Sunday, May 26, 2013


Today I will leave this room where I rehearsed the play we are now performing twice a day, and I will run.
 I will run out of town, past the remnants of the Island Mountain Mine, which I have climbed up to and explored, photographing twisted rails and tailings and spooky, boarded-up entrances. Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine is on my left. I have climbed those tailings piles too, every year. Once, as I sat and looked out over the lake, a young fox joined me for a while, curling up just feet from where I was sitting. It felt like a gift, and I was awed and grateful. I have explored overgrown roads and cement ruins up here. My brother and sister-in-law came with me once, and we shouted "NO BEARS!" every few feet to discourage unwelcome encounters of the furry kind. We found core samples, an old pop bottle, a leaning metal building housing an elevator shaft. We walked up to an old mine shaft and felt its icy breath as we moved closer.
Past the old mines, with Jack o'Clubs Lake to my left. Three years ago I canoed its circumference with my friend Venessa. Two years ago, once here due date had come and gone, we took icy dips in it to encourage her baby to be born, although I joked that once he'd felt how cold the lake was, he'd never want to come out! Last year we jogged where I am jogging now, with baby Alexander in a stroller bouncing along in front of us. This year she and her RCMP husband have moved, and my run is quicker, but lonelier without her.
I keep a sharp eye out for bears. It's Spring, and the mother black bears are feeding, often with roly-poly cubs in tow. My muscles are slowly warming up, my legs aching. Past the Information Centre and the taco stand. Two summers ago, feeling equal parts lonely and liberated after a breakup, I would bike to the taco stand once a week to talk to Mark. Although he must have wondered why I appeared so regularly and stayed so late, he never made me feel unwelcome. These days we see each other on the street in the town where we both work and smile, although we don't talk as much.
I reach my third kilometre, near the far end of the lake and stop briefly before turning around, heading back towards home.Seven kilometres past the town where I live is the town where I work.  The theatre where I have known fatigue and frustration, but also so much love and laughter and applause. I have taken countless bows here, sometimes in front of two people, sometimes two hundred. I cried two years ago when I had to leave suddenly, and while I was away they had a fundraiser for me here and raised hundreds of dollars to help me with expenses. When I came back and took my bow on the night of our opening gala  they cheered and I blew the audience kisses because without even knowing when or why, I had started to feel as if I belonged here.
I look up at the mountain peaks that surround me as I run: Cow Mountain, Mount Murray, Island Mountain, Slide Mountain.  I am still learning to match the right name to the right mountain but I am slowly catching on. Last summer I climbed to the top of Mount Agnes with a friend, glowing with pride that I'd made it to the top of a mountain. Even knowing only a fraction of this area's history, my friend and I could appreciate that we were retracing the footsteps of settlers and gold-diggers a century and a half ago.
These towns are my second home, and the places where I test and find myself every year.
These summers I spend up here are summers of hard work and joy, of new friends and mad crushes and falling in love; crying myself to sleep and waking up with a smile on my face. Of backyard bonfires and 'family dinners' and music festivals and rehearsals and shows, endless amounts of shows. Of wearing old-fashioned dresses and fake curls and real corsets and speaking with Irish and English accents. Of clowning and singing and playing and sleeping and biking and running, always running.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cookin' Something Up

We’ve been doing a lot of cooking around here. At the Theatre Royal, we’ve been cooking up a show. And at home... well, I’m kind of embarrassed at how much baking I’ve been doing. Completely unprecedented. 

This year, we’ve been cooking (and shopping) communally, which I love. Not only is it cheaper, but there’s something about coming home at 5:30 and making dinner together that helps ease the petty frustrations of our work day. We get our own breakfasts before we run out the door to head to rehearsals and shows, and lunches are pretty much always eaten at the theatre, so dinner is the main event. This year there is a tall twenty year-old in the cast and in my house, so I’m cooking and baking for an appreciative audience. Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying it so much. 

The first week I was here, I was craving sugar all the time. After a few days I realized that it was because I hadn’t had a drink since I got up here and I’d had an epic (for me) night of drinking the night before I left (making for a blurry and nauseous bus ride the next day, ugh). But I was chomping my way through treats at the general store every day and it was getting unhealthy and expensive. So I figured I might as well start making my own. I started with what was around the house. Orangette had posted a recipe for cream cheese pound cake that sounded simple and tasty, so I made that. Oh, and 3 fruit crumbles (1 for a co-worker who lives down the road, 1 for the theatre, and 1 for the house). A former roommate had left a bag of whole wheat flour so I used that and everything was a little hearty-tasting, but not too bad. The sugar cravings abated somewhat. 
A few days ago I used up the last of a jar of Kraft peanut butter making 9 tasty flourless peanut butter cookies (recipe on the jar). Needless to say, nine cookies lasted all of oh, ten minutes? Yesterday I begged a bag of all-purpose flour from Norma at the general store (she didn’t have any in store but she sold me a bag of her own stuff later). 

