August adventures 023

Life. Period.

I recently wrote about the time I spent completing Camp Potlach’s “Leadership in Training” course.

Here is a short, seemingly unbelievable, (but one hundred per cent true) anecdote from my time spent as a camper.

You’ve been warned.

During the summer of 2001, myself and five other teenagers – along with our two counsellors – camped, kayaked, canoed, and hiked our way around BC’s beautiful Howe Sound.

While our group had a base location about a twenty-minute hike away from the camp’s regular cabins and common rooms, this space was rarely used, and we spent the majority of our three weeks together sleeping under the stars on the many different islands and inlets populating this stretch of provincial land.

It was a magical time, truly.

The weather has hot, but not blindingly so; our skin cooled by an ever-present breeze and the long reaching shadows of sky-high Douglas firs and willowy evergreens.

In the mornings we would hike, or complete long (and sometimes treacherous) channel crossings. In the afternoons we would swim, or write in our journals, and in the evenings we’d each take turns practicing our fire-starting skills, while others would perfect their bear-hangs.

One morning, about two-thirds of the time into our course, I started my period.

I approached my counsellor Jane and asked her if she had a tampon that I could use. Although sympathetic to my situation, she informed me that I would have to do without, seeing as though one of the central tenants of our program was to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

We were to produce minimal waste.

Smiling a smile that clearly articulated, “I’m feeling for ya girl”, Jane handed me the next best thing: one of her unused bandanas.

“For inside your shorts,” she explained.

“Oh.” I said. “Thank you.”

So for the next two days I ran about with a balled-up piece of cloth in my underwear – washing, rinsing and drying it during my afternoon dips in the Pacific Ocean.

It was the most ‘White Fang’ I’ve ever felt in my life.

The morning of the third day, we awoke at the crack of dawn in order to pick blackberries before setting off on a three hour channel crossing.

We had been eating plain instant oatmeal every morning for almost two weeks, and as such, we were eager to add anything adventurous flavour-wise to the mix, in order slow what was our rapidly deteriorating interest in this staple.

As I hastily ran off into the bushes to pee one last time before we shipped off, I noticed that I had a huge stain on the back of my shorts. However, being susceptible as we were to tide charts, and cruise ship courses, time was of the essence, and I didn’t have time to change.

If you remember from my earlier post, my canoe partner was named Christian – a Denis Leary loving, would-be paramour (in his dreams only!), who would sing me “German” opera in the morning (think Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda), pick me “wildflowers” (weeds) and regale me with an endless litany of racist, sexist, and all-around offensive jokes.

The minute I sit down in the canoe Christian noticed my spotted shorts.

Immediately he began to make fun of me, despite the fact that he’d majorly missed the point.  You see – he thought that the red stain on my clothing was, if you can believe it, blackberry juice.

His highly original, and completely obtuse commentary included gems such as:

“Jeeze Vanessa, it looks like you took a handful of blackberries and smeared them all over your ass!” and “Oh man! What did you do?  Sit in the bush for fun?”

Cue more of the same derivative, inane one-liners for three whole hours!

At one point I even turned around and told him, as icily, and as calmly as I could: “Okay, thanks Christian.  I’ll be sure to wash my shorts as soon as I can. That way, you’ll be able to go back to living your life.”

Unfortunately, this did nothing but encourage him.

Finally, we arrived at our destination.

An absolutely beautiful little moss-dotted inlet, home to the most beautiful collection of driftwood I have ever seen, and a number of different heron nests.

We all got out of our boats and either began tying them together or unpacking for lunch.

We’d planned on eating and then hiking up to a river where we would all go swimming.

I thought about how I’d be able to soak my shorts once we got there.

It was just as these thoughts were entering my mind, and as I was getting all of my gear together, that I noticed out of the corner of my eye, Christian walking over to my canoe seat.

And it was at this point, that everything seemed to start taking place in slow motion.

I turned and watched as Christian bent down and wiped his index finger along my seat.

He then brought his finger to his mouth, paused – and then he licked it.

LICKED IT.

I swore I felt the earth both rumble and sink between my feet. I don’t know if I was going to faint, or turn to stone, or explode from a tsunami of laughter.

What he said next, I will never forget.

Christian said: “Shit. That tastes like blood.”

It was at this point that I completely lost my mind.

The tsunami won out.

I started laughing, and laughing, and laughing and I could not stop.

No one in the group could figure out what was wrong with me.

