Secret Lantern Society Winter Solstice Festival

December 21st was the longest night of the year, or the winter solstice. To celebrate, I headed out to Granville Island for the Secret Lantern Society‘s Winter Solstice Lantern Festival. The festival has three locations, typically, in Yaletown, Strathcona, and Granville. This year I chose Granville, though next year I might try out Yaletown! Yaletown and Granville Island converge at the end for a grand finale of fire dancing at Ron Basford Park.

The event was absolutely amazing. There was a carnival band that made me feel like I was right back in the French Quarter; the Vancouver Morris Men, who sang traditional English folk songs and performed a Christmas “mummers play” in which Saint Nick and Beelzebub made an appearance; Zlatna Mountain, a harmony of singers who performed an arrangement of Balkan songs; community square dancing with Paul Silveria and the Coachmen; a labyrinth made out of paper lanterns; and of course, the fire dance at the end. There was so much to do, and all of it was entertaining and top-notch performance. I was alone (NJ had to work) but I felt fully in the space and engaged, and all of this, for only $7 (free if you don’t want to see the labyrinth). I’ll definitely be going next year!

Photography: Canada

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Ribbons of bark tying together the trunk of a tree, long grown over. (Coquitlam, BC)

This weekend, NJ and I went out to the farmers market in Coquitlam. The food was excellent, the produce sellers persuasive, and the aromas divine. While I could make this a long post, I think the image captures my current mood best: mending, and secure.

Our new place is awesome. 🙂

Bonus pic! All of our books prior to sorting and shelving.

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Shelfless Shelfie (say that three times fast…)

YVR Haida Art - Vancouver Intl Airport

New Headspaces

For the last few weeks, my mind has been suspended like a helium balloon, vicariously grounded to earth by a single, tenuous string. The feeling has presented itself as fractured language (still switching back to English), unfinished thoughts, a diminished perception of time (I blame being unemployed), and an inability to look forward. This is really rare for me. I love my headspaces, and journeying through all the possibilities open to me at any given moment. But even now, as I write this post, I find my rhythm off, and my attention truncated every few minutes.

Lately it’s been like trudging through wet cement to get my mind to function. Hours pass by like mayflies, and before I know it, whole days and weeks have folded up like accordion files, unproductive and unused. Time’s lost meaning because I don’t have a schedule, and while I’m not depressed, I’m also not motivated.

I think a lot of that comes from the move. When I moved to Japan, I was adequately prepared. I didn’t experience culture shock as a result, and could just pinball my way through the cities I was in, eager and curious about every little thing. Japan is like that: a hyper,  186 miles-a-minute bullet train of stimuli. Turn your head, and there’s another thing to experience. I took over 800 photos my first two weeks in Japan.

I’ve taken about a dozen since coming to Vancouver.

It’s not because Vancouver is bad or boring. Far from it. But Vancouver, ironically, is forcing me to slow down. My world is limited by my location, circumstance, and the long summer wait until grad school. In the long run, this is probably good for me. My attention span has gotten shorter and shorter over the years, from reading 1,000 page novels to skimming online essays to get the “gist.”

I don’t think my brain wants to do that anymore.

That little tenuous string holding my headspace to earth may actually be the problem. Every little change in the wind or weather and my whole head bobbles, rather than floating free into the heart of it. Thinking of just letting myself spend the time my brain wants to on what it wants to reminds me of my childhood. Daydreaming; forever lost in thought.

Slowly but surely, BC is starting to show me its true colors. I’m enjoying the slow reveal, unhampered by a schedule or a need to get the next thing done. Since coming to Canada, I’ve only done a few things…. but all of them were important.

I explored my neighborhood.

I have the great fortune to live only a couple minutes from Deer Lake in BC. There’s a beautiful, 4.5-mile trail there for joggers and the like, and it’s been a great way to wake up every morning. Just today NJ and I ran across a massive bullfrog right off the trail, but there are also some deer and Canadian geese aplenty.

I signed up with NetGalley to begin ARC reading.

I’ve missed being able to read on the fly (not having to order books and wait several weeks to get them with a hefty shipping fee). Now that I’m 35 minutes from a Chapters, I’m finding I don’t even know all the new authors out there…. I’m going to change all that. In addition to my weekly slush reading at Fantasy Scroll Mag, I’m going to try and build my Instagram platform (@AlexHurstAuthor) and my Goodreads (@Alex Hurst) with recent titles, and being an ARC reader is going to help me with that.

Here’s the first two publishers sent to me:

I visited my campus.

Simon Fraser University’s Vancouver campus is beautiful. It’s connected to the Harbour Centre and just opposite Waterfront Station, and I just can’t believe I’m finally going to be going to school and studying in a pretty building. During my undergrad, UC Berkeley stuck me in Dwinelle pretty much exclusively, so I never got to know the rest of the campus. This time, I’ll get to go to school with pride.

I developed a workshop for writers over the summer.

Since I figured I have a ton of time over the next few months, I decided to create a workshop for Authors who want to learn how to use WordPress.com. I expected some interest in Fiction Writers, but the first workshop filled up so fast (20 minutes!) that I was compelled to make another group, and then another. Currently, I have 75 people all signed up to take my workshop, and a couple more on the waiting list, and I’m just stunned. One of the reasons I haven’t posted until now is I’ve been fighting a slow internet connection while making all the video materials for the class. But, I’m basically done now, and I’m eager to see what kinds of blogs all of the participants will make. If all goes well, I’ll have some new blogs to feature for my blogging buddies to follow. 🙃

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I celebrated my 7th anniversary with NJ.

Hard to believe it’s been so long, now, but not much has changed since my last anniversary post, except we are still very much in love, and the puppy part of it has never really gone away. The only difference this year is that we both forgot it was the date. Facebook had to remind both of us; on the plus side, that meant I didn’t have to feel guilty for forgetting. Remember, time has become fairly relative for me lately…

We went to De Dutch for a late anniversary breakfast. Able to eat hollandaise sauce again was a pretty big treat.

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How has May been for you? What are you looking forward to this summer?

Tunnel of Light in Nabana

A bit behind reporting on this well after the holidays, but I couldn’t help myself from showing you all photos from the nationally-known illumination of Nabana-no-Sato, a small tourist-centric village an hour outside of Nagoya City. The illuminations were fantastic: a long white tunnel of flower lights opened way to a beautiful light show based on the tale of Heidi, while the exits included a brand new blue tunnel of such intensity I couldn’t actually photograph it properly. Going was a five-year-long dream finally realized, and though I went alone, I had a great time. It was also a great finish to my last Christmas season in Japan.