Everyone has a story, every one of us. That Fleetwood Mac song, “Landslide”, has been my theme song since Greg’s death. I’m still afraid of changing, but if there has been one constant since 2013, it has been change. Sometimes I feel like I have things under control, I begin to settle, then suddenly an event or maybe even a few words spoken will throw me and I’m drifting again, wondering if I am making the right decisions, wondering if maybe there is something else I should be reaching for.
I took a drive out to the mountains not too long ago, just for fun. It was not a good idea. I decided to drive from Calgary to Jasper in the hope of capturing some wildlife with my lens. On the outskirts of Calgary, a beautiful bull moose crossed the highway in front of me, but by the time I had my camera in hand and was out of my car, he had disappeared into the trees. Then between Banff and Lake Louise, I spotted two majestic elk with fairly impressive antlers, same story.
Upon reaching the turnoff onto highway 93 the sign said driving this route was not recommended due to poor road conditions. Well, it was a choice of continuing on or turning back to Calgary. I figured I would see how bad it really was and judge for myself. For the most part, the road was in fair condition, but there were definitely some scary spots with black ice, which I hit twice. Thank God for anti-locking brakes! The scenery was everything one imagines when contemplating a drive through the mountains.
I recently became overwhelmed with the negative, cruel acts and words people employ when dealing with others, whether the others are human or otherwise. I had to disengage. It was affecting my mental health. When I was a stay-at-home mom I focussed all of my energy on my kids. I felt like I was making a difference just by encouraging my children to shoot for the stars, supporting them in whatever they endeavoured to do. It wasn’t always like that. In the early years, I was very much under the influence of the “church” Greg and I became involved in, but once I was delivered from that, the whole purpose of my life was as stated above. Now that I don’t have such a focus, I imagine the whole world needs my help, and it’s too much. I can’t do it. I’m constantly distracted, bouncing from one issue to another, one thought to another, one action to another, and accomplishing zero. There are too many injustices in this world. But there is much beauty as well.
Photography has been my therapy. My mind is constantly looking around me, whether it is when I am driving to work and looking at the incredible cloud formations in the sky, or walking around the neighbourhood, taking in the sight of the hoar frost on the trees along the boulevard, or taking a trip out to the mountains where the wild things are.
My photographer’s brain has taught me to pay attention to these things, to glory in the natural world, to revel in every sight, and to garner peace and tranquillity for my soul. It is the one thing I have actively pursued through these past almost three years since I bought my first DSLR camera and took my first course. I’m not a fantastic photographer and I don’t have a great camera, but I love photography so much. I’m not much of a street photographer because I’m too shy to ask people for permission to take their picture, though I do enjoy people watching and like to photograph people doing people things, much in the same way I take pleasure in spotting wildlife. Wildlife, while being more unpredictable and elusive, is easier because I don’t have to ask for their permission. They either stick around or leave.
So I’m out of luck in making money from this passion. As far as I can tell, the money is in portraits, unless you are an extraordinary photographer. Then you can work for National Geographic or teach online courses for big bucks because you are so good that everyone wants to learn how to do what you do. But I will continue to practice photography regardless. There are so many techniques to learn, so many avenues to explore. And there is always more. I’m eternally grateful to Jana at Learn Photography Canada, who has encouraged me since my first class in January of 2017. She even contacted me to go for my certification as one of their LPC photographers. And even after that, because I didn’t follow up as I thought I wasn’t good enough, she contacted me again! Sometimes I drive my own self crazy with my lack of confidence. And then I have oodles of it when I shouldn’t, like tonight at work, when I wanted to handle a situation with some young boys. I just can’t get used to roles in the working world. I’m not accustomed to seeking someone in a position of authority to manage unruly kids. I feel quite confident in doing that myself.
Photography gets me outside instead of brooding in my basement suite. It has introduced me to ornithology. I have always enjoyed spotting wild creatures, but it wasn’t until I started taking pictures as I explored various natural areas that I began to learn about birds. Now there is a universe to discover! Then there is the night sky. Is there anything as beautiful as a night full of stars, or a massive full moon hanging just above the horizon? Photography for me is like stopping to smell the flowers every time I enter the natural world, no matter how small or large that is at any given moment. And smelling the flowers at intervals all day long, every day is so very, very good for your being.
