chasing light

This adorable pair rescheduled from a few weeks ago because the sunset shoot we had planned was under threat of serious cloud cover. While it pushed us back a full 2 weeks, I don't think any of us have regrets.


It was a warm but mosquito-infested night, and while these two look calm and gorgeous, there were  lot of outtakes. While slapping. At mosquitoes.



These two are adorable, by the way. The best part about taking their pictures was that I would put them in a spot and instead of directing them a lot, I'd just leave them to their own devices. They would start talking to each other, and the smiles just came, the way they tend to when couples share a deep affection and familiarity with one another.



I'm super excited about the location for this wedding - it's in a town close to the village my Dad grew up in and where my Gramma and Grampa lived while I was a kid. Just the thought of making the drive we made so many times when I was a child fills me with nostalgia and I can hardly wait to drink in the landscape, put some fresh flowers down and get some Chinese food at my favourite small-town dive.



I mentioned mosquitoes, right? Part of dealing with mosquitoes is editing them out in post. They look like pollen fluffs until you zoom in and the fluffy thingies have wings.  #summerinalberta



Thanks for coming out and braving the local wildlife, trespassing on daisy-covered lawns, and chasing the sunset. Looking SO forward to the wedding, and I promise to hold off visiting my Gramma and Grampa and Daddy until after the wedding so I'm not all weepy and sentimental.


one of my kids finally got married!

OK, so he's not *actually* my kid - he's a Dutch exchange student who came to Canada 8 or so years ago with one of his classmates and we adopted them. I was fortunate enough to be included on the invitation list for their nuptials in the Netherlands, and even more fortunate that I was able to find the means to go. I have TONNES more pics from the Netherlands, but I really want to share these photos, because they mean so very much to me.

F & R, first and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS! I have to admit, it was killing me not being up there with a camera, but I loved every minute of the ceremony, even the parts I couldn't understand because my entire Dutch vocabulary (thanks to you) consists of telling people I don't eat pork and saying I am going to throw hot coffee at them. (The bride and her Mom sewed her dress - it was soooo beautiful!!!)


According to my sources, Netherbitlandian weddings usually take place on Fridays. While I've heard a few explanations for what the logic is behind it, the most popular answer was so that you got a long weekend to recover from the drinking. This particular wedding took place in Zeeland at the coolest campsite I've ever been in - it was a miniature train station surrounded by a freakin' hedge labyrinth! It's called Recreatieboerderij Van Langeraad and I was I love the second I saw potted daisies and a smoker full of fish...


I was a bit nervous I'd feel like the odd man out, being the third wheel to my other Dutch kid and his girlfriend and having only met a handful of others before the wedding, but I was so openly and warmly welcomed by not only the 007 crew (who had heard all about me!) but by the groom's parents, who called me the "Canadian Mom." Of course, while i wasn't on official duty, the camera came out and I got a few gooders...


I have to give a huge shout-out to T who kept me company and to R for expanding my foreign swear word collection. I count myself very lucky to include these folks in my amazing circle of acquaintances. Look at all these ridiculously tall beautiful people! I have seriously never felt so short in my life as I did at this wedding...


The bride and groom returned in the morning to share breakfast and say farewell to all the campers. Of course they were travelling to and from their bridal suite on a bike. OF COURSE!


I love these two so so much and look forward to watching where the road leads them next (besides Cape Verde where a delayed plane was an excuse to run down the side of an ashy volcano... geologists...!) Thank you SO much for inviting me, and I look forward to visiting the newlyweds in London where I have been told to refuse an invitation to go for a pint with the bride, whose motto is "eating is cheating."

Occitania AirBnB - Puivert, France

Normally I wouldn't do an entire post about accommodations, but I am breaking with tradition on this one, because it deserves it's own description.

Located in the Midi-Pyrenees, area of Southern France, you travel about an hour and a half from the Toulouse airport to the quaint village of Puivert through a maze of winding highways nestled amongst stunning vistas and hills dotted with castles, churches, chateaus, and terracotta-roofed houses.


The village of Puivert is connected by a maze of trails and narrow streets that make you feel like you're in a fairy tale. It sits beneath the Chateau de Puivert, one of countless sites along the Cathar trail. There are a handful of restaurants and pubs, a museum, and L'Eglise de Puivert. The air is fresh and the sounds of music, clattering pots and pans, and lively conversation echo through the town.


It's spring, and everything is dripping with blossoms, especially the rose bushes that seem to cling to the side of every home and litter the ground with oceans of brightly coloured petals; the abundance of the local delicacy (escargot) is apparent - you can't walk 10 feet in any direction without seeing the huge crab-apple sized snails everywhere.


