Door closing

When I was a teenager I thought a great way to end a movie would be to have a scene where a person walks through a door of a home they're leaving, moving out of, and then closes it. The camera doesn't follow them it just stays focused on that door and that's it. The end. The end of time in that place, that part of their life, the end of the story.

It seems simple and elegant.

I think of that image whenever I move.

Leaving a place, somewhere you have lived, always feels strange and surreal. Sometimes I'm sad to go. Sometimes I have other things on my mind. Always the chaos of moving and packing and trying to decipher which possessions you actually need and want. That feeling like you own all together too many things and they might just eat you. The frustration of knowing that you have something but that it's in one box or another.

I just moved. Something I knew was going to happen, something I should be excited about.

The last several months of my life has been hard and a lot of things have happened to me. I was more than happy to leave where I was living and get a new start. A bold period was the punctuation mark of choice. Over. Done. New start. New home. New part of town. No reminders, no walking by the things telling me how much of a mess my life was.

Then there's the boxes. You have to unpack, make it work for the new space.

It's bigger and I like the furniture better.

I am trying not to fixate on the various ways in which the building and location are probably toxic and killing me. I did it for the last building and I'm sure I'd do it for anywhere else. Part of it's reasonable, part of it's not. I should spend less time thinking about how the world is toxic and killing me. Then again the world should be less toxic and more should be done to stop things from killing me or slowly poisoning me.

It's nice being closer to things, having more to do nearby. It's nice having a bigger room. It's nice to finally have this hard chapter in my life end. For so long all I wanted was for the housing drama and the injuries and health issues to end. For the door to close, for me to be ready to move on.

After getting here, to this new place, that I will slowly feel more and more settled in, I decided to listen to Sun In An Empty Room by the Weakerthans. It's moving related:

Now that the furniture’s returning to its Goodwill home
With dishes in last week’s papers, rumours and elections, crosswords, an unending war
That blacken our fingers, smear their prints on every door pulled shut.
Now that the last month’s rent is scheming with the damage deposit

And:

Know that the things we need to say
Have been said already anyway
By parallelograms of light
On walls that we repainted white

Sun in an empty room

Take eight minutes and divide
By ninety million lonely miles
And watch the shadow cross the floor
We don’t live here anymore

It fits right?

There's also another song that I can't place or track down that feels like it's by the Maccabees and has a lyric referring to box cutters. I can't figure out what it is but I can picture album art from my high school cd stack and hum a tune.

The beauty of the door closing image is that in a movie, or book, any kind of story really, there's just the end. It keeps going but you don't get to know what happens — blah blah sequels but that's not the point. I really like the ending of Firefly because it's so mundane. They are just doing their thing. No drama, just life.

In reality you don't stay on the other side of the door. You are in a truck or taxi going somewhere else, going to what's next. Tired, wondering. Trying to say goodbye as best you can while dealing with life as it comes at you.

Disheveled

"Do you ever wonder where Harry's family got their money from," my sister texts me.

"No," I write back.

"I know how they got their money."

And I do. Partially because I read it on Pottermore at some point and partially because it relates to one of the things that I always noticed in Harry Potter: hair. Not the sexy cool chique kind of hair, the it has a mind of its own and does what it does kind of hair, the I'm kind of baffled by how to deal with it and am always vaguely disheveled kind of hair.

Several times during the books — which I kind of want to binge read just to find every mention — it is noted that characters, especially Harry, have hair that is out of control and that they look and feel somewhat disheveled. If I could pick one word to describe my hair during the top bun era spanning from my time in Copenhagen until a few weeks ago disheveled would be it. I guess I always connected with those passages.

For those of you who are wondering why this somewhat rambling blog post — clearly not longtime readers — still hasn't explained the Harry's money link here it is: his grandfather invented that hair taming product that Hermione wears to the ball during the Triwizard Tournament. It tames any hair with just a couple of drops and is apparently very lucrative.

When I was a wee Rhi I loved Harry Potter — during the sixth grade I may or may not have been super obsessed with it — I don't really do moderation. I was so enthusiastic that when my school was asked by CBC to find a student in grade 5/6 — split classes were the most fun, I always had friends in the other grade and had to start again the following year — my teacher selected me to go to the premier of the first movie at Chinook Mall and then to review it on TV filmed at the old Plaza Theatre. Feel free to try and track down footage. There may be a copy on a VHS tape somewhere in my parents scary basement.

