Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Home For Fall

September has always been my favorite month, no matter the country or continent. It's the month of cool, darkening nights, sunny days, hard rains, harvest, putting up produce, stacking firewood, finishing projects and starting new ones. It's the month of leisurely scurrying to ready oneself for the winter. ("Winter is coming.", you guys!)

This year, hopping straight from summer to early fall, via West Coast of Vancouver Island, has been a little challenging, but at the same time, having a clear focus has been good for my ungrounded self. I thought I'd share with you few of my favorite things from the week we've been home.

Favorite Harvest

Leaving in the beginning of the harvest season and water issues this summer have curbed the harvest I've gotten from my garden, but I'm rich in sunflowers, potatoes and eggs. So many eggs. Apparently in elementary math 11 chickens= 11 eggs a day= 77 eggs a week! I need to build an egg box to sell them from pretty badly...

Apple sauce is one of my staple canned goods and while an all day canning session can be fun, I love my single jar canner, which ables me to make sauces and jams in small batches manageable in the evenings, or on lunch brakes, or even while working on something else.

Favorite Craft

It may not be the best use of seed potatoes (have to remember to buy a crappy potato or two from the store) but potato-stamping stars and super moons on butcher paper for gift-wrap and embellishing with inkwell-pen has been an all-consuming obsession for me for the last couple of days. Holiday season, beware, I'm getting ready for you!

Favorite Outfit
I'm all about the blues right now. I love my blue 90s sunflower dress as a top and have been living in this little 70s chambray sailor jacket my friend Keri gave me this past summer. It's funny how things sit in my closet and then all of sudden migrate to the forefront. I've also been loving this brown felt-hat that Charlie deemed too small for him. The amount of complements I got on it was actually a little overwhelming (it's hard to work when people keep talking about your outfit;).

Speaking of favorites, I cut myself some more bangs, now that this year's mullet has grown out a little bit,  have been rocking a messy, gibson-girl-inspired curly, messy, very forward (like, on your forehead) bun.

Favorite Books
#readwomen2014 rocks on! If anyone hasn't read Julie Orringer's How To Breath Underwater please get on it, if only so that you can continue to The Invisible Bridge, her first novel. Set in Paris on the eve of the Second World War, it's the story of a Hungarian Jewish architectural student, Andras, and stuff so classic in period novels that it doesn't even matter, but because Orringer is an amazing writer, you won't even care. Trust me. This novel is engrossing, touching, and exquisitely crafted, and that my friends, is not in the sense of the usual publisher's marketing drivel.

I'll post more about the other two books in the coming weeks, but for now, seriously: Julie Orringer!!! The little book on top is my new journal notebook, from Brenna who's website you should check out once you've put your Julie Orringer on hold at the library.

Favorite Pastimes

Organizing our treasures from the trip and being re-united with my tarot cards count as pastimes? I got a rather interesting reading right when I got home, indicating a sudden change, or travel. Travel? Really? Yep.

Favorite Health And Beauty 

I finally strained and bottled my St. John's Wort oil and have been so excited to use it.

The moon earrings are my favorite thrift-store score in a long time and the beaded ones, made by my friend Alaya, get a lot of use. The perfume oil in the beautiful jar, makes a nice change to three weeks of dirt, grime and woodsmoke and was made another crafty friend.

Coming back from the trip I've been indulging in turmeric water, as well as putting it in my juices and smoothies. The store is all out of fresh turmeric, but even the powder tastes really good to me, indicating that I need it in my system right now.

And soap? You don't really know how much you miss it before you go without for a while. Ayurvedic soap for my dosha, with, you guessed it, turmeric in it.

Some camping habits though, die hard, I'm trying to kick coffee, but am pretty unsuccessful. I am, however, really excited about this coffee cone our potter friend created and I swear the stuff tastes a lot better from ceramic than plastic.