Today is our second day off. It’s still early in the season, so we aren’t mixing too much with the other employees in the park, the street interpreters and the like. Rehearsals on top of shows make us too tired to stay up late yet. There is a peaceful quality to our time off because we all just hang around the house in a sleepy way most of the day. The pound cake was almost gone. It was time to get out the baking pans once again. I made Orangette’s French Yoghurt Cake, and also a banana bread. The Yoghurt Cake is cooling on the counter as I write, and I can say that it is simple and delicious, just as the recipe promised, because I didn’t wait ‘til it was cooled before I cut myself a slice. Tangy, moist and lemony. 
The banana bread is just finishing up in the oven and I will be curious as to how it turns out, because I messed with the recipe a bit. Ground almonds subbing for some of the flour, added maple syrup (because why not?) and sour cream (ditto). It may be odd, but it’ll probably taste pretty neat. And if not, I bet there’s a certain twenty year-old roomie who’ll eat it anyway. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013


A conversation then ensued, on not unfamiliar lines. Miss Bartlett was, after all, a wee bit tired, and thought they had better spend the morning settling in; unless Lucy would at all like to go out? Lucy would rather like to go out, as it was her first day in Florence, but, of course, she could go alone. Miss Bartlett could not allow this. Of course she would accompany Lucy everywhere. Oh, certainly not; Lucy would stop with her cousin. Oh, no! that would never do. Oh, yes! 
-E.M. Forster, A Room With A View

There was a moment, while I was unpacking my things in the hotel room that first night, that I had a twinge. Here we were, two related, unmarried spinster ladies brushing our teeth and folding our underwear; already tired at 8pm! I was holidaying with my mom: how un-cool! Would this trip be a disaster? Then I shook it off. My mom is no Cousin Charlotte and I am no Lucy Honeychurch (in more ways than one since I am far too old for one thing). This roadtrip was a chance to spend some time together before I vanished up north for the summer. I chose Seattle because it is in another country and therefore exotic, but it is less than 3 hours' drive away and therefore easy to get to.

Oh Seattle! Being there is like being in an alternate-universe Vancouver: there is a market, and an ocean view, and mountains, and delicious restaurants... they are so alike, and yet there are differences too. More brick buildings (a shame if The Big One hits Seattle, but so lovely in the meantime). More visible history. Less soul-destroyingly boring condos. Better liquor laws. Neighbourhoods that feel vibrant and funky and have managed to keep Big Business at bay. I was trying to quantify the different vibe but all I could come up with was that people in Seattle seem to have a true appreciation for the finer things in life: food is crafted with care, cafes are lovingly decorated, buildings are painted inside and out, communities are cherished and nurtured, the arts are supported. I know that I am seeing it through the rose-coloured lenses of a quick pleasure trip, but that's how it feels to me.

Anyway, the two spinster ladies got along famously, and if we did have an alarmingly uncool tendency to fall asleep around 10pm clutching English mystery novels... well, we had an excuse: we walked between four and six hours a day. And Seattle is not a flat city. I had a little guidebook which suggested various neighbourhoods we should visit, and every day we picked a few and trekked around them. I think we basically did a marathon, but we stretched it over 3-and-a-1/2 days with lots of food stops. My mom is the kind of person who looks as if a good wind might topple her, but I mapped one of our days of walking and it was over 10k. She is also totally game for trying out my vague suggestions: "I remember eating breakfast about 7 years ago at this great little Mexican place in Beacon Hill- I think it's the one that's mentioned in this newspaper. Can we try and find it?" "I think there's a park at the end of this road. Can we check it out?" "I read about this play that's about Scottish soldiers in Iraq. Shall we see it?" And she'd smile and nod, and off we'd head to Beacon Hill/Golden Gardens Park/the Paramount Theatre.

We also stopped in at Delancy and Essex, which I'd read about here. In fact, we bookended our trip with 2 visits there, because: succulent pizza! Seductive cocktails! Little cauliflour-and-pine nut-toasts! Lovely ambience! and the second time we met Molly Wizenberg, who owns both places with her husband. It's a little bit weird, meeting someone whose blog (and book) you've read, because you feel like I know all this stuff about you and yet of course, you don't really know them at all. But she was very sweet, and it's nice to know that down south in Alternate-Universe-Vancouver there is a little pizza place and cocktail bar that is just as lovely in real life as it sounds in print.
The elegant Essex.
My hands-down fave community in Seattle is Ballard, and I like to think there's an Alternate Universe Alison who's just opening a little bar or bookstore there (okay, enough with the alternate universe stuff, it's getting a bit creepy).
This? Oh, just one of the many reasons I didn't lose weight in Seattle.
I like to think I know a little bit more about Seattle now, and I certainly know enough to want to go back, and soon. 
Golden Gardens Park, Ballard.

It's funny, finishing this post now, because I'm back up north, have been since Saturday. When you travel very quickly from one place to another, totally different place, time has a funny way of playing tricks on you. I was still in Seattle this time last week, but it seems like a small lifetime ago. I got home from the States, finished packing and moving out, crashed with my long-suffering mom for 2 nights, got epically drunk with my brother, took the Greyhound early Saturday morning (still dizzy and nauseous from the cocktails), and... arrived. I'm cat-and house-sitting for friends this week, which means I have cushy digs all to myself for a while. I've been unpacking, catching up with friends, enjoying the unseasonal warmth, and getting more exercise in a few days than I ever get in Vancouver. Work starts tomorrow. I look out at the mountains and the bog, and marvel that I was somewhere so different just a week ago.