Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Naked Bike Rides

Some nights during the wee hours, my roommate Ali and I get this sudden urge to strip off all of our clothes and go for a short cycle down the street in nothing but our socks and shoes.

There is no feeling more liberating.

With December's air kissing my bare skin, that is when I truly feel alive.

Monday, December 2, 2013

up on that mountain top

As if I don't have enough words to write for my paper due tomorrow, I figured I might as well blog while I'm at it.

This morning, after having less than ample amounts of sleep, I accidentally took Nyquils instead of Dayquils. A horrendous mistake this was. The struggle to keep my eyes open during classes was brutal. And aside from my drug-induced exhaustion, today was just a particularly gloomy day. It may have something to do with the torrential rain pouring down, but I think more realistically, I've just reached the nadir of this semester. That point where my energy is exhausted and my motivation is next to nothing. I can see the end; I should be sprinting the finish, but I just don't care anymore. I want to go home.

In July, as I enjoyed the company of the Rocky Mountains, I wrote a post about longing for the sea. In that post I wrote:
"The silly thing is, as soon as I depart from the mountains and return to the sea, those feelings of longing will likely reoccur. Only this time, the mountains will be the ones engrained in my every thought."
Today, like many days, the mountains are engrained in my thoughts. Earlier this morning, I found my beloved headlamp that has been misplaced for ages. I took it as a sign that 8 days from now I need to put it to use navigating the mountains by headlamp and moonlight. My mother has just received a text informing her that we are going for a nighttime snowshoe the day I return to the West Coast.

As the highway sign heading out of Kootenay National Park reads:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Life has not thrown any oranges my way.

This is the hardest time of the year.

The days are rapidly getting shorter. It seems like darkness consumes most of our waking hours.

School is getting tedious. Why am I even doing this? Is there a point in stressing over this paper that I have lost all interest in?

I just want someone to remind me that good times still exists. I am having fun on the regular; only an hour ago I was dancing to the Irish Rovers with Ali and talking about personified blueberries with Nicole. Yet throughout all this enjoyment, lingering in the back of my mind is that dark space that keeps my consciousness aware of the exams that are quickly encroaching upon us.

There are just 22 days until I land on my home soil. It's been a long time, but 22 days is not very many. There are so many things that I can't wait to do. There are the obvious things that involve mountains and exploration, the things that include my beloved family, and the things that incorporate spending time with my long-time friends. But then there's the strangest of things that I, for whatever reason, cannot wait to experience again. One of which is to drive down the Upper Levels Highway past the Westview exit as the windshield wipers fight at full speed to keep the visibility free of impairing raindrops.

I just did handstands against the fridge in my kitchen and laughed uncontrollably over the Black Eyed Peas' song "My Humps". University's reputation for being a lot of fun is certainly not untrue; however, it has its moments of merciless cruelty.

Keep in mind that my last weekend was spent doing a myriad of fun activities and an absence of scholarly activities. Today was spent, in part, with the three-week-old brother of one of my roommates in my arms. And this weekend is forecasted as being spent in Antigonish on a farm. From the sounds of it, I am living the dream.

Life has given me lemons, and I am making lemonade. But I'm tired of lemonade. I'm craving orange juice, and life has not thrown any oranges my way.

An irrelevant video except that I saw Said The Whale recently, and it's really cute.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

60 Years

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

Today marks your 21,900th day of marriage, not including the additional days accumulated throughout the leap years. That is a lot of days!

As a child, I was fortunate enough to have you play a significant role in my life. Despite the over 1000 kilometres that lay between us, we usually managed to see each other a couple times per year, at least. When I was younger, all I can remember is that I loved seeing my grandparents because they had this fun duck hunt game, they always made for a good game of cards, and they spoiled us silly. Then, as I got older, I started to appreciate my grandparents for the crazy stories they have of my mother and her siblings in their childhoods. And I loved learning from the vast amounts of knowledge they had to share. Only in the past few years, I would say, I have come to appreciate the incredible amount of love that my grandparents have for each other.

Sometimes it's not quite so obvious, like when Grandma is shouting at Grandpa, "Joe, you're worse than the kids", or when they're in a scuffle because one of them was ready to leave the casino before the other.

Once I asked Grandpa if he loved Grandma, and his response was, "some days". This may be the only lie I've ever heard my Grandfather tell.

I love to watch how Grandma and Grandpa know absolutely everything about one another. Grandma can tell you exactly how much evaporated milk to put in Grandpa's coffee. And Grandpa can list off all the foods that Grandma won't eat. It's the little things that prove how much you care about each other.

I'm always amazed that Grandpa can keep track of Grandma's 7 siblings, their spouses, children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. I guess a sharp memory, along with spending 60 years together would help with that.

On this special day, I want to thank you for the amazing amounts of love you've given each other. I want to thank you for teaching my mother how to love, and for teaching me how to love.

November 2nd, 1953 is a day for the history books. Just look at the legacy you've created together since then. Three children, ten grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren, probably with more to come. None of this would exist if you hadn't exchanged vows on that precious day. So thank you kindly for doing so! And congratulations!

Happy Anniversary to you!

Infinite amounts of love coming your way,
your youngest Granddaughter

Monday, October 14, 2013

Harvest Festival

Today we are told to be thankful.

Most will roast a turkey too large for same-day consumption. Mash their potatoes and then melt in the butter until they almost glide down your throat. Traditionally, stuffing will ooze from the bird in the oven and cranberries will pop as they're boiled in cinnamon and sugar. And then, when we're already too full to function; we will force pumpkin pie into our bellies.

