Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Right Now...

I would like to put on a big, warm parka, and sit in a snowy forest. Listening only to the sound of the creaky trees, muted by the falling snow.
That's what I'd like to do.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Current Warm Little Corner

Film School Photo Story

The long, long drives I used to take to school, on my own, in my two-toned burgundy Dodge Caravan. Never ending, winding, farm strewn roads, seasons changing again and again around me, road kill becoming once again, one with nature, day by day. I drove those roads in daylight and darkness, with smiles and wind tousled hair flying out the sun-drenched windows, and I drove those roads in tears. Many, many tears…rain down, come on rain down on me, from a great height… I was an emotional girl.

The first time I made that living-memory drive, I nearly drove right off the road, my burned rubber tire tracks remaining there until they covered with snow. It was my first day of college, and it seemed as if the stress and anxiety had gotten the best of me. That drive has come to represent my entire college existence. It’s funny how these things come to be, how the trip you take every day, solely because there’s no better way, becomes an extension of you; a glitter-filled snow globe holding three years of your life inside.

Beyond the drive, what I think of most when I recall these times is the snow. I can’t be sure if these thoughts have manifested from the winter weather which surrounded my drama filled birthdays (everything was always drama with me) or from the projection of winter we watched that day in film class. A silent 8mm film reel someone had found at a stranger’s garage sale. We loaded it up onto the projector, turned out the lights, and all sat in silence. I feel like we all connected with each other a little that day, all eyes on the flickering screen, a black and white image of an elementary school in winter. The snow fell softly on screen, settling on the shoulders of wool coat clad mothers ushering their children into the school. And that was all.

I remember it was snowing the morning Erin and I got together to re-do my 16mm Bolex film project. She filmed me, standing in front of a church in my black pea coat, laughing as I pretended to break off my fingers, which had turned to ice inside my inexpensive gloves. We were out there on Lakeshore, in the cold, that morning before class because I had screwed up the day before. The project, that is, not the day. The day lives happily on.

The assignment: load up a Bolex and shoot some pretty footage, and also, create a photo storyboard with a still camera. I teamed up with good friends Erin, Drew, and Wes, and took my maroon van to Toronto to have some fun with this project. As the boys were off with their camera, Erin and I were in the back of the van, in a parking garage, trying to load the film into ours. How does one do this? Well, you need a dark bag of course so as not to expose the film, which means you must do it by feel. The other rule: you must set your camera to 12 frames per second. I don’t remember exactly why, but I did this, as instructed, and managed to successfully load the camera.

So proud of ourselves, Erin and I hopped out of the van to meet up with the boys and shoot all of our pretty footage around town. After a fun few hours of filming, we decided to turn into a deli for a coffee and a snack. It was one of those days when you find yourself in the company of great friends, feeling like everything is right in the world, with an honest to goodness smile on your face. I popped into the bathroom and my silly smile continued as I sat there, happy, on the toilet, until… It wasn’t anything bathroom related that wiped that smile off my face, but the memory, time-traveling through my mind like the tracking shot out of the garbage can in Fight Club, back to the van in the parking garage. TWELVE FRAMES PER SECOND! I hadn’t set the camera speed back to 24 after loading. What I had on my hands was an entire film shot in fast motion. The assignment was lost, to be re-shot the next morning, half-assed in Oakville, cold in front of a snowy church.

After we left the Toronto deli, we decided to drive back to Oakville, and complete the photo storyboard assignment there, at our usual Coffee Time. This way, we could get the work done and enjoy a coffee at the same time. These were the days when I whole heartedly did enjoy a coffee from Coffee Time. Oh, and throw in a bagel with cream cheese for good measure.

The photo storyboard project was a hilarious success, bringing me closer than ever to the Coffee Time floor.

I am lucky enough to have been able to keep these treasured shots, as they were taken with my mom’s old Pentax. Erin is missing from the shots as she, obviously, was the photographer. Rounding out this memorable day, we found ourselves back at Drew’s (or was it Wes’?) apartment, sitting on his bedroom floor sorting through the pictures, listening to The Wall, and reliving memories related to Comfortably Numb.

Its hard to believe that this day was thirteen years ago, it hardly seems possible. The maroon van is long gone, and those long, country roads are no longer country at all, rather they are subdivision strewn. The road kill graves long paved over now with 8 lane highways and guard rails, but regardless, the air is the same, and my heart still beats a little faster when I’m there.

