Tuesday, May 22, 2018

...brings May flowers.

The weather is more consistently sunny in May, my wardrobe is a little brighter and maybe my outlook too.  Soon I'll attend the evening entertainment as daylight hours run longer, nothing game-changing but just simply pleasant.  Here are some flowers around the West End.
I've visited smaller communities surrounding Vancouver: Steveston, Fort Langley, White Rock.  Just a brief visit for an afternoon, it feels like a breath of fresh air.  Proud of their history, mellow jazz quartet in the park, farmer's market on the weekend, easy walk along the promenade.  Sometimes I think I could/should settle in a community like that, but there's not a lot of services or employment available if I can't 'get by' on selling art alone (not that I've really attempted to do so thusfar).  Idyllic and cute, but at the mercy of tourist dollars - then again, much of Vancouver is too.  Maybe it's enough just to visit.  Maybe it doesn't matter where I am, given that I carry my "home" on my back.
I've been alone and with friends.  Had conversations both light and deep with people I see either rarely or often.  Good to bounce ideas off of, so thank you all for that.
I watched the trains come along the White Rock beach.  It sounded its horn from afar, and for a brief moment I felt the urgent pang from childhood raised by the tracks, that you must CHOOSE what side of the tracks to be on for the duration of the train passing.  The side with the beach, or the side with ice cream shops?! Whichever side we don't choose, all that it offers will be unavailable! I then thought how that's such a knee-jerk trigger when my adult sensibilities know I have plenty of time to mosey across the tracks before the trains arrival, and that both sides will be an option once the train passes, and this too shall pass. I can't recall at what age this shift in attitude came, and thought on that barring any life-altering event or recognised milestone we don't really notice growing up.

I still wave at the trains as they pass, in case the engineer waves back.  There's no more caboose at the end of the trains, just an electronic eye I suppose is for safety.  I wave at that too.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The precariousness of providence.

April brings about brighter times, the weather a bit warmer and skies a bit bluer.  It's felt like a long dull winter and many are desperate to shrug off that insulating grey instead to seek some fresh input - anything, even the smallest detail.  Some are already stubbornly in sandals despite the looming threat of long constant rain, but with the sharp frosts behind us the flowers are abundant and celebrated.  Somehow I'd barely noticed the pioneering crocuses fight their way through hard ground this spring, but the year rolls on whether one's preoccupied or not.  We're already in tulip+daffodil season now.
Vancouver had our annual Cherry Blossom Festival, and the different strains of cherry trees here stagger their peak blooming time to give us a whole month of flowering trees and parks.  I attended a guided walk a few springs ago, weaving our way through tiny pockets of greenspaces and urban oasis I assumed were private courtyards.  There is a certain peace of mind that comes with observing the cherry blossoms, even as they're drifting apart like delicate confetti.  The 'sakura' epitomize the fleeting nature of youth and beauty.  Around this time of year I like to reread Will Ferguson's "Hitching Rides With Buddha", about a Westerner's northward migration following the cherry blossoms in Japan.  I have not been to Japan but found it an engaging read with good storytelling.
There seemed to be plenty of subtle hints of loss this month, yet somehow neither grim nor depressing, just... is.  Rabbit hemorrhagic fever swept the area decimating the wild rabbit population as well as a rabbit shelter.  A wave of flu ran through my friend's household that took an alarming toll on our elderly lady - currently she's fine, but brought to light that not everyone will recover always and that loved ones should have info and plans in place before the natural grief leaves us spinning our wheels, bringing in further difficult emotions.  I caught a segment on CBC Radio One about death, coping, and expression in art.  We discovered the WeCroak app of quotes and reminders to use our finite time wisely.  Altogether has been a creeping reminder of mortality tempered with philosophy - not to fortify ourselves against it but to be aware and maybe even appreciate it, to bend with grace to that we cannot change.  Everything and everyone I want to 'keep' can be lost.  And yet I feel quite calm.
I attended the Surrey Vaisakhi again this year, joining the throngs of masses for my fill of pakora, chaat, halwa and endless chai.  I was very satisfied with deliciousness! As well I amassed a full grocery bag of packaged goods, including my annual haul of Coke+Doritos which I ration carefully for the rest of the year.  I was there with great company, Enough of grey or even muted smokey blue, I wore bright turquoise! With that came good memories of the one who gave it to me, a good time we had back then.  While Vaisakhi is a foreign cultural observance, maybe I can have my own personal celebration.
From Surrey I returned to downtown Vancouver via a combination of buses and promptly lost a bag with half my edible goodies.  Providence giveth and taketh away.  While terribly annoying I can be grateful that a) I didn't pay for any of the yummy things, b) I didn't leave my purse of vital contents instead, and c) that as perishables are "up to the driver's discretion" to dispose of maybe it made a nice surprise for the bus driver, let the working man enjoy it since he likely didn't attend the event.
I had a great day with my belated tea+tarot reading.  Tea was a fun lychee-flavored one, good for spring.  As usual the cards gave me something to chew on; Chaos and Interference, but also a hermit in my recent past and the Ace of both Swords and Stones (Coins, Pentacles), both gifts from the universe! I think we have gifts from the universe often, and I acknowledge that I'm a lucky person, the key is to be aware of it.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Chilliwack and Hope