Anyway, that's my week at home in a nutshell, minus the boring parts. It seems like it's been pretty heavy on local goods, because man, it really is so good to be home. Anyone interested in sharing their favorite things with the rest of us, please do.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No Sleep 'Till ?

Ever since we got home from our trip, I haven't been able to sleep. I can go to bed normally, well before midnight, but once in bed I'm either wide awake, or if I do fall asleep, I wake to some small sound, a cat going through the door, an owl in the tree outside, or a car parting for the early ferry, sometime around sunrise. Sometimes I wake up multiple times a night, not quite knowing where I am.

When I sleep, I dream of water, consecutive waves crashing on the beach as rhythmic as a metronome, standing in the surf, or dipping my hand in its glassy surface, I dream of fires and great ships in a lagoon, caves full of bones and glass floats, of something, someone outside my tent, intimidating and inviting all at once; wolves, cougars, a great bird, old friends, unnamed people...

Upon waking, I feel untethered and ungrounded. It took days just for the ground to stop rocking under my feel when I first got up. Even though I was walking, I still felt like I was traveling in a small boat, feet bound, tethered to moving with just a simple motion of my arms.

Be it the Super Moon in Pisces, or just the after effects of a prolonged, profound exposure to wild nature, but the last five days have been a little unsettling in the best of possible ways. Suddenly it's easy to make decisions, both big and small, to separate that which we don't want from the things we'll take, to make what needs to happen, happen.

It's not hard for me to make quick decisions under any circumstances, but it takes me long time to process things, especially huge shifts. It took me about six months to finally internalize that we had moved, about a year to come to the fact that I was now living in America and married. Sometimes, I continue working on ideas I've had years ago, having them bubble to the surface at regular intervals, but not coming to a boil, until a long time has passed. I'm overly cautious with the implications of things, making sure I've covered every angle of decisions and opinions, mulling over meanings until they turn colorless from too much exposure.

Even when I'm not traveling, often takes my mind a long time to catch up with my body, for things that are happening around me to manifest in my head. Like I've said before, I'm not a very grounded person even under the best of circumstances, let alone when experience and scene-change after another rolls over my head like so many ocean waves.

So, even as I'm trying to write about our trip, the three weeks of paddling in the absolute Canadian wilderness, the whales, wolves, falling meteorites, peaks untouched by the Ice Age, I'm actually also still figuring out what those experiences mean, trying to put them in a wider context; both within myself and in what I know about the world.

I want to share them with you, the agony and joy of moving yourself miles and miles across open water, the inconvenience and delight of living in a tent for weeks on end, the utter dirt your body gathers, the magic of doing all this with other people, but my attempts fall flat, seem trite; their meanings not quite transferable, translated by some inept speaker.

Every journey we take into the unknown, whether it be a new town, a new person, an emotional, or a physical trial, changes us. The more we venture there, the more we change and the more comfortable we become with change. It's something I've never been that good at until push comes to shove. The unknown terrifies me for reasons very deeply imbedded in my psyche. I'm not good at pushing my own limits, or getting out of my comfort zone, yet at the same time I've always been able to make big personal decisions and take on things, almost at the drop of a hat. When absolutely necessary, I can stride into the new with the best of them, head held high and absolutely certain.

It's the aftermath of those decisions, integrating them into my reality, that I have a hard time with.

I guess I knew this trip would be a little bit of big deal for me: paddling a great distance without much sea-kayaking experience, in an unfamiliar and remote place in the elements, being part of a group of people constantly for three weeks…but I didn't, of course know, in what way it would be a big deal.

That's what I'm still trying to figure out. Night after night, apparently.

I know it might sound a bit cryptic, but it's really not. I'm not about to announce some huge life change, or anything like that, but I am brimming with internal shifts that I can't quite put into words yet and this trip was a big part of it for me. I look forward to sharing those ideas, and even the particulars, the miles and wonders and images of our journey to the wildest of the West.

