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As we make our way over another border, our fellow passengers bob their heads in tandem to the swaying, bumping bus.  I pretend my head-wobbling is just the same, but really I am quietly and almost, but not quite, dancing in my too-short seat.  My knees dig into the back of the poor person ahead of me.

We roll forward past the onslaught of vehicles, the buildings, numerous electrical wires bundled, en masse, above the houses, the shacks, the people.  I nurse a headache resulting from a late night out – hours of dancing in the rain.

So much is going on outside my window.  As we travel forward, I travel backwards in time through my music.  My on-again-off-again, mostly malfunctioning iPod is a saving grace on a six hour bus ride with delays at the border.  Actually, the ride is pretty smooth and easily contrasts the horror stories we’ve been heard about local land-travel.  We may have lucked out with our particular bus.  Consistency of service ain’t much a priority ‘round here…

Shuffle: my favourite way to go.  I’m on a little musical journey.  Maybe it’s the exhaustion but I’m feeling each song – each one wraps itself up in my soul.  Every song holds my hand and walks with me through a multitude of memories.  Does everyone remember people when they listen to music?… I think they do. Maybe places, events, eras? Anyway, this is how it is for me.  A personal soundtrack, always there in the background…blaring from the sidelines of my life.

He caught me dancing.  It’s a story for another time.  A memory wrapped up in a song and an instant.  It’s whittled itself into my heart and been coaxed out by sleepiness, shuffled songs, too much time to think.

He Caught me dancing.  This was one of those pinnacle moments – never forgotten – that changed everything.  I smile and as I remember.  The moment was encased; dressed up as a laugh and a look, and it’s never been forgotten.  And although we make a thousand choices a day, this was one of those big moments disguised as a small one.  It’s a good memory.

Theme Song of the Day:

Dust Storm – Seagull

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Theme Songs of the Day:

Eyes Wider than BeforeScott Matthews

Else Built to Spill


The Empress Hotel, Victoria BC

The Empress Hotel, Victoria BC

So a new adventure…the perfect opportunity to get re-inspired.  My short visit home provided a lot of opportunity for visiting friends and re-connecting with the beauty that is the west coast of Canada.  Although I continued writing while I was back home, I wasn’t as inclined to share as I have been on the road…everything was too concentrated – to upfront and real….raw; a personal journey that was better left between myself and my word processor.

On that note – I think a pinnacle turning moment for sharing occurred on my stopover in the LA airport.  As I sat in one of the only two restaurants in the terminal, taking extra care in reading every available menu item and then ordering very slowly, one thing at a time; an attempt at killing six hours… I naturally began to notice the patrons at the surrounding tables.  Airports are a special kind of transit purgatory- it really does take all kinds.   I liken the mix of people one finds at airports, to the crowds found in malls as Christmas approaches.  Even the strangest and most anti-social people both travel, and give gifts during the holidays.  This creates a nice healthy mix of folks and forms the perfect breeding ground for an experiment in sociology.

Anyway, I was enthralled by this man beside me.  He looked homeless at first glance, but then the costly watch around his wrist peaks out from his ratty cuff–and his satchel is weathered, but made of good quality leather.  He orders a glass of champagne.  Just as I’m reminding myself not to judge a book by its cover, I notice him dipping his hands into his satchel. He’s intermittently sneaking goldfish crackers from his duffle bag and scooping tuna from a can into his mouth with his fingers. As he notices me noticing him, he scowls.  This is the moment I realize I have entered the realm of professional people-watcher…oh, and also that people in LA are crazy.

Englishman River Falls...home

Englishman River Falls

So unbeknownst to me, my flight from LA was to stop briefly in Samoa before heading south to Tonga.  The first I heard of this was as I strapped myself into my seat and we were heading out onto the runway.  My panic was brief but VERY real as the pilot told us the information for our flight to Samoa.  My neighbour assured me that the plane continued to Tonga but I couldn’t help feeling as though the communication was a little lacking.  I had read about this…that things are a little more relaxed in the South Pacific. My feeling is that the mild chaos is marketed as “laid-back…

Although I’m fairly organized, I let a lot of this go when travelling. I am more content having a broad outline as opposed to too many set plans…  this impromptu stop in Samoa allowed me to see another beautiful South Pacific Island, at least briefly, and also allowed for a good laugh.

