We've been here all week. Prior to today the weather has been a glorious mid September display of blue skies with a few puffy white clouds and gentle sweet smelling sea breezes. Petra is here for training for some sort of narrative therapy that I don't understand but probably need. I have the days to wander about and absorb the weather, the natural beauty of the area and the culture and ambience that is this part of North America. It's been a marvelous experience. I've been many places in the world and I recognize the intoxication that can come from visiting new exotic locales. Paris, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Jerusalem, London and Miami come to mind.
There is something unique about "here". Admittedly I've only seen a small part of the area and only at a surface level. I wish there was more time and opportunity to get in the middle of here and live it more than just see it. I wish I could get to VIctoria and Vancouver Island (and visit a dear friend of mine of many years). Also, we are on Granville Island, a major tourist destination which offers an experience tailored to pleasures for the senses. I could go on and on about the food at the Public Market here. I've a mouth watering portfolio of food porn photographs. All these culinary delights and me without so much as a microwave. So yes, we are seeing the best of the best in many ways. Surrounded by water with mountains in the distance and sea wall walks and parks, yachts, kayaks and canoes. Squat little ferries with the vertical masts on the hundreds of sailing vessels appearing like exclamation marks everywhere there is water, and that is nearly every direction the eye can see. Bicycles, joggers, walkers of all persuasion and age. This place oozes fitness and activity. There is very little fat here. For the most part the fat you see here is just visiting.
So yes, until yesterday my Vancouver view was limited to this little walkable island and its touristy tourists and touristy places. Still I have been impressed. Yesterday on one of those gorgeous days that started with as stunning a sunrise over the water behind the hotel as I've ever seen, after the night before's massive harvest moon, I jumped on hop on, hop off trolleys and went into Vancouver proper for a look see. The smartest thing I did on this trip was cancel my original rental car plan. To my estimation there is no better way to see so much on budgeted time than this on off trolley method. Twenty plus stops, a trolley every fifteen minutes or so. I was at some stops for just enough time to look around and catch the next ride, others an hour or more. Chinatown, the busy Canada Center at the Port of Vancouver, Gastown, Robson Street (more restaurants side by side by side than I've ever seen in one area), and the best for last, Stanley Park. Trees hundreds of feet tall and hundreds of years old. Plants and flowers unique to this rain forest climate. Paths and water everywhere and of course joggers, walkers and bikers along the miles of sea wall paths. Looking down on the Lionsgate bridge, out on English Bay. Hop on hop off.
But the best thing about travel and the places we go isn't just the beauty and joy of what we see. I've been blessed to have spent years traveling, for business and pleasure, all across North America with a little time in the UK and Europe, and a three month stint in Israel. I know much of the American Southwest like the back of my hand. I've spent the total of a year or more in Connecticut, a couple of years or more in Florida, that much or more in Detroit and its' environs. A year in the Greater Toronto area. Close to a year in Las Vegas (because my father lives there, other than that it would only be a point of embarkation for Utah and other Southwestern destinations). A couple of months in the Los Angeles area, San Francisco too and Portland, Oregon, San Diego many times as well. And something close to two years in my spiritual center, Utah. Much of these travels have been at the expense of the company I worked for. I learned early on to make business travel as much pleasure travel as possible. Pleasure on someone else's nickel is delightful pleasure indeed.
I know the feel of all of these places. I've driven them, walked them and thought them through and through. Every one of the places I have been has its' unique feel, its' own pulse and all that which makes them special places in the world. Some are more special than others of course. Creston, Iowa did not at first glance appear to be so very special at all but it's where I drank red beer in a hotel next to the railroad tracks where the middle of the night freight would move the bed and the chef in the restaurant made a Beef Wellington that would bring you to tears and you could taste every one of the hundred or so buttery flaky layers before you reached the tenderloin of Iowa beef that makes you wonder why anyone would spend five times as much on Kobe or Wagyu or other designer cuts.
I've got hundreds of memories and stories like that. From feeling places and letting myself live in them as much as possible. I could write books on the places I've been and how they made me feel.
So Vancouver, I've felt you. You have an clean, crisp aura and a unique presence in the world. One can smell and taste the here of here. It's a culture birthed to a great degree by geography and climate. I very much enjoyed my time in Toronto and the GTA. All told I spent well over a year there, closer to two than one. But from this brief visit I think Vancouver is everything that is the best of Canada. I feel a special affinity for this country, there was a time when my intention was to spend my life here. I'm to a great extent married to Canada.
I am most of all a proud American and consider myself to be fortunate to live in the greatest nation on the planet. Not politically proud, no religious belief or interest for me. I'm patriotic for the sea to shining sea of it. My spirituality resides with the land and the places I've seen and been and am now. My church is outdoors, the beach and sea and shorebird of Florida, the canyon and red dirt and rivers of Utah, the mountains of Colorado and Montana. Rolling hills and crop fields of the Midwest, boulder strewn mountain streams of the Smoky Mountains, the granite monoliths and giant redwoods of Yosemite, all my rivers everywhere. Big trees, old ones. Colors, birds, all the flora and fauna.
Central Indiana has always been my home but I have never really missed it during my many days, weeks and months away. It will always be "home" but I have had many homes away from home. While only a week here this place will become one more of many special places for me and there will now be a bookmark in my world for a "my Vancouver". I never forget a place I've been and they are all a part of me.
For me it's always been the case that if I can't be with a particular place I love I can love the place I'm with.