Momentum

Dante, never one to sugarcoat things when writing about hell’s 9 circles or the terrifyingly familiar sins of purgatory, chose to put the phrase a great flame follows a tiny spark into the “Paradiso” section of his masterpiece.

Given that most of the wet matches I brought with me when I clawed my way out of limbo #562 are still drying, it’s a comforting thought. And hey: I’m starting to see flickers of light in some parts of my life and wisps of smoke in others. Surely that’s a positive sign?

Of course I’m hoping I’ll eventually have (contained) flames that qualify as steady-and-ready if not Mr Alighieri’s “great.” In the meantime, however, I’m glad I have what I have—including a better ability to support those trying to move from draining stagnation to freeing stag leap.

…motion is a sure-fire clue there’s momentum of some kind afoot, but it’s surprising how much energy can be conveyed without word, sound, or movement…

(top to bottom: Ilya Idelchik’s vivacious “Flamenco Dancers” grace San Diego’s Spanish Village Art Center; orchids in Balboa Park’s Botanical Building defy homogenity; just outside Granville Island’s totem-carving wonderland, flexing fish bedeck a totem pole that welcomes visitors; artist James Harrison’s glass-centric Ghost Ship casts a 24-hour glow on Portland Oregon’s Eastbank Esplanade)

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Pausing between Stop and Go on Oahu’s North Shore [pt 1]

Leaving a job that was well past its sell-by date for something with lots of tangible improvements—and the promise of intangible ones—should have been incredibly easy. But no: I exited dragging a chunk of reluctance behind me thanks to a core group of amazing co-workers I didn’t want to give up. Co-workers who’d provided daily laughs, intelligent insights, reliable teamwork, and empathy.

Plus genuine happiness when they heard I’d whipped together a week of escapism before starting over in a new environment. They couldn’t go unwind and have fun, dammit, but since I could I certainly should.

To them, I was the soot-choked canary weakly fluttering toward blue sky, the newly elected mascot of Team Save the Drama for Your Mama, the lucky thing who’d been handed pudding filled with proof we all deserved better.

Clearly I needed to do them proud in spite of my tight timeline and eroded energy. I went for a classic solution: a brain/body reset in Hawaii. With nothing from the old or new job to worry about, relaxing into island life happened surprisingly fast.

Easing into island life

Due to plane fares and vacation rental openings and preferences I ended up on Oahu’s rural, romantic North Shore. Mr Vix and I arrived as the surf season was winding down, which meant we only got to ogle folks on 25-foot waves vs 50-foot ones. And we found the smaller beaches sparsely populated even on weekends.

Somehow neither seemed like genuine hardship.

Surfers aside, daily walks along Kawailoa Beach usually featured more fishing poles than people

While we’d explored a lot of Oahu during our last visit to the island—including a couple of day trips to the North Shore—we deliberately stuck close to our temporary home this time. “Close” being a relative term, of course. As visitors, it seemed rude to ignore ALL of the outdoor activities that promised to take us farther and farther from the realities of everyday life, so off we went.

From an end-of-the-road trail that led to an oceanside preservation zone but came with pleasant diversions…

After a dusty hike in to the remote Ka’ena Point Reserve, I enjoyed a both-eyes-on-the-winter-surf-beyond reward while hiking out

…to encountering creatures who put my attempt at snazziness to shame…

Despite blue-green-grey colors and iridescent shoes, getting out-peacocked by a too-fast-for-me…well, peacock

At the Waimea Valley Reserve, a finally-still peacock provides a lesson in pattern-mixing

…to reminders of the ocean’s power—

Though I knew the North Shore’s legendary waves and riptides might rule out daily swimming, I was able to find protected spots without much trouble

and its beauty—I spent my days in a haze of delight. I’d arrived hoping for daily swims, and lucked out by finding local spots too boring for surfers but awesome for me.

