Friday, July 29, 2011

Towers: Photo of the week

Near Seymour Creek a couple of weeks ago. Ben standing next to one of Mother Nature's giants, to which we have destroyed.

Creation destroys as it goes, throws down one tree for the rise of another. But ideal mankind would abolish death, multiply itself million upon million, rear up city upon city, save every parasite alive, until the accumulation of mere existence is swollen to a horror. 
- David Herbert Lawrence 

Central Americas!

The world is a book, and those who do 
not travel only read a page. - St. Augustine

Central America. September 17. Eight hours from Calgary to Mexico City. Yes, oh yes.

After five long years of school and work, of saving up money to pay for tuition and pay for rent, I am finally saving up money (though very little) to travel. Ben and I fly to Mexico City in September, where we'll be staying with my good friend Renee before backpacking our way down to Panama.

Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. It is going to be amazing, and I can't stop thinking about it. Surfing, Maya ruins, jungle, parrots, culture, stories. I want to write so many stories while I'm there, I can feel my brain swelling at the thought of it.

I am so excited.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book 15

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Lisbon girls, a tragedy but for no particular reason other than they chose to be. The Virgin Suicides was an odd and yet compelling book about five sisters who over the period of one year all find unique and inexplainable ways to kill themselves.

Whether it be because their parents prevented them from experiencing the normal things every teenage girl should experience, or because they never found love, or because they felt no one understood them, they chose death over life.

I felt very little connection to this book. Odd, because I thought that it would for sure entrance me. The writing style was unique in that the narrator was a school boy (or boys) who observed the Lisbon girls from afar and wrote based on accounts conducted from interviews, but I felt nothing pulling at my heartstrings to continue to read on. Because there was so little development of the five Lisbon sisters, I never felt I knew their characters well or could distinguish the type of girls they were.

Still, I suppose that was the purpose of the book: to leave the reader trying to decipher for themselves the reason why five young and promising women would take their own lives, and perhaps lead is to question our own?

Fifteen down, ten to go.

Monday, July 18, 2011

kindness in a customer

I have worked many a job in my life. Most of them have involved working with other people, customers. At Dairy Queen I served up burgers and ice cream, at Montana's Cookhouse I seated people and cleaned tables, at Michael's I stocked shelves and helped people around the store. At the newspapers I've reported for I've interviewed and photographed and told people's stories. And now, this summer, I paint the place to which they live day and night.

In all of the above, if there is anything of value I have learned, it's that kindness is a virtue and it is one that is thin on the ground... it so rarely exists.

An employee is aware he or she must be kind; provide hellos, work hard, smile and do everything one can to satisfy the paying customer. But what is so rarely considered is the contrasting attitude of the customer. If you hope to see the people you've hired do a fabulous job of whatever it is they have been hired to do, do not hover over them and point out the smallest of imperfections at the beginning of a job. Give your workers a chance to prove that they suffice. Do not accuse them of "ripping" you off, or "changing a contract," and then proceed to ignore them when they are trying to communicate with you and clear the confusion.

Do not assume that you are right - because you live here, or you are a contractor - and the painter is wrong, or does not know what he or she is doing. And do not assume that because we are "just painters" we are mindless hosts that lack the capacity to do anything properly.

If you ever hire a contractor, a plumber, a painter, a drywall man/woman, an electrician, a carpenter, or if you are ever in line at a Dairy Queen ordering food, please for goodness sake do not assume that because you are the one hiring, or the one ordering, that that gives you the right to mistreat the person behind the counter, or the one holding the brush.

Do not assume that because I have paint in my hair and drywall dust in my eyes, that I am an uneducated and inexperienced human being. And do not, when I am trying to communicate with you and saying that, "we must respect one another," turn your head from mine and wave your hand in my face as if to shove me off for being so ridiculous.

Kindness is so lacking sometimes in this world, and it is at brief moments (like today) that I encounter it. For goodness sake, be nice, people.

Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not. - Samuel Johnson

Thursday, July 7, 2011

sitting in the sun, breathing the salty air

"... The grandest and most pleasing prospect my eyes ever surveyed." 

This was how explorer William Clark put into words what he saw when seeing the Oregon Coast, and specifically the region near Cannon Beach, for himself in 1806. What my eyes too witnessed while recently visiting the same area was parallel. 

The Oregon Coast is phenomenal. I've struggled the last few days to find words that properly describe the coastline so as to give it justice, and there aren't many. Phenomenal will have to do. It is a region that shows the aged earth we live on; 400-year-old sitka spruce trees that blanket parkland, basaltic sea stacks left behind after decades of erosion. It is an area that I am not sure I can captive into one single blog post.  

