The final foray

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The final cabin trip at Lake Cowichan.

I held a Pacific Chorus Frog, saw a deer that shared a meadow and some sun-soaked forest with me, stood on the dock with some good souls and soaked in my final views of the fog-shrouded mountains. Large logs floated on the surface and the rain pattered on the lake surface, an almost mesmerizing thing to witness. A fire was built and we huddled around it. I went to bed earlier than most, sharing a wood and canvas tent with Isobel. We heard the loud sound of rain hitting the tin roof, and with flaps made from tarp the night air seeped in making us both glad we were cozy in our sleeping bags.

Having recently gotten back really positive if not downright amazing feedback from my thesis supervisor I felt giddy at the thought of almost being done with this degree. The cabin trip sealed this feeling of accomplishment- I deserved to be here, I deserved to feel my feet on the damp, fern-covered ground in the deep woods here. I deserved to take the time to notice how the light could change so quickly in such a light-starved place. Woodpeckers tenaciously poked away at tree trunks and I stood and watched them for several minutes at a time, their red feathered heads flashing.

Every forest has hiding places, evidence of life, and details worth looking at. Tree hollows, fallen leaves, the sound of fussy squirrels dashing among branches, and the chirrup of birds high above your head happen in most forests. As you walk you might notice a neat pile of deer sign, or an owl pellet, or perhaps even find the pale bones of something that has since been picked clean. Human beings, with our neat division of life and death, where the dead are buried or burned or quickly taken away, do not leave evidence of said death everywhere. In the woods, death and decay exist alongside birth and growth.

That being said, it is really nice to type those words from my warm, sunny apartment. I feel so lucky to be able to spend time outside when I can, but I’m so close to being done with this thesis! Time to go write some more (maybe).

 

Amarillo everywhere

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Millions of little blooms hang down the edges of the sea cliffs all over this city right now and the colors are so blatantly optimistic and invigorating that after long, soul-tired walks I cannot help but feel a little better about things. It is interesting though that all of these blooms are rife with thorns. Nothing comes for free or without consequences.

Juno, did you by any chance barf in my urn? Mac, you know that nice urn by the front door that I got up in Stillwater?

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I flew to Minnesota on Tuesday to surprise Logan at the airport. He was coming home from Brazil and Mary and I hatched a plot.

We spent one beautiful, cold afternoon in Stillwater, and later that night Logan and I were watching Juno and I started laughing so hard because had just been there. Hence, you know, the long title. We did not buy an urn, but rather perused bookstores, had a nice beer at a pub, and looked at all the lovely old buildings.

Montana Summertime

Yellowstone, Katabatic Brewing Company, Marks In & Out in Livingston, and some other moments from our early May summer in Montana.

Feeling really homesick for the good souls I love so much.

Mystic Beach Hike: Into the woods

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Three cameras. Four rolls of 400 speed Fujifilm. One pair of Dr. Marten boots. A rain slicker. As Noah drive Rhiannon, Isobel, and me towards our destination, I wondered if my boots would suffice- my hardcore Keen hiking boots being back in Montana- and as it began to rain and rain hard, hitting the windshield with a veracity that seemed almost personal, I thought, I should have worn warmer things. Luckily, by the time we pulled into the trail head, the rain had stopped. A cool mist, the kind that is omnipresent on the coast of Vancouver Island in the morning, hung around us. The air, heavy with moisture, felt good and I breathed it in deeply. We were on the edge of the dense, hyper-saturated woods of the Pacific Northwest.

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My parents started taking my sister and I camping, hiking, and deep into nature when we were only a week old. Our whole lives have been laced, consistently, with adventures where the smell of soil, the sound of water, the delighted finding of animal footprints, and the deep responsibility we have to nature comes through. I remember helping my father catch fish and learning how to be gentle with them, how to properly hold frogs, how bird feathers worked as part of a wing to help them fly. One time, to a show and tell at school, I took a duck foot in a Ziploc bag to demonstrate how a certain muscle, when pulled with tweezers, retracted the foot. (No, that did not help me make friends.) My sister and I were taught to identify footprints, find patches of fur stuck to brush, to scout for feathers, for signs of life. Something my parents have done is give me a strong, very intense emotional connection to the woods. When I walk into any forest, I feel quietly humbled,  immediately renewed, and a sort of basic instinct whispers that I am part of this, and that I owe it so much. My sister has a poster that says “The woods are my church,” and I agree with this to a certain extent. Spiritually, going into nature feels like walking into a cathedral. It’s not about you, it’s about something bigger than you, and allowing that to be alright.

