I trust you’ve arrived at this page from reading our ‘He Says, She Says‘ post, but if not you might want to read that first, to give you some context.
Okay then. To kick things off, while I like Giulio’s idea that every city has a ‘word’ that describes it, I don’t know that one needs to have the ‘same’ word in order to call it home. I’d expand that to say that the word of a place and the word of one’s self should at least be compatible, or perhaps simply not antonyms.
Asking those questions, what my word would be for this fair city of ours and furthermore, what’s my word for myself, really got me thinking. I’ll tackle them each in order, starting with the city. I should add that for most of my life, I personally wanted nothing to do with cities. When I was a kid I lived for three years on a dead-end road, near an air force base and about five miles from the nearest town, and I thought it was great! It was a one-mile walk from the school on the base to our home, either along the highway or through the woods and fields, and I occasionally ‘missed’ the bus on purpose, just for the walk. From there we moved to a city, and I maintain to this day that my real salvation in living there was that there was a large wooded area near where we lived. I began my life in the city by endeavouring to find out what cities were like, and after a few years of that almost literally ran back to the woods. It was my ‘home’, the one place I could truly be myself. Unfortunately most of that wooded area is gone now, swallowed up by the city encroaching around it. That seems to be the way cities go.
About the best compliment I could work up, say for a city like Ottawa (I lived there off and on for several years) was, “It’s a nice city as far as cities go.” Now my sister Eileen is the exact opposite in that regard, but being an actor she has her own biases. She loves the city, and I’m sure there are many, many others who feel the same way. After all, cities have restaurants, art, culture, music, dance, theatre, not to mention banks, groceries stores and the like. But it wasn’t for me.
So, time goes by like it always does, and in the decades since my first experience with living in the city I’ve lived in several more of them, sometimes for work, sometimes for school, and sometimes just because that’s where I happened to find myself at the time. I still prefer to live in the country, it’s the permanent dirt under my fingernails so to speak, but I’ve come to make peace with the city as an idea.
That brings me back here, to this city that is currently and at least semi-permanently ‘home’ for us. I’ve only lived here for about three months, and some might say that’s not nearly long enough to ascertain a true view of the city. That may be true, but I like to think that initial views are often the most accurate. So, what word would I give Victoria? Well… my first impression of Victoria is that it seems to be more of a collaboration of villages than a city in itself, so VILLAGE might work. There’s Oak Bay, Finlayson Village, Quadra Village, Royal Oak, etc. Still, I don’t think that really captures the heart of Victoria. There’s a wonderfully moderate climate here, courtesy of the Pacific Ocean that surrounds us, and being on the east side of the island we tend to avoid the severe winter storms that arrive in Tofino and Ucluelet. Victoria is sometimes called the ‘City of Gardens’, so I thought perhaps GARDEN or FLOWER might fit. It’s a good match, but I don’t think it’s wide enough. I also considered and rejected TOURIST, and since this is the home to the province’s capital, also considered and rejected POLITICS and GOVERNMENT. They’re important, but not all-encompassing.
And then I hit upon it, almost at random, from thinking about my own wanderings through this city. I haven’t explored all of it by any means, but I’ve been from Sidney to Colwood and Langford, from Saanich to downtown, and from the inner harbour out to the Dallas Road shoreline. One thing that Victoria has is a lot of street people, and that might be partly due to the mild climate. As might be expected people in general have a wide range of opinions on this subject, from being disgusted with having to walk by these people to suggesting we shouldn’t be investing $24 million to replace the Johnson Street Bridge when it could be repaired for much less and the remaining funds used to build low-cost housing. There are those who leave clothing, blankets, etc. out on street corners where they may be found, and those who purchase the Victoria Street Newz so that someone might be able to supplement his or her income. And that’s when it came to me, the one word that I think sums up Victoria. HOPE. Being here leaves one feeling that the world can be a better place, that we can indeed hope for a better tomorrow.
As mentioned in the introductory post, both Marcia and I have been dreaming about coming to Victoria for a long time now. We each have our own reasons. Marcia and her family came here in 1986, and it seemed like ‘home’ to her even then. From the time I was living in Quebec in the late 1960s I’ve always loved rocks and trees and water, and Victoria has its fair share of those! So, what’s my word, and how does it fit with HOPE? Good question.
For most of my life my word would have been easy to pick: LONER. I once wrote, “There’s quite a difference between being lonely and being alone, for while a lonely man has no friends, a man alone is at one with himself.” Then I met Marcia and my world changed in many different ways. I still need to be alone sometimes, and she understands that in me, but I’m no longer a loner the way I used to be. Now I’m HUSBAND, FRIEND and even GRANDFATHER, but those don’t describe all of me. I’ve been pursuing a spiritual journey of my own design for some 35 years now, so SEEKER would fit pretty well. I’ve also moved a lot, so TRAVELER has its own niche. But none of those get to the core of my being, they simply describe aspects of who I am. If I want to describe All That I Am, I need to take a broader view. In stepping back from myself so to speak, looking at me as All That Is, I first thought of JOY, but that one too fell a little short. I finally came to LOVE. That’s the one I like best. The very word LOVE has so many connotations and variations, friends we love, romantic love, the love of a parent for a child, the love of the earth, but LOVE surpassses them all. There’s a saying, ‘God is love’, and when I was younger (and being raised Catholic) I was told this was true because God has a lot of love for all of His children. As I grew and expanded my ideas about the nature of the universe, the true spirit of All That Is I came to a different understanding: God IS love. Love is literally the positive force that is the essence of all creation. Without getting into E=MC2 or quantum physics or anything like that, to me love is what underscores everything that exists, in all dimensions at all times. In one way I’m a separate drop of that ocean, an individual as unique and special as everyone else, but in another way I am an integral part of that flow of loving energy. In Elizabeth Gilberts’ book, ‘Eat Pray Love‘ she offers a quote from her Guru’s teacher: “God dwells within you, as you.” ~ Swamiji.
Am I always the perfect embodiment of what I believe love can be? No, but I try to be, as much as I can, as often as I can. And with loving intent, I always succeed.
P.S. Although it took some time, Elizabeth did find her word. It’s ANTEVASIN, a Sanskrit word that means, “one who lives at the border” and describes someone who lives between the world of the physical – the day to day adventure of living as a human being in whichever society one finds one’s self, and one who lives in transcendence, a monk, nun or ascetic. An antevasin lives in both worlds, but looks toward the unknown. Hmmm… sounds vaguely familar somehow.
Follow this link to read Marcia’s View.