Lessons from the Sea

Every walk on the beach is a healing experience.

Yesterday I was not myself. I hadn’t slept. The 35°c heat translated to 28°c in my classroom. With windows that don’t open and a room full of teenagers, it felt like about 40 degrees, and I spent my teaching day battling a headache.

I was cranky and I hated everybody.

When the workday finally ended, I went straight to yoga, then I headed to the beach.

Stepping barefoot onto the still-hot sand, I filled my lungs with the salt air and felt my shoulders drop. I know I’m not the only one to find peace at the shoreline, but it still made me think: There are lessons from the sea.

The waves wash it all away. All the debris disappears, all the clutter clears.

The tides keep turning. The seasons change; the sun rises and sets; the tides ebb and flow.  

Salt is a salve. In air and water, it heals.

Everything changes. Sand ripples and reforms; stones and seashells scatter; driftwood is here and then gone. Each day begins anew.

Sand softens everything. Broken glass gets sanded into jewels, hard edges smoothed.

Beach grass thrives in tough conditions. Adaptive and strong, when roots grow deep, there is stability to be found.

We are water. Storms may churn, but eventually the water stills.

The sound of the surf drowns out the noise. The crashing waves can calm the inner chatter.

Sandbars appear for but a moment. The smooth sand below the surface is revealed, offering a brief place to play.

There are as many stories as grains of sand. Countless tiny fragments that come together as one.

My shoulders drop just stepping onto the beach. A breath of that salty air lifts my mood, feeds my soul. It returns me to myself.

I left the beach feeling lighter and happier, and liking people again.

It really is a cure for everything.


Craft Fair Angst

In order to sell my photography, I participate in occasional craft fairs and markets. I love prepping for these: selecting and editing photos, printing and pasting to create transfers; making signs and price labels; packing and organizing. Setting up is its own creative process, displaying photos in an appealing way. Even choosing my outfit for the day.

The actual selling, though, is another story.

It is completely out of my comfort zone to sell. I’m confident in what I’m selling; the trouble is, I find it really hard to exude that confidence. I’d much rather hide behind the display than talk about what’s on it.

The day can also be really long and lonely.

Since I’m single, I do this all on my own. Carry in, set-up, sell, carry out. Given, it would be unreasonable to expect anyone to sit with me all day, since it is my thing. But somehow, sitting there by myself highlights my aloneness, in my mind. Maybe it’s seeing other vendors with their significant others. Or seemingly so many couples out enjoying the weekend. Or maybe I just get bored and think too much.

The last market I did was 8 hours long. There were moments I swore I’d never do another one. But then some sales spurred me on, and besides, what else would I do with all these transfers I’ve created? There’s only so much room in my basement.

And so I’ve committed to a summer of Saturdays. Of standing outside my safe space. Of stepping out, in spite of myself.

Because it also means photographing and creating and planning, and that means it’s worth it.

Tattooed on My Mind

I have a tendency to pick things apart.

As a photographer, this is can be a good quality: attention to detail means I can find a subject for a photo almost anywhere. It’s also useful for my job as a teacher, noticing student mood and behaviour, and for marking their work. This quality makes me a good decorator; my house echoes my personality.

In life, however, it can be a pain in the ass.

Because I notice things does not mean I am tolerant of them. Things irritate me when they shouldn’t. A tiny thread hanging off clothing? Needs to be clipped. A hangnail? Needs to be snipped. An out-of-place eyelash can bother me all day.

And so, last winter when I got a rather large tattoo purely out of boredom (I’d been browsing Pinterest absentmindedly one day, feeling like something was missing from my life. Surely, a tattoo would fill that space!), I immediately zoned in on the parts that weren’t perfect. And I could. not. let. it. go.

Most of the tattoo was beautiful, retro daisies backed by yoga-inspired patterns. I’d picked the pieces; the artist had compiled them in a unique and balanced way. But… As it healed, I noticed part of the flower of life pattern was unevenly shaded. And another section was not filled in the way it should have. I spent the entire summer imagining every person in line behind me at the grocery store was secretly criticizing my tattoo. When a few people commented on it, I figured it was because they hadn’t looked closely enough.

I tried to accept it the way it was. I really did. But I could not fight my hyper-focused overthinking. Eventually, I had some parts fixed, thinking finally I’d be happy with it. And I was, to some extent. Until I found new parts to pick apart.

This time, though, I had to let it go. There is only so much time and money I’m willing to invest in a tattoo. Plus, I realized something: I could choose to focus on those tiny sections that are less than perfect. Or I can choose to focus on the parts I love.

Kind of like life.

Wildflowers, or Weeds?

No sooner had I decided to change my blog name to Wildflowers & Wings when this happened: My backyard neighbour asked if I could keep my weeds to myself.

I live in a subdivision, houses on all sides of me, but my backyard is relatively spacious. Because it’s a lot of work, and because I’d rather go to the beach than spend all summer maintaining a lawn, I fenced in only a portion for my dog and let the back grow in. The bonus is that it grows wild; by late summer it is filled with growth and is swarming with bees. To my eye, this is a picture paradise. To my neighbour’s, apparently, it is unsightly.

I suppose I can see her point. It’s an unkempt mishmash of whatever seeds happen to spread that season. But it is far behind her lot, and her hired lawn tractor takes care of any overgrowth in seconds (unlike, for instance, my push mower powered by my own muscle). So maybe for those inclined to groomed lots and weedless lawns, it might seem a bit too wild. (I only hope it grows thicker and taller and someday becomes a lush forest between my land and hers.)

Here’s the thing: I had no idea what my rights were, and I had no desire to create any conflict. So I mused about it and said I’d look into it. Sometimes it pays to be nice. It turned out she had lost her husband and her son within 6 months of each other. She is an older lady, suddenly finding herself living alone. Maybe focusing on a few inches of growth at the edge of her property was less painful than focusing on her empty house.

