I'm going in all directions—here are the notes of timely hits and big misses I've journaled while en route.
Install Theme

Of art and pre-Easter town-hopping. — 13.04.2014

Family! Friends! 
Hiii,
.
The rain is gusting around in chilly wind and the far end of the bay has a musky fog hanging around it. Some would call this miserable weather, but fInally it looks like a day where I’ll be able to make and sup some soup without the sun popping out to ruin my plans. That’s right, I’m relishing it. And pants. I get to wear pants. This is similar to the feeling when you’d start wearing shorts in Canadian spring, it’s still chilly and you get goosebumps in the shade, but, oh! The novelty of showing off those pasty jambes!
.
It’s Sunday today. 
Apologies for my scattered notes hinting at some of the things happening in my life. I’ve had shotty internet connection and maybe an even shotti-er brain connection. 
.
After a few months of work, coffee and Far-North-Coast living, I’m having a cup of black tea (with milk) and cinnamon toast at Cath and Jum’s in Avoca Beach. Remember that place I started way back in October? My safety net of fine folk that I’d been put in touch with? (Who live on a hilltop with the most fantastic view of the bay below?) I’m back there again. Spoiled, I know. 
But what a trip it is to retrace my steps six months later.
Yesterday I took the train into Sydney and wandered the streets again. But instead of the unnamed culture-shock burbling underneath each discovery that I gathered last time, I could place everything somewhere. 
I won’t pretend to “get” Australians, their humour or culture, but I’m definitely not as green as last October. The smells are not quite as pungent (though they are different down here as up in Byron), an ibis (like a dirty scavenging pigeon here) doesn’t seem like an exotic and fascinating creature anymore, and the accent doesn’t trip me up quite as much. In fact, I’ve had people talk to me for a good half hour before realizing they were Canadian or American. Somehow the Aussie accent has become neutralized in my ear, one I just expect to hear and understand, so it’s existence does little to distract me anymore. But not noticing it means that somehow I’ve stopped paying attention to when it’s not there .. weird, eh? Of course, a really thick accent still gets me, and some of the sayings (Jum is epic with these) can stop a conversation as I take a second to plod through their meanings. But small nuances, even as small (or big) as walking on the right (err, left) side of the sidewalk and knowing what to ask for when ordering a coffee (because now I know what the norms are) make the pace of my day go much smoother.
Normalizing.
.
So, to keep things difficult, I’m changing my scenery for the next two months and getting on the road. 
It started a month ago when I went up to Noosa for the Surf Festival and got to see Jack and Dean, friends from Halifax, for a few days. Then I escaped back to Byron and, while work was being done on Annie the Van, I started up this project (which I’ve sent to some of you already and a few have been kind enough to share—gracias, gracias): http://www.awesome-istic.com/ . 
The idea behind it (http://www.awesome-istic.com/about/) is to have a weekly newsletter profiling someone awesome-istic delivered into your e-inbox, (So sign up for the newsletter!) and then the website is a platform to catalogue all the previous ones on, making a collection or mosaic of people putting rad ideas into action.
It’s still under construction (all of it), and I’m coming to terms that it will probably always be that—ever-shifting, never quite perfect—but .. it’s a start. 
And so I’m taking this idea with me as I go on a trip south (please nominate if you have a good idea/contact/know of someone). 
I’ve made it back to Sydney now, after stopping in Angourie, Urunga, Crescent Head, Forster and the Great Lakes Region on the way. And tomorrow I’m looking at going to the Blue Mountains (weather-permitting), before starting to go inland towards Melbourne. I’ve got to be there by Friday as I’m picking up my friend, Freddie, from the airport and on Sunday we’re taking the ferry over to Tasmania. Yew! Very much looking forward to real rugged landscapes. After a couple weeks there, I’ll return to Melbourne and then head up, coast-ways, back to Sydney by mid-May. And then back up to Byron by June. Along the route I’m reaching out to some people for the project but also trying to just explore a bit more of this giant country I’ve been living in for half a year now. Half a YEAR!?
.
While it feels like I was just starting to find a real groove in the Byron area, it’s nice to get out of its bubble. Yesterday I went to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney and it was fantastic. It made me get really introspective about the different forms of expression we humans have and which ones are best at reaching out to people, connecting us, rallying us for a cause, making us feel, making us think, making us come to whatever realizations we need to at the time. But really, there is no “best” way, because we interact with them all differently—music, writing, in-person, movies or documentaries, visual art, theater art, everyday people-watching. What gets you? What makes you think outside your “knowing”?
Of course, whenever I get hit like that, with the profound feeling of humans and our ideas being simultaneously small and larger than we know, I get really hard on myself and wonder why I’m not doing enough and where to place all this energy festering inside, where am I making my best impact? And then I get a bit pear-shaped about it. 
But the great thing is something small can lift me out—a salty swim, a wonderfully crisp apple, a musical interlude—and I’m composed (and able to interact on a basic level) again. So, while my gallery visit definitely made an impact on me, I’m still looking outwards and stoked to be journeying into some unknown territory. 
Also, I’ll have a lot of time on the road to get real over-reflective.
.
But enough about me, what about YOU?! What’s spring like across the pond?
There’s some newness o’er yonder—new babies(!), new homes(!), new stories! I’m greedy to hear about all of them! 
Have you been making or creating something? I made new curtains for the van. They have a mexican-esque chicken print on the outside, so now Annie really is a little Chicken Bus. But less feathers, more sand.
.
And today, what’re you doing with your pre-Easter weekend? Or Easter weekend? I absolutely love Easter, let me tell you just how much—but another time, as I don’t want to bore your eyes into this screen any longer.
Also, the sun is trying to peek out, and I’m going to go grump about it.
.
Sending excessive amounts of love, like the goodness of those bunny-shaped Lindt chocolates, 
.
X+O+xxox
v.

