable for about thirty seconds.

It's always a strange feeling, returning. It's like how the poets describe history as a spiral, not quite a circle, it is always turning and coming back to itself, but not exactly in the same place, not in the same way. Each turn is a little bit different, even if it is all connected. Walking through the final door after customs and into the awkward "greeting area" at YVR, you know how you can see your family but there's that dumb barrier that makes you walk all the way around and along the perimeter of the room before you can actually hug them [cruel], I knew I was returning as a different person, that Mom and Dad and Becs have changed, but that I was also returning to what we've always had.

And my house is the same. But the furniture is moved. And my sheets are brown right now, and my guitar was in my closet, not on the floor by my desk. And there still aren't baseboards in my room and the bookshelf is in the same place and none of my belongings are in the closet. It hasn't changed, but it's different. I instinctively still know where the spoons go in my kitchen and I can make coffee the way I like it in the morning and we have the same mugs as before and the pictures are gone from the hallway, and Langley hasn't changed, but I have returned different, seeing with different eyes, and therefore it is different than before.

I stood for a long time in my room yesterday, trying to get used to the room that I've always had, but I don't quite fit in the same way as I used to.

I went to London for five days with Em after Chichester. Our hotel room was smaller than the room we had in Notting Hill the first time we were in London, but this time we just had the two of us instead of having four, so it didn't seem quite as dramatic. We spent our days at Portabello market and meeting up with Elle again for church and a trip to Trafalgar Square and a walk through daffodils towards Buckingham palace [which, if you ask me, after the flowers, is kind of a let down], a movie night, long talks and long dinners. London is busy and waits for no one, but I always had this sense like there are stories being played out everywhere. The streets and bustling people and the pubs on the corners and hum of all the accents and the buses and the sound of horses every once in a while, it's all a backdrop, despite what they might say. i wasn't fooled. London is a story teller.

Em and I, on our last day together before she headed to Denmark for a week with her dad and I went ahead of her to Ireland, made our way to Stansted Airport lazily on a tuesday, dropped our stuff off at our hotel and took the train into Cambridge for the day. While walking through university grounds and looking at buildings that you know you have to be a certified SMART person to even get in, I thought a lot about academics vs. artists and hoped to not be one or the other, that it wouldn't be a competition of one being more the way than another but hoping that I could be both. Wouldn't that be nice?

Ireland was pretty indescribable. There aren't really words to express the beauty of the country, or the incredible gratitude I have for my friends there, the amazing conversations and hearts shared. My time was filled with trips into the city and out to the coast, a three hour stay in Dublin, a pint of Guinness with Jonny, getting to spend lots of time with the Gerards', a week spent at Rachel Pedlow's [including a bouncy castle extravaganza at her nephew's birthday party, talks in New Castle, a trip to a real castle], singing two songs in a bar, getting hit on by a woman after singing two songs at a bar, going to a Captain Cameron gig, lunch with the infamous Susan Dobsin, about eight cups of tea each day, candid talks with Mike, and endlessly cherished time catching up with old friends. I'm so thankful I got to go, and it was a great way to end the trip!

On my last day, after only sleeping about an hour, Andrew dropped me off at the airport at 4:45, an hour and a half early, just in time to check in and get through customs in a total of four minutes, leaving me to wait there for an hour and twenty six minutes on the other side of security. Starbucks opened at five so I got an extra shot of espresso in my latte and relied on the caffeine to get me to England for 8am. I treated myself to breakfast, where I met Nick, a guy in a red sweater on his way to Spain. We talked for two hours, I'm not quite sure about what [sorry Nick, where ever you are], I was a little incoherent all day. I journalled some, and got through a respectable 546 pages of Eclipse, and any time I started to dose off I'd move seating areas of Gatwick Airport, alternating between a bottle of water and a cup of coffee, resulting in many trips to the loo [fyi, and you're welcome]. My 6:30 flight couldn't have come soon enough, but somehow the hour came, and I got on the plane. I sat next to Peter and Sandy, possibly some of the most beautiful people I've ever met. They met five years ago, walking in a park in Ireland. Sandy had never married, had owned a hotel in California for twenty years and travelled the world, moved to Normandy, and had been in Ireland visiting friends when she met Peter, a widower after being married for 39 years. It was love at first sight they said, and now they travel the world together. We talked most of the time, when I wasn't dosing off. They are convinced I have a doppleganger in Germany. I think Sandy put into words what I've been hungering for myself for my whole life. She said, "Never lose your curiosity. I think that's the saddest thing to see, when you meet someone who is done exploring who they are, when they've had enough of what life has to offer them. Promise you won't do that, will you, Jess?" With all of my heart I hope to keep my promise.

And now I'm back in Langley for a month and a half. I have a funny sleep pattern and a lot going through my mind, worries about getting a job but half not really caring, music that I want to write and not quite knowing the words, laundry that needs to be done but I'm sure can wait, coffee dates to make and none that have been set. I can say this is the first time that I've positively anticipated coming back, having time to be quiet and slow and thoughtful.

And let me tell you what little I've figured out so far:

It will serve you well to pay attention. Let me get all Louis Armstrong on you for a second, my "what a wonderful world" moment here, and tell you that there is beauty in every moment; there is something to be learned in each interaction with another, in each experience and opportunity. There is something about travelling that forces you to observe, and it comes easily because every single thing that you see while you are gone is 100% new to your eyes. It takes you out of yourself and makes it easy to grow and learn and stretch. I don't want to live any different when I'm in the house that I grew up at; it's harder to do so here, certainly, but I am challenging myself. I hope that I am alert enough to pause throughout my day and take note of what is unfolding around me and within me. Roger Housden says of paying attention, "it is our attention that honors and ives value to living things, that gives them their proper name and particularity, and retrieves them from the obscurity of the general. It is the sam faculty that can distinguish and name the subtle layers in a feeling. When I pay attention, something in me wakes up, and that something is much closer to who i am than the driven or drifting self I usually tke myself to be. I am straightened somehow, made truer, brought to a deeper life."

I have learned that I am a traveller. We are travellers if we take ourselves to other places, if we journey, if we are in movement, and I don't think that these are conditional traits for far off places and foreign lands. Life itself is distant and a mystery and begs to be discovered, so explore it. I have learned that I am an artist. We are artists if we dare to observe and then dare more to comment, if we dare to be truth speakers and take an approach that we deem an exciting, authentic way of going at life. I have learned that life is a dance. It's a dance and it's fluid and always moving and changing and is written like poetry, like feelings, not facts. Life is a dance and I'm going for it.

Join me?

Posted on December 25, 2009 and filed under from jess-.