What a strange way to celebrate a day for giving thanks. Overeating, and expressing gratitude.

I remember last year, I was fortunate enough to enjoy a Thanksgiving potluck at my friend Jesse's house. The food selection was anything but traditional; however, we were still guilty of practicing the tradition of stuffing yourself sick.

Just before eating, we did a round of giving individual thanks for things in our lives. Last year, I was thankful for different things than I am today. It's amazing that no matter where you're at in your life, there will always be things to give thanks for. New things all the time. And I find that the older you grow, the more aware you are of the fortunes you are blessed with.

This morning, for example. I think I had the best row of my life. Rowing in a quad with 3 skilled rowers, on the inlet covered in a thin layer of fog, as the leaves in the process of changing colours. I feel blessed to have my two legs that allow me to row. I am thankful for this second opportunity to rekindle a sport that I previously enjoyed.

I am grateful for this cat that lays on my bed as I run through lecture slides in preparation for an exam. I am thankful for the clothes in the dryer that I will soon be folding and putting in drawers. I am thankful for the helmet that kept me safe this morning as I rode my bike down the biker-unfriendly streets of Halifax. I am thankful for my Grandmother who recently turned 81, but has the spirit of a 60 year-old. I am thankful for the Friendsgiving tradition of my friends back home who Skyped me into the toast that Keira delivered before they feasted. I am thankful for the sun that's shining so bright today, like it does many days. I am thankful for my roommates- how lucky I got to have such a wonderful group of girls living under the same roof. I am thankful for the ability to breathe underwater like I have experienced for the past two days. I am thankful for the turkeys that have sacrificed their lives to be in the bellies of the human population, and I am thankful for the squash that I baked and blended into soup.

Tonight as I sat around the table with good friends, danced to Will Blunderfield with Ali, and cooked an epic meal with my roomates; I felt an overwhelming sense of warmth. So much joy is to be had! Si much love to be given and shared. And so blessed I feel for this moment granted to me right now. Thank you world, thank you fate; you have been good to me.

The sign on our front door. A traditional English schoolchildren's song.

Happy Harvest to all!

"its another harvest festival
where we bring out fruits and vegetables
cos we want to share the best of all the good things that we've been given.
its another opportunity 
to be grateful for the food we eat.  
cabbages and greens,
broccoli and beans,
cauliflower and roasted potatoes taste so good to me. 
apricots and plums,
ripen in the sun
oranges and yellow bananas
good for everyone."

Monday, September 2, 2013

Comfort food cannot compare to the comfort of family.

Rhythmically rocking back and forth in the lazy boy in my Grandparents den. Right now I am feeling more blessed than ever to be with family. 

Each time we get together I gain a greater and greater appreciation for the bond that we share. Not only the genetic relation, but more importantly that attachment that grows stronger with every moment spent together. The only people that you will consistently see- no matter how large or small the intervals- throughout your entire life, is family.

Comfort food cannot compare to the comfort of family.

Tonight I had the most comforting conversation with my Grandmother. She sat and listened as I spilt pieces of my heart out to her. And when appropriate she chimed in with wisdom from her years. Age difference, generation gap and all, the human heart still beats the same rhythm.

Typically I see my Grandparents once, or twice if I'm lucky, each year. This summer, I have seen both sets three precious times. There is nothing more I could have wished for this summer.

And tonight as I'm feeling grateful beyond words; in Grandma's bathroom I read the message from a daily quote book called, 'A Little Touch of Tenderness'.  September 2 from an unknown author, says, "The soul would have no rainbow had the eye no tear."

The rainbows were strikingly vivid as my friend Ali drove me through Kootenay National Park on the journey from my summer in the Columbia Valley to the next adventure of my life. Tonight, things could not be more perfect. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I loved this place for a long time

I loved this place for a long time. So long actually that I never even processed the thought that I might one day get bored of this lifestyle. All my life has been rushed and loaded with things to do, places to go, people to see. In elementary school I played so many sports that I ran my parents wild driving me from sport A to sport B. In high school I was involved in so many things that some days I struggled to find time for sleep. Whether it be student council, women’s ensemble or the model united nations club; I seemed to have a need to be involved in every possible thing I could squeeze into my schedule.  I recall when the morning announcements came on at school; I would listen eagerly to hear for any invitations to clubs who held their meetings on the days that I didn’t already have international ambassadors, Olympic club, or my soprano sectional. As far as I remember, keeping busy was a way of making sure I didn’t get bored. Also, from what I remember, I was driven by the desire to learn and grow and somehow make a lasting difference.

Today I cried for the first time in a long time. I cried over something justified; yet something that I can’t imagine myself normally drawing tears over. Someone drove into and took the life of a dog in the campground I work in. I had to go out to address the issue of the lifeless dog lying in the middle of the campground. Everyone was pacing around in disbelief and no one had it in them to pick it up from the middle of the road. The owners of the dog were a mother and her three young children, two of whom were too young to really understand the situation. Still in shock and denial, the mother kept apologizing to her crying children, claiming fault for the misfortune. A tragic situation it was, however, I typically find that my tears are stored in a tightly secured safe that’s difficult to break into.

Prior to this incident, my day had been painfully dull- to the point where my body and soul were actually feeling lifeless. I drove around the campground in a golf cart feeling as if I my body had woken up this morning and left my soul sleeping in bed.

Difficult it was to recover from such an awful moment as the minutes preceding a family witnessing the death of their dog. So difficult that I had to run down the hall to ask for help from a co-worker so I didn’t have to tremble as I tried to deal with customers. So difficult that I physically felt my legs collapse beneath me as I tried to regain my shallow, teary breath. Yet somehow, as challenging as that hour of my day was, it somehow made my day all the more brighter.