Never being one who is able to sleep on planes with any regularity, I get that funny over-tired-alternative-reality thing on long haul flights. It was about 5am local time and it was quiet in the one-roomed Samoan airport.  Abruptly this man stared to yell and bash the wall.  He was yelling into the cafe/bar which was locked and looked closed.  …no one could figure out what he was doing, although I wouldn’t blame him if he was just extremely eager to get a coffee.  I thought I might just get up and join him – a flat white would have been divine – but just then a dazed looking man suddenly popped up from behind the bar. He gave his head a wild shake and slid open the grate.  Within moments he served his first patron, all the while wiping drool from his chin.  So this is the laid-back South Pacific.  I love it already!

After our touch-down in Tongatapu I was escorted to the pre-paid shuttle that would take me to my guest house.  It was warm and sunny.  The palms and strikingly beautiful abundance of lush green were enough to wake me up a little.  I had made it!  I was somewhere completely different than I’d been before.  The infrastructure for tourism is hit-and-miss, but everyone is so helpful!  As I looked at the throng of locals and visitors at the tiny airport with a dopey grin on my face I realized I had arrived in paradise.

Outside the Guesthouse in Nukuálofa

Outside the Guesthouse in Nukuálofa

I was quickly brought back to reality as this beautiful young woman called out my name over and over – scanning the crowd with an out-of-place frantic, wide-eyed sense of loss. After a bit of confusion (relaxed-chaos) it was realized she was my shuttle driver…the other van driver was trying to scoop some cash off me by dropping me off but making me pay again.  Oh right…the helpfulness may, at times, have ulterior motives.  No one is trying to be dishonest, it’s just that, in general, if a Tongan doesn’t understand you he will just answer yes. This is the shuttle to my guest house, it’s paid already?yes

But never mind, I didn’t mind much at all…between the sleepiness and the happiness, I had my south-pacific-attitude down to an art.  I can make a go of ‘laid-back’

This was going to be fun.

The North Coast of Tongatapu

The North Coast of Tongatapu

Theme Song of the Day:

Night WindowsThe Weakerthans

 …

British Columbia is a place that sings loudly to me.  I have grown up with the mountains and the ocean and the forests in my backyard – three decades of walking through postcard-quality scenery on a day-to-day basis – and yet it still takes my breath away. 

We’ve all heard that one of the great things about going away is how much you appreciate what you’ve got when arriving home again. This has to be true for so many people around the globe.  The comfort, familiarity, and routine of home…it’s got its appeal.  We derive focus and a sense of direction with this blanket of habit and recognition.

A pattern to smudge over the chaos.  

In this part of the world, on the west coast in particular, we are blessed to not only have wild, natural beauty at our doorstep, but the laid-back friendliness of the people that surround us should not be taken for granted.  A simple stop in the middle of a busy street (with a slack-jawed look of confusion) warrants a stranger stopping to not only offer assistance… but you know what?…uh, I was headed in that direction already so why don’t I just lead the way and make sure you get to where you’re going?…Want half my muffin?

It’s like living in a Disney movie.

This is not to imply naivety.  Not at all.  We just have friendliness and it perpetuates itself…one person smiles and then the next.  It’s science!  As a whole we are educated and alert and maybe we have an underlying confidence that allows us to put ourselves out there.  It’s really something.

Where am I going with all of this provincial pride?  Well I didn’t actually intend to go on and on about how great we are up here in the Pacific Northwest.  I just couldn’t help myself…! 

But truth be told, I guess it all comes down to the fact that I’m seeing home in a very different light than ever before.  My main component isn’t here anymore. A huge part of the ‘home’ equation has been taken away.  My comfort and belonging is emotionally tied up in the life I have been building with one person for ten years.  I can still appreciate the qualities of home.  I still have that life…it’s just very different now…it’s individual – my observations may be more objective in some regards because of this… or, I don’t know – maybe they’re teetering towards a more subjective nature?