The summer months were hectic, with relocating happening fairly frequently. I am now settled in my little suite. Unfortunately, shortly after my move, Shalom escaped. All attempts to find him turned up nought. About a month later, a vet clinic called me to inform me that Shalom had been brought in by someone after he had been hit by a car. He didn’t survive. Nerah is lonesome, but I’m unsure whether I should adopt another friend for her. My suite is small. I know Shalom didn’t like being kept inside in such a limited space. Some people have stated that he didn’t care about that, or that he was living a better life with me than he had been, but I’m not sure. He loved being outside. He survived a month on his own in winter conditions. When I went to the vet clinic to say goodbye to him, he wasn’t malnourished. Then again, maybe he had been living with someone else. Who knows?
The biggest challenge for me, though, has been my mental health. Hence the absence of blogging. While my surroundings do affect my frame of mind and it takes a deliberate effort to adjust that mindset, it can be done. Those of you who have experienced swimming (figuratively) below the surface in mirky water, knowing that oxygen and sunlight are within reach, but for some reason, you just cannot get there, will understand. And yet, what do I have to be miserable about?
I suspect that not knowing where I fit in this world has been partially to blame. Everyone needs a purpose, a reason for being. I have struggled these six years trying to find mine. I never had to do that before. And those who have observed my journey know I have gone in all sorts of directions trying to find my way. It has been frustrating, agonizing, sometimes exciting and fulfilling, and very expensive! Haha! But I do believe I see a glimmer of light. I am becoming more grounded. My dreams and ideas are smaller, more realistic. I’m still taking personal development courses on such things as photo editing and engaging youth in seeking to discover the natural world around them. The latter course I begin in January. Up until recently, I was still running in circles, panicked over my lack of skills and future employment. I now have more of a focus although as yet I’m unsure of how things will play out.
I am still against, and do support those against, animal cruelty. I am behind those who fight for our precious planet and am doing more personally than I have ever done previously. If I had the cash and the stamina I would most definitely start a business making planet-friendly personal care products, but, as I learned while attempting to build my vegan food business, I’m not physically capable of working that hard anymore. And if I don’t have any money it’s because I spent it all. That won’t hinder me in making products for my own personal use. I’m working on that right now.
I gave up using dryer sheets and bought some wool dryer balls. That was quite a perplexing decision for me to make. I haven’t bought anything made of wool for several years because of the way sheep on large farms are treated, but the alternative was continuing with dryer sheets that are full of toxic chemicals, plastic dryer balls (need I say more?) or letting my clothes dry naturally. Well, of course, the latter is the best, but I don’t like wrinkly clothes. I may graduate to air drying in the future, but….. baby steps. Yes, I could iron everything, I’m just not there yet. At first, I thought I would find some yarn at the thrift store I could use to make my own, but all the yarn I found was acrylic. Anyone advertising for sale bits of 100% wool they no longer needed were asking such outrageous prices that I thought I may as well just buy the ready-made balls. I then discovered this local family business called Splat And Co whose wool is ethically sourced from a small cruelty-free mill in Alberta. I’m still a bit queasy about anything made from animal by-products, but this is the lesser of several evils. Maybe by the time I have wrapped up this post, I will have convinced myself to air dry my clothes.
Anyway, I’m very happy to have given up dryer sheets and I can attest to wool dryer balls cutting down drying time significantly. I’m not sure why that is, but it is. They are supposed to last about two years, though many people are still using the same ones after three years. And, after all that time, you can use them as dish scrubbers or put a few drops of essential oil on them to be used like sachets in your closet or drawers and later deposit the remnants in the compost. They are supposed to cut down on static and I’m sure they do, just not quite the way Bounce did, or maybe I need to cut down the drying time instead. Apparently, vinegar in the wash or even a little on a cloth thrown in the dryer is supposed to deter static cling. I’m going to do that next time if reduced drying time doesn’t help.
So my goal going forward is to drastically reduce my environmental footprint by making my own personal care products, reducing my throw away contributions to the landfill and reducing recyclables, and rejecting plastic as much as I can. I will be trying out recipes that I will post here if they are a success. And maybe I will even sell some. All in good time….