When you arrive at the Occitania, you are greeted with a lush English-style garden.


Along with a beautiful deck with chairs and an umbrella, the garden is an oasis - charming little seating areas are tucked into every nook and cranny - whether you want to sit alone and read or visit with a group of friends and some delicious (but cheap!) French wine, there is no shortage of lush places to relax.


The garden itself is a feast for the eyes. 


The owners have collected sacred and beloved items from their travels and every were you look there are hidden treasures.


There's apparently a neighbourhood joke that says you can predict when it will rain by seeing if hosts Anaiya and Pete have hung out the laundry. (I have lots to say about Anaiya and Pete later - let's finish the tour first...)


It's really difficult o describe the way it feels crossing the threshold of this home, except perhaps to say it feels like coming home. You are greeted by the delicious smell of incense as you enter a room featuring soft hues, warm brick and stonework, and the gentle shimmer of pale pearlescent paint. The treasures continue indoors with a virtual museum of the hosts' personal collection of spiritual and mystical trinkets and collectibles.


I would be remiss if I didn't mention that you will also be greeted by the mistrusting neighbour cat (he likes to watch you...) as well as the resident furbabies, a hyper pup named Tilly, a chill old man named Patty, and a large cat who *may* try and climb onto your shoulders if you are not being an adequately active cat-petter.


In addition to hosting tourists like me, Anaiya does spiritual and yoga retreats, and has a dedicated room for this purpose. On the second floor, this spacious room displays a generous collection of beautiful stones and crystals, artwork, soft furs, and votives, along with a library full of books (including copies of the ones she herself has written!) in case you forget to bring one of your own.


Directly across from the meditation room is a cozy, inviting sitting room filled with beautiful light spilling in from the huge window overlooking the garden.


Up the stairs on the third floor are two of the bedrooms, each featuring a charming skylight and tiny windows peeking out from the slope of the roof. This room with a double bed and an inviting chair is decorated with warm wooden furniture and linens in shades of green and yellow.


Across from this is the blue room, where a trail of sparrows flies around the perimeter of the three single modern beds.


Back down the stairs and down the hallway is the fairy room, a double bed swatched in a symphony of crisp white, pastel violet, and cool aqua.


Beside this room is an incredible bathroom replete with mosaics and a HUGE clawfoot tub! 


Adjacent to the fairy room and on the way to the plush potty is the office and another beautiful seating area. This is where creative juices flow, and is the spot where Anaiya and Pete connect with the world through writing, social media, and more.


And upstairs from that, another beautiful room with a comfy chaise, funky old trunks, and a large comfy bed.


This is the "winter" bedroom where the hosts relocate to when the temperatures drop and their (private) abode on the main floor with wide double doors leading into the garden is too cool.


It's a bed and breakfast, so of course I need to mention that in addition to the beautiful and generous vegetarian breakfasts of fresh fruit, juice, yogourt, crackers, jams, cheeses, and amazing artisan breads, there is a never-ending supply of hot water in the kettle for tea, any time, day or night.


But the MOST amazing part of Occitania isn't the house, the location, or even the never-ending eye-candy. It is the the hosts, Pete and Anaiya, who made me feel not as a guest but as an old friend. From telling me about the history, mystery, and mythology of the area, they shared with me personal stories about their experiences and adventures. Their knowledge and generosity helped me plot the  perfect route home to hit sites I might not have considered before heading back to the airport. They are kind, warm, welcoming, loving, and adorable. Just trust me - make a point of asking them how they met and you will ~swoon~

Thank you, Anaiya and Pete, for welcoming me into your lovely home, sharing of yourselves, letting me take a ridiculous amount of photos, feeding me, keeping my cup of tea full, letting me love on your dogs, encouraging non-judgemental napping, and teaching me about the place you live and love. I feel like a piece of my heart now resides in a small village in the south of France, and I can hardly wait to come back with family and friends. Expect a knock at the door in 2019.

so, I got a new tattoo

Grief is a funny thing. Not like a haha funny thing but a funny thing in that it manifests itself in the same ways in varying degrees in all of us regardless of what we are grieving - major life changes, loss of a loved one, unfulfilled wishes and dreams - and when we are living in our own heads it may be challenging to see that someone's hurtful words or actions are nothing more than their means of coping with grief. Likewise, we all want and need different kinds of support - some of us will become meek, some of us will be mean, some of us will need to be carried, some of us will build a wall, some of us will retreat, some of us will make ourselves a burden... and the ensuing drama will play itself out as unpredictably as Alberta weather.