And so began a journey to see towns I seldom see.  I know they're there, and can provide services and amenities as reasonable civilization, but I usually just pass them by along the freeway.  I've brought my bag full of camping gear mostly intending to be independent, but as weather unfolds into unwelcoming rain and cold, I chose instead to stay indoors - either splurge on my own room with a shower+bed, or hobo out at a 24hr establishment.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

I depart in March.

And what about March?
It started off with my annual volunteering at the wine festival, featuring Spain+Portugal which I treat as a pleasant primer and research for my trip there next year.  I enjoyed engaging with common enthusiasts, principals and reps, and my fellow team.  That was a nice time,  for both the lectures and tasting room.
Right on the heels of that was a friend's birthday+wine tasting, and I found the conversation there comparatively less... enriching? Just that there's so much and it's yummy with nothing distinct about each and if given the opportunity to attend a tasting room they'd be SO hungover for work the next day!! Frankly this pervasive attitude towards alcohol just seems cheap and trashy and makes me just not want to invite people along to such events.  Too many around me make this a prerequisite for having a good social time.  Jeez people, lay off the sauce already. 
Maybe I'm a stick-in-the-mud or just not a party girl, but this just amplified my desire to be mostly alone now.  Along with my usual seasonal restlessness is the anniversary of sad events last year - I am blessed/cursed with a very good memory of such things - and the prevalence of St.Patrick's Day and Spring Break to party loudly and in excess.  I've chosen not to contribute my birthday to such, it would only get lost in the mix and and overlooked altogether.  I just want to go... away.
Thus I have selected a destination/route and will trek elsewhere, alone.  Chilliwack and Hope: two reasonably close-by towns along a major corridor which many pass by often but few visit longer than a quick lunch break on a road trip.  Although the weather may be inhospitable still with frost in the morning, I will spend a few days with tent and camp stove, living off ramen noodles and granola bars.  And a bottle of wine that was likely intended to drank young but that I've been keeping too long - if it's turned sour I'll simply get some oil+bread and sop it up with appreciation nonetheless.  Maybe light a candle.  Maybe bathe in a river.  Maybe watch the sunrise.  I think I need something clean, even if I'm dirty in the forest.  I need fresh air, even if it smells like the farmland of the Fraser Valley.  It just feels more honest and rewarding.  Even this long walk with a heavy pack gives me satisfaction, simply because I can.  There may come a day when I can't.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Re-staining.

What can I say about February? We've had snow and rain, as can be expected.  We've had Valentine's Day (which I still don't support one socially recognised day to acknowledge one relationship exclusively, and thus tried to spread out to see several treasured people); I went to Le Crocodile for fine French cuisine - passed on the fois gras but had escargot and liked the frogs legs in a broth rather than deep fried I had last year, and then a very nice caribou meal.  The next day I had a casual seafood melt at Speedy's pub on the river in Ladner for Valentine's Day brunch.
I skipped the Chinese New Year festivities in Chinatown, as the weather and crowds seemed less appealing than a lazy comfortable time among friends.
I should get going, on what I do not yet know.  There is my usual restless need for spring and better weather and opportunities, yet close memories of last year are uncomfortable and never far from mind.
In my travels I've found that places are like secondhand furniture: I'm not the first one to 'own' it and many have been here before, but it's new to me and now that it's with me I will personalise it to make it mine.  Sometimes that means sanding, stripping, refinishing, polishing, painting.  For wood this can be staining.  Old stains from many careless coffee cups on a table without coasters, spilled sauce or leaky pens, or perhaps a deliberate decorative stain that was meticulously done with care but just doesn't suit the new owner.  Maybe it's an accidental spill, or ugly blemish, or just outdated color.  It all soaks into the grain and can take much sanding to remove, or else find a way to re-stain it to some satisfactory condition I can live with.  That's where I'm at now.  Some places I was happy there I hesitate to revisit just because they're beautiful as I remember them, like Ireland.  Some routes I tread frequently like my childhood stomping grounds, and have enough associations both good and bad that it seems a multilayered spattering of nothing specific, just familiarity like an old workbench with the history of many projects.  And some places need to be re-stained, a way to reclaim them.  Given my typically very good memory of what happened where and when (perhaps I should've been a museum archivist or such), I ruminate carefully on the size, depth and degree of these stains to best choose what to accentuate and what to 'fix'.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Steady first, then movement.

