Anniversary

“Like an ocean in between the waves . . .”

Exactly a year ago tomorrow, I was making my way to London, via Calgary, Edmonton, and Reykjavik.

From my journal: “Edmonton airport, glass of wine, here we go. Hardly seems real . . . Half an hour out of Iceland, 4:30 a.m., sun slivers, stars, clouds, distant pink. Wishing I could put this feeling in words.” I’m still not able to. Maybe this is why I’m an editor, not a novelist.

I had met two of my future roommates, for a few hours total, a year earlier. And I had freelance work lined up. Other than that, I had no idea what to expect. I leapt out of my mind’s stagnant water across an ocean to find . . . something.

The practice of yoga focuses on cultivating contentment in the present moment, wherever you happen to be. It’s an idea that guides my life, but yet, the need for a change of scenery has always been vital when I need to reset, get creative, feel inspired.

London quickly became home. We adapt quickly. This ability never ceases to fascinate me. I remind myself to be a tourist, to enjoy floating in the ocean while it’s still, before the waves rolls in. Because they will.

Windsor Castle Westminster

I think about my equal and constant desires: to build a home and “root” and to keep watching the sun rise somewhere new. Is it possible to have both? It’s thrilling to think so. A place to float, and a place to play, rushing forward, pulling back, in cycles.

Brighton

But the stagnant waters? They’ll always be there waiting, regardless of how far I travel. We must learn to access contentment, joy, inspiration within, wherever we physically find ourselves.

For now, London is still home. And the water is so inviting.

Namaste 🙂
Rachel

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London Sunday

The perfect London Sunday stretches infinitely ahead of me as I wake. I greet the Thames, running like a grey ribbon alongside the city underneath low-hung clouds of the same shade. There is vibrancy in the seemingly dull. London is a bright city of grey.

An Americano from Cafe Del Rey, Putney, in hand, I hop on the 22 bus to Piccadilly Circus, earphones bumping with old-school British tunes, to set the mood. It’s a day of immersion in this new home of mine. One hour later, past Fulham, Chelsea, and Hyde Park, it’s on to the Tube, Bakerloo line to Warwick station, which opens up to the gem of Little Venice, a taste of Italy in the middle of London.

Little Venice 1

After a second Americano accompanied by eggs in a diner overlooking the canal, I stroll along said canal, watching painters immortalize the scene, friends chat, and lovers meander.

Little Venice3

Little Venice2

Back on the Bakerloo to Waterloo and the highlight of my London Sunday. But first, a stop at Foyles for some new reading material, two travel memoirs. I’ve always been a voracious reader, but something about this city lights up my inner bookworm to no end. Maybe it’s the thought of all the literati who’ve walked these streets. Armed with my purchases, I make my way to the Southbank Centre for some tea and to wait for the 3:00 p.m. performance of the London Philharmonia Orchestra.

Symphony

As I settle in to immerse myself in the music, I can think of no better way to spend a solitary afternoon, and as I leave the concert, I feel more alive than I have in quite some time.

After a stop at the local Sainsbury’s, I head home to end the day with a cuppa. And I recall Samuel Johnson’s famous quote: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”

Namaste 🙂

Rachel

Countdowns and Hairy Coos

“For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary.” – Diana Gabaldon

I’ve read countless books detailing fairy-tale settings, immersed myself in music that evokes surreal emotions, and viewed photographs that stir a sense of longing and familiarity I can’t quite put my finger on, but nothing could have prepared me for the wonder of Scotland’s countryside. I found myself quite speechless.

Last week, my friend Dallas and I trekked up to Edinburgh for Hogmanay. Celebrations began on December 30 with a torchlight procession through the streets. I still can’t believe that with 75,000 people, of questionable sobriety, no one’s hair caught on fire.

Torchlight procession

Before the next evening’s famous street party, we wandered up the Royal Mile and stumbled upon a castle. This is one thing about Europe that may never cease to amaze me – how do you just “stumble upon” castles? Needless to say, they’re in pretty short supply in Canada.

Edinburgh castle

View near Edinburgh castle

The fantastic DJ, the dancing our faces off surrounded by 75,000 other people from around the world, the fireworks, and the general “Isn’t it awesome to be here” vibe all added up to the best NYE I’ve ever had.

