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One of the silver linings of the past year for me has been reconnecting with old friends. The blurring of time and space, and necessity of screen-based interaction even with those we live physically close to, have removed the awkwardness of video chatting across time zones. Our lives have been both completely disrupted and set in aspic—we are, as the pop psychology buzzword tells us, languishing. Day-to-day activities have been reduced to such simple schedules that we are devoid of small talk; once you’ve discussed plans for dinner and where you walked today, the only thing left is more meaningful communication. This year has deepened our relationships in a way many of us have avoided since the intense bubble of university.
I have known Alison for more than 30 years. We met as fresh-faced eager trainees at the BBC in London and became best friends fast. In recent years, our communication had dissipated to almost nothing beyond trying to see each other when I was back in the U.K. every couple of years. Now we text daily and video chat three or four times a week. I have always valued how open Alison is to new ideas and how differently we see things: her perspective constantly makes me rethink, reconsider, and refresh my own. It’s a friendship rooted in love—and that’s why we have been able to pick up again as if no break existed after all these years of absence.
On one of our recent calls, she showed me the sun pouring through her living room windows. They had been thick with grime, and she had been so bored, she had spent the day cleaning them. What I noticed immediately was the unusual bottom section of the windows, where square panes of coloured glass—cobalt blue, gold, bright red—threw wonderful, rich patterns across her wooden floor. “It makes me smile every time,” Alison told me.
Alison had been searching for ways to bring moments of happiness into her day. The glass panels were inspired by a book she found that is easily summed up by its title: Joyful—The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee. My next day’s walk was to a bookstore across town that had a single copy left. It brings me joy just reading about how colour and shapes and allowing ourselves to react unfettered by concepts of good taste can make us feel happiness.
Hopefully, there are stories within these pages that offer similar pleasure. Certainly, it makes me happy to have commissioned local author Kevin Chong to write a short story for us, and the result is truly a bittersweet joy. Making ourselves and our surroundings matter turns out to be a loose theme in this issue: whether it’s how to perk up your nail paint, walking the hidden waterways of Vancouver, investigating the power of perfume, cleaning up the coastline, or creating an organic footprint in the Okanagan to benefit generations to come.
Our cover stars need little introduction in that regard: since they arrived on the indie pop scene, Tegan and Sara have prided themselves on being positive, visible, creative role models. Their work—in music, books, and soon television—strives to be honest and empowering at every turn. Their happiness in what they do comes from knowing who they are and what they want to give back.
Making the pursuit of happiness less of a lofty, conceptual goal, and more a conscious awareness of the little things that make us smile, feel secure, or surprise us, is a bigger commitment perhaps, but will surely pay bigger dividends in the long run. Just ask my friend Alison.
Read more from the Summer 2021 issue.