Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 in Pictures


I thought about you, this, often in the last five months. I should write something. So much has happened. I should record it for me, for us, for them. 

At some point, after a couple months and then one more, and another... it becomes much harder to begin again. The images and events seem to take on either very mundane properties, or becomes so huge that I wonder, how can I explain this to anyone?

So I suppose it takes something like the first day of a brand new year to catapult me out into the expansive sky again.

As per tradition, I give you my collection of 2014 photographs. I do it more for me than you. It steadies me to know where I've been; it shows me the history of this year that makes up the skin cells and molecules I have at this moment.

To be sure: know that it has been a bit of a trying year. Pictures don't ever capture this. Sometimes it feels like a falsehood for me, to share images of only the highlights, and not talk about the hardships that come from being complex human beings. I don't want to mislead you, or myself.

So trust that when you see my photos--or anyone's photos, for that matter-- you are seeing the golden moments. The ones that inspire hope or laughter. The ones that remind you that life is good. The ones that are necessary.

Gratitude to the golden moments of this year that got us through all the changes of growing up.

Happy New New.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Love Letter

On our last full day in the Yukon, I finally broke the ice with my favourite server at Sakura Sushi. She may not be everybody's favourite--she's got a stony face that rarely smiles, but she is so efficient and so unapologetically herself. In our four years of living up North, she had never engaged me in conversation before, so I take it as a sort of opening of the universe that this happened just as I was preparing my heart to leave.

She wanted to know if I was Chinese (yes), if I was a visitor (no), and then ultimately, did I live in Whitehorse (no, Haines Junction.)

Her characteristically impenetrable face shifted like a seismic event.

"Haines Junction?! Why would you live there? It's so small! Whitehorse is okay, but Haines Junction?"

Yes, Haines Junction.

You are so beloved.

This fondness: I didn't think that it would happen to me, when I moved there in 2010. We thought, at most, we would ride out one year and get some experience and pad the resume. I kept the Yukon at arms distance, never allowing it to reach any real part of me.

But.. you got in, you wily bastard. You got in and you now claim pieces of my heart.

I grew up there. Or, it may be more true to say, I grew longer there; wider there. I stretched myself very tall, and spread my fingers until they were full. If my spine is straighter, it is because of you; if my soul is stronger, that is because of you too.

I know that nostalgia has a way of highlighting only the most golden tones, and it forgets all the lonely moments, far away from family. But this is a love letter to you: so nostalgia away. Golden everything, for the moment.

You were so vast, that you gave me the space to change. There was no ceiling on the tops of your sky, so I never feared that I would hit my head if I kept on aiming higher.

So I kept on aiming higher.

Your mountains and trees were still for me, in the moments in my heart that I was anything but. You let me walk in your forests, and worry them with my feet, just as I was worrying in my mind. Somehow, each time I was finished in those sacred green spaces, back on the gravel road, clarity or peace would hold my hand.

I think that you are magical.

Your wisdom rubbed off on me, and you trusted me to take care of the young people on your land that are lost, or scared or needing to be understood. When I think of them, the ache in my chest is great. They were my light on very dark days, and taught me more than I ever taught them. My last day at school was a big splinter in my thumb; a crack on my favourite mug... they were so excited for summer to be here, that I don't know if they realized truly that we would never banter in the hallway again, or eat walnuts in my office and talk about their troubles.

I did.

So I hugged each of them as many times as they would let me.  If I could have shrunken them down and carried them with us in the pocket of my jeans, I would have. But then that would be taking them away from you, and you are what is right for them.

You filled our loneliness at being away from home, with the most beautiful people on earth. Truly. If friends are family that you get to choose, then our Yukon family was one of the best choices we have ever made. They folded us into the batter of their lives as if we had always belonged there. It is soothing stuff, to be made to feel like you belong. It allows you to be brave, genuine, good. It means that you are seen and heard. I am realizing these days, that one of the most important things to feel as a human being, is that you are seen and heard for exactly as you are.

These last few weeks have been sprinkled with some tears. I feel very much like I am not here, in the present moment. Not yet. It is frustrating as all hell for me to feel this way. I cherish feeling peace, of accepting the choices I've made in life. I don't like regret. People ask me if I am so excited to be here, and their faces fall a bit as I can't match their own joy. I feel a bit lost.

So I do this:

Late at night, when it is 1am and I am still awake because of feeling all the feelings, you arrive. I think you are my spirit animal. I imagine that you turn into a blanket--one that is slightly golden, the kind that if I squint, I know each strand is made of raven, elk, moose, friendship, mountain, snow, children, fire. I feel you gently laying on me. You know I like compression, so I am squeezed equally from all sides and the force creates some support for my raw heart. I get to go to sleep.

My dear friend, you taught me to be patient and forgiving of myself, so I take that lesson into this new chapter. I don't feel, yet. But I will. Until I can, I know that you protect my ability to do so. I know from your teachings that in spite of these tall glass buildings I see around me, and the power lines that silhouette against these skies, there is no ceiling on my life.

