Highlining… sort of

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The first time I tried highlining I became a butterfly.

When I say that I don’t mean I bloomed into this beautiful creature that went soaring to new and wondrous heights. No, no.

I mean my belly was full of butterflies… in the “I’m so nervous I could pee” kind of way. As I was shimmying my way out onto the line, butterflies stacked on top of butterflies in the pit of my stomach until eventually my whole body was taken over and I was just a rigid sack of human nerves. An overwrought human butterfly, but without the wings or grace.

What I’m trying to say is that I was terrified. So, so nervous. And scared. And wondering what I was doing and why I was doing it. I’m afraid of heights, despite having a skydive under my belt, but that’s not even the number one reason to be anxious. The biggest reason is failing to be able to pull myself up to the line and thus being stranded and in need of rescue. You see, when you suck at highlining as much as I do, you fall a lot. And that means spending a lot of time dangling under the line. The transition from line to dangle is the fall, aka the fun part. I don’t mind falling. Honestly it’s pretty fun. The height doesn’t bother me too much, either.

The anxiety inducing/worrying/scary bit is the idea that after I fall, I’ll be trapped under the line because I won’t be strong enough to get back up. See, when you’re dangling from your leash you have no choice but to muscle your way back up over that line. Let me tell you… that shit ain’t easy. Climbing that leash like I didn’t almost fail gym semester after semester in school was not something I was looking forward to. So now you understand the butterfly reference.

The first time I sat on the line my breath was frozen in my throat, my legs dangling in the open air like two planks of wood, my eyes fixated on the impossible task in front of me: stand up. That’s it. That’s the only goal. Sounds SO easy, right? On land, when I’m just slacklining in the park, I can manage alright. I’m not walking monstrously long lines yet, but I can walk a decent one. Forwards and backwards. With much focus and effort, of course, but I can do it. Up that high in the air it’s harder. A lot harder. The line itself is heavier, it moves more, it’s a lot longer and takes a lot more skill to master. Did I do it? Not a chance.

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I couldn’t stand up. I could hardly even get into position to try to stand up. I just fell and hung dangling in the air over and over. But miraculously, to my total and utter surprise, I could pull myself back up to the line. Muscles that I didn’t even know were there banded together to help me and I managed the whole day without needing a rescue.

It was exhilarating, something wholly new and different. It was challenging and exciting and it was filling me with energy. So I went back a second time. I still couldn’t stand up. But slowly I was making progress. Fine tuning my body position and reading the line a bit better with each attempt.

The third time I went back, magic happened.

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I stood on the line. For like, a couple full seconds. It was bewildering. I remember as soon as I was up I thought oh my god it’s happening. I’m up! I’m up! I can’t believe it! This is amazing! Look at me everyone, I’m standing!! A miracle has happened, the most amazing thi- and then before I knew it I was down again. But let me tell you, that moment, though so painfully brief, was glorious. One of my shiniest moments to date.

If you want to see the moment in all it’s real time glory, I invite you over to my instagram where I posted the video that my beautiful wondrous friend somehow managed to capture for me.

Now I’m hooked. I am busting with excitement at the idea of actually taking a few steps on that thing. Highlining is going to be more and more a part of my life, I know.

So that’s it. An account of my first highlining adventures.

As always, much love to you all! Happy hump day!

And thank you for reading 🙂

xo

Rogue camping adventure

On Saturday my boyfriend and I along with two of our best friends drove 2 hours out of Toronto to go camping. Recently my bf and I invested in a compact two person tent, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, miniature burner, and a few other camping things to prepare for a more extended backpacking trip we have planned. This was our opportunity to see how our gear fares in action for the first time.

Fun fact of the day…

I haven’t been tent camping since I was… say.. 8 or 9? years old. My family quickly moved onto trailers/campervans so camping for me has always involved a cozy home on wheels. I was excited, but also kind of nervous, about some real deal roughen it style camping… I’m a girl who really enjoys her shower. What can I say?

The campsite we decided on was situated along the beach on Lake Erie. It was a beautiful spot with the good kind of sand that’s powdery and fun to squeeze between your toes… the kind that’s fun to be buried in, you know? Sadly, when we arrived at the campground we discovered that all the sites were booked. We were out of luck, but after driving for 2 1/2 hours we weren’t exactly willing to give up on our fun weekend plans. We paid the entrance fee to be able to park there for the day. They allow you use of the beach and the picnic tables until about 10 pm and then the warden comes along and shoos everyone out.

