Summer heat, relaxing its fierce grip as the sun descends, and the cooling air redolent with the smell of blossoms. ‘Tis a quiet evening, even the birds a bit wilted. The lushness all around fairly pulses with life, however, and all living things rejoice in the fullness of midsummer approaching. And I, missing you, reflecting wistfully that every moment of beauty not shared with you is a small sadness and regret.
Beauty is timeless, no doubt, though these moments are fleeting, and I have moved through images of beauty this past year with a focused yearning to live them with you. And if I had to tell why, I would say because of the way you speak with more than words, because your every movement and action and nuance tells me how deeply you feel. Perhaps it will surprise you, my intensity of longing to share without words, for I am, after all, a woman of words.
There is much for us to do and experience, but the savouring of small joys and the intimacy of immersing oneself in the wonder of another seems to me the truest bliss I can imagine right now. A millions stars for you to wish upon…
My adventure has begun, though having said that, I must tell you I spent the day cleaning windows, that most prosaic of tasks. I find it a chore that allows for reflection, as house cleaning in general does for me, and it was good to take a day to do homey things and think things over.
I am at present some 600 kilometres from where I started, having had possibly the most enjoyable drive of my life. Including ferry travel I spent about nine hours on the road, but with no deadlines or schedules it was delightful to watch the stunning geography of British Columbia unfold, and to stop whenever and wherever I liked. From the lush forests and sparkling sea of Vancouver Island, to the epic thunderstorm in the mountains, to the semi-desert of the south Okanagan, it felt like a gorgeous film unwinding. Oh, I love this province!
I have been exploring the south Okanagan for a week or so, and for various reasons will be here a while longer. Although this is a familiar place I have managed to find some new landscapes most every day. I have hiked a few mountains, explored the unique forests (mostly Ponderosa Pine with grassland between relatively sparse tree cover), and visited a few eclectic little towns – and the sense of adventure is, in fact, deepening. Likely for the aforesaid reasons: no deadlines or schedules.
The sense of liberation is deep in my spirit, though it is a complexity to describe it…In essence, though, I am liberated from my old life, not yet having got to the new, and it is delicious, exhilarating, and frightening. It is also deeply thought-provoking: I carry my me-ness with me, along with my daily habits – what, exactly am I liberating myself from? I suppose it is a sense of not being satisfied, of searching for more.
By chance I find myself reading a book about the black migration out of the southern U.S., told both in general terms and from the intimate view of three particular families. The individuals telling their stories tell of their longing for the ‘better life”, though it is different for each of them, and while the material (better pay, owning a home) is a part of the generalized longing, really they are speaking of the inchoate and amorphous. And I fear that I, too, may need a book to explain what I go in search of.
Well, my imaginary friend, it shall unfold in these virtual pages much the same as my life, messy and unpredictably. But this sense and spirit and ethos of adventure is key, I think: to be open to the possibilities. To see every vista as through a lens, and to contemplate how the most artistic picture may be captured. To be awake to the wondrous. To drive the curvy highway with a five-speed stick shift, not on automatic…
This is where my journey has taken me thus far. And the view from the clean windows is delightful!
I wrote of the journey I am taking a couple of posts back, and you, my imaginary friend, will be pleased, I think, to know that I leave in a few days time. My preparations are almost complete, and no doubt I shall find myself in busyness and doing very shortly, so this seems a good time to write more of my inner journey.
I find myself yearning for change, though naturally I am fearful at the same time…for who knows what change may entail? It is not change of scenery I am looking for, although I welcome new landscapes. And I do not think my essential inner nature shall change, although deeper insights and more compassion for myself might be on my list of self-improvements. While the journey is an actual physical movement, it is not a material quest I go on, but a spiritual one. ‘Spiritual’ is used advisedly: I am not searching for a real or metaphorical holy grail.
The deep nature of the journey is to write a love story, a love story on many levels. To practise a craft with skill and pleasure, rather than to conform to the mediocrity of small town. This mediocrity is rooted in getting along with one’s neighbours, perhaps – of fitting in, of not getting beyond oneself – it is a good-hearted notion at its best, but ultimately stultifying. To wander a freer landscape – less confined than even a large island, in any event! Though I believe freer in the sense, also, that there is room for different styles of living. To explore landscape and people and ethos of a culture different than my own, with openness and rejection of stereotypes and delight in the learning of new things. To kiss the boy in the tender spot behind his ear and to find joy in the sureness of living precisely as one wants to live, every day. Shall these things come to pass? You shall know of my efforts at bringing them into being, at any rate.
