It’s 7am. I don’t need to look through the cracks in the blinds to know that the sun is shining. I can hear it, the way the tires of the cars sound against the road, absent of the usual back splash of wet pavement. I rub my cold feet up against his calves and the sheets make a crinkly sound and I listen to him breathe for a while. There’s a chocolate stain in the shape of a fish bone on the white pillow case. Remnants from yesterday’s easter egg hunt. Outside, the birds are chirping. I especially like the song of the one that sounds like 2 small stones chipping against each other. His hair smells like he’s been in the wood shop. His neck smells of thyme. I’m making plans for the day in my head. I keep telling myself I should get up but the practice of mindfulness means that I must ignore the call of the later and focus on the now. Rarely does one get to sleep in on a Monday morning and I want to take full advantage of this gift. 5 minutes, I tell myself. I can listen to the birds outside my window and I can look at the shadows on the wall and I can kiss his neck and I can feel my feet warm up and I can, for 5 minutes, allow this spring feeling in with all my senses.
We sat in a cafe, shielded from the cold, sipping tea and eating toast and she asked: “So, how’s the book coming along?“, knowing full well that I had not yet begun.
I laughed. I squirmed. I tried to come up with every single possible excuse. But truth is, the excuses have lost their power over the years and the not doing has become heavier than the actual act of writing the darn thing. So it’s time to birth this book. I don’t know if people are going to read it. And if they do, I don’t know if they are going to like it. But it’s not for me to decide. My only job is to write it.
And so… I’ve begun.
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
P.S. Happy Easter, peeps. Hope you eat baskets full of chocolate and sleep until noon.
This is what my world looks like when I wake up in the morning. Everything blurry, all hard edges softened by my myopic eyes. This haze lasts the length of a stretch and then I reach for my glasses and suddenly everything comes into focus. Like magic.
Sometimes, I feel as though I go through life without my glasses on. Everything is fuzzy and doesn’t quite look like I know it should. I don’t know how it’s supposed to look, exactly, but I know something is missing, some detail that is crucial to the big picture. The same way I can almost make out the last line of the eye test. The shapes are unclear but it’s just enough for me to detect the L E F O P D C T if I squint a little.
Sadly, there are no glasses strong enough for the great mysteries in life. Nobody will ever know with certainty what the answers are to the big questions. It’s all a bit of a blur. Our only job is to show up and pay attention to these moments, because they are all we really have. The rest – the future, the worries, the fears… are concepts. They are not real. Now is what is real and my worries about the future or my past regrets could rob me of this now: the way my feet are cozy in fluffy slippers and my fingernails are painted red and I like the sound they make against the keyboard and the coffee is percolating on the stove top and the delicious smell is making its way to the living room and my husband is sleeping softly in the next room. This is all I know for certain, right now.
So lately, I’ve been trying to practice mindfulness. Slowing down, breathing, not letting thoughts and emotions and worries hijack my present moment. And the more I practice, the better I SEE. And there is so much to see when I step out of my head and focus on the present moment… even if I have to squint a little.
And perhaps therein lies my love for photography – it’s a snapshot of the moment, a portal into mindfulness, a reminder of how ephemeral it all is. You click the shutter and the light changes and the moment is gone.
“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” - Anaïs Nin
Apparently, spring is here. Hard to believe given the single digits on the thermometer. It’s the same thing every year – the battle of the seasons. Winter not ready to let go and spring fighting its way in. But worry not, spring will take over eventually. It always has since the beginning of time. Hold tight, people.
Until then, I bring to you a day that felt very much like spring a few weeks ago when Xanthe (the queen of colour) and I headed to Brick Lane with our cameras for some play time. I’m not comfortable with portrait photography – whether I’m pointing the lens at someone or the lens is pointed at me. But this was pure FUN. You saw Xanthe’s amazing pictures. And here’s my little contribution. A wee video. It’s a loop. Fast forwarded and rewound, again and again, like the song. And yet, it seems to metamorphose every time I look at it. Always the same, but somehow different depending on which part of the song I’m listening to. I’m sure there’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere. Or perhaps not. Perhaps it’s just colour and sound. Colour and sound. Something to entice spring out of its hiding place.
