Bundled up by the sea.

31818697970_49bd63931d_c32075827831_594cb368ce_c31818697200_1b5c6aef04_cThis morning I woke up and it was cloudy, warmer than it had been all week, and quiet. I quickly dressed, packed a muffin, a banana, my diary, camera, and keys in my bag and headed out the door sufficiently bundled up. I pinned on the small bird in hand pin my sister got me as well. It goes with me everywhere these days.

Victoria has been cold. And by cold, I mean balmy compared to my homeland, the deathly chilly wastelands of Montana. Yet, the ocean chill seeps into my very soul on these cold days and so when the temperature rose enough for me to feel like I could be outside for a length of time, I took the opportunity with enthusiasm.

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There weren’t many people out, despite the significantly warmer weather. Honestly, I love it when Victoria is like that. When it feels like a secret, when the beaches are empty of dogs and humans. The murmur of human voices are gone, replaced by the sound of wind and waves. I reclaimed my love for Victoria again this morning with this environment.

Going down a familiar set of slippery wooden stairs, I scrambled on rocks by the beach and thoroughly enjoyed myself, bundled up in a large thrifted Polo Ralph Lauren men’s sweater that serves as my coat these days and the ridiculously warm Icelandic wool scarf I bought myself in downtown Reykjavik last June. Sea ducks surfaced and dove right off shore and the massive ships anchored deep in the strait looked as though they had always been there. The mountains behind Port Angeles are snow capped and regal looking this time of year, and I felt a twinge as I looked at my home country, and my mind went to my family and loved ones. What a lucky thing it is to live somewhere that still surprises me, but what a thing it is to do so feeling still so alone.

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Nonetheless, being a human is inherently a lonely enterprise, so to dwell on the difficulties of such things is pointless. It’s best to listen to the sounds around me, breathe deeply, and smell the salt and the sea. It’s better to notice how steadily me heart beats, how amazing the miles of blood vessels that run through me are, and how glorious it is to feel the soles of my boots move from one rock to another as I navigate the slick rocky shore.

I think these things as I sit near the large window that faces a busy street. It has begun to rain very hard and raindrops coat the window. Everything in me is whispering to go take a Sunday cat nap for a bit, and I just might. A dopo!

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Creepy goodness: Ghostly Walks

“This is the time of year when the barrier between the living and the dead gets thinner”, our Quebecois guide crooned to us as we sat in a dark stone room, waiting to venture into the cool evening. It had just rained, leaving everything with a layer of chill. We separated into two groups, and went off to learn about a select few of Victoria’s many, many hauntings.

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Victoria is known as one of the most haunted places in the Pacific Northwest. It comes as no surprise- Victoria was a major port city, took on many people from the Klondike Gold Rush, and had people from every corner of the globe coming here for a wide variety of reasons. One of my favorite places in the city, the Ross Bay Cemetery, has gravestones from all over the world commemorating people who came to make their lives here.

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The nights in Victoria get very, very cold and as we were told stories of prostitutes murdered, criminals hanged and left in unmarked graves that were later dug up unceremoniously, and the atrocities that white men committed by desecrating sacred First Nations burial grounds, it was easy to imagine people from the past quietly nearby, ducking down the dark streets and walking down hallways that they did in real life.

These stories could feel hokey or sappy but large parts of downtown Victoria are murky feeling and damp. These spaces are like things sprouting in secret, dark corners and it was very easy to imagine dark things happening and lingering.

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As somebody who finds walking at night peaceful and balancing, almost necessary to my sanity, hearing these stories was a bit creepy to be sure. However, I grew up in a mining town where equally harsh things happened, where people lived and died quickly, and that partially makes Victoria feel a bit more familiar. I can understand the gold rush and the resource extraction and people living roughly, the conflicts between cultures, the unrest that underlies all of this. Our guide, Chris Adams, was very good at making this sense of unrest clear, and he was delightfully serious about it all. I almost asked him for a photograph of his skull-headed cane but didn’t get the chance.

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Habit Coffee

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My first experience with Habit Coffee happened last fall, as an eager newcomer to Victoria. From the charming exterior to the well-lit interior, it seemed a likely spot for me to enjoy. When I inquired about WiFi at the counter (trying to deduce some good study locations) I was given a look as though I had just whispered Voldermort’s name to a wizard. “We. Don’t. Have. WiFi.”, the barista practically hissed. WiFi, it seems, is anathema to everything Habit Coffee stands for.

And yet, despite this initial rather acidic welcoming, Habit Coffee has somehow remained a place I go when I’m out of sorts, can’t stand to look at a computer screen, and just want to read or write at a small table with a cup of coffee or a hot tea. The vibe at the smaller Chinatown location is, like many Victoria places, eclectic, but simple. They’ve got great magazines to thumb through (I recently discovered the joy of Frankie magazine, a wonderful Australian creation!) and overall it’s a space that feels welcoming and warm, has decent and decently priced coffee, and offers respite from the busy streets downtown.

