Sunday, February 26, 2012


I love doing spontaneous things. Although I probably don't do them enough... because I also love schedules.

I found myself in the Kitsilano area this morning for a workshop with Catching the Spirit. We played "knot or not-a-knot". One of the best games I've acquired over my time leading summer camps. Then, I drove home along the gorgeous street of West 4th, passing all kinds of cool shops and restaurants such as The Naam.

I remembered only a couple seconds before it was too late that the 'Winterruption Festival' was happening on Granville Island, and Jasper Sloan Yip was playing at 12:30. I looked at the clock; it was 12:34. Perfect timing.

This being an absolutlely stunning day on a popular Vancouver landmark, parking was a nightmare. By the time I found a place to park it was already 12:47. But not to worry, this was a free concert and I didn't mind only catching half of it. I ran from my car to the heart of the island; but as I ran, rushing to make the show, I realized that I hadn't been to Granville Island for far too long. I stopped for a second to enjoy the beauty of my surroundings. I was standing beside the "Crystal Ark", where I remember going with my family when I was younger. I remember spending ages looking through the giant pile of unique rocks, hoping to find that one that I especially loved. Then my Dad would pay the $1 to make us happy, although he knew we would lose it in an hour anyways.

Then I walked by the little pond where we used to chase the goose right off their feet. As I walked by the many street performers and the boutiques, I was overtaken by the smell of roasting chestnuts. Tourists lined up to have a taste of this taunting treat. I then made my way to the boardwalk where I watched couples, groups of friends and families load the rainbow Aquabuses. The Odland family used to roller blade around the seawall, at least once a year, and the Aquabus across to Granville Island.

Sitting on the ledge of the boardwalk, staring out across the shimmering water, and falling into a deep day dream, I remembered my initial purpose for the stop at Vancouver's little gem.

I found a friendly looking man who was handing out "Winterruption" brochures so I could find an exact location of the Jasper Sloan Yip concert. It was at the other end of the island, yet instead of running, I slowly wandered through the crowded streets, reflecting upon my busy life.

I've always enjoyed spending time alone. I also love being surrounded by people, but more now than ever, I am appreciating the moments I have with myself. Walking around this place alone, where I would usually go with family or friends, was unusual. In a way I felt lonely, but in a way I felt at ease and in peace.

When I finally made my way through the doors of exhibit 20 on the map: 'Performance Works', it was 1:13. The concert started at 12:30, so I was expecting to see only a very small portion of the set. As I took my seat in the back of the room, Jasper was telling his audience about the definition of a "foxtrot".

The foxtrot is a smooth progressive dance characterized by long, continuous flowing movements and the feeling is one of elegance and sophistication. Dancing the foxtrot well takes a high level of technical expertise as well as physical skill.

The young Vancouver alternative-folk artist joked about how this definition is one that he strives for his music to be described as.

I made it in time to catch only the very last song... Foxtrot. But that was enough. It was beautiful. It was stunning. I was satisfied. There's nothing like seeing a local, up-and-coming artist perform a gig, and knowing that someday he'll be huge.

These are some of the highlights (that I love), from the timeline on the Jasper Sloan Yip myspace page.

Summer, 2000
Jasper acquires his first instrument (the bass guitar) at age 13 after attending bible camp. He now begins to write songs and believe in God.

Spring 2003
Now sixteen, Jasper buys his first acoustic guitar. He teaches himself to play, continues to write, and stops believing in God.

Fall 2005 - 2007
Jasper attends the University of British Columbia. For the next two years, Jasper studies everything that the arts faculty offered, loses interest in much, performs satisfactorily, continues to write and record songs at home.

October 19th, 2007
Late at night in a pitch-black park in Amsterdam, Jasper decides to quit school and be a musician.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Broken Dreams, Created Opportunities

At one point in my life, I dreamt of becoming a journalist. I imagined being a correspondent reporter for CBC, or sitting in the seat where Peter Mansbridge recites the 6 o'clock news. Everything about the journalist life sounded appealing to me, and without a doubt I was either going to Toronto or Ottawa to study journalism.

Thanks to my experiences working with Youthink Magazine and Schema Magazine, however, I have decided that the journalist career is not the right path for me. It may seem bizarre that I can say I thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite this realization. What these experiences did, is they revealed that writing is much more of a hobby than a prospective career choice for me. Writing for these two magazines, I got a taste of the harsh truth of what it would be like to be a journalist. Working under strict deadlines, constantly being critiqued and never truly being satisfied with your work. For me, this realization was more valuable than the world. Could you imagine if I had decided to go off to University to study Journalism? It wouldn’t have been until at least a year— and $30 000— later that I would have came to terms with the fact that I am not suited to be a journalist. Now if that’s not a valuable experience to have had, I don’t know what is.

So why then, you may ask, did I enjoy working with these magazines so much? It is because the ability to write and interview is an essential skill for any field of study. I gained the skills, and learned new techniques for becoming a more articulate writer. No matter where I choose to go; where I end up going, writing will always come in handy.

With Youthink, I attended Vancouver’s 6th Annual ‘Women in Film Festival’ before writing a review on the festival. The particular screening I watched was called "Hand to Toe, An Exploration in the Art of Giving", by France Benoit. It was about volunteers for the Salvation Army in Yellowknife, who spend their Wednesdays washing the feet of homeless people, or anyone in need of a foot-washing for that matter. I also got to spend an afternoon at the Broadway Youth Resource Centre, where the Canadian reggae band, Bedouin Soundclash, performed an intimate, acoustic show. I then spent twenty minutes casually hanging out with (in other words, 'interviewing') the band, discussing everything from homeless youth, to our mutual love for the holiday season.