And as a little post script: A few other photos from 1997…

Every Friday, lunch specials at the Chinese place across the street.

Jesus cursing God for being locked out of his car. God complied and sent the keys down from above.

Every break, we'd all gather here outside the doors. Erin! Smoking!

Jesus spent a lot of time in Oakville.


Every party ended at the 24hr Coffee Time.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Happy Season!

It snowed the other day. And while most of you groaned and grumbled, I plain burst into smiles. Although I don't like being cold (my hydro bill likely displays that largely) I do absolutely love the snow. This time of year is so festive for me, and it all starts round about the beginning of October.

Do you remember being a kid, back in grade three or four, all festive seasons brought with them lots and lots of crafts, glorious crafts! Glitter and glue and sticky paper chains. Not just any glue, but the amber coloured kind in the little clear plastic bottle with the red rubber top that was always gummed up from the previous season's crafts.

Halloween was the first of the super fun, crafty seasons. It felt like all day we could sit at our desks creating works of art that we knew were better than anything any adult would find in any grand gallery. The memories of paper pumpkins and shoebox haunted houses fill me with so much warm love. The tall windows of our classrooms stuck haphazardly with coloured construction paper.

As Halloween grew nearer, then began the anticipation of the big night, and the costume. My mom would labour for a week over my, and my brother's, costumes. These were no cheap satin pre-made numbers from Value Village, she would personally pick out fabrics from that old fabric store on McLaughlan with the circle window in the front. After days of threads, pins and patterns, my brother and I would emerge in bright green and blue clown suits complete with pompoms and rosy red, lipsticked circles on our cheeks. I would be smiling, and my brother would be crying...until the first gumball was dropped into his bag, and those tears were quickly no longer!

Halloween still brings back all of these warm feelings based on the memories of these times; I melt at the sight of a crooked hilltop house surrounded by bats. The October heartwarming session flows perfectly into the beginning of that coveted, special season: Christmastime.

For some people, the very word 'Christmas' evokes stress, anger, upset and frazzle-dazzle (a new word perhaps?) but I happen to have a not-so-secret love affair with this time of year. This is much to the dismay of Shayne, but I admit, he is wonderful at allowing me my fun (as long as he doesn't have to hear more than one carol per day).

Is it so bad to want to put up my tree now? It has snowed once already this year, and it's damned cold out there which I think warrants a Christmas tree no? The word 'tree' does not properly describe my 'tree' though. My 'tree' is a tiny, foot tall cluster of green plastic, so squashed and destroyed for having spent 15 years in boxes and closets, but no matter. Come mid-November this little guy (that only needs a little love) pops out of the closet, it's pre-strung lights ready to be plugged in for instant Christmas gratification.

I recall one Christmas Eve, way back in time at our house on Elliott street. This would have put me around four years old. I was alone in the living room, falling asleep on the couch in front of the Christmas tree. In my memory, I was sleeping there that night, and everyone else had gone to bed. I was on the couch in anticipation of Santa Claus's arrival as I did not want to miss him, but at the same time, I was absolutely terrified of actually seeing him. I had my little face buried in my little hands, with my eyes squeezed tightly shut. Every now and then I'd peek out from behind my fingers (the way we all do during scary movies) to see if Santa was there in front of me. I was always a mixture of sad and relieved when he was not. This continued on until I fell asleep, and finally woke up. In my own bed. Looking back I can see that my parents were humouring me by letting me think I was big enough to sleep in the living room, but then swiftly carrying me off to bed when I actually fell asleep. To this day, my parents insist on keeping the Santa gifts securely hidden until after my brother and I have gone to bed, so we can still be surprised on Christmas morning. We'er 30 & 32 years old respectively. That's awesome spirit-keeping-aliving!