Anyway, I didn’t have too many expectations of coming back.  I knew I had to face the paperwork I have been putting off.  I have beautiful new babies in my life (all of them boys!) that I have had so much fun visiting.  I am honoured to take part in a couple of weddings, some BBQs, and more than a few parties!  I get to visit with friends and family and its been fantastic so far. 

A few hiccups along the way have threatened the digestive peace that is home.  Some of the hiccups are bigger than others, but I know I am strong; I can handle these…I will drink my water upside down and get through the worst of it (by the way – in Oz they stand on their heads and drink water right-side-up to cure hiccups).  

I am very aware that as issues arise, the temptation to pull away from all of it gets stronger.  I have to be careful not to become too numb or distant when dealing with stressful situations. Sometimes the little things seem unmanageably big and then at others the big things seem so small in comparison to all that I have been through. 

Uh…yup….’subjective’ is the clear winner here. 

Give me the stress of a lost bus ticket or a language barrier any day – it seems easier than trudging through even the smallest confrontation or mishap at home.

All of this: the good and the bad, it’s all part of life.  Things should get easier as time moves forward.  For now I am happy to visit ‘home’ and I am looking forward to heading back on the road in only a few short weeks.

Let the adventure continue.

Island View Beach

THE DAINTREE FOREST

THE DAINTREE FOREST

The Daintree Forest is the oldest rain forest in the world: 175 million years – that’s pretty old!  This is incredible and humbling.  As I write, I’m sitting in the shade of trees and vines similar to the ones dinosaurs walked under! How ultimately inspiring…

I find myself in Wet Tropical North Queensland in a place called Tribulation Bay and I have more-or-less spanned the entire East Coast in two weeks.  This in no small feat! We are staying in a beautiful hostel consisting of A-frames and huts that follow a windy path down to the beach.  It’s a tropical paradise.

Upon arrival we are told not to feed the wild cassowaries – cool!  These are such prehistoric-looking birds; it’s not hard to imagine them as late-edition dinosaurs….sort of like crocodiles…turtles….Mick Jagger….

Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation

Originally the plan to head north was going to be an individual adventure, but due to beautiful timing, an intriguing acquaintance from the past would take up residence as my next travel companion.   Aisha and I met briefly (and unremarkably – we don’t remember each other much at all) in Edinburgh years ago.  We were reunited in Brisbane through our mutual friend Alice.  Alice is amazing, and therefore her friends are amazing too!  This was bound to be fun!

Ahh, fun.

Some of our highlights:

  • Cairns: Arriving at 1am in the morning to a nightclub that posed as a hostel, and meeting our roommates who had been in the city for nine days yet hadn’t been to the esplanade (the waterfront – four blocks form said hostel)….keep in mind: we’re smack-dab on the great barrier reef…
    After one of them told us his entire life story he proceeded to kiss a small jade Buddha while whispering softly:  “I LOVE you.”  He then passed out…
    …we switched hostels early the next morning.

    The Great Barrier Reef

    The Great Barrier Reef

  • Sailing on the boat out to the Great Barrier Reef we were deafened by Enya’s ‘Orinoco Flow’… not only as we left port, but also on our return….sail away, sail away… we figure they were trying to create atmosphere?
    …As I climbed aboard the catamaran after scuba diving, I was greeted by loud and frantic jazz; this was  surely a bonus.
  • White wine on the white sand beaches that surround Cape Tribulation… played a game of pool amongst the leafy rainforest.
  • Looking for crocodiles on the Daintree River as the old-school pulley boat brought us over to the world heritage site.  We held conflicting feelings of relief and disappointment when we didn’t spot any.