So good Morning! I hope you had a goodnight's sleep. Any life changing journeys/ events/ decisions happening around there? 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Lost And Found At Sea

One of the hardest things about writing, is that there are countless, endless ways of explaining, recounting, telling, measuring and quantifying experiences. That, most of the time, the right words don't just leap at you and fall into their rightful place with any grace at all. Instead, they grind against each other like so many glacial flats, or tectonic plates, in utter chaos and disaster, sometimes for what seem like several millennia; and the landscapes are only exposed later.

Then there are experiences so clearly beyond words, that the words can really only graze at their surface, or gaze wistfully at them in the horizon. I feel like we just came back from the deeps, so it might take a little while to tell about it.

But as always, it's good to be home.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Right Over The Edge Of The Earth

Lately,  instead of simply navigating onto a new page from it, I often actually deactivate my Facebook account. Without announcements and explanations, just like slipping out of the backdoor to leave the party. I used to take internet sabbaticals, for a week, or a day, the mornings, or the evenings, but lately, with work that requires computer time,  that hasn't really been an option. And when I'm already online, surfing around to different social media sites, or blogs, or news pages becomes an almost subconscious act, a stress relief valve, a cigarette brake for the modern age.

To be able to remove an option from the list, to simply not automatically navigate to somewhere that's now mostly just pictures of kids and endless quizzes, memes and pseudo-witty commentary, has become almost a guilty pleasure. Facebook is the easiest internet convenience to give up. Were it not for the fact that it's a good way to keep in touch with faraway friends, I would be done with the whole platform already. But it's also a kind canary in a social media coal mine: when checking your feed becomes a chore, it's time to step back.

This summer in particular the accumulation of comments, messages, conversations, this other life, has been a little exhausting. Having to check my email daily for work is not something I relish, and during stressful times, it actually becomes and added stresser, something I dread doing. Internet sabbaticals haven't really been an option and the more engaged you are, the easier it is to continue to be engaged.

There are parts of my internets existence that I love and consider and important piece of my life. Like, say this blog and the blogs of my friends and readers. But when I walk away from it, I hardly think about it at all and sometimes, that is one of the best parts of vacations and adventures away from civilization, the headspace of not sharing your head space with others.

But even still I often feel like whenever I go on a trip, I have to prepare this blog the way I set up my house for my return; scheduling posts and arranging topics, making sure everything goes on as usual even though I' gone. And that's what I was planning to do for the next few weeks. Because somehow, subconsciously, I've started to think of blogging, of social media as something where you have to check in or you'll disappear.

My friend Amber, one of my first friends that I met through blogging, once said something that really unsettled me and has stuck with me ever since: while you're not online, people continue to interact with your online persona as though you were. And it's true, upon my return, I often find that the conversation has gone on, as though I was still there reading it.  That seems a little dishonest to me right now. I want to be part of the conversation. And I'm sure you guys can do without my witty repartee and cat pictures for a few brief weeks. So:  

I'm leaving. We're going on long camping trip, rather faraway. I'll be back in the fall. Have a grand time without me! Safe travels. Peace and love and cats,

ps. If you think I'm broadcasting on the internets that we're not home, fret not, there's actually gonna be more people staying here than ever before;)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Flower Power

This past weekend, I got to hang out at a friend's flower studio, while she made floral arrangements with the aid of another florally-gifted friend, crafted table arrangements and altar pieces for two island weddings, out of blooms all grown right there, just down the dirt road, in the field beyond the chickens and he horses.

The studio, is a half-indoor, half-outdoor space with chickens scratching around and the breeze blowing through the valley. Friends and kids and cats come by to check it out, or visit, or deliver messages. It's mundane and magical both. Inside, mounds of calendula blooms are drying in anticipation of being made into a healing, nourishing cream.

During wedding season, these ladies have to hustle to get their arrangements out the door and to the customers, but for me it was a much needed brake to get to sit down and craft some flower crowns for our dear friends who were getting married.