 

 

Sunsets/Musings on realities of photography.

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Photography is a marvelous tool to make your life look much better than it feels. You choose a moment, and you eliminate sound, movement, context. You strip the moment down to an element that is then frozen into light sensitive silver particles on roll of film carefully threaded into your camera.

I am a thief. I am a propagandist. I use photography as a tool for coping, for survival, for love, for preservation, for dear life. It is better that way.

Pictured above: A series of evening photographs on idyllic Vancouver Island.

 

Where I go to wander

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Ross Bay Cemetery.

I do spend a lot of time, perhaps too much, in this cemetery. It’s enormous, full of paths, and the most magnificent trees! There is so much history here, and every time I walk through I find a new headstone I admire or a new detail to enjoy. Somebody, for example, put the most perfect pine cone on the top of a tombstone, and it looked very fitting with the darkening stone.

The trees in here are regal but not overbearing. They have different personalities and the leaves they all have are different. This time of year a lot of yellow and orange leaves- the trees that have red leaves have not yet let gravity inevitably take them yet.

If you’re in Victoria and want to escape downtown head to Ross Bay and spend some time here. I like reading on one of the benches or quietly learning about all the people who came here from every corner of the earth- Croatia, Poland, all parts of England, Japan, Russia, etc., because it makes Victoria, which feels very settled and sometimes overly cultivated, feel more real.

One Year Later in Victoria

One thing has remained constant here during my time in Victoria: the crows. Corvids cry from lampposts, make eerie noises from rooftops, and I quietly try to never disturb them. After reading books about the intelligence of these marvelous animals, I respect them and personally love it when many are seen on my walks, on my meandering, long, illogical wanderings around this southern part of the island.

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One year later, parts of Victoria still very foreign to me. It is September, still tourist season, roses are abloom, and I am constantly irked by the large buses that unload slow moving old tourists who group together like schools of fish and block the sidewalks. Although I can deftly weave through them, I prefer now to meander at dusk or dawn, when there aren’t so many humans awake and out.

Parts of town are still unknown to me- they are too far to walk, and the bus system is good but not good enough for me to risk taking one to some corner of the city. I try to avoid night walks on the weekends, as it is busier and groups of men hang around bars and cat call in an exhausting ritual I have known since I was a teenager. The smell of the harbor, intermingled with smells wafting from restaurants and cafes, is ever changing, and seeing lights reflected on the water will never cease to make me pause.

The blatant poverty present is still mildly shocking. People who need healthcare, a roof over their heads, and access to food are tucked away in doorways, seated on corners, and perched in wheelchairs. They have dogs tightly curled next to them, and a few have cats bundled up in their laps. Some who ask for help are moving through- buskers who don’t have an exact destination but offer music as a service- while others got stuck here, lured by the relatively warm winters. The chill that Victoria has in the winter, though, feels more severe than any Montana cold.

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One year later and many things I do here I do alone. It is very important to know how to be alone, to be comfortable with silences and gaps in social times. I know myself, and I am a fairly predictable, sturdy creature of habits, of black coffee and long walks and a slim book tucked in my bag in case I want to stop in somewhere and take a break from my own thoughts. I have friends here, delightful souls who work hard and make time for coffee, pho, muffins, and comradery, and I am lucky.

Victoria is still claustrophobic to me. The British habit of manicured, landscaped parks, lawns, and every green space makes my stomach turn a bit. Everything is trimmed, shaped, artificially groomed, never allowed to flourish naturally. This control of nature has gone too far, and the only truly natural feature in town is the ocean, which is terrifying and all knowing, and hems me in further onto this massive rock off the coast. I have never spent so much time near the edge of the water, and the primordial respect, fear, and appreciation I have for the sea grows each time I hear the waves and let myself be still for a moment.

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Victoria is, for the time being, another sort-of-home.

Mornings in the rose garden.

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Beacon Hill Park has a beautiful gated rose garden that you can enter and wander through. The high metal gates prevent deer and give it a mildly romantic feeling. To be really honest sometimes the smell of roses is a bit much but it’s still really beautiful to see them covered in dew drops and be in a garden all by yourself while the rest of the world goes about their day.

First year of grad school: DONE

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My first year of grad school has been over for a month now.

I turned in my final papers and breathed, but also couldn’t stop being stressed out. I worked harder this year than I think I ever have. My mind was constantly being bent, twisted, guided into places it hadn’t ever been. My curiosity, which knows no bounds already, was unleashed in ferocious ways. I questioned verbally and mentally. I reasoned and debated and held my ground and changed my opinions and was, in general, constantly feeling alive in an exhausted, electric way.