If you’ve ever seen my instagram feed you’ll know that I’m getting fairly involved in slacklining of late. One of the first things we did, naturally, was set up a good long line to walk in between an afternoon of swimming in the lake and napping in a clump under the afternoon sun.

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As the sun began to wane we had to decide what to do… drive home 2 1/2 hours defeated and disappointed? Or try our hand at rogue camping and risk being fined and kicked out of the park in the middle of the night by the warden?

In the cover of night we grabbed our packs, bolted stealthily up a sand dune and started pitching our tents in a sliver of a spot disguised by some trees along the beach. We only had the moonlight to help us see what we were doing, and we were hyper aware that the warden would be coming by any moment to makes sure no one was left in the park. It’s not like it was dangerous or anything, and it’s not like the consequences would be disastrous by any proporton, but…

…it was exciting. It was a little thrill that made me go, okay, here! This is FUN. This is life.   

After pitching the tents we had to leave them behind and saunter our way back to move the car, driving a couple kms down the beach to an overnight parking lot where we could leave the car.

We walked back to the tents under the full moon, listening to the waves and the water, bare feet in the sand and the stars over our heads… it was beautiful.

We slept through the night without incident. No wardens came knocking, no tickets left on our tents. We woke up with the sun, the waves, the fresh air and packed everything up. We made our way back along the beach, this time in the morning sun.

The final treat was seeing this rainbow on the horizon. Like a little reward for doing the weekend right.

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Life is like a kind of choose-your-own-adventure game. I’ve had a few tough blows as of late, but after a weekend like that I can’t help but feel invigorated and optimistic about everything that’s to come.

I hope you all had a great weekend, too! Do you guys have any fun camping stories? Or any camping horror stories even? I’m really keen for any tips and tricks from the seasoned campers out there. Feel free to share in the comments 🙂 🙂

As always, thank you for reading!

xo

Conversations with strangers: Adam

You know when you have an experience and it feels somehow like the universe conspired to put you in that specific place at that specific time? That’s happened to me often in life. Maybe it’s just because I like the idea that somehow and for some reason the universe is attempting to show me some sort of direction. Maybe it’s because there have been times where I’ve felt so lost that the second anything aligns in any sort of interesting way I’m ready to pounce like a starving cat about to sink its teeth into its prey. Or I’m just a bit of a hippy. Who knows.

I often find myself having some very interesting conversations with strangers. Sometimes inspiring, sometimes a little strange, sometimes funny. Last week I had one of the more impactful of these conversations.

I was out and about on my bike in the downtown core, casually pedalling my way through the usual hustle and bustle of Toronto: the impatient cars attempting to run me off the road, the incessant construction, the death-defying pigeons. I arrived at my destination just in time to witness the fpotd, or freakout-person-of-the-day. I may have just made that up. But I usually see at least one person having a bit of a freak out on the daily around here. I mean there are a lot of us crammed into Toronto’s downtown core so it’s only natural that at least one of us is going to snap…

This time he was a man in his late 30s, yelling brusquely about how much everyone sucks and challenging every man walking by him to a fight. Quite aggressively, too. He was getting right up in their faces demanding a punch. The hobble in his step gave away his drunkenness if the slurred yelling hadn’t already. He was quite close to me as I was locking up my bike and it was then that our eyes met for the first time. I knew in that moment that he and I were going to have an interaction. I could feel it. I stood there with some mild nerves, trivially attempting to avert my gaze from all the ruckus he was causing. I watched him try once more to provoke a fight from a passerby, and when that failed he staggered his way over to me, looking me in the eyes, and yelling:

What’s the point? What’s the point?” 

I just stood dumbly at my bike as he came closer to me…

Why am I waking up every morning?

I could have wrapped my arms around him our proximity was so uncomfortably close. With our eyes locked intimately he admitted, almost at a whisper,

“I don’t want to wake up anymore.”

My heart pounded in my chest as we stood there together with that knowledge. It was just raw, honest, and painful. The way he said it was so matter-of-fact it broke my heart. And this from stranger whose name I didn’t even know.

