The Persephone Effect

I celebrated my six month anniversary (or Vancouversary, as Andy put it) on April 17th. Technically, had flights not been delayed resulting in a night spent in purgatory, i.e. Toronto, that date would have been the 16th, and so this week it’s been on my mind a lot.

I left mid-October, leaving snow in my wake. Snow, I should add, that’s still there. It’s been one of the longest and harshest winters that my home town has had in at least a decade if not longer. More like the winters of my youth and worth fleeing. It’s put me in mind of the Persephone myth (though without the abduction and rape at least).

Vancouver is hardly hell, of course, unless you count its drivers. I am increasingly humbled by its zealous verdancy. How’s that for fancy vocabulary? Seriously, it’s green here, technicolor green. Even in what passes for winter here, you get greens and then in what passes for spring here those greens go fractal starting in February. You can’t count ’em all. Vancouver is the visual artist’s paradise, offering up a botanical palette that is anything but stingy and it so often grows despite this city and its inhabitants. It’s hard not to grab people, and flail, “Why don’t you understand how beautiful this place is? Whhyyyyy?”

My gratitude and bewilderment at all this teeming beauty still catches me in the throat. So I take pictures instead of accost Vancouver locals. I hoard those pictures, too, worrying that this lushness will end, and post them irregularly, fearing hometown reprisals. (Only half kidding, there.)

If it’s not the underworld, then, it certainly doesn’t feel like real life. There are the pantomimes of real life — a job with long hours on my feet and work that cuts my hands to ribbons, bills to pay with those meager earnings, weather to plan around, cat boxes to muck out, laundry to do — yet all these things have sidestepped the progression of time. They happen all at once in an undifferentiated existence. And it’s down to not having a winter. I’m sure of it.

Winter is inevitable and no one from Northern Ontario needs George R. R. Martin to tell ’em that. It’s something you dread and reluctantly prepare for, buckle down and suffer through, and its inevitable demise finally celebrated. Add a notch, you’ve survived another one! A year has passed, one that you have either seized or let slip, and they keep coming, years and winters, pulsing under the skin like the sound taiko drums.

Without winter, it feels like I’m still dancing after someone cut off the music. I’ve had to find my own beat again, so I’ve been quiet, been thinking. Been doing, too, and getting better about it. Trying on several beats, see which fits me best.

It strikes me that I write a lot of these getting better posts. I do, and am, but looking back I see a pattern of small steps up a very long staircase. I listen, I learn, I internalize, but I am very slow to process and make changes. I can know something intellectually, but being brave is harder. But I can see so much more of the stairs behind me than in front of me now, and I’m not afraid to hold the railing as I go up anymore. That’s what it’s there for.

I am my own Persephone, and it is time to return to the summer lands.

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