I left the valley of the trolleys in the dead of winter. My sojourn had not exactly been the salve I’d hoped for, and I was relieved that my lease was finally up. Cold and sick and lonely, I fled in the opposite direction.

My new neighbourhood was almost exactly the same distance from the city centre as the last, but it was a world apart. For starters, it was reasonably flat. I didn’t have to haul my tired body up an impossible mountain just to go anywhere except the creek. I could walk out the door and stroll down the street — to the grocery store, the library, the park. Also, it was lively. Cafes, bars, shops: there were people everywhere. Not the thronging chaos of the business district, but a reassuring ebb and flow that pulsed in keeping with our daily lives. Work, school, play, rest. I exhaled with relief — I had left the bardo.

This time, I was determined not to overthink the game. Despite my best intentions I had spent all winter wrestling with my sketchbook, too anxious to strike out toward any potential destination until I had built the road to take me there.

When spring began to stir I unpacked the badges, gathered up a handful and walked out the door.