it’s in the way i say pants, not trousers
the way i prefer potlucks over pub lunches
and a cold crisp beer to a warm bitter
it’s in my sensitivity
and how, frankly, i couldn’t care less which social class you come from
it’s my love for banjos and bearded men and wooly tuques
and flannel plaid shirts and the smell of fire
and deciduous forests that turn orange in the fall
and the way i like my winters with several inches of snow
and my summers with the scent of pine needles
(when they’ve fallen to the ground and are drying in the sun)
and prefer mike myers to monty python
and hockey to rugby
and coffee to tea
and how i’m more likely to quote seinfeld “you double dipped the chip!“
and less likely to say: “he’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!“
(i don’t even know what that means)
(and yes, i watch and reference seinfeld and i think it’s funny)
and maybe i don’t say eh
but i am canadian
and you can take a girl out of canada
but you can never take the canadian out of the girl
i’ve never been very patriotic. in fact, i consider myself and everyone else a citizen of the world. but my sister and her husband and a canadian friend came to visit last week and it made me realize just how canadian i am. how refreshing it was to sit in my pyjamas in an old cottage in wales and catch up by the fire, glass of wine in hand. the ease of it all is something i’ve missed this past year.
it’s always nice to be reminded where you come from and who you are at the core. and how, when you think you are floating around in the ether, there is actually a thin string grounding you to the place you come from, no matter how nomadic you are. when i landed here over a year ago, i felt like a fish out of water. i wanted to suppress my canadian-ness to fit in. but the truth is, my canadian-ness if part of who i am and i’ll be damned if i disrespect my roots! yes, i talk a little funny. and no, i don’t get monty python. but i can make a mean pancake with real maple syrup. and i can strap on a pair of hiking boots and climb to the top of a mountain and i know what a poutine is and i can travel the world knowing that my country is one to be proud of.
thank you m&m for bringing a little piece of canada to our little london home (we miss you already)
and for you, dear reader, i give you a little piece of canada in the form of music (because that’s how i roll)
p.s. i recently dusted off my digital camera. unemployment doesn’t lend itself well to the cost of film development and i couldn’t very well stop shooting so after 3 long years, i finally pressed the shutter on the old DSLR. and although it was fun and immediate, i think it just confirmed what i already knew… i’ve fallen hard for film. my initial crush has turned into a full-blown love affair and i’m in way too deep to let it go.
Holy crap! It’s the first day of March. How the hell did that happen?
In today’s news, I’m still unemployed, which, you know, kinda blows. But hey, there’s still lots to be grateful for and excited about, such as:
+ My sister and her husband are arriving tomorrow. Someone please pass the paper bag! I’m hyperventilating over here.
+ This trailer is giving me joy. Over and over and over again.
+ Hey look! I made a happy March Mix for y’all. You’re welcome.
+ This recently discovered blog, I love. The photos are so evocative.
+ These photos by Hula are the perfect colourful cure for the winter blues.
+ Meditation. It’s the shit. I avoided it for so many years but I’ve been practicing diligently every single day since the beginning of the year and it is doing something to my molecular structure, people. I feel…. content, awake, aware.
+ This quote via miss Leonie makes me feel alive: “Please think about this as you go on. Breathe on the world. Hold out your hands to it. When morning and evenings roll along, watch how they open and close, how they invite you to the long party that your life is.“ (William Stafford, from “A Valley Like This”)
What is bringing you joy these days?
The cherry trees are blossoming in London. Pink buds bursting everywhere. And though it should be cause for celebration, it’s confusing because the temperature on the thermometer most certainly says winter – the kind of cold that leaves eyes red-rimmed and shoulders huntched up to ears. I feel so betrayed but I suppose expecting spring in February is a bit greedy. You’d think my thick Canadian skin would thrive in this weather but the truth is, 37 years of Canadian winters have taught me that winter comes with snow and lots of it. So this strange, grey, spitting sky is neither winter nor spring and I don’t know what it is. All I know is there’s a chill in my bones and a blue on my lips that is funereal. So I’m bringing out the big guns, people: bouquets of bright yellow daffodils for my home, a hot bath (the kind that steams up the entire bathroom) and tropical photos of Indonesia to help us all escape winter’s icy grip for a few minutes. Don’t you feel warmer just looking at them?
It is 7pm on the eve of 2013. We are sat at the bar, sipping rum & coke on a small secluded island 1.5 hours away from Jakarta. A bunch of people have gathered on the nearby couches, with guitars and tambourines, singing everything from Oasis to Radiohead to Coldplay. It’s a bit weird but hey, it’s jolly as hell and jolly is exactly what one wants on new year’s eve.
