Friday, August 12, 2016

Thoughts on Gord.

Like a lot of thirtysomething Canadian kids, Fully Completely was one of the first CDs I owned. I was 13 or so when I first listened to it. I thought Wheat Kings was the most beautiful song I'd ever heard. I kept listening to the Hip all through highschool, but somewhere in my early 20s, I developed some innate hipster superiority complex, eschewed anything sincere and patriotic, and kind of stopped following their music. Then one summer day, I got a letter from one of my best friends, who was out in Alberta planting trees for the summer. At the end of several pages of scrawl, she'd taken the time to write out one of Gord Downie's poems from Coke Machine Glow, because, she said, "I think you need to read this." I don't even remember which poem it was, but I remember that the words struck enough of a chord with me that I hunted down the companion album.

Falling in love with Gord's side projects was the start of my path back to Hip fandom. A few years after its release, as I nursed a profoundly broken heart from the confines of my Kitsilano apartment, Vancouver Divorce felt like it had been written just for me. That's the beauty of Gord's lyrics, that he could find some metaphor, turn some phrase, that somehow encompassed you, your country, your stories, your heart, all at once. I started listening to Hip records again, in spite of myself. I saw them, and Gord, live, when I could, which wasn't hard to swing, given that my best friend and her husband were the loveliest kind of obsessive fans.

A few years later I found myself living in Kingston, a town where serendipitous Hip sightings happen with delightful frequency. I went to see Gord Downie and the Country of Miracles at the Grand Theatre. Gord gave a shoutout to his parents, who, it turned out, were sitting right across the aisle from us. "Shit man, that's Kingston for you," my then-boyfriend whispered. I leaned into him as Gord serenaded the room and made incredible art with some magic combination of food colouring, fans, and shadow puppets on an overhead projector. It was the last good night we had together before a protracted breakup that festered over the next couple of months. I left Kingston shortly after that. I left it the way you leave a place you love too much, a place full of countless good memories that are overshadowed by one tremendously shitty one right toward the end. I'm glad I got to see Gord there before I left.

The autumn before last, my newish boyfriend told me he'd bought tickets to see the Fully Completely front to back tour that coming winter. He kept talking about it, dancing around it, till one night, sitting in front of his laptop, told me that he happened to have the seating chart up on his screen, and wouldn't you know, the seat next to his was still free. "Do you want to come with me?" he asked, and I said, "Well, yeah, of course I do." Later, we both admitted that the proposition had terrified us, just a little, because in asking, and answering, we were both acknowledging that secret (or not so secret) hope that we'd still be together that February. Isn't it funny, the things you want so much to happen, that you can't even bring yourself to say them out loud.

We went to that show, with his best friend and her partner, and when they got to Wheat Kings I leaned into him and thought back to the first time I heard it, the long line between then and now, the shows I'd been to while living in cities all over the province, the way your life ends up in a place you never could've imagined.

Tonight we're going to see the Hip again. That now-not-so-newish boyfriend and I are getting married next spring, and just last week he talked me out of including a sincere lyric from Ahead By A Century on our invitation, which is pretty rich given how my cynical post-adolescent heart once railed against such frivolity. This will be his zillionth time seeing them. It will be maybe my fourth, not counting the solo Gord shows peppered here and there. I hope it isn't the last time, but it might be. I like the idea that everyone in that audience tonight has a rambling story about their Tragically Hip fandom, just like this one. I like the idea that we'll all be there together, falling in love and having our hearts broken open, all at once, one more time.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fortress of Solitude.

I wrote this one awhile ago, and am now working on an eventual part two, so here's part one, for clarity's sake.

It's a relief to find that relationship-related contentment has done little damage to my penchant for intense self-reflection.

August, 2015.

If you know me at all (and given the size of my readership I think it's safe to say you know me pretty well), you know how much I value the lone reed ethos. I spent the better part of the last ten years on my own in one way or another. Ten years ago I was still in Vancouver, and the love of my life (the previous five years of that life, anyway) had just broken my heart in a single telephone call from the Eastern time zone. That breakup sent me reeling for a long, long time. Putting myself together took awhile. I walked a weird and not totally unpleasant line between wearing my heart on my sleeve and building a wall around myself. I fell in and out of love several times over. I trampled and was trampled upon in nearly equal measure.