    Magnetic Sunset

    Magnetic Sunset

  • Townsville locals showed us amazing hospitality.  We had some great laughs, and they shared with us their idea of a good time (a story to be shared over beer).
  • Magnetic Island proved, once again, that it is truly magnetic.  Sunny beaches and tramping through the national park land that makes up ¾ of the island was complemented by blatant  and unwavering sunshine.
  • We found ourselves looking forward to arriving “home” after only two weeks.  This was a pleasant surprise….we had had enough time away to appreciate Brisbane and all of its comforts.
  • The two of us filled our two weeks so full of good times that I have found inspiration enough to write page upon page about the adventures.… for practical purposes I must limit myself; posting only a bulleted list – cool!!
Jill and Aisha

Jill and Aisha

There is absolutely nothing unremarkable about the experiences Aisha and I shared on this adventure into the tropics.  We met some interesting people and saw some unforgettable sights.   Aisha and I had so much to talk about; the awesome scenery was simply a backdrop.

Good conversation makes the world go ‘round!

I had the pleasure of bonding with another friend who has been through huge change recently.  Geez, there are a lot of us out there!?  Life is truly jam-packed with change…maybe we can look at it as transformation instead?

The old forest we visited holds a beautiful history.  Amongst a landscape that has existed for 175 million years there is the deception of a sense of permanence – but we all know that the notion of permanence is simply that: a notion.

Theme Songs of the Day:

Ageless Beauty – The Stars, from the album Set Yourself on Fire (the acoustic version is my favourite, but I couldn’t find a good copy of it)

Creature Fear – Bon Iver, from the album For Emma, Forever Ago

Oh, I’m comfy. I really like the Outback. The only reason I’m okay with leaving this great little city: I get to head back to more great friends on the coast.

The family pet...(the dog!)

The family pet...(the dog!)

Mt. Isa has been a wonderful home-away-from-home. I can’t get over the people…not a bad one in the bunch – everyone’s got a story and I really think they’ve all acquired degrees in “Listening Skills: How to Converse Well in Any Setting”. Every person I’ve sat down with has been not only interesting, but so very interested in me as well! It’s nice to feel special…

So besides an off-day in which I suffered a headache from dawn until dusk, I have made the very most of my extra week here in Mt Isa. We went out dancing at The Irish Club, where, of all things, I was mistaken for Irish!? Now Stacey and I have discussed this in great detail. We are both mistaken for Irish at LEAST once a day. …what’s up with that laddie? Aye, it happens everywhere – all over Oz – even at The Irish Club, where you’d think they’d know their accents! Haha – I’ve actually agreed that I am Irish to a few folks (just for fun) and they nod their heads, confidingly, as though their deeply-routed suspicions are confirmed, and I am immediately acceptable and lovely – of course I usually get this response when I tell the truth about my Canadianism as well. My feeling is that Aussies are just extraordinarily accepting and they would give me a smile and a wink no matter what my nationality may be.

Mary Kathleen, North QLD

Mary Kathleen, North QLD

I had the pleasure of tagging along with Stacey and Pete to a wonderful engagement party. The event itself was more an extravaganza (set around a beautiful 25′ pool) than a traditional party. The food and drink were great, the couple looked lovely, and everyone had a great time! I was honoured, to not only be allowed to partake in the celebrations, but also welcomed with open arms. Again, the company was of the highest standard, we talked well into the night. I’m only surprised about one thing: no one ended up in the pool!

What else have I been up to? I’ve explored an abandoned uranium mine called Mary Kathleen. It’s just outside of town and just a short drive through the rolling red hills. The mine is now flooded and the water that fills it is the most inviting bright blue I’ve seen. There are only a few hidden signs on the way out there and they indicate that you will glow-in-the-dark if you decide to take a dip (I’m paraphrasing). The surrounding hillsActually, it’s quite interesting – there is still millions of dollars worth of uranium just waiting to be dug up, but it is currently illegal to mine the radioactive element in Queensland. Supposidly there is a push to change legislation. Until then, it remains a tiny blip on the map: a turn off, easily missed, and then an interesting maze-like off-road drive, to a site almost altogether forgotten. We threw rocks into the deep, taking enjoyment in the splashing, but soon stopped when we realized the rocks were shiny…is uranium shiny, we wondered?

