Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Curves Ahead

In my life these days, both steep and learning they are.

Moreover, it's my own doing: I decided to reclaim part of my previous life. When I lived in Vancouver back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I discovered local wines, and made several trips to the Okanagan, learning a lot along the way, even though it wasn't exactly book learning.

After I moved to suburban Virginia and got on to the Internet, I set up CANWINE, an email list to discuss Canadian wines, and a small website: back in those days, the words "Canadian wine" more frequently got a gag response from most people with memories of nights lost to vast quantities of Baby Duck, and not the sort of serious discussion about wines you'd find in a serious restaurant.

Kept the list going even after I moved back to Calgary, started (and finished) my Masters, and then life intervened. It's not that I quit drinking Canadian wines, but I didn't have the opportunity to tour wineries or keep in touch with all the friends I made (winery owners, winemakers, industry representatives, and keen consumers) the same way, despite a desire to. And then the final straw was losing my favourite tasting partner, and even the desire almost disappeared.


Until lately, when I decided that I found some old friends on Twitter, having weekly chats about the winery scenes in both British Columbia and Ontario, and realized how much I missed it. This time, however, I decided a different approach was needed, and investigated options to further my knowledge.

So I signed up for Level 1 of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust classes, and have been having a lot of fun. Like an old athlete who discovers they still have a modicum of muscle memory even if they are out-of-shape, I've found that my nose is still reasonably sensitive, although the wine industry has changed so much in the last ten to fifteen years that I feel like I've been sleeping through all of it -- and in some ways, I guess I have been.

The soles of the departed

But I'm definitely having fun with it, and will work my way through for at least another two levels, as well as their Canadian Wine Scholar program: I doubt CANWINE will rise from the ashes like an inebriated phoenix, but at least I'll enjoy picking up my consuming habit more.

Unlike last year, when I was one of the artists, I had no formal role in this year's Equinox Vigil, except to mourn friends from the local arts scene we lost, and to comfort and support others whose grief was far more raw and profound with those losses than mine. That I survived more than two hours with only one good cry is, in my world, astounding and gratifying: others did not. As usual, when I felt uncomfortable, I was grateful to have taken along my camera to capture some of the moments earlier in the evening, which accompany this post.


Friday, 11 September 2015

Endings. And Beginnings.

I went through a low spot after the last blog entry, where I didn't see a way back to living a normal life again: I've gone through them often in the last four-plus years, of course, but this time, I felt like I was reaching a dead end, figuratively and literally. One of the very few bright spots was an interesting piece on CBC Radio One, about how having chats with people who are relative strangers can actually make one happier than sitting and talking things out with people you know.

And, I discovered, it's true, because some amazing things began to happen.

The first was a conversation, where we swapped life stories over four hours. That's usually not how I spend much of my time -- in fact, I'd be hard-pressed to remember the last time that both breadth and depth of one-on-one discussion occurred with such spontaneity -- and two days later, so many random ideas that had been percolating in my brain began to coalesce into some solid ideas on executing work I had been thinking about, new exciting pieces to create from scratch, and many pages of soul-searching in my journal.

The second was an opportunity to have a second set of eyes look at my artist statement: I knew that it needed help, and was grateful to have some. If there is anything I have learned over the years as an editor, it's that even the best writers (not that I put myself in that category) can benefit from another perspective. Some of what I had written was well received, but there was some excellent constructive criticism as well, and I switched from writing by hand in my journal to tapping madly away on the computer, trying to meet another deadline.

Near/Middle/Far (closed)

An unanticipated bonus was taking some of the ideas I had scratched out in my journal and incorporating them into one of the proposals I was writing on deadline: combined with the revamped artist statement, it was the first time in quite awhile where I saw the possibilities that might be, even though I wasn't sure how to get there from here.

Near/Middle/Far (open)

Until a door I didn't even know existed, opened: one of the first thoughts that came to mind was Jack Hodgins' "The Invention of the World", a novel of mysticism on Vancouver Island, that I had read many years ago, when I lived in Vancouver.

By turns, life has been magical, overwhelming, thrilling, scary, liberating, and challenging, frequently all at the same time, and I'm still in the middle of trying to sort out the medium- and long-term future.


That being said, I'm at the point of being able to nail down some things that will happen between now and the end of the year: I have three deadlines to make by the end of the month, and I'm slogging hard away at them.

I will finish off a series of art works in October, once those deadlines vanish.

And finally, with the exception of five days in November, I will, once again, be on the road: starting by crossing somewhere off my bucket list.

It feels good to be running to a future that's becoming more certain every day, instead of away from a painful past.

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