Saturday, October 24, 2009

follow your star

Follow your star. Hjärup, Sweden. (2009).

Rare October fog drifts in from the river valley at first light, obscuring the normally bland skyline from view. From within the mist, faint outlines of shady elms and still-lit streetlamps diffuse a certain understated charm, detached from the regular, smog-filled bustle of the morning traffic rush.

I dawdle slowly, by foot, to work.

On a day like today, I think to myself that one could actually mistake the city for being beautiful, which is interesting for at least two reasons. First, I know better than this. Second, I find it ironic that I consider Edmonton to be at its most beautiful best when I actually can't see most of it.

Both times, I moved here out of financial necessity (read: employment), and maybe that's explanation enough as to why I have little in the way of real or sentimental attachment to this provincial capital. With Edmonton, the ugly city, it's just business. Fine. But be that as it may, what troubles me most is that many of the relationships I've managed to form here seem terribly fairweather and superficial - and, this, after six-plus broken years, grows incredibly tiresome. For whatever part of this fatigue is my fault, I take full responsibility. But as the saying goes, I doubt it's all me, so it's high time I quit being an apologist for those who simply don't deserve it.

For the lone, independent thinker, the city is a lonely, uninspiring place. In order to fit in here, I've always felt that one has had to adhere to an unspoken, you're-either-with-us-or-against-us type of social contract, which underwrites all of the headline features of the self-proclaimed, "advantaged" Alberta life. Business friendly. Low taxes. Plentiful shopping. People who are willing to do anything, to get ahead.

Funny, and maybe it's a matter of perspective, but from the window of my overpriced downtown apartment, all I see are downsides to the deal. Another SUV on the crumbling roads. Senseless, unplanned urban sprawl stretching to the suburbs as far as the eye can see. Rising poverty, homelessness and inner-city street crime. Kowtowing to the whims of Big Oil, without regard to the environment or the future. Electing right-wing governments that stay in majority power for 30 years at a time, entrenching the flaws of the status quo. Declaring war on dangerously radical and progressive ideas like, say, that theory on evolution. Proudly living off the world while remaining grossly ignorant of living in it, all the while waving a flag. And so forth.

If these really are the terms, then maybe I don't want to fit in here. But the fact remains: until I decide to either give in and conform or successfully leave altogether, I'm left wandering in a fog, looking for whatever beauty I can find in so much blank space. Although I remain (blindly?) hopeful for some kind of positive upside surprise after all this time, right now, this just feels like a whole lot of empty nothingness.

So here I am, stuck, writing about a whole lot of apparent nothing.

"Just follow your own star," Amanda used to say, when I would get stuck during an assignment and stare at a blank screen back in the days when I studied at the Castleman School of Travel Writing.

Follow your own star. I always kind of liked how she said that, and not just in the context of writing - but also life. It could be because there ought to be enough stars in the night sky for each of us to look up and choose one as our own ... and, in this, there's inherent hope somewhere in the skylight of finding some semblance of singularity against the backdrop of a society so seemingly characterized by abject sameness.

Needless to say, I'm not in a good place right now. But as the fog of day dissipates into the clarity of night, stars shine and the promise of something better, awaits.

In the meantime, let's see what kind of hate mail I get for posting this.

Evocative space. Edmonton, Canada. (2009).

Magnolia. Lund, Sweden. (2009). I suppose six months ago, I could foresee what was going to happen.

Festival of Lights. Berlin, Germany. (2008). I suppose one year ago, life was different.

At least the cupcakes here are good. Edmonton, Canada. (2009).


  1. far out man.

    I'm not going to tell you to cheer up, or knuckle down, or that you'll get used to it because it sounds like you know where the problems lie, and ignoring them is not going to help.

    I'll leave it at this: rest assured there will be no hate mail coming from our neck of the woods. We both miss you, and I'm thinking about ways to play a game of chess face to face, or b-ball if the weather is friendly.

  2. Hey there, I appreciate the support. And rest assured, you guys are missed here too. Let's hope, chess and/or basketball, soon.

  3. Hi Felix, I'm sorry to hear Edmonton isn't doing it for you lately. It can be rather uninspired at times. But every once in a while it shows off a redeeming feature. I hope you find the star you want to follow soon, which will lead you to your happy place. I haven't even seen you since you've been back. Perhaps a dinner party at our place is in order?

  4. Hi Cori, it's nice to hear from you. For sure, we should get together soon, and a dinner party sounds great.

  5. YAY!!! Cupcake!!!! (^O^) Huh?