For Schema Magazine, I spent an entire weekend working with professional journalists before finally getting my article published in their magazine. It wasn’t until after one panel discussion between influential media contributors, a full day of workshops at the Museum of Vancouver, another two days of writing and mentorship, and one final coffee shop meet-up with the editor that my piece was ready for publishing. That was an authentic experience in the life of a journalist. That was when I decided the career wasn’t for me. That's when I was struck with a valuable life lesson...

follow your dreams, but not blindly

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Filling Baskets

In my Lit class, our assignment was to write in "beautiful, descriptive writing" describing a familiar place. It was an easy choice for me; the beloved Odland farm, and Grandma Hanna's garden.

Precisely patterned rows of produce occupy the 40×40 square foot bed of nutrient-rich soil. I am overwhelmed by the redolent smell of plump red raspberries. It’s that time of year when the berries have just surpassed their prime, but haven’t yet reached their rotting stage. The odd fruit clings onto the branch as if it’s savoring the last breaths of life. As for the rest; they’ve tumbled to the garden’s floor and are now the generous host to a feast of hungry fruit flies. Grandma and her six grandchildren race to basket the season’s last batch of fresh raspberry jam and raspberry-rhubarb pie. Arm by arm, we reach further into the bush hoping to avoid those nasty prickles which have fostered little red lines down the entirety of our arms and legs. Funny how it always happens that the most perfect looking berries are the ones that are out of reach of our vertical arm span; almost as if they overlook us with pity. Up onto my shoulder goes the lightest cousin, taunting as she looks down upon her big brother who typically towers over her by two feet. As her fingers struggle to grasp the juiciest one, it is only the absolute extent of her pointer finger that knocks it off and allows it to be cradled by the precisely placed bucket.

That was simply too much work for a few additions to Grandma’s homemade jelly. Instead, we indulge in that sensation of popping a fat raspberry onto our parched tongues and feeling as if the world has stopped while the sweet juice slips down our throats and glides through the esophagus. The sound of crickets chirping radiates through the thick air. Tractors and combines are busy at work in the wheat fields across the street; thankfully, their unpleasant rumblings are drowned out by the chatter and laughter of six content cousins. Rays of sunlight glisten down upon our smiling faces and provide nourishment for the luscious plants we surround ourselves in. The day is near perfect.

Approximately nine rows down the garden at the opposite perimeter, Grandpa, Daddy and Uncle Jim labour away. The bottom of their light-washed jeans are stained by the recently sprinkled mud as they reach down towards the bristly green stems. Each man so focused on his task at hand that he wouldn’t be phased if a large pack of aliens invaded at that exact moment. Fiercely they yank on the forest-green stems; the only above-ground signal of life for these carrots burrowed in the ground. After a little tugging and pulling, surely some soil-softening with the hoe, a healthy batch of pumpkin orange carrots are the trophy to be shown for a valiant effort. They’re covered in chunks of dirt that will require the water pressure of a hose to rinse; or many minutes of scrubbing with a brush. I can almost taste the fresh cream of carrot soup.

Quinn darts over, two large shovels in hand, both of which are bigger than her tiny body, and proudly jabs the ends into the dirt. Uncle Jim and Daddy start on the potatoes. Left foot’s firmly planted on the earth, right leg drives up, and forcefully back down onto of the shovel. Repeat this motion multiple times until the soil has engulfed at least half of the shovel’s bowl. Clutch onto the handle of the shovel and throw your weight back with your arms. With any luck, as you pull back, there will be a nice load of veggies resting inside your shovel. If not, shuffle a foot or two and repeat the action.

I take a moment to appreciate the liberty of farm life. The scent has shifted to that of freshly combined wheat fields. The air now feels quick, as the winds ruffle the Canadian flag, flying high above the barn. A litter of kittens, less than six weeks old dance around the open grass. The children have lost interest in berry picking and are now enthralled in the simple pleasure of rides in the wheel barrow. They struggle to push it through the thick grass, desperately in need of a trim, when along comes ‘Old John’ on the lawn mower. To clear the area, I herd the group into the vacant pig pen. For the last 10 years, it’s played host to an abundance of antique machinery and farm equipment. Derek points out a small red and black motor bike, covered in years of built up dust and cob-webs. It was our Dad’s first big boy toy. Images of Dad tearing up the gravel roads of Enchant, Alberta filled our imaginations simultaneously. Oh, how our lives would be vastly different had we grown up in the rural prairies.

Perhaps the incomparable feeling of my cracked hands gripping onto the strings binding the haystacks together as we race to mount them; proving who would be the superior cousin. Perhaps that never-ending sound of our voices echoing in the hollow grain elevators. Perhaps the smell of the early morning dew on the bumpy gravel roads. Perhaps the taste of Grandma’s snap peas, fresh of the tangled vine. Perhaps the sight of the traditional red barn, home of the typical green tractor which rests inside. Perhaps the view of an everlasting crop, that vanishes over the horizon. Or perhaps it was a combination of all of these things that led me to the tears of a baby upon hearing the news that my Grandparents were passing on the family farm and moving into the city. I’ll never forget that tragic day. But more importantly, I’ll never forget those priceless Summer memories in that familiar place that never fails to make my senses tingle and my heart flutter; the Odland Family farm.