"Less martyr, more slut," my best friend advised me at one particularly sad-seeming point early on in my singlehood. I took it to heart, sometimes. Other times I wallowed in my solitude, letting the hardship of it all wash over me. It wasn't always easy, but I'm glad I did it. I learned to love being alone. I revelled in it, knowing that no matter what happened on whatever horrendous first date I was hurling myself into, I'd still get to go home to whatever wonderful, perfect hidey-hole I was currently living in (and my goodness, there have been some perfect hideouts). At the end of it all, to borrow a phrase from Sloane Crosley, you're not really single, not the way they might think, if you have yourself.

Living alone has always been my jam. I haven't had a roommate since I left Tara waving goodbye outside our Arbutus Street apartment in Vancouver in 2006. (And then there were the three ill-advised months living out of a garbage bag in Freya's guest room--"guest room" is a generous term here--in Hintonburg upon arrival in Ottawa, but that's another story.) I've treasured the time I've spent on my own, home alone, puttering around. I've gotten a lot done. I've planned yoga classes, planted gardens, baked cookies, drunk gallons of cheap wine with whoever wandered over. For a a lovely couple of years my best friend Kat was living back at home in Dundas, which turned my house into the de facto hangaround joint. Those years made me feel like I was back in highschool, my parents perpetually away for the weekend. We solved a lot of each other's problems during those evenings. We didn't need anyone else. The difference between Needing and Wanting was a big one, though. It was sometimes a scary thing, when what you want just doesn't seem to exist in anyone. It's a good thing we became so skilled at the long game.

I spent my solitary years treating dating as my hobby, and it was actually a lot of fun, even when it was absolutely fucking terrible. For every apalling first date I went on, I fell in love somewhere else, ten times over. I was always looking for love, although I didn't really expect that I'd end up at the same end point that most people seemed to. I never imagined myself with another person. Years ago I remember reading an article about Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter and their arrangement, which involved separate houses connected by some kind of a tunnel. Ah, I thought, how sensible. (It's worth noting that their relationship is now over.) My number one priority in my twenties and the early part of my thirties, was preserving my personal autonomy. Boys and men came and went. Some lasted longer than others. I never really let any of them in, though. I also maintained a comically ridiculous level of geographical distance between myself and whoever I was dating, falling in love with back road-dwelling hermits and boys in other provinces. I know, I know, I'd always say. Because I DID know. I didn't want to lose myself in a relationship again, or risk making a sacrifice for another person again. How was I to know that once I found someone who offered to make that sacrifice first, for me, WITH me, that suddenly, amazingly, letting someone in would be the only thing that made sense.

So I've spent the past few weeks getting my house ready for someone else. This has involved throwing out a lot of floral printed things, and scaling back my collection of pictures of cats dressed up in human clothing, and generally mourning the end of my lone reed days, stumbling over my past with every box I walk out to the curb. In Yes, Please, Amy Poehler tells a story about how she isn't afraid of getting older because she's learned the secret to time travel: She hides past treasures and reminders of hoped-for futures in purses and on high shelves to discover at intervals. A movie ticket stub, a bathing suit bought on a dark, difficult day for a trip next summer. And when she rediscovers these objects, she is transported forward and backward in her own life, existing simultaneously in multiple moments. You can imagine how thrilling I found this, as a professional nostalgist.