During that CBC review I'm sure I said it was fantastic and the best ever just like any obsessed sixth grader hand picked for a really cool opportunity would. But later on I never quite liked the Harry Potter movies. The hair just wasn't quite right. It didn't look disheveled in the way I'd imagined it being. Daniel Radcliffe just didn't look the way I'd thought Harry would. It always threw me. Still does.

Lynn Valley

From hiking at Lynn Valley. I've been meaning to check it out for a while.

I made it across the suspension bridge. It was harrowing and my heart race took a few hours to go back to normal but I did make it. Bridges are not my favourite thing. Suspension bridges are basically the worst thing ever. So I was pretty proud. Overcome your fears and what not. Try not to get stuck or curl up into a ball halfway across.

I did find a route that involves not crossing a suspension bridge so if I'm there in the future I'll probably do that instead.

The hike was pretty. I find the cliff diving thing confusing. At first I saw the signs and was like well that's a bit much then I was like oh yeah that makes sense.

I mean I hardly managed to cross the suspension bridge so there's no way I was gonna jump off a cliff.

Humans are weird.

It was cool watching the splashes after people jumped in. And the water was a beautiful greenish colour. Fantastic.

As usual I felt over dressed and hard core. Having a father whose catchphrase could be "Ticks really freak me out" has motivated me to take tick precautions whenever I hike even if everyone else is in flip-flops. I already have enough nerve damage going on. Not looking for any more.

Trees in black and white

I spend a fair amount of time in parks and forests — something something landscape architecture.  Something I've noticed is the intense contrast between the light in the shade where the leaves block the light and the light where the sun gets in and makes it to the ground. It's a big difference. So I figured I'd take some shots of it and edit them into black and white and push the contrast.

I don't know if this works.

Jump

At some point when I was a teenager my fencing coach decided that it was really important for us to be good at skipping. Every training session for a couple of weeks he'd pull out some skipping ropes and we'd be forced to use them for five or ten minutes.

I was terrible. Really really awful.

Apparently I don't have the rhythm or timing or something. There is something about me that just doesn't get how to make it over the rope and keep it going.

It didn't last. He gave up. It was just one of those things that he was not going to be able to make me good at.

I've been dealing with some shoulder/arm/back injuries lately. Now that I'm back to being able to workout post-concussion I'm trying to find things I can do to try and strengthen the areas associated with those injuries as much as possible. Basically I confer with Pinterest and try whatever exercises the cool graphics tell me — I am broke so going to the gym is out.

Well they have recommended jump rope. It's good for several parts of me that are messed up. It's good for cardio. It basically would be perfect if only I was more capable of doing it.

First step was going and getting a rope, not a random too big one, but one that meets my needs and I can adjust. I got a light Nike one that the dude at Sport Chek recommended.

I figured out how to cut it down in length and adjust it.

Still I am pretty awful. Three or four rotations is an accomplishment.

Getting both feet over, getting a rhythm going, not happening.

This morning I googled it. Looked up technique, length recommendations. So I now am looking better while failing about the same amount.

That's not entirely the point. I know that I am terrible, I know that doing ten in a row would be huge. The goal is to spend a few minutes every day more or less failing horribly at this thing.

Maybe just maybe all these years later I will be the skipper that my fencing coach desperately wanted me to be.

Jose

I had this plan. That during July I'd work really hard on my files I'd be basically done.

Shockingly that's not going to happen.

I could just work really really hard on it, feel like I'm getting nowhere and be miserable. Or I can go with the system that works much better for me: sit/stand at my desk and find something, anything useful to do. I don't really care what. If I am here something will happen. If I draw great, if I write great, if I sort through the files great.

I do need to remember that the files never end. That this is something I have to do all the time like cleaning my room. I need to set aside bits of time consistently to be on top of it every day. This one hard drive will not solve it.

Cumbersome outdoor laptops

If there's one thing in the world that makes me crazy it's leaving my house with my laptop. It's weird and doesn't make sense but I really hate taking it with me when I'm doing stuff. I don't even really like walking a few blocks to a cafe with it.

Now that I have the stand and the keyboard and the mouse and am trying hard to take care of my back and shoulders and neck better it is even more cumbersome. There's a lot of stuff.

I am at a cafe, going out into the world, because it's nice to leave home and be near other humans. I also know that at times I need to take my laptop outside. And by at times I mean every day for the next three years. I know it's going to bug me and that I need to get better at dealing with that.

Getting into gear

I found this quote in Austin Kleon's newsletter — email I actually want to receive and that says a lot because I am drowning in email — sometimes I hit inbox zero and I'm like please no one ever try to contact me ever again so I can bask in the perfection of this glorious achievement.