I'm pragmatic by nature - my tendency is to say, let's slow down, weigh our options and examine all the possible outcomes then determine how we feel about them so that when the time comes to act (or react) we aren't caught with our (emotional) pants down. Trying to make major life decisions while in a deep state of shock can be detrimental, and while I don't consider myself the voice of reason, I like to think I am at least a reasonable voice.


Hot on the heels of some pretty amazing adventures while travelling over the past two weeks, I was hit with two people very close to me caught in massive, life-altering crises, one on either side of the Atlantic, both with very different circumstances but both deeply tied to grief. One I was unable to be physically or emotionally present for and the other I was unable to be physically or emotionally absent for, and neither was interested in pragmatism. I was left not knowing how to support either of these individuals adequately or appropriately.


None of this hurt me, per se - I understand that people lash out when emotions are high and intend nothing personal. Often we are too deep within our own turmoil to be aware of how actions and words might come across to others. I know, because I have been there, both asking and offering forgiveness for things I have said or done in times of crisis. So while I wasn't hurt by the rejection, this whole Nanny McPhee need-me-but-don't-want-me, want-me-but-don't-need-me conundrum left me feeling awkward and displaced. My solution was to absent myself from one situation and start moving towards being present for the other, because it was the only way I could feel if not effectual then at least productive.


