Thursday, December 31, 2009

come a long way, 365/365

come a long way, 365/365, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.
from the 1st of January.
I'm so glad to be done. I do have some thoughts on completing this project - overall, I'm really glad I did it, and persisted through the slumps. But the rest of my thoughts can wait till the new year - right now, I'm just breathing a sigh of relief - and contentment. Will the first day I don't take a picture feel like a let down, or like liberation? I'm about to find out.
Thursday, Dec 31

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Blogs discovered in 2009:

December 7 Blog find of the year. That gem of a blog you can't believe you didn't know about until this year.

I have two that I wish I'd found sooner:
 Kelly McGonigal's Science and Sutras,  exploring the interface between contemporary scientific research and the ancient science of yoga, and Tammy's Daisy Yellow, a creative yet practical guide to expanding art experiences.

Kelly first came to my attention a few years ago through her webpage (which I can no longer find on the web) summarizing yoga research. That page was one of the brightest pebbles I picked up following the rather twisty path to where I am now, and I was astonished and pleased to find out that she was still active on the web through her blog, in addition to writing the newly released Yoga and Pain Relief - which is sitting in my Amazon cart till they stock it, darn them. Though I still have some conflicting thoughts about subjecting yoga to the scrutiny of western scientific research - or maybe because of that conflict, I value the thoughts of an educator like Kelly.

Tammy's blog was also a new find - I'm not even sure how I stumbled upon her - perhaps through Flickr. But as I was struggling to find my comfort zone with drawing tools and paper, her blog did something even better - it helped me move out of that comfort zone.  With practical suggestions on how to kick-start an art journal, ways to practice line control, and tools and equipment to explore, I found myself feeling freer to just take the line for a walk, and let colour find its own way on the page.

I just realized - each blog I chose reflects the needs of both my right and left brain. I'm sure that's not just coincidence.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Best of 2009: learning experience

December 24 Learning experience. What was a lesson you learned this year that changed you?

Project 365, a picture a day, every day for 2009.

Before starting this project, I took a lot of pictures anyway, of every day things: my family, my hobbies, things I saw on my walks, road trips, the garden, holidays. Since I was already recording minutiae, it seemed a natural step to take one picture each day over the course of a year, whether or not there was really something special going on that day.
My reasons were two fold: to document a year in the life of my family, and to really learn how to use my camera. Now, only 3 days from completing this project, I am very happy to have accomplished both my objectives.

I don't think I will be doing this in 2010, however. I have missed spending my downtime knitting, spinning or sketching. It will feel strange, that first day that I don't pick up my camera and take a picture. I would like to keep learning, but will perhaps try to focus on particular themes and projects, as does my friend Michele. In fact, if I decide to take on a real photographic challenge next year, it would be something like taking an honest street picture. That would be something.
A brief look back over the year:

looking back at project 365

1. Sharon's calendar, January 1/365, 2. Our Lady of the Yoga Mat. 16/365, 3. birch, 139/365, 4. Owlet, 140/365, 5. photojojo told me to, 155/365, 6. dejection, 157/365, 7. swinging in the clouds, 188/365, 8. solitary, 190/365, 9. beluga, 197/365, 10. summer pilgrimage, 203/365, 11. Today, raspberries, 207/365, 12. loosestrife and lilies, 209/365, 13. first peppers, 210/365, 14. dragonfly, 220/365, 15. slurp! 221/365, 16. abandoned, 17. where the buffalo roam, 232/365, 18. Wrapt, 236/365, 19. sunburned out, 239/365, 20. ominous, 243/365, 21. Livingstone Range, 249/365, 22. Halt! who dohs there? 256/365, 23. working late, 258/365, 24. Ammena again, 262/365, 25. Equinox, 265/365, 26. holding space, 268/365, 27. run, 28. the precious. Mi-touch!, 273/365, 29. Harvest, 275/365, 30. skeleton bride 303/365, 31. sapphire, 310/365, 32. from what I've tasted of desire, 337/365, 33. damning evidence. 345/365, 34. peppermint bark, 358/365, 35. tracks, 360/365, 36. glass bell, 362/365

Created with fd's Flickr Toys

Catching up on Best of 2009, in images

I don't always feel verbal or fully self-disclosing, so here are my pictorial responses to some of Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 prompts:

December 6 Workshop or conference. Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?
Winnipeg, Canada, EPOWC, the Exercise Physiologists of Western Canada conference. But I admit that perhaps my favorite part was visiting St. Boniface, the French area of Winnipeg:

