A month ago.
I'm back on a beach in my hometown in the middle of
the night. I sit in silence down below the rim of affluent
neighborhoods on the south shore of Vancouver Island.
Beside me is a large and nearly empty bottle of wine,
and the two friends who shared it. Out beyond the breakers
a large sea mammal huffs its way by in some consequential
search for dinner or solace. I take a smoky swig and
think a poem, not mine, in my head. Across the straight
lights twinkle from Washington State at the base of
Then I'm looking up the barrel of a television camera
while a too slick news guy asks me questions. It is
the first time I'm on this side of the media and I'm
nervous. It was several days after various extremely
religious men had found a new and unique way to use
a box cutter to make a point and I had suggested that
the superheavyweight champion of nations had it coming.
I didn't say for better or worse, just gave context.
I was hesitant to go on television. I'm trying to
be a part of the objectivity-mad bloodsport of North
American journalism. That hesitation was selfish given
the odd transaction involved in the job. I'd spent the
summer being paid to poke into people's lives, and loving
it. The sobbing 60-year-old who'd just lost everything
but the clothes on his back to a fire. The family who'd
watched their son sink into a lake and not come back.
To them I was catharsis. To me I was not at all ungrateful
for the opportunity to share the moment. Life happened,
I watched from the sideline and every day I acknowledged
the inevitability of the moment.
Years ago I looked at these mountains every morning
while riding my bike to the bakery where I worked. I
rode down the highway at some obscenely early hour toward
mountains backed by a morning sky the colour of strawberry
ice cream. Geography is easy. Objective. Easy, I know.
Geography and weather are inevitable and an answer I
can hold in my hand.
I worked long hours at the newspaper this summer because
I wanted to do it well. I was so busy thinking about
my writing and watching, I felt like a shell. Hollow.
No sleep, no rest, no home.
On September 12th the newspapers at the coffee shop
on campus sold out in less than half an hour. People
were hungry for words to and human stories to fill their
heads. We wanted the reliable pabulum of newspaper stories
and CNN to reestablish some normalcy. But I still think
we also wanted to think. We wanted context and wanted
to believe that it wasn't inevitable. That these things
don't happen to us here now. History cant happen so
close, so sudden, we thought.
On that same beach, two years ago almost to the day,
I watched a spectacular lightning storm over the Olympics
from the roof of a downtown building where one of my
friends worked. The storm was large violent for Victoria
and people still remember it. Forty-eight hours later
I would get on a plane and fly to Ottawa. But right
at that moment there were three of us and it was to
be the last we'd see of each other for a long time.
We drove to the beach for a better view and on the
way through downtown the rainstorm hit. By the time
we reached Dallas road above the waves the rain was
so thick we could barely see out the windshield. We
Lightning and the memory of this moment were like
holy water in the Sahara for me once in Ottawa, living
in a house with my ex-girlfriend, at times miserably.
Ottawa the city is planned methodically. Its residents
all work nine to five. They meet in board rooms and
have 15 minute coffee breaks. They all smoke and after
work they all drink in Irish pubs with wood panels,
bad cover bands and no soul. The city is immaculately
clean and traffic cops coax traffic out of the downtown
core every weekday afternoon.
Lightning storms are unplanned. They are inevitable.
They are a spontaneous comfort.
With my words last month I became a minor curiosity
for 15 minutes. The local media needed a quirky local
angle, quite simply. I was forced to find my feet and
stand on them and it felt good. (My grandma watched
the news that night and said to me, "You looked chubby
Two years ago.
Down in the sand, drenched, we sipped beers and laughed
at ourselves, considering what it would be like if we
were actually struck by one of the errant bolts.
Again not caring.
Stewart loves everybody except those who don't burn
heavy with passion for something. Anything.