What do I do? How can I help? I’m not qualified to deal with this raving man on the street and my own life is out-of-sorts at the best of times. I don’t have anything to offer him. 

Such were my thoughts as I stood there. But for some odd reason I felt like I had been given this great responsibility from the universe to offer something to this man, however small or feeble or unhelpful it may appear to be. So instead of shying away from him, I started talking to him. I asked him for his name.

Adam.

Adam and I ended up spending the afternoon together in the park. We talked about life, people, ambitions, and the “point”. Here are a few things I learned about Adam in our afternoon together.

He’s homeless.
He’s spent most of the last 7 years living as a hermit trying to deal with a kind of PTSD I never found out about.
He loves dogs.
He has a mother nearby who he loves, but doesn’t see much. And he credits her for his plugging along this far in life.
He hates materialism, but he has a thing for motorcycles.
He’s very articulate.
He finds the park very peaceful and likes to spend his afternoons under the trees.
He’s given up on people and tends to dwell on the bad nature of others.
He’s possibly dealing with some mental health issues.
He’s a bit of an alcoholic.
He has very beautiful eyes and wild curly hair.
Most importantly, he has the capacity to be very kind, generous, and outgoing.

He’s a real person with a complicated backstory. Along for this ride with the rest of us.

As we walked around together we got quite a few dubious looks from strangers. Adam was pretty drunk if you recall and so good at drawing attention to us, but it didn’t bother me. I tried to get to the bottom of why he was picking fights with people on the street. Apparently dealing with physical pain is a good distraction from dealing with mental pain, hence the provocations. He wanted bruises. He invited physical pain. I guess I can understand the immediate logic in that. It’s somehow simpler, isn’t it? Our minds are a difficult thing to master or even understand minutely. But even acknowledging that I still had to argue how unfair it was to the poor random people he was challenging. Nobody wants to be provoked into a fight on a sunny afternoon, or even a rainy afternoon for that matter. I just told him what he already knew, that it wouldn’t solve anything going on inside him, and that he’d have to make up his mind to deal with it another way.

But mostly, I just listened. I listened to whatever he wanted to tell me and offered whatever I could. I opened up to him about some of my own struggles which I thought he might relate to. It was a very mutual exchange. We were just two humans in a park talking about life.

For a man who had admittedly “given up on people”, he was certainly very kind to me. Which, to my mind, just shows he needs a helping hand to remind him that he can still become the best version of himself. Maybe with a little encouragement from a stranger. A little acknowledgement. A smile. Eye contact. An ear or two to hear what he has to say and take it seriously. Did I really help him? I don’t know. But I think he was grateful for the interaction just as I was.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be homeless, it makes me sad to see so many people struggling without a roof over their head on the daily. It’s a bit hard to admit, but when I was younger I used to walk by homeless people and pretend not to see them. You always hear how giving money doesn’t help them/increases the problem/whatever. But whatever the truth is to that doesn’t excuse the purposeful act of looking away from another person who is reaching out for help. A smile, or a brief glance, or a hello… these things can go a long way. People feel invisible because others treat them so.

Let’s always treat each other kindly, please.

Just rambling… thanks for reading.

xo

 

A life not to be

A little heartbreak this morning.

There was a slight chill, fog hanging in the air, and some rain drizzling down as I left my apartment to dawdle my way over to the local coffee shop for a latte. One minute after leaving my apartment I stumbled upon this precious baby bird….

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The poor little thing was lying in the middle of the sidewalk belly up. The rain was coming down on him, the cold surrounding him. It was a strange place to find him, there weren’t many trees in the area and I saw no sign of a nest. You would think his nest was blown over by a strong gust of wind, and maybe it was, but I didn’t find any evidence of that. It’s a mystery how he ended up there. He must’ve just hatched.

On the grass to the side I saw another baby bird just like him, but he was already dead. This little one, however, had some life in him. His beak was opening and closing as if waiting for his mother to give him some food. It was so heart wrenching to see him lying there, so helpless. I didn’t really know what to do. I very carefully scooped him up into the palm of my hand. He was so delicate and tiny and precious. The thought of leaving him there was completely impossible. It seemed unlikely that any mother bird was coming back, and his situation was desperate. I called my boyfriend and asked him to start googling what to do in this kind of situation and made my way back to the apartment with this tiny life in the palm of my hand.

