How different, the anticipation of the journey homeward than westward! It’s not that I don’t want to go back east; it’s just that I don’t want to leave where I am. If it were only possible that part of me could stay here, on the beach, in the late summer sunshine, while the rest of me rode the rails… but that’s not possible. Either I stay here or I go. There is no third option.
As if sensing my dilemma, Vancouver has pulled out all the stops over the past few days to make herself nearly irresistible to me. She did this twice before – once in the 1980s and once in the 1990s – and both times I fell for it.
The first time I finally ended up leaving on a bitterly cold and rainy November day, and the second time I took off in a rare but vicious December snowstorm. Both times I swore I’d never be back, and yet here I am, and the same part of me that swooned to the Sirens’ call of seemingly endless blue skies and warm summer breezes is swooning again.
Someone please (like Hillary Clinton) – catch me before I fall!
The VIA Rail system unlimited pass is burning a hole in my pocket, but I don’t care. I want to stay here in the sunshine, hanging out with the swooping and squabbling seagulls. Canadian summers are short enough without making them artificially shorter by boarding a refrigerator car of a passenger train and heading to places where the current daytime high isn’t even breaking double digits (Winnipeg and Churchill). I know I sound cranky but that’s because I am cranky: I don’t want to go. I don’t want to leave the heat and the sunshine and the blue skies and the beach and Whole Foods and the really really nice clean buses that always seem to show up just when you arrive at the bus stop. Vancouver has achieved state-of-the-art in the two areas of everyday life that mean the most to me (grocery shopping and public transportation), so why would I want to leave to go to places that are sub-par?
The truth is that I don’t want to leave and I don’t want to settle for places that are sub-par and I honestly don’t know why I think I have to go other than that the VIA Rail system unlimited ticket burning the hole in my pocket is sending me intermittent smoke signals that say I’ve been here long enough and it’s time to go.
But do I really have to go?
Before sailing past the island of the Sirens, Odysseus had his crew tie him to his ship’s mast and ordered them to refuse to untie him, no matter how much he begged. His crew plugged their ears with beeswax so they wouldn’t hear the Sirens’ songs, but Odysseus wanted to hear them, and oh, what he heard! He was so smitten that he begged and begged his crew to untie him, but his ‘deaf’ crew resolutely refused.
I have heard the same Sirens’ songs here in Vancouver, but I am not tied to a mast: I am tied to a 60-day system unlimited VIA Rail railpass, and it’s resolutely refusing to let me go. Odysseus was able both to hear the Sirens’ songs and escape their tantalizing lure.