Getting ready for this perfect clever bearded weirdo to move into the house I've lived in all by myself for the past few years feels a lot like time traveling. In the process of organizing and purging and shuffling things around, I've stumbled across so many moments from along the long line of my life. An invitation to my 14th birthday party, typed on an ancient Mac and printed on neon pink paper. A photo from the Spectator of my dad playing the guitar on the roof of Jackson Square in 1981. The autographed program from the original Pantages production of Phantom Of The Opera, a gift from my much-beloved piano teacher, who was in the orchestra. I've started hiding bits of my future around in drawers and baskets, pieces I'm not ready to talk about yet, reminders of incredible things that hopefully lie ahead for us, beginnings of a story that belongs to two people instead of one. This is the first time I've ever helped clear out a boy's apartment and genuinely enjoyed doing so. This won't be the last time we pack and unpack and upend ourselves. It's terrifying, and it's wonderful, and it's life.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Greatest Lit Hits, 2015.

People often ask me for book present recommendations around this time of year, and I often respond in the same way that any self-respecting librarian would--by talking about books I've never read. (It's a really useful party trick, too.) That said, I actually DID read some wonderful books this year, so I figured I'd write them all down and offer them to y'all as you toddle (or sprint drunkenly) through your Christmas shopping.

Most of these are relatively new releases, although there are a couple of classics and midlisters in there, because I am nothing if not inclusive. Please feel free to share, dispute, or ask questions.

Fiction:

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. An emotional gut-punch of a short story and essay collection, written by an incredibly gifted young writer who died just days after graduating from college. Each piece is beautiful, emotional, dark, rich, and heartbreaking in its own right, and doubly so when you begin to consider the massive tragedy that this is all we'll ever read from her.

Hellgoing by Lynn Coady. Beautifully rendered short stories for the slightly depressed, morally ambiguous CanLit lover in your life, with a healthy side order of BDSM.

The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer. My favourite kind of book--the story of an intelligent and somewhat well-intentioned family as it ebbs and flows between order and chaos over a couple of generations. This one takes place against the backdrop of turmoil in the 1970s, with the Jonestown Massacre providing a strange frame of reference for the children as they come of age. Packer writes familial distress like no one else.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. I loves me some post-apocalyptic dystopia, especially when it has an emotionally resonant heart. This novel is so wonderful and creepy, following a bunch of seemingly unconnected characters from the night a superflu hits Toronto during a performance of King Lear, through the months and years that follow. It is gorgeous and heavy and weird and amazing.

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. My OTHER favourite kind of book--the story of an intelligent and somewhat well-intentioned family as it gathers together in a small space for an important milestone, in this case, a daughter's wedding. The Times called this "smart and frothy," which I love. Like modern John Cheever, with happier endings.

The Maples Stories by John Updike. Speaking of Cheever, or at least Cheever-adjacent...who doesn't love tales of domestic unrest? Updike wrote this series of stories over a number of years, following the Maples from early marriage to divorce and beyond. I think Updike is at his best when he's conveying the dark ugliness that sometimes comes with intimacy, and this collection has that in spades. They also serve as a really lovely chronicle of the 20th century.

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford. I LOVED this book. It follows an ambitious 26 year old woman trying to establish herself in the New York high society scene in the mid-2000s, and it manages to be somehow satirical and sincere at the same time. It's also peppered with allusions to Sondheim, Bernstein, and Broadway in general, and has one of the best covers of the year to boot.

In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. Based on the incredibly surreal true story of a period in the early 1950s when planes just kept crashing over Elizabeth NJ, this is Blume at her very best. A massive cast of characters, tons of intrigue and love and heartache and secret-keeping, perfect details of the 1950s that just bring it all to life. As an aside, I read this during 2 days of sicktime and it is essentially the perfect read for a cold grey day.

Non Fiction:

Death On Diamond Mountain by Scott Carney. If you like true crime and yoga in equal measure, you will love this strange and creepy story of Geshe Michael Roach, one of the most renowned Buddhist scholars in the West, and his onetime partner, and their descent into spiritual madness and murder.

Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman. More true crime, with a side of American imperialism, indigenous art appropriation, foolish Rockefeller sons, and CANNIBALISM.

Gender Failure by Rae Spoon and Ivan E Coyote. A collection of memoir essays and song lyrics from their live shows on each writer's lifelong struggle to find a gender identity. It's so lovely and sad and funny and such an eye opening read for anyone curious about what gender looks like in a non-binary world.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. A really fascinating and often hilarious dissection of contemporary dating and wooing practices that basically feels like Tom Haverford reading a sociological essay, in the best possible way.

Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Peterson. Chapter after chapter of gossipy, impeccably-researched stories about the great actors and actresses of the first half of the 20th century, from Mary Pickford to Bogart and Bacall to Carol Lombard and Marlon Brando. It's also fascinating as an examination of the rise of tabloid culture.

Street Gang-A History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis. I think I know enough Muppet Obsessives to know that this one will be a hit for SOMEONE on your list. The level of detail and primary sourcing in this one is just astounding. This book will make you long for your childhood.In a good way.

Women in Clothes, edited by Sheila Heti and Leanne Shapton. This book has everything, and everyone, from Jonathan Goldstein interviewing his mother about her favourite clothes to Lena Dunham talking about her best outfit to pages and pages of random women talking about the rings they wear on a daily basis. It's a beautiful book to give as a gift or keep out on a table and dip into once in awhile. Everytime I pick up my copy I discover something new. This book is the literary manifestation of getting dressed and ready to go out and meet your girlfriends somewhere, or hanging around getting ready all together, which is, I think, one of my favourite things to do. Come to think of it, if I could just do the getting ready part and then just have us all stay in and watch movies, I would be living my ideal life.

Graphica:

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. A harrowing and often hilarious comic book memoir by one of my favourite New Yorker cartoonists as she details the horrible experience of her parents' declines and deaths. Not for the faint of heart, or perhaps even for folks who have recently experienced a great loss, but oh so worth the risk.

Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley. By the author of the Scott Pilgrim series, a new graphic novel about a young woman chef trying to make a go at getting her new restaurant up and running, as it becomes increasingly clear that otherworldly forces may be at play in her new space. Lush, gorgeous illustrations that are both complex and traditionally comics-y.

Locke And Key (series) by Joe Hill. One of the creepiest and most nightmare-inducing series I've read in awhile, like illustrated Stephen King. There's murder, magic, demonic possession, and highschool angst rendered in illustrations that were often so scary I had to hide the book in another room before going to bed. In a good way.

Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon by Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Javier Pulido. I've been getting back into some superhero comics lately, partly a welcomed side effect of cohabitating with a man who has excellent taste in comic books (truly I have found my equal). Fraction's version of Hawkeye is quick witted and intense and somehow more lighthearted than a lot of superhero stuff I've read. I mean, as lighthearted as you can get when lives hang in the balance.

Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. Okay, this series is categorically perfect. 2 star-crossed lovers (one of whom is a hot librarian, so of COURSE I love her) discover that they can both stop time when they orgasm, so they decide to rob a bank (to make money to SAVE THE LIBRARY). Obviously, mayhem ensues. There are 2 volumes out so far, and they are GREAT. (Also they are BEYOND racy, which probably isn't a surprise, and which may not be your cup of tea!) Chip Zdarsky is a national treasure.

Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton. Everyone needs more Kate Beaton in their lives. EVERYONE.

Friday, May 29, 2015

back and forth forever.

Six years ago today, I left Ottawa. "So long, suckers," I posted on facebook (thank you, On This Day app, for enabling my debilitating nostalgia addiction) before unplugging my modem, walking it back to the Rogers store around the block, and dashing back home to pack up the last of my things (mostly VC Andrews paperbacks and half drunk bottles of wine). My then-somewhat-boyfriend drove down from his hideout in the woods to help me move that final load. In a particularly hilarious encounter, he and my first floor neighbour, an odd sort of duck who had both a heart of gold and a propensity for conveniently practicing guitar shirtless in the hallway of our apartment-house whenever I was arriving home, ended up sharing the burden of loading my mattress into the back of the truck. It was the closest I've ever come to causing the kind of macho posturing that I think is known as peacocking. A well-intentioned civil servant-slash-aspiring playboy and a ponytailed hermit carpenter, competing for my affection with some version of brute strength. As I watched them, I sought out the metaphor, something about my horrendous fake-white-collar past in Ottawa and my potentially amazing hipster-hippie future in Kingston bumping up against each other.

