Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Midsummer Night's Dream

'It's been awhile...'. I swear I write a post every year that begins with this sentiment. True to form, here I am again this year returning from a rather lengthy blogging hiatus. I'm starting to realize that certain seasons of the year are busier for me than others and I'm wondering whether this may also be a reflection of the larger 'seasons' of life. Every year, summer is a write-off, with endless visits from friends that have moved 'away',  sun-stained patio nights, staycation adventures and weddings. And now that I'm well into the summer of life, I feel equally short on time to squeeze in everything I want from these wondrous months and years.

As I write this I am sprawled out on a couch in  condominium of a couple I have never met.  It's a gorgeous spot, smack dab in the heart of Kitlslano Beach, Vancouver, British Columbia. I am here for the wedding of my dear friend, Andrew. I met his bride-to-be only last week and in my very humble opinion he has chosen wisely.  The wedding is set for Friday, but the parties have already begun. Being an 'out-of-town' guest has its perks, as I've been invited to the rehearsal dinner and also get to help out with pre-wedding decorations (this is genuinely fun for me!).

While I've been on the West Coast I've also had the chance to catch-up with some other very dear friends. I made the trek to Victoria for the weekend and stayed with my very wonderful, adventurous friend, Natasha.  Sometimes I feel like she's my younger sister, other times the closest confidante a gal could wish for.  My friend, Chris, whom I met way back in 2002 while doing my first co-op work term in Ottawa, also lives in Victoria with  his wife of 8 years, Wendy. They just had a little boy, Paul, who is legitimately as super-cute baby (come on, we all know they're not ALL cute when they're babies. so let's just admit it!).  It was an extremely enjoyable and rewarding trip, complete with farmers' markets and a mountain hike that made me feel better about all the sangria I drank to celebrate my birthday.

Returning to Vancouver after the weekend, I met up with my friend, Christine, who is truly an indomitable spirit with a ferocious talent for making food taste divine (she's a Red Seal Chef). She is getting married in a few weeks to an equally impressive man.  I'm pretty sure they're super heroes by night. 

On Tuesday night I had the great fortune of meeting up with my kindred spirit, Donna. Donna and I met back in 2011 at a rural tourism conference in the interior of BC. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea why my employer bothered to send me across the country for a conference that was clearly province-based, but I am so glad he did. Donna ended up being  my 'roomie' in the chalet I had booked and we hit it off immediately. I am so grateful for my intuition, which allows me to pick up on compatible energies really quickly. Well, we had limited time in rural BC to truly cement a friendship, but kindred spirits cannot be kept apart, so when I messaged Donna that I was coming to Vancouver, where she now lives, she made a point of planning a special evening and inviting me to be part of it. I had a most fantastic time with her and two of her four daughters, as well as her daughter's friend, at Theatre Under the Stars in Stanley Park. TUTS, as it is known, featured a Broadway musical adaptation of the movie Shrek; it was spectacular and hilarious!!

Me being me, I am always searching for the deeper meaning and messages from my experiences in life and this trip to the West Coast has provided much by way of reflection on life and relationships. I've been gifted with slices of time in the lives of some beautiful people. I've observed snippets of their existence and had conversations, big and small, with them. All of the moments I've spent with them have been illuminating. Everyone is at a differing stages of life in their relationships - from newly single to almost married to LT married with a new baby. They're also at different stages in their careers- from the friend that finally has a job she absolutely loves to the friend that's suffering through a fifth year at a job s/he hates, to the friend contemplating a career change to the one that's on the search for a job aligned with their beliefs.

What I was reminded of through these interactions is that life is an exciting, never-ending series of experiences. Some will be more challenging and stressful than others. Some will feel more stable and safe, others will feel more like a roller-coaster ride.  Ultimately, however, each and every one of these experiences will morph into  anew experience with the passage of time. The newly weds will be old pros at the marriage thing, the single gals will more likely than not find themselves in the throes of another relationship, the parents of the new baby will soon be sending their little guy off to school. Some may leave their current jobs for more fulfilling careers, others may move into new positions at beloved workplaces. 
 We do not often make the time to take stock of the grand experiences that life has offered us. We are so focused on what is coming down the pipeline we forget to stand in gratitude of all the experiences we have been gifted with so far.  Sometimes it takes a vacation to a place far from home and a peak into the lives of others to make us realize how wondrous each stage in life is, and how very unique our journeys through this world truly are.

We don't really know what the future holds, but with each new day the future transforms itself into the present and there we are, moving through it and dealing with all that it has to offer us, both the challenges and the rewards. This year has been an epic one for me in terms of experiences and change. I feel that I am in the midst of a phenomenal shift in the trajectory of my life and I am nothing short o ecstatic about the current relationships and opportunities for growth that life has presented me with. 

I stand in gratitude for the friends who have invited me into their worlds, I am inspired by each and every one of you.  Thank you for reminding me that life is an accumulation of experiences that are best shared with those that you choose to love and that choose to love you.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

From A Land Down Under

Changing it up a little with this post by sharing a wee snippet of nostalgia and creative writing from a time and place that still remain vividly imprinted in my memory.

It's been 7 years since I last adventured off this continent to Oz. It was my home for 10 months, but in that short period of time the entire trajectory of my life shifted. When I returned to Canada, I was compelled to write and I found myself writing almost exclusively about my time in the Land Down Under. Here is one piece of writing in a series I simply titled 'Australian Vignettes'.   

