Lost In My Own Town

Vic West is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Victoria, just across the bridge from downtown, and I always get lost here, even though it was the first place I landed when moving to this city in 1988. In the days before Craigslist, we had to rely on papers, or if we couldn’t get the local newspaper, a dot matrix printout from the university was mailed across the country. This is what I did, and although it was already outdated once it reached me, nevertheless, I found a place to stay: a room in a house from a guy who liked to rent to female students.

Lo and behold and with luck on my side, so did another female writing student from out of town, and once we quickly realized that the landlord was a creep, we found an apartment together in a neighbourhood far from this one. That other student turned out to be the author Gail Anderson-Dargatz, and we had a splendid time in our musty basement suite, and she was pivotal in helping my future self become a writer, as I’ve written about here.

But back to the neighbourhood of Vic West. I drive through it a few times a week to get back and forth to work, and I buy my bread in it at a fabulous family-run bakery, and sometimes play tennis across the street from the bakery, and occasionally stop at an aesthetically pleasing grocery store / garden market to drool over the gorgeous goods and flowers, or to buy a few sundries and leave with a much lighter wallet.

A few days ago, I decided to take a walk here instead of my usual places, after buying bread, and instantly I felt a little lost, just half a block in. The neighbourhood is full of hills and winding streets and the houses are generally colourful, fairly humble, mostly old; some yards are cluttered with bikes, windmills, dented trombones, broken fountains; some porches hold shelves of boots and umbrellas and potted plants; some houses are small and neat as a pin.

At the bottom of the first hill, a few men were fixing the sidewalk. “I love you, man,” one said, and the other replied, “I love you too, bro.”

That was a first for me, hearing love between construction guys. It made me smile.

I climbed another hill, took a right, then another right, and another, and ended up back near the guys… then kept going up another hill, past where friends used to live eons ago, when the trains still ran up this island and shook them awake, if the barking dogs and backfiring cars didn’t.

I saw a cat, and took its picture, and a redheaded man coming out of the bushes, along the train track turned bike trail, and didn’t take his pic. I kept going. I passed three people, all men. Once I oriented myself by finding the hint of the Olympic Mountains behind an apartment building, I turned onto a trail between houses that promised to be a connector. I like connectors.

The connecting path took me into a small park where I swallowed a bug, which made me cough and need a cough drop, which I had, because I am becoming the kind of woman who carries all the things (although I did leave the hairbrush and hand cream in the car, to lighten the purse load).

I made it back to my car having only felt lost momentarily, overall, but it was a good walk—and the daffodils were closer to blooming there than at home. The car smelled amazing, from the bread I’d left in the sunny backseat, and then the song “Teenage Dirt Bag” came on the car radio, and my day was made.

This all got me thinking about how I’m such a lover of the first draft, how much I prefer it to the editing stage of writing. How being slightly lost is a good feeling in writing, because it can mean that anything is possible. I like that sense in the creative process. I don’t worry in the first draft; I can let loose. I can act on a whim, which I prefer to do in my life, too. I can let myself feel a little lost, and open to surprises.

So here’s to being lost, on the page or otherwise, to changing directions, to trying new routes to get back to your story, poem, favourite bakery, or as it is for me, thanks to Blog School, here.