The other day my friend Lynn posed the question to her facebook people: “what one word describes your 2010?” My experience in expressive arts tells me that the only way to answer such a question is to answer it quickly. If you respond quickly and think about it later, you can open the door to some unexpected personal insight.
I answered with “New.”
I think it was a good word. In 2010 I changed strategies in a number of realms. Early in the year I re-vamped my blog and moved it to a platform that I think better reflects the spirit behind the writing. In turn, I started photographing more and began to pull together some shots that have further captured the theme I’m going for. I spent a good part of last winter documenting my ideas of “beauty” and the sources of it around me in my daily travels. I was rewarded, again, to find how one step leads to another – and these steps led me straight out of a funk – personal as well as creative.
Later in the year it occurred to me to stop looking for “home” and just to live in a fun spot and let home come to me. I get all over my writing students for resorting to clichés, but it’s a lesson I seem to learn over and over again: get out of the past and the future and get living in the moment. THAT’s when the change happens – not when I'm thinking about it, mourning it, planning it, hoping for it, wishing for it.
Still later in the year, pretty recently, I decided to revamp me. I vowed I would try more, trust more, BE more and stay devoted to reflecting the authentic me. I carried that focus on authenticity around with me as I shopped, in the books I chose, friends I found, and in the ways I approached my jobs and free time endeavours. I knew that the most important part of this personal revamp was to drop some walls – particularly because it also included the return to the pursuit of romantic love. I explored the opening of some chakras and worked at smiling at strangers more often and (sorry another cliché) being the change I want to see. Again with the small steps leading me in directions I never imagined.
So the end of the year arrived, and some wonderful surprises have presented themselves. For different reasons, I’m not writing about them yet. But I can say that I have more than one reason to step forward into 2011 anticipating much more NEW. And I’m filled with optimism and hope that some kind of ball is rolling and that you’ll join me in its path.
It’s day one of a new year. I don't know what the word will be for 2011 – but it doesn't matter. I'm sticking in the now and rolling with the rhythms. I do know that I'm really glad you're here to discover it all along with me.
I hope you have a very Happy Christmas. And whether or not you celebrate the day, I hope it's filled with lots of love, good cheer and peace in your hearts. And I hope you carry that peace with you in the new year to come.
It’s cold again this morning, but not as cold as the past couple of days. When it’s above 0° C, it’s tolerable. Nevertheless, when I get to Don Mills station this morning, I wait inside for the shuttle to my office. As I’m standing there looking out, a young couple walks up to the door on the other side. The mom is pushing a child, under two, in a stroller. I know it’s a part of growing and aging and every year the phenomenon gets more remarkable, but I’m stunned at how young this mommy and daddy look. They're teenagers.
The mom is small and round – little more than five feet tall. She’s fair, childlike and pretty. And smoking a butt. She stands for a minute outside with the child to smoke it while the dad walks inside to play with his phone. Eventually she pushes the stroller inside, instructing the dad to take him while she finishes her smoke.
The dad is a little taller and slight, of mixed race, with cafe au lait skin and long, relaxed curls pulled into a sloppy pony tail. He continues playing with his phone, occasionally talking to the child: “it’s cold out there huh?”
The child is a darling combination of the parents: cherubic face of his mother, crowned by his father’s chocolaty curls. He’s a picture of patience. He acknowledges his dad’s occasional dragging himself away from his cell phone to speak to him, but doesn’t seem to require it.
He spots me and gives me a grin. It’s the grin of a self-assured old soul. He’s not playing coy with me, or making shy aversions with his eyes like so many little kids do. He seems to just like my face, and gives me another closed mouth grin – not looking away but just grinning a little more when I smile back and give him a little wave.
That grin has me thinking that this tiny boy seems much older than his teenage parents. As I’m considering that, the mom comes in and they whisk him off toward the elevator which will take them down to the subway.
At the other end of the work day, I’m sitting in a subway car, heading down to meet up with my sister who is working near Union Station. I see a woman come on. She’s cute, artsy looking with that marvellous look of having thrown a random collection of clothing on her body and it just working. She’s smiling to herself. The smile doesn’t wear off – in fact it undergoes a number of variations as her thoughts carry out. Her eyes meet mine and the smile is erased for a moment, but after a few seconds it’s back. I bandy about a number of reasons for the smile. I hope it’s because she’s in love.
I turn from the woman and down the way I see a man. In a suit. Not her age. Not with her or like her in any way.
But he’s smiling to himself.
My girls and I leave the city Saturday morning and head southwest to my hometown for an oft-lauded wine festival and visiting with old friends. We listen to classic rocks songs on the radio which instigate one memory after another - a nice accompaniment to the flat, boring stretch of highway. As we get close to Essex County, the sky gets more and more overcast and we curse the imminent rain for intruding on the much anticipated party.
Navigating the once-daily haunts due south of HWY 401 is like I always say: everything’s strange and everything’s the same. I drop the girls off at their dad’s and go to Debbie’s where we catch up over a Guinness. I hope you have a friend like her.
