By Jude Major
After being on board the Queen Elizabethfor almost a month, I arrive in San Francisco. It’s sunny and mild and benign; gentle weather. I look at the palm trees along the streets. In this clear northern light they seem faintly incongruous, too far north
It is a day of mixed emotion. I’m looking forward to visiting friends here, but at the same time feeling as if I have just been spit out of Eden. For awhile it seemed as if the slow and pleasant pace of life on board would never end.
My friend Joel collects me from the dock, and we walk the Golden Gate Bridge. The traffic across the bridge feels unbearably loud after the quiet of the ship.
A day later, I’m on the train from San Francisco to Vancouver. Although it is only February, the hills and fields are dry and yellow. In the dining car, passengers are all seated together, so that no one eats alone. It is always a pleasure to see what companions I dine with each time. The talk ranges free and wide; people on the train have usually been lots of other places. Like me, they travel this way because they like the slower and more thoughtful pace.
One factor of slow travel is the time to think, to reflect on life and age and art. This restlessness abates somewhat in the company of friends and colleagues who are open to probing discussion. But only for awhile. Under the pleasure of talk runs a current of faint despair, of not wanting journeying to end, not wanting to be at home in the daily-ness of daily life. Is it the moving about that I want to continue? Or do I just not like the way life is at home?
The life that has worked for the past twenty-eight years is beginning to feel too safe. It certainly had its function. Solitude and aloneness were vital to the process of coming to terms with trauma and heartbreak. The day that I realized that the violence and hatred I’d endured were a gift, was the day I knew that I’d be okay. Such is the use of gazing out the train window, watching and thinking.
By midnight we reach Vancouver, BC. My friend Jude meets me – my oldest friend in this world. We have known each other since 1963. I lived with her family during high school, and we are comfortable with each other in a deep, undefinable way. We do nothing – sleep late, indulge in bad treats, and talk about life.
I ride the bus to Calgary. The bus is all business, lots of stops, people on and off. There is no walking the aisles and visiting with other passengers, no hanging out in a dining car.
Calgary is snowy – really snowy. I stay with my dear friend Rita, another friend of long years, another artist. We work together in her studio, play pool with other artist friends, go dancing late into the night to thrash bands in a dive bar. And shovel more snow. I write a lot and make things for Rita’s upcoming show. I have a show of my own. I perform my most recent piece of work, and then run a workshop about costuming and performance art. This kind of life I understand and love.