It's about stuff, another thing I have just way too much of. I want things to be simple, and easy, but generally it feels like there's just a lot of stuff. Some of it I don't need — I am triaging some of my mugs before moving because apparently my new roommate also poses mugs and I don't want a box of them in my closet — but a lot of it I do. The light pad, the laptop stand, the camera, the lenses, the hard drives, the pens, the paper. I do too many things and they all come with stuff.

Having too much gear is one of the worst things in the world. The more gear you have, the less you do.
— Jim O’Rourke

I'm trying to get to that Goldilocks spot where I have everything I need and nothing more. One day.

I was on the Aquabus on my birthday because I've been missing the ferries in Scotland and thought it would help — it did. The boat operator noticed that I was taking a lot of pictures of the water and asked about my camera. He was a photographer too. I mentioned my wrist injury and he said that he has L Series lenses but they're really heavy so he never uses them, and likes the small and simple mirrorless way better. I couldn't agree more.

Unwelcome discoveries and setbacks

I thought I was making really good progress, that things were going much better than I could've hoped, that I'd be done soon.

Then I found a folder filled with folders filled with folders filled with folders.

Now I get to go back to where I was. Sorting files. Going through duplicates of duplicates of duplicates.

It'll take another week to get back to where I thought I was.

It's frustrating.

There are worse things in the world but that feeling where you thought you were making great progress only to discover that you missed something.

Alas.

I hope to be done by the end of the month so I can move on to bigger and better things.

This has to get dealt with. The chaos and dysfunction. Not knowing where anything is.

I need order and a good system in order to get started on things.

Once this blog was in a place I liked I started using it.

When I'm not doing something I want to be doing I'll stop and think about why. What is stopping me? There's usually a reason.

I can't do my creative projects and a bunch of stuff I have in mind until my files are in something vaguely resembling order. So I just have to keep plugging away.

It took me years to get into this mess. I'm closer and closer to getting out of it.

Time goes by

Growing up I loved the movie Practical Magic. It might be the magic, the storytelling prowess of Alice Hoffman, having a sister. Maybe it's the soundtrack.

I've listened to that soundtrack over and over and over again. It fits perfectly with the movie and goes great on its own.

My favourite songs are the two Stevie Knicks songs. They are beautiful and real.

Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Knicks were a part of my childhood. I was not named after the song Rhiannon, though I do love people who know it because they are familiar with my name. It is less fun when they sing it to me. That mostly just feels awkward.

There's a particular lyric in particular a song off that soundtrack that I've been thinking about lately. If I ever did believe goes a little something like this:

And the days go by
Doing nothing about them

I am feeling better generally. Mostly. Not always. There can be new fun unexpected things but mostly things are getting better.

I am trying to get back to normal. To routines. To being productive.

And I am getting stuff done. It just often feels like I'm not. Or that the things I'm getting aren't worthwhile or useful. That the days just go by and I have no idea what happened to them.

It's great working from home but it also feels unstructured and unmoored. Like I am always working but also getting nothing done. Just a long endless swath of time that I need to find something to do with.

The world cup doesn't help but I've felt this way a lot these past couple of years. My general goal is to do something, anything that is useful or productive. It helps if it's something that I really need to or ought to be working on but I will settle for whatever pops into my head and seems like it demands to be done. Clean out the cooler. Vacuum. Transfer all your old blog posts to this new website. Organize and sift through all the digital clutter that is making your head explode. Watch an hour and a half talk that is super inspiring and relates to stuff I am really interested in.

It is doing something. Over time there are things to show for it. Just not in a 9–5 structured kind of way.

I need to both try to be more efficient and focused as well as to let go of the anxiety and guilt about not doing enough.

The time will go by either way.

With a little help from my friends

I love the Swiss Miss newsletter. I hate getting email but I always open this one. It brightens my day.

The latest edition included this quote:

It’s as simple and as complex as that. You’re the only you that’s ever been. Keep showing up despite the chaos. Be humble in the pursuit of your art and ruthless about finding the time to make it. Find friends with whom you can weather the tragic gaps. Give one another loving, honest feedback and teach each other how to make money in weird, sustaining ways. Collaborate and commiserate. Make relationships that are reciprocal, not transactional. Make lives that aren’t easy, but rife with good material. Make art that matters.
— Courtney Martin

I am a sucker for a good quote. And this is a good quote.

It's got the simple and complex thing. Because it really is that easy and that hard. You just have to do it. As best as you can. Even though you don't really know how.

