Thursday, July 23, 2015

euromoon (no, euromoon!)

This trip has been at least three years in the making. When I knew we were getting married, I dreamed that at the end of the big party, the big feelings, my shiny new husband and myself would be on a plane to Europe. While others get really excited for continents like Asia and South America, I pretty much only get googly eyes over the Big E.

(I don't know why. Maybe I'm secretly racist. Or maybe I was a colonizer who was afraid of planes and going too far from home, in a past life.)

In late 2012, I started to become aware of Icelandair and their stopover deals-- you can stay in Iceland for a maximum of seven nights on your onward destination to some other European country that the airline connects to. Two countries for the price of oooooone. Bicep + thumbs up emoji!
The closest North American hub to us was Seattle, and I plotted over who to bribe to drive us down to the States.

But it was not to be. School starts early in the Yukon, and so we pretty much only had two weeks for a trip after the wedding. We re-brainstormed and I put aside my Euro ideas for the moment. If you're a regular reader of this blog of mine, you know that we ultimately had a truly lovely mielmoon in Sooke and in New York.

Fast forward from 2013 to today. To the elements that made this trip happen! The reasons why I am typing to you in an airport, in full view of a 7-foot rotating turbine, with the cawing of a crow in the background (poor buddy has been making the international wing, gate D53, his home for two weeks now, airport staff say):

  • Icelandair opened up Vancouver as a departure point
  • Maggie and Jenkin got engaged and decided their wedding would be in London
  • I begged my husband pleasepleaseplease can we go? And can we travel before the wedding?And I promised this would be one of the last big international trips we would take for a long time (Asia when we have babies, being the other).
  • He begrudgingly said yes. (Begrudging because of carbon guilt; not the wedding)
  • (I'm exaggerating about begging to be allowed to go to the wedding. It was really the other 4 weeks of travel outside of London that I had to negotiate.)
  • We quit our teaching jobs in the Yukon and weren't constrained anymore by school starting in mid-August
  • I got into my Masters program and realized that my next two summers are going to be fully dedicated to school, and this is truly the only summer for a while to do something like this
  • We started a budgeting system for the first time, and saved up as much krona as we could in anticipation of all the lamb hotdogs and geothermal pools we'd frequent

I feel really lucky. Like pinch my butt lucky. I am excited and nervous and tingly that our five week adventure begins today! If you squint, you can make out that the map on the first picture above has a tentative plan from when I first imagined the itinerary a couple years ago. I love looking at it, because the countries we bounced around back then have changed a few times by now, and because it reminds me that if you eke out a vision of what you want out of life, it has the possibility of coming true.

We're no longer going to Rome or Florence or Sardinia or Corsica like in the original plan. We're not going to ride a train through the Swiss Alps, either. There have been so many different iterations of what this journey might look like, and at some point I have mourned the ghost ships that we won't be on. 

BUT. B and I are pretty stoked about the final itinerary we came up with, and invite you to take a look. If you have any tips about any of our stops, please let us know!

July 22nd - July 30th -----  Reykjavik + Southeast Iceland (car camping)

July 30th - August 4th ----- Copenhagen, Denmark

August 4th - August 8th ----- Cortina D'ampezzo, Italy 
(The city we will base ourselves out of for hiking the Dolomites)

August 8th - August 10th ------ Venice, Italy

August 10th - 17th ------ South of France 
(Road trip through Aix-en-Provence, Lauris + Luberon valley, Marseilles)

August 17th - 25th ------ London, England


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Of Late: June Musings

1/ Peonies: a living work of art     2/ Earl Grey donut date    3/ Trying out glasses-wearing again      4/ Nairn Falls

        5/ Pie birthday party at the park    6/ Matt Kivel record to make our collection a little bit more mellow 

        7/ My first growing thing to sprout from a seed!   8// Pops + Sis celebration

Thank you for reading my last post. I was nauseous about sharing, but it turned out the reaction to it was entirely supportive, loving, and affirmative. It sparked a lot of conversation, received over 500 unique page views, and folks from halfway around the world popped in to take a look. I think this means that we are all craving more authenticity. Not just story telling, but truth telling. 

I will keep that thought in my pocket the next time I stumble and think: this must only ever happen to me and mine.

Now. On to June. It has been a full, full month, and I'd like to empty my head of all the disparate thoughts and sights I experienced this past moon. Maybe think of this as a monthly, discombobulated update to you, my virtual penpal? 


(I don't feel like doing the same template from last month, so... I'm not sure what's going to come out of my mouthbrain. Here goes.)

Of late...

