7 a.m. – and it’s @#$@ cold. Yesterday, there was snow – not snow that stayed on the ground, no, but that turned the air frigid. A bitter, brutal spring so far. Let’s hope the brave snowdrops in a neighbour’s front yard survive.
I’m up so early because my roofer called half an hour ago to leave a message. Roofers, it seems, forget that we all do not keep their schedule; that some of us watch Jon Stewart and go to bed late. However. He was supposed to finish the job on my flat roof in October, and it’s still not done. So getting a message from him at 6.45 a.m. is better than silence.
There’s a big rush of things to do, because tomorrow I leave for four weeks on my annual April pilgrimage. This year, a tour of North America. Tomorrow I land in Washington D.C. to visit both my father’s and my mother’s side of the family; then Saturday to Austin, Texas; a week later to Los Angeles, then to Vancouver and finally to Bowen Island and Tofino on Vancouver Island and back to Vancouver. Home April 30.
Packing my small suitcase – small, I repeat, SMALL – is a challenge. Tomorrow night first cousin once removed George Gordin is taking me, he says, to one of the best restaurants in Washington, hence a certain respectability is required – and the city will be cold, 100% chance of rain. Then I’ll be eating ribs in Austin where it’s 80 degrees, in Los Angeles I’ll be strolling in sunny Malibu with my ultra-chic friend Suzette, and then Vancouver – well, rain and jeans, and Tofino’s windy Long Beach will require boots and fleece. Layers, people. Layers and accessories, and lots of black.
And en route shopping.
There is much still to wrap up. Luckily my tenant and friend Carol is here to keep cat and plants alive. Skype is set up with my daughter so I can keep track of Booboo. A month away – he’ll be riding a bicycle by the time I get back. Today I teach the last course of the term, see my bank manager and the physiotherapist – and perhaps the roofer – and try to squeeze all my layers and accessories into the very small suitcase. Plus snacks. Plus a big plush hippo and a favourite Dr. Seuss book – “O the places you’ll go” – for my ex-husband’s 3-year old daughter Greta, whom I’m excited to meet on Friday in Washington. (He collects hippos. I bet Greta has lots of cuddly ones already. Both gifts from, of course, Doubletake.)
Most importantly, I am trying before I leave to finish a wonderful book that’ll inspire me on my travels. “To Show and to Tell: the craft of literary non-fiction,” by the renowned Philip Lopate, is one of the best books on the subject that I’ve read, and I’ve read many. He begins by saying that unlike most writers, he loves teaching as much as writing, so he is speaking to me as a teacher of memoir and as a writer. Every page so far is blinding yellow with highlighter. I want to carry his words with me, to seep into my bones, so that when I return, I can jump right back into work. And incidentally, I hadn’t heard of this book until spotting it by chance the other day at Nicholas Hoare’s bookstore. That’s what a good bookstore can do. Still mourning that one.
Student Jason just wrote, “I hope you learn something new about yourself on your travels.” Impossible not to on any trip, but this one will be really interesting – visiting family, friends since first year university in 1967, my old Seventies stomping grounds of the Vancouver theatre scene, and Long Beach, where my ex and I went for a last solo vacation in April 1981, when I was 8 months pregnant with Eli’s mother. This will be a trip both backwards and forwards. You’re welcome to come with me.