Saving Wales

A kookaburra laughs at me incessantly. Clutching my mobile phone, my eyes sweep the caked-dry dirt path in front of me as I quicken my pace, the muted browns and yellows of the drought-laden landscape threatening to strike out at my exposed ankles. Tara and Jake bound ahead, their floppy ears batting away the horseflies, their pink tongues sponging up the dry, dusty air of the Australian outback they frenetically chase the promise of adventure, oblivious to the fear paralyzing their human companion.

Gravity-fed by a dam that is as parched as the straw grass that pock marks the barren valley, the water pump has gone again. I am charged with fixing it or calling a plumber. Trotting lightly along the path Jo and Jason have carved out with the Ranger, I curse self-determination.  Gritting my teeth, I push my bejewelled mauve sunglasses up the sweaty bridge of my nose and replay the practice session in my head.  Some twenty pairs of brown eyes take in my frantic trotting. A herd of curious, thirsty Welsh ponies follow along the fence line. The soft, rhythmic beat of their hooves against the hard clay is reassuring, a warning to any slithery outback creatures to stay away.

There it sits under a swaggering eucalyptus, canopied from the harsh heat of a January sun, remarkably white, its enamel smooth and its claws perfectly manicured. For one long heart beat I am tempted by the unspoken invitation to strip off my sweaty mucking-out clothes and skinny dip in the Outback’s bathtub-turned-water-trough. Self-consciously, I look back over my shoulder for unwanted voyeurs. They are still, standing in headstrong formation, waiting for their water goddess to save Wales.

Instructions on How to Save Wales:

Turn the orange valve clockwise as far as it will go. Ditto for the valve in the ground too. Slide down to the water’s edge of the neighbour’s dam. Turn the water pump’s motor switch to ‘on’ and then yank the cord hard until the motor starts. Then the black hose has to fill with water. You can tell when it does, it’ll be heavy. Be patient, watch for snakes while you wait.  Then turn everything off, close the valves and go back to the house. If the toilet flushes, the pump’s working and you've saved Wales. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Gettin' My Food On

Tonight I thought I permanently misplaced one of my cats. Thankfully, I was wrong and therefore have a few spare moments to do something other than freak out and traipse around Charlottetown trying to find a black and white feline. I decided to take these spare moments to do some writing, including a wee blog post (ta da!) and something other yet-to-be-determined prose (I'm going to pull out Julia Cameron's 'The Artist's Way' and try diving in the deep end of the creative writing pool again. Sadly, there is no pool bar because I forgot to stock up on wine, so sobriety it shall be).

It's the middle of April and, thankfully, the snow finally appears to be melting. Today was a superbly warm and sunny day, so I took the opportunity to go for my first outdoor jog of the year. Sunday was the first BBQ of the year and my first ever scooter ride (so much fun that I immediately decided I must visit Greece and become a scooter aficionado).  I have to say, getting some Vitamin D via the sunshine really does add an extra shot of energy to the system. 

The past month has been rather crazy busy and I'm just now catching my breath and having a chance to relax a little.  On April 3rd the MEAL team hosted A Heritage MEAL at the PEI Farm Centre and it appears to have been a smashing success, based on attendance, feedback and the massive amount of food prepared and consumed. There were some bumps in the lead up to the event, namely due to the insane number of storms/blizzards PEI experienced, but we pulled it off in the end. We had some amazing speakers talking about everything from garlic growing to promoting local food through social media to volunteer opportunities with the PEI Food Exchange.  I had to suppress a laugh any time someone raved about the oatcakes or gingersnaps, because I was in charge of baking them and totally screwed up the measurement of butter. Apparently butter makes everything better, just like bacon!

So, another successful MEAL under our belts and already there is talk of 'the next MEAL'. Every time I hear those words, I am equal parts excited and terrified. Organizing such an event is so inspiring, I absolutely loved meeting and working with so many awesome people, and I'm moved by the outpouring of support and engagement that the MEALs have garnered. On the other hand, it is a heck of a lot of work and stress. Granted, wine consumption helps with both of those issues. Stay tuned (probably for a long time) to find out if another MEAL is in the works.

Tomorrow I am co-hosting a Lunch N' Learn called 'Taking Charge of Your Health'. My very wonderful friend and mentor, Robert Paterson, is the other host and has been taking charge of his health with great success for a number of years. I, on the other hand, represent the 'struggle' that most of us experience when trying to make better health choices.  I feel like I've had many milestones on my 'journey', but this last one (eliminating sugar) has been the game-changer in so many ways. So, tomorrow I will talk about how I managed to finally break the sugar addiction and we will invite attendees to speak about their own experiences, challenges and successes. Both Rob and I feel that it's really important to have a community of support when working towards better eating and living.

Burger Love is back. This year there are 54 restaurants participating. Personally, I think it's a bit much when a pizzeria and an Italian restaurant are serving up burgers, but that's just my opinion. I didn't intend to actually eat any burgers this year, but it seems that every social rendezvous must centre around burger consumption, so I've actually had 4 burgers, but ate twice at the same restaurant, so have only had three different burgers. I highly recommend both The Olympian at the Downtown Deli and M-2 at Mavor's. I was not so enamoured with the one at St. James' Gate, which is, ironically, the one I ate twice. It was OK, but not mind-blowing.

And that concludes another random blog post by moi. It is now too late to start creative writing, so instead I will give kitty cats some snuggles and then go to bed.