A few other highlights – I enjoyed some great coffee with some great women at the McCafe (yes…it’s a cafe attached to McDonalds, and yes, it was good). I had a fun night-time tour of the city in which I enjoyed hearing about the more colourful details surrounding the local history. Mostly I just relaxed and got a better sense of the community. I can’t imagine not coming back… (and yes, I know that’s a double negative, thank you).

Theme songs of the Day:

Slice of Heaven – herbs, from the album Loyal …(This is a theme song from my entire month with Stacey – it’s on everywhere we go and EVERYONE gets up and dances to it).

My Baby Don’t Care – Nina Simone, from the album Little Girl Blue… (this one is for the Fairmont Gold Team, I sometimes listen to this and pretend I’m in the lounge)

Boston – Augustana, from the album Midwest Skies and Sleepless Mondays

 

Flooded Lake Moondara - from the wettest season in 10 years or so.

Flooded Lake Moondara - from the wettest season in 10 years or so.


Magnetic from TownsvilleSo Magnetic Island was named for the fact that the island itself, interfered Captain James Cook’s compass as he drew close to shore. Although it was found that the island does not have any magnetic properties, strictly speaking, it does manage to draw thousands of visitors each year. I haven’t been gone from the beautiful island more than a few days and I already want to go back!
Stacey, Pete and I had a great night in Townsville after meeting up in Airlie Beach and driving North. We enjoyed snacks on the 12th story deck of our hotel, a margarita or two, and late-night pizza after dancing to some smooth 80’s hits. I like Townsville! It’s considered the largest city in the tropical North and the whole of the waterfront has been converted from Mangroves to a beautiful park, beach and walkway.
The next day we would be heading over to Magnetic Island. This was to be a guaranteed highlight of traveling with Stacey and Pete. They not only met there more than ten years ago, Pete lived there for two years, and we were going to meet up with a few of their old friends. It was sunny and we caught the half-hour car ferry over.

Topless and Pink
First stop: Tropical Topless – a moke rental place, owned by Rob, a friend of Stacey and Pete’s. Rob has been in business for nine years or so, and he’s got about 40 cars in his fleet. He’s kind and friendly and fits in really well on Magnetic. These vehicles are perfect for cruising the island – small, fuel efficient, and, well…. topless! There is about 13km of road from one end of the island to the other, so it’s a bit far to walk, but you definitely don’t need anything too big. The Townsville/ Magnetic Island area claims 320 days of nice weather per year, so topless is the way to go 😉

After an introduction and a catch up, we head to our hotel… I guess it’s more like little townhouses or maybe condos – something inbetween. A nice little place with a kitchen and a salt-water pool. We chilled for a bit and then headed over to some friends of Stacey and Pete. Although we were all feeling a little drained we managed to find ourselves at a full-moon party. This is a monthly staple at the Base X Backpackers and there are hundereds of people at every party. The thing I couldn’t get over: it WASN”T a full moon. No one seemed to care, but it was hard not to think of the whole thing as a mony-grab. Luckily we had free tickets (thanks Rob) so we didn’t have to think of the swindle as we danced.

Didn’t stay too long there, but I’m glad I got to see what it was all about. It’s actually a full moon tonight, as I write this, and we are heading to a dinner party, so we’ll make sure we toast the moon, in all its glory.

All-in-all we spent three nights and four days on the island. We had planned for less but couldn’t tear ourselves away. Stacey and Pete caught up with friends and I made some new ones. We had managed to come down with colds so we relaxed a lot. Stacey and I had had ours a few days (I couldn’t dive in the Whitsundays because I couldn’t equalize) and Pete was just starting to feel the wrath. We snorkeled and swam and hiked and picnic-ed. On our last night we had a bbq on the beach. Food tastes better outside, that’s a scientific fact.

The ferry boat rideI think I will try my best to get back to Maggie Island. It’s so laid-back and friendly. After only a couple of days it already felt a bit like home.