Paralyzed by what I could only imagine to be the most epically insane thing ever to have been witnessed by a human being in the history of human beings, I couldn’t even eat my lunch.

My giggles came so fast, so furious.

Unfortunately, I started laughing even harder because in Christian’s completely clueless mind, he thought the blood he ate off of the seat came from a cut from a fellow camper’s finger – the one she had gotten while tying up her boat.

He actually sat down next to me and asked me: “Shit man.  Do you think Amanda has anything wrong with her blood?  Do you think it’s okay that I just ate it?”

This just made me howl even the more.

Now, the whole scenario should have just ended there, but it didn’t.  During the post-lunch hike, Christian just wouldn’t leave well enough along and instead of badgering me about my shorts, he now wanted to know why I was laughing.

“What are you laughing about Vanessa?” and “WHAT’S SO FUNNY VANESSA?”

He repeated these questions, until finally I reached my breaking point.

I turned around and faced him, and yelled, in front of the entire group:

“OKAY CHRISTIAN!  OKAY.  I have my period!  I have my period and I perioded all over my canoe seat!  My period was on my seat and you ate it! YOU ATE MY PERIOD CHRISTIAN!  IT WAS ON MY SEAT – AND YOU ATE IT!”

All I can say was that the look on his face was absolutely priceless.

Abject horror mixed with confusion, anger and amazement.  He then immediately took out his water bottle and rinsed out his mouth – as if my menstrual blood was somehow still in there – before just taking off, like a shot.

Up the trail to the river, never to be seen again.  (Just kidding of course – it was Christian after all.  He was back after about thirty minutes.)

And I just kept laughing for the entire day.

At one point Amanda came up to me as asked me, incredulously, “Aren’t you at all embarrassed?”

To which I responded, “What? No! Why? I didn’t eat period off of a dirty canoe seat.”

And I definitely never, ever, ever will.

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She creates. She is a creator of worlds.

One of my best friends in the entire world just published her first book.

CPR

It’s called Pedal.

And all of you should read it.

Because it is brilliant.

Today I sat down and read it in one sitting.

By the time I got to the last ten pages my heart was racing, and my face was flushed.

Upon turning the last page, I could no longer keep in my hot, fat tears – my heart swelling with unbridled happiness, with fierce incredulity, and overwhelming awe.

I first met Chelsea Rooney nine years ago in the fall of 2005 when were both admitted to UBC’s creative writing undergraduate program.

Right away I recognized her to be the most talented writer in our class. I’ll never forget reading her first short story in our fiction seminar. To say that I was blown away is a major understatement. I was so fascinated and moved by her writing that I read the entirety of her first workshopped story over the phone to my mother.

Her mastery of the written word left me galvanized and inspired. She made me want to produce magic of my own.

Besides (or perhaps because of) the beauty and depth of her prose, I was also enthralled with her as a person.

A couple of years my senior, she just seemed so epically cool.

I remember her showing up to class one day with one of the Styrofoam coffee cups from The Deli – a take-out eatery in the basement of the university’s student union building that offered a seemingly arbitrary cornucopia of pseudo-healthy options for the student on the run. Always one to buck the trends, my most frequent purchases at this establishment were hot chocolate and giant chocolate chip cookies.

I had just assumed that she too (along with everyone else in the world) would be drinking Deli hot chocolate. When she laughed gently and corrected me, stating that that she was, in fact, drinking coffee, I quaked.

Of course she would be drinking coffee. She was way too cool to drink hot chocolate.

She also wore long maxi skirts, and mid-drift baring tank tops, and eschewed bras, and make-up, and every time I looked at her I just thought, “I want to be just like her.”

While friends, we never really formally cemented our friendship until we both stayed on at UBC after completing our undergraduate degrees. She, as an MFA candidate in the writing program, and myself as  a political science MA.

We’d eat nachos and drink diet coke every Wednesday afternoon at the campus’ newly erected, and over-priced Irish bar.

We would sit in a corner table and laugh and laugh until our stomachs felt they might rip in two.

Five years on, we still do this.

Both laugh and eat nachos.

Only now we walk more.

And I drink coffee.

If I could tell you one thing (other than to purchase her book) it is that Chelsea has the most beautifully expressive eyes.

They reflect and refract the infinite wisdom and wonder that shape a magnificent human being.

I often find myself getting lost in their splendour, these wise, limpid pools of possibility.

And wonder what story will surface next.

CandV