Travel is interesting. You move from here to there, and often are oblivious to the amazingness of it all. How you travel, where you travel, and what’s between here and there. Yesterday I had an impromptu trip to the Island to visit a commercial facility that I’ve been wanting to visit for some time.
But that’s not what this post is about.
Yesterday was the first day that the float planes were flying between Vancouver and Comox again, and I as the first person on the first flight of the year. The day was spectacular and, as always, I was largely glued to the window and craning my neck to see everything I possibly could. I used to always try to get the co-pilot seat, and occasionally if the flight clearly only contains business travellers who clearly will be buried in their smartphones or newspapers, I still might. But, more often, I usually shoot for the single back seat just in front of the cargo.
Why, you ask?
Legroom and better vision.
The first time I flew across the Strait I felt like a four year old child. I couldn’t believe people were just reading their BlackBerries! Why weren’t they looking down on the ferry so close below, the islands, the sandbars! What was wrong with them.
I’ve settled down a bit since then, but it never gets old.
So I grabbed my back seat and settled in for the 50 minute flight over Bowen Island, up the coast of the Mainland, over the ferry and past Gibsons, Roberts Creek, Sechelt, then, just before Halfmoon Bay, the plane changes its heading and veers across the Strait. First we pass over Thormanby Island, skimming above the trees, before slipping between Texada and Lesqueti Islands. As I look down I can see little bays that would be wonderful spots to tuck into with a boat and spend a night. We head towards Hornby and Denman Islands and then take a straight line across Goose Spit and into the harbour at Comox.
But before all that happens, we take off in Burrard Inlet and bank left to cross over Lion’s Gate bridge. At this time of the morning, 7:15am, I would normally be in the truck with Kirk, heading across the bridge deck below, so it’s odd to look down and see the vehicles just below. I love this bridge. Sure, it’s frustrating sometimes, and the traffic can become snarled. But it’s a dividing line between Vancouver and the North Shore and when I cross it my mindset changes depending on the direction I’m going. Crossing it to come home is the best because, as you cross, you are confronted with the imposing presence of the North Shore Mountains, part of the Coastal Range, and the place that I have now called home since 1994.
The day was spectacular and I had my eyes peeled for whales or dolphins.
Last year on this same route I saw a bubble ring forming. Humpback whales have been returning in greater numbers and there were quite a few around the Strait last year. The ring was forming, but the plane flew out of visual range before the whales came up.
No whales today.
After a picture perfect flight across the Strait, it was a quick walk up to the Fisheries office where I met up with two colleagues and we were on our way to the other side of the Island where we were met by a boat and taken up Great Central Lake to a small commercial facility for a site tour.
The lake was like glass and the sun was warm…..and I had no sunscreen, of course. No burn, but I have to remember to add a tube of SPF to my go-bag.
After the visit we back tracked to the Comox office where I sat outside in the sun for a bit while waiting for a colleague to wrap up some emails before we walked a few steps to the pub for a beer before I caught the plane back to Vancouver at 6pm.
The flight back was equally spectacular but I was a little lost in thoughts for much of it. My colleague gave me some happy news, and then asked me to do something that I have mixed feelings about but said I would do, even though it’s not something I am terribly interested in and have actively avoided, but time can soften convictions and I figured it was better than some of the alternatives. I guess time will tell.
As the plane flew towards Vancouver, I looked out the window and over Spanish Banks towards UBC. My home for a decade and a half. Although I left the campus physically, I have never not had a connection or some level of employment there since 1989. I pondered how my feelings about my life have changed over the years. My pendulum has swung from excitement at starting a degree, to stress, anxiety, frustration, and then relief at successfully completing a degree.
But once wasn’t enough, I had to go back and do all over it again…two more times.
I went through a phase of feeling like a failure, a fraud. I didn’t deserve that PhD, they didn’t find out that I wasn’t good enough and I slipped through the cracks somehow. Those were dark feelings and dark days. Those days are past. Now I look towards that campus and smile because I am finding new ways to contribute through collaboration with academia without the need to be a part of the rest of the things that I don’t want to be part of. Just today I as on a conference call with two researchers, former academic colleagues, one there at UBC, another in Alberta; we are drafting a collaborative proposal for a funding application that is due in a couple of weeks.
Life spins and weaves intricate webs around us, through the fabric of our lives. There is no power directing our lives; life is what we make of what we are dealt, how we deal with the curve balls that threaten to knock us to our knees.
There was a time that I mistakenly thought I was on the outside of the life I should have had, looking in at what should have been. It’s taken years for me to realize that I’m not, I’m just looking at it all from the wrong perspective. Sometimes you need to look at things from a different angle to be able to see more clearly and get a better, and bigger, picture.
And days like this, when you can soar low in the sky, over the ocean, on a clear sunny day…these are the days to be grateful for.