June Was// Brimming over with leftover confetti. Purposeful, professional days. Social nights. Camping two out of four weekends. If I could take naps without heart palpitations, I might need a tall drink of one, just to recover from all the activity.

Toes// are painted a white-out white. 

:) List// That it is now seasonally appropriate to wear my birkenstocks everyday.  The bees that hang out next to our lavender bush. Season 3 of Orange is the New Black. Waking up this week without the alarm going off. Successfully registering for all the courses I wanted for my Masters come September. Season 2 of Brooklyn 99. BBQ steak. A husband who makes the best granola.

:( List// Getting next to no calls for work this week. Feeling overwhelmed about a very busy summer. Asparagus.

Feeling// excited that my parents moved to East Van last weekend! Best sister and husband team who helped them get settled, while I was off doing Maid of Honor camping duties. They live a 19 minute walk (I timed it on Monday evening) from us. A block off Trout Lake. I have absolutely no nostalgia for the Richmond house that I hear is now already torn down.

Body// is a bit bloaty. Probably too much bread. I don't know how I managed to successfully avoid it all winter, and then start eating it like it is air in the summer. 

Wearing// cut off shorts, everyday. Summer is my least inspired season to get dressed in.

Proud About// Having my last session with my counsellor last Saturday. She gave me all her notes she's taken over the past few months. I haven't sifted through them yet, but look forward to it. I am happy to have my weekend time back, but feel like it was a huge blessing to be able to tell someone what was going on for me, week after week. Walking up that big hill on Saturdays, I would dread it--'cause being honest and accountable is hard work. But sure enough, I'd always walk back down the hill, lighter than when I trudged up.

Questions on repeat in my Brain// Do we buy a new camera for Europe since Nikki is on her last legs? If so, which one? How do I read on our five weeks overseas? Do I need to invest in a Kindle or e-reader thingy? Should I cut my hair? How is it almost July already?

Things I Ate Lately That Tasted Good// Rhubarb-strawberry-apple crumble. Everything at Chicha, the Peruvian restaurant at Main and Broadway. Any salad as long as it is Bryan making the dressing, not me.

Upcoming// BFF six-pack reunion in the Yukon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bye for now. I have to keep reading a book that is due back at the library on Friday. Priorities. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

An Essay on the Perils of Moving-While-Married

It is the month of June: the same month that we got into our blue truck named Bibi and left the Junction for a more southern postal code.

 It will be a year soon, since we left for good.

 The blasting sun, the heady smell of hot pine, bird calls early in the morning-- all this reminds me of that month we rolled up to BC and tentatively reclaimed it as ours.

I wrote this essay in the winter of 2014. It's been ready to publish for months now.

Each time I thought about pressing the button to post, I would hesitate. It felt still too close to me, like looking in the rear view mirror and seeing objects that appear closer than they actually are.

But! it is the month of June! Earth has nearly completed a full orbit from when I felt these things last!

My synapses that hate Change, that are slow to fire, have finally done so.
I am happy here, in this postal code. I feel grounded. I love my husband.

(Thank God.)

So now I share with you a time when I was very, very, very, very, not.

Thanks for reading. Let it serve you and me as a reminder that life is full of hardness and lightness both.

An Essay on the Perils of Moving While Married

I moved this summer, and it nearly did me in. It split my brain apart from my heart apart from my spirit. I think I left one amidst the Spruce trees of the Yukon, another around the metal grated fire at the Lac la Hache campground, as we zigged and zagged along the Alaska Highway. By the time we arrived in our chosen metropolis, on the first of July, I only had my brain left. That fleshy pile of solid noodles. That Zordon face trapped in a glass tube. That magnificent organ, like a combustible engine, intermittently sputtering, then firing.

It turns out that when it is just the one without the others, you feel numb. Disconnected. I went through the motions of taking our worldly possessions (which fit, dusty and Macguyver'd in the space of a 6' X 12' Uhaul trailer) from a three bedroom cottage we had lived in for four years -- where I had grown into an adult, a woman, a wife, a teacher, a nurturer, cross country skier, pie baker, snow lover-- 3000 kilometres south in a truck with my husband, back to a city we both used to call home, when we were both single and fiercly independent.

Where, actually, there was no home waiting for us.

There was a storage locker, with an orange door, monotonously nestled in with its siblings, row upon row. We shoved our stuff in. One half of a moose antler. An old panasonic electronic piano I swore I would play, but never did. A diaorama of Macbeth my student made, complete with Banquo's ghost, a severed playdough tyrant's head, three felt witches around a cauldron. We shuffled boxes from trailer to wheely cart to locker, over and over for hours. The ephemera of my life and his and ours that constituted what we thought was sacred and important, now that four walls couldn't protect it anymore.

