I've been spending about 3 hours outside each day to walk out to quiet spots and practice harmonica.
There i was, in jeans, tank top and thin hoodie, rain falling on my head, playing harmonica, and some guy wandered out of the bushes behind me. I gave him a nod and he asked if i was catching out. I said no, then asked if he just came in from Vernon. I guess i passed the test of being savvy enough to know what he was talking about, so he let me in on his days-long wait in the yard for the local to finally roll out of the Okanagan.
We ended up sitting in the rain for 3-4 hours chatting. He didn't have anywhere to be, and neither did i. It's the longest i've spoken to any single person since i got to Canada.
Turns out the guy's been riding freight over 10 years. Also, somehow, fantastically, he manages to chuck his bike on the train every time. We talked about traveling and not feeling comfortable with owning stuff, or being stuck in one place. He said i should just jump on a train. I said it might be better if i wait till spring. He shrugged and said now's the best time to go, just a short trip down Fraser Canyon, not too cold and the leaves are turning. He was heading up to Jasper, which is surely a lot colder.
It was interesting, though not surprising, to find i had more in common with someone who sleeps under bushes than anyone i have ever worked with. We talked about how borders are bullshit (he was over from America to ride out the pandemic, almost certainly undocumented), work is bullshit (he only does odd jobs to make enough for necessities), cars are bullshit ("the noise makes me anxious")... The common theme was that the more stuff you own, the more trapped you feel. You can never truly be free if you own stuff, or if you have a lease or a job. All that stuff is just a bottomless pit of stress and anxiety. This kid felt exactly as i do, but he actually did something about it after moving out of home, and didn't look back.
He shared a lot of fun stories and near escapes, and i shared some of my own. It felt so good to talk to a human being again, really talk, you know? Just enjoying one another's company. I didn't even ask his name till just before we parted ways. Maybe we'll run into one another again some day.
It was a poignant conversation for me, because as i talked a bit about my life and my feelings i realized just how feeble my justification is for continuing to work. I don't spend any of the money. I don't have any stuff. I don't have any dependants. I don't enjoy working. I never have and never will. So why do i keep doing it? Because it's what adults are supposed to do? That's a fucking shit reason.
Also, seeing a guy who will be spending the entire fucking winter outside with just the clothes and sleep system in his pack made me shut the fuck up about the cold and the rain.
Well, nah, i still fucking hate the cold and the rain. And i definitely am not equipped for it like this dude was.
The next day i went to the thrift store and bought some gear. The day after that i went to some outdoor stores, a cowboy shop and a workwear place to try fill the gaps.
I never buy clothes, i never buy anything, so it is very rare for me to have a haul. Here is my haul:
- woolly jumper
- cotton longsleeve
- merino undershirt
- alpaca wool scarf
- acrylic beanie
- merino glove liners
- leather work gloves
- woolly socks
- hiking shoes
It was around $400 all up, most of which was the cost of the shoes and merino underwear. I actually don't need the shoes for winter (they're not waterproof), but my sneakers are almost completely worn through and they haven't been serving me very well on the steep slopes around this town.
The gear is Extremely Not Fucking Vegan, but most of it was thrifted, and anyway going animal-based is a matter of practicality in this instance. Cotton is hopeless in winter, and for some reason my body reacts very poorly with synthetics - i feel clammy and sweat too much and the clothes start smelling funky almost immediately.
What i am thinking is that having more stuff that i can layer will make my two hoodies (thin and thick) obsolete. That's sad because i adore hoodies, but they're a ton of weight and don't provide enough warmth. I already will be donating back the cotton longsleeve, because even though it's very soft and comfortable, the undershirt (which i bought the next day) is going to be more useful. I still don't have a jacket or a faster-drying pair of pants than my jeans, but i am hoping this will be enough for walking round town doing chores.
What it probably won't be enough for is continuing my outdoor blues sessions. I did a test run today with woolly jumper, glove liners and beanie instead of my usual hoodie, and i hit my comfort limit after about 2 hours. The mercury read 9 degrees, but there was epic wind howling through, kicking up surf on the river. With thermal underwear on, i could probably survive a couple hours down close to 0, but we'll have to see. Wind and rain remain an issue.
It was Thanksgiving this weekend. My landlord invited her sister and niece, and one of my roommates had a buddy over. We stayed reasonably distant from one another, drank wine and ate Thanksgiving stuff. They generously prepared some brussel sprouts without the bacon and roast veg without the dripping for me. Of course i still cheated by putting a tiny splash of gravy and eating a small slice of pumpkin pie, but hey, it's Thanksgiving. I felt thankful.
I also felt cold. Did i mention it snowed already? Not down here in the valley, but there's definitely a good dusting of the white stuff all over the mountain tops around town. Ugh. Fuck. Winter sucks. I am going to cook myself a giant burrito.