Under the Microscope: The prick of the pine needle

The electric doors slide politely to the wings, and the humming of schedule monitors, baggage carousels and expectant courtiers of the port fade into insignificance. In its stead floats an olfactory welcome toward the arrivals gates – pinewood, freshened by recent rainfall.

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With inlets of the Pacific to the south and east, circumscribing evergreen forests and a mountainous crown, Vancouver embodies freshness. Walking along the boulevards of Coal Harbour, brunching on a bench overlooking False Creek or flying over Horseshoe Bay, the freshness is invigorating, and inescapable.

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The pine greeting at the terminal doorway gently washes over each visitor, awakening them from the soporific daze after a long night flight. The psychological pinprick of the pine needle serves as a sensory courier, delivering them into a British Columbia state of mind.

We who step out of the arrivals gates this autumn are encased within the freshness of university life. For freshers, it is, perhaps, the prick of the meningitis ACWY injection which will serve as the courier into these fresh surroundings.

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Whether breakfasting on peppermint tea and seeded brownie at Blenz every morning in downtown Vancouver or spooning in porridge before dashing out to a lecture on Wolsey’s economic policy, ferrying between David Lam Park and False Creek or between the library and halls, attempting to stake out coyotes in Stanley Park or a professor specialising in projectile motion, it is the freshness and vividity of the surroundings which will motor the fresher onwards.

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In Vancouver, the oft overlooked home of breathtaking landscape, the prevailing freshness sweeps through the streets, waterways, underground lines and cycling paths to propel the people there to progress. At university, in the first term this very freshness will be what powers the fresher through homesickness, insecurity…and self-catering.

Freshness has lost its freshness by this point in the article, which is exactly like everyday life. It isn’t fresh. It isn’t exciting. At this moment, the most exciting it gets is a new YouGov survey arriving in one’s inbox or discovering an unseen episode of New Tricks on iPlayer. But escaping into the evergreens at Stanley Park or within the fjords gives a completely different feeling, and it’s that feeling that we need to encapsulate in our everyday life.

When everything seems dull and boring, hunt the prick of the pine needle.

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Soundtrack: “Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind & Fire

To accompany each article in this series, each author has selected a piece of music which reflects the location.

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