Monday, December 30, 2013

In Which I Prepare to Leave

Tonight is my last night in my York bed.
 Tomorrow I'll be sleeping on a plane, and the night after that I don't know. Somewhere in Melbourne, I guess.
Bittersweet goodbyes, a mizzling, drizzling sort of day. I think I may start drinking coffee again.
I still haven't packed. How on earth does one pack for an entire year? I want to only bring my backpack. It will be the ultimate test.
These past 3 months have been so full of surprises. I have absolutely no idea where I will be, who I will be, what I will have experienced a year from now. Will I come "home" (UK) for Christmas? When on earth is the next time I will be in Canada? I don't know, and to be honest, I'd not have it any other way.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Manchester Sighting

I thought I saw you in Manchester.
It was drizzly, cold, and I had my head down, navigating oily puddles and cracked sidewalks. Around me tall brick buildings loomed, and I liked the grungy feel of the people passing by, the soggy, disintegrating posters on the walls, and even the smell of coal smoke and car exhaust. I was in the North Quarter, and everyone was an artist, or trying to be, or just too poor to afford to live and eat anywhere else.
And there you were, or so I thought, sitting in a steamed-up café window, condensation dripping on the inside matching the speckled rain on the glass. Curly brown head, with longer hair like you used to have when I knew you years ago. You were bent over, and I want to say you were reading a book like the ones I used to lend you, falling apart Penguin paperbacks with pages that had come out and been stuffed back in again, always in the right order somehow, but that left you having to gingerly hold the thing like a newborn, afraid you would hurt it, or break something.
Most likely it was your phone though. Perhaps you were texting a girl across the city, someone who was equally as unhappy as you, who revelled in the cigarette black coffee alcohol depression that made us feel cool when we were 18, 19, 20, but now just seems put-on, a disguise, something we used to pretend to do in order to set ourselves apart.
You know what though? Even though for a split second my heart stopped, even though I knew it was impossible, even though I wanted to freeze or at least take a second look- I didn't. I kept on going, moving through the sudden fog in my thoughts until it cleared, until the hole in my stomach filled, until something or someone else caught my eye. And it didn't take very long, only 10 seconds or so, but here I am, a week later, still wondering.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Wolds

It was such a heavy grey day yesterday. We went for a walk in the Wolds, which were milder and less dramatic than the Dales. Everything was shrouded in curtains of decay; all the leaves were disintegrating underfoot and the grass was yellowish and close-cropped. There was a wind with a knife edge in it, and all at once it felt like December, rather than a mild drawn out Autumn. 
At one point we walked through a small village, and saw not a single sign of life, though there was a giant wooden spoon outside someones house, and a shrub that had been clipped into a bear shape, and someone had poken two googly eyes into its head. 
The smell of coal smoke was strong. I like the smell. It smells old, and warm, and slightly sweet in a way. It carried far into the woods with us, and crossed the streams and ponds and stiles that we did. 
I have such mixed emotions about leaving in 3 weeks. I feel like I tried hard here, and it will all be to waste when I leave. 3 months is just enough time to start to feel settled, and to make some friends, and to have vague regrets when the time comes to move on. 
Moving on though is something I do best. You really just suck it up and be uncomfortable. It's all about being uncomfortable, and making a fool of yourself, and learning to live with loneliness. It certainly gives you time to think about your life, and the decisions you've made, and decide what you want. 

 12th century church in the village.

 Modern-day stained glass set in to one of the windows.

 Sometimes it's hard to figure out where to go.

 The best part of all the hikes we do- a Sunday pub lunch with beer and all the fixings.

Dad being all like "Did I get this photobomb thing right?"

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Yesterday I dragged the dog through Rowntree Park and across the stray. The sun was shining diagonally through the low mist, and there was the strong stench of burning in the air. I had thankfully worn tall rubber boots, because we marched our way through tall, wet grass, following a cow trail and avoiding piles of earth. There are very few trees on the stray, just miles and miles of grassy, thistly, wild ground.
You could feel the sun on your face, but there was no heat in its light. Fall is here, and almost over perhaps, but the leaves are still falling, and it's never bitterly cold, and I hardly ever wake up to the sound of rain on my skylight.

Last weekend I was in Leeds again. Before we went I was told multiple times by various people to be charming, and I laughed, asking Aren't I always charming? Networking is not something I consciously do, and if I tried, I think I would be very bad at it. But, I am good at smiling, and looking interested at what people are saying, and asking them questions about themselves. People love to talk about themselves. I am not very good at talking about myself, so I try to get others to do it so I don't have to say much.
I am also OK at flirting. There was a dance at the Corn Exchange Saturday night that I had to attend, and the next day we all laughed and Steve said that this would be our new promoting technique- he would sit at the bar and drink beer, while I would dance on the dance floor. Everyone I danced with bought a comic the next day. I said it sounds like I'm getting the better part of the bargain, for I love to dance, and making people feel good about themselves is one of my specialties.

The Corn Exchange is this old building with a round roof, and inside there are three levels all looking down onto the bottom floor. There was a giant Christmas tree, which I thought was ridiculous, but then again, I am excited for December and being allowed to listen to Christmas music.

 I want to live on a narrow boat.

Dirty cities are my favourite cities.

Monday, November 18, 2013

This Weekend

Again with the simplified life stuff. When I don't have steady stream of distractions, of stimuli, it makes the experiences I do have that much more amplified.
This weekend for example.

On Saturday, Joel and I took a break from studying medicine/ editing comics (really, which one of us is going to make a difference in this world?) and caught the train into Leeds. I love Leeds. I really do. It is so vibrant and gritty and bustling. It has this buzz, this big-city vibe that York lacks. We wandered around the shops looking for a winter coat for J, and then went to the Christmas market. It was dark by then, and absolutely jammed with people. We had steaming cups of hot honey mead, which was sweet and alcoholic, and then we stood by a ledge and wolfed down German burgers and fried potatoes. Somehow food always tastes better when it's made right in front of you and then eaten outside, in the midst of a colourful crowd.
We got beers at Vodka Revs, and then made our way to First Arena. We had tickets to see Vampire Weekend, and I was excited because it had been a few months since I had seen a big show. Plus, I loved their new album, and wanted to dance. Standing in the crush of people for hours, with the lights, the giddy, close-to holy feeling you get when they play a favourite song, the way you almost feel like fainting when the lights shine in your eyes and then flick upwards, the numbing bass that makes the hairs on your arms stand up...
The show was fantastic.
I felt sensitive to every wave of sticky humid heat from the people touching me on all sides. I could feel the breath on the back of my neck from the person behind me, and welcomed it, because I was hot and sticky too. We jittered and shimmered in the semi-dark, like atoms of one big, collective molecule, and every sense was overloaded and overflowing.