I can keep aiming higher.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Life in Pictures: San Francisco

I'll have to come back one day with a pal or two in tow,
maybe during the spring or summer,
when I'm not spending most of the hours indoors,
conferencing, filling my brain with data,
(albeit really really good data),
and bring a pogo stick for getting up those insane hills.

Still, it was good and nice and necessary,
to leave the snow for a little while and head to
fog, and many coloured people,
and baked goods with edible flowers on them.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How to: Make Cheese

I made cheese. Therefore, I now win at life.

A. How to Make Paneer (an incomplete, out of focus, step by step guide):

Stuff you need..

  • whole milk (not UHT pasturized, though)
  • lemon juice or lime juice
  • big pot
  • cheesecloth / hemp cloth/ lightweight dish towel

We used 2L of whole milk, and the juice of one lime. Enough for two people to eat for dinner (if you are not as much of a maenad as B and I, you can prob. feed more people than two)
Easy to double, if you want to make more.

Friday, March 21, 2014


I've had some posts lined up in my brain: one on San Francisco, one on making cheese, another one for Pi Day. They are rattling around somewhere in the spiderwebby attic of my cerebral cortex.

But instead, I am going to write about money, honey.

Yeah. I've been thinking about it non-stop lately. In good ways! In grown-up, empowering ways. It has always been a fascinating topic for me, as opposed to a taboo, awkward, private one. I'm turning 30 this year, and money is on the agenda of my 'sit down and thinkaboutit' horizon.

(If this topic is not interesting to you, I would skip this post.)

Here is a brief look at my history with money (inspiration here):

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On Becoming a Sourdough

- photo(s) by Margaret Liu

Cheechako: A greenhorn, or newcomer to the Yukon.

Sourdough: A Yukon old-timer; a true or veteran Yukoner.

On February 17th, 2014 at 1: 13 pm, I realized that I had unequivocally become a sourdough. I was on the last leg of my travel back home, after a tasmanian devil of a trip from HJ -> WHSE->VAN->SF. I was wedged in between two unfriendly ladies in the plane-shaped tin can, hurtling through the biosphere, feeling dehydrated, unsettled and a bit morose, to tell you the truth. It is always nostalgic and bittersweet for me to visit my old life, especially solo.

Engrossed in a book, I hadn't looked up from my own ego and woe in an hour. The captain's message stated that we were about to prepare for our descent into Whitehorse, I wearily glanced out the window, and..... Mountains.




My heart literally plumped back from its Grinchian lump of coal, and I grinned like an idiot.

I was back in the Great White North.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Where I Stand

Windsor St, Vancouver, 2013.

It is 2014. Did you realize this? I know that you must have scribbled it a few dozen times by now; writing a cheque to your landlord, or filling in another white form, or scrawling it on the chalkboard so that your kids know that it is a school day, and no you cannot go to the bathroom classjustSTARTED.

But it is. 2014, I mean. Blink blink. It's also February. Blink. You've been meaning to write a post that means something, for quite some time now.

Summing up a year, looking ahead to the one up next-- it has such oracle-like, wisdom-shouldering Shawls that wrap around it. It's always easier to not. And yet-- not doing so is unfathomable, since you have pretty much done one every year since you were an itty bitty newborn in this Internet world. You can't send 2013 to bed without tracing its braille one last time with your fingers.

Meditation rock, Saturna Island, 2013.

So. Two thousand and thirteen. My lucky number, my lucky year. My phoenix rising from the embers of some serious stuff. If I was a life meteorologist, I would see that the ebb and flow of joy waxes and wanes from year to year, season to season. 2013 felt like a whole season of light.

I'm still not good at recaps-- this hasn't changed as I've gotten older. Longer in my soul. The most we will arrive to, will likely be nonsensical to you. Incomplete.

The High Line, New York, 2013.

You were love. Every morsel of you was full of it. Not neccessarily the kind that is sopping with roses and beautiful photos, taken just so. Beyond the portrayal of you on my FB page or this modest project here, which can be so misleading in all its camera angles and edited turns of phrases, you were love. The real kind. The kind that builds itself up, and heals pain, and joins fingers together in friendship. You were a chortling, brimming, 'we did it', 'but i'm exhausted' kind of love. You restored my heart back to its rightful rack; heaved it from the second last rib; elevated it so it could elevate me.

My back deck, Haines Junction, 2013.

You were adventure and power. That's right. That word that I shy away from. Why? Power doesn't have to be connected to greed or wealth or harsh tones. Power is sinew and limbs and nerves and verve and vivre. Power is the ability to stay a course on a rocky sea, or ask for someone else to row you to shore, if it needs be.

The Auriol Trail, Yukon, 2013.

So, I thank you, friend. I will tell my grandchildren about you, how all my memories of you are tinged with the soft glint of a pale yellow. It isn't true that you were the beginning of something, since all my years (even that kick in the shin 2012) began me. But you were a checkpoint, for sure, and you told me that I am running the right road.

The trek behind Rick's Cabin, Yukon, 2013.