December 8 Moment of peace. An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?
I draw almost every time I'm at mass:
madonna, 355/365

December 21 Project. What did you start this year that you're proud of?
 Stuff I do here:
quiet space, 352/365

December 12 New food. You're now in love with Lebanese food and you didn't even know what it was in January of this year.
I discovered I can tolerate small amounts of whipped cream:
dutch treat

December 19 Car ride. What did you see? How did it smell? Did you eat anything as you drove there? Who were you with?
Driving home from camping along the upper Oldman river in the Rockies, at a mere 80 kmh because of a flat tire, and no garages open on Labour Day. It took an awfully long time to get home, but at least the scenery was nice:

Livingstone Range, 249/365

ribbon lace scarf, done! 361/365

ribbon lace scarf, done! 361/365, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.
my first finished object knit with my spindle-spun laceweight - Veronik Avery's Lace Ribbon Scarf.

I love it, it's so soft and cushy. I don't know whether I want to block this - I love the way it ripples and undulates, unblocked. Man - I have a lot of dog hair on my shirt. There is a lot of dog hair knit into this scarf, for that matter. Sunday, Dec 27.

Knitting notes:
I started spinning the yarn during my summer holidays in Langley in July of 2008, and continued to spin and ply up to about a week ago. I was knit between June and Dec of this year, with this rather sporadic yarn supply.  But I was in no hurry to finish this - it was such a simple, soothing pattern, and so gratifying to feel the handspun running between my fingers, whether it was running thick or thin. It is satisfying to complete any knitting project, but doubly - or even triply- satisfying to complete a project with handspun, particularly laceweight handspun. 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Idle quiet: a non best09 post.

I have clearly not kept up with the best09 challenge, but I have no excuses. That is to say, I don't feel the need to make excuses, but I did come to a realization: I don't like sharing.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the posts I've run across on #best09 or by following Gwen's bookmarks, but the intimacy of the revelations sometimes takes my breath away. I don't think this is wrong; but I quickly realized I'm simply not prepared to follow suit.  I have drafted several posts in the course of this challenge, and in the end, been unwilling to hit the "publish" button. Bloggers who reveal so much of their personal, intimate lives have a certain kind of courage: I don't feel I lack courage per se, but I do lack the inclination for that degree of self-disclosure.

I do think this is an excellent way to reflect, assess, and celebrate, but for the most part, I feel best confining my personal thoughts to my journal, written or drawn, or shared with my spouse and children. I do thank Gwen for making me think, and giving me something to contemplate on, each day.  And perhaps, in the next few slow, restful days, I will catch up in my own way: perhaps, a picture with a minimum of text, because sometimes a picture is my own kind of code, for things I am unwilling to say out loud.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Best place: the coulees of the Oldman River Valley

December 11: The best place. A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?

wild flight, 334/365

There are no doubt warmer places, more exotic places, more exciting places; but for me the best place this year and every year are the  coulees of the river valley in my town in southern Alberta, because they're there for me when I need them.  It's no use pining for a beach a thousand miles away or a cafe by a distant bank: I love the coulees because they are so very present, and surrounded by their bleak, bleached, barren shapes, I can't be anywhere else but here, now; nor can I escape the elements, however they choose to present themselves that day: the sun, the wind, the snow, the dust.Coulee clouds, 34/365

big sky

rivervalley west, 255/365

They are alien to me, having been born in the tropics and then raised in the lush, temperate Fraser Valley on British Columbia's west coast.  But this week, I was working with a woman who had also moved here from the valley. She said that when she first set eyes on the landscape of southern Alberta, she was literally staggered: physically lost her balance and had to hold on to something to keep from falling to her knees. The wildness, the desolate, stark beauty completely unmoored her. I knew exactly what she meant.

coming over the ridge

I don't feel unmoored, quite, any longer, now that I've lived here for over twenty years. The coulees are almost literally my back yard. But even with their familiarity, year after year and season after season, they can still leave me awestruck, at the way that they have permeated my  breath and bones, at the way that they can revive me when my spirits are flagging and calm me when my nerves are in tatters.  This year and every year, the best place.

part of Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 Blog Challenge

Saturday, December 05, 2009


December 5 Night out. Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?

YES! The Vancouver Folk Music Festival has been rocking my world since 1981, though sadly I don't make it out there often, now that I live in Alberta. But when the stars align and I manage to make it out for one day and night with my sisters, it is as joyous and openhearted as I remember from my youth - perhaps more so, shared with my children.