But the best was yet to come. After a relatively quiet New Year’s Day (we still managed to rouse ourselves for a tour of Stirling Castle, an hour outside Edinburgh), we woke bright and early on January 2 for a day trip through the Highlands.

Stirling Castle

This is truly the stuff of fairy tales, I tell ya. Writers take note: if you need some inspiration for a setting for your fictional novel, do a retreat here!

Highlands3 Highlands2 Highlands1 Highlands Highlands5

Much to our dismay, we didn’t see a hairy coo (a Highland cow) up close and personal, but this didn’t put a damper on the day. The tour ended at Loch Ness – I unfortunately  have no sightings to speak of, but the body of water certainly did have a mysterious air about it.

Loch Ness2 Loch Ness

I never expected Scotland to be such a highlight in my travels, but it now hovers pretty darn close to the top. And I will be returning – next time for a writing retreat, perhaps. Any takers?

Namaste 🙂
Rachel

A Place In the World

Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place . . . Nothing outside you can give you any place . . . In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got.” – Flannery O’Connor

Home. It becomes a more confusing word with each chapter in my life. And I find myself intrigued by the concept of “place” in the world, and where I fit. Growing up in a town of five hundred people in rural Saskatchewan, I was blessed with the love and friendship of a tight-knit community, but I couldn’t wait to move to Saskatoon. I’d always been drawn to the idea of “the city,” a place of wonder and mystery, of seemingly endless things to do.

Mad football skills at home in Hafford.

Mad football skills at home in Hafford.

When I arrived in Saskatoon for the next chapter of my life, university, I felt I couldn’t be happier. Big city, fresh start. I knew it all. I was an adult. I had arrived in “my place,” where I wanted to be. But two years in, I realized I felt no particular tie to Saskatoon itself, and started wondering where I’d settle down and build my white picket fence life. After four years of undergraduate studies, I had a gap year — one not spent travelling but taking online courses and figuring out where I wanted to be while pondering the favourite question of the twenties-something: “What do I want to do with my life?”

In my university years, I spent time each summer in Calgary and came to fall in love with the city, and even more so with its proximity to the mountains. Spurred on by big dreams of building a career in a city that seemed to hold endless promise for all aspects of my life at the time, I headed west for the next chapter.

Banff    Calgary skyline

Again, when I arrived, I felt I couldn’t be happier. Bigger city, fresh start. I knew I didn’t know it all, but I was learning. My first year in Calgary marked significant shifts in my personal and professional life. Perhaps for this reason, I felt that Calgary was truly “my place,” the place where I was supposed to put down those roots everyone talks about.

And then two years into this chapter, an impromptu trip, my first solo excursion abroad, changed all that. The travel bug didn’t just bite me: it started gnawing at my core. I returned to Calgary with an ever-growing sense of restlessness that I largely ignored for the better part of the next two years. Was Calgary my place? Where did I want to “be”?

Oh beach life ...

Oh the life in Costa Rica …

Then almost a year ago to the day, a friend and I headed to Europe for a month. Ah Europe. The cobblestone, the intrigue, the stolen moments of laughter, reflection, rendezvous, and oh, the wine, the wine, the wine. And the croissants. The minute I set foot on London soil, I felt I had arrived home. There was a pull, a tie to “place” unlike any other I’d felt before. And on our last day in Europe, as I sat in Rome contemplating the month that had passed, I realized that I wasn’t done with Europe, or rather, that Europe wasn’t done with me. And with that realization, the weight of restlessness lifted. It was time to prepare for the new “place” in my life.

Monterosso

Thanks to the lovely Sarah for these photos.

Eiffel Tower  Wine in Lucca

Now settled in my new chapter in London, I’ve arrived. I couldn’t be happier. Biggest city, fresh start. I’m keenly aware of the fact I don’t know it all, and never will. In fact, I might just be more confused than ever. But right now, London is “my place.” I don’t want to imagine living anywhere else.

Underground  London BridgePutney   Daunt Books  Brighton

For the moment.

And in this contentment I wonder, am I destined to wander, forever feeling the pull of new “place”? But what I do know for sure is the most important truth I own: home is in the people we love, not the place. Home is within.

Namaste.
Rachel

Arrival