No longer was I feeling so emotionless that I was wondering if half of my being was still in bed. Although the emotions were not the slightest bit positive, I believe they were a reminder that I have not lost the ability to feel. In that moment, I acknowledged my respects for the family and their late dog, while I also appreciated the realization that I am not completely emotionless. Today may have been the first time in my life that I have been conscious of my gratitude for tears.

I always replay this memory of my co-worker Natalia in my mind. A customer once asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up. At 28 years of age, she replied, “I want to live.”

They then proceeded to ask her- since her nametag tells that she is from Ontario- what she is doing here. “I’m living”, was, again, her faithful response.

When she was recounting this to a bunch of our friends as we sat in our backyard, she explained, “I think that here we are living. Wherever we were before, we were just surviving.”

For a long time I believed this. For a long time I felt pure contentment in this simplistic mountainous lifestyle. In the last while, however, I have begun to feel as if I am just in the survival state.

I loved this place for a long time. But what has it come to if it takes a dog’s death for me to feel an emotion strong enough to be fulfilled? No longer is the 40-hour workweek, subsided with frequent alcohol consumption, enough to fulfill me. I believe it stems from that desire- like in high school- to learn, to grow, and somehow make a lasting difference.

The people here get their satisfaction in different forms. Jumping off 100-foot cliffs into pools of water for that adrenalin rush that lasts for days. Taking drugs to explore an alternate consciousness that the sober mind cannot experience. Long boarding at 35km per hour down the highway to get the heart rate pumping. These are all things that give people their fix. These are the things that allow people to go to bed at night feeling fulfilled. For me, these aren’t the things that do it.

This laid-back lifestyle nestled within the Purcell Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east has given me opportunity for growth. It has been an experience different from any other. I am a believer that every place you choose to spend a significant period of time changes you. And every new adventure is good for the soul. But they all too must come to an end. With two weeks left in the town of Fairmont Hot Springs, I have begun my transition towards the next adventure. I am just preparing early for my departure.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013


I find writing liberating. I love being able to express my feelings in phrases that cannot be interrupted by anything except my own thoughts. I love being able to delicately chose words that fit. I love having the power to backspace and re-think things before they're out there. Writing is grounding. Writing is relieving.

Yesterday, I found absolute contentment in being alone. I laid in the sun alone, I swam in the pools alone, I adventured up the mountain alone, I encountered a bear alone, again I soaked in the hot springs alone, and then I went for a bike ride alone. Somehow in all of this lone time, there was never a feeling of loneliness. Having time all to yourself, especially when it's at the top of a mountain with not a person for who knows how far, really allows for you to check in with yourself. Much like the way a team of people would debrief after completing a job, I believe that individuals mustn't forget to debrief with themselves.

It is not always that my thoughts chain together in a clean-cut composition. Today is one of those days for a coagulation of incomplete ramblings.

It's Friday night and the sun was set hours ago. I sat on the roof of our backyard shed and watched as the mountains transition from yellow to orange, then pink to red, to just a silhouette in the darkness. This got me thinking; what are people around the world doing if not atop a shed?

Somewhere in Budapest a man sips on a cold beer. Some place in the world there is an old woman gasping for her last breaths of life, about to leave her loved ones behind. In Belgium there is a man and a woman sharing a precious moment with their newborn child. In China, there is a man whose heart is so badly shattered that he can't imagine his life will ever be as good as it were. In Peru, a mother reprimands her children for disobeying her requests. In France someone is overcoming their fear of heights by jumping out of an airborne plane. In the wheat fields of Idaho a nearly-retired farmer checks the irrigation system on his crops. In Kenya, there is a group of young people sitting hand-in-hand in a circle sharing their gift of music with one another. And all over the world people are engaging in activities that the remainder of the human race is oblivious to. We are so insignificant. Yet we each posses so incredibly much power. The world is an intricate place. Not a soul will ever see all that there is to see, or know all that there is to know. There is not a person who will ever manage to fathom the breadth of the globe; the world at large.

Here is some Modest Mouse because this song title somehow made its way into my ramblings. And because Modest Mouse is a musical and lyrical genius. And because music is medicine.

Goodnight World. Thank you for another day.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Longing for the Sea

It was in Halifax that I decided I needed to spend my summer amongst the mountains that had been so lacking in my Nova Scotian life.  And it is tonight, as I lay immersed in my wish- this incredible valley- that I realize how badly I long for the ocean once again.

Why is it that the absence of something sometimes goes more noticed than the presence of something else equally appealing? Sometimes is in italics because most often I prefer to concentrate on the gift I have in front of me as apposed to marvelling over what I am missing out on. With every opportunity comes an opportunity cost; one of the fundamental principals of Economics, which I learned this year at university should really just be called "Life".

By no means am I expecting an answer to this vast question, but I find it most curious.

People that have come here to Fairmont from Ontario and are astonished at the Rocky Mountains ask me, "Do the mountains ever lose their enchantment since you grew up with them?" I reply that I hope it never comes to the point where I take for granted the mountains enough to lose their compelling beauty to my eyes. Even after 18 years of growing up on the foot of a mountain, I have not once looked at a mountain and failed to see some sort of brilliance.

I am happy here. Very content. Grateful for the incredible nature that surrounds us. Today, probably my 6th or 7th time hiking the Hoodoo's, I was still in awe as I looked out over Dutch Creek and down upon the eroded rock formations. Tonight however, I can't help but think about the ocean. It must have been the lake we drove by, Columbia Lake, which had white caps scattered across the lake's surface that got me thinking about the ocean.