This year, it was particularly special - while standing in line getting my wristband, I noticed the woman in front of me stop and eye me curiously - I was only half-paying attention, as I was doing the usual multi-tasking mom thing: talking to my children, paying for tickets, checking my purse. When at last I looked up, I realized it was my friend Dawn, whom I'd known since grade 3, travelled with through Australia and New Zealand, and whose mother brought me to our first Folk Music Festival years and years ago. We hadn't been in close touch in the last few years, so it was astonishing to suddenly meet up with her at that time and place.  It was wonderfully reminscent and nostalgic to stroll between the tents at Jericho Beach Park, choosing workshops to go to, and even finding iconic folksinger/songwriter Roy Forbes, AKA Bim, as he was known in the 80's.


Later that evening as twilight fell on the main stage, Dawn left early to go home, but my children and I stayed with my sister and their cousin, as the festival magic continued to sparkle in the Vancouver breeze: night ushered in by the Ladies in White.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Best book 2009.

If it weren't for my book club, I'd have very little to choose from for the Best09 prompt for day 4:

December 4:  Book. What book - fiction or non - touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?

Since I've gone back to school, I don't read fiction for pleasure as broadly, deeply, or ambitiously as I would like. It's impossible for me not to read:  however it has to be relatively light, not too thinky, and quite often, familiar -  something I won't get so engrossed in I can't put it down because I need to know how it ends. Thus, I find myself picking up and re-reading books by Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Patrick O'Brian, or Dorothy Dunnett. (The latter two can get a bit thinky, but since they're re-reads, I don't mind).  Alternatively, I'll often pick up children or young adult books that my kids read.

I'll only break out of this pattern to read something for my book club. Each member picks a book for the month, and with our diverse tastes, more often than not it's something I would never, ever choose on my own.  I generally prefer borrowing book club selections from the library, as about half the time it's something I can't get into, bail out of, or don't like well enough to want my own copy.

But every year, there's a book that I run out and buy for myself as soon as I finish the library copy because I know I'll want to re-read it, and in this case, ensure that my kids read it. This year, that book was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

the Book Thief

I was astonished this was classified as a children's book: set in Germany before and during World War 2 and narrated by Death, it is necessarily dark, disturbing, and at times despairingly sorrowful and bleak. Yet even Death's narrative voice has a sort of compassion and self-deprecating humour that allows us to witness the events lived out by the characters; Death almost seems to have an emotional investment in the fates of those we watch through his eyes.

If the prose doesn't move you to tears, the illustrations (ostensibly a book written by one of the characters) will. Even if I had read a lot more books this year, this one would still be the best of 2009.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

I hold with those who favour fire

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice...

from what I've tasted of desire,

I'm always so happy when I can use a shot SOOC (straight out of the camera) like the one above, and it looks exactly how I felt when I took the picture.  However, the second one - ice on grass in my backyard - was devilishly hard to get right for both exposure and white balance. Snow is notoriously difficult anyway, and the fact that it was -20 celsius and I was in my shirt sleeves, refusing to actually get down on my knees, made it just a tad harder. So I spent a while playing with this in Lightroom, till I got what I felt that morning: shivering, frayed, and a little bit bleak. I might save these settings, and see if they will work as a preset for any more snow pictures as winter wears on.

to know that for destruction, ice

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

going west

go west

Every year, my best trip is the pilgrimage out west to see my family. In the exact reverse of my own childhood, when my father would pack us all up and drive out of the Fraser Valley at five in the morning to take us to Calgary, Alberta, to stay with my grandparents for a few weeks, I now pack up my own children and travel in the opposite direction, from southern Alberta to the BC coast.
(perhaps not very exact, as I avoid leaving at five in the morning at all cost)

glade, 191/365

This year, we had the additional pleasure of meeting my sister and her family, who were on a road trip of her own through Alberta, in Revelstoke, where we stopped to camp overnight. It wasn't memorable just because of my kids getting together with their cousins, my husband glowering in a violently purple rain poncho, the many flaming marshmallows or even the towering, dense cedars surrounding us. It was a return to camping itself, after eleven years without so much as airing out our old tents. There is a fairly long story behind this, involving an August rain/snow/windstorm on a long weekend in Waterton, a screaming baby, a full diaper, and a shivering dog, but it exhausts me remembering it, never mind retelling it. Suffice it to say, it was over a decade before I found the  motivation to again bring tent and children on the same trip.

But on this journey out to the coast, we broke that long dry spell, and despite the other excellent camping trips that followed later in summer, this one sticks out in my mind as the one that got us going again.


For Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 challenge