Spiderwebs gathered morning dew near
where we camped in Astoria, OR.

Last Thursday, having had enough of the hustle and bustle of Vancouver, of working and eating and sleeping and repeating, we took the long weekend to go to Cannon Beach, Oregon, some 552 km and six hours of driving down south. It was the best decision I've made (as of recently). We slept the first night on a dirt road near Astoria (a difficult thing to do in the U.S., as state troopers often patrol roads and will send you packing to a campsite if they catch you). We parked on a sandy marshland/spit area, and in the morning heard the fishing boats heading out along the Columbia River estuary. Not quite sure yet what to expect of Oregon, we took a walk to the waterfront and then packed up to drive a few miles further to Cannon Beach.

We first rented surfboards when we arrived in Cannon Beach. I've surfed only once before in Tofino, and it was a challenging endevour - one I wasn't sure I'd try again. My hesitation at surfing lurked beneath my skin as I pulled on my wetsuit. And then it was off to Indian Beach in Ecola State Park - a beach surfers head to for some nice (I prayed) breaking waves.

Top: me surfing. Middle: Ben and
I with our boards. Bottom: Ben
at Indian Beach. 
The view of Indian Beach was incredible. Golden sand stretching as far out as possible, waves creeping up on giggling children running to escape the cold Pacific. Basaltic sea stacks in the distance with the white caps of waves crashing into them, and I, in my surf gear, terrified. However, as is evident in the pictures to the right, fear hath no place for surfing. After some coaxing from Ben, and a silent prayer to the surf Gods, I plunged into the water. I have never been more ecstatic, more thrilled, in my entire life, as I felt the first time I got up on my knees, and then my feet, on the surf board. The wave pushed me in, and I caught myself yelling out to anyone who would listen, "I'm riding a wave!" Perhaps my excitement goes misunderstood by those who haven't yet had the chance to surf. Still, it was invigorating.

Ecola State Park's Hiker's Camp.

We surfed all afternoon before putting into place the next two night's sleeping arrangements. Ben and I carry with us a certain refusal to pay to camp. Such an attitude is detrimental when in the States. So, we settled for the second best: pay $15 to camp two  in Ecola State Park. This meant hiking our gear up more than 800 feet in elevation and 1.25 miles to the camp. Exhausted nonetheless, we managed to make it up and spent two nights camping surrounded by a greener-than-green forest and friendly fellow campers near Tillimook Head. We carried up the tent, the food, the clothes. The site was magical; cabins, the biggest clover patches I've ever seen, and campfire shenanigans.

We spent the Friday and Saturday surfing, and Saturday night did a little exploring before heading back up to camp. We checked out the Lookout (right). Sea stacks are ever present - the ocean has, over thousands of years, eroded away any surrounding rock and what remains is this basalt section of rocks, making for a spectacular view. The rocks play homage to several different species of birds (including puffins) and seals, as well. In the state park, as a part of the trail that leads to Hiker's Camp, is the Clatsop Loop Trail, again a trail made famous by the Lewis and Clark expedition (read up on this, it's very interesting). On Saturday night we did the second part of the trail which runs along the cliffs to the camp, and the hike led us through a maze of trees unlike I've ever seen before. There was the view of the open ocean, with the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse (which closed in 1956), and the exploration of an old World War II bunker (also on the hike).
Sitka Spruce. The right tree began growing atop a fallen tree, which
then broke down into the earth, hence my ability to climb beneath it's roots.
Ben skimboarding along Cannon Beach
in front of Haystack Rock and "the Needles."
Far too soon Sunday morning came, and we left Hiker's Camp, said goodbye to some very friendly Portland people, and made one last quick stop at Cannon Beach. This beach is perhaps the most famous of them all along the Oregon Coast, if not for the view itself, for it's Hollywood claim to fame. The movie The Goonies was filmed on the beach. Haystack Rock, the most photographed, stands at 235 feet and is a monolith (meaning it is made up of one single type of rock), and is the third largest of this kind in the world. We flew our kite on the beach, ate a snack, and then headed our way back to Vancouver, reluctantly. 

For many years I've wanted to head down the Oregon Coast. I love my mountains, but the salt water and the Pacific, with its sandy beaches, welcoming surf, and even more welcoming sites, is grabbing a hold of my feet and pulling me closer. The north part of the Oregon Coast really is the grandest and most pleasing prospect my eyes ever surveyed... yet.

Photo credits to myself and Benjamin Ross.
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