And that’s where he took his last breath. By the time I got back to the apartment, all his movement had ceased and he was just a little body that couldn’t hold onto life anymore. For whatever reason, his life was not meant to be. He was created, he developed into that tiny bird within his egg, only to hatch and end up belly up on the sidewalk in the cold rain. He should have hatched into a cozy nest with his mama at the ready and with his brothers and sisters around keeping each other warm. He should have been able to open his eyes and discover his surroundings. To grow his feathers, to fly, to live the life he was given… so awful to see that torn away from something so young and new.

We ended up burying him in a garden outside the building along with his brother.

It was very sad.

I’m so sorry your life was cut short, little bird. I’m sorry that I found you too late to help you. I’m glad I could be there to hold you for your last few breaths, though. I’m glad that you didn’t die cold and forgotten on the sidewalk.  I hope you had a little comfort in the palm of my hand. Your life was short, but someone cared about you and loved you for the little while you were here.

RIP, little bird.

Lucky or not quite so lucky?

Recently I’ve been paying more attention to the Daily Prompts that wordpress provides. The prompt today was ‘luck’. Seconds later I went to youtube and saw that a channel I follow posted this video:

I thought it was pretty strange that the subject of luck came up twice like that in the span of just a few seconds, but then I remembered that it was St Patrick’s day and suddenly it made sense. I hadn’t remembered that today was St. Patrick’s day, yet amazingly, I still managed to wear green underwear and order a green tea latte. Very lucky, indeed. Or perhaps my subconscious cares a lot more about this day than I do. In any case, the video is pretty interesting and you should take the 6 minutes to watch it if you can.

He talks about how luck can be looked at as a meeting of the conscious mind with chance. Or rather, that our own reactions to the curve balls and opportunities that life throws our way can actually empower us to, in a sense, create our own luck.

For example, today I really wanted to write a blog post here, but I also wanted to practice yoga, and I only had time for one or the other. I chose to go to yoga because I’m trying to make it a daily habit and I’ve been going every other day until now at around 5pm. So I got myself organised, grabbed my mat, walked to the subway, paid for the subway, rode the subway, and walked all the way to the studio only to discover that it’s closed on Friday afternoons.

Was I unlucky because I wasted all that time going there to not be able to practice yoga? Or was I actually lucky because the fact that the studio was closed meant that I had time to write this blog post?

I definitely felt the latter, but in general when I think of luck I tend not to put a lot of weight on it. Luck is such an intangible concept… you can’t really pin anything concrete on it. It’s just a word in our speech that we use to describe how we feel about random situations. When things work out surprisingly well for us we call it lucky and when they don’t we call it unlucky.

On the other hand when I look at my life I do feel very lucky. Or I guess I just feel grateful, but it can’t hurt to try and cultivate that elusive “luck” that may or may not be floating around out there. To me it all comes back to what you put into the universe you get back from the universe. The law of attraction. All that jazz.

 

Did anything happen today to make you feel lucky or unlucky? Let me know in the comments what you thought about the video if you ended up watching it.

Happy St Patrick’s day, everyone!

Thanks for reading xo

Ola is the funnest form of hello

When I came home from Mexico last weekend, even though I had only been for a week, I found myself wanting to say “Ola!” to literally everyone I saw.

It’s official, Ola is my favourite ‘hello’ word from any language. It outshines any english form (hey, hi, hello [yawn fests]), french form (bonjour, salut), italian form (ciao, salve), chinese form (ni hao), or japanese form (konnichiwa, moshi moshi) that I know. [I mean, moshi moshi is fun but it’s only applicable over the phone so you can’t just say it while you’re walking around, you know?]

I realise that this is just a small sampling of the languages available on earth, but these are the ones that I happen to know off the top of my head.  I love trying to speak in other languages, so anytime I get to travel somewhere where they don’t speak English is a real treat. I know some people feel nervous about speaking in other languages, and it’s totally understandable. So many fumbles will happen when you are trying to convey your meaning in another language, but I actually love the challenge and the resulting hilarity that can ensue from misunderstandings. (I have many of these stories from my time in Japan.) But this post is about Spanish, not Japanese!