You are left with a sort of high when the show ends. Your throat hurts, and your ears are ringing, and your legs are sore from standing for so many hours, but the exhilaration takes a while to fade.

On Sunday night, my mother dragged me to this thing at York Minster called Transcendence. She said it was odd, but good. A good strange. A nice weird.
And it was.
Being in the Minster after dark, once it is closed to the tourists, the building takes on a different feeling. It feels much more old. More sacred, more like a place of worship than a tourist attraction. The shadows seem blacker and the pools of light from candles seem smaller. There were about 40 of us, and after a time of music in the Chapter House we were encouraged to wander to 3 different prayer stations. One was in front of the Screen of Kings. I counted 15 of them, and I couldn't help but be reminded of the part in The Magician's Nephew where Digory and Polly find themselves in front of a line of wax statues of the rulers of Charn. Just as in the story, each King seemed to be a little weaker, a little stupider, and eventually a little crueller, than their predecessor. I could feel C.S. Lewis' words come alive in my head.
Another prayer station was in the crypt. To get to the crypt, you had to wander down a dark hall lined on either side with the tombs of Archbishops and Important People from history. One of the oldest ones I saw belonged to a boy about the size of a 13 year old, and on it it said "Little Prince William". There was a miniature lion lying by his feet. Once you reached the entrance of the crypt you had to light a candle and take it down with you. The ceiling was low, and there were a couple of people in robes, chanting and swinging a silver bowl full of incense. I didn't stay long.

I explored other dark halls, with doors leading off them and the ceiling so high you couldn't see it. I eventually stopped and sat on the steps beside a pool of light coming from a room in the centre, where there were 4 young people singing some ancient hymn. There was such a feeling of magic, as if there was a veil between worlds and it was blowing, swaying, letting little motes of otherworldly dust into the air.
I don't know if I would have been surprised if some angel or ghost had appeared. I felt thin, myself, as if I could have slit the air with a knife and disappeared like Lyra or Will.

Spiritual and mysterious. Otherworldly.
I am glad I went.

waiting for Vampire Weekend.

Friday, November 15, 2013


 a burnt-out, sunken boat that was recovered from the river recently

 Rowntree park every afternoon. Sometimes I swear it feels like I live in a fairytale.

 Cream tea at Grey's Court. There is almost no better combination than raspberry jam and massive amounts of clotted cream to go with fresh scones.

 My attic garret "studio" these days.

 Halloween pumpkin carving. J is paying tribute here to Reflektor's on-stage costume. Later, we turned it into a bandit costume with the help of a red bandana around his mouth.

Guy Fawkes Day fireworks at the university.

My life has been simplified in so many ways. These are the things that make me happy right now.

Haribo Star Mix. I think Haribo is German, and their gummy candy has been a favourite of mine since I went to school in Austria for 3 months in 2008. But the Star Mix is the best because it has a little bit of everything: gummy bears, cola bottles, eggs, rings, and hearts.

Going to the pub early and getting home at a reasonable time. No more the 10, 11 p.m. o'clock start time. Because my friends here are oooooollldd (ok, the oldest is 38 and the youngest -excluding me- is 27) it means that they have real adult jobs to attend the next day. So we will typically meet at 8 (on the dot. Everyone is so punctual. I'm always late) and I'll be home by midnight. It's lovely. I love my 8-9 hours a night.

Cheese. So. Much. Cheap. Cheese. Cheddars, Stiltons, Wensleydales, goat cheese, sheep cheese. Even their low brand cheese is a 5 year mature cheddar. It just makes cooking so much tastier.

And speaking of cooking, I love it again. I love going to the shops and picking up fresh seasonal veg. Coming up with cheap and tasty combinations. My dad taught me to use up ingredients in the fridge, to not let stuff go to waste. You have to be that much more creative and innovative when you have a mostly bare fridge.

Working for myself. It means I set the hours, and only I am responsible for if the work gets done or not. This whole illustrating experience has been so enlightening that even if I don't get more work after this contract, I will have learned so much about myself. That I like my slow mornings. I like staying in my pjamas until after lunch. I like the work itself, very much.

Skype dates with friends from all over the world. There are some people with whom you can just pick up with as though no time has passed, and those people have become very precious to me. It has been a fantastic way to spend an evening with a glass of wine, and most surprisingly of all, I don't sign off feeling sad that I'm not with them. I sign off feeling exhilarated and happy and at peace.

My parents. I was so worried that living with them again would be difficult and messy, but it's been wonderful. I really quite like them, haha.

The sun. We haven't had a rainy day in ages. It's nippy, but it's also November. And the leaves and the park and the people...ugh. Beautiful, to the point where I'm slightly disgusted.

The anticipation of Christmas, and most exciting, Christmas music. I have had to give myself some stern talking-to's about playing it before December 1st. And Christmas means Dani comes here, and I have missed her extremely.

Monday, October 28, 2013


It's been so strange. Not being here nor there. For the first time since I started travelling independently, I have no "going back" to go back to. I talked about it with my mom, and she said she felt the same way. Like, it kept hitting her that this was it- York was her home now, and had she made the biggest mistake in coming here? In fact, she said, England didn't really feel like home at all until almost a year later when she and my dad made a return trip to Canada to visit me, among other things.  In returning to the place where she had thought would feel most like home, it hit her that it didn't feel like home at all. She had no house there, no work, no belongings. It was, she said, a great place to visit, and see all the friends she had made over the past 8 years, but it didn't feel like home. York did. And she was glad to eventually go back there, after a couple of weeks.