As we meandered down the twisted-root and mud-puddle filled trail, I mentally marveled at the wood’s density and how sound traveled in trapped, quick pockets, roped in by tree trunks and muffled by moss. Ferns grew out of old logs. Trees rose high, higher, highest, chasing sunlight. Saplings, small ferns, and fungus all compete to cover every surface. Birds chirped from branches up above. Pieces of moss trailed from branches, catching the light. Stumps of enormous size looked like squat, wooden boulders, surely occupied by insects, birds, and other animals. Downed woody debris is vital to any landscape, and here, where everything is fertile to an almost-ridiculous extent, I acknowledged every bit of the landscape. It all had a part to play.

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One thing I am still not used to in these greener, more lush woods is the wet.  It keeps evidence of life to itself more. Water distracts and obscures and I wondered what else had been on our path or had crossed it earlier. The woods here are full of cougars, bears, raccoons, deer, and eagles, but their signs were more difficult to find, because the soil and the wood-covered ground do not hold footprints as well- the water saturates the ground and erases or muddles them. I wondered who our neighbors were- what quiet, stealthy animals were nearby? I knew that they were aware of us- our smells, noises, and our lack of grace may as well be like a flare launched to the natural world. WE ARE HERE!

About an hour down the trail, we finally came to a series of steps down to the sea. It was high tide, and the ocean roared. We could see the cloud and snow capped Olympic mountain range in America across the strait, and the sea spit forth foam at our feet. The forest goes right up to the edge of the ocean, and the two share much with each other, as these two ecosystems tend to do here in the Pacific Northwest. If you want to become enraptured with this part of the world, and the power that some of these forests hold, I highly recommend The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant. That man has a way with words I haven’t experienced before and his ability to describe the woods and the land are unparalleled.

We gazed at the sea, went near a waterfall, and soaked in the sights and sounds. I cast loathing looks at the jacket-wearing chihuahuas that were brought along by their owners (I loathe small dogs for some reason.) The ocean’s tempo of rising, falling, gathering, spreading, taking and leaving, spoke to each of us in ways I don’t think we fully understand. After taking photographs, breathing in the salt air, looking at the clouds, and enjoying the sun, it was time to descend back into the thick copses of trees and bid the coast adieu. The light, in the short time we had left the woods, had changed significantly. It was warmer, more golden, and it seemed to cloak everything in a comforting light. Even the shadows beckoned in a welcoming fashion. We made our way, souls content, to the car, and the urge to fall into a relaxed slumber was almost overwhelming.

What a marvelous day.

A visit from the patriarch/Rushed Victoria tour.

32267803113_bea5a4b522_c32219173604_165efc5467_c33046571755_088b1a2a8d_c32219174184_ba31509f82_cMy father came up on the Port Angeles ferry for 3 days of sunshine filled Victoria time. We ate a lot, walked even more, and had a blast. Below you’ll find a list of places we ate, my opinions, and lists of activities we did. Note: I had a father figure patronizing the food adventures. These are not necessarily grad student budget friendly places- I had a patron.

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Omakase Izakaya on Blanshard: We had a blast eating there. We went for the omakaze option, so the chef/owner ended up making us about a 6 course meal. We were the only ones in the place, and it was amazing. We shared a little ceramic flute of warm sake, ate some amazing food, and left satiated in our hearts and stomachs- the perfect combination.

Ayo Eat in Market Square: Epic, cheap, delicious Indonesian food from a little tucked in food stall. We had the pickled egg dish which was delicious! The guy who runs it is super friendly and Market Square has some benches and places to hang out and seat yourself.

La Tana outside Fan Tan Alley on Pandora: OH my god. This brought back so many memories of Italian bakeries and eating delicious panini when I lived in Lugano. (It doesn’t hurt that the owner, Claudio, is from Milan, only an hour from my little city!) Amazing baked goods, cheap delicious sandwiches, excellent Illy coffee (americano or espresso are your two options) all in one wee little shop. I’m going back- it fits my grad school budget and brings me right back to the best parts of my past in Ticino.

