Two Years

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Amsterdam, two years ago.

Two years ago Emily and I were eating apples and going to the Rijksmuseum and seeing MisterWives at Paradiso. I wrote directions to the venue on my upper thigh so we wouldn’t have to bring our phones and we stuffed our cash in our bras and shoes. We found out that the Dutch don’t party on Saturday nights like I thought they would. We were told by some family friends that Amsterdamers prefer to go out on Wednesday or Sunday nights, oddly.

We stayed in the apartment of a family friend close to the Albert Cuyp market and got sushi to go on a rainy evening. We spend time in the Hortus Botanicus and the Artis and ate delicious Indonesian and Vietnamese food. We had proper dim sum for the first time in our lives and I had a love affair with some duck crepe thing and a shrimp dumpling.  I lost close to ten pounds just being on my feet all day every day seeing what this old, vibrant city had to offer, and it was so refreshing to be in the motherland in a place where our long, strange last name was perfectly reasonable, even if Dutch still sounds so strange to my Anglo ears.

I cannot wait to go back someday, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Autonomy

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What does home mean anymore?

Is home a physical location? Is it the people I love? Is it a hybrid of both, mixed with some nostalgia and memories? I haven’t lived in any one place since I was 18 for more than two or three years at a time, so home for me doesn’t necessarily mean a geographical location. I am a Montanan with a fierce love for my enormous, multi-faceted state, but I’m also a creature who has inhabited the mountains and valleys of Switzerland and the green, lush south part of Vancouver Island. Home for me is definitely when I’m with the people who light me up, but my relationship with the land is strong.

Part of this is because I’ve been alone much of the time. Not lonely. Alone. There is a big difference, and I think that learning to be alone, truly alone, and find peace in that is absolutely necessary. We often live in a weird state of semi-connected isolation in our technology tethered society, but I think that as human beings it is vital to be able to find yourself totally solo and not be bothered. I find that some of the most pure memories I have are when I was alone, whether it was on an early morning walk around Paradiso or sitting on a rock listening to the waves, looking into the ocean. I am alone with the earth and with everything around me. Savoring the taste of a good latte with a book in my favorite coffee shops or seeing “The Scream” at The Met and crying quietly in front of it. These are not happy moments in the sense of joy or exhilaration, but they are serene, smooth, and utterly mine. They were created by me, for me, and I allowed myself to be okay with the fact that there was nobody to rest my head on, to look over and smile at, and that feeling of being alone is terrifying but so good.

We live in a world of wage stagnation, nutter politicans, and dreadful news 24/7. We live in a world where technology defines relationships, where not having internet can feel like a death sentence. We are surrounded by media screaming at us that we are not enough, that we could be better. In such a vicious, often callous world, the ability to go away on a walk or sit and have a meal alone in a restaurant or even just look out the window and (not to be morbid but) we will die alone, and in between we will spend much of our lives being alone. This is not a bad thing but a reality we must face and I and many people I deeply love and respect have chosen to not fight it and find peace and serenity in our autonomy and the human experience of existence.

Feelin’ myself

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To combat negativity and bad thoughts that inevitably come as one looks for work, here is some evidence that one beautiful sunny day in Cape Cod I spent some time on the beach with my sister in a dress that fits my personality perfectly (even though my mum referred to it as “A bit Laura Ingalls Wilder”).

 

Lingering/longing

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One week until our ferry departs to head back to my fucked up motherland (hey America! You’re still being run by that sexist, bigoted, disgusting Cheeto in a wig right?).

I should be finishing up my visa application, my thesis, and multiple other things. Instead I had to spend one last weekend morning on the beach. I had to listen to the seagulls and notice how the flower blooms are starting to fade in some places. My fingers felt the textures of the massive driftwood logs and picked up small pieces of sea glass. I feel a lot of things and like I might cry. The future is such a tumultuous, unsure thing and the now, the now is precious and fleeting and like grabbing smoke, but that doesn’t mean I cannot wax poetica about the now.

Good things exist in the future. In eight days I’ll see the smiling face of my partner in crime. In eight days I’ll see my dogs and the lake we live by. I’ll be back in a land where I don’t need a visa and where my old, beloved crappy car, Frank, waits to have me drive him around. My favorite brewery awaits me with a cold glass of my favorite single malt IPA and I get to go to Target (Canada doesn’t have Target and holy kapow I miss Target).

