Saturday, November 04, 2017

Coffee and A Muffin

Mother and I stopped in downtown Truro for some shopping after her latest check-up with the bone doctor (her broken arm is healing well), and when she took an armful of clothes into the dressing room, I headed down the street to Jimolly's for a coffee.
The muffins looked so good, I chose a Morning Glory.
The patio looked so good, I decided to sit outside.
As I sat there, listening to the cars drive by, watching people walking by, hearing the grind of truck gears and the beeping of the assisted walk signal, I had a flashback.
To Vancouver.
The city I arrived in 21 years ago. The city I left 15 years ago.
It's so remarkable how the memories of a time and place you've put behind you, that you think about in the abstract like it has no connection to your here-and-now, can flood into your mind with the sip of coffee on a sunny patio next to a street.
For me, what's even more remarkable is the thought that accompanied that association: The roots of the writer I've become are in Vancouver.

In my first couple of years there, when I worked weekends, I spent a lot of time wandering around with my dog Maggie, learning the streets, writing in my journal, sitting and watching this new and unfamiliar city on the other side of the country. I was 26 years old, considered myself a "writer" (still qualified by quotation marks because I'd only published two articles), and was hoping for great things from my work, and my marriage.
I liked city living; I liked living in Vancouver. But one assumes, when great angst happens in a place, it becomes associated with those emotions, that heartbreak. Yet apparently, no. My memories of, my connection to Vancouver seem to be separate from the personal failings. Perhaps it's because my writing flourished in Vancouver. 
Maggie and I sat at a lot of sidewalk cafes, where I'd drink my coffee and share my muffin with her, where I'd read Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones" and complete her writing prompts, where I'd write about everything but the truth about my work and my marriage. I'd already written a novel, and would write another one in a couple of years, but already, I considered myself a non-fiction writer and soon would begin my ten-year stint as a columnist with a national church magazine.

More than twenty years later, on the other side of the country, with non-fiction book published, with a list of books I'd like to publish posted on the wall above my desk (a list that includes two new novels), I think of Vancouver as the place where my roots as a writer were planted. My long and winding road to publication did not begin in Vancouver but when I think of the stories in the Field Notes book, and the stories I hope to tell in other books, I realize they grew out of those streetside cafes where the dog and I would sit and listen and watch, drink coffee and share a muffin, and take notes.

(Ah, but there are memories of Vancouver I can't bear to think about: Maggie. How I miss that dog.)

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