Oscar's first day of school

Oscar sets his face, but the slight quiver of his bottom lip gives away his emotion. He’s just been given a rapid set of instructions about line-ups and backpacks and bells and doors. It has only now sunk in that he’s about to leave his parents and step into the relative unknown. It’s his first day of kindergarten and he is taking the first step of a journey that may decades and will fundamentally change his life.

Oscar outside his Kindergarten class on his first day of school.

As Oscar's mother, today a different journey begins for me. I feel a stab in my heart as I sense his fear and it takes a deliberate effort not to scoop up my child and take him home. He gives me a good-bye hug and I feel him bravely steeling himself even while he clings to the contact a fraction longer than usual. Today I sensed a shift. He became slightly more independent, more his own person. He grew up a little. 

“The first day is often harder on the parents than the children,” says Oscar’s kindergarten teacher. She must have seen right through the smile and casual pose I had put on, partially to put Oscar at ease and partially as a defence against the unexpected emotions washing over me in waves. I attempted a nonchalant shrug but I’m pretty sure I didn’t pull it off.

I surprised myself when I burst into tears driving to work. As proud as I was of Oscar starting a new stage in his life, I also felt the loss of the stages past.

Oscar’s first day was a success. He had his ups and downs but he’s very excited about making gingerbread people at school tomorrow. I consider my day a success, if only because I resisted the urge to race to the school to check on Oscar. I did manage to develop both an eye twitch and a neck twitch though. And I may have snapped at a few of my workmates - okay, all my workmates.

I know tomorrow will be easier - for both of us.

The strange and wonderful world of the Yukon through a macro lens

This afternoon I explored a different world, and it was only 10 minutes from my house.

Something magical happens in the woods when you take a closer look. There is a world of activity and change going on right before our eyes, it's just too small to see unless you are very very close. 

Ever since we moved to the Yukon I've felt very grateful to have abundant nature literally on my doorstep. This afternoon, I headed out to the Hidden Lakes trails with my a 100mm Macro Lens on my camera, no schedule to keep and no one's agenda but my own. I've walked this trail before and admired the flowers and scenery, but this time I saw the local flora in a whole new way.

As usual, the Wild Rose was abundant and beautiful, but this time I noticed the plant in all it's stages.

Once I started looking closer I discovered insects everywhere in the midst of their mysterious rites. I tried to guess at their motives as they continued in their inscrutable ways, oblivious to my presence. I saw ant acrobatics, bees with strange orange pouches, something that might have been an ant daycare and I think I photographed beetle porn or cannibalism, I'm not sure which.

The flowers, leaves and mosses I encountered became stranger and more detailed as I looked closer. Where once I saw a "Purple Flower," now their individuality became apparent, not just in the flowers themselves, but their leaves and stems as well.


Two weeks alone III

Day Fourteen

I had a productive day at work today. My boss even said I had a good idea. Hallelujah. Went home, took the dog for a walk, made guacamole for dinner and watched a movie. I’m sure in a few days I’ll be in the midst of family chaos and look back at this quiet peaceful day with envy but a boring easy life would not be my choice.

Day Fifteen

Today at work everyone needed everything done yesterday; a bit stressful but everything worked out. Another frozen meal for dinner, this one was actually quite delicious. I’m not ashamed to admit I indulged a bit on my last night of solitude, a glass of wine, a long bath, a book and a bit of introspection. I think I may be just learning to enjoy this. Tomorrow at midnight, the boys return. Looking forward to lots of hugs.

Today

The boys are back! I got my fix of hugs, cuddles and love. I am a very happy addict.

My house is now filled with the traditional clutter, noises and spirit. I get interrupted 20 times a day, there are globs of toothpaste smeared down the sink, every few seconds someone asks me where something is, and it’s fantastic. I feel like myself for the first time in two weeks. 

It seems strange to me that I need two other people in my life to feel like myself, but that seems to be the way it is. I started these two weeks thinking about how I’m an independent woman and I’d be just fine on my own but I learned something a little different. I discovered that while I am a person, myself, without anyone else and I even like that version of me, but I’m more comfortable as “myself” with my family. I also learned that I can exist by myself and it's good for me to try things outside of my cosy family circle. I grow with each new, even “uncomfortable” experience.

Rich and Ozzie had a fantastic time in England. Their photos are priceless. Even more priceless is the time they got to spend with Richard’s family. Plus they returned with supplies of British tea and chocolate... ooh and presents. Awesome.

So, I’m happy things are back to normal and I’m glad I got a chance to become re-acquainted with the old me. I have a new appreciation for the value of family and a new confidence to go out and try things in the big bad scary world.

Oh yes, and I had a full-on home-cooked meal.

Two weeks alone II

Day Ten

I’ve noticed that since I’ve been alone, I’ve been craving human connection. I’ve also noticed how hard it is to get sometimes. I spent the day at work spending quality time with my computer. After work I contemplated going to a movie alone, for the sole purpose of being around people, even strangers. However, because of an incident involving being in the checkout line at the supermarket, realizing I did not have my wallet and driving home to get it,  I missed the movie. New plan, a walk in the woods, a glass of wine, some general house pottering and an episode of my favourite TV show. I ended up enjoying my evening, maybe because I had a big Skype chat with the boys at lunch, or because I’m getting used to this, or maybe because I’m figuring out that I’m not such a bad person to hang out with.
It has become clear to me that I take for granted my usual feeling of well-being. I know I’m loved every second of every day because I have a husband who is my best friend and a loving, engaging, hilarious and intelligent son. I have not felt lonely in a very long time. Having felt it keenly the last few days I have the urge to give every lonely person out there a big hug, stoke their hair and make them feel better (without being creepy, of course.) I wish we could all approach each other easier. Why is it so easy for us to be sarcastic with each other and so hard to say “I like you?” Why is it okay to ignore the people around you, but not okay to show affection? We sit at home with our independence and our iPhones and live through television programs, occupying the same planet as everyone else but not reaching across the electronic barrier. 
I’m the same. Here I am, connecting with people over this blog and Facebook because I have a carefully constructed metaphorical fortress around me. This mostly one-way connection of myself, projecting outwards, is my easiest way to share myself.

