Saturday, January 23, 2016

2015 in Pictures

This will be a weird reflection for me because Nikki is no longer by my side.

First self-portrait of Nikki and her Mama, 2009

She was ten years old, and had stopped responding half of the time. I sadly made the decision last winter that she had given us all the beautiful photographs she could muster, and was ready to rest. It was like saying goodbye to a faithful pet, in the sense that only you and other people who love their animals and fur babies like a daughter or son could understand-- yes I know she was just a Thing, but she was like my metal baby.

She who was with me when I got in a blue truck to drive up to the Yukon for the very first time, with a man that was to become my husband

She who was with me when I flew to London with my best friend to teach feral students and explore so many countries

She who has been your eyes and guide through the birth of this blog, from the first post four years ago, to all the sun-drenched days and dark nights of our time in the North after that

In a fitting way, Nikki's last adventure with us was being there to capture our bittersweet departure from Haines Junction, as we road tripped our way to our next home in Vancouver, towing a dusty U-Haul all the while. Like maybe leaving the Yukon was her last able breath, and it was time to stop.

For faithfully documenting the beginning of These Northern Times to the end, and for always reminding me about what is the sweetest in life, we salute you Nikki.


Feeling forlorn, I almost didn't do a '2015 in Pictures'. None of my pictures from last year had her at the helm.

But, I rallied because looking back at my year is an ancient ritual for me. Maybe it doesn't much matter whether a photo is taken with a DSLR or an iPhone. Maybe what is central is that it tells a story of where you've been, to hint at where you're going next.


With that in mind, I give you our year--

(which, to be sure, was a mixture of light and dark and gravity and levity as always. One thing I do know, is that our roots in BC and Vancouver grew with each passing month. We feel strong here now. My heart is back home with me.)

Enjoy the review!


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Of late: December Musings

1/ Winter windshield art, early morning   2/ Snake Plant Christmas Tree

3/ Unicorn Twin comes to visit   4/ Precious additions to the collection

5/ Iona Beach walk at sunset    6/ Hollyburn Mt. on a bluebird day, cross country skiing

7/ I outdid myself!   8/ Self-portrait of artist

Of late...

December was// so much. 

Much as in love
Much as in fun
Much as in hectic
Much as in overwhelming

(What is neat, as I get to know myself better, is that you don't have to feel this or that. Usually, it's this and that, and both are true true true.)

Looking at my calendar for December, every day was scribbled with something. Thank goodness my last grad school class ended on the 3rd, but man-- even with a month of UBC-free evenings, we were like hummingbirds flitting about towards our sugar water. When December hits, I am always like this. The excitement of the hunt for the perfect Christmas present, the final push of school/professional obligations (three huge papers, for three different classes), the friends and family I don't get to see when I'm cooped up with life. I go twice the speed in Dec.

Sometimes, I forget to just sit down for a while. That's all my heart needs really-- a chance to make a butt- indent on the teal couch, before hurtling back out towards the revolving front door of parties and brunches.

In last month's pen pal letter, I exclaimed that December is my favourite time of the year, and in so many ways that is true. My compassion for others, especially those outside my specific frame of experience, gets wider; my thoughts get soft. There is that seasonal amnesia I get though, where I always forget that the weeks leading up to Christmas, and the week after can put me flat on my back. 

Just watch. Next year, I'll shout from some rooftop in November that I can't WAIT for December to come, and you will have to pull me down from my rainbow ledge and say, "That is very nice and good, but please do absolutely nothing from Dec. 19th to 22nd in order to prepare your selective extroversion tank. Thank you."