 We lived in a perfectly lovely sublet that first month while we hunted for our more permanent home, and my numbness oscillated between feeling nothing, to feeling everything. And by everything, I mean anger. I was angry at the tall buildings, for trying to ascend to the sky. I was angry at all the pedestrians and cyclists, spilling over the seawall for being in the way of what was supposed to be my peaceful bike ride. I was angry at the sun, for being so hot, for causing me to squint. I was angry at the city that should feel like my city, was my city, but was alien to me.

 I was angry at my husband, for trying to be happy.

Without my heart and my spirit, I had no business being happy. And if I didn't, then it hurt me like a sunburn to be surrounded by other people that seemed to wear joy with ease.
I felt like a disappointment to the friends and family that asked, with glee "Are you so excited to be home?" 

No, said my eyes, my mouth. No, said my hair, my skin.

I thought it would be Yes. For this was a city I trippingly flew back to, every teacher summer, so I could soak up the love and food and culture before starting a new school year in a snowy, one horse town. I would ache for it every time I stared at my empty fridge, devoid of fresh green vegetables, and wonder who I could bribe to pick up some kale for me.

 But. In spite of a longing to move away every time the thermometer dipped below -30 C, in spite of the knowledge that this northern adventure was only temporary, in spite of missing my family and my friends who were all so far away from me... I was unprepared to go. Because, well. It always feels safer to stay. I was a big fish in a small ice pond. I didn't know who I was going to be, next.

So in the midst of grieving that I had turned the page on a very fulfilling chapter in my life, I hovered in a limbo of no fixed address. Yes, we had this sublet and a roof over our heads, but it is hard to feel like you have arrived at your destiny when someone else's wedding pictures are staring at you, night after night.

 After weeks of searching on craigslist for a suitable house, we found one. It was the main level of a cheerful white and brown heritage home, with a fresh canvas of wood floors, pale walls and high ceilings.

I wish this was the part of the essay where I dazzle you with the resolution of this moral: that I found my way back to me with the signing of the rental agreement, that life began to be resolved and ravelled because we had a place to call our own. And yet.

There were the to do lists now to do. The thousands of seemingly innocuous decisions to be made. The lack of shower curtain, which meant a tepid pool of water for a week on the bathroom floor. The sitting on camping mats in lieu of a couch. The bickering.

I write this essay, truly, because I was as blindsided as I could be that this move made such an impact on my marriage. I knew that illness, infidelity, infertility-- these things can threaten to make two people deeply in love become unbound. But moving? I would have never, ever imagined that this would bring us to that Ledge.

One day, after what felt like a lifetime of conversations at the dinner table that centered around our next trip to Home Depot, we hit a wall. The teacher strike loomed over us like a shadow. We had no jobs, no routine, and the roots that we each had individually laid deep in the soil of Vancouver were ours alone. We had not yet grown anything here as a couple, and the air was thick with something that had ballooned without us knowing it.

One of us had a tone that was too biting; the other's face had an air of evasion, an expression that read "I cannot bear to be arguing with you again, so I ignore it all instead." This was probably fight # 52.
We had been trying so hard to make careful, thoughtful decisions that would turn this house into our home, and cement our way back to safety and steady ground. Maybe this mid-century coffee table holds the key to my happiness; maybe this will make my heart come back to me. 

We each stared at the floor in silence, the unspoken fears of this reality taking painful shape around us. Each thinking, but not articulating the worry: is this what will break us? And. So soon?

He was the first to speak. He spoke the fears that I had been thinking so hard in my brain for weeks-- things I had been repeating so loudly in my headspace that I was scared they would become audible. He expressed a worry that this near constant bickering was heading towards something grey. Something that started with a capital D.

To be clear: talking about divorce is not the same thing as making the decision to divorce, or wanting it, or accepting that it is your fate. Rather, it is a step in your marriage where you realize that you and he-- no matter how cute and complementary, or how rad your wedding was, how everyone says "You guys are so good to together"--are not invincible. That if you do not safeguard certain promises and try your best at candor, your marriage faces the same finite end as all couples do. It is the step where you begin to understand how precarious and precious and worthy this union is. Not fragile, but certainly something to protect. And it humbles you, to the core.

It is funny how as soon as a fear or anxiety is said aloud, it has the power to then dissipate. Whereas it used to be just me and my brain being spun out in worry over the fear of failing at marriage, fear at failing at being an adult, his words built a bridge that meant we could start walking towards each other again in Oh Man, I'm Scared Too and Let's Be on the Same Team Anyway.