I long for the salty air passing through my hair as I bike along the Sea Wall in Coal Harbour. I long for the Government Dock in Deep Cove where I sit to enjoy the full moon or where I plunge into the dark waters to cool off on a hot summers day. I long for the crash of the waves into the beaches of Negril. I long for the liberating experience of skinny dipping in the ocean surrounding Keats Island. I long for the route I run through Point Pleasant Park that takes me along the shores of the Halifax Harbour. I long for the ferry waves to thrash our helpless bodies into the barnacle-coated rocks of Bowen Island. I long to play with the little white jelly fish that loiter around the dock in Deep Cove. I long to lie on a surfboard off of Lawrencetown Beach and peacefully float over the waves before they gained momentum and crash into surfer territory. I long for the snorkel and fins I have used in various tropical destinations to see clownfish, turtles, eels and barracudas. I long for the swing set at Second Beach that overlooks the waters of English Bay. I long to paddle the canoe across the Burrard Inlet to Belcarra Park and play a game of frisbee. I long to ride "5 Wincks" up to the West Van Yacht Club Outstation, and dive off the bow of the boat. I long to sit in a scull at 6am and watch seals pop up to the surface to catch a breath. I long to sit out on the deck of the ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale. I long for a swim from the dock at the end of Strathcona to that little island of an unknown name. I long for the radiant phosphorescence in the sea caves of Phuket. I long to jump off the high ramp of the government dock in all my clothing so that my white shirt becomes see-through.

I couldn't tell you what it is about this day, but today the ocean is prevalent in my thoughts.

The silly thing is, as soon as I depart from the mountains and return to the sea, these feelings of longing will likely reoccur. Only this time, the mountains will be the ones ingrained in my every thought.

However sad it is, a blogger that goes under the name "la couturier", wrote in her post "pearls of wisdom: wanting what you can't have", an excerpt that holds much truth:
It's only human nature to want what we can't have- you know, something along the lines of that good old adage about "the grass being greener on the other side."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fiftieth to my Papa!

Wall of Gratitude

I am laying in "Princess Bed" at 11:30am enjoying a morning of total relaxation.  To my left, the sun shines steady through the window providing natural light to every corner of the room. Outside the window I see trees standing tall, with branches flickering in the light breeze. The sparse clouds are motionless, lingering, it seems forever, in the radiant blue sky. Directly to my right is our "Wall of Gratitude". Within the first few days of arriving in Fairmont, I posted a piece of paper on our wall titled, "Paper of Gratitude". And so, anytime there is something we are thankful for, we can write it on the list to acknowledge how much gratitude there is to be had. I find that this makes me much more conscious of amazing little things that I should never take for granted. It's incredible how much happier you can be when you take time to appreciate the things passing through your life.

Here is what's on our (ever-growing) "Wall of Gratitude" thus far:

1. Love headlamps!
3. Elaineeeeeeeeeeeee
4. guitaring, drumming, singing, harmonica'ing
5. Les + Sophie
6. my two feet & eyes & ears
7. cuddles 'n' lovin'
8. mothers!!! so much nurture!
9. sunshine beating down on our pretty faces
10. Our friend Ali. So chum
11. My friends! My bike! Smoothies and Hoodoos
13. Helmet Naps
14. Being on something stronger than electricity
15. SEEDS THAT GROW! I love you so much
16. 428
17. Bike rides through puddles
18. concentrate on today
19. Diva Cup for being so loyal!
21. so much gratitude for bicycles
22. Tipi times
23. "I'm not a Beefeater" - Felicity
24. Sam's shirt... "Always on Deck"
25. flipping fantastic coworkers that make work so much fun

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Dance Church

I could count on my fingers (probably of one hand) the number of times I have attended a church service. Once I was dragged along with my friend Michela after a Saturday night sleepover. Once or twice was a mandatory activity while I was at Keats Camps. One time was with my cousins who attend church on a regular basis. And the last time I stepped foot into a Sunday morning service was in Trois-Pistoles, Quebec where I couldn't understand a thing that was being said.

This past Sunday was the first time I attended a service that made any sense to me. The first time I felt like I was on the same wave length as the others in the room. Dance Church. It happens every Sunday at "The Moving Centre" on Baker Street in Nelson, BC. Dance Church is non-denominational, all-inclusive, everyone is welcome, every body is a dancer. "It is a conscious dance practice, a moving meditation, ecstatic dance medicine for the soul", says their posters.

As a new friend I met, Jesse, explained it, "It's like, you can try to make yourself look as foolish as you want and you will never get anyone taking a second glance. I tried, but not a person gave a care in the world."

That's what Dance Church is all about. Moving your body to music in whatever form you want. It's about creating positive energies and sharing with others your gift of movement. The energy when you walk up the narrow staircase and approach that room is incredible. Such a respectful environment for all. If everyone could start everyday with a feel good dance session, this world might glow a bit brighter. As you jiggle and jive your way across the dance floor, you'd be amazed at the connections you can make with people through the beat of the music. A smile or acknowledging gesture during your dance usually turns into a hug and words of appreciation after the session. Sometimes you get so entranced in the dance and the music that it's as if you've entered an alternate state of consciousness, free of any externalities.

Then when the beats finished, we circled up hand-in-hand, all the men clumped in a pile in the centre of the circle. We showed gratitude to Men in honour of belated Father's Day. We acknowledged the strength and the vulnerability of Men. We thanked Men for sharing their presence and their gift of dance with us. Anyone who had something to say could chime in, and it was a safe place for sharing. A place where freedom of expression is encouraged. A place free of judgement.