I can feel that way a bit. Again, I have no physical abode to return to there, and only my poor sister Dani is still stuck there out of my family members. I have the majority of my friends who live there, but I have started to make a few friends here too. I have a job of sorts here, and I love the food and lifestyle much more. People are more reserved here, so I like shocking them with my openness. I feel fresh and bright and, strangely, a bit American. Bold. I can't even begin to blend in as soon as I open my mouth, so I've reached the point where it's just like Alright already, I'm a foreigner yes, get over it and sell me my darn kale.

It's a different life than what I was leading in Alberta. But it's not worse. I quite think that I will enjoy my few months here. I'll keep you updated.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dear Friends

Well. Here we are now. I can relax, start to evaluate, reflect on my life that whizzed by in the last 6 months. There was something kind of awful about the spring and summer. I guess I learnt how hard I can push myself, but it was to the detriment of my friends. Every week was a blur of work, eat, sleep- and my only social interactions happened with my coworkers and sometimes those I lived with. Don't get me wrong- I grew to love the people I worked with so much more, and to appreciate the inestimable value of next-door friends (you know, the kind who you can yell at across the yard and they'll amble over for a back yard fire, or if you've got a rare evening free you can knock on their door with a bottle of wine and drink and talk until the wee hours), but my other friends, my old friends, who lived farther away, or who were busy themselves, or unwilling to drop by spontaneously, those friendships suffered.

It's not that I grew to love them less. Not in the slightest. It wasn't that I wanted the friendships to end, or was subconsciously pushing them away- no. If anything, I knew exactly why my unavailability was causing them frustration. I knew that by disappearing I was asking too much of some. By being a terrible friend, I knew that I could ask nothing in return.

Yet. And yet, I continued this existence willingly. I tried- I really did. It may not have looked like much, but every phone call I made not work-related was a struggle for me. Every coffee date squeezed in between shifts meant a loss of an hour or two of precious stillness. I was at the point of exhaustion in my life where even to make a meal for myself was too much. I had nothing left to give, having given so much already to other areas. I was a shell. A broken body. A weary soul.

 You may ask, why? Why did I throw away so much, work so hard? What on earth could be worth it? And this is where I can now clearly see my hierarchy of values appear. What is the most important thing on this planet to me? My family. More than travel, more than friends, more than boyfriends. If I want to be close to my family, I need to move. And I am in the unfortunate/fortunate position of supporting myself. I have too much pride to ask my parents for help. Which means working. For money. Filthy lucre. More than just enough to support my life. I needed money for plane tickets, for visas, for rent, for food, for trains.

And so I ask- can you blame me? Can you really throw guilt on my shoulders that the reason I disappeared this summer was to make money to be able to be with my family? That I called less than usual, that I never had time to hang out, that I wasn't there for big events, for weddings, birthdays, hospital appointments- I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
But if I had to do it again, I would. And I'm sorry that that's the way it is. I wish it wasn't so.

Maybe I am a terrible friend, and this summer was just the breaking point. I have many, many faults, I know. I know that in a few months I will actually be leaving my family, to move to Australia (but that's just the hierarchy establishing itself again- once I have my family, the next most important thing to me is travel. And so off I go). And I would just like to say this. There are as many different kinds of friendship as there are people. It's natural for evolution to occur. People leave, and people come back, but that doesn't mean they care any less. I pick my friends carefully, and love them deeply. If you called and asked for help, I would be there in a flash. If you texted and said to come over, it's important- I would. I would get my shift covered if you wanted me to hold your hand at the doctor. No matter how much time has gone by.

So please, forgive me my shortcomings. Forgive the fact that I needed to pursue my dream of leaving a frozen city for somewhere warm. Forgive me for not having the free time to just chill on a sunny afternoon. Forgive me for not having the money handed to me year after year that would have enabled me to slow down. Forgive me for still caring and counting you all as friends, even when you felt otherwise. Forgive me for not wanting to give up or give in, even when things have changed. Forgive me.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Cross Canada Tour

Here is where I am for the next month or so... I made a cheap new blog so that my parents friends could read it without finding out terrible things about me...ha ha. Basically I am on a cross-Canada tour with my roommate's comedy musical duo. Yep.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

So It's Begun...

And so it has begun, the goodbyes. I hadn't even realized that some would happen so soon. I guess it is August now, and with my decision to not come back to Edmonton after the road trip, the end of the month is creeping up.
It blindsided me. We went to a movie and then got Denny's dessert at midnight, and when we parted he said, Well, I guess this is goodbye for a few years.
I hadn't even been thinking that. But he was going to Germany later that week, and wouldn't be back before I left. Oh, I guess you're right, I said. We hugged, and I said It was nice to have met you.
And he laughed, and told me You're going to have to get used to this.
And I thought to myself, Oh dear, oh no. If this is hard, imagine saying goodbye to your closest friends. I am predicting August to be a weepy month.

Have fun in Germany, I said.
You'll have so much fun, he told me. You are just like a movie character. Like a character from a book. You will have lots of adventures.
He got out of the car.
I'll send you a postcard! I shouted after him.
And he smiled, and said Goodbye, Andrea.
Then shut the door.

I drove home, jittery from sugary pie and being up too late and a maelstrom of emotions. I didn't cry (enough tears have been shed over more important things), but I felt numb. I know that when I actually leave I will feel sad, but I will also feel overwhelming relief of having escaped, and excitement for the future. I also have come to understand over the years that there is very few growing experiences that aren't painful, and through the biggest and hardest and most difficult situations you come out the other side that much more refined.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Elevators and Deliveries

I have been doing deliveries downtown for the cafe for the past two weeks during the day, in addition to my other jobs. It's odd to be amongst the dead-eyed office workers, wearing sweaters and long pants because of the air conditioning, while I run around in cut-off jean shorts and messy hair from the wind outside. It's very much solidified what I already suspected- that I could never work in a typical office environment. There is something about the lack of independence and troubled visibility of a bigger picture or scheme, the repetitive mundane tasks and the unclear hierarchy, all set under horrendous florescent lights and in a maze-like setting that just makes me think of purgatory, or how hell is portrayed in that movie "Wristcutters". 

