Sunday, August 24, 2008

Crystal Clear: Nova Scotia

At first I worried that I was being impulsive, that I was letting my emotions and a gut reaction to the world that I've known crashing down around me guide me. On the plane, I sat wired, flipping through the satellite channels, asking myself what the fuck I was doing.

The pleasure of driving my rental car along the winding roads didn't calm my nerves--until I started driving south, rolled down my windows, breathed in the ocean air, felt every bronchile in my lung open up and saw this:

Everyone keeps asking me why Nova Scotia? Why not Nova Scotia? (Nando once told me that his life philosophy wasn't "why?" it was "why not?" I'm adopting this life philosophy as my own.)

But the answer is a little more obvious: I went for the ocean. (Okay, and to check out real estate, because earth-sheltered homes consume more of my thoughts than they should.)

At Crystal Crescent, I let the waves crash down over me, and my nerves instantly settled.  This wasn't impulsive. And even if it was, it was exactly what I needed. "Jess, sometimes you're really good at life," I whispered to myself.

Later that day, I sat in the setting sun, pier-side, watching someone from my past put away kayaks. I wanted to see myself through his eyes, to see how the past two years have changed me.
"I live pretty much the way I did in Vanuatu," he told me. I wear dresses and heels to work every day, and worry about the small things, I told him. I'm almost a yuppie. Sitting there, legs freckled and speckled with sand, my skin salty from the ocean, I almost felt like it was a lie.

I was surprised to discover that the laughter came so easily. And the strength and resilience, and the calm in an early morning seaside hike alone. And writing at a table wet with last night's rain. And how easily I agreed to whatever came my way. "Should we camp tonight? It might rain." "Why not?" "You should try some smoked salmon." "Why not?" I was falling in love with myself again.

But as it turns out, there are two disadvantages to vacationing alone:

1. All my vacation photos are self portraits of me in front of stuff.

2. There was nobody to tell me that my back was burning into a brilliant shade of red or to help me reapply sunscreen.

I kept testing myself, trying to envision the trip with someone else. But every time I tried, I kept coming back to myself.

In the four days that I was there, my eyes were crystal clear and white for the first time in a year.

The 10-year-old in me was ecstatic that I fulfilled my promise to return.

On my last night in Halifax, I dressed myself up to the backpacker nines (new midnight blue silk lace dress, kitten heels, but with minimal makeup and hair curly from the ocean). I went for a long walk, meandering through the public gardens, climbing Citadel Hill, strolling along the waterfront boardwalk.

For my final challenge, I settled on an expensive tourist restaurant, taking immense pleasure in requesting a table for one and ordering a large glass of overpriced red wine. The tables around me snuck glances, and the token child in the restaurant asked her parents why I was alone. I enjoyed every moment of it. I remembered, that at one point in my life, not so long ago, I let my impulsive nature and gut instincts guide me. Sometimes, I really do feel like I'm good at life.

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