An Indo-American buffet of turkey and noodles, tempeh and sweet potatoes with marshmallows, beef floss and rice, cranberry sauce and salad is served at the long table looking over the ocean. We chat with George, a retiree from Minnesota and a cool couple from Holland and two sisters from Australia and many Jarkartians and when the plates are licked clean and mojitos drained, the tables are moved to the side to make room for a dance floor and the DJ plays that funky music for hours and at midnight champagne is served and fireworks are fired from the floating dock in the sea and everyone, all these strangers from various parts of the world gathered on this tiny island in the middle of nowhere shout happy new year and we all say good bye to a crazy 2012 and welcome 2013 with hope in our hearts. And it’s the best new year’s eve I’ve had in years.
On the 1st day of 2013, we wake at 9am and join the other post-revelry zombies for breakfast. The good mornings are a little more quiet than the previous evening’s good nights as everyone reaches for the post binge cure – bacon.
We then watch the staff build a coral nursery. It looks just like an forest but this one is going to be planted beneath the sea – purple, green and yellow coral of all shapes and sizes housing crabs and little fish are planted in a substrate of concrete and salt and crushed coral then lowered in the sea where they will, hopefully, grow for the next 6 months before being transplanted to a barren area. And so we start 2013 – with a good deed.
In the afternoon, the boat leaves and takes 14 guests with it and the island suddenly becomes very quiet. We snorkel to the deserted island – a cemetery of flip flops and light bulbs and various bits of plastic mixed with sea shells and coconuts looking for prime real estate – and I feel for the first time, the sting of the jelly fish. Not one jelly fish but hundreds. It’s like falling into a massive patch of nettles WITH MY FACE! Repeatedly! What is meant to be a leisurely, pleasurable experience soon turns into a frantic swim and snorkel echoed grunts. There is some respite when the sun comes out and suddenly all the fish turn from matte and muted to iridescent green and electric blue and the reef comes to life in the light and it’s all so beautiful and then the sun goes behind the clouds and BAM! Jellyfish attack. Again.
The sun is setting on the horizon and phosphorescent green plankton dots the sea like fluorescent rain drops falling from the sky and the breeze picks up and it feels like when you have a mint in your mouth except that it is all over my skin.
The sky is alit with flashing orange lightning. We hear the rain and smell its ionic scent way before we see it. And then it falls in sheets. We watch this magnificent spectacle from the comfort of our bed, tucked under the sheets. And I don’t think it gets better than this moment. This one right here.
It is early, 6am early and I am lying down on a deck in a polka dot bikini and yellow Thai fisherman’s pants, waves gently lapping against the shore. The sun is playing hide and seek with the clouds. The sea is so still this morning that I needn’t a mask and snorkel to see the vibrant fish swimming in schools. Between the cracks of the deck, I spot a blue sting ray flapping its wings and occasionally burying itself in a puff of sand dust. Dozens of jellyfish swim around, ghostly dancers in gossamer dresses floating amongst strings of eggs.
Another day is about to begin at Pulau Macan Eco Resort. Soon a lovely Indonesian man will walk from hut to hut to announce that breakfast is served and slowly, people will emerge for a communal breakfast. Everyone will say good morning. Everyone will be barefoot and sun kissed and salty hair tussled in a way that only a night’s sleep can style. As one of the guests said to Joe upon seeing his dishevelled head “It must have taken you all night to make hair like that.”
After breakfast, people will split up and lounge on hammocks and couches and long chairs and decks to read or snooze or surf the net before going for a swim or paddle. This is our own private paradise. Sandy paths and solar panels and aloe vera gardens and outdoor showers and organic food and coffee and ginger tea on hand all day. Bliss lives and breathes and breeds here, exponentially with each passing day as you let go, slowly, of the city’s pace.
Someone plays Debussy’s Claire de Lune and it is the perfect soundtrack to this moment. I feel like I’ve finally reached that level of relaxation and peace I came searching for. I haven’t worn shoes in days and my walk has slowed to the island swagger and all that matters, all I need to do right now is sit on the dock and watch this village of thousands of colourful fish going about their morning business.
Now. I could tell you about our return to Jakarta and how we got caught in a storm so violent that the crew frantically distributed life jackets and the waves were like giants and I vomited off the side of the boat (twice), waves crashing into my head and there was a moment when I thought, is this how it’s going to end?
But I won’t dwell on that because the whole purpose of this post was to bring out the sun. And I do hope you feel warmer and I do hope you enjoyed our honeymoon adventures. We sure as hell did (if the past dozen posts are any indication). Now I can go back to our regularly scheduled programming. What the hell am I going to talk about, I wonder, now that Joe and I are just a regular married couple? Will the Stewarts buy a house? Or start a family? Or will I step away from the us and into the me? And what will my voice sound like now that it’s not all wrapped up in trans-atlantic love affairs and weddings and honeymoons?
Time will tell.