sidetracked

railway tracks, dandelions

I’ve taken a few weeks off. I haven’t been writing, and for a while I wasn’t even taking any photos. When my short-term job finished at the end of April, my daily schedule dissolved into mush.

And it strikes me that — as much as I like newness and adventure — I need a daily rhythm to ground me. In musical terms, I could improvise to my heart’s content, but without a steady beat to act as counterpoint, creativity becomes chaos. And chaos is confusion, quicksand, energy-sucking distraction.

My partner has started a short-term job, and I needed to clear my desk to make room for her laptop. The dining room table is now covered with the non-essential  papers and peripherals that were cluttering my desk. And I discovered my missing lens cap. And I’ve discovered that I like the look of the desk with just a computer and keyboard, a lamp, a storage drive or two. I like the way it looks clean and non-distracting. It helps me to see where I’m going, to remind me of the tasks I have set for the day, and the long-term goals that will keep me from getting too sidetracked.

And I know I will get sidetracked. It always happens. There be dragons, sloughs of despond and other obstacles along the way. As Ferron sings in “Ain’t Life a Brook”: “Life don’t clickety-clack down a straight-line track, it comes together and it comes apart.”

And then it comes together. Confusion gives way to clarity. Something clicks, and a new adventure begins. And I pick up the camera, and new images inspire new words, and here I am, on track: ready to begin again.

end of the line

If you follow these railway lines the other direction, they head north and west and across a continent. The great Canadian railway project was a great pioneering adventure, a huge achievement in its time, traversing disparate geographies and climates, crossing swamps and rivers and mountains. When the last spike was hammered in at 9:22 am on November 7, 1885, in British Columbia, the country was symbolically unified, and the pioneer age came to an end.

People still go west, seeking adventure, opportunity, jobs. You don’t hear of people going east. East is the edge, the ocean, where the “gold” of boundless sea resources has already been spent. To many people across Canada, the Maritimes is a quaint place to visit but not to live. They may think this is the end of the line, but they are wrong; this is the beginning.

Taken on October 2, 2010

tracks

I think about why I left, and why I returned. I remember how I felt there was no future here, how there seemed to be few opportunities to learn and grow, to find my feet without everyone looking over my shoulder. Saint John is small enough that people know you, or your dad or your aunt or your second cousin. And I wanted to try being someone different, to try being suave or confident without people remembering my awkward teenage years. So I left, and learned to survive in a big city, where people only see what you can and can’t do, and are willing to take you on face value. And I discovered that I couldn’t really be anyone different than who I was, and that was only one of the lessons that I learned. When I finally returned, I found a different Saint John. I found people with enthusiasm and vision. There is a new energy and new opportunities. And maybe that Saint John was here before, but I had to come back with new eyes to see it.

Taken on June 22, 2010