It has been a month since I posted on here. My sincere apologies. I have been home looking for employment, catching up on reality, being with people I love, and eating good food. I have been catching up with humanity, politics, and the outside world. My life is stressful in different ways now.

The photographs above are from the History program’s end of semester trip to a cabin on Lake Cowichan. We all gather and sleep in a simple cabin. We drink and eat and ponder. Aimless conversations, still beneficial, sporadically pop up. We learn bits and pieces about each other that we didn’t before, though we have spent dozens of hours together. I have been a bit of a recluse in some ways so coming to gatherings like this are wonderful. I realize that even though in some ways this degree is isolating it is also cohesive, and that these humans I work with are in this with me.

 

Restless Creatures Take to the Woods Part II

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I’m sitting sequestered on the 3rd floor of the library. My Timbuk2 bag is full to the max with about 10 books. My computer is working overtime. I’m embarking on a wicked research project and trying to get a handle on my workload, but my mind is somewhere sitting on a moss bed overlooking the ocean.

We had a blue bird day- a rare thing this time of gloomy year on the island. I remember panicking with Morgan over whether we had gotten sun (I prefer to look as close to dead as possible when it comes to skin tone) and being relieved that the pink on my cheeks was merely from hiking and the wonders of moving my body forward through the trees.

We eventually found a nice overlook where Morgan and I rested for a bit while Myles photographed tiny flowers with Morgan’s camera. I felt the sun warm my scalp and I could hear the ocean gently rise and fall in that hypnotic way. I have a visitor in 2 weeks and am truly hopeful I can bring this soul here- I myself was enraptured, and any excuse to drag another body with me will be taken.

Alright, back to the stacks. I’m roaming about looking for books and my pedometer is telling me I’ve walked almost 2 miles just in the library alone today. Endlessly searching for the perfect book to complete your research apparently entails thousands of steps. (That counts as exercise right? Especially when weighed down by a passive bookbag?)

Happy Saturday everybody!

Restless creatures take to the woods pt. 1

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Images from our hike on Tuesday. Morgan drove us deep into the rain forest near the coast and we hiked, smelling sea air, hearing creeks trickle, birds chirp, and soaking up the magnificent visuals.

I needed to be outside. I had cabin fever of the “stuck in the city” sort. I can be outside- it’s temperate- but everywhere in Victoria are yards, yards, yards. Manicured, controlled “natural” spaces that make me feel claustrophobic. When Morgan suggested we head to Sooke, I said YES YES YES.

I’ll talk about the hike more on the Part 2 post- I’m off to pick up some 35mm film that went through my repaired Olympus OM-20! Hopefully no light leaks this time, I got all the foam that keeps light out replaced. Can’t wait to get the scanner going and see what I’ve got in store!

 

Lake weekend

I still find temperate rainforests so eerie. They seem possessive of light and yet repel it. The tones in the rainforest are saturated with greens, reds, and browns- blue is not very present.

Our university program spent the weekend up north on the island at a cabin that slept approximately 20 souls. We arrived, armed with whatever provisions and beverages we chose. I brought a bathing suit, despite it being mid-October, because rumors that people jumped in the lake had reached my ears.

I don’t know these people well. We’re together for two years but that hasn’t stopped me from not knowing these folks in any real capacity. That quickly changed as we gathered around the campfire, eating hotdogs, kielbasa, and asking each other questions and drinking what we’d brought. The caretaker told us about the black bears that had been frequenting the area and we were grateful they had not been seen in the last few days.

The cabin was cozy, full of conversation, and new people. I did jump in the lake sometime after sundown, and it was blissfully cold. I wanted to stay in the water for longer. We all eventually crawled into the loft and zipped ourselves into our sleeping bags.

I woke up at 7 am. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to get up but there wasn’t a point to lying there awake in the now-warm cabin. I grabbed my boots and camera, hat and scarf, and went outside. It was raining, a steady drizzle, but the thick canopy meant that I didn’t get as wet as I could have once I entered the woods.

The woods were so quiet. The amount of vegetation paired with the rain meant that I couldn’t hear very well. When I stumbled upon the clean, glowing white skeleton of a young male deer, I realized I shouldn’t be far into the woods alone, especially without bear spray (I left mine in Montana, and have not purchased any here yet). I took a couple rolls of film in the woods, the low light no doubt making some of them shaky and unsure. I meandered to the dock,

Getting back to the cabin, we made an enormous breakfast and started the second day. Unfortunately, I had to go back to the city, and regrettably packed my sleeping bag and campfire-smelling clothes. What a good, odd, fun 18 hours.

La prima settimana

Allora, the first week is over.

I’ve been walking with my trusty Olympus but until I get some negs developed digital will have to suffice. I’ve been doing some black and white photography, which I haven’t done in some time, and I’m quite excited to see how they turn out!
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