Because most of the buildings I deliver to are government offices, I get used to seeing some of the same people every day. In particular, it hit me this week that this one building, North Petroleum Tower, is where someone I would very much like to avoid seeing works. It brought up these memories, and these thoughts, and because it has been 6 months since we fought and I blocked him on FB and told him to never call me again, I've had lots of time to bury my memories and thoughts and let them s******. Perhaps it's because it has been so long, but this week I've been able to rationally and quietly, with no great emotional investment, just mentally touch and probe these feelings. Perhaps that's why I had a dream about him last night, not a bad or a good dream, just a boring dream. Perhaps that's why this afternoon when I went to North Petroleum Tower to pick up our dishes, I had this dizzying sense that I was going to see him. As I approached the elevators, I thought I heard his voice but I shook it off as nonsense. Then I rounded the corner, and perhaps that's why I wasn't surprised when I saw him standing 15 feet away from me, by the doors. He was looking at his phone, and after the slap-in-the-face feeling of recognition, my gut reaction was to back up slowly, away, around the corner where he wouldn't see me. I took maybe two steps backwards when he looked up, saw me, and we both froze. If my face was mirroring his, it would have been horrified. 
So I moved forward. I wasn't sure how he would react, how I would react. All I knew was that this was an Awkward Situation, and if Nolan taught me anything, it was how to bury your true feelings and behave like an adult in Awkward Situations. 
The conversation must have sounded somewhat normal. I hope so. I believe so. I don't know how long we chatted for, but afterwards on my walk back to the elevators I felt stunned, numb, unreal. 

At least now that initial encounter is out of the way. Next time will be easier I know. But the thought that kept looping through my head for the rest of the day, and even now, is how small E-town is. How tiny our world is, and how powerful our thoughts seem some days. 

Friday, May 24, 2013


It's a little frightening, this living in limbo. Uncertainty. Going to the lake, of course, helps to centre things a bit, and you start to remember what is really important in life- family, loved ones. Books, card games, hard work, relaxation. Good food. Icy snow-melt swims. Walks through the woods with conversation about everything, while acting like children swinging sticks and throwing rocks in rivers. The 11 hour drive makes it almost a spiritual destination, where you must encounter trials and tribulations in order to reach your peaceful, holy destination.
Coming back, my brother and I spent almost the entire 11 hours listening to radiolab podcasts, and that helped the time fly.

It's green here in the city. My house is dark, now, with any light filtering in the windows yellow and jungle-esque. It would sound damp and verdant, but this is E-town, and therefore we haven't had rain in weeks and the gardens are dry and dying, and the whipping winds blow dust-devils of dirt in your eyes. It's an odd combination to behold. Life, trying so hard to thrive, and the elements tortuously denying them what they need.
Today might rain though.
Last night was my first shift at Fort Ed park, and I rode my bike there and back. Coming home late was terrifying, because I took a riverside trail, and there were no lights. I kept on imagining shapes jumping out of the woods, and then half way up the hill my pedal broke and I felt panicky. I never saw a single soul, but that wasn't comforting- instead, it made me more wild-eyed and twitchy. I don't think I'll take that route again.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Yesterday, my first day of FREEDOM, I spent a lot of time thinking about my future. Of course, I had a million people asking what I was going to do next, and while Australia looms far ahead for next winter it's this summer and fall and right now that I'm unsure of. Then, as I was getting ready for bed, I found this little essay on Thought Catalog and it made me shiver a little. Especially the part that talks about the importance of self-educating, even when done with University. All of the sudden this huge wave of fear and panic came over me, and I realized that it was a fear of "not-learning". Of not-growing, of not being educated, of falling behind, of becoming stupid, dull, of forgetting. Right after this realization I slammed my lap-top shut and forewent my nightly ritual of watching Mad Men, and instead picked up the book that has been sitting beside my bed for months (Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Paul Theroux in case anyone was wondering).

I love to read. I disappear, take on a million personalities. I don't know why I haven't been reading lately; maybe TV and movies are just easier. But enough. Now, no one else is in charge of teaching me. Now, I am no longer a passive sponge who just by the simple act of sitting in a classroom will be inundated with knowledge. Now, I will have to search for myself, teach myself, grab knowledge and experience anyway I can. I will have to actually read those BBC articles (instead of just skimming straight to the food or fashion ones), and critically think about them, and compare them with Al Jazeera opinions, and come to my own conclusions. I will have to actively search out relevant information about science and the past, and I will have to choose to read that book, rather than veg in front of the TV.

If I have learned anything from school, I guess it's that education should never be over. They've provided me with the framework for learning, the training-wheels, and now I am on my own. Wobbly, for sure, but hopefully the practices I form in the next few months will in conjecture with the habits I've gained over the last 5 years work together to ensure that my mind never weakens or becomes witless, and that a genuine love for growth and knowledge will arise.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It feels like winter will never end. I am taking out my exhaustion from preparing for final exams and working too much on my hatred of the snow and below freezing temperatures.
Last night I burst into the kitchen through the back door, and proclaimed to my roommates: "This year, this is it. Winter isn't going to end. The snow will never melt. It will never stop snowing."
The stared at me blankly, forkfuls of food paused enroute to mouth, conversation interrupted. I continued:
"I'm serious, guys. It's so cold and windy and dark out there that I thought my head was going to explode. My ears ache. I'm done with this."
Robyn spoke first. He said, "Are we talking about the same thing here? Today was gorgeous. It was sunny and crystal clear. The roads were bare."
Kristyn chimed in with "Of course Spring will come, eventually. It has to. I promise you it will come soon. Next week is supposed to be above zero!"
For some reason though, I couldn't believe her. We got our first snowfall in early October this year, and I want to see something green and growing. Instead it is filthy black ice and blankets of snow. In April. I just can't take it much longer.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Hot summer, with mosquitoes thick in the red gold air of late afternoon. Everything is heavy, languid, weighed down with residual heat and lazy words.
She sat on the front steps, getting the last of the sun from the West coming in between the neighbours houses. It lay like a blanket over her bare legs and arms, and who wouldn't revel in that feeling? She had a cold beer in one hand, a book in the other, and her dog at her feet. Happiness, deep and wide, consumed her belly.
But there was that niggling hole. That little worm of restlessness, of discontent. It wasn't enough. What she had, who she was, where she was headed- it was not what she needed, what she desired. How to put it into words- when she was Good, she was very, very Good.
For a while, at least. When she was doing everything she was supposed to, had all her relationships lined up in a row, all her accomplishments polished, all her kind-hearted selfless acts acted, she was joyful for a time. But. She became bored. The restlessness increased, her pacing up and down of hallways, kitchens, streets, became faster and faster, her sense of control seemed to slip away, and soon she was like a frantic dog locked in a car- barking nonsensically, panting, frantic, afraid.
When she was Bad, she was Horrid.
And so she would run. She would go out with friends and sprint ahead, jump on things, jump off things, smash plates and bottles, flirt and tease and laugh inappropriately. All the things she had formerly prioritized as important she would analyze and come to the conclusion that in the long scheme of things they really didn't matter. What mattered now was movement, and connections, and stretching yourself until you collapsed, and stretching those connections until they snapped, exhausted, sweating, crying, laughing, shouting, whispering. Enough with stillness, enough with calm, enough with peace.
Enough of sitting in one place.
Sitting in the sun, on a early summer evening, she was happy. And for then, and for now, that was enough.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