Please don't let anyone tell you that moving is not as hard of a life change as as all the other things. Let's not minimize each other's struggles. Anything that impacts your ability to look in the mirror and say "Here is where I stand and where I lay my head at night and this is the community that loves me and this is where I feel useful and important" -- that is daunting stuff. Then throw a first year of marriage in there? Oof.

I am beginning to see that it is so important to talk aloud to one another about it all: struggles in your life, struggles in your marriage. The only failure would be to keep it to yourself, and assume that you are the only person that undergoes hard times, to believe that it is weak to be vulnerable.

I knew who I was in the Yukon (for the most part), and I expected the same woman to be here in Vancouver, but she isn't--not quite yet. She is taking her gentle time. In the interim, I grapple with accepting that she will be here eventually, that her heart and spirit are still somewhere on the highway, doing their damndest to hitchhike their way back.

So, I peer through the horizontal blinds of the huge windows of this beautiful house, hoping that I've sowed enough oats and notes that they arrive safely back to where they belong.
 In our home, with my husband and me.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Of late: May Musings

       1/ Watermelon radish reverence.  2/ Hey Happy cafe in Victoria.  3/ Brown Ridge, Saturna Island.  4/ Emily Carr 2015 grad show.
5/ Hidden brook at corner of St. George & 11th.  6/ Bagels in Mt. Pleasant.  7/ IT'S OK at home.  8/ Raspberry rhubarb.

 I told you I'd write soon, and then a whole season went by. The cherry blossoms even came and went. No apologies-- because no posts means living my life; actually standing under the blossoms and having blossom fights (like snowball fights, but with pink petals), rather than documenting everything-- but I am eager to carve out a space for this once more.

This is just a little something, fashioned from a structure that I saw elsewheres, but it's enough to thrust me back into using my fingers to type the words that I feel so hard in my brain. 

I do hope you've been well.


of late, I am...

Making// time for myself. I've been following the cues of my body and heart, and not overdoing social time. It might not make sense to an extrovert, but I'm finding that I am the most me and the most present when I schedule one friend date during the school week (usually one-on one), and then one other/ maybe bigger social event on the weekend (family date, bunch of friends for dinner, or another one on one). Anymore than that, and I go a little sideways. 

Drinking// warm lemon water in the morning, and ACV in hot water for the rest of the day. A sip of B's beer at dinner just for the taste.

Reading//  a novel and a half per week. Being a substitute means that there are stretches of time where I can close the classroom door, and get lost in words for a while. I've read more in the past three months than in the previous three school years, I think. I get recommendations from friends, the internet, then place books on hold at the library and visit their aisles routinely. 

Recent favourite: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. (electric)
Currently thumbing through: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (so good, even 60 pages in, even about BASEBALL)

Wanting// the feeling of peace and mindfulness to stick around. So golden in the moment you have it, but slippery too. Trying not to want it too much, and let things be.

Watching// the last season of Parenthood with B, and lamenting that it's almost over. A tiny bit let down by Season 3 of House of Cards so far. 

Listening// to traffic on Fraser St. and not being bothered by it. (this is drastically different from just eight months ago).

Eating// a bit too much sugar. And lots of home cooked meals. 

Feeling// a lot of love and wonder for my friends here in BC, and wishing those in the Yukon lived closer.

Wearing// all my prettiest shoes to school, without the need for snowboots or rainboots for the walk to work. This hasn't happened in four years. 

Noticing// that feelings come and go, always. Even the anger. Even the jubilation. 

Thinking// about softening. About being gentle with the critic. About the columns in my spreadsheet for our trip to Europe that are filling up with plane tickets, car rentals. About what these next months hold.


Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 in Pictures


I thought about you, this, often in the last five months. I should write something. So much has happened. I should record it for me, for us, for them. 

At some point, after a couple months and then one more, and another... it becomes much harder to begin again. The images and events seem to take on either very mundane properties, or becomes so huge that I wonder, how can I explain this to anyone?

So I suppose it takes something like the first day of a brand new year to catapult me out into the expansive sky again.

As per tradition, I give you my collection of 2014 photographs. I do it more for me than you. It steadies me to know where I've been; it shows me the history of this year that makes up the skin cells and molecules I have at this moment.

To be sure: know that it has been a bit of a trying year. Pictures don't ever capture this. Sometimes it feels like a falsehood for me, to share images of only the highlights, and not talk about the hardships that come from being complex human beings. I don't want to mislead you, or myself.