Speaking of home, I found out while I was on the island that the boys back home managed to take the cup. The Boozehounds won their division!! You guys rock! I’m so proud of you all and I’m celebrating with you in spirit. I know you guys won the cup for Rusty and he would be so proud – I know he is.

I really miss home, but I know that I would still feel that overwhelming-sense-of-loss if I was back in Victoria – maybe more so, as I would be surrounded by reminders of all that we’ve been through; the life we created.  I don’t think anything can fill the gap, but it’s nice to be able to explore and find the good in new places and new people.  I’m lucky to have a wonderful community and family to come home to; it would be an entirely different journey without the security of home… I just have to have some time to get used to home without its main component.

Theme Songs of the Day:

Wave of Mutilation (the slow version) – The Pixies, from the album Complete ‘B’ Sides
I Saw Her Standing There – The Beatles, from the album Please Please Me
Liar – Built to Spill, from the album You in Reverse

Stacey and Jill

Wow!  I have fallen in love…  Perth is just amazing!  We have packed so much into three days that is feels like two weeks. 

The plane ride  over was pretty uneventful.  I had a bit of cry on the plane – something about being at 15,000 ft…. it gets me every time.  I guess I needed the release, that and it’s been my first alone time since landing.  I realize I constantly carry the conflicting emotions of sad, and very, overwhelmingly happy emotions.  Where do I go from there? How can I hope to reach these strong levels of emotion again in my lifetime?   Will I become more numb as I go?  Will I find new levels of both happy and sad?  I guess it will change.  I will continue to experience life and, hopefully, find new layers of depth; grow older and wiser….

I have the feeling that I have, through the events of the last year and a half, become very attuned to what’s happening around me.  I am maybe more sensitive, more empathetic…but in the same breath, I am seeing my life from the outside a little more. 

I’m excited to travel, meet new people, connect, experience.  I think my challenge will be to figure out how to personally invest in these events and interactions.  Don’t get me wrong, when I am talking with someone, I am fully present.  I feel like I may be looking through a third person’s eyes.   I may be taking refuge in the safety  of an ‘outside’ self as a way of self-preservation…  I want to connect but I don’t think I have much of myself left to give.  The parts that remain must be kept for myself. 

I have loved and lost in a VERY extreme way.  I am searching for emotions to counter-act my past experiences, no small feat…all this, without giving myself over in any substantial way. 

mmhhh….that was a bit of a tangent.

On an entirely different note: my computer has a virus, and until I can clean it up, I have limited time on the Internet.  This isn’t so bad is it?  A major drawback is that I can’t post pictures…but I will get that sorted in the next week or so and then I will have some visuals to check out.

So what have we done in Perth so far?  What haven’twe done??  I arrived at around noon on Tuesday.  My friend Kim and I hopped in the van and headed north to her place.  WE stopped and one of the countless beaches here on the west coast and I had my first swim in the Indian Ocean.  From there we met up with her friend Jenny and drove up the coast to Yanchep National Park.  Wrapped around a beautiful lake, this park is home to kangaroos, koalas and birds.  We watched as the lazy koalas slept in the trees above us. 

We headed back towards the city and stopped at, of all places, the cemetary.  Someone in the know had told us to check it out, as there are quite a few kangaroos there and you can actually get pretty close.  We saw eight of the grazing on the grass.  I hoped along beside them (yes, there ARE pictures).   Wow!

We watched the sunset at a beach near Kim and Stu’s house.  Amazing

The next day we headed south to a small city called Freemantle.  We toured the shops and cafes and then went on a tour through the prison.  It was horrifying but fascinating as well.  The prison was actually used up until 1991 when they were permanently closed down.  At the time of closure they still used buckets for latrines.  Something else that we all found amazing is that punishment by whipping  was still legal until 1993.  It was simply an over-site (the last person that had the experience of the cat o’ nine tails was in 1943).  When Western Australia abolished corporal punishment in ’93 they realized that the ‘whipping legislature’ had never been removed.  Quite the over-site.