"You have the power over your mind - not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength." - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


Dragon Turtle, combines courage and luck with longevity and stability.
As the first month of 2018 comes to a close I have no writing, arts or crafts to offer here.  Honestly I've been quite inactive and fermenting in thoughts with no resolution.  
-Thinking of turtles; native American spirit totem symbolising a self-contained creative source.  When I was younger I was spontaneously prolific, now much of my creations are tempered with design and - of course - planning.  Perhaps dormant dragons resemble turtles? Or maybe a dragon turtle in Eastern folklore (pictured here).  Some features remind me of my developed 'demon' creation I've drawn for years.
-Thinking of stones; commercially valued semiprecious stones or common tumbled beach pebbles.  Pretty and smooth and strong, their steady solidness a contrast to the plants that are just awakening now, which hopefully won't be killed off by a late frost.
-Thinking of grey; the myriad of different greys that carry more than a suffocating fog, but a serene dove grey, an earthy slate grey, the scholarly scratchings of pencil or graphite grey, the phantom smudge of smoke grey.  The stormy sky of summer grey, and how it's different from the calm sky of winter grey, and the grey of the sea.  Grey will compliment and balance the excitement of vibrant color.

I also rewatched an online series Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness by Alain de Botton.  Whether one agrees with or not the philosopher's suggestions presented, dialogue and self-examination are helpful in maintaining a critical yet fair perspective on attitude and circumstance.  "In order to live wisely, it isn't enough to read a philosophical argument once or twice, we need constant reminders of it, or we'll forget".  I find it quite refreshing.

I had back-to-back Australia Day and Robbie Burns Day (Scotland), and thus my obligatory kangaroo burger+didgeridoo and haggis+bagpipes. So begins the stirrings of far-off travel, though still just ideas.  Many places I've been I could happily revisit, but the latest thought are of northeastern Europe meandering from the Baltic to Black Sea, and Australia+New Zealand which I've been meaning to do since I was a kid, put to the back burner for 'easier' trips - in countries where I can hobo on a park bench and the wildlife isn't trying to kill me.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

For Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone. You know I'm not an overly boisterous person so if I'm not the classical definition of  'merry' I would at least strive for some reasonable steadiness even?
As usual I've avoided as much gross commercialism for the holidays as I can, and have focused my attention on a few homemade crafts for gifts.  I made a beaded Christmas spider.  I made chocolate rabbit pins for my rabbit people, inspired by the Make Mine Chocolate campaign to raise awareness for live rabbits (and by extension all pets) being given as gifts and subsequently abandoned after the novelty's worn off.  Originally they were vague rabbit silhouettes made of brown ceramic tiles, mine are done larger with more definition made with oven-bake polymer clay.  I made a few and those left may be treasures to find in a geocache I hope to publish next spring.  Maybe.
Christmas I spent with my family at their house for a few days.  I got to decorate a pre-fab gingerbread house (while my nephew plucked the candies off the roof, there was little interest/patience in the activity itself).  I colored in his new coloring book with new crayons.  I'm not very familiar with Thomas the Tank Engine and surely got the colors wrong, but it seemed mildly entertaining for a time. I have an _adult_ coloring book at home but with small shapes defined by outlines it leaves little imagination for tonal shading of surfaces or suggested textures. So here is my offering anyway, enjoy. 
Now I'm back downtown with my adult coloring book, and will meditatively try not to overthink it, commit to the action of doing rather than the finished result.  Eventually I'll find a subject and ambition enough to use my new pad of watercolor paper, to make something both loose yet precise, with flowing pooling pigment but crisp edges, subtle and pale.
Honestly I'm not looking forward to the new year as it will hold several anniversaries of painful discouraging times.  Perhaps I can drown them out with distractions, like a crow with something shiny - curious and attractive yet most likely useless.  I know it's all tied to my attitude and perspective - and no one else can fix that for me - nevertheless some days are more difficult than others.  I still consider myself very privileged and lucky, even when it doesn't feel like it.  I guess the key is gratitude, and to be grateful for the blessings who still choose to be in my life.