Like Nanny McPhee I fled the scene, and as I was wandering the streets towards the train headed for the airport all I kept thinking was, dammit, I wish I had my bike.

~~~

I got a new tattoo while in Thailand with my husband last month (May 2018.)


It sort of reads like a personal resume. We will start from the bottom and work our way up.



The symbol on my wrist - the one I get asked most about - represents a weather vane. I chose this instead of a compass or map because my love of travel usually takes me wherever the wind blows.


If you look closely you can (almost) see my anniversary on the tail (01/01), a pair of dots that represent me being one of three, with the other two dots representing my two sisters and my two BFFs. Each direction is one of the children's initials - W, K, M, and S - and eventually I hope to complete a "bracelet" around my wrist with the names or initials of my niece(s) and nephew(s) and (one day if I am lucky) some grandchildren, too. I got this symbol my wrist because a) it is most easily visible there and b) I can bring it closest to my heart.

photocred http://www.entwined-weddings.com/

Figure 4 is a sewing machine. (Have I ever mentioned how much I love vintage patterns?)


I started sewing when I was very young - by the age of 8 or 9 I had begun to sew entire wardrobes for my Barbies and babies out of old sheets and rags. When I was 10, my stepmom helped me sew my own Cabbage Patch Kid doll, which I would later gift to a little girl in the hospital who had been accidentally shot in the eye with a pellet gun by her brother. No one had come to visit her on Christmas Day, and since I had gotten a real Cabbage Patch I felt like she should have the one I made. Ironically, I was in the hospital after getting a sewing needle surgically removed from under my kneecap.


Over the years I continued to sew - I moved from doll clothing to modifying my own clothing, to following patterns, and from there to designing and pattern-making for myself. At one time, I fancied I might go to school to be a fashion designer, but I just wanted to create not compete. My projects evolved from grad gowns to wedding gowns, then to crib sets and quilts and baby clothes, then dog clothes and (of course!) a rather epic run of Halloween costumes, if I do say so myself. This was the 20s-inspired dress I sewed for my vow renewal in 2015.


Recently, my youngest daughter has started letting me design and sew a few pieces for her. This pleases me greatly. I doubt I am done sewing anytime soon.

Figure 3 is a typewriter. I happen to own 2 manual typewriters. The first one is a post-WWII antique Continental gifted to me by a beloved friend who purchased it in Germany. I was told that it was manufactured at a time when orthography reform was affecting keyboard layouts in typewriter design, and the placement of the ß was undetermined.


The other is a French-English typewriter, gifted to me by a friend of my son's last Christmas. While I do most of my writing on a keyboard with a computer screen, the typewriter was not only more aesthetically pleasing by more indicative of when I first fell in love with writing, which was right around the time we were asked to write 5- and 10-page instead of 1 page stories and reports.


Most of my published writing at this time is personal, political or professional. There's my blogging - my own, as well as a guest- and ghost-writing for other blogs. I've had a handful of poems, letters, and essays published in various school anthologies and several letters to the editor published in local papers over the years. I get excited to do research papers and have been asked to submit some of them for publication before, but I always manage to miss the deadlines. I journal on pretty much a daily basis. I also play grotesque amounts of Scrabble and collect dictionaries and thesauruses. In the next 2 years or so I hope to add authoring one fiction and one non-fiction book thematically linked to the degree I have been working on to my list of writing accomplishments.



Figure 2, the camera, isn't a depiction of my very first camera. My very first was actually a Kodak Instamatic X-15, a gift I received from my father 4 days after my 8th birthday.



No, this tattoo is of my first SLR - a Pentax K1000 wearing a 50mm f1.4. This kit was used by pretty much every student required to learn how to operate a manual film camera from 1976 to the end of the 1990s because it was a) cheap and b) practically indestructible - you could use a 1981 K1000 in 1997 and see no meaningful difference in design or functionality.

someone else drew this sweet ass K1000

While I had always enjoyed photography and owned some kind of camera, acquiring the Pentax K1000 allowed me to start mastering the craft and eventually lead me to my current career. I think the significance of its inclusion is obvious enough that I need not waste a tonne of words waxing poetic about my love of photography.


Figure 1 is obviously a bike, and I've had a few questions why this and not my camera sits in the top spot. I got my first bike when I was about 7. I remember it well - it was an orange bike with long, tall "chopper" handlebars, black grips and a black banana seat that comfortably fit two. Coaster brakes, no gears. It was a gift from a family friend who worked for the city's trash collection - he had pulled it out of the dump, cleaned it up, given it a good oiling, and from the moment I could ride, it felt like freedom.


I have countless memories of travelling somewhere in the saddle of a bike - they whir and click through a projector wheel in my mind, bringing me both great pleasure and great pain. Repeatedly wearing the toes out of my brown Mary Jane shoes by dragging my toes on the asphalt instead of backpedaling.  Riding down the hill at the playground. Racing to the store to buy Pepsi for the two young wheelchair-stricken men with muscular dystrophy that my mother was a employed as caregiver to back then. I couldn't possibly have known their days were numbered - I guess I imagined their eyeglasses would always have bubbles of sticky syrup needing to be cleaned from the lenses, and urine bottles - dangerously full - needing to be taken to the toilet.


As I grew older, the bike became more and more functional. It was my primary source of transportation to and from school and eventually to and from work, starting as far back as my first babysitting gigs. Later, when I couldn't afford to buy a bus pass or put gas in the car, the bike became a reliable fall-back. One of my first purchases upon learning I was pregnant with my first child was a bike seat and infant helmet, which sat in a closet waiting long before he was born. As the years moved on, I carted all of the kids around with any number of baby seats, tag-alongs and trailers. I even bought an adult trailer so I could share the sheer joy of bike transportation with my handicapped sister.

https://www.wicycle.com/

I remember, too, some sad and scary times - two of my bikes being stolen, riding home after a bad date and wishing I could erase it, being yelled at to get off the road, being forced into the gravel or snowbank, and having things thrown at me by angry truck drivers who I would pass a block later because they were stuck in traffic and I was not. I remember knowing that if I did not get on my bike and go to work, I would be sleeping in the street because rent was not going to pay itself. I remember the feeling of going over my handlebars or having the tires go out from under me and being winded, scraped, bruised, and scarred, and knowing I had to get back up and keep going because kids needed to be picked up from daycare, fed, put to bed.


For 12 years now I have worked at the University, and my primary source of transportation, year round, is my bike. Come rain, shine, snow or sleet, I am out there pedalling my ass to work. My initial snarky reply to why I ride a bike instead of driving is because I refuse to pay for parking (which indeed factors in) and there are obvious health benefits, but the truth is I ride because I love it. I need it. It is meditation, where pedalling churns my anxiety and frustration into sprints of clarity and joy. Riding my bike is a metaphor for my need to keep moving in order to stay balanced.

~~~

While I was unsure if my decision to leave early would be misinterpreted as rash, I did know that creating space for all of us - physical and emotional - felt right. I felt guilty to stay, guilty to leave, torn between self-preservation and self-respect, feeling both cornered and stranded. Knowing that it would not have mattered which side of the ocean I was on how utterly useless I would remain, I felt like the only way I could find equilibrium amidst the turmoil was to be in motion. It makes perfect sense to me that right then, every fibre in me just wanted to be on a &#$&^#$% bike.


I expect it will be several weeks (or perhaps months) before grief will finish taking its toll on either individual, and I imagine once the dust settles I will need to ask forgiveness of one while granting it to the other. In the meantime, you will find me keeping it all in balance from the saddle of my bike.