On Monday we visited Sasamat Lake in Belcarra Regional Park. A popular swimming destination with many kilometres of hiking trails and spectacular views, I can't believe it took us nearly three months to find this gem.
Located at the entrance to Indian Arm fjord, Belcarra Park boasts beautiful forests, sand beaches and incredible views. Hiking trails connect north into the steeper and wilder terrain of Indian Arm Provincial Park.
We hiked the Sasamat Lake Loop, a four-kilometre trail that runs close to the edge of the water with access to plenty of pocket beaches. The trail had a lot of high-season traffic, so unfortunately we didn't see much in the way of wildlife. However, the view more than made up for it.
At the far end of the lake, we crossed over the water via a causeway and came back along the boardwalk. The trail was very well-maintained and it took us less than 45 minutes to travel all the way around, including stops for photos and admiring the scenery.
I'm excited to try one of the longer trails up into Indian Arm later in the summer - possibly with the dog in tow, we're feeling brave!
Books I've read so far this month include A Study in Scarlet and The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Astray (short stories) and Frog Music by Emma Donoghue, The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
Because my reading list runs approximately eleven years behind the rest of the world, I'm currently reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke, incidentally just in time to catch the new BBC miniseries.
All of this made possible, of course, by living ten minutes walk from the local library. If you haven't heard from me in four months, send help!
Saturday morning. The city has receded to a quiet hum outside the window, and the only thing I want to do is sit here wrapped in a fleece blanket and tap into one of several dozen unwritten blog posts.
Instead, I'm going to work. In a moment I will climb into the car and begin my thirty minute drive down the Fraser Valley, past mountains who don't care whether I've written anything in months or not, towards the delta with its rolling farms and merciless sun.
Here are some pictures to hold me (us?) over.
I admit it - I've caught the Marie Kondo bug. Although the title of her book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" earned some side-eye for sounding like cutesy, smultzy drivel, it's actually pretty great. If the state of our house is anything to go on, it works.
Kondo's approach, unlike pretty much every other advice I've ever read on "decluttering" and "tidying", suggests that rather than starting with the things we don't want to keep, we should instead focus on the objects in our lives that "spark joy" - a vague concept, but trust me, it's a feeling that becomes clearer as you go along. Anything that doesn't spark joy should be thanked, and sent on its way, preferably to donation or recycling. It's the absolute antidote to magazine articles and cleaning shows that promote the idea that the only way to clean up one's life is to buy expensive storage solutions and throw out anything that doesn't fit a design concept. Once you identify the things you love, it becomes easier to pinpoint the stuff that can go.
Here's the secret: you have to physically hold objects in order to feel whether they "spark joy" or not. Sound crazy? I thought so too - but it works.
I can already hear the smart-alecks in the room pointing out that your garbage can or toilet paper doesn't "spark joy" so are we supposed to get rid of those too? I liked Kondo's response to this: Even if there are objects you don't love, but need to have in your life, take a moment to appreciate how hard those things work in your life and recognize that you are lucky to have something that fulfills this role. Rather than dashing out to replace that cooking pot with an expensive one you really can't afford, take care of the one you have until you're ready to let it go.
According to the book, you're supposed to go through belongings by category, not room. The suggested order is to go through the clothes, then all the books, all the paper, all the miscellaneous stuff (sports equipment, dishes, office supplies, kids toys, etc) and save the sentimental objects until last. I confess I didn't follow this advice to the letter, but I tried go through things by category whenever possible.
More updates to follow!
January! How is it January? Anyway -
The island is melting under winter rains; the holidays have come and gone in a mad rush and the dog continues her quest to become fuzziest couch potato who ever napped. I'm cranking away on the fourth draft of my book and enjoying the weather as an excuse to be inside.
A few books I've read recently (and would recommend):
"Are You My Mother?" by Alison Bechdel
"Hunted" (Book 6 in The Iron Druid Chronicles) by Kevin Hearne
"Earth Awakens" by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
"Goblin Quest" by Jim C. Hines
All excellent writers and highly recommended if one of your new year's resolutions is to read more books.
Traditionally, spring is a time of renewal. The return of the leaves and flowers in every garden are reminders of new beginnings and endless possibilities. It makes a great backdrop for anyone setting off on a new adventure, and a cruel irony for anyone coping with loss.
My friend died two months ago today. We weren't especially close, but there was an easy familiarity between us born of being in the same theatre company, sharing meals, arguing over board game rules and watching far too many bizarre youtube videos together. He died very suddenly at the age of thirty.
I could lie and say I've been too busy to mourn over the past two months, but the truth is being busy has been my way of grieving. In a twisted way, I've been grateful for the number of crises that have sprung up over the last eight weeks, because they've given me an excuse not to think about anything else.