"I was 21 years when I wrote this song.
  23 now, but I won't be for long.
  Time hurries on,
  And the leaves that are green turn to brown."
(Leaves That Are Green, Simon & Garfunkel)

I used to get anxious when I thought about the future. I remember sitting on a swing set with my cousin Jacq at the end of a long, hot summer day, and talking about our fears of entering grade 7- the year before we entered high school. I think I was nervous to have a locker, and to find my classes, and to be in a school with children as old as 18- who I guess aren't really children anymore, when you reach the legal age of voting.
But then it just naturally happened. One day I was going to the new school, and I was with my friends and a bunch of kids I didn't know, and everything went smoothly. The transition was easy.
The same thing happened with university. One year I had no idea what to expect. I didn't have a clue what a "major" or a "minor" was, or why I had to "declare" one, or why the Engineers had such a nice new building and I was stuck in a 1970's nightmare with asbestos in the walls. Then, about half way through my third week, everything fell into place. This was fun. I could talk to strangers, make new friends, learn such fascinating subjects.

Right now I feel the same way about the future. I have no idea how I am supposed to deal with my taxes, or find a fulfilling career, or even push out babies one day. But if I have gained any wisdom whatsoever from my past, it should be enough to know that when the time comes about for these things, I will find the strength and the courage and the humour to navigate them with grace and humility.

I'm turning 24 soon. People now make fun of us in our early 20's. You know nothing, they scoff. You are still barely formed human beings. You have no idea who you are and what you want. And I do, and don't, agree with them. Yes, maybe I am still learning new things about myself every other week, and yes, maybe I make mistakes more than you do. I still have a long way to go to figure out everything about myself and the world. But, I know what I want.

I want to be near to my biological family, and my chosen family. Maybe this doesn't mean geographical location, but that's not all that nearness entails. Family and my closest friends are the most important things in my life. When I am on my deathbed, the classes I took and the jobs I held and the money I hoarded will mean nothing. It boils down to love, plain and simple. Giving it, and receiving it.

I want to give joy to those around me. More superficially, I want a home full of flowers and laughter. I want to see more of the world, and discover how everyone is the same, and yet unique. I want to crusade for peace. I want to not stand idly by when wrongs are being done. I want to find the strength to do the right thing even when it hurts me.

I want to stay up all night sometimes, eating cake and drinking beer with my friends. I want to see more sunrises. I want to slurp noodles from a bowl of pho and laugh at the noise. I want to be held tight at night, and I want to be happy with being alone at night too.

I want to stretch my body to its limits. I want to feel whole in my skin. I want to feel every molecule of my being tingle when I jump off the dock after laying in the hot sun into the navy depths of the lake. I want to sail around some PNG islands and become tanned from the sun, and strong from hard work, and bleached from the salt water.

"I've discovered that there are only ever two reasons why anybody does anything: there is fear, and there is love." (Sister Julienne, Call the Midwife)  I want to do things out of love, not fear. I want to have children, and I want to not be frightened by the amount of love I feel towards them.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Bright Side

Guys, this is a short, darkly humorous video that one of my best friends (and roommate) (who is also super talented) (and funny) (and so sweet and generous) (and girls, he is siiiingle!) and his buddies Josh and Kev put together for this Edmonton comedy challenge, just for fun. I did the make-up for it! Plus I'm in it! Watch it! Like it!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Too much energy. It's coming out of my fingertips, streaming out of my hair, shooting out of my toes and ears and eyes and twitching back and forth. I clean my room, do a load of laundry, get distracted by organizing piles of my books and papers and then switch to trying to study- but before I make a cup of tea. And eat a cucumber. And then start cleaning the kitchen, and the laundry is done so oh! Hang it up to dry.
Sometimes I miss the time when I lacked energy. When things were slower, calmer, more easily categorized and finished. I had time to think and think and think because all I had was time- time was maple syrup, time was slippery and sticky and I could wade through it as if in a dream.

Now I talk too much. I am still the shy, quiet child I used to be- except now, sometimes, my mouth opens and words pour out in a fast, jumbled stream and I can't stop it, they just keep coming. When I recognize it happening I tell myself to stop, to breathe, but then I am in the bathroom- how did I get here?- and I am talking out loud to no one but myself, saying breathe, breathe, breathe to the shower gel and the loofah and the green tiled floor. Then I can't help but laugh at myself for sounding like a crazy person telling herself to breathe, but my laugh is too loud and it makes it even more crazy, and I find that even more funny and I laugh longer, echoes slamming off the white walls and the dark skylight.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Saturday Snow

Last Saturday night, as the grungy dusk faded to dark, the drizzling rain turned to snow. It was the most magical snow I had seen all winter- giant flakes wafting down, half-melted before they stuck to your hair. Because there was no wind they didn't blow sideways, they didn't swirl energetically, they didn't attack like an icy menace. They were very in-the-moment snowflakes, if that can be a thing.
I was walking fast along a deserted street downtown, and my friend and I (though both mature adults most of the time, I swear) couldn't stop laughing when we looked at each other with our fluffy white, quickly sopping wet hair. It was like walking through one of those plastic beaded curtains that you used to put over your doorway, that's how physical each flake felt when it hit you.