The main thing I like about this is the find friends part. Because I have found some friends, a crew of sorts, of the kind I've been longing for since I finished undergrad and the easy friendships that come with close proximity and common existences.

I had no idea when I took that job at that bike store or got involved with the Bike Root what would happen, where it would take me. I had no idea that I was finding my people, a group of fantastic wonderful people. That it would lead me to friendships and love and community and belonging.

Having good friends isn't something you should take for granted. When I was an undergrad I did. I don't anymore. Instead, tonight I am grateful for the friends that I have found because they are pretty fantastic.

 

Wind on your face

Cherry blossoms like so many things in this world are fleeting. You can try and chase them, to time the day right. You can also just enjoy them while you have them.

I've had Hitching Rides With Buddha by Will Ferguson for a while. The pages, when I actually sat down to read them, were fleeting. They passed quickly. Now it's over. I've finished this book and since I rarely re-read books I doubt I'll be back round this way.

I did very much enjoy this book. It was as easy to read as it was to misplace. It did not sit safely on a shelf. It is much underlined.

It's the type of book that reminds me of why I wanted to be a writer in the first place and why I am working on a travel book of my own. I've always loved travel writing — basically since I first encountered it in junior high or high school. It was what I wanted to do when I grew up.

I've been making progress on things. Feeling a bit better while also trying to make peace with the fact that I might feel kind of crappy from now on. I have three big goals for the end of August and I am on my way to achieving each of them.

This book is another lesson on getting stuff done. I spend a lot more time thinking about the thing and not doing it than actually doing it.

Sure actually dealing with my poor file choices made over a decade is a lot of work. Sure editing a book is a lot of work. Mostly I just feel overwhelmed or tired and make excuses not to deal with it.

Yesterday I went to a cute cafe, now with easel because of back pain, and edited my book. It could be good. I come off as being really anxious. Really anxious. I guess I am a lot of the time. It also has some of my Rhi humour at moments.

I'm glad I'm doing it. In high school a book, like the one I just read, was to me the greatest thing a human could achieve. You get there by doing it. Bit by bit. By actually doing it. Making the time, instead of the excuses.

It's nice to have these crisp and fantastic sentences to remind me of why I'm doing this in the first place.

Home sweet home: Some thoughts on this here dominion of Canada

Today marks the union of the original provinces making up Canada. It's a day of crowded streets and fireworks. Often it's a day or not much going on.

Perhaps it's a day on which we should all reflect on this big vast land and its diverse people, its past and its future, its charms and its flaws.

I am lucky to be a Canadian. There is such enormous privilege that I gain by being born in this place. I have a high quality of life and am well-educated. I have a passport that lets me do just about anything I want. My nationality gains me respect and favour I've done nothing to deserve. It's easy to forget this.

Then there's the voice in my head that is disappointed with Canada, with our mediocrity, with our lack of action, with our endless willingness to tolerate dysfunction, with our better than the Americans slogan. I often find this place and its culture and its policies and its institutions to be enormously frustrating. We are often not a land of best practices, or one that even tries very hard to live up to its own ideals.

I mean we are the land of universal healthcare yet we fail to ensure many vital services including prescriptions, ambulance rides, vaccines, dental, optometry and physiotherapy. It's a bit crazy for a country that picked Tommy Douglas as its greatest Canadian.

We also have a horrible record on the environment and climate change. Too much money to be made to think of the future.

I lack faith in our institutions especially those that through an outdated electoral system give us one of two parties, neither of which represent me or reflect my values.

So what am I doing here? I thought about moving to Europe. To Denmark or Sweden or the Netherlands or Scotland but then I came home. Part of it was Brexit. Part of it was that being in Canada is a lot easier. This place has to take me. It has to give me healthcare. It has to let me do whatever work I feel like. That's not true anywhere else.

It's easy to be here. It makes sense. I share a culture and language and set of values with the people around me. I don't have to explain things. It just makes sense. As much as I struggle to feel like I belong much of anywhere in this world I do feel like it's easy to be in Canada. This place feels like home more than anywhere else I've tried thus far.

I complain a lot about Canada, about our flaws and imperfections, especially healthcare. I want us to strive more and to do better. To not just shrug through problems but to actually want to solve them, to hold ourselves to higher standards on some of these issues. I do it because I want this place to be as good as it can be and because I think it's worth fighting for.

If anything I like the ideal of Canada. A decent progressive polite place filled with beauty and nature. A place of Canadian English, a magical and amusing dialect of English that I adore. A place that I am from and am in now. A place that I am happy to fight to make better.