It wasn’t the first time I’d done a musical pilgrimage. Years ago, during a road trip to visit our friend Sheryl in New York, my sister, her kids and I travelled back up through Woodstock, and then tried our damnedest to find Big Pink, but there was some missing link in the road signs (we suspected perhaps the current home-owner might have caused this) and we just couldn’t find it. Many do it. Music, like all art, is a spiritual experience. And if music affects you as deeply as, say, Music from Big Pink or The Basement Tapes did Cathy and I, then you’d seize any opportunity to be in that place where it was created or inspired. It adds a whole other layer to the musical story and your experience of it.
So here I am in the beautiful town of Jasper and I realise Pyramid Lake is just a short jaunt out of town, and I have to go because it is at the centre of one of my long-time favourite Blue Rodeo songs, the trippy and joyful Cynthia. While here I learn that Jasper National Park is the world’s second largest dark sky preserve, and so how could star gazing in a place like this not inspire a beautiful song like that?
I love where I live. I love the noise and energy of the knockabout downtown. The diversity of all us that live here. And the tourists. The history welling within the bricks of this old neighbourhood. The endless supply of new things to do, different foods to try and culture to explore. That I don’t need to own a car. And that I can walk to work! Many unique neighbourhoods to discover. Grand building and humble alleys. A killer view of a really great skyline.
And a short walk to a small, floating, quieter world where just sitting down to watch if for a little while will soothe the mind and breath from all that bustle when it needs to.
It’s deepest, darkest winter. Technically it’s not the darkest winter; that went by a month ago and I am starting to notice the longer days and I'm grateful for that. But it’s deepest, darkest winter in that there are months of it behind us and months ahead. This past week we’ve been in a big freeze. And while winter walks usually feel good with cheeks glowing healthy pink and the hearty inhalation of great gobs of oxygen, recent blustery days have made it really unpleasant to be out.
I’m actively not complaining about the cold. In other parts of this province and most of my country it’s much colder than it is here. My Australian friends are enduring the worst heat wave they’ve ever had. In a cold snap you can make yourself more comfortable; in a heat wave there are only so many clothes you can take off. Cold is invigorating; heat is energy sapping.
In winter I miss the light more than anything. These days the subtle progress of daylight’s lingering over the street feels like a blessing; I want to reach out and grab it but the million colours of twilight elude me as exit the work day, moving westward ahead as I walk toward home. I miss the explosion of colours in the other seasons; winter's twilight is a jewel on the mostly monotone landscape.
The light has gone when I get home. I turn on the stove light, all my life a symbol of comfort. A symbol of the best thing about deepest, darkest winter – how good it feels to get home.
Happy New Year. Yeah, I know, it’s closer to February than it is to the new year swing over, but the break was intentional. Sort of. After the year of daily posting “rules,” which I didn’t stay true to in the end, I did what I have done upon being released from “rules” in the past –I revelled in the no more rules. The photo-a-day project was a good thing; don’t go thinking I’m regretting it. The exercise made me keep my eyes open, and I documented a year, and even if I didn’t manage the one-a-day in the end, I took lots and lots of photographs, a few of them decent. I’m just a natural rebeller against rules so I'd say I did pretty good. (Even better if I got the rest of December's photos back-posted!) Anyway, now that I’ve got those things expelled from my system I’m back. Here’s where I’m at.
At the beginning of the year, everyone is thinking about fresh starts and resolutions. As a big fan of fresh starts, it is the same for me too. If I were to state some resolutions, which I’m not going to do because I didn’t make any, but if I did, they would revolve around writing and creativity and personal authenticity and cooking and getting more sleep. And revitalizing this blog.
Over the extended bloggerly break I’ve been working out ideas about where I’d like to go with this space now that the photograph project is over. I still don’t have that clearly defined in my mind, but I do know that my intent is to put the focus back on finding inspiration and making pictures with words. What those pictures will look like, I have no idea; I’m just soldiering on.