With pink, yellow and as I was repeatedly reminded, white which shows up better in pictures and from a distance, and a healthy sprinkling of high-bush cranberry bunches from the front yard, I tried my hardest to make sure the wreaths complimented both the groom's pink pants and the bride's complexion.

There is something downright magical about flowers, all flowers. From the exotic-looking ranunculus (They're like a cross between tiny peonies and those yellow water lilies!) and dahlias, to traditional pink and red roses, to bold sunflowers, to even the humble roadside Queen Anne's Lace, or yarrow.

Obviously, as much as I love wild bouquets, I wouldn't say no to immersing myself into bucketfuls of carefully garden grown blooms daily, given the opportunity.

Like all growing things, flowers have a way of uplifting your mood. They are so easy to marvel at, with their wild shapes and colors, their crazy abundance at the right hands. But unlike vegetables, the pleasure they create is a little more esoteric. It's not the joy of eating, though some flowers are certainly edible, but rather, feasting with your eyes.

And that, my friends, can be just as nourishing sometimes…

Do you grow flowers? What kinds? I have poppies and sunflowers and a cosmos, and some Northwest wildflowers, but I swear, next year, I'm going to have some more.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Come Together

This weekend we went to the kind of Island wedding where you get to visit with literally everyone and their mom. I love these events and they are too few and far between. Though in many ways, our community is much more tight-knit than many others in this day and age, both by the necessity of living on an island, and by the choice of like-minded folks coming together, there are only a few gatherings a year when most of us truly are  in one place.

Sure there are gatherings of different individual factions all the time: friends, bands, contra dancers, quilters, young families, drinking buddies, carvers, farmers, old fogeys, medicine makers, language classes, movie nighters, knitters, mbira players, wealthy charity ladies, poker sharks, singing groups, and just about any other group of folk you could imagine living on a small island in the Pacific, will regularly and irregularly hang out in all sorts of constellations. There are parties and get-togethers and retreats and just plain old dinner parties all the damn time (a frequent joyous gripe of mine-too much of a good thing), but our community at large, people of all ages and niches, rarely get to all come together.

That said, we do have a few steady annual celebrations, including the Solstices, Graduation, the Barn Dance, the community Thanksgiving, where we all gather together, everyone (and their mom) from close friends to acquaintances.

Just as often though, the celebrations of individual lives, the weddings, the baby circles, and sadly, sometimes memorials, are where we get to really visit with all of our friends and neighbors.

It's these events that often remind us how wonderful being part of a community really is. Standing on a lawn under August stars with people who know, if not all of you, then enough about to ask about your family, your life, how you've been, who are happy to see you and who care enough to welcome you with a hug.

When we celebrate our graduates, the babies that are going to be born, the kids that are growing and someday, like last Saturday, starting families of their own, we also celebrate ourselves.

The setting is almost always the same, only the starring parts get redistributed. There are kids running around in various stages of fancy dress and dirtiness. There is food and drink  and unpredictable conversations, with random people you haven't seen in a coons age (about a month). There are moms, and grandmothers, and grandpas, and aunties, and cousins, and brothers, and sisters-by-another-mother.

There are usually memories of the beautiful bride, or the blushing groom, or the handsome young graduate, as a toddling child, or a teenage terror.

And there are equally memories of the elders as very, very wild young men and women, of adventures, and farms, and unions and separations, and businesses and homesteads long gone, of good fishing years and bad harvests and escaped pigs. And then there are plans for the future of adventures, and farms, and businesses, and homesteads, and harvests and pigs too...

And always, there is music and singing and dancing.

We put on our good duds, the dancing shoes mandated by the invitation. We ride our bikes in the golden shimmer of the August dusk with potluck dishes and beverages rattling in our baskets. We watch the Perseids meteor shower rain down above the laughing bride and listen to the waves on the beach  below us. We do-si-do-e with older gentlemen and twirl with the little girls. We ask our neighbors how the heck they're doing. We have spirited conversations and laugh our heads off.

Together, we have a mighty good time.