"Let's get the fuck out of here," my carpenter yelled, pulling me from my reverie.

We convoyed down the 416 and the 401 all the way to the Division Street exit, and got to my new North of Princess apartment just as the sun was setting. I had never been so glad to leave one place and arrive in another.

This is it, I thought. This is definitely it.

I spent most of my twenties moving, swearing each time that this would be the last one, this would be home, this one was for life. I called myself a reluctant nomad. I've always been a homebody, so if nothing else, I got really good at putting down roots as quickly as possible wherever I ended up.

In the six years since I left Ottawa, I've survived a few more moves. Four years ago yesterday, I picked up the keys to my house, and unlocked the door to this little cottage by the train tracks, and cried.

This is it, I thought. This is definitely it.

The thing is, though, you never know when you're done moving. You always think you are, but you have no idea. Life has a funny way of spinning you around in circles just when you were getting comfortable where you were. The good news is, for this perpetual homebody, it never takes too long to unpack, to get settled, to bury those roots, and bloom where you're planted. I've gotten better at it over time, the subtle art of finding a place to call home and landing there. It's the journey that can be the hardest part, but I know I'll arrive sooner or later. We always do. We can only wander for so long.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Good Fridays.




For the last little while, I haven't felt much like writing. It should come as no surprise that I can graph my level of creative productivity with my level of despair in a fairly straightforward way. So I guess I should feel glad that I've somehow, miraculously, absurdly, found myself with a contented form of writer's block. For the first time in a long time, looking back with anger (or nostalgia, or schoolgirlish regret) doesn't have the same appeal to me. And it's kind of wonderful.

Something I think a lot of us come to realize is that being happy is cumulative in nature. It doesn't happen all at once. You have to put your time in. There will be a lot of false starts. And once you've happened upon it you almost won't believe it. A lot of people describe their changing times as lightbulb moments, psychological seismic shifts. For me it was more gradual. I spent a few months in a state of reassuring flux. It was like one of those overcast afternoons, when you'd turn the lights on one at a time as the sky darkened, until suddenly, around dusk, you'd realize that the house had gotten brighter inside even as the sun had set.

Oh, you'd think to yourself, isn't that nice.

Real happiness, when it arrives, is absolutely fucking terrifying. It's even scarier when it arrives late, or perhaps just later than you'd expected it. When you've spent more than a few long years under the weirdly enjoyable spectre of mild existential ennui, when you've gone to strange and not entirely unpleasant places in search of anything that might mean something, when you've maybe even half-talked yourself out of the notion of it, finding yourself suddenly not just content but elated can be paralyzing. Oh god, what did I DO to make this happen, you wonder silently, your pulse as rapid as a baby bird's, and how on earth do I hold onto it. I don't know if I'm alone in the tendency to imagine all the ways in which the universe could potentially just rip it all from my arms. I might be. It's amazing and awful, isn't it, to realize you've finally really let your heart bust open after years of just wearing it quietly on your sleeve. It's a complete goddamned beautiful mess.

I don't know that I have a really tidy remedy for all that, other than to try to snap the hell out of the panic. It won't always be this way, dizzy and new and strangely familiar. Sink into that. Save the worry for when you need it. Replace sadness with compassion. Lean on their shoulder. Sleep a little late. Don't set an alarm you don't really need.

A couple of Fridays ago it was Good Friday, and after ramen for lunch and running into my little brother on Queen Street, we went to see the piece of the Douglas Coupland exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. It was delightful and comforting somehow, and as we wandered between digitally altered Group of Seven paintings and Lego towers and pulled each other by the arm toward the pieces we wanted to tell one another about, I was thinking of a line from Generation X that has rattled around in my brain since I read it in eighth grade. "Nothing very very good and nothing very very bad lasts for very very long." We held hands and went home for a nap. I woke up hours after he did and wandered out to the living room, knowing exactly what I'd find there.