My knowledge of Spanish is so completely basic, previous to this last year I only knew Ola, gracias, and cómo estás. Back in September I spent 2 weeks in Peru where I learned a teensy bit more. Just a few crucial things like “Tienes leche de soya?” (do you have soy milk? truly important), “¿Dónde está?” (where is ____? not as important as the last one, but still useful), “un poquito” (a little)… and that’s pretty much it. What’s amazing, though, is how many times I went out of my way to speak just those few sentences.

For example, walking around the town of Puerto Vallarta, I went out of my way to ask people where things were, even when I knew the answer.

Permitame senor/senorita, dónde está Starbucks?
Permitame senor/senorita, dónde está la Catedral?
Permitame senor/senorita, dónde está Planeta Vegetarianos?
Permitame senor/senorita, dónde está el Plaza?
or a few times at my resort:
Permitame senor/senorita, dónde está chips de plátano? (Where are the banana chips?! Seriously, they kept moving them around on me.)

“Tu hablas español?” they would ask, to which I would always reply, “ci! un poquito!” Then they would proceed to answer my question with more Spanish, explaining the location.  At the end of the explanation when I was stood scratching my head and staring blankly back at them, they would repeat again, slower, and with more gestures… because clearly I don’t speak even a little Spanish. But still, it’s fun to pretend and to try.

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Ola, boardwalk!
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Ola, catedral! Found you
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Ola, lord!
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Ola, Senor!
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Ola, ocean!
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Ola, puppy! (Cuddling is a universal language for cute puppies)
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Ola, kitty!

Spanish is certainly a fun language to speak, so it’s no wonder that in my head walking down the street in chilly Toronto I am saying “ola!” to everyone. Even when I was around other English speakers in Mexico I would say ola and gracias. It’s infectious in my brain, like my brain wants to be rewired into Spanish.

Which languages do you guys like to speak other than English? Even poorly! Do you get nervous speaking in another language? Which ones sound the nicest to you? And most importantly, what’s your favourite form of hello?

Most languages are prettier than English, don’t you think? (Sorry, English.)

Happy hump day, everyone. 🙂

The road taken – surprise week in Mexico

I was woken up by a text message from my best friend in Calgary a couple weeks ago. I was a bit dazed from a rough sleep and it was still early morning, my body was protesting heavily as I rolled over and squinted at the blazing light of my phone screen to read her message:

“I’m planning to get away next week, do you want to come to Mexico?” it said.

Yeah right, I thought. Wouldn’t that be nice?  I responded very bluntly and swiftly: I can’t, sorry.

Because I couldn’t, you know? I have work, life in Toronto… it’s obviously too last minute… all that jazz. Plus, I’m sure she’s not serious. We’ve talked about running away for a trip together for ages but we’ve never made it happen so surely it wasn’t about to happen this time. I put the thought out of my mind and went about my day.

Later I was in my car and was overtaken by a dawning epiphany. Actually, I CAN go to Mexico next week. Why not? You only live once, Heather, so go to Mexico with your best friend! You’ve never been, and the two of you haven’t travelled together since you were children.

I messaged her at the next available opportunity my new realisation. Let’s make it happen. Now is the time for our beach holiday.

I said to her I’d go wherever she thought was nice. Bless her, she took care of EVERYTHING- coordinated our flights so that we’d land around the same time, booked our room, did all of the grunt work with our travel agent. All I had to do was wire her my share of the money when all was said and done and be on the plane when it took off. I can’t love my bestie enough.

I’ve decided I love spontaneous travel, I wish it could happen way more often. This is certainly the most last minute trip I have ever taken. Instead of spending last week bundled up in grey, cold Toronto, I was in a bikini admiring sunsets by the ocean in Puerto Vallarta…

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I think I made the right choice. Sand between my toes, spanish on my tongue, my best friend who I never get to see at my side, a drink in my hand… life is full of beautiful surprises. I love each year more and more.

Do any of you guys have spontaneous travel/roadtrip stories? Share them in the comment section!

 

 

I wrote this for The Daily Prompt, check it out if you’re interested in submitting your own.

PS you can see more photos of my trip on my instagram!