Both intimacy and solitude are required for the writing of a great love story, I believe, and maybe a willingness to travel the byways and lesser known roads. I look forward to sharing them with you.
This past week has been intensely bittersweet: the bitter of making goodbyes to very dear friends; the sweet of their company reminding me of the joy of such friendships. To set off on a journey entails goodbyes, even if they are temporary, and I have always been one to be the last guest at the party…For one truth in my life is this: my friendships are cherished, and being a part of the ordinariness and dailiness of people’s lives is a gift.
Me, and my imaginary friend came into being as a way to share the unfolding of my life with friends near and far, real and imagined, old and new. We live in times where those we love don’t always reside in geographic proximity, and the nurturing of relationships at a distance takes some care. Of course we want to hear of joys and sorrows, big events, and momentous occasions, but we also want to hear of the ordinary things, thoughtful moments, a thousand little things about those we care for. It is this very thing that we seek out in social media, though it seems to be rather a fashion to deride said mediums. Cute cat videos, selfies, and pictures of dinner are scoffed at as trivialities and time wasters, though I believe nothing could be further from the truth.
I don’t think many of us pretend that what we blog or share has earth-shaking significance: that is hardly the point. The point is that we are sharing – and that act of sharing is powerful, and connects us to people. I cannot imagine anything more likely to change our lives, our communities, our world, than this connection. The very idea of a democracy, as an example, is one in which we collectively engage in the question of how we shall live, as a society, and the more we are connected to the inner truths of other’s lives, the better able we are to truly engage in the democratic process. Maybe that’s a big leap for you, my imaginary friend – from a parade of selfies to the democratic process, though the evidence of how social media is changing our politics and political process is clear and unequivocal.
I had the privilege, also this week, of speaking with six different women about “The Dress”, last week’s blog post, and I am grateful for those conversations, some with women I know well and others I am only acquainted with. Each told her particular story of her own dress and its significance, and these were moving and deeply profound stories. The sharing of my simple story inspired much deeper sharing from others, and I can only be inspired in turn by beautiful insight into six different lives.
There is much more I could write, I once wrote a thesis on this theme, in fact, but I think I will leave you with a selfie, just for fun and provocation. The Belle Jar had a great post on selfies, also this week, and you might enjoy her take on the phenomenon, linked here. Do you recollect the proudly proclaimed slogan of second-wave feminism, “the personal is political”? Yes, yes it is.
Taken this past week on a nearby hiking trail, this photo rather summarizes my life at the moment, which seems rather grey. Not so much the grey of sadness, although there is a tinge of that, but more the grey of sameness. This is a bit of a paradox, really, as I’ve been forced out of my usual routines into some different activities while recovering from surgery – ah, but perhaps merely doing different things is not much of a change.
I weary of the script assigned to me, I think, and I am indebted to a friend for this choice of phrase. We are, of course, supposed to write our own life scripts, but I think this is probably somewhat rare. We make choices about many things, but we also play roles that many of us are not conscious of choosing. The roles are archetypal but also resonant of our own particular culture and its stereotypes…I suppose this is only problematic if we do not fit these stereotypes. In reality likely none of us do, though some seem content to fit themselves into the type.
I am planning a major move in upcoming months, so change and movement are in the air for me. The deeper I get into this process, however, the more I discover that it is my script, rather than the stage, that is more determinant of what I shall make of the production. I believe I shall focus on writing this script for myself this time around, and choosing the role I should like to play. I suspect there are several parts I may be suited for – and that can be incorporated too.
I fear, my imaginary friend, that writing one’s own script may be difficult, but who knows? So far I have only embellished the roles I have been given, as opposed to creating my own. If there is some sadness at leaving behind the fond and the familiar, there is also exhilaration in the creation, day by day, of a new way of being. This is all too new yet – but, well, here it is, day one. As always, I would like you to come on the journey with me.
I have made several attempts at this letter to you, which is rather unlike me, so I shall try to keep it simpler. I suppose I should tell you that I have been a good girl this year. I am happier in the mornings now that I eat breakfast, and more patient, mostly, and always, I try to be kind. True, there have been some naughty bits, best skipped over.