Now that, to me, is how Church should be done. Another Sunday service to add to my handful, but the first one that made sense to me. Thank you, Dance Church, for rekindling my faith. My faith in the power of movement, energies and human connections.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Deer Solstice Deer

I have just returned from the most magical encounter with a pair of deer. As I walked alone down a dark residential street of Fairmont, I noticed two deer trotting beside me. Although I have no fear of the dark or of being alone, it was almost as if they were prancing alongside to reassure me that I am not alone. I couldn't believe my eyes, so I stopped moving my feet to ensure I wasn't dreaming. Sure enough the deer stopped too. We made eye contact for more than a brief second, until I psyched myself out and continued along the road. The deer continued with me, seeming almost like a "Follow the Leader" kind of thing, except I didn't have to explain to them any of the rules. I was so deeply enthralled by the connection I was sharing with these deer that I did not see the giant puddle approaching in my path. Before I could even react, my flip-flop bearing feet were no longer just cold, they were now wet and muddy too. As were the cuffs of my favourite pants. Life goes on, and if that's the worst tragedy that occurred in my day, than I'm in good shape. I then lost kinship with the deer. But no complaints here; thank you deer for guiding me home.

Happy Summer Solstice to one and all!

May the summer bring you extraordinary endeavours and endless joy.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Poetic Escape

Because the swallows had departed from the cliff,
over and over,
the soft knives of their wings tasting the river mist as they
went wherever it is
they went, because
with the air free of their chatter we could hear ourselves
think, because the notes
we left in their holes, full of love and envy
and lament, were never answered and because we need
an earth with ears to hear the long dread
carpentry of history, and then, and so, and so,
and then, each bone nailed, wired, welded,
riveted, because we knew
the gods we loved were charismatic fictions, and because
the swallows had departed. 

Above is a poem from "Field Marks", a book of poetry by Canadian-poet Don McKay who resides in Beautiful British Columbia. Technically, I stole the book from a "take a book, leave a book" shelf in the Student Union Building. I took the book and I provided no reciprocation. I think the literature gods will forgive me; I had an intense yearning to escape reality for however long my imagination would allow.

There is only two weeks left of class before I will have completed my second semester of University. My motivation is at an all-time low, and my level of frustration has reached new heights.

Don McKay's poem, "Alibi", takes my mind on a journey to the Columbia Valley nestled on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains where I will be spending the 4 months of my summer. Breathing the pristine air of the valley, indulging in the natural beauty of the infamous West Coast mountains, and sauntering through the trails of the forest is all I can think of. Reading enchanting novels, engaging in outdoor yoga, late night star gazing and mid-day bird-watching. I am anxious for the opportunity to create dazzling art projects, to write extravagant short stories, and to listen to soulful music.

I am frustrated because it's 11:41pm and the library is full of stressed out students. Some have their heads resting on their desks and their eyes only faintly open. Some have their fingers madly pounding on computer keys while their eyes and their facial expressions tell me how uninterested they actually are. I've watched students get up and let out a deep sigh as they zip up their backpacks and call it a night.

I was just working through the assigned readings for my Ecosystems class when I read this from Lester Brown's article, "The Great Food Crisis of 2011" in the Earth Policy Institute. "Tonight, there will be 219,000 additional mouths to feed at the dinner table, and many of them will be greeted with empty plates. Another 219,000 will join us tomorrow night. At some point, this relentless growth begins to tax both the skills of farmers and the limits of the earth's land and water resources."

In terms of my irritation, I haven't a clue of a viable alternative. But I have to believe that this institutional education isn't the best way for things to be done. This sitting in front of a textbook or a computer. This 11:46pm library session until your eyes are so heavy that the fight to hold them open is as grave a challenge as any. This perpetual work load that leaves minimal time for pursuing external interests or hobbies. I cannot suggest a solution of any sort, but I just know that there must be something better out there.

So when I am ready to return to reality, when I have had a sufficient escape, I will abide by the "take a book, leave a book" policy. I will return a novel to the "Book Nook" so that it can provide an escape route for the next person who needs a break, the next person who decides to venture through it's pages.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Travel Memoirs, to be continued

I started this blog on May 20th, 2010. I distinctly remember the moment, sitting in the tiny Bellingham airport with my mother as we embarked on our trip to San Diego that was my 16th birthday present.

That moment reminds me of right now. I sit here in the slightly larger Halifax airport, anticipating the departure of my aircraft to meet my father in New York. 

I remember feeling so unbelievably excited to spend the weekend just me and my mommy. Today, I feel just as incredibly delighted to be spending the weekend just me and my daddy.

"Today's a gift, that's why it's called the present"... that's the name I came up with in the Bellingham airport as I prepared to document my travels. I wasn't completely new to the blogging world. During the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games I kept a blog of my Olympic endeavours, but it took the inspiration of travel before I convinced myself to start a personal blog. 

Today as I sit in a similar situation to May 20th, 2010, on the opposite side of the continent, I hope to continue my collection of travel memoirs. Let us see what New York brings.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Growing Up and Being Grateful

I have not much to write about. And so much to write. My thoughts are such a jumble of odds and ends that I struggle to arrange them into anything structural. I wish my thoughts were more articulate.

Yesterday, Canada seemed like a giant place. Living on the opposite coast of the second largest country in the world is a long way from home. Yesterday I felt the distance. The 6,159 kilometres that lie in between me and my home felt like 6,159 kilometres.