The farm. — 23.02.2014

The drive appears unexpectedly on the right. You might pass it if you weren’t keeping an eye out. Four Five Five. There, the address has been spray painted on the blue recycling bin that’s taken up permanent residence by the roadside, playing both roles, marker and bin, in one solitary measure.

Right you go. A third of the way up two trees hover on either side offering little shade but waving a welcome as you rattle onward to the house. Apricot-coloured and slightly run down, one level lifted three feet off the ground. This must be for the sake of a perched view as floodwaters won’t climb up this hill. (Will they?)

The grass is bristly underfoot, aged and dried by summer, thickened by years of give and take with the local bovine residents.

Cows low conversationally. Sometimes the fields look empty but you can still hear their voices when they hold regular choir practice. They sing this place into existence. At night we think they’re playing Marco Polo.

Three stairs imprint your feet, one room leads into the next. The corners are strange, the bathroom is central, the sunroom is long and locked, only two of the bedrooms have doors. Maybe there are only two bedrooms, but there’s another off the hallway where the kids sleep. A three-bed room.

The corner leading to the kitchen is haunted. I’m sure of it. It may be because it’s the darkest spot in the house.

The washing machine stands across from the kitchen sink in such close companionship that turning from dishes to clothing takes just one step and a sideways shuffle. Sometimes I have to polka between the two because the washing machine has low water pressure and it needs constant reassurance to know it’s still doing the right thing. Beebidlybeep! It sings when the slow trickle stops. I press the START button once more and the water whispers on. Eliza says she’ll send me a sound recording of it once I’m gone, but I won’t miss it.

What I will miss is the sighing creak of the windmill grating out a constant melody, even on the windless days. The kettle always hot or ready to boil, the scratch of pencil crayons filling in shapes, an eye over a page, the waft of curry (pronounced COUrry), checking for minty breath at bedtime and swell reports as morning breaks, the long-winded stories that say little and the daily anecdotes that bring waves or add punctuation, the voices of a family that shriek and billow and gather in the air.

Farmhouse with a creek and a creak, we’re captured.

Of sweets, on trees and by hand. — 23.02.2014

Summer is “over” here, but the heat stretches on. I can feel my bones start to wonder where the seasons have gone. And it’s not in the naming of the months, but in the feeling that time is passing without a change in weather. In the world here, things are still changing and growing—there’s a grapefruit tree just off the verandah that’s just starting to ripen. (We thought it was a lemon tree until we cut one open yesterday. Grapefruit it is.) But there’s no familiar smells or falling leaves to signal the harvest. And the days are still hot and humid, and maybe only a little bit shorter.
I don’t mean to repeat that things are different here—that’s obvious and boring—I mention this more as a note about something I’ve noticed within rather than outside of myself. My body hums in a different vibration and still hasn’t completed the shift to Australian rhyme. I wonder if it ever would/will/does?
.
While absorbing that, I’m still keeping eyes open and taking in my surroundings. My friend, Lauren, just stopped by on her way home and we explored the (overgrown) garden. She pointed out the trees to me, mandarin (!), lime, custard fruit (I’d never even heard of those, you neither? Woolies will teach you everything you need to know), macadamia, and some kind of stone fruit, we think maybe nectarine. I’ve never seen a mandarin tree and there was just one little dude that was orange. We snagged it. So citrussy. There are loads of green guys on there, they’ll all be ripening come winter, you know, in June, because that’s winter. (And here I thought mandarins came out at Christmas time..?)
What I do know is that cherry guavas are abundant right now, and I picked some the other day. (ratio: one to eat, one in the bucket) A friend made the most delicious cordial out of it, another is making wine.
.
Farm-life has been a good adjustment from both town and van-living. There’s so much space to wonder here, and to wander if the want is there. We live on 700 acres (but just a one-song drive from the beach!). I’m living with my friends Nathan and Eliza and their three wombats, so most of my roommates are under ten. Well, Noa’s birthday is this friday and he’s turning one decade. 
Following my Mom’s tradition, I told him I’d make whatever dessert he wanted. He’s been having lots of trouble deciding, one day it’s fudgey brownies with custard (!?), then cookies and cream ice cream (best suggestion thus far), and today he said banana cake with orange zest and ice cream with ginger cookie crumble on it (blegh). 
I say, let’s make a pinata and blow it to bits. 
We also share the property with a lot of cows. They’re a curious, melancholy-sounding bunch, and startle easily.
.
Nathan/Noa/River/Bloss built a fire pit the other day and made banana boats. I’ve promised them we’d make smores but there aren’t any graham crackers in Australia. In fact, no one knows what they are and my explanation of almost-like-a-digestive-cookie-but-heartier-and-grainier-and-kind-of-like-a-ginger-snap-without-ginger with lots of hand-waving and gestures, seems dubious and falls flat. I’m not sure what to substitute them with, I feel like that’s a pretty key ingredient. Animal Crackers—lion smores!? Anyone care to weigh in? What is graham anyways? Or who is he, and what does he have against Australia?
.
My favourite days are the ones like today: It’s windy and the old house creaks and groans but doesn’t argue the air that sifts through (me neither, it keeps the mossies away). This morning I stayed in bed until EIGHT AM, an astonishing luxury for me. I just lay, awake, crossways on my bed, feet up the wall, the only thing in the room the wind wasn’t shuffling around. My window faces east so I could watch the sun’s early trek into the trees. 
.
I’ve been slowing my life-pace down lately. While still taking time to venture on a couple days—south to Evan’s Head, and another day further to Yamba, then venturing north to Fingal, and an afternoon up to the Gold Coast—I’ve also been trying to rest more. It was kind of forced on me a few weeks ago as I had an allergic reaction to something, still unknown, which set me on my heels a bit. Rest is good. You know that feeling when you truly feel like yourself, and you feel really solid, and you look in hindsight and feel like you haven’t been there in a little while? I think lack of sleep had been doing that to me. I was in a haze without even knowing it until I was through, melted, back to clarity. My Chinese New Year Resolution, if I can have one, is to sleep more. Happy year of Sleepy Horses!
.
Surf, work and tea-drinking take up most of my daytime here. Though the other day I did spend an hour at the grocery store after I lost my car key. Loads of fun… and the staff members treated me like a complete dolt. 
Also, I gave my two week’s notice at the cafe, so we can chuck that work off the list very soon. I’ll be a road warrior once again and I have a few ideas under my hat, but I’m trying not to plan too tightly at the moment. Ideas? Suggestions? I’m open to both. 
.
For inspiration, I’ve ordered a quality audio recorder and am looking at doing a bit of documentation while en route. Curious? More on that as it boils over.
.
The troops have wandered home, it’s time to take my contacts out, refill the tea and hash out the day. Ending where it started.
.
Be good, be safe, be well, friends. 
And sleep tight.
.
xo
.
v.

Of ache, both good and knowing. — 04.01.2014

Happiest of January and New Years and New Moons to you and you and you.

.

This is my first day off in over a week and the first in 2014. 

Phew, I say with heavy shoulders. 

I’m exhausted in a bad way, not the healthy kind, but the overworked “what-am-I-doing?” cranky sense (but not allowing cranky to take over). I said I’d never go back to this kind of hospitality work, the one where the tourist season overruns normal working hours and therefore normal lives (people in Tofino, you know what I’m talking about), it’s a dramatic shift that is extremely tiring and not very satisfying. Not steady-goes, but slow-slow in the off season and then !!-hectic in the on. Topped off with this fuming heat, I’m not sure I’ve ever worked this chaotically. But here I am … trying to make the best of it. And generally still alive and smiling, but only because I know there is an end to this pace of life.

It’s hot and muggy today and I’m so glad to be away from the coffee machine.

Oh, right, maybe that’s news: p.s. I got a job as a barista.

.

There was a bushfire here in the past week, it was actually quite worrisome. It started from a lightening bolt, and a combination of wind and dry conditions helped it spread very quickly, at one point moving 40k/h. They did a bunch of back burning and helicopters were flying and water-bombing it from above. The air was smoke-hazed for days and the smell of charred wood still lingers, I think some places are still smouldering.

.

Twenty-thirteen, what a year. I feel as though many people have talked about it as a “big one.” Changes and shifts that had people jumping or jolted, for better or worse. (I think it’s important to remember that the “worse” can often turn into “better”). Whatever happened, whatever the moon phases rendered, 2013 made an impact on people.

On me too. I hadn’t really thought about it until its end, which is surprising because I tend to be an over-reflect-er.

For one thing, I travelled a lot in 2013: I crossed North America three times, gosh, really, three times. 

Twenty-thirteen, the year I graduated from J-School and started to call myself a writer, putting hopes in that title to give direction, whatever that may bring. 

Twenty-thirteen: The year I ate strawberries in California and frog legs in Arkansas, jumped over snowdrifts in Halifax and into taxis in Brooklyn, crafted Valentines with glitter and a routine of spontaneity, took a river tour in Chicago and a quick-decision flight to Australia, played in the sea and on land and sometimes in houses, and found one hundred more people to fall in love with spread out across the world. 

Sigh. I often wish I could gather you all in one physical place as you are all intertwined in my heart.

.

How was Christmas? How was the holiday season?

I’ll tell you, it wasn’t really either for me. Well, not in the sense of fireplaces, tea and Christmas cookies. People would wish me a merry one and I’d internally roll my eyes, “riiight, Christmas” and a whisper in my mind would say .. this isn’t Christmas.

But it WAS, I know. And I did have a joyful few days with a lovely family in Lennox. And we had Christmas lunch with prawns and ham and there was a tree (branch) and there were gifts and smiles and a feeling of together-ness and I did get to have a few conversations with people who are far away. This special family that I celebrated with, Nathan and Eliza and their crew of three, Noa, Blossom and River, have ballooned me with their company and soooon, we’ll all be living together here in a farmhouse in Lennox Head. (Excite!)

.

But a recap:

My last month has been a readjustment of working (and over-working) again, and finding multiple homes and places to sleep. Mid-December I moved out of my place in Suffolk Park and into my van for a week; a friend let me park in his driveway while I was in town and working. We had a full-moon pizza picnic in one of my new favourite places of this region. Come visit, I’ll take you there.

And then I had a couple days off and went down the coast to Urunga to visit friends-of-friends, the family of Raes who I’d heard much about, and they blasted any previous expectations with their feeling of go-with-it comfort. I absolutely l-o-v-e meeting people that allow you to join the groove of their lives so easily. Come visit, you’ll love them too.

Over Christmas my friend Leana went to visit family in Melbourne and gave me her nest to dwell in. There I rested after I got food poisoning from a Thai restaurant. I also read this amazing book called “The Bone People” by Keri Hulme. I also built dripping sandcastles with N, B and R and earthed myself in sandy grit which I’ll never get out of the van now…

And then back to van-life (a sandier one). And work (a busier and sweatier one).

And New Years. And I opened twenty-fourteen with a polar bear swim and watched a slow pilgrimage of people waking and pattering down the sand to the water. “Polar bears” clad in bikinis and board shorts.

Many mornings I start work at 5:45 in the AM, so recently I’ve been waking up at 430 before the sun rises and getting to the water in the dark around five. I like to jump in and watch the day break slowly, quietly. 

Work is hectic but it has opened up the community of Byron to me a bit more. And with the daily patterns there are day-to-day hiccups. Yesterday, after my seventh day in a row of spinning dairy on the wand and slinging caffeine into cups, I tried to leave town only to find I’d run out of gas. Oops. I could blame it on being brain-dead from the past week but I do believe my gas gauge is a little optimistic.

Noted.

.

After I announced I was heading this ways, south and overseas, people told me “Oh, you’re going to love it there, you’re not going to want to come back.” And now I’m here with a one-year permit to stay, and since my first week people have been asking me “Are you going to apply for a second year visa?” I don’t have answers to these yet. But here I continue on in Australia with sandy toes and a positive tank of fuel.

Sorry if I’ve been bad in contact recently, there are many replies waiting in my head that haven’t touched down in type yet. Van and work-life brings abundant surprises but a lack of wi-fi connection. 

Hey, I love you.

xo

v.

Cos. — 14.11.13

My friend, Meagan, asked me to write her an “Australian Grocery Store Memoir.” Here’s my confession:

I prowl the aisles of a new supermarket, slightly overwhelmed.

Again.

.

I’ve been here before, these same aisles of this same Woolworths, but every time something else seems to jump out—I’m new to you!

And what are you? I respond by picking it up.

Feta and beet puree? And this, a pumpkin and cashew dip?

I hold one in each hand marveling.

I love beets. Vibrant. Robbins claimed them as Rasputin’s favourite. Why are beets so uncommon in my grocery store back home, treated like the awkward stepsister of root veg? And pumpkin (!), usually a sign of autumn, a seasonal treat, now so commonplace. How did it make it here, next to your average hummus or tzatziki? Does it not deserve special attention?

I give it the moment of significance it deserves, and then a minute more. I scan the ingredients, the nutrient content, scrutinize the advertising on the container and the tree logo. Mmm, looks delicious. This beet one would be especially good on a veggie sandwich. Where are they made? Here, well, Victoria. Made in Australia.

Cooool.

I turn them over, idly soaking them in. I should try making this at home sometime.

Then slide them back into the cooler.

I’m browsing.

You know, just looking things over. Perusing. Window shopping for condiments and cereal the way some people try on shoes.

 .

Next aisle, artichoke hearts.

Try this one on for size, it says.

I stack it back on the shelf.

Maybe next time, if I’m feeling sassy. That’s a game-changer. Like the shoes that make an outfit, that ingredient makes a whole meal.

I pick a tin. Herring, product of Canada. For a moment I’m proud to be.

 .

People don’t often browse in grocery stores. You’re supposed to go in with a purpose, breakfast, lunch, dinner or a weekly list, get the goods—bread, eggs, milk, chicken thighs, pasta sauce—scan which checkout line is the shortest, wonder WHY you ended up behind the lady with 20 different tins of cat food and if the guy behind you is having a party, making his girlfriend dinner or if he always eats such a fancy selection of cheese and olives (if so, we should be friends). You pass an eye over the tabloids, pay by credit, realize you forgot your bags but refuse both paper and plastic disposable ones, and so, armed with celery in one hand and an onion in each pocket, you juggle the rest of your food while walking to the car, remembering your keys are under the cans of chick peas which are under the loose apples all in a mess weighing down your purse. After spilling the armload onto the backseat—you’re homeward bound! to throw something together, or make a mess, either or both.

 .

Well, that’s how I shop.

.

But I also browse.

 .

I go up each aisle with at least one item in my basket to avoid suspicion, but not heavy things because I might be in here for a while and I want my hands free. I leave canned goods for the end. Lettuce and a box of crackers fit nicely.

I wander, reaching for items I have no intention of buying, cornering myself against the shelf so that buggies can roll by, and peer down at the treasure in hand. Pickled pork spread? What’s in here?! Is it actually pork? What do you eat this with? Where is this from? Why is it so expensive? The label gives me half the information I want, but I dream up answers to the rest of my questions. Ah, it’s probably a delicacy from France made from only the finest slice of pork. I roll the jar over. Oh, wait. First ingredient: Pork product. No organic back bacon here, it’s probably just the inner scrapings of pigs’ ears.

A shadow blocks the light as someone reaches for the peanut butter above me. (Because where else would pickled pork be but in the spread section?)

Oops, I apologize and shelve the item. Finished with this aisle, I turn to the next.

 .

Browsing while traveling is especially satisfying. I travel the world through super markets. There I discover what makes the place run, literally, what these people fuel themselves on.

In Greece, the selection of olives and the enormous jugs of olive oil or blocks of feta you could buy in bulk; in Germany, the butcher and juice with spruedel—“schorle” and the fresh bread and bakeries; in SoCal, hot sauce and corn tortillas and the plethora of frozen yogurt cafes; in Costa Rica, the tropical fruit, the pre-packaged cookies and squeaky cheese; in Belgium, the waffles with chocolate and fries with mayo; in Nicaragua, the street food of plantain chips and fried chicken, or sugar-drinks, all of these served in plastic bags.

 .

The food in Australia is not a far-stretch from Canadian mainstream but there is still a variety of new products for me to ogle. 

And sometimes it’s not a new product but the amount of a particular product they keep in stock, whether in abundance or not at all.

Sour cream, for example. I like sour cream with perogies and sometimes nachos, but if I purchase sour cream more than twice a year, it’s an occasion. Here the sour cream shelf rivals the milk selection. But a sighting of squash, acorn or spaghetti, has yet to be recorded. Lemons are more than a dollar each and a single avocado will run you three times that.

Passionfruit and pavlova are prevalent but I have yet to see a pie that isn’t made with meat.

 .

In addition to new foods, I’m learning to rename the food I already know.

Capsicum, coriander, bikkies, bangers, chook, tomato sauce, sultanas and lollies are replacing my association with red peppers, ketchup and raisins.

Yams, I say.

What? They question. Oh! Sweet potatoes.

Oh, come now. Po-tay-to. Po-tah-to.

One name I like in particular is Cos Lettuce. For North Americans, Romaine, here, Cos.

And I like it just ‘cos.

‘Cos so many people feel the need to justify eating healthy: to lose weight, my mom said so, it looks pretty, it makes me feel better about myself, kale is the new carb and e’erybody’s doin’ it.

Why do you eat greens? Just ‘cos. ‘Cos I do. Nothing pretentious.

I don’t often eat Cos lettuce, even though it has more iron in it than regular red or green-leaf varieties, but today I put it in my basket, alongside my lemon and a bag of carrots, basil, spring onions, trail mix, muesli, almond milk, a six pack of free-range eggs (the regular ones have CAGED HENS printed in bold on them which seems to be a brilliant deterrent), … and maybe I’ll grab a chocolate bar.

Now my basket requires both hands. Combined with what I have at home, this will make a meal or two. If not, I can come back and browse for more. It’s best done in smaller stints anyways. Like shoe shopping, so many outfits and endless possibilities, but when are you really ever going to eat that?

.

I look at the checkout lines.

Self checkout. I like the Aussie-lady voice that talks to me from the machine. I’m starting to get used to the accent.

I pay in cash, the money here is so pretty.

No bag. I shove everything into the cloth sack hanging from my right shoulder. Food mixed with my wet beach towel and my book, which is now looking a little sad and soggy. Oops.

.

Out the door, crossing the parking lot, breathing fresh air and sun. One thing that’s always the same: supermarkets have terrible florescent lighting.

December 1. & Erster Advent

Today is the first Advent, the first of four Sundays before Christmas, and this year it’s also the first day of the month—December! Which is strange to think about as I’m going into summer down here in the Southern hemisphere.

But at home my parents will be lighting the first out of four candles on the Advent wreath. They’ll be enjoying tea and cookies and warming their feet by the fire, surrounded by the smells of wet and fog and kindling crackle and cinnamon and cloves and days ending early. Philo will sniffle around, happy that everyone is inside and in one place, wondering if anyone has a free hand to stroke his nose or, better yet, his belly. And Dad will choose some beautiful music, maybe a classical piano concerto by Mozart or Beethoven. And after his cup has been filled and emptied a few times he might be inspired to pick up his guitar and sing a tune that speaks to him (Ma Solitude by Georges Moustaki?) or pick away at a song of his own. Sometimes he does that when he’s in a relaxed after-noon-state-of-mind. At this time, Mom will have taken up something to read. She has this wonderous knack of finding really obscure stories and she shares them aloud to the audience in front of her. ”Oh!” She says. She exclaims this often, but pay attention as each of her “Oh!”s is different. It could be drawn out if she’s entertained or shortly gasped if her mind jumps, turning to make some connection to another one of her collected intrigues. After you’ve heard it many times, you’ll be able to hear her eyes roll or her brain click by the sound of that one syllable. More cookies, always more tea. Cradled in these sounds and smells, the candle wax drips while the fire burns lower. 

I know this because that’s how we celebrated Advent, each one leading up to Christmas, while growing up.

And then my Mom wrote me this note the other day:

"The first Lebkuchen parcel arrived and we are enjoying teatime whenever possible! yumyum… the Christmas sales are on and I will find the time to make our Adventkranz. Here is something I found recently:

The Advent, meaning ‘coming’, traditionally speaks to the time before the holidays and end of year passing—however you might celebrate it.  The lighting of four Advent candles, one on each of the four Sundays preceding the end of the year, is sometimes attributed to the following symbolism:

“The first light of Advent is the light of stone–

Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.

The second light of Advent is the light of plants–

Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts–

All await the new beginning, from the greatest and in least.

The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind–

The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand.”

Thought you might like that…”

Isn’t that lovely? 

I can almost hear her voice vibrate, see my Dad nod in acknowledgement—listening but still playing, taste the spiced chocolate, and feel that warm hearth. 

Thanks Mom, I do like it. A whole lot.

Happy December everyone, happy erster (first) Advent.

V is for fresh air. — 26.11.13

I wish I had a description of every room I’ve lived in, or better yet, every one where I’ve spent a night. Some of those places weren’t even rooms, I should’ve collected those with photographic evidence.
And it’s not just the rooms I wish I’d captured, but the mood that surrounded them. The decor, the noises that would keep me awake or put me to sleep, the people I shared it with, whether it faced sunrise or sunset or got any sun at all.
.
If you could start a collection of moments, what would it be? Every place you’ve had a coffee? Every person you’ve (awkwardly) forgotten the name of? Every bruise or compliment you’ve received? Maybe every place you’ve done the Electric Slide?
.
I’m living in a house in Suffolk Park, just south of Byron, and I’m liking it a whole lot better than being in town. 
After ten days of hostel living, I felt like I was in constant crowd control. People (four others) in my room, changing every other day, then walking out the door and finding myself in the heat and bustle of downtown tourist shops, and finally, without a vehicle, the only beach I could surf at consistently was the one I could walk to, where conveniently, everyone else got to as well. 
Completely surrounded all the time, I felt myself starting to cower inwardly. I just needed some space to sort out my thoughts. And when all the people around me are constantly chattering about what they want with such confidence and seemingly so assured that I should want it to, I find myself lolling in their midst. 
Maybe it is what I want? 
Maybe I do care?
Maybe I should stress about finding a job?
Maybe I am a lemming? 
Spinning, I start to lose track of moving forwards with my own feet, swept up in the momentum of group activity. 
.
This happened many times when I was in university. I’d start the semester thinking about how grades didn’t matter, how I wanted to be in control of my education and I would put my own value on what I learned that had nothing to do with percentages. Who cares about getting a job, as long as I am satisfied with my own outcome? I would put the label on how tangible my success was. And then after a few weeks of seminars, class discussions and the reminder of looming midterms, my classmates would start to stress about the numbers adding up. And how that would look on a piece of paper. And, sure, yes, I wanted to pass. I was paying money to be here so of course I wanted to have that piece of paper at the end, but a job? I had no idea what job I wanted so didn’t know where to focus to create the outcome I desired. My classmates would aspire to job titles that actually made sense. Mine is still something like nomad-enviro-community-artist-surfing-hummusconnoiseur-baker-looking-to-make-a-difference-and-engage-with-people-by-bringing-stoke-in-word-form-but-open-to-all-ideas-and-opportunities-that-life-brings. And that’s a narrowed down version. 
Someday I’ll have a title that I can explain over a glass of wine rather than a week of bottles, my life story thrown open to the listening ear.
.
But town was fun for a time. I met lots of people, I talked a lot, I became a regular at a coffee shop where they knew my name and allowed me to huddle over the counter nursing one cup of coffee and a bottle of water for an hour. Sometimes I’d get biscotti. I started to take a real liking to their biscotti. 
And then, exhausted, I found a room of my own, albeit for a temporary time.
.
I moved to Suffolk Park a bit more than a week ago, and now I live with a lady who works on web design, she has to move out of the place by the 18th of December so that’s my deadline to find another place too. Who knows after? But it’s good to have that safety net of time.
I have my own bedroom, with two beds: one single, one double. My clothes are folded and piled on the single, my sleeping self is sprawled out on the double. The top right corner of my bed has broken springs, so if you end up sliding onto that side, you’ll keep sliding to the floor. But I’m not picky, I’ve never chosen a side of the bed to sleep on, so I can keep left or diagonal. No terrible mishaps to report so far.
.
My first day here, my new flatmate took me on a trip into the hinterland (so beautiful!) and I realized I needed a car if I wanted to keep exploring independently.. So reviewing classifieds became a hobby and I ended up circling back to the beginning, where my friend had started me off, an offer of a van that her friend was selling. Way out of my price range I thought, but like my education not being a percentage, my freedom cannot be measured in monetary values. Thanks for the reminder, Dad. So, I drove it, loved it, bought it.
Now I own a VW van. I always knew I would own one someday but I never, never thought it would be in Australia. 
Stoked.
.
Then came the voices in my head—you’re bank account is being evacuated, what are you going to DO about it?! And I got scared and shifted into panic gear to find a job. Again, struggling between ‘giving in to any job’ and a job I actually want. 
After a couple days, a couple hang ups on life, a couple moments of despair, and many searchings in my head of what it is that I really want(?!), I released it all. And what do you know? The moment I did, the two places I was interested in gave me opportunities.
Life continues to surprise and overwhelm. Even when you’ve got things figured.
.
About the place: I can hear the ocean from my bed, there are birds in the trees—they sound like monkeys, and I walk to the beach with a cup of hot water and lemon in the mornings after I wake and stretch. That’s a good life. But there is still a funny, transient push for me to get out of here as my flatmate packs up her life into boxes. 
A push to be surrounded by creative, motivated people, and I haven’t found that niche here yet.
Sometimes I struggle with that, with being here, with being apart from people that know me, with not being able to casually drop by at a friend’s house, not having an old friend around to push me and motivate me to get out of my comfort zone, to have my ideas laughed at and remind me not to take myself so seriously. But then, I’m always a little out of my comfort zone here, and things aren’t always easy. Sometimes it’s hard to have a “down-day” when you feel like everything should be exciting, exhilarating and light, but low moments happen in beautiful places too. It doesn’t help that my mind refuses to slow, and I have a restless heart. I’m an impatient person practicing patience. And I slip up sometimes but I’m trying to be present every day, starting with drinking my tea at a slower pace.
And then that low is gone even faster than it arrived. And through it all, my chin has remained up and there are small and GREAT pleasures in everyday, and I’m a happy-hearted girl.
.
I’m going to have dinner with two lovelies tonight, but for now, I have a date with the sea.
.
I always appreciate the worded exchanges I share with you, thanks for keeping me in the know of your lives. Of course, if we’re connected telepathetically your vibes are keeping me real too.
.
Sending lots of love and joy, 
xoxo
v.
.
image