I used to have a beaded doorway thing, and so did my brother and sister. Dani and I had flowers, and Joel had round smiley faces. I remember that my friend Allison had one, and it made me want one so badly, and I had to beg and beg my parents to let me get one, which they were reluctant to do because they thought (and looking back, rightly so) that they looked tacky. We drove to Chinatown to get them, I think, and bought them in some grungy, fluorescent-lit toy store. The novelty of having to push through strands of plastic flowers every time I wanted to enter my bedroom obviously faded quickly, and soon the 3 of us got inventive in ways of tying them back out of the way, or making "curtains" out of dividing the strands into two bundles. When we sold our house in White Rock and came to Edmonton, they mysteriously never survived the move. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Darin was American, and had been in the Navy, or the Army, I can't remember which, and he liked to tell stories about torture and seeing people die. We'd be loading our vans with trays of sandwiches, vegetables, fruit, and dessert, for the afternoon delivery run, and I remember catching snippets of his stories as I ran in and out of the basement or the back door of the restaurant. The Serbs and the Croats, I think. The Croatian war- I remember this, because my sister D was going to go backpacking around Croatia with a friend and he thought that was an awful idea, too dangerous and wild for 2 young girls.

Darin was large, with red hair and beard, pockmarked skin, and kind eyes. He was loud and crass, but he also would go out of his way to help me with my early morning food runs- making sure my pots of coffee were filled and organized, writing easy directions on addresses that weren't common sense to find. Usually in the early mornings it was just the two of us anyway, and I think he appreciated me being around.

When he started telling his war stories, I would try to let him know when they were getting too gory for me. Soon enough, instead of tales of battle and blood, he would open up to me about his personal life: his family, the love-of-his-life who he had helped through rehab for drug and alcohol abuse more than once but was married to someone else now, his plans to become a history teacher.

It was near the end of the summer when Darin's cellphone was stolen. It was slow and hot; the dumpster reeked after only hours of being emptied, the wasps were particularly bad around the doorways, and everything felt covered in a slick, sticky skin of sweat and oil and fruit juice. I was breaking out with more acne than I had ever had in my entire teenagehood from working late afternoons in the grease-filled air of the kitchen after deliveries- chopping carrots, peeling potatoes, patiently creating hor d'oeuvres, anything anyone needed help with. My two new best friends were K and R who had the same tasks as me, and because we spent every day at work together we spent every night together too, having wild adventures, while my old, more conservative friends were off travelling or watching tv in their air-conditioned houses...but that's another story for another time. Because it was slow, there wasn't much for us to do after our lunch runs. K and R and I would end up being given the oddest jobs to accomplish- clearing out basement rooms full of junk, washing windows, sweeping the lot where the vans were parked. It was during one of those lazy, sultry afternoons that Darin discovered his phone was gone. He had a tracking device on it though, and once on the computer he discovered it was in a garage or a house far up North in the city. He was furious, trying to call it, angry that someone would steal from him, the dangerous ex-soldier. He decided that as soon as he was done his shift he was going to drive up to the house and knock on the door and demand that they return it. This was the most drama we had seen in days, and because I knew Darin best and knew how angry he was I asked if I could go along with him. Well, I didn't really ask, so much as told my friends, and my boss, and Darin, that I was going.

We got in his van, and I rolled the windows down all the way. Some rock music was playing on the radio, and I was feeling so very happy to be on an adventure. There was a certain freedom and joy that was to be had from going out of the ordinary. The sun was right overhead, and it turned even the turbulent neighbourhood we found ourselves in quite pretty and idyllic.  We drove for a long time, trying to narrow down from the grainy internet picture where the phone was located. Finally we got it to the right property. Darin wanted to break into the garage to look for his phone, but I thought it would be best if we knocked on the front door first to see if anyone was home who could explain. No one answered our knocking, and after convincing Darin that breaking in to the house itself was a bad idea also, he wrote an angry note and posted it in their mail box. I took the note out and rewrote it with much less expletives, and reposted it. Then we got in the van and drove back to the restaurant.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Average One-Sided Bar Conversation

Hi. It's nice to meet you. I'm totally really into every single you say, and I'm going to laugh at all your jokes. Because secretly you think you are hilarious, and I'm just confirming that belief, non?

What do you do? Oh, that's awesome. I never knew you could do that with a business degree. Way to not sell out just like 110% of your graduating peers. Oh haha, I'm such a ditz, and so bad at math (flip hair and bat eyelashes). I bet you are really good at math. And science. Such a smart, smart man.
Me? Oh, I have a useless degree. Seriously, I think I will either be a waitress or a stripper when I'm done. Ha, no, I've never been to a strip club before. Have you? Of course, just a laugh. Do they dance like this? (Demonstrate a little, over exaggerating.)

A drink? Sure! Scotch, on the rocks. You're so kind. Ha, I know it's rare, but I totally love Scotch! I'm such an old man! (Look at me, I'm so giggly and girly and interesting and self-deprecating. Do you even know what that means?)

Are you from here? Must be nice to have grown up in the same city all your life...(cue wistful smile). Well, actually, yes, I have travelled. But let's not talk about that (look mysterious and deep). Have you? What's your favourite city? Yes, I've heard that those 2 week tours of Europe are so incredible. A city a day. How... compact. You must have made some really great friends on that trip. Oh, you went with your 5 best friends from high school. Who needs to make friends when you have some along with you, am I right? Right? Haha. Yeah, travelling is so overrated. But it obviously makes you such an interesting person!

