In my youth I was a wanna-be hippie, too young to have lived the era as an adult, too pragmatic to truly embrace the lifestyle. But I tried. The year I came to Nelson, I had a notion I might work at the Jam Factory restaurant for the summer and then head off in a Volkswagen van for a winter in Mexico — and from there, the world. In theory, I might find myself along the way. That was 32 years ago, and I’m still here.
Travel for its own sake is something that has always made me wistful, in particular the free-spirit ideology of the geographically footloose — not so easy with a family to raise and limited funds. So throughout most of my adult life, I’ve traveled through books, and to some extent I’ve found myself along the way.
Two author readings in April offer all the elements of the human journey: humour and sadness, triumph and loss, the wrong turn, the unexpected destination, the joy of the open road, and regret about the roads not taken.
There’s nothing footloose about the themes and messages in Kaslo author Holley Rubinsky’s new short story collection South of Elfrida, although they do take the reader to such places as the Dragoon Mountains, Tombstone, Sacramento, up to the Canadian border, and yes, to Bisbee Arizona, South of Elfrida.
Holley’s characters are all searching for something, but don’t be humming that Simon and Garfunkel song about looking for America; these disparate (and sometimes desperate) people are looking for themselves, and some sort of mooring from which to move forward. The stories are thoughtful, compelling, serious and funny, and you can get a preview at Holley’s book launch at the library on Thursday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Holley’s reading is sponsored through the National Public Reading Program, funded by the Canada Council for the Arts. This great program sees writers compensated for their time and travel, a pragmatic ideology that embraces the notion of food in the fridge and a roof above one’s writerly head as something to strive for. As both a writer and a librarian I’m extremely grateful for this program, which will also sponsor Salmon Arm author Deanna Kawatsi’s reading at the library on Tuesday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Kawatsi’s memoir Burning Man, Slaying Dragon reveals the differences and commonalities between eras as she travels by bus with her daughter Natalia to the iconic Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.
Over the course of the journey Deanna describes her travels to Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India at a time when, young and headstrong and somewhat oblivious to danger, she was looking for meaning — which eventually took her home. The present-day journey with her young, headstrong daughter creates a perfect opportunity for the braiding of stories, and a celebration of what it is to be young woman looking for herself.
Being on the other side of 50 and looking back at the young woman who didn’t go to Mexico in a Volkswagen van — but rather stayed put to find herself — comes with the benefit of a long lens. I’ve always maintained that life will keep whacking you in the face with something until you figure out the message. Good to have that to count on, at least.
Life experience has a way of creeping up on you whether your travels cover miles or pages. The library is full of books on travel and self-discovery, in formats that tuck nicely into your backpack or download to your e-reader. And our two author readings in April might well offer insight into the kinds of journeys you’d like to avoid, and the ones you’d love to embrace.