So trust that when you see my photos--or anyone's photos, for that matter-- you are seeing the golden moments. The ones that inspire hope or laughter. The ones that remind you that life is good. The ones that are necessary.

Gratitude to the golden moments of this year that got us through all the changes of growing up.

Happy New New.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Love Letter

On our last full day in the Yukon, I finally broke the ice with my favourite server at Sakura Sushi. She may not be everybody's favourite--she's got a stony face that rarely smiles, but she is so efficient and so unapologetically herself. In our four years of living up North, she had never engaged me in conversation before, so I take it as a sort of opening of the universe that this happened just as I was preparing my heart to leave.

She wanted to know if I was Chinese (yes), if I was a visitor (no), and then ultimately, did I live in Whitehorse (no, Haines Junction.)

Her characteristically impenetrable face shifted like a seismic event.

"Haines Junction?! Why would you live there? It's so small! Whitehorse is okay, but Haines Junction?"

Yes, Haines Junction.

You are so beloved.

This fondness: I didn't think that it would happen to me, when I moved there in 2010. We thought, at most, we would ride out one year and get some experience and pad the resume. I kept the Yukon at arms distance, never allowing it to reach any real part of me.

But.. you got in, you wily bastard. You got in and you now claim pieces of my heart.

I grew up there. Or, it may be more true to say, I grew longer there; wider there. I stretched myself very tall, and spread my fingers until they were full. If my spine is straighter, it is because of you; if my soul is stronger, that is because of you too.

I know that nostalgia has a way of highlighting only the most golden tones, and it forgets all the lonely moments, far away from family. But this is a love letter to you: so nostalgia away. Golden everything, for the moment.

You were so vast, that you gave me the space to change. There was no ceiling on the tops of your sky, so I never feared that I would hit my head if I kept on aiming higher.

So I kept on aiming higher.

Your mountains and trees were still for me, in the moments in my heart that I was anything but. You let me walk in your forests, and worry them with my feet, just as I was worrying in my mind. Somehow, each time I was finished in those sacred green spaces, back on the gravel road, clarity or peace would hold my hand.

I think that you are magical.

Your wisdom rubbed off on me, and you trusted me to take care of the young people on your land that are lost, or scared or needing to be understood. When I think of them, the ache in my chest is great. They were my light on very dark days, and taught me more than I ever taught them. My last day at school was a big splinter in my thumb; a crack on my favourite mug... they were so excited for summer to be here, that I don't know if they realized truly that we would never banter in the hallway again, or eat walnuts in my office and talk about their troubles.

I did.

So I hugged each of them as many times as they would let me.  If I could have shrunken them down and carried them with us in the pocket of my jeans, I would have. But then that would be taking them away from you, and you are what is right for them.

You filled our loneliness at being away from home, with the most beautiful people on earth. Truly. If friends are family that you get to choose, then our Yukon family was one of the best choices we have ever made. They folded us into the batter of their lives as if we had always belonged there. It is soothing stuff, to be made to feel like you belong. It allows you to be brave, genuine, good. It means that you are seen and heard. I am realizing these days, that one of the most important things to feel as a human being, is that you are seen and heard for exactly as you are.

These last few weeks have been sprinkled with some tears. I feel very much like I am not here, in the present moment. Not yet. It is frustrating as all hell for me to feel this way. I cherish feeling peace, of accepting the choices I've made in life. I don't like regret. People ask me if I am so excited to be here, and their faces fall a bit as I can't match their own joy. I feel a bit lost.

So I do this:

Late at night, when it is 1am and I am still awake because of feeling all the feelings, you arrive. I think you are my spirit animal. I imagine that you turn into a blanket--one that is slightly golden, the kind that if I squint, I know each strand is made of raven, elk, moose, friendship, mountain, snow, children, fire. I feel you gently laying on me. You know I like compression, so I am squeezed equally from all sides and the force creates some support for my raw heart. I get to go to sleep.

My dear friend, you taught me to be patient and forgiving of myself, so I take that lesson into this new chapter. I don't feel, yet. But I will. Until I can, I know that you protect my ability to do so. I know from your teachings that in spite of these tall glass buildings I see around me, and the power lines that silhouette against these skies, there is no ceiling on my life.

I can keep aiming higher.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Life in Pictures: San Francisco

I'll have to come back one day with a pal or two in tow,
maybe during the spring or summer,
when I'm not spending most of the hours indoors,
conferencing, filling my brain with data,
(albeit really really good data),
and bring a pogo stick for getting up those insane hills.

Still, it was good and nice and necessary,
to leave the snow for a little while and head to
fog, and many coloured people,
and baked goods with edible flowers on them.