Friday, May 28, 2010

Unpacking & Repacking

After a busy week of weddings, meetings, visits and travel from the Bay area to San Diego to Vancouver and back, I devoted yesterday to unpacking, uploading, and unwinding! Today is much the opposite as Will and I are taking the Memorial Day long weekend to travel along Highway 1 down the Pacific Coast. We plan on taking it slow, relaxing on beaches, shooting lots of film (yes, FILM) and eating some great seafood.

The plan is to rip through Monterey and Carmel as we've been there, done that, and then slowly wind our way through Big Sur's rugged terrain, stopping off at remote (and not-so remote) beaches along the way before ending up in Cambria where we'll check into our hotel. Amazingly enough we were able to book last minute stays at two places, one in Cambria and one in Pismo Beach, which was extremely tough to do. First of all, it's the long weekend, secondly most places are EXORBITANTLY priced, and third (and most frustrating) is that almost all places require a 2-night stay at minimum. Grrr. I spent most of May looking for a place and last night wound up finding two great spots at decent rates. What an answer to prayer that was!!!

On the (relaxed) agenda is Hearst Castle, Morro Bay, and the Dunes at Pismo Beach. And did I mention copious amounts of seafood??? We'll stay our second night in Pismo Beach and then on Monday head inland up Highway 101--not as scenic, but rich with literary history as this is where Steinbeck's Pulitzer and Nobel-prize winning work was set. I'm actually pretty excited to see this agricultural region and hope to meander through it lazily on the drive home.

Next week I'll get teasers up from Jenny & Kevin's wedding in California and Daniel & Elisia's wedding in British Columbia...I know some of you are anxious to see 'em!

Hope you all have an awesome weekend, and Happy Memorial Day to all of the US Veterans, those currently serving, and their families.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Inspiration in Mississippi

Last weekend Will and I traveled to Mississippi for his 10-year high school reunion. We couldn't attend both of ours this spring, and since Will doesn't get to make it back to his hometown as often as I do mine, we opted to head out east/down south to visit family and friends, and of course, attend the reunion. The reunion had its fun moments, (and its awkward ones--wouldn't be a reunion without them I guess!) but isn't what inspired me to write today's blog.

What did inspire me were the following: 1) How history is a part of everyday life in such a unique way in the South, and 2) How lush and green everything was at this time of year, but in a totally different sense than it is in the Pacific Northwest where I'm writing this from!

When we pulled up to Will's parents' house, I was immediately drawn to the old fan seated upon a stool in the garage and spinning off a warm breeze. The whiff of air felt hardly refreshing against the backdrop of humidity, but the fact that this probably 80-90 year old fan was being used rather than preserved really struck me. I'd have stuck the thing in a window sill or on a shelf to display it and probably wouldn't have thought twice about USING it--but this is what I love about the South (and yes, I mean to use a capital 'S' when I talk about it because it's not a direction, it's practically a state of mind!). I love that history is just a part of every day life down there! Often while driving, Will points out battlefields or historic sites that aren't necessarily marked by monuments or placards, but are known to locals because of the tradition of oral story-telling that is so prevalent in this part of the country. Pictured below is an exterior shot of Will's grandmother's home which is now about 100 years old. It's still being used by the family even though no one lives there, and it seems quite natural to do so in this neck of the woods. Where I'm from it'd get torn down in a heartbeat and the land would be used to set up some chain big-box store. Blech.

While we were in Mississippi we took the time to photograph the grave sites of family members (Will's great-great grandparents are all buried within the state which I find fascinating as mine never even made it over to Canada and no one knows where they now lie!) and also the WWII dog tags worn by Will's Pop who recently passed away. We both have a love for family history and understand the value in preserving these details for future generations who may not grow up within the same vicinity as their ancestors.
The South is a lush, fertile region that invites growth whether the locals appreciate it or not. While no one can deny the beauty of the prominent Magnolia (the state flower) or the richness of produce that grows in this moist climate, everyone takes care to point out the poison ivy and kudzoo creepers that take over vast amounts of woodland, or the dangers that come with standing too close to any sort of swamp water ('gators and snakes and bugs oh my!). Everything grows in this place and everything gets big--the blackberries get huge, but so do the cockroaches! In every place you have to take the good with the bad and I'd prefer to focus on the good which is why I've tried to show off this verdant region's richest blessings. One of them being the backyard pond, which is not an uncommon sight in many rural areas around the country, but what I've never seen before are the often elaborate docks which folks build over their fishing holes down South! Neighbourhood docks in this area are typically graced with gazebos strung with white lights, platforms featuring picnic tables and lawn chairs, and structures decorated with ferns and hanging flower baskets. I'd been wanting to get a few photos of some of them, so I was pleasantly surprised when we stumbled upon family friends fishing off of theirs one day. Miss Karen and Mimi were fishing using live crickets as bait when Will and I showed up along with Liz & Michael, and I quite liked the relaxed feel that this everyday experience held for me.
I can't help but find myself mesmerized by Mississippi every time I visit. There's always something new that stands out to me, and I quite love being inspired by the everyday aspects of life elsewhere. The rural South often gets a negative rap from those living in urban environs across America, but there is so much richness that gets overlooked, which is truly a shame. Those who travel to the South often go for the food, music, and civil war history, but there's so much beauty in just the simple pleasures that the locals love and I for one believe I am destined to embrace it all!