The rain is coming down hard and steady and we carry on cursing it over a drive to the grocery store to pick up what will become the beautiful spread of a breakfast the next morning. Once we’ve all gathered back at the house we pack up golf umbrellas and plastic sheeting to cover wet picnic table seats, and the rain lets up just then. Even the weather gods shouldn’t mess with serious wine drinkers intent on a good time and happy homecoming.
The grounds are a bit mucky but certainly not “Woodstock” as some grim souls had predicted. As soon as we walk into the place and before I can get some wine into my glass we start running into old friends. I didn’t send out a “facebook blast” saying I was going down, thinking that with the short turnover in time I’d be content to bump into people as the fates would have us do.
There are lots of long hugs. I don’t know if I can describe my gratification in the love I got from my old friends – to still "belong" to them. I make my home in Toronto now, but despite a number of moves around different neighbourhoods I still don’t feel as if I “belong” anywhere. Maybe that’s related to my single, empty-nester state. But whatever it is, these wonderful old pals can’t possibly know how easily they filled what has been a rather empty vessel for quite some time.
Next morning at Debbie and Len’s we all sleep late, maybe a little groggy from all those bottles of that excellent D’Angelo Foch. After the big breakfast, Deb and I sit out in the backyard with spiked orange juice and admire the day – particularly the clouds.
Not willing to waste the weather gods’ change of heart, we go back to the festival site and see some more people, and try some foods. It's such a beautiful spot beside the river, and it is great to look around the town and all its changes.
As I told a couple of my colleagues about the weekend Monday morning, one said she thought I looked particularly happy. She’s right. This sort of weekend is one of those reminders about what exactly it is that sustains us. I don’t care what they say. You can go home again, and they will all love you as much as they did the day you left.
The weekend was like the most spectacular gift the gods of late summer could muster: sunshiny, clear, breezy and free of commitment. It was the kind of weekend that enveloped me in its wide, generous arms and wouldn't let go. And I was happy to stay there and honour its whims. It was two days of hanging out in the harbour – people watching, reading, photographing, feeling the sun and relishing the freedom.
None of my attempts to photograph the light on the lake can capture how spectacular it looks – like billions and billions of floating diamonds shining so bright they hurt my eyes.
Me and a strawberry ice cream cone wander into a crowd of chuckling people to find a busker riding the smallest bicycle in the world. Just beyond, a lady dressed in officy looking gear hobbles in painful looking high heels and sips from a giant can of Sapporo beer.
In the middle of one meandery walk I sit on a bench under a tree, and the feeling of the breeze on my skin is like swaths of silk being trailed across it. A man sits next to me and we both try to capture photographs of greedy squawking seagulls going after bits of bread being thrown into the water by some girls. His camera is much more impressive than mine, and I soon give up on the birds and try out some shots of peoples’ feet and legs as they walk by.
I loll on the grass and flip pages of a magazine while I watch the action on the water. People crowding around the perimeters of tour boats and sailing ships. Others kayaking and canoeing toward the island. Sailboats leaning deep in the wind. Plane after plane setting down into the airport.
Sunday, Carly texts me from the baseball game and says she will come down and meet me after. We have a beer next to the bandshell and we’re glad we don’t have to listen to the bad girly hip hop music for too long. Kelsey texts and she’s coming down too so we plan a simple meal and buy a bottle of wine and go back to my place.
We eat baguette with olive oil and fresh grated parmesan and black pepper and we catch up on our news and plans. We admire the colour in our meal: red field tomatoes, yellow corn on the cob, orange and red peppers, green asparagus. We think the corn might be the best we’ve had this season. Later Carly takes off to go meet up with some friends and Kelsey and I finish the wine. I walk out with her to meet the streetcar, and then walk down by the water to try and hang on to that last few minutes of the weekend, feeling thankful for the spontaneous summer supper with my girls.
It’s the kind of weekend that sets you right again. I’m facing Monday with a deeper suntan and a rested mind. And it wasn’t until it the weekend was over that I realised just how much I needed those two days of glorious late summer and doing nothing in particular with them.
“There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves”
~ Frank Herbert
I've had a couple of conversations with people lately about a yearning I'm feeling this summer – that some sort of change is wanting in me. I'm not exactly sure what that is, I need to get with a journal and paints and do some serious reflection about what the hell it is that I want.
I've been here before – and it was summer then too. Maybe it's just a desire to hang on to the summer, or to engender in me the feeling of peace and "slowing down" that comes with it. It's summer, but there's peace missing.
Something's off balance. It's not a particulary bad feeling – if one weren't up for changing or growing or enhancing, life would seem pretty dead-end, wouldn't it? Or maybe that's just the ever restless me. I don't feel balanced unless I'm moving, otherwise some sort of vertigo sets in.
Face forward, that's my strategy. If you're always looking down you might miss the signs.
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."
Maybe we should all be really thankful for winter if only because we get to experience such an appreciation for the onset of spring. My world is readying for the grand re-birthing of nature in all her glorious forms and we're celebrating already. Here are some moments of beauty from a sunshiny week in which sits the fifteenth day of thirty in posting such: