HERE / NOW

“I want to stick my net into time and say ‘now’ as men plant flags on the ice and snow and say ‘here’.” – Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

Last week, to say that, “I am here,” was non-existant. I can’t pinpoint you anything on latitude and longitude or really, pinpoint to you at all what last week was like. I’ve been retyping this post trying to find the right metaphor to hide behind, but there’s no other way to say it: having anxiety is shitty. Being someone who is moved by others and simultaneously being too afraid to get out of bed is shitty. Staying home all day and not being able to find rest is shitty. Pretending not to care about things or saying you’re sick instead of telling people what’s actually going on is shitty. Feeling like you’re going to lose everything for no reason at all is shitty.

But on Thursday, I woke up for the first time in what felt like an eternity with zero anxiety. I texted Grace, “LIFE IS SO BEAUTIFUL,” and got a nose piercing, because why the hell not? To say that, “I am here,” right now, means I want to plant my flags in everything. My camera feels insufficient. My pen and journal are futile devices. My hands can’t hold enough. There are so many moments I just want to make permanent. I’m currently living in the pages of Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke, which was recommended to me by someone who’s taste I always hold close to my heart. He writes: “Believe in a love that has been stored up for you like an inheritance.” And that is what I want to do – store up everything around me that I love like it will waterfall into other things later. I want to believe in a love that has been created in this way for me.

So, with that being said, here are some pieces of my inheritance that I have stored up for the past few months:

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Bowen Island on Film

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1. Shooting with my DSLR while I was on-the-go was the best, but now that I’m home, I’m more than happy to have my film camera back. The theme of coming home has been relearning everything. I’m relearning how film carries a different weight. I need stillness. I need patience. I need to forgo certain shots in order to take better ones. It takes time to reach the end of a roll. It takes time to receive the final product, and time puts a haze over expectations. Film photography is forgetting, and then remembering again.

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2. Last weekend, we spent our days huddled on Bowen Island in a house on a hill owned by hippies with 3 Juno Awards. We went hiking. We played video games (because the boys obviously could not leave their video games behind). We got drunk, told secrets, and laughed a lot. We were quiet. We were loud. We had dance parties.

For me, the week before was one of those heavy-shoulders, runny make-up, eye-bagged weeks. I literally cried over Richard eating my pizza, because that’s how bad things got. And when the weekend hit, I felt like I could breath again. Getting out of Vancouver physically got me out of that headspace for a few moments, and it was like hitting a reset button. Or maybe it was just the snooze button, but whatever it was – the mountains and the sea do that to you. Rest does that to you.

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3. My favourite thing about the weekend was that we all cooked for each other, and the weeks leading up to the trip, everyone bragged about how awesome their meals were going to be. I was talking about the weekend later with Ben and he said, “It was great to see what everyone brings to the table,” and he really meant it literally. I love that when we are called to serve one another, we step up our game and go ham (ok, no more food puns from hereon out).

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4. “Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that new world is born.” – Anais Nin

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5. I have been thinking about ceremonies and traditions a lot, and how many times you have to do something before it becomes a tradition. Everything grows differently, and at this age, I will never have expectations for things to stay stagnant for very long, but tradition is what eases comings and goings. It’s what makes leaving heartbreaking and what makes returning look like open arms. I haven’t been with these friends for very long, but already, there are patterns that make me feel comforted – the way we play the good kind of games; the way certain things are always done in communion, and the way that our traditions tend to be invitational. I hope these are things that always stay important.

HOME

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After an intense Christmas break, the most genuine wedding I have ever been to, a month of school, many pairs of shoes filled with rainwater, and two new jobs, I sat down this weekend and admitted that I am 100% integrated back into Vancouver life. I carry a pair of sunglasses in my bag while wearing rain boots. I’ve made up for all the sushi I didn’t eat on exchange. I even told someone that they should have put their food in the compost bin. I’m still in the middle of figuring out how Bordeaux-Rebekah and Vancouver-Rebekah are going to get along, but as of right now, I am choosing to be present here in this city (and I know this because I’ve stopped searching up tickets on Skyscanner). The best way I can put how the past few weeks have been is that I have been:

a) slowly and surely closing doors in my heart. So many of them have been opened for far too long; some I know are being shut too soon. All feel like I’ve jammed my fingers between the cracks, and I need someone to pry me away. All are needed. It has been a painful, but necessary process and a process that seems to have no stop date. But the best thing about it is that I know there is freedom at the end of this!

b) learning that I have a community here. Coming home means relearning my good and bad ties. It means realizing that I’m not this lone traveller anymore, and I’m not just putting my questions out into the universe hoping for an answer. I’m still putting my questions out to people who may not be able to answer them, but at least they’re people who know me well. One thing my manager always says to me is, “Be heard.” It sounds strange, but I am relearning how to be heard.

c) seeing that adventure is around the corner no matter where in the world I am! Grace and I went to Golden Ears Provincial Park to shoot, and I’ve posted what we came up with. Videography is probably never going to be my medium of choice. I don’t have nearly enough skills to produce something I’m actually willing to put up for real critique, but it’s so much fun to play with!

d) writing poetry?! I have always tried to be poetic but have had trouble calling my writing poetry, It’s such a weighted word, and one of the bravest forms of writing I’ve ever encountered. But my goal for this semester is to write one poem that I’m proud enough of to share aloud. So to put more of myself out there, here’s something I wrote for my Creative Writing class:

Seabed

The first time I met the ocean
She crushed me in her embrace.
I followed wet footprints on dripping docks
Like a breadcrumb trail of sea salt
Dove into her arms headfirst as if there was a pillow on the bottom
Eyes closed and hands reaching for level eight swimming pool lessons
I was met with green fingertips and a tight grip
My feet scrambled for a ghost step
And missed
I heard thunder in her heartbeat
Saw sinking ships in her veins –
This was the deep end.

The second time I met her
She received me like a postcard.
She was a cradle
Soft yarn like cat’s cradle
She, the silk ribbon waves
I, the maypole
She was the mouth of the whale
That Jonah knew well
I trusted her; toes first
Then legs,
Then hips,
Then torso
Even up to my neck
Loose fingers, no chokehold on my throat
Her arms a winter duvet around my chest
A bed first cold; then warm.

Amsterdam

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1. I took my first real solo trip to Amsterdam over the weekend, and it was frustrating, but I also think it was a necessary and important experience for me to have. My luggage didn’t make it with me on the plane, so I had to go a few days with only the things I had in my backpack. I could only buy the bare necessities, because my credit card wasn’t working and I left a majority of my cash in my luggage (super smart, I know), so it was a very minimalistic weekend. Regardless, it was good for me to be alone for a few days. I could take everything in at my own pace. I could process everything on my own time. I’m a lot more emotional when I’m on my own, and I think everyone needs to have the space to feel what they need to feel and stop when they feel overwhelmed. It was annoying dealing with the luggage situation without any help and scary taking on a completely new city without someone by my side, but at the same time, it was also nice to adventure without the pressure of filling time or going to the “must-see” things.

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2. The main reason I chose to come to Amsterdam this particular weekend was so I could see one of my favourite artists, Owen Pallett, perform live. He’s been on the top of my list for the past 4 years, and the show was definitely the highlight of my trip. I couldn’t believe how incredible the venue was. The concert was in a small lounge area at the top of the Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ, which is a glass contemporary music space that overlooks the canals of Amsterdam. It was intimate, with couches and hanging lights in the background, and it was probably one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever been in. I was blown away by how Owen Pallett live loops, swooned by the gentleness and dissonance of his violin fingers, and surprised by his dry sarcasm. The night was cosmic and ethereal, and I’ve never cried at a concert before this, but it happened (like I said, I am much more emotional when I am alone, haha).

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3. I was really impressed by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, not because there were a bunch of famous paintings, but because it gave a really a visceral perspective on his life. I love the way he paints as if people were made of earth, the way he compared himself to a monk or a nun in his dedication to art, and the way he believed that hands were the most expressive part of the body. My favourite part of the museum was where you could listen to letters that were written between Vincent and his brother Theo, who was his most trusted confidant. You could tell how much he loved his brother, because he spent time picking his words the same way he mixes his paint colours until they are just right.

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4. The Amsterdam floating flower market is one of the dreamiest places I’ve ever been to. The first thing I saw were these huge pink floral clouds hanging from the ceilings and I couldn’t believe it was real. Everything smells so fresh, and you can buy just about everything flower- and plant-related… including a Grow-Your-Own-Weed starter kit, ha.

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5. I spent most of my time wandering aimlessly through the streets, bridges and canals of the city. Amsterdam is really just a great place to walk through, because every building is so unique, but somehow they all fit together. There are plenty of cafes around to duck into if you’re tired or cold, and I think it’s been the best city I’ve been too aesthetically. You literally can’t go 30 seconds without seeing a bike or something on a bike, which makes everything even cuter, but also more dangerous as a pedestrian, because instead of watching for 2 lanes of car traffic, you have to watch for 4 and sometimes 6, because of the bike lanes and tram lines.

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6. The last thing I did in the city was go to the Anne Frank House. It was an incredibly sombering experience, and there was one video of her best friend talking about her experiences with Anne at Auschwitz that really broke my heart. I liked that at the end of it all, there was hope for better things to come – for healing and for things to be different. My favourite quote I heard was this:

“Her would-haves can be our reality. Her would-haves are our opportunities.”

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7. The first thing the receptionist said to me when I arrived was, “Be careful of the stairs! They’re dutch!” All the stairs were very steep and narrow, and for the most part, they’re like that in all the buildings in Amsterdam. It makes sense, because all the houses are also very tall and narrow. And when I thought about it a bit more, maybe that’s why the Netherlands have the tallest people in the world (the average for a man is 6 ft!). It’s like how fish grow bigger when they are put in bigger bowls, so I guess this might be true for humans too (but don’t ask me to back up my theory with scientific facts, haha). Maybe if I stayed there a little longer, I would grow taller as well.

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LISBON

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1. We arrived in Lisbon without many expectations, because truth be told, we didn’t do much research before arriving. But I definitely fell in love with this beautiful city! Lisbon feels like a tight-knit community with a big city vibe. So much of it reminded me of Barcelona – how laid-back everyone is, the tapa bars everywhere, and a growing art scene. And at the same time, San Francisco comes to mind, because of the trolleys and how everything is built on waves of slopes and stairs. This is a photo of the street we stayed on!

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2. We only had a day and a half in the city, so knowing that it would be impossible to see all of it in such a short span of time, we took the trolley from one end to the other to get an overview. It was wonderful to see all the pastel buildings, catch glimpses of the ocean as we rolled along, and then wander back to where we started.

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3. Lisbon is definitely not an easy city to walk through. Because of all the hills and unpredictable pathways, we stopped often, but luckily there are so many viewpoints around that there’s always a good place to rest. It seems like as long as you’ve climbed upwards even just a bit, you’ll find a place where you can see the ocean and look at how every brown-orange rooftop has been kissed by the sun. It seemed like most people around us had the same idea and were just hanging out in the sunshine, playing music, and looking out at the horizon (because how can you not when it’s warm enough in December to not need a jacket?!)

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4. One thing we noticed while we were wandering through the city was that people would point us in the right direction even when we didn’t ask for help. We were walking down the street, and an old man stopped us and tried to show us something, but he couldn’t speak any English so he kept speaking to us in Portuguese. I loved that even though he knew we couldn’t understand him, he kept trying. Most people give up easily when it’s hard to communicate what they want to say, but I think there is something important about trying anyways.

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5. The last night in Lisbon, we had the most delicious dinner, and it was a perfect way to end the trip. I know the starters were just french fries and eggs, but there was something in the sauce that was incredible, and I swear I’m going to come back just to eat those frieds again. I’m so thankful that I had the most beautiful company this week! These girls are some of the most understanding people I have ever met, and it’s so great to find travel companions who are okay with just chilling, but also say, “Yes,” to adventure (and who love food as much as I do!). Thanks for the lovely time!

ERICEIRA / NAZARÉ

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I’ve jetted off yet again to another country. I’m doing my last big trip before heading home, but the past few days have been much, much different than the way things have been for the past few months.

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1. It’s safe to say that I’m tired. Travelling has been an incredible experience, but going to 5-hour classes Monday through Friday, dragging my luggage to school so I can head to the airport as soon as the weekend hits, and then jam-packing an entire city or even multiple cities into 3-4 days has been overwhelming and leaves me hungover in more ways than one. So it’s been about time that I took a real, down-to-earth vacation and found some rest in the midst of trying to see all of Europe in 3 months.

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2. Three days ago, we packed our bags and got on a plane to Lisbon. But before hitting up the big city, we decided to rent a car and road trip to a small surf village called Ericeira. We stayed in an Airbnb facing the ocean, slept in till whenever we wanted, and spent a lot of time relaxing. The first night, our power went out, so we ate a home-cooked dinner by candlelight, wrapped ourselves up in blankets, and drank hot tea. It was the coziest I have been for a long time.

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3. Ericeira is evidently a summer town, so during our stay there, it felt absolutely deserted. Despite that, it was still nice to wander the sleepy streets and crooked pathways. A lot of the houses had pure white walls with colourful detailing (kinda how I imagine Greece looks like); others were patterned like ceramic dishes. It was such a quiet, but beautiful place to be.

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4. After walking through the Old City, we spent the rest of our afternoon driving along the coast and beach-hopping. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a car, and I forgot how much I love road tripping. There is something different about getting into a car with a bunch of people you love, turning up the music, and going your own way through the countryside. It offers a different perspective of a place, and you have so much more control over where and when you want to go, stay, stop, and leave. We stopped at multiple beaches, climbed a lot of stairs, and watched surfers dance through the waves. I’m always amazed at how brave they are when the waters are freezing and the ocean can be such an unpredictable force.

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5. This morning we drove north along the coast to watch waves in Nazaré. Apparently, the waves there get up to 30 meters high!!! The tide wasn’t that crazy when we were there, but we were up on the cliffs and we could still feel the ocean spray on our skin. Again, the little village was dead silent, but I think the raging waters made up for it in movement and noise.

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