Pho Vy on Fort Street: Pho Vy is my favorite place to get pho. My dad had not had proper pho before, and it was delicious (per usual). I go here probably 2x a month and every time it’s delicious.

The BeaverTails Stand on Broughton Street: Cheap, perfectly decent Canadian dessert spot. Their gelato is amazing, the BeaverTails always awesome (and they can be cut in half if you can’t eat a whole one!), and the gentleman who runs the place has, ever since I moved to Victoria, been a really positive and friendly human.

33046571535_daaeeaba31_c32926919752_85ea6c3b03_cWent/Saw/Meandered around: 

The Royal British Columbia Museum: A really lovely museum that houses one of the most thorough First Nations exhibits I’ve ever been to. (Not without its criticisms, but still worthwhile!) They have amazing traveling exhibits that come in pretty frequently, and even though I’ve been now close to a dozen times, I still always find something I really enjoy, be it the replica theatre that shows Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush over and over again or the weird but still awesome replications of salmon canning operations in British Columbia.

Ogden Point: A great place to go for a walk in James Bay! Great views of the Olympic range across the strait, and good for people watching. I love taking people there and it feels less crowded than other parts of the main city.

Beacon Hill Park: While the rose bushes aren’t in bloom and things are quiet, the park will always have some beautiful, rambling paths to meander around. The park itself is pretty large so you’re guaranteed to find some spaces to enjoy.

All around downtown: My dad and I spent a lot of time just weaving in and out of slow moving tourists going around the historic downtown area. We grabbed coffee at a few places and I showed him some of my favorite buildings and historical spots.

If y’all are in my beautiful town and are wondering where to go, any of the above places are highly recommended! Check out my Victoria tag for more ideas as well. I’m headed to Mystic Beach tomorrow, so hopefully it’ll be lovely! Packed a bunch of film and a few cameras, I’m excited to get outside into the nature!

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Garden Wanders

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The Gardens were way more affordable than the Butchart Gardens, and even though there wasn’t much blooming yet, I feel like during the later spring/summertime it would be a marvelous way to experience some gorgeous gardens on a budget! The way that the Gardens are landscaped gives you multiple paths to wander, lots of different areas to explore (a Japanese garden, a winter garden, an herbs garden, etc.), and many benches/sunny spots to sit and take in all the beauty that is naturalia. They have lovely little posts in the soil that tell you what species you are looking at, and I have to say that even the smell of the earth was amazing. Morgan and I both agreed that we wanted to come back when more things are active- but we did have the whole gardens to ourselves!

If you want to learn more about the Gardens at HCP check out their website!

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Venice|Venezia

32014046303_a638e049b1_c32014046863_94263edfe6_c32828552745_56b5e19fa5_c32014047133_3fe9b21f8d_c32014048633_0b980fd619_c32014049353_f000a73690_cI learned a valuable lesson from a friend back in my undergrad. On a trip to Florence and Tuscany, my roommate/friend Lexi taught me, a photograph amateur, to always keep a folder of untouched, original files, and then make copies to edit. Thankfully, through this wisdom, even though my camera was horrible, I managed to salvage thousands of pictures of my “CONTRAST IS GOD” phase- where literally any photo, no matter what, was worthy of being destroyed through heavy contrast and manipulation. I cringe internally thinking about such times…but the original files remain for me to enjoy!

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And so, without further adieu, here are some photographs of a few days my beautiful mother and I spent meandering aimlessly around Venice|Venezia in May of 2010. We had a great time sipping coffees, eating sandwiches, admiring architecture, ducking into shops, and smelling that strange smell that haunts most of Venice. We encountered dogs that knew the city like the back of their hands (paws?), ate a lot of baked goods, had some Italian ladies make fun of my mum’s sneakers on the train (they didn’t know I could understand them, even with my bad 9 months of Italian classes), and I took a lot of naps (sorry Mum). We ate at a delicious pizza place whose name escapes me almost 7 years later.