Day Eleven

I went to see my friend Erin play at the Gold Pan Saloon Open Mic Night. I jumped on the idea when she texted me, which must have surprised her because I’m usually lame and bail. I invited Marie, partly because she’s pretty cool and I want to get to know her better, but also because I knew I wouldn’t know anyone there and my social anxiety would undoubtedly kick in (this is usually the reason I bail). 

Surprisingly I met some new people and the whole social anxiety thing never happened. They all seemed neat and interesting. I didn’t feel judged, in fact, the feeling I had bordered on comfortable. The music was cathartic. Erin did two numbers, an original blend of folk and hiphop. I admired the bravery of all those musicians, facing fears and putting themselves out there, not because they have to, to survive, but because they want to, to live.

Day Thirteen

I didn’t blog yesterday. I was a bit down because I didn’t get to Skype with my boys. Also, I was struggling with a change going on inside myself and I didn’t know quite how to articulate it.

These 12 days have been a journey for me. It started with denial. The first night I fixated on cleaning the house before the lady came to measure the windows for blinds and I buried myself in TV and told myself that this was great. My resolve slowly deteriorated from there. I was spending a great deal of time alone, with myself and it was like being with a stranger. I’ve identified myself as a wife and mother for so long that I struggled, being by my self, away from the source of my identity. For the last four years, if you asked me who I was, I would say “mother” and if you asked me what I want, I would say, “for my son to be happy.” And this is still true. But I come to the realization over the last couple of week, with some bumps along the way, that I am also me, and it’s not immediately obvious to me what I want. Being a wife and mother is a huge part of my life, but it’s not everything, and I’ve lost touch with myself a bit.

Last night the loneliness of the house was so oppressive I almost went out - anywhere - to escape it. I stayed in. I spent hours listening to music and thinking. This morning I woke up early and oddly happy. Loose thoughts jangled around in my head as I tidied the house, made breakfast, had a bath, did some reading and took Maggie for a long walk. This morning I was okay. More than okay. I was happy in my own skin. I was entertained by my own thoughts. I even looked in the mirror this morning admired my own appearance instead of picking out every flaw which has not happened in a long time (unless in retrospect to my younger, skinnier days.) Today my own skin is like a comfortable warm blanket.

Something has changed. I’ve been neglecting a part of myself and we kissed and made up. We hung out. It’s like we were never apart.

Day Fourteen

Today (Sunday) I have big plans to do laundry and chill. Instead of writing about my laundry detergent (well, I actually use soap nuts and it's quite interesting, but another day) let me tell you about yesterday...

TK-471 at the Northern Lights Resort and Spa. 

Yesterday I went to Northern Lights Resort and Spa to practise drone flying with my boss and his son. We got some great shots of sweeping vistas and I learned interesting facts about spiders, including that there is a spider as big as a dinner plate.  I'm enjoying having a job where one day I’m at my desk designing posters and the next day I’m photographing a restaurant or flying a drone.

Then I went on a face paint acquiring mission for Burning Away the Winter Blues, which involved me staring at the face paint section of the dollar store for a good 15 minutes, having had zero experience in this field. Eventually, mission achieved and realizing there was a good three hours before the winter blues burning, I bribed a co-worker into hanging out with me. Yeah, so my new-found joy at hanging out with myself is doing battle with the ghost of the big, empty, quiet house and I lost. 

An effigy is thrown into a bonfire at the Burning away the Winter Blues event in Whitehorse, 2015.  Photo by Christa Galloway.

Burning Away the Winter Blues is an annual event in Whitehorse, celebrating the Equinox and the arrival of spring. I went with my friend Erin and her friends Sylvie and Andre. Before we left we face painted. Well, I doodled on my hand and took photos. I'm a few steps away from being secure enough to paint my face. 

We were a few minutes late so we rushed to join the parade of  people from the SS Klondike along the Yukon River to the Robert Service Campground with torches and drums and a giant effigy with glowing green eyes. At the end of the parade, the effigy was carried around the fire and tossed in, to the cheers of the crowd. It was fun, interesting and visual and I lost myself in my photography for a while.

While I captured other people's cathartic experiences, my own aversion to crowds was edging it's way into my awareness. Once the haze of photographic euphoria faded, I stuck it out, trying my best to stay cool as I sweat, swathed in my heavy coat in the heat of the fire pressed in on all sides by people, but in the end, I had to break out. I spent some time alone on the outskirts, where there were lots of little groups of friends and families and children on their dad’s shoulders. I thought about Rich and Ozzie. I felt invisible and conspicuous at the same time. 

I ended up accepting my own limits, and abandoned ship so to speak. I stumbled down the dark, icy path, away from the fire. The further I got from all the people and the crisper the air got, the better I could breath. Complicated emotions of relief and disappointment competed with each other. I became aware that my feeling of connection with people and the universe was gone. I felt sad but free and I realized, I haven’t changed. As Richard’s dad would say, I’m still just FINE (F—cked-up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional). I don't know, maybe I'm okay with that.

I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s a process. There will be revelations and set-backs. One day I want to love myself and everyone around me, see the best in people and live in the oneness of everything. 

Either that or I’ll be hermit in the woods and not f—cking worry about it.