What kind of movies do you like to watch? Yeah, horror movies give me nightmares. A friend told me that one was really good though! You silly, I bet you were totally scared. Big, brave boy. I bet you were freaked out. Aww, thanks. I probably would feel way safe if you watched it with me (put hand on arm). You could protect me with your muscles and knives and stuff.

A gun? Oh, for hunting? Oohh, a bow and arrow makes WAY more sense for deer hunting. Silly me, duh, I should have thought of that- lead totally ruins the taste of wild game. Yes, I completely agree! Those stupid activists have no idea what it is like when you're actually out there, in the woods, cold, alone, hungry, with everything trying to kill you. Your dad used to take you? Who do you go with now? Oh, I'm so so sorry to hear that. Your poor mother. Do you see him at holidays at least? Aww. You must have had so much responsibility thrust upon your shoulders, how rough for you. Mmm. Mmhmm. Oh, I see. Oh. Aww. (Various sympathetic noises inserted throughout depressing monologue.)

Another drink? Are you sure? Here, let me pay... oh, fine. You are the best.

Oh, thank you. Ha, that's so sweet. No, YOU should model. This is kind of a secret, but I actually did some modelling once. Promise not to tell anyone though, right? It's just so embarrassing (blush and look modest).

Well, I actually have to go now.

Coffee? I adore coffee. Starbucks is my favourite...sorry, you're right, nothing beats Tim Hortons. But Starbucks is a close second, with it's whipped cream and fruit and burnt beans. Haha, I don't know, I don't think I'm doing anything tomorrow. With you? Sure, why not? We have so much in common, and it's fascinating talking to you, hearing all about your life. My number? Well, how about you give me yours, and I'll text you if I'm free.

Ha, no, I'm not playing that kind of game.

No, I'm serious. I'm tired. My friends are ready to go.



Thank you for the drinks.

Monday, February 11, 2013

March, 2003

There was this one time, when I was 13 or 14, and my grandparents on my mothers side came to visit us while we were living in Perth, Australia. They arrived on what turned out to be one of the hottest weekends of the year- it was 40 degrees plus for 5 days straight- and while it was a shock for them coming from a crisp Vancouver March, it was hard on us too. Luckily, we had a swimming pool in our backyard, a big unheated blue rectangle, surrounded by palm trees and green bushes and a hammock on two sides, and a view of our neighbours backyard on the other side. There was also a tin-roofed shelter type thing, with a large table and chairs under it, and it was there that we often ate lunch or snacks after being in the water.
Because being in the water was the only relief we could get. The house didn't have air-conditioning or heating (quite common in older houses in Australia), and so the heat made being inside unbearable. One memory I have is of my mother hanging bed sheets outside the back of the house to dry (because who needs a clothes dryer when you have the sun, I guess), and running in between the sheets just to feel the cool whisper of the damp cloth on my hot bare skin. It was on the same side of the house as the drying rack that I finally caught one of the small black lizards that I had been trying to capture since arriving. They were tiny, cute, and oh so fast. After showing it to every member of my family, I finally let it go, because I didn't know what to feed it, and we all liked having lizards in and around the house because they ate the spiders.

Once, in the winter when it was cooler, I woke up to hear a splashing in the pool, my bedroom window looking directly out to it. I went out my sliding glass door, and saw a rat that had fallen in and couldn't get out. I got my mother, and she called my father, and he said to push it under with the net skimmer and drown it. I think I started crying, and my mom told my dad not to be so callous, and if he wanted to drown it he would have to do it himself because she refused. All this time the rat was swimming, and getting slower and slower, and I finally grabbed the net and scooped it out. Then I dumped it over the neighbours fence, where it lay still, not moving. I ran to the kitchen and cut a chunk of cheese, and dropped it beside the small wet form. I spent maybe 1/2 hour watching over it, willing it to live and run away, before the sun got too hot and I had to go inside. Later that afternoon I checked again and the rat was gone, though the piece of cheese remained, covered in ants.

After that hottest weekend, we took my grandparents out to the country for a weekend. We stayed in a converted school house in the middle of a dry and dusty farm, with a few old eucalyptus trees for shade. Red dirt got into everything. I can't remember what we did, except for once us kids were loaded onto the back of a "ute" (basically a pick-up truck) in the morning, and we drove around with the farmer feeding his sheep. On one of our stops we saw the skeleton of a sheep that had died, and when no one was looking I grabbed the jaw bone (with teeth) and brought it with me. When we got back to the schoolhouse I showed it to my mom, and asked if I could keep it if I cleaned it. She said yes, so I put the bone in a pot and poured boiling water over it to "sterilize" it. I don't think it did the trick, and besides, after a while of sitting in the hot water a smell started to arise that smelt like cooking meat. That's when I dumped out the water and left the bone outside in the sun to dry. I ended up keeping it anyway, and I still have it today sitting on my bookshelf.

One morning in the schoolhouse, I got up early and went into the common area to read a book. I took a seat in the comfiest old armchair, and to my shock and surprise a giant hairy spider the size of my outspread hand ran out from under my bum and disappeared under the chair. I was too sleepy to scream, but instead I jumped up and called for my grandfather, who was making coffee. He and my mother came over, and when I told them about the size of the spider, we all started looking for it- in the chair cushions, under the chair, around the chair. We thought that it would have been impossible for something that size to hide for long, and after a while of not finding it I think we all started to think that maybe I had seen something else, or been confused, or exaggerating. I started to think that maybe I had still been dreaming.
However, eventually my grandfather tipped the chair over and on to its side. And there it was- clinging upside down to the chair springs, front legs waving at us menacingly, was the spider- bigger and hairier than any of us had ever seen before. It wasn't fat like a tarantula; rather, it's legs were thinner and longer and more "muscular" looking. My grandfather killed it with a broom, and when we showed the body to our host out of curiosity, he said that it was a wolf spider, and poisonous, though not deadly so.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


"Yet let me say, what firmly I believe,
Love can be- ay, and is. I held that Love
Which chooseth from a thousand only one,
To be the object of that tenderness
Natural to every heart; which can resign
Its own best happiness for one dear sake;
Can bear with absence; hath no part in hope-
For Hope is somewhat selfish; Love is not-
And doth prefer another to itself.
Unchangeable and generous, what, like Love,
Can melt away the dross of worldliness;
Can elevate, refine, and make the heart
Of that pure gold that is the fitting shrine
For fire, as sacred as e'er came from heaven!"