I hadn’t looked at these photographs in years and today I realize how awesome it was for my mother, who had never left North America, to come spend a few weeks with me travelling. My mother is one of the most hardy, intelligent, and creative human beings I know, and as I get older I realize more and more how much I admire her. Mums are amazing creatures in general, but mums who travel across the world solo like a pro on their first go are pretty wicked.

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Chinon Auto 3001 camera

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I found a boxy little camera at a thrift store, went to 6 different shops and found the obscure battery, and took it out for a test drive.

The Chinon Auto 3001 is a sturdy little camera with a clamshell lens cover. It’s got a f/2.8 lens, a fill flash, an auto flash (that you can turn off) and no manual I could find on the internet.

So, on one of my meandering walks and over the course of a few evenings, I tried to shoot some test film on 2 rolls of Fujifilm. The results: Not too shabby. Obviously I need to test the auto-focus features more (it is supposed to be pretty good with the AF features) but it seems like a handy little beast to have around!

My greatest regret is that you cannot see the marvelous extra toes on Coco the cat’s little feet! She has polydactylism, which means that her feet have more toes than they should, and her adorable little paws look like little muffins!

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A new favorite: Caffe Fantastico

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I have realized that my words do little justice but that my images do. Caffe Fantastico was bright, friendly, affordable, and well laid out. It was large but not sterile, and the food is delicious. It’s the sort of place you can see yourself wiling away a few hours lost in a book or typing out something for class.

It was really necessary to have a good chat with some friends there the other day. These days it feels so easy to fall into the blues and feel useless but being able to have uplifting experiences with good souls over warm coffee will never fail to make me feel a little stronger.

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Qualicum Beach

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This weekend most of my fellow grad students and I went up to Parksville to present our papers at an annual conference there. Having not been very far up the island, I relished the opportunity to see more outside of Victoria.

When we arrived, we checked into our rooms. Sliding open the balcony door I could immediately smell the sea and feel the breeze. However, there was no time for nice reflections: we were going to eat dinner and then edit our papers in a sea of stress, making sure that presenting them the next day would go as smoothly as possible.

I slept horribly. Perhaps stress, perhaps sharing a room with 3 other beings. Perhaps it was eating an enormous burger at dinner. Speculating doesn’t matter- what mattered was that as I woke up at 6 am after having been awake since 3 am, I felt like I wanted to crawl into a copse of trees outside the hotel and bury myself under leaves and not awaken until summertime.

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Luckily, presenting my paper (on blood transfusion methods and development in World War I and World War II!) went smoothly! Some really lovely people asked marvelous questions and the two other people on my panel (my fellow MA candidate Dmitry and a really lovely women named Katie) did epic presentations on their research.

The conference had us eating via meal tickets we were given. The meals were buffet style- relatively edible, not great, but not horrible either. There was, however, a  never ending supply of coffee at all hours of the day, and as I sipped my 6th cup of coffee over dinner I mused if I was going to make it past 8pm. Thank goodness for caffeine.

Overall I managed to find time with some friends to go on walks outside the cramped, stressed out hallways of the conference venue. We could see over to the mainland from where we stood, and the view was gorgeous. Being near the ocean will never get old for me. It was a joy to explore a new part of the island, and it was fantastic to go see amazing papers given on such subjects as Frank Buck the animal collector, racialized bias in asylums in British Columbia, narwhals in aquariums, and the first digital computers built after World War II.

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Hide + Seek Coffee

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It was ridiculously chilly, and Katherine and I were bundled up thickly. We entered the slim and busy Hide + Seek coffee house in Oak Bay.

I had walked past it a few times and apparently never noticed it- and what a mistake! Although it doesn’t fit that many bodies it boasts delicious coffee, a bright atmosphere, really friendly baristas, and a great record selection for the baristas to put on.

Now, I’ve never paid for avocado toast in my life. Nor am I much of a purchaser of things like toast with jam- I can make those at home if I please- but this place has a reputation around town for having fresh baked, delicious goods. They had homemade pop tarts, cookies, and every Sunday they have Waffle Sunday (which I will likely be going to).

While I live in a different part of town I definitely want to come back here. Prices were super reasonable, they have good Wifi, and if you’re patient enough to wait out for a good seat, it’s a great place to get cozy.