The night that sticks in my mind was back in early March. We'd just come back from seeing The Lego Movie and my friend had thoroughly entertained and annoyed everyone by singing the "Everything is Awesome" song all the way home. It was midnight when we piled through the door and he waved aside our invitation to stay the night, saying he needed to get home to feed his cat. I was in that headspace of mild annoyance combined with genuine affection normally reserved for siblings, and already halfway up the stairs to my bedroom. On his way out of the kitchen, he told us he was headed up to visit his parents for a couple of weeks, but when he came back we'd go see the new X-Men film together and maybe visit the new board game cafe downtown. I waved half-heartedly from the stairs, and he went out the door and got into his car and drove away into the snowy night.
That was the last time I saw him.
It's strange, the things we think about when someone is gone. How the biggest, most emotional moments go past unnoticed, but the tiniest reminder can bring us to our knees. A particular food they enjoyed. A song they always hated. Or in my case, the knowledge that my friend the die-hard Tolkien fan will never see the conclusion of The Hobbit films.
It's always the smallest things that get us.
A sudden death erodes our trust in the world. No longer can we trust that our lover will arrive home after work every night, or that our pet won't jump a six foot fence and race out in front of a gravel truck. If it's possible for someone young and healthy and energetic to die without warning, than anyone else could as well. The whole world and everything we care about is fair game. It's a terrifying, sobering thought. A fear that walks just a little behind us forever afterwards, reminding us that nothing is certain, and nothing is forever.
So go hug your cat and text your girlfriend to say you love her. There are no guarantees in this life.
Hey folks! My non-internet life has been slightly chaotic over the past couple weeks (and the award for understatement of the year goes to...). There are new blog posts on the way, but in the meantime, I have a couple of new guest posts out.
One is over at The Poised Life, a blog about emerging consciousness and seeking our highest potential. My post, A Poised Life with Pain, talks about keeping my sanity and learning how to maintain a mindful outlook with chronic illness.
The second is over at Rebelle Society, an awesome site dedicated to yoga, poetry, spirituality and artistic rebels of all shades. Pain is an Old God is a lyrical, fantasy-inspired piece about facing our fears.
Hopefully those will tide you over for a few more days while I run triage on my life. See you soon!
Hello and welcome to new readers from Tiny Buddha!
For anyone who missed it, I wrote an article about living with pain for tinybuddha.com last week. You can read it here, if you're so inclined.
In the week after publishing that piece, I was stunned by how many people wrote to me to share their stories. I'm deeply touched that readers felt they could share some of the most vulnerable parts of themselves with me. Thank you to those of you who wrote - your stories were inspiring and reminded me that there are many of us who face the challenges of invisible illness on a daily basis. Solidarity!
If any of you have thought about writing to me, but are still undecided, please do so! I will respond, though I can't make any guarantee about timelines.
The first night in our new house, after a long day of hauling boxes, losing and finding the master key and corralling furry family members, I finally brushed my teeth and stumbled into the bedroom. I flopped down gratefully into bed, ready to sleep like the dead. My pillowcase was slightly ruffled and, already half asleep, I reached up one hand to brush it straight.
Something moved under my fingers.
I jerked upright, sleep forgotten, as a spider the size of my thumb crawled out of my pillowcase.
Normally, I'm pretty stoic about insects. But that night, I lost it.
I screamed, grabbed the pillow and was out of the room, through the back door and into the yard in a burst of adrenaline. I shook and shook the pillow until the offending arachnid dropped to ground. Most spiders, when ejected outside, will scurry off as fast as possible. Not this sucker. This one sauntered off into the night, moving one orange leg at a time.
The gentleman met me in the front hallway, convinced that I'd accidentally cut off a finger or something. I explained what had happened. He hugged me sympathetically.
"Shh, you're okay. It's dead now."
I said nothing.
"Wait, it is dead right?"
"What do you mean you didn't kill it!?"
We've been sleeping on the couch ever since.
In my defence, I was barefoot in pajamas, and it had seemed more likely that I would only be able to wound my enemy. The only thing worse than giant spider on my pillow would be a giant spider on my pillow with a grudge.
Further research has revealed that this was a dysdera crocata (Woodlouse hunter) a spider with a particular liking for basements. It is found all over Vancouver island, as well as in England, northern Europe and Australia. While not aggressive, the bite of these spiders is described as "less painful than a beesting" which, forgive me, is less than reassuring.
So, dysdera, wherever you are, I'm sorry I made a poor first impression, but please please don't come back.
Writer. Introvert. Pacific Northwest spirit. Recurring topics include books, chronic illness, gender identity, and my dog.
Invisible Illness in a Fitspiration World
5 Tips to Help Someone with Chronic Illness
Pottery Class (All First Drafts Are Ugly)
This is What Gen-Y Looks Like
5 Things I Learned From Hunger
Writing with My Worst Self