These days, one of the first things I'm looking forward to (other then the city turning into a giant Christmas conglomeration santa snow-globe) is my own personal tradition. For the past five years or so, I take a day to myself after all the gifts have been purchased, and I wrap them all while sitting on the floor, and watching "Bridget Jones' Diary". This is my Christmas movie, now even beyond "A Christmas Story" and "Christmas Vacation". My little date with Bridget melts my heart every time, and it's only seven weeks until this day comes, and I plan on savouring every moment of these weeks! And with that, merry early Christmas! ...but don't judge me for that.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Metaphorical Journeys

Photo by Shayne Gray

Being a human is such a bizarre thing sometimes. Being able to go so far beyond just 'being' and into the realm of thinking and processing and planning and dwelling and analyzing and even over-analyzing is a hardship sometimes. From the day we are born, there is so much pressure on us to 'be' a certain way, and we are so oblivious to this that its crazy. Inevitably, something happens along the way which causes us to start becoming aware that this bubble we have been brought up in is mighty thin, and then pop; and there's no going back. Or is there?

I thought I was happy enough growing up, going through middle school, high school, college and entering the work force - this is what everyone did, and I wasn't about to stray from the ordained, 'proper' pathway, because I was too afraid. Even though the entire timeline of this existence of mine felt invariably wrong. I was putting on smiles all over the place, but was going through some major motions all along. I couldn't even giggle with the girls naturally, for fear I was giggling incorrectly. Minute by minute was truly just comparison by comparison. There was no such thing as peace, let alone peace within myself, within my own existence. All I knew was that there was something wrong with me.

Decades of feeling, knowing, that it was me that had the problem. I prided myself on being two steps ahead of everyone else because I knew what looked stupid, and I stayed away from the 'stupid' so painstakingly, that I could not see that no one was judging me, as everyone else was too busy judging themselves to be concerned with the quiet, fat redhead in the corner. What I thought was being steps ahead of everyone else, was in fact being miles and miles behind.

After a quarter of a century of pretences, I read a book that popped that bubble so fast, so explosively, and that was it. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. I won't go into details about the book itself, and in fact, this book has nothing at all to do with the personal plight of a young, disturbed (read: normal) woman. What it did was alert to me that there was something bigger out there then my muddled head, and that there were larger problems to be woken up to.

Though this may sound like a wonderful, enlightening moment, it wasn't. Though pivotal, it was terrifying, almost too much to take in. There is a lot of weight and burden out there, outside of our delicate bubble, and there is no amount of preparation any school can do to ready us for this. It's a realization most of us will come to eventually, but all we can be prepared for is feeling small, and likely beyond helpless, until we start to figure it all out; until we start to see that the beauty lies in simply being able to 'be'.

Needless to say, I have been overwhelmed for more than a few years now, and for good reason. I've spent countless hours in therapy (both professionally, and in the form of amazing friends) trying to find some peace in this world, but all that was happening was that I was becoming more and more disheartened and angry with the human race. It's so easy to have this complex that you are above everyone else (and in our own little worlds we are, because we are the sole inhabitants of our heads) but really, when you live this way, you will become infuriated often. Guaranteed. It wasn't until I started realizing that it isn't everyone else I can change, it isn't the world at large I can change, it's only me that needs to change. I have since lost faith in therapy (the professional kind only) because I find it so hard that someone who isn't me, who doesn't know me or how I feel, can dictate what steps I should take, to feel the way they think I think I want to feel. Understand?

Something had to change, and this is where the quitting drinking and meditation comes in. I've been open about this with a few of my friends, but it baffles me how when the opportunity came up to tell someone about this process who really deserved to know, I couldn't spill. For those who are curious, I'm taking a ten week 'course' called the Presence Process. Make of that what you will, it's a personal thing only. Part of this process is unearthing suppressed emotions, bringing them up to the surface and coming to terms with them. After a few weeks in, this wasn't really happening, until it caught me blind-sided, during a lovely dinner with an old friend. I flipped, or rather, something flipped in me, and she, the first witness to my new (old?) emotional outburst was the first person I did not tell about this process. No reason, simply that I didn't realize that this is what was happening to me until I embarked on my solo walk home.

When I realize now that all this long suppressed, emotional bullshit began flying across the table, my friend was likely left in the confusing dust a little. She'd never seen me act quite like that before. So now I think, do I tell her? Do I lay to rest the whys of that particular situation? Well, no, actually. I guess sometimes personal journeys are meant to be taken alone, and you have to be careful divulging this sort of thing. If you aren't ready to take on the criticism of others, don't talk about 'emotional journeys' as that is bound to receive criticism.

So for the next couple of months, I'm just going to have to bear with myself, and hope that my loved ones can do the same. As I have come to understand: the only way out is through.