After the gruesome but educational tour, we headed to a local microbrewery called Little Creatures.  The venue is an old wearhouse that has been converted to a funky bistro/brewhouse (much like the Canoe Club in Victoria).   All us roomates had a great time chatting and eating and then we headed over to Clancy’s Fish Club where we watched the Battle of the Bands: West Coast Blues and Roots.  It was a fun night.

The next day found us at the beach.  We spent a few hours surfing and then headed home for naps.  That evening Kim had a surprise for me:  she had tickets for Cirque du Soleil: Dralion...!!!  AWESOME!

We dressed up and headed into the blue and yellow tent.  The show was phenomenal.  I believe we both shed a tear of joy at the end of the performance.  It was beautiful and funny and awe-inspiring – I’ve never seen anything like it. 

It’s hard to belive I haven’t even been here four full days.   The next adventure begins tomorrow as the two of us head South towards Margaret River.  We will hit some wineries…beaches….anything and everything, camping along the way….why not?  We should all be so lucky to hit anything and everything along the way – that’s what life is all about!

 

Theme Songs for the day:

OH! OH! OH! Trouble –  An Angle, from the album…I’m not sure…

Where is My Mind – Pixies, from the album Surfer Rosa *(and if you haven’t been lucky enough to listen to this song but sort of recognize it – it’s the closing-credit song from Fight Club)

FortressPinback, from the Album Summer in Abaddon

It’s been a nice, easy start to my travels.  Although I haven’t left the country, my only possessions are the ones on my back, so I think it’s fair to consider the traveling officially begun?  I have been living ‘elsewhere’ in my mind for a long while now, so it’s nice that my physical presence can finally catch up!

The city of Vancouver is beautiful and busy and each street is a contrast in terms.  Outside the high-end stores, the high-end shoppers dodge (and ignore) the homeless.  It’s SO busy and bustling but it starts raining and everyone disappears.  Luckily there are enough Starbucks to find shelter in.  The area outside the Art Museum is quite a thoroughfare during the average weekday, but 5:00 pm rolls ‘round, and the steps swarm with kids and homeless and hippies..  is there something artful about this….is it human art?

…I would think it may be considered installation art.

I have been doing a lot of walking in the last few days.  I consider myself somewhat of a local of Vancouver; the majority of the family is here and we did a lot of visiting growing up.  Canuck games and concerts bring me over periodically as well.  This past summer/fall – Kevin’s treatments took place here every two weeks.  I can now navigate through downtown (in a car) without wanting to impale someone with my bare fist.  I like to think that summer traffic at rush-hour taught me patience.

Anyway, I am now trying to see the city through the eyes of someone who hasn’t been here before. It’s hard to do, but not impossible.  The best part of pedestrian-style transport:  You have time to look up.  The clouds and sky seen from below, looking up between the buildings, are awesome.  The mountains in the background, with their dusting of snow, peep through the buildings…this is an incredible sight.  If I were not from here I would be awestruck.

Cupcakes from Cupcakes...the other beautiful aspect of Vancouver: the food!

Cupcakes from Cupcakes...the other beautiful aspect of Vancouver: the food!

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So I am on the plane soon – less than 24 hours….  I am finally doing it.  Thank you to everyone who helped me get here.  We did a lot in just under three weeks!  I admit I still have a few things to do before I head to the airport, but what a reward I have to look forward to.  The next time I write I will be in Australia.

Theme songs of the day:

The Canadian Dream – Sam Roberts, from the album We Were Born in a Flame

California Dreaming The Mamas and the Papas, from the Album If you Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

If Venice Is Sinking – Spirit of the West, from the album Faithlift

So I’m heading over to Vancouver after spending the night in Nanaimo, with good friends. On the ferry, I watch the gulls fly around the boat; riding the wind. There’s a thin layer of white snow on the beach. The water looks COLD.  I won’t be back this way for a while and I’m realizing how beautiful it really is.  Cold and cloudy and beautiful.

