I turned 21 in Vancouver many years ago. It was my first visit to Canada. In a way, Vancouver is the footnote to my Canadian citizenship. It was because of that summer that I wanted to do my postgrad here. And it was because I studied here, and fell even deeper in love with Canada, that I immigrated. That I moved and returned to different parts of Canada each time only left Vancouver shrouded in those original romantic ideas. So turning 39 there felt like a significant return.
In some ways, I was nervous that I would have strong feelings that I somehow belong in Vancouver. I didn't. It's a beautiful city and I could happily live there. But the eyes of a 21 year old Irish girl are very different from the eyes of a 39 year old Canadian and I recognized that much of what I loved about Vancouver is common to my life in Toronto, different as the cities are. And much of what's different is just that, different but not better or worse.
Place has been really important to me all my life. I've always had strong ideas about home - both the physical abode and the surrounding geography. But on this trip I let some of that go and realized that what I love about Toronto isn't so much about Toronto, but about the idiosyncratic life I've carved out here. Obsessed as I've been with place, it's really a more spiritual concept of home that matters most to me. I've found that here, but I also realize that I could find it elsewhere. It's both a deeper and more malleable a concept than I ever thought.
I thought about all of this as I walked 30km around Lynn Canyon Park. The forest is heady and magical, with the scent of pine and cedar, lichen and draping moss. I was so happy there and that joy stayed with me for days afterwards. When I was 21 I would have attributed this to the specific place, the specific day, even the company. But there's something more aleatoric to it than that. There's some of it in me as much as there is in the angle of light or the shade of green. And that feeling will come and go in many places, some banal and some spectacular, some of them close to home and some of them not.