25.11.2013

I had a meeting with the sea this morning.

“You’re late,” I scolded.

“Have patience,” she said.

“You’re too impulsive,” I lamented.

“Life is full of surprises,” she laughed.

“You’re unreliable,” I protested.

“Not everything will go your way,” she put forth.

“You’re selfish,” I whined.

“You have to find joy in yourself to see it in others,” she waylaid.

“You’re so particular,” I argued.

“You have to know what you want,” she acknowledged.

Then she held my gaze for a moment and smiled.

“Thank you,” I sighed.

And she was gone.

Paul Hawken's 2009 Commencement Address | Commencement | University of Portland →

veesea:

I visited the Crystal Castle outside of Bangalow yesterday, and read this, it was posted on a plaque outside the main building. As I read, two people, a man and a woman, were discussing it behind me—

"Same-old, there’s nothing new here..," said the woman, wondering why they would post this in such prominent display. "Ugh, it’s hard to always listen to the same thing all the time.”

"But, it’s true," replied the man.

I turned and suggested this, “It’s well-written.”

But I should have questioned her further.

Her response bothered me, because what’s written there is true, why isn’t that enough? I wanted to ask her how else are we going to make people listen, how can we instil action for change? Do we have to say things in a fancy, new way, to find the tipping point? Must we dress up an apple in caramel just to make sure people will get their dose of vitamin C? Doesn’t that somehow defeat the purpose? We’re talking truths here—how many ways does one have to say hello before getting a greeting in return? How many times do you knock on the door before it opens?

Or are we all out of town?