Constantly I ponder my rationale for being at a post-secondary institution. I got up this morning, knowing that the better part of my day would be spent in solitude with my textbooks. I couldn't help but imagine all the other possibilities of how to occupy my time. But instead, I sit in the Killam. From a productivity standpoint, the architecture of this library works to my disadvantage. I have a strong interest in people watching, and this building, almost entirely windowed and central-facing into the atrium is not my most productive workspace. I watch as people mount their knapsacks onto their backs, heading back out into reality. I watch people work independently with their headphones draped over their ears, and I watch people work in collaboration. I see people frustrated by their studies, I see people stressed. I watch as people have that "ah-ha" moment and as people redundantly solve equations. I have found a sense of contentment, I am at peace with my decision once again.

It's that time of year again, where we register for the upcoming softball season. For the last 4 or 5 years my mother would go online, at this time of year, and register me for the North Shore Avalanche or the '94 Stars. This year, as I receive emails about registration deadlines, I can't help but feel a little bit sad. Gone are the days where my Dad would drive me to McCartney park while I shoved my dinner down my throat and rushed to put on my socks and slider. Then as we ran out onto the field, glove and bat in hand for our pre-game preparations, all my worries were suspended. I remember laughing and laughing and chanting and cheering and smiling to no end at the diamond. And even when I failed to catch the pop-fly that was directed precisely at my glove, and even if I was upset with myself, I could still smile.

One of my hockey teammates from last season just tweeted, "Last hockey game I'll ever play at home.. #woah #timeflys". I remember so vividly, as if it were yesterday, my final game in a minor hockey association. This is what I  wrote after it...
"Then, last night, after 9 years of wearing an Avalanche sweater, I played my last ever minor hockey game. I was kind of anticipating it, nit it was quite an emotional night. We lost. ... In hind sight, I appreciate the fact that I lost my final game as an Avalanche. Although the outcome might not have been what I was hoping for, it was a memorable game to say the least. I found myself savouring every moment on the ice."
Today also marks the 3rd Anniversary of the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. I also miss everything about the Winter Games more than I will ever be able to articulate. If I could go back and sit on a seabus full of maple leaf wearing citizens, if I could sit in a press conference for Jennifer Heil and Alexandre Bilodeau, or if I could sing O'Canada with the crowd underneath the skytrain line as we waited to be admitted into "Canada Hockey Place". I would give anything to relive those unforgettable moments. What I've realized, however, is that instead of wishing for what I am unable to change, instead of dreaming of unrealistic time-manipulation, I need to show gratitude for those precious memories I've made. I need to use those as reminders of the countless precious memories I have yet to make. I need to live in the moment.

My good friend, Emily, wrote a beautiful piece on growing up, on the illusion of time, and on living in the present. Her talent for taking words and composing the most eloquent sentences amazes me. She inspires me to keep blogging.

Yesterday was difficult; today is a new day. I learned in the last 24 hours that no matter what happened the previous; each day is a new day. A fresh start. A clean slate. Today I slept in, attended class, sat in on an event where Jennifer Gillivan, president and CEO of the IWK (Izaak Walton Killam Hospital for Children), gave the most inspirational talk, and finally, let the sweat pour out at hot yoga.

Jennifer's advice to a room full of post-secondary students at various stages of their degrees came in the form of a list of 10 things we must try to never forget. None of these things were particularly profound. They were all those things that we know, but those things that we need constant little reminders of. Things that we need to reinforce within ourselves. These are the four that resonated the most with me:
- challenge the status quo
- be curious
- give graciously of your time
- never forget to keep a sense of humour
The greatest part about what the President of the IWK had to say, was that each of her 10 pieces of advice were things that everybody can do. And think, if everybody did just those four... what a different world we'd live in.

I read an article in the Globe and Mail today. "Lessons from my smart, sad, homeless sister". A beautiful testimony to the value of human life. The heart-wrenching story of someone who needed help.  A harsh reminder of the legitimacy of mental health.

It came at perfect timing, today is #BellLetsTalk Day. For every tweet with that hashtag, Bell will donate $0.05 to mental health initiatives. A recent tweet by @Bell_LetsTalk reads, "Canada, it's not even lunch time yet and we just passed 20,000 tweets. Let's keep it going. #BellLetsTalk". The support this campaign has seen is an affirmation of the incredible power of social media and the unbelievable compassion of humanity. I've seen Canucks Hockey, Prime Minister Harper, the Canadian Cancer Society, Justin Trudeau and the Canadian Olympic Team all encouraging support for this campaign.  Let's be there for a friend in need. Let's destigmatize mental illness.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


My nasals are congested, my eyes are droopy, here I sit, 5 rows back on the far right side of the Potter Auditorium.

Roughly 50 people sit in this class of who knows how many more than that. My professor is lecturing on "Early Leadership Theories" and the managerial grid while I sip away at my barely-warm chai tea.

Yesterday I played in the snow, something that, at my age, we don't do nearly enough of. Wholesome fun at it's finest. Wholesome fun, much like the snow parkour we did, performing summersaults, headstands and round-offs over a pile of ploughed snow. And, wholesome fun, like the snowball fight  I participated in a few weekends ago on a sunny Sunday morning on the top of a snow-blanketed meadow overlooking the rural Nova Scotian community of New Germany. 

On the walk back from the meadow to our retreat home, we found the greatest in natural skin exfoliators, the lush forest-green moss covering the bark of one of the 32 native tree species of the Acadian Forest. 