I couldn't help remembering how I spent Good Friday last year: meandering along the Sunshine Coast in a hilariously sporty rental car, alternately enjoying the shit out of every moment with my best west coast friend Tara and long-distance text-fighting with a guy the way you do when you want something completely different than he wants. My life was exceedingly complicated in a way that was entirely my own weird doing. I can't believe I drew a line between that day and this one, I thought to myself.

Isn't that nice.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Best Records of 2014: A Narrative Analysis


Unlike last year, when I basically had the collected works of the National on repeat, I actually listened to some current music in 2014! Imagine that. Here are a few newish albums I really liked, in no particular order.

Bahamas--Bahamas Is Afie

For a brief period in the middle of the year I was some kind of weird magnet for Bahamas. Everytime I turned on the radio, no matter what station (full disclosure, I only listen to three stations: CBC 1, CBC 2, and Indie88 when I feel SAUCY), there he was, charming the pants off me with that sweet sweet falsetto. (Side note that didn't get mentioned in last year's list because of my utterly destroyed mental state at the end of 2013: one of my top musical moments of THAT year was Bahamas' encore cover of Hey-Ya by Outkast at Wolfe Island Music Festival. Its awesomeness was made all the better by my best friend's presence in the audience, because as she and everyone around us already knows, what Andre 3000 is REALLY singing is Frey-Ya.)



Alvvays--Alvvays

Speaking of Wolfe Island Music Festival, these guys were such a standout at this year's show. Apparently my musical sweet spot is a distant Rankin Family cousin with bleached blonde hair and jangly guitars and a vague connection to Charlottetown--GO FIGURE.



Bry Webb--Free Will

And speaking of Wolfe Island AGAIN, Bry Webb and his band were so good they hurt my feelings. When they closed their set with a cover of China Cat Sunflower by the Grateful Dead and Bry called the audience a bunch of hippies (in a KIND way) and commanded us to dance, I died of happiness. There are those who might say I am an easy mark.



Hamilton Leithauser--Black Hours

Hamilton's old band The Walkmen have saved my life a few hundred times over the years. This solo record is such a fucking treat. It has a bit of a Hungover Vegas Showman vibe and is rife with gorgeous tributes to relationships gone awry. I think it was my brother who said that Hamilton Leithauser is the kind of guy who you can imagine just going down with the ship, leaving it all on the floor, screaming his last breath. Yeah, I get that. I really get that.



The New Pornographers--Brill Bruisers

Perfection as usual. No further comment.



Shad--Flying Colours

I threw those last couple in just to throw you off the chase, but here is ANOTHER amazing album by ANOTHER Wolfe Island Music Festival alumnus (Frontenac County, I'm forever your girl). Shad is amazing and he raps about Jack Donaghy and being a feminist ally and when we saw him live Freya's kids threw their hands up in the air immediately and sincerely when he instructed them to and it was adorable as hell and that's pretty much all you need to know about that.




Beck--Morning Phase

Beck is one of those artists whom I'll pretty much always enjoy. I especially dug this record because it reminded me of Sea Change, which came out in like 2002 and at the time made me want to open up a vein in the best way (there's a story there for another day, I promise). Morning Phase was also given to me, on vinyl, by a boy, which, as you can probably guess is a fairly ultimate Flirting With Caitlin situation. The boy turned out to be the kind of disappointing dud who ruins your birthday weekend and breaks up with you twice, but we had a good run, I guess? ANYWAY.



Beyonce--Beyonce

I know this album technically came out last year but if you hung out with me AT ALL in 2014 then you are uncomfortably aware of its impact on my world, not to mention my FEMINISM and also my pumpkin carving choices.




It's been a hell of a year.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

August, unencumbered.

I wrote this in August, but forgot about it till this chilly October Sunday morning. It's funny to look back on it now, especially since only a few months on,for the first time in a long time, I'm so blissfully attached to someone (just one someone, oh how lovely, how novel, how perfect) else. But nevertheless, I don't think I've lost my weird lone wolf streak just yet, and I will always sing the praises of strong and independent women, so here it is.