But for now, I’ll soak up the now.

In the gardens unabashed

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Had to put in a quiet Eve mention somewhere. Being in gardens, so lush and fertile and beautiful, surrounded by dozens of species of flowers, trees, bushes, and other flora, I often think that no wonder Eve bit from the apple of knowledge and fucked everything up. Ignorance may be bliss for some, but not for me. I want to know about everything. What tells flowers it’s time to bloom? Why are some petals soft, others rubbery, and others thick and dense? Why do humans enjoy causing some sort of terror to every living thing, whether it be tramping on gentle flora or ruthlessly carving our names on the bamboo in the gardens?

Regardless, yesterday Liang, Deb, and I all spent some much needed time outside in the gardens at school. We smelled all the blooms and quietly meandered and took pictures of each other. It was a lovely afternoon of quiet in the midst of what feels like multiple storms.

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.

This is why the EPA matters.

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All photographs courtesy of the DOCUMERICA collection in the  U.S National Archives Flickr.

Above: Contaminated waterways, algae blooms, dead fish, uncovered coal trains, strip mining activities, soil that won’t grow anything due to contamination, sulphur gas being emitted, oil spills…..

The EPA was created in 1970 to assess, research, and keep track of the environment in the United States. In the early 1970’s, the United States government sent out several photographers to document the state of the nation. What the photographer’s images revealed, in the early stages of the EPA, was massive contamination of water, pollution of major waterways (including the Potomac), dead and dying fish, pristine landscapes planned for strip mining, and other atrocities.

Today, 46 years later, the human impact on Earth has only become more significant. Climate change is real, as is our rapidly growing global population. The United States, which prides itself on being a global leader (as a historian I can go off on a tangent about that later…) has a duty to help lead the way to enforcement of environment protections, research to preserve our environment, develop technologies that have less of a carbon/energy footprint, and protect our natural environment as well as encourage reclamation of areas that were previously developed for such activities as mining, dumping, etc.

Thanks to the EPA, more and more of us have clean drinking water, we have preserved coast lines, deserts, Arctic regions, forests, and prairies. We have quick responses to oil spills, and those companies get investigated swiftly. We have relatively clean air in most parts of the United States, and most of us (still not all) can live without fear of contaminated soil in our gardens. (As a Montanan, our resource extraction legacy still leaves us with contaminated waterways, energy development projects that threaten our national parks, contaminated soils, garbage piles, and the like.)

If you want rivers that catch on fire, if you want irresponsible, outdated energy development (don’t get me started on coal), irresponsible reclamation if any at all, polluted air, more and more endangered species, and oil spills that don’t get immediate attention and lawsuits for those companies, let’s turn back the clock almost half a century. If not, let’s look forward and do good on this beautiful Earth we all live on.

The makeup post.

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To follow up with my skincare post I thought I would share some of the beauty products I love and use regularly!

There are lots of great beauty bloggers out there who focus on using more natural/organic based products and others who focus on luxury products or more high-end. I’m from Montana, where my access to high-end makeup shops was super limited growing up, so I always used drugstore products. Now that I live in Canada and beauty products cost so much more, I have also consistently stuck with using drugstore products.

Again, I am poor and I am lazy. I love trying new products but because my look is pretty consistent, if products don’t fit into my routine well enough they get reserved for special events or for when I’m feeling creative. This is my super pared down, every day routine.

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Eyebrows:

CoverGirl Perfect Blend Eyeliner in Mink

Maybelline Brow Drama Sculpting Brow Mascara in Soft Brown

I fill in my eyebrows with this eyeliner- I’ve been using it for years. The formula feels good on my skin, the color matches perfectly, and it stays on for a long time, yet comes off with micellar water easily.

I know that a lot of people were on the fence about the weird looking Maybelline brow mascara but I personally like it. It speeds up the process of shaping my brows a lot. I abandoned the Nyx Tinted Brow Mascara because the packaging breaks apart SO QUICKLY (seriously Nyx get your shit together- it shouldn’t be so fragile!). As somebody who needs to be able to throw things in my bag, the sad packaging of Nyx products have made me stop using most of them.