Friday, May 07, 2010

A friend indeed...

Some friends are perfect for long, introspective conversations, others are up for anything spontaneous and fun, and still others are the ideal muse--you know, inspiring, creative, passionate about life. Every once in a while, you land a friend who is that perfect gold mine--all of the above rolled into one! I've got this amazing collection of lifelong girlfriends who possess these qualities in spades, and I'd like to start highlighting them in my blog as each of them have made an impact on my life and my own personal and creative growth.

Yanez (who I fondly refer to as Nez or YZ) is one of those great friends who you know will never go AWOL! I have watched her press through tough times in relationships and come through the other side with brighter optimism, deepened character, and broader perspectives. Loyal as the day is long, this is what makes this friend Tried & True.

Ten years ago, I was living in southern California when Yanez made plans to visit me. Just after she'd booked her ticket, (and this was still during the days when most people still went to the travel agency to do so!) unforeseen events occurred in my living situation that prompted my abrupt return home. This spring, Yanez finally got to rebook a flight to Caliornia and was one of my first visitors to our new home. Yanez is always up for travel that revolves around deepening friendship and will drive or fly any distance at a moment's notice if you need her to. This girl is a friend of action--any activity or event that offers the opportunity to bless others and pour into their lives in some way is not just something to consider, it's something to make happen. Logistics are only part of the fun of making something happen for Yanez, and that attitude is what contributes to her spontaneous and exuberant personality!

When it comes to creativity, Yanez is a Triple Threat in three diverse categories:

1) Dance. I used to hate going to weddings knowing I was going to be out on the dance floor making a fool of myself without Yanez whopping it up! I'm an ethnic Mennonite and therefore rhythmically-challenged just by sheer default. Yanez is part-Caribbean and has more rhythm and moves flowing through her limbs than I could ever hope to achieve, but it's always been great having a friend to watch and be inspired by! Let's just put it this way, if you dance anywhere near Yanez at an event, you will automatically look better doing whatever lam-o move you're doing, just because of association.

2) Event Planning. Get this girl on the invites, the decor, the music, and the games committees 'cause Yanez knows how to parTAY. Every shin-dig this girl hosts or helps with has her signature touch on it. Invitations and decoration are hand-crafted and are never frou-frou or prissy, but always inventive, creative, and stylish. Finding appropriate music for any occasion is this girl's GIFT. I don't know anyone else with such an extensive music collection and it's as eclectic as it is grandiose. She knows what's in, what's out, what's classic and what needs to be brought back. And it will rock your world. Games, I don't even really care to discuss because I am NOT a games person, (unless it's Speed Scrabble and then I'd like to challenge you to a duel because I can kill at Speed Scrabble) but Yz has so many games it's unreal and again, knows what's new in the Game world and can bring it when it comes to competitiveness (and can only be beat by my friend Alison, but that is another story all together).

3) Clothes. In over 11 years I've never seen this girl wear the same thing twice. If I had her body type I'd be the first in line to take Yanez's hand-me-downs! She is uber-creative in her style (which changes monthly and goes through colour-phases: Grade 12-Yellow. Subsequent phases: Orange, Pink, Teal. Current Phase: Purple.) and is a fantastic deal-hunter! This girl can get away with wearing ANYTHING and inspires me to be more daring (but only a little!!!).

Last year, Yanez was one of my bridesmaids for good reason. Actually for all the reasons above and more. She's the first to give a compliment, the first to befriend a lonely soul, and the first to share an encouraging thought. It's easy enough to look at a person and see their flaws (and yes Yanez has those just like the rest of us) but I think most peoples' good sides usually outweigh their bad, and I really value the fact that Yanez always looks for the good in others.

Yanez, you are a friend whom loads would be lucky to have, and I'm so blessed to be considered one of your best-est!


Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Simple Life

Over the last while, I've had several friends post blog articles celebrating simplicity. The authors are in various stages of life and yet each has expressed a yearning to return to roots, tradition, and simplicity through a variety of creative, familial, and natural expressions. As I live not far from an ever-buzzing Interstate freeway, I am constantly reminded of my desire to seek that which is peaceful and pure. I've been inspired by my fellow bloggers to take note of the things which have brought simple beauty and rest into my own life recently and felt the urge to share those things with my own readers.

Will and I have absolutely relished in what we hope are the last of the major spring rains in the Bay area, and are trying to take in as much of what nature has to offer as we can--both in vistas and in vino! Only an hour from the southern end of the Napa Valley and not even ten minutes from the 40 wineries that dot the hillsides surrounding our small city, we have thoroughly enjoyed partaking of the region's wines (often accompanied by fruit from the local farmers and the occasional international treat courtesy of Trader Joe's). Long walks and hikes that allow us to spend time in nature with our cameras provide the much-needed reprieve from long weeks of work and offer the chance to reflect upon creation in peace. Hopefully these images bring you the same sense of peace and beauty they bring to me. Salut!