Unencumbered.

So, I'm on vacation this week, and I've been doing an embarrassingly shitty job of unplugging from technology for the duration, something I swore I'd do. I informally (secretly) polled two of the men in my life on this one, to see what their reactions would be.

The one who is 30 years old said that the prospect of unplugging seemed so absurd as to be a joke. "My life's online," he said. "Well," I replied, "my friends told me they missed me on Facebook when I was gone, so."

The one who is 40 smiled supportively, again, and told me that social media is a waste pit, again, and was utterly thrilled to hear that I had accidentally booked us a campsite without an electrical outlet for next week. "I'll just turn my phone off," he said, nonchalantly. "Where did you come from," I replied.

So you see what I'm dealing with here.

But no matter, because on Saturday I up and left them all behind. I drove off to Grey County with no burdens on my shoulders. Just past a new detour through Eden Mills (2014 is the Summer of the Detour, and my eternal lifemate Kat's mom is the Detour Queen), I drove into a blinding thunderstorm, sheets of lightning and wild winds whipping around my poor little car. When the clouds finally parted I felt so badass and brave. I arrived at the sunny side of the lake just in time.

The next day Kat and I drove up to Red Bay, on Lake Huron. We've driven up there before, in varying stages of preparedness. It is a little bit like the Bermuda Triangle of the Bruce in that no matter what you do to get ready, no matter how many scrawled directions you shove into the console, you will always get lost.

"I so admire your willingness to go on a sketchy road trip," I told Kat as we embarked down Irish Lake Road, thinking of my own sense of immortality following yesterday's thunderstorm in Eden Mills. "I recognize in you the same risk gene I see in myself."

"We don't do things in half measure," Kat replied.

This outing was not unlike all the others, armed though we were with maps and a drunk GPS system and an information phone that kept losing its signal. It wasn't a big deal, though. We passed the time eating cheese curds and discussing the perils of dating non-feminist men.

"We really are the first generation of women who've had a mostly socially accepted choice in whether or not to settle," she pointed out. "Men don't consider that the way we do. I mean, what choice did our mothers have? Wife or lonely academic, that was about it. Our mothers may have broken that mold, but a lot of their peers couldn't, or wouldn't."

I kept considering that all afternoon, as we arrived at Red Bay as one always does, just in time. I thought about it as we laid out our picnic, swung on a swing set, gossipped and smoked and swam like mermaids, out past the breaker in water that felt like the ocean. As we flipped somersaults and scoped out cute dudes in the water nearby and reminisced about elementary school gym class, as we felt ourselves so gloriously unencumbered and free. We have chosen this life, beaten our own trails. Each moment on the path to this afternoon on this beach was one we had decided on, consciously or unconsciously. We may have struggled with existential malaise at nearly every turn, but the fact remained that we COULD engage in that struggle, that while we might be lonely, we'd never be pariahs.

Could our mothers have stood here a generation ago? Maybe. I feel like our particular mothers were built of strong, resilient stock. I know they could have been brave and noble in complete independence too. They'd have been an anomaly, though, women whispered about. It's still this way, I think. Women without traditional partners scare other people. For better or worse, we still represent a rejection of a norm. People still speak to us with a sort of patronizing admiration. It's so amazing that you're so independent, they sometimes tell us. I don't think I could ever live like that, by myself.

Hell, I want to tell them. Most of the time I don't think I can do it either, and yet, here I stand. And besides, I'm not alone. I'm held up by a vast network of secret sisters, coupled and uncoupled, mothers to their own children or to other people's or to no one at all. I do just fine. And so would you, if you had to, or even just wanted to. I know you would.

I don't know if I'll ever be the mother of a daughter. It's okay, it really is. I'm a feckless surrogate auntie to so many lovely and amazing children that I know I'll be alright. But if I do have a daughter, I hope she will be brave in ridiculous situations, and pay attention to orienteering. I hope she will feel the same desire to keep swimming, out past the boats, past the pier, past the break line. I hope she will one day feel fearless.