The Acadian Forest is one of six endangered forests in North America, and what a shame that is because as the snow trickled down across New Germany, I walked unaccompanied amongst the trees. With a questionable trail map, and I wandered in no definitive direction, in awe of the natural beauty. I have no recollection of time that day. It could have passed twice as fast, or it could have stopped all together, and I wouldn't have known. It didn't matter. I was in tune, at peace, with the woods.

The power of nature amazes me. Fungi has brought my mother and Zoe to Facebook friendship. They now share, with each other, their photos of eukaryotic organisms.

Photo courtesy of Abigail Claeys Odland.
This weekend was spectacular. As well as playing in the snow, I played my fair share of Boggle creating more words than I ever thought possible with a 4 by 4 grid of letters. I spent one night watching the Canucks game with a great bunch of BC folks; and here I thought that by  moving across the country, I would be consequently watching Canucks games all by my lonesome.   

On Friday I danced to the good old Celtic music of Jimmy Sweeney & Kevin Roach. The Old Triangle, I can tell you, is a hot spot for anyone over the age of 60 who has a good pair of dancing shoes. A true Nova Scotian I can now call myself, having finally danced to a fiddle and guitar. 

Then, on Saturday, I was so fortunate as to see the The Tragically Hip, touring with the Arkells. What a show! The band may have formed 11 years before I even existed, but they certainly have not lost any of their flair. Even though much of their setlist were songs from their 2012 album that I was mostly unfamiliar with, the influence of live music is ineffable. The presence of a Canadian rock band from Kingston, Ontario, even more transcendent.

Now, it's Tuesday evening. I've just returned from a sweaty and rejuvenating class of Moksha. I have returned to my day of statistical equations and economic policies. As my inspiration for the night, here is the transcript of a beautiful statement made by Vancouver high school student, Sam Harrison, to a Northern Gateway Pipeline review panel. It brought shivers down my spine when the passionate 16 year old, whom I biked to legislature with, finished off with:
This is why I’ve spent my high school career not partying and hanging out with friends, but advocating for political change because I know, even if we don’t stop this project, some day when I have kids and they look me in the eyes and ask, “What the hell were you thinking, why didn’t you do anything about this?” I know I’ll be able to look them back in the eyes with absolute confidence and say, “I’m sorry. I tried my very hardest.”
Biking 70 kilometers alongside this kid, seeing the burning passion in his eyes as he protested the pipeline on the steps of Provincial Legislature and hearing the desperation in his voice, chanting, as we approached Victoria's city centre, I know how badly this guy cares.

Now, off to bed for a sleep that will hopefully leave me with something worthy of documenting in my dream book.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Every New Year Comes From Some Other New Year's End

Twenty thirteen. The years keep sounding increasingly futuristic. If vehicle automation has been the revolutionary transportation development of twenty twelve, imagine what our world might look like in twenty twenty...

At this stage in a life, every year seems to be a huge one. This year, however, has been extraordinarily huge. It was the year I turned the legal age to vote and buy lottery tickets in BC. It was the year I graduated from high school. It was the year I ventured across the country to start my post-secondary education.

Just as every year ends, I like to reflect back upon the highlights of the year drawing to a close. As I do this, I am reminded about how fortunate I am to live the life I do... such a comfortable one, full of rich opportunities, packed with loved ones who care about me and never lacking of adventure and enjoyment. Here are some of my fondest memories of 2012:

- My eighteenth birthday spent at the Hyatt Regency Hotel for the Vancouver Model United Nations conference where I played the role of the delegate for Honduras on the DISEC committee.

- In February I found myself segwaying through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco with members of my hockey team and their parents.

- Avalanche tearing it up at the MLK tournament in San Jose. The North Shore Pee Wees, Bantams and Midgets all took home the gold. The advantage of playing in sunny California is that on our time off, we headed to the beach in Santa Cruz and hit up Boardwalk amusement park for a beautiful day of sunshine and team bonding.

- Hanna and Bernard's 50th Anniversary called us out to Lethbridge where we celebrated the outstanding marriage of my grandparents. More friends of my grandparents showed up than I even knew they had. We had a blast visiting with both sides of the family and especially getting those famous family portraits done.

- While the male portion of my family spent a weekend watching the Giants play in San Francisco, my mother and I rode our bikes on board the ferry to Salt Spring Island for a weekend of trekking our bikes up the hill to our hotel, hiking, farmers' markets and some precious mother/daughter time.

- Playing my final hockey game ever as an Avalanche, ever as a minor hockey player. I remember how fortunate I felt after that game, to have been blessed with such great coaches, such amazing team members and such supportive parents over the years. Hockey, as a sport has been a huge passion of mine. Hockey, as a social gathering, has been much more than that. "There is no feeling quite like being part of a team."

- Of course, our Asia trip. Almost too incredible for me to put into words; seeing the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, climbing the Great Wall of China, sea kayaking through the caves of Phuket and seeing the most brilliant phosphorescence of my life. Motoring through the floating city outside of Siem Reap, paddling through the floating market in Bangkok, taking Thai cooking classes in Chiang Mai, riding the Tuk Tuk around the streets of Bangkok and experiencing a meal for royalty in a back alley in Beijing. Adventuring through the forbidden city, trying to eat vegetarian in a place where English was seen as gibberish, watching Buddhist monks worship in Wat Pho (Temple of the reclining Buddha) and in Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of Emerald Buddha).

- Presenting my proudest accomplishments, my personal growth stories and my plans for future endeavours during my exit interview. Sharing some of your most personal life with a panel of teachers, students and community members was a rewarding and feel-good experience.

- Getting tagged out of the bead game... on the third day of action. Then I just got to watch it all unfold while I lived a life of freedom. Until... I was handed down the horrendous job of judging. Even in the hundreds of middle of the night phone calls and the ridiculous amount of time I spent judging a tag I did not witness, I found some sort of amusement and enjoyment.