-L.E. Landon

John and I argue constantly over everything. He is a dear old friend, but that doesn't mean I have to agree with him. He is so firmly entrenched in his belief in true love, in unconditional, over-the-top, selfless and pure love, that it makes me mad. I try to get him down to earth, but it's like arguing with a saint.
Today I found myself sequestered in an empty classroom with him (after he helped me with my paper), and soon enough we were sitting across the boardroom table from one another shouting with red faces and clenched fists. For the past three months our arguments have always ended up circling back to Love, and the meaning of Love, and historical and fictional examples of Love, but we both get so worked up that after an hour I'm exhausted and drained, yet my spirit is exhilarated. I truly enjoy a good debate with John, and there is never any hard feelings afterward.

Before we left our separate ways, he handed me a small square of folded paper sealed with a red wax stamp (he prefers to do everything with a dramatic flair). He said: This poem will explain everything.

I read it on the walk home. It is beautiful, and begrudgingly I'll admit that maybe he is right.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Is That All There Is?

I feel that this stolen week (this week I wasn't supposed to be back here yet, this time that forced itself into my life) retaliated from my intrusion and tried it's very best to beat me into an insignificant pulp. Blow after blow rained down, and even after I was lying on the floor, out for the count, it continued to kick me in my metaphorical balls.
This morning, as I have every morning for the past 10 days, I got up early. But this morning, unlike the others, instead of lying in bed with still-tired, burning eyeballs, dreading what new horror would unfold over the course of the day and mentally planning how to navigate the burning remains of the previous day's horror, I sat up warily.
For whatever reason, I had this sense that the worst had passed.
It didn't fill me with joy and happiness. It wasn't like I was sad either, it is just that when you get so used to the idea that whatever you do, or touch, is going to go wrong, and you resign yourself to facing a pack of demons you thought were buried far in your past, you just don't care anymore.
It is an apathetic kind of protective shield.
You tell yourself- hey, it's all burning up around me, you've hit me with your worst shots, and I'll still come out alive.
Bruised, tired in your very marrow, sluggish and slow with wrinkles on your face that weren't there before, falling into new habits that you never dreamed would have to form, your bedside table overflowing with the detritus of what you had no time to clean up the past week- cups of mostly drinken water, mugs with an inch of tea in the bottom, a thermometer with the lid off, books discarded after only a few pages, a bowl with the tell-tale neon yellow ring around the inside that says: chicken soup from a packet was here, mountains of used Kleenex crumpled up with snot and tears, sweaters, socks, a travel magazine, forms for government-issued passes half completed, and at the foot of the bed a heap of all the bed sheets from the bed, greasy with fever-sweats and sadness.

But alive. Not broken completely. There must be something about facing what seems to be the worst, and realizing actually how strong you are. You can give that special, bitter little laugh used by those who walked through flames and say: is that all there is? Really? That's the worst you can do, life? Ha!

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I think I should pick up B a present before I go. He has been so good to me while I've been gone; helping me with resume, job, school, life. He likes old things, so it shouldn't be too hard to find something. Maybe at an antique shop? I was going to get him something from the Viking museum in town, the 'Jorvik Centre', but I couldn't remember if it was him who liked Vikings as a boy, or J. Both of them kept pumping my brain full of information about themselves this Fall, and since it was virtually simultaneous, I'm finding it difficult to remember who liked what. I'm pretty sure B liked Vikings, because I am 70% positive that J liked dinosaurs.
I am a terrible person.

Monday, January 7, 2013

I sometimes get the impression that I've painted myself into a corner, so to speak, by the actions I've taken, the way I've dealt with the things tossed my way. I get this sense of claustrophobia and see doors slamming shut, windows being locked.

It's scary to care about people. It's frightening to have people in your life. They seem to send off these invisible streamers that catch, grip your skin, knot in your hair. You can't run with their emotions hanging off you. It's heavy, it weighs you down, pulls you down, like quicksand. Ties you to the ground. In one place.

Maybe that's what is so appealing about getting on a plane, or train, or in the car for a long trip. For a few hours, or even days, weeks, you get the sense that you've lost those ties, those tails dogging you. And it's exhilarating to be so light. Dizzy with the freedom and with the loss of other people's feelings, you can accomplish whatever you want in the manner you'd like.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


My wonderful mother has been constantly showering my sister and myself with little gifts ever since we arrived here. Just little things, like new stockings, or new make-up; luxuries neither of us can afford since leaving home.
Yesterday she presented me with a little red book she picked up at an Oxfam: A first edition, signed copy of A Book About Books, by Robert Blatchford. She knows how much I love used books- the feel of them, the smell, the falling-out pages, and if you're very lucky- marginalia by previous owners.
I was trying to read some of it yesterday, but written in 1903 by someone who educated themselves by reading Charles Dickens, it was slow going. Still, this passage jumped out at me "as if it was written in my soul, from me to you" (Tangled Up in Blue, Bob Dylan) :

"How London grows upon one! At first the endless whirl, the cruel rush and greedy hurry of it, with all the misery, vulgarity, snobbery, and vanity of the crowd, the tragedies of its dismal streets, the poverty and ignorance of the workers, and the monotonous ugliness of their surroundings, sicken and dismay you. The pain and the shame of it are more than you can bear. You want to get away- away to the cool beaches and unsullied seas, or to the clean and quiet streets and the clean and quiet life of some sleepy old market town.
But, imperceptibly, London tightens its grip upon you. The mysterious and awful magnetism of the crowd hold you. You mix with the unnumbered, nameless millions until the swirling tides and feverish currents of the great human sea seem to carry you away."

(Robert Blatchford, A Book About Books)

Having gone to London this weekend for the first time since I was 17, I know just what he was talking about. And, really, replace "London" with the name of any major city- Rome, Athens, Paris, Istanbul, Cairo, York the Saturday before Christmas, haha- and it feels the same.