What I would like, Santa, is more. More of my new understandings of myself, my sense that life gets ever sweeter, and oh, my delight in living it. For this is how life is meant to be, is it not? Enough simple happiness to know deep in one’s bones that one can live through the trying times…I see very clearly that asking for something for myself is hard, so very hard, and I should like to change that. So yes, please, a little more.
Also you might sprinkle a little extra magic dust on the house of my love, for he is very special. Not only is he special to me, but to many others, and he makes the world a more magical place. Delight, wonder, joy, and visions of sugar plums for my love.
I love you, Santa, and there is cake here for you. I never tire of your magic, and I shall endeavour to hold it in my heart all year round.
Wishing you a splendid journey, kisses for the reindeer,
Last week began with yet another project, this one to sort out the large box of letters, clippings, cards, keepsakes, and every manner of memorabilia I have stashed away over the years. I come from a family of letter writers, and also from a time of letter writing, which of course seems rather vintage from the vantage point of the end of 2014. Nevertheless, I wrote, my family wrote, and a myriad of friends and acquaintances gathered over the course of the years wrote to me, too. And every one of those missives – card, letter, informal note, or hasty scrawl – resides in this big, heavy box.
The box is nicely organized, I will admit: sorted according to date and year. But of course, there are problems with the concept of the ‘box’ – I have moved it many times into a new abode, cursing its weight and not trusting it to movers – though, mostly, it is that I don’t open it often enough. And there is a treasure trove of stuff in there, indeed.
Unlike my collection of CDs and pictures, which were long ago digitized and happily reside in my laptop and back up hard drive, this collection proves rather difficult to reduce to a nice, neat, portable file. I am making the effort, however, because even a very organized box, when it consists of thousands of items, defeats the purpose for which these things were saved: to cherish them by reading them again, or just by looking at the ticket stubs, postcards, and other marvelous icons of a rich history.
So this is a winter project which shall take several months, no doubt because everything must be read and looked upon and pondered over. Fortunately, I suppose, there are sizable chunks of things that can be relegated to the recycle bin – the reason why some picture or clipping caught my eye long since forgotten and no longer seeming important. Most of it, though, is endearing and remarkable and oh so infinitely precious…
To all of you who have written me over the years, my warmest thanks. Every day of this particular project is a joy – I am laughing, crying, commiserating, celebrating, sharing, and loving you all over again. Your words were important then, but now as golden nuggets highlighting my own personal journey. What a gift you all were, and are, and what better time to acknowledge the wonder of friends and family? Words matter and I feel incredibly grateful for this vast pile of them, from you. I shall share only one, which is one of my favourites, and here it is, from an imaginary friend.
My heart cries out for a little forest love, this mid-November day. The sun is glinting off the glacier as I head to the logging road, and that is a frosty, slippery adventure in itself, just getting to the trail. It’s chilly! Record low temperatures. I know it’s the right choice for my morning hike as I stop to take in the view of the headwaters of the watershed: river meandering on its course, green spreading out and up into the low hills, snow in the high mountains. The slanting autumn sunlight over all brightens the chill, and I never fail to be awed and exhilarated by this vantage point.
It is cold enough that my boots make a satisfying crunch on the trail; a rarity in this temperate rain forest where mud is the winter norm. Perhaps because of the cold, there is not a soul to be seen, and the silence quite profound. At one point in a clearing of deciduous trees, I can actually hear the sound of the few remaining leaves on the trees hitting the ground…echoes of crows in the distance, and faint forest rustlings are all the soundscape save me.
This is a trail with a few spectacular views, and I stop at every one. The sense of simply letting the beauty and stillness wash over me works its magic, and I arrive at my chosen destination – the summer swimming hole – with body warmed, head cleared, heart restored to the sweetness of life.
I am deeply aware of what a gift it is, this beauty of the place I live in. Maybe it is merely that I am a simple person that I take such pleasure and sustenance in it, but it seems to me that seeking out the gift is a gift, too. My week has been full with work and writing and friends, but it is this daily hour or two at deep, restorative play that keeps me most keenly alive. Alive to curiosity, potential, the mystery of it all.
Yes, how very sweet it is, my imaginary friend. The glacier, the mountains, the forest, the river – they move in a different stream of time. Stepping into the stream is to step into eternity, briefly. To become one with the cosmos… Merely my fancy, perhaps. Still, if I could, I would give everyone this gift – ah, here it is, offered up with love.