What Did You Love?//  

♥ The satisfying feeling of making things with my hands. The meditative nature of using watercolors in a sparsely lit room, with Christmas carols on repeat.
♥ Supporting local companies and makers for 90% of the presents we gifted this year.
♥ Cold walks in Stanley Park with a far flung friend, where you see the sun set and glimpses of each other's heart.
♥ Getting to tuck my nephew-in-law back into bed, after he snuck his little bum down the stairs after Christmas dinner, and getting a snuggle and kiss.
♥ Picking from my parents art collection of the paintings and prints they made when they were my age, and taping it to my walls. History. 
♥ Family assembled from all over, for a brief collision of chaos and conversation and food.
♥ Having my husband's toe back!!!!!!!!!!!!! Which meant resuming our adventures out in the cold winter air, with long walks on Iona Beach.
♥ Making the spontaneous and could-have-been-way-too-much-but-everything-fell-into-place decision of waking up early on the 31st to go cross country skiing for the first time in forEVER, and then throwing clothes and food and essentials in bags and hopping on a late ferry to Saturna that same evening, so we could ring in the new year with just us and quiet. (Gratitude to T+K for helping to make that happen). Is there anything better than rugs and records and candles and a roaring fire and books?

Body// is sending her messages louder. She knows that I am so much Brain these days--I live there, I stand at my command centre all day long, making analyses and prognoses and synthesizing new information. She is patient, has tried to be patient, but knows that when I'm in my Brain, it's so much harder for me to listen.


She prods a bit more this month. She changes color and shape and form. She doesn't make things easy; not because she doesn't love me, but precisely because she does. 

She has run the distance with me from the start of school to now, giving me a vessel and fast legs for all of the places I have to be. But she is saying now: Enough. I am speaking. 

I'm trying to heed her call. 

On Finishing a Semester//  Time to process some things.

I haven't had an easy time of it. My A+ student kind of took over. I was excited. I had good intentions. But it is not so very possible to be the Best Student, Best Teacher, Best Wife, Best Friend, Best Daughter, Best Cook, Best Domestic Goddess, Best Writer/Creative Person all at the same time. 

I... sort of thought I could.

And even for some weeks this semester, I was rocking all those things.

It's not very sustainable though, as you can imagine. You can't be all those things and still be your Best Self to your verymostimportant person. Namely, you. Me.

So I'm reflecting, and trying to be gentle with this knowledge (instead of berating, instead of DUH you dummy) and trying to accept that it has been in my pattern to try and control all my outcomes, and for the outcomes to be perfect and impressive. 

Undoing a lifetime of a a way of being is very tricky stuff. I mean, you possibly don't have to unravel all of it. There is a reason why it existed in the first place, and even probably served you for a time.

So I acknowledge that I've been pushing myself to be my very best, my most thorough self, and feeling let down by myself when it proved to be too much. I felt resentful that I was overwhelmed. I compared myself to others that I know, thinking, but she and he and they do all this AND more! What's wrong with me that I can't?

With some heart in my throat, as I try to climb down the ladder that leads out of my brain... I know this much is true:

I can't ever know why some things work for others, but not for me. I don't know all the facts of why others seemingly can do so much, with so much ease, and I can falter if faced with having to write a paper while there's no more clean underwear in the house.

 All I can be certain of, is that in order to live with generous friendship to myself, I must repeat often "Good for you. Not for me."

Good for you. Not for me.

A Recipe//

Here's something I kicked ass at this month: I made a really, really good meal. 
So good, I think you should recreate it immediately.

It's the bottom left picture at the top, and while that is a fuzzy, questionable photo, know that our mouths were VERY EXCITED.

I seared a couple duck breasts, seasoned them with S+P and Chinese All Spice, then stuck them in the oven for another 5-8 minutes to finish them off. Then they rested and were eventually sliced.

I combined tamari and a bit of rice vinegar and honey, brought it to a slight boil until it thickened, stirring all the while. 

This went on top of buckwheat soba noodles, bok choy, red pepper, green onion. Sesame oil to finish it off.

We don't often give ourselves enough pats on the back in this life, so excuse me while I shout:




I will tell you how Semester Two fared differently. I will tell you how I tried, am trying, will continue to try my best to honor my own self first, and how having some categories of my life become messy or neglected can be okay. This is the hope. Send me luck. 

2016. Whoa, man. Another year to be in it with you!

With all my love,

Your pen pal