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day 2 – zoe

November 2, 2013


You meet so many people in a lifetime. Crossing paths for anything from a split second to a few months to aeons. If you were to connect the dots, you’d make a thousand constellations– a lifetime of connections. And whether you know it or not, each of these beings of light impart something. A gift, a thought, an inspiration, a lesson (even if it’s a painful one).

Years ago, in Nova Scotia, I met this girl named Zoe. Zoe was full of spirit. Zoe came into my life at a time when my life was, admittedly, pretty shit. I’d moved to Halifax the day of a massive hurricane, which left my ex and I stranded for days in a small cove along the coast. When the army finally came around and cleared the trees from the driveway, we went on a date night and in the parking lot of the cinema, he told me that he’d cheated on me. I remember it was raining. I remember watching the rivulets on the window and hearing the drops on the top of the car. I remember knowing before he told me. I knew long before he told me.

I stayed. And it took me a thousand days to stop imagining what had happened that night with that other girl. I wanted to know every single detail because I thought knowing every detail wouldn’t be as bad as the film that was playing on repeat in my head. But it doesn’t matter if you have every detail because the version in your head will always be worse.

It was awful. But still, I stayed.

After a few months, we moved out of the room in the cove to a small cabin in the cove to an apartment in the cove. There was so much damp in that apartment that mushrooms grew in the corner of our bedroom.

It was not a good year.

But eventually, I managed to pack that year up in a neat little package and store it somewhere on the top shelf behind the winter clothes and the shoe boxes full of old letters. And in the midst of that catastrophic shit storm, I met Zoe.

Zoe had a lazy eye and a shadow of a moustache and in my self-conscious 20’s, I could never quite look her in the eye but I remember being completely in awe of her. Total girl crush. One day, she invited a bunch of girls over to her place for an art day. In the front room of her house in Halifax, we set up tables with art supplies– strips of leather and paint brushes and an old sewing machine and glue sticks and glue bottles and stacks of magazines and paper scraps. Everything one needed to create something, anything. I sat in the corner of the room, stringing beads together and I watched her create. I’m the type of person who needs everything polished and re-read a thousand times or cropped perfectly before showing it to anyone (including my husband). I do not share my process. My process is private and self-conscious and messy. But I sat there in that corner and watched her and how seamless her process was and how there was an air of play about it and how she didn’t seem to be thinking at all. She was just doing without worrying about the end result. She was loving the process itself.

At the end of the day, she gave me her painting. She had no attachment to it– it was never meant to be hers.

I still have that painting. I love that painting. It’s everything that I am not. It’s care free and boundless and brightly coloured. It doesn’t have an ounce of self-consciousness. It’s both roaring and peaceful. It’s everything Zoe was.

I didn’t see Zoe much after that day. I moved to the valley and we lost touch. And then I moved back to Montreal and never saw her again.

She died last Wednesday. She was out for an evening jog and got hit by a drunk driver and now she’s gone. A dazzling light extinguished far too soon.

But she was a bright star in my life for a split second. And I’m so grateful that she was one of those million connections. I’m reminded today of the lessons she taught me and I plan to fully enjoy this creative process (even if only for her) because otherwise… what’s the point?

One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows. ” – Elizabeth Gilbert

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    November 2, 2013 1:06 pm

  2. David permalink
    November 2, 2013 1:58 pm

    Such a beautiful homage to a wonderful being.

  3. November 2, 2013 4:40 pm

    I don’t even know where to start. I guess at the beginning. You have inspired me to think about all the lost people in my life, and to see what lessons they offered. It is true, there is purpose there, there is something to learn. I am so sad that Zoe had such a tragic death. It is awful, and stupid, and senseless. What a beautiful dedication you are giving her. And lastly? I LOVE that quote. xo

  4. Alison permalink
    November 2, 2013 6:05 pm

    I began by loving your photo. After that I felt anger, then happiness with a little smile on my face. Now? I am stunned. I am so so sorry about the loss of your friend. She shouldn’t have gone so soon and she sure shouldn’t have gone like that. But, I always feel that someone is never really gone as long as someone else is remembering them. And you remembered her beautifully. Thank you for sharing her with us. God bless you Zoe.

  5. Xanthe permalink
    November 2, 2013 6:58 pm

    Sorry for your loss.

    There are signs all around you..
    It’s only day two and already things are happening. I’m glad you’re sharing your storytelling again.
    Love that quote. Xxx

  6. Anonymous permalink
    November 2, 2013 7:18 pm

    thank you, sweets. zoe tripped into my life in a similar sort of way – perhaps brought there by you, or by brian… in any case, i’ve been thinking about her a lot lately, and remembering so clearly her vivid zest for art (a breathless move to new york stands out in my memory). It’s so lovely to read your… well, let’s call it a tribute. Love.

  7. Twingy permalink
    November 3, 2013 12:19 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for a good while & always want to reach out & tell you how much I love it. I am also a photophile & struggle so much with the process & discipline that it takes to exercise that creative muscle. I am inspired to start again but the initial parts are easy but it’s the follow through that gets me. I strive to be like Zoe & just do it for the sheer love of it not thinking about where it will go or the opinions that will follow. Thank you for your warm images & honest words. I for one am really looking forward to hearing from you on a daily basis/

  8. Michelle permalink
    November 3, 2013 1:00 pm

    So sorry to hear about Zoe. I’m glad that she was there for you in a time of need, and that you are able to keep her alive with your memories. Love you xoxo

  9. November 3, 2013 8:48 pm

    How awful. There are so few words to express our grief and astonishment when something like this happens, that make any sense at all. You found them.

  10. Christina permalink
    November 4, 2013 6:31 pm

    I am very sorry for the loss of your friend. Beautiful words for a beautiful soul. I would love to see the painting she made for you.

  11. November 5, 2013 3:37 pm

    I love everything about this. This is the very best kind of remembering and honoring of memory that there is.


  1. Zoe | Healing, Healing Stories |Healing Hamlet

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