At the end of Dillingham Airfield, Army Beach offers sandy shores, crystalline water, and a perfect spot to cool off after hiking to Ka’ena Point as long as the surf cooperates

Out of the water, plenty of intriguing visual stories drew me in. While the late Ron Artis’ community-driven work brightens many North Shore landmarks and gives locals and visitors alike windows into the past…

Storytelling is embedded in Hawaiian culture; here, musician-turned-artist Ron Artis’ work beautifies a storage unit outside Haleiwa and Wahiawa’s Sunny Side bakery

…one can also find communications that call for respect but vary in permanence…

Informal meets formal reverence: L, a call to keep the remote road/path to Ka’ena Point from becoming a dumping ground; R, the Waialua-Kahuku War Memorial

…hauntingly beautiful structures that leave the viewers with more questions than answers…

Vacant for more than 60 years, the former Waialeʻe Industrial School For Boys–a reform school–occupies prime North Shore real estate

…plus spots sacred in ancient Hawaiian culture and protected today.

L, Recent offerings at c. 1600s religious temple Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau, likely a place of past human sacrifices; R, haunting eyes adorn an abandoned military bunker at Ka’ena Point, another sacred spot in Hawaiian culture

As we soaked up the sun along with the sights, I could feel long-term tension start to erode—and believe me, that’s a story my body’s been longing to tell.

Next: Part 2 of Pausing between Stop and Go on Oahu’s North Shore, in which I reveal my apparent fascination with stones, empty space, and exotic red flora

Creatures

The last few months have seen too many of those in my circle checking their horoscopes in hopes the stars’ forecast calls for something besides more-serious-than-usual sickness, job woes, financial worries, and/or family issues.

Despite the astrological status quo, however, I’ve had a terrible time getting the independent types to obey Bill Withers’ now-classic lines:

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend / I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long / ‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on”

Others have it worse, they protest stoically—and depressingly, news article after news article supports their claim. Refraining from pointing out that others have it better seems the least I can do, but I hate to stop there.

Fortunately my independent types will usually accept a meal, joke, hug, distraction, or even a heartfelt sentiment or two. Compared to what I’ve received from them over the years it doesn’t seem like much. But when I’m in their shoes, even momentary access to my more carefree self means everything.

…after a run of bad news, it can be tough to remember that life is full of surprises that leave us contemplative, curious, delighted, or bemused versus on high alert…

(top to bottom: In Bandon Oregon, a majestic seahorse is just one of the boardwalk’s unexpected pleasures; thanks to one family’s tree stump and the calendar, a neighborhood sports a quite literal interpretation of the lion in winter; Vancouver BC’s VanDusen Botanical Garden manages to find room for a dragon sculpture amidst the water lily leaves; it’s hard to resist a closer look when front yard decor is the bee’s knees; being outnumbered by dandelions is cause for one critter’s celebration—or surrender)

Landmark

As the extent of Hurricane Sandy’s damage becomes even clearer, I continue to wish individuals and communities strength as they recover and rebuild.

…because navigational markers orient our hearts as well as our heads, we feel their presence or loss—which is why we’ll never stop creating, reacting to, protecting, and cherishing them…

(top to bottom: On Long Beach Washington’s Discovery Trail, a basalt monolith offers up quotations from William Clark’s 1805 exploration of the area; a driftwood sculpture helps mark the way along an oceanside pathway; a 1925 covered bridge rides out another Central Oregon storm; in southern Oregon’s Lithia Park, a heartfelt (if destructive) message; sculpture provides a sense of stability in Vancouver BC’s English Bay)

A week of wandering in and around bold, beautiful Vancouver BC [pt 2]

Previously, I detailed how my Vancouver trip included a laid-back exploration of the city’s vibrant west side and downtown/west end neighborhoods. In addition to seeking out some of British Columbia’s slightly more rustic treasures, however, Mr Vix and I had two other goals to fulfill: find colorful plants in highly landscaped settings and observe Canadian hipsters in their natural habitats.

Hailing from a region where the descriptors “iconoclastic,” “weird,” “funky,” and “repurposed” are tossed around with both pride and derision, my travel partner and I were curious to see how Vancouverites lived/worked/played in settings known for fewer tourists and more attitude.

We were realistic about the hardships we’d face—including being surrounded by loads of appealing restaurants, bakeries, coffeehouses, and independent shops—but after securing our pith helmets and loosening our belts, we pushed forward.