Shades of Blue

I love that the house I grew up in can be seen from the boat, although it’s harder to distinguish when all the roofs are white!  I spent twelve years of my life watching these ferries come and go, from the hills surrounding the bay.  I get a special, nostalgic, feeling upon seeing Mnt. Benson, Gabriola Island, downtown in the distance…Harmac (the pulp-mill).  Anyone who knows Nanaimo knows the wonders of that special Harmac smell… how else would we know the weather is changing?

“Welcome aboard BC Ferries…our sailing time will be one hour and thirty-five minutes…”


Sky Mountain Sea

The cat has been safely stowed at a friend’s place. He adjusted well after a long, loud car ride (meeeeoooowwwwwww). He was mildly sedated and very comfortable; maybe a little too comfortable.  It was pretty funny to watch. His back legs stopped working properly and he actually rolled off the couch at one point. He spent the night stumbling around, exploring his new surroundings. He’s quite the little traveler himself! I’m so glad he will be taken care of while I’m gone.

The loose ends are tied up in a bow and I am, officially, on the road.  No car…and, one of the biggest indicators of freedom: no keys!  When was the last time you left anywhere without keys?

Looking outside at the mountains and water and sky – they are all shades of blue.  My leaving the island has many shades as well… blue in nature, but hints of bright white too.

Saying goodbye to friends is bittersweet. Aren’t we actually lucky, in a way, when it’s painful to say goodbye? The pain could be seen as indicative of the strength of the friendship. It’s sad but happy too.  We will all see each other again soon, and we will have so much to talk about.


Theme songs for the day:


In the Flesh? – Pink Floyd, from the album The Wall


Boa Sorte (Good Luck)– Vanessa da Matta & Ben Harper, (Deeplick Remix)

If I felt the early stages of freedom yesterday, today I just feel exhausted. I am realizing I can’t keep up this pace forever. My intent was to stay as busy as possible before I go, but I’m feeling the effects of very little sleep and an extraordinarily long list of things to get done.

I have loaded my plate to the point of brimming.

Take a left at Mitchel's Farm in Saanich and you come across this beautiful view

There are things that HAVE to be done: empty the house by Saturday, clean, pack, so on, so forth, blah blah blah. But the things that are keeping me really busy are the things I WANT to get done. Visiting and reconnecting with friends, taking pictures of everyone and everything, getting outside to appreciate the local beauty (who doesn’t start to take our surroundings for granted?), reading, writing, ‘rithmatic (ha, kidding), getting excited about where I’ll be headed in –wow- just eight days! – these are the ‘to dos’ that take me away from the former, more redundant activities. Who can blame me, hey?

The tough thing about getting over-tired is that my coping skills decline exponentially with every few hours of missed sleep. The emptiness creeps in…it’s like a vapor – a fine mist just enveloping me very subtly. It wraps around my back and moves through my chest, up the back of my neck. It’s not crushing, just a little stifling. It makes things harder.

Luckily, so far, I haven’t had these ‘vapor-bouts’ all that often, or for very long at once. Just an hour or two and then I get distracted enough to keep going. Actually, I think maybe I get bogged down by the big stuff I have to get done, and then I remember that I have a lot of fun stuff to get done too. This helps!

To pull a quote from an email I recently wrote to a friend: “One thing that seems to be getting me through the tough times is knowing that there is this huge web of inter-connected people; people that care for me…in SOME way.  Saying this, at times I also feel alone – even when I’m surrounded by close friends and family.  It’s very surreal and indescribable…?

Now that I read this back, I think I also find solace in knowing how much that inter-connected web of people not only care for me, they also care for each other. There are so many beautiful relationships out there, so complicated and simple and different. This is family. We are all family.

Theme songs for the day:

While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Paul McCartney & Eric Clapton, from the album Concert for George (*note: It’s live, and the best version of the song, by far)

Fresh Feeling – The Eels, from the album Souljacker

Phantom Limb – The Shins, from the album Wincing the Night Away

Driving at dusk - the clouds just glowed.

Driving at dusk - the clouds just glowed.

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