I really loved writing people watching stories, but just I don’t have as many these days because I’m not trapped in subway cars with them for two hours or more a day any more. And this makes me very happy. I’ve always enjoyed the people-watching aspect of public transit, but doing it every day for several years took a piece out of me. For all the wonderful things a big city is, it is also filled with millions of people who aren’t looking beyond the ends of their noses in getting about their days and to an over-sensitive sod like me, the daily sea of rudeness was demoralizing. So I’m refocusing on the process of finding and developing inspiration in other ways, and my lovely, solitary walks to and from the office each day are the perfect times to meditate on that. That and, er, perhaps, some loving kindness toward the city full of rude people I’m still so quick to judge.
I will continue to use photos to enhance my blog space, but now I’m thinking about playing with photos creatively, and finally learning how to use my PhotoShop software to its full extent, and connecting them to the things I write. I’ve got a brand new phone and now a number of new camera apps to try too.
It’s January, my annual nesting period; and I’m obsessed with food. Every day I’m searching for new recipes, looking at my cookbooks and food blogs and the good thing is that I’ve tried, with success, a number of new favourites to put on the table. This past weekend’s kitchen adventures included tomato-onion-red pepper frittata (eaten over two breakfasts), chicken enchilada soup, vegetable barley soup, crispy quinoa bake, balsamic roasted carrots, roasted tomatoes with parmesan and Ceri’s broccoli salad. I didn’t have homemade lunches a number of times in recent weeks and the thought of the restaurant/takeout options near work, though abundant in choice, grew increasingly unfavourable. I thought of taking up a challenge, say, to try a new recipe every week, but there’re those rules again.
My little family and I are in a really good place together. Ceri and I have moved ourselves into a comfortable, though never fixed routine. We continue our quest to find something to do every weekend, and times at home are happy and relaxed and thank goodness he is amenable to one of the only channels I’m keen to watch on TV these days, Turner Classic Movies (through which I obsessively shut out the world time-travelled over my relatively quiet holidays). Both my girls have new homes and happy work and social lives filled with good people. We all meet every Friday night after work at our favourite local for “beer o’clock” and dinner where we decompress from the work week and catch up and laugh a lot. I’m so lucky.
I’ve started a new semester in my online creative non-fiction class and through it I continue to meet some really great people who seek to do what you and I do – tell our stories. Each new learner that comes to a class inspires me in one way or another; I learn so much from them. In return, I try my best to inspire them to tell their stories.
It’s January. My world is small. A good small – a beautiful thing.
Where are you at?
This morning I get up and, waiting for the kettle to boil, I pull the curtains back and look out the window and find the photo of the day.
Hello Thursday. I'm glad to see you.
I get as much pleasure looking at the objects in my window when they're reflected by the morning light onto the curtain as I do looking at them when the curtain is open. It's kind of otherworldly-like; secret goings on in that other realm just beyond the reach of this one. Like when you're a little kid and you think all your toys come alive when you're sleeping, interacting in a toy community with toy concerns and toy traditions and toy conversations - all above the little non-magical world of mortals and thus never to be shared.
In which we get up close and personal with thousands to watch the lighting of the tree and subsequent fireworks at Nathan Phillips Square (Toronto City Hall).
I've been away from my home for a week, being stand-in-mommy for my cousin in Riverdale. When I get back, I find this large and lusty gal docked across the street. A quick search tells me she has been up for sale, and just sailed up the St. Lawrence Seaway from Nova Scotia to stay for the winter.
She can light up a room, wouldn't you say?
I think egg strata is one of the best inventions; any combination of whatever's in the fridge can turn into the most satisfying brunch and provides for nutritious leftovers for lunch in the work week. Most recipes will tell you to assemble it the night before to let the egg and bread become one. I never think that far in advance.
This dish makes my main man very happy and that enhances the pleasure of putting the lovely thing together on a lazy weekend morn.