Once we hit Commercial Drive, it didn’t take long to see that when it came to standing out, the stakes were high:

On Commercial Drive, it’s not cool enough to have a pristine vintage car: you also need Satan as your chauffeur

Luckily, having just watched comedian Simon King perform a set in which he shared his (hilarious, blistering) thoughts on “the Drive,” I was schooled in how to (theoretically) attend a poetry slam and one-up anyone who arrived on a bike decorated in Barbie heads.

Barbie heads with x’d out eyes.

Though it’s dubious I’ll ever be ambitious enough to steer my mid-life crisis in the hipster direction, I appreciated Mr King’s insights. Currently, however, I’m all about the intersection where bourgeois meets hip: food. Locally sourced, organic, family-operated, gluten-free, fair-trade, fusion…if that’s how you want to roll and the end result tastes good, I’m game.

Especially if cherries are involved.

Having gone wild for local cherries during our trip, we plucked more from one of the Drive’s many greengrocers to take home (and two sets of eyes were on the prize vs my rumpled clothes)

[As a fairly high-quantity purchaser of local cherries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries on this trip, I have to say with some regret but mostly glee that I deem BC cherries superior to Oregon’s. Ours are quite good; theirs are extraordinary. We still reign supreme when it comes to strawberries, though.]

The day we were on the Drive, French-Tunisian won our lunch money. And not just because my (derumpled) Missoni-fabric-by-the-yard outfit coordinated with the setting.

An interesting French-Tunisian menu plus a great view of the Drive’s action made the Carthage Cafe our choice for a late lunch–but the flavors captured most of our attention

As I tottered toward the car with a belly full of chicken tangine, I realized that anytime I’m in an area described as being artsy or edgy, I encounter tableaux that make me want to squeal, “Oh, aren’t you just the CUTEST THING!”

Visual, consumer, and edible treats abound on the Drive

Of course I’m never sure if that’s irony at work or the desired response.

Rather amazingly, Vancouver seems to offer opportunities to reflect on social issues even when one swaps streets for leafier settings. One minute it’s all heirloom roses and fern grottos, the next, compelling biocultural art installations:

At the VanDusen Botanical Gardens, we came across artist Nicole Dextras’ captivating Little Green Dress Projekt (Earth Art 2012)

Somewhat confusingly, though, artist Nicole Dextras’ work made it both easier and harder for me to resist the wide variety of eco-friendly clothing for sale in Mount Pleasant/Main Street (SoMa) boutiques.

The silk saris that had been transformed into skirts and tops entranced my Persnickety Bohemian side, but I eventually managed to ignore them.

Main Street’s Mount Pleasant area, aka SoMa, is filled with shops (including Spirithouse, where silk saris have been refashioned into skirts and tops)

Then I offset the pain of saying no to featherweight multi-culti clothing by saying yes to ethnic food.

Also in resistance mode was Mr Vix, who abandoned yet another of the city’s temples to vinyl so we could continue exploring the zones labeled Riley Park, Little Mountain, Mount Pleasant, and/or SoMa.

While the decor of Bob Likes Thai Food demonstrates the warmer side of Main Street/Mount Pleasant, Red Cat Records & CDs is all about the cool

Sure, the Red Cat record store clerks may have eyeballed my [repurposed, thank you] top and [ancient but out-of-the-landfill] underlayer’d dress and wordlessly conveyed that they thought Mr Vix was taking a break from escorting his sheltered virgin aunt on a genteel sightseeing tour. But dammit, I wasn’t going to let that keep me away from admiring the neighborhood’s older homes and visiting the nearby Queen Elizabeth Park and its stunning gardens!

Besides: Queen Elizabeth Park, a former quarry site, really is a fantastic place. Multiple vistas of the city, great use of color and texture, and many an inviting spot to meander or rest.

What’s not to love?

Especially as I finally got to feel like a neighborhood insider when the flowers saw my blouse and gave me the half-nod that means “you pass, man, you pass….”

Just a short distance from the many charms of Main Street/Mount Pleasant, Queen Elizabeth Park offers visitors admission-free views of beautiful gardens

Next: Part 3 of A week of wandering in and around bold, beautiful Vancouver BC, featuring more and less rugged examples of British Columbia’s natural beauty 

PSA: Get a probably NSFW taste of the bawdy Simon King during a Comedy Now show several years back or connect with him via his website.