Someday for a Sunday Funday. — 10.11.13

Starting off slow and accelerating—— wrrrrgh to a wooopwooop!
After beginning my first week in Australia as a wallflower, observing and transcribing my thoughts on the sides of my brain, I’m starting to dabble with a few leaps into the flow here.
.
I spent a few days with Anna and Ryan down in Warilla, taking my time to wake up in the morning with a run and a stretch and barbequing for dinner and ask ridiculous questions and loving the feeling of ease that comes with friends, and then I made my move north to Avoca Beach. 
It ended up being a bit of a trek to get up there (bus wouldn’t let me on with my board so I had to cab, and then the train got held up for hours in Epping), and I was famished upon arrival but, lucky for me, I was swept up and taken in by the loveliest couple, Cath and Jumbo, (via a Canadian family connection) who immediately invited me out for a seaside dinner of ribs and nachos, and then threw me the invite to stay as long as I’d like at their nest on the hill with the MOST mesmerizing view of the bay below. 
Right? These people exist.
Just completely overwhelmed by their generosity, I blissfully snuggled in it for a couple days, not sure if I would or could ever move on.
And for a week I didn’t. I walked and surfed and ate and coffee-ed all within a radius stretching no more than a kilometer or two. Cath took me SUP-ping, Jumbo gave me a driving lesson, and they both gave me conversation, ideas, suggestions and support in whatever hare-brained schemes I thought up. And breakfast. But more importantly they’ve given me a place I can go back to here, which gives me the confidence to make riskier leaps, because I know that I can fall and crash but won’t burn-up. 
They’re like my SPF 45+. 
That’s pretty cool.
Within that week my community expanded even more to include family-friends in the neighbouring town, who, after spending an evening together celebrating their daughter’s 7th birthday, have included me under their umbrella of friends and put me in touch with people in Byron so that I arrived here and felt so welcomed and utterly fantastic! 
I’m sure the Byron-description would read something like “it’s being on a starship of love gazing into the energetic light of the world!!”
Umm,
—But, really, it’s like that.
I feel incredibly lucky—my birthday rolled around and it feels like it’s been a fortnight of gifts!
.
I’m staying at a YHA in Byron Bay and taking things a day or an hour at a time, interchangeably. Explorations have brought me to the surf, the lighthouse, Lennox Head, and multiple coffee shops and markets. 
Also, food. Always a big way in how I travel. One of my favourite things to do in new places is browse the grocery store. There are always such strange and curious delights to come across! (Like pickled pork spread, terrible peanut butter, an amazing Muesli selection (hurrah!) and the prolific pies) From delicious to ‘people-eat-whha?’, I could spend hours in a grocery store. (Yes, I know friends who’ve gone shopping with me will say I do that even if I’ve memorized each aisle and only need a can of tuna.)
Observations? They like their sweets, avocados are expensive(!), discovery of lebanese cucumbers, red peppers=capsicum, cilantro=coriander, helllooo passionfruit, and how many kinds of sour cream do you really need?!?
I feel like there are a lot of extremes here. Sweet means REALLY sweet and pickled means suuper-vinegary. I’ve pondered if it’s weather-related. Does the greyness of the West Coast give us the taste for appreciating subtlety? Because there are other ways that Australians are definitely brash and brazen (though I’ll limit any social stereotypes for now) One thing—people are really attached to smells. Alright, maybe it’s just because I’m new here and, being unaccustomed to the smells, the sense is heightened, but I feel like ultra-perfumed things are everywhere. People wear stronger deodorants or cologne or eau d’something, even when they’re running, which makes me feel like a real stink-bag. But also in their household products—Anna and Ryan had scented garbage bags, and (as a fellow-Canadian) Anna agreed she thought it was strange at first and tried to avoid it but then explained that the toilet-bowl square really was necessary because the summer heat really brought out funky smells.
This made sense.
Back to food—I’m hopelessly out of season, and still trying to figure out the growing months of what foods are coming out now. (Mangoes are starting to ripen now..)
.
Byron has also brought me some new connections, a mix of random encounters and given/networked/contacted phone numbers.
Eliza put me in touch with an amazing woman, Leana, who has already shared bits of Byron and the surrounding area with me and made me feel welcomed. happy. good. right. at ease. in the right spot.
What more can a girl ask for?
Well, one thing. It was my birthday, and a generous gift into my bank account from my parents was turned into my smallest wetsuit yet. One without legs! I was just getting steamed in my 3”2.
And its bright raspberry-pink and purple with mustard yellow cuffs. Right? because if you’ve only ever had the choice between black and black, you might as well go for it. And I’m not a boy, even if my shorn hair says so, this suit exclaims otherwise. (Though hair grows surprisingly fast and I’ve once again reached the length where I can give it a water-whip after a shower, admittedly the smallest flip you’ve ever seen. Funny, but I missed that.)
.
So, hair-growing, wave-surfing, food-testing, I go and on and on. And I am so thankful that they do—
How goes the on and on where you are? What’s shifting and shaping in your week? 
Thank you for your continuing updates both longest of letters and briefest of notes, you keep me smiling. And I know they take time to write and I appreciate every letter, typo and groovy hellooo because I hear your voices behind each one.
Lastly, thank you so much for your many birthday wishes, I am Me because of You and wouldn’t be here if I didn’t know you were there.
So, ending this glorious Sunday Funday, which started with an ankle-high surf at Lennox, headstands on the beach with Leana and pizza at the market, and continuing through this email, I’m going to meet a lady for a glass of wine at the Beach Hotel—cheers to you!
love
xoxx
v.