- Snowshoeing to Dog Mountain with Brianna on a beautiful May day. The sun was shining bright, the snow was sparse but the sky was brilliant blue. The view when you approach Dog Mountain is breathtaking, especially when you're gazing out wearing just a t-shirt.

- On June 2nd, in Richmond, BC, the Vancouver (MOB)ilizers hosted Bands for Berna, where young local talent performed with proceeds benefiting our MOB village of Berna, India. There is something about the atmosphere of a (MOB)ilizers event that cannot be explained. The incredible musical talent and the passion for a better world was captured in that room to create a bundle of heartwarming good-vibes.

- In June, I graduated from Seycove Secondary. Walking across the stage alongside 130 other grads in that gymnasium where we wrote so many exams, played so many basketball games, sat through so many Remembrance Day ceremonies and performed so many band and choir concerts.

- Grad dinner/dance was one of those milestones that you will remember for the rest of your life. Hearing Mr. Russell give a touching toast to the graduates of 2012; commenting on the bright futures that await us and reminiscing on how much he's seen us grow throughout the past 5 years of our lives. Then, kicking my shoes off and dancing my heart out with friends, new and old, with teachers and that daddy/daughter dance.

- In the wee hours of the morning, hopping on the bus with those 130 classmates I had just danced to the point of sweat with. Heading off to Lytton, BC for some camping and white water rafting. Riding the rapids of the Thompson Fraser River, while, as the guide told us, the waves were at record breaking heights was the greatest of adrenaline rushes. Then back to our campsite, where we played cards, hackey sack and a good old game of beach volley ball with all our fellow graduates.

- For the months of July and August, I worked as a bike instructor at Pedalheads. Watch your back Wednesdays never failed to end in either laughter or tears. I calculated that throughout the summer I helped approximately 77 kids learn how to ride a bike. How's that for a summer job?

- Just as the previous two years, three of my summer weekends were spent tenting at Burnaby Lake with Catching the Spirit where we canoed with beavers, removed invasive species and transformed our community garden. Star gazing during a meteor shower, singing camp songs on the sky train and playing ridiculous camouflage games will never get old.

- One August weekend was spent on Keats Island with Brooke and Lisa Hogan. Lots of ocean activities, exploring the forests and the Mancala board game. We even made it over to Gibsons for some SeaCav festivities and their famous fish and chips. It was a fantastic weekend with the sister I never had, and my second mother.

- On August 25th, I, along with many other young environmental activists, Rode for our Future. We cycled our bikes 70km, from the Scott Road Skytrain station in Surrey to the Provincial Legislature in Victoria. As the mass of bikers approached the heart of downtown Victoria, we were chanting "This is what democracy looks like, we say stop the carbon pipeline." Then, at the legislature buildings themselves, young people performed spoken word poetry, and youth as young as 16 years old gave inspirational speeches vocalizing against Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. From River Road in Delta, to the Galloping Goose Trail; it was a gorgeous ride for an even better cause.

- Sitting in Rogers Arena with my good friends Patrick and Marie seeing Coldplay play The Scientist and Clocks live.

- Receiving the Soroptimist International of North and West Vancouver's Violet Richardson award. Attending the awards banquet with a room full of such an amazing group of women was an empowering experience. I was more than honoured to be the recipient of the award.

- Winning the silver at softball provincials with the 94 Stars. Although the silver really means nothing to me... it's the egg toss moments, the lama pictures, the overflowing hot tubs, and the laughing until my stomach hurts, as well as the caught balls, the slides into home, the feel-good hits, the foreseen coaching errors, the double plays, the hot boxes and the epic injuries that I will store fondly in my memory for years to come.

- My first attendance at Vancouver's Pride parade. Thousands of people lined Davie Street and the surrounding area to not only show support for the LGBTQ community, but also to express their own sexuality and to have a great ole' time. Friday, Saturday and Sunday of that weekend were spent downtown with great friends, with lots of Hell's pizza, with a swim at 3rd beach, with plenty of Perrier (because "The more the Perrier!"), with boccie in McCartney Park, with drag queens galore and with flamboyant rainbow floats like you've never seen before.

- Spending one of my last nights in Vancouver with good friends and great live music at Gotye.

- Skinny dipping in the Pacific with all my good high school friends the night before I was about to embark on a new journey in my life.

- Boarding a plane in Vancouver, destination Halifax for my first semester of many at Dalhousie University. There was some anxiety, a bit of nervousness, excitement and even fear. Heading off to an unfamiliar place with not a single familiar face was tough. I quickly discovered; however, that my decision was the right one and I was glad that I took that giant leap.

- Paper Lions, Yukon Blonde and Jeremy Fisher rocking the outdoor stage on the Dalhousie Quad for Dalfest. Free outdoor concerts, gotta love 'em!

- Three of my good Dalhousie friends and I spending two November nights camping in the Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail along the Chebucto Peninsula, Nova Scotia. Eating cold soup and oatmeal, drinking chunky lake water, and hiking 38 kilometres through a vast array of landscapes

- Skinny dipping in the frigid Atlantic in December with my new friends from University.

- Riding the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, at Lawrencetown Beach on December 9th... in 5 degree weather.

- Skiing Whistler on December 26th, having 7cm of fresh powder overnight and not a single line up at the lifts. Boxing Day skiing, I've decided, is far superior to Boxing Day shopping.

I am one blessed girl. Here's to another year full of laughter, peace and happiness. And to creating more great memories.