Eyes:

L’Oreal Paris Waterproof Voluminous Carbon Black mascara

L’Oreal Paris Silkissime Eyeliner in Black

CoverGirl Perfect Blend Eyeliner in Mink

I blend both eyeliners on my top lash and use 2 coats of the mascara. All of these products last a long time, and the mascara stays on despite the humidity and frequent rain here without giving me under-eye raccoon vibes!

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On to my favorite part: Lipsticks! I have become blatantly obsessed with the Maybelline Color Sensational matte lipsticks. The formula stays on for hours, is easy to apply, and the colors are fucking gorgeous. See photograph below! Gahhhh.

From top to bottom on the swatch:

Raging Raisin makes me feel like wearing all black, spending time with a resurrected Humphrey Bogart, and heading off in a 1930’s coupe to go day drink and banter.

Touch of Spice warms my skin tone and makes me think of the 70’s in the best ways. For some reason it also makes me want to read in brightly lit cafes and it vaguely reminds me of traveling around Italy.

-Toasted Truffle is a no-nonsense deep brown that makes me feel intimidating and invincible, as well as sexy in an aggressive way that I like. It’s a peculiar color in the best way!

-Lust for Blush is a 1950’s garden party sort of lipstick, the kind you’d wear with a vintage Christian Dior dress and with a perfect martini in your hand as you think that your life is perfect but the patriarchy is really limiting your options.

And there you have it! The products I come back to time and time again on my limited budget and my impatient habits. Happy trails y’all! Tell me some of your favorite products you come back to again and again!

 

 

What I’ve been reading/watching/noticing.

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A Fine Day for a Protest: Women’s March on Victoria

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We agreed to meet at a coffee shop to get sustenance before heading down to the march. Outside the cafe, people with pink hats and signs walked past every few minutes, and I got excited.

My mother, sister, boyfriend, and friends were all in Helena marching in frigid temperatures. I knew friends marching in Geneva, Amsterdam, DC, Boston, Minneapolis, Houston, San Francisco, New York, and Seattle.  Most of the people I love today were out showing solidarity for one another and for other humans. Right now is not the time to shelter yourself- it is time to unite, express love and support, and learn new things. To be a good listener and take time to accept new ideas. To put yourself out of your comfort zone, stand up for yourself and others, and realize that right now, we must watch out for each other and ourselves.

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The march in Victoria was overwhelmingly positive. Lots of older folks, many who seemed excited and yet tired of the shenanigans their dramatic neighbors in America seem to always get up to. Lots of amazing home made signs, dogs, and little ones- including some babies that didn’t seem to keen to be starting their lives as rebels just yet. The weather was beautiful, and a really wicked Canadian politican, Elizabeth May of the Green Party, spoke. I met her on the street once during Canadian election season (which, side note is WAY shorter and more humane than the never-ending election cycle of America) and ever since have been a big fan. The march began and we headed in the direction of the Parliament building, then turned and made a big U-turn up another street. The whole time I felt on the edge of tears- so many awesome people allying themselves with Americans who will be facing struggles in the near future.

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The optimism and exciting energy I felt today extended beyond Victoria. It extended beyond North America. It rippled across the world and it was absolutely infectious. I hope that we can learn intersectionality, true support, and be vocal for positive, progressive changes for the better, and not be okay with the horrible darkness that threatens to engulf some of us, and I hope that protests and marches like these are just a start.

There are estimates that about 5,000-8,00 Victorians marched today, and while I’m not quire sure how many ultimately made a stand of solidarity and marched, there were thousands of people that filled the downtown area with their marvelous energy. It was such a joy to march with everybody and to see Victorians, who have often seemed so friendly and helpful, make themselves known as even more quality souls.

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The VVitch, 2015

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The VVitch was so creepy to me the first time I didn’t sleep at all that night.

It also focuses on historical accuracy, has a gorgeously eerie soundtrack, and depicts the struggle of one family who leaves their fortified Puritan town due to religious disagreements. It is not a cheap-trick sort of film, but rather draws you in by looking you straight in the eyes.

I’d highly recommend and it’s on Netflix right now (Canadian Netflix, which is notoriously pathetic, that is).