I checked and found out there is nothing I am required to do. In fact, there isn’t much I can do that wouldn’t involve an excavator and a whole lot of cash. But I choose compassion instead of aggravation, so I’ll do my best to keep the line neat. And inside that line, I’ll sit with my camera among the wildflowers.

In this growing season, I hope your neighbours are kind, and your weeds mind the line. I hope you find the wildflowers among the weeds.

Wildflowers & Wings

My blog was having an identity crisis.

A photography blog. A life blog. A blog called “In a Snap” didn’t make so much sense to me anymore. What I really wanted to write about was how my life has changed. How my struggles strengthened me. How I found yoga and meditation and mindfulness. How writing saved me, every day. How books have given me the gift of growth. How some days are still tough, but how the lessons I’ve learned carry me forward, forever reminding me of how far I’ve come.

I wanted to write about how, nearing 50, life is better than ever.

I needed to change my blog name. It took some time, but here it is: Wildflowers & Wings. An ode to the wild, to the free, to the transformational. To the way flowers flourish in spite of storms they suffer. To resilience. To soaring.

To seeing wildflowers, not weeds.

Besides, how pretty? Wildflowers & Wings.

I’ll continue to post moments and musings, continue to seek the magic in the moments. But I want to talk more about how self-care can equal self-growth, about small steps to big changes.

I hope you find strength in your struggles, and weeds among the wildflowers. I hope you’ll join me in this new beginning, once again.

It’s All About Attitude

Covid did a number on classrooms.

After three tumultuous school years, there was both excitement and trepidation returning to some sort of normal this year. I had an expectation that my classes would be just like they were pre-pandemic madness.

I was wrong.

There is a level of anxiety that remains among many. The toll on motivation is immeasurable. In some ways, maturity seems not to have stalled so much as to have regressed.

It is hard to engage the disengaged.

I spend hours preparing creative lessons, hoping to tear their attention away from their phones. Each day I would hope for better, but it is tough to stay motivated when they’re not.

And so I slipped into a sort of apathy, feeling like, why bother? I complained about the behaviours in my classroom, let negativity seep into my days. I could feel the weight of it in my bones. Christmas break could not come soon enough.

Then I spent those two weeks resting and reflecting. I read books, went to yoga, knitted, worked on my photography. And gave myself a talking-to.

Now we are back to school, and it’s not so bad. The behaviours haven’t changed. They’re still not motivated, and they’re still addicted to their phones. The challenges have not disappeared, and are not going to. But I realized that I get to choose how I react to a reality I have little control over. And I choose a positive attitude.

And suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad.

Spinning Out

One of the things I tried while trying to escape myself was spin class.

Last winter, my yoga studio shut down once again because of covid. I didn’t know what to do with myself. This time, I was working, so I had less time to develop a home practice. This time, I was already struggling with my mental health, and yoga had been what was keeping me afloat.

For awhile I just floundered. Then my sisters urged me to try spin.

After the initial shock to my muscles, I found I liked it. It helped give me a focus, helped get me out of my head.

It wasn’t healing like yoga, though, so when a yoga teacher I knew starting offering classes, I was quick to sign up. Then my studio eventually reopened, so I started going there, too.

For several months, I attended classes at both yoga studios and spin every week. I thought I had it all figured out: just do it all and it would all help.

I was wrong.

Trying to get out of my head was making my head spin.

First I dropped spin. Sure, it had made me feel strong and confident, but it didn’t feel like me. I tried continuing with both yoga studios, out of loyalty and a feeling of obligation I’d created in my head. But when the new one stopped offering classes at convenient times, I let that go too.

Attending classes all over the place meant my attention was all over the place, too. With the return to a single studio, I was able to focus on a single path. I rediscovered the healing of yoga, and reconnected to my yoga community. One place, one headspace was all I needed.

I hope you, too, have a practice that feels like love, and a place to go that feels like home.

The Space of an Hour

Lately the stress has been creeping back in.

It’s an expensive time of year, with the holidays ahead and the cost of heating through the winter. Gas and groceries keep rising. Snow removal. Grad year expenses for my daughter. There is never enough.

It also seems to be the time of year for appointments. Doctor, dentist, optometrist, therapist. We are running nonstop.

At my teaching job, the kids are getting antsy and the marking is piling up. We are all tired after three pandemic years and the attempt to find some sort of normal again. My patience is thin.

There never seems to be enough hours in the day or dollars in the week.

That old tightness has crept back, the tension hard to shake. I can feel it in my shoulders and my chest, my head still spinning each morning when I wake.

But no matter how buys it gets, I get myself to yoga. It might only be once in a busy week, but I need it like I need water and food and sleep. That one hour sustains me for days, that hour of just breathing, just moving, just being.

That hour reminds me that when everything around me feels out of control, I just need to be in this moment. To just be.

I hope you have something that sustains you, that helps you reset. I hope you have the space of an hour.

Wishful Thinking

When I first separated from my husband, the last thing I wanted was to find a new man.

I spent two years healing, enjoying my newfound independence, and focusing on my children.

But then I started to feel lonely.

The pandemic had begun by then, so meeting someone in any of the traditional ways was out of the question. Lockdown led me to try dating apps, something I swore I’d never do.

Messages came swiftly, and after deleting the creepy and inappropriate texts, I got one from a man that seemed interesting. He had all the qualities I was looking for, and we ended up dating for a few weeks that summer. I was excited and thought I’d found the one.

Then he started asking questions I’d already answered – stuff he should have paid attention to, like had I been married before – and got upset when I was in a serious mood one day. It turned out he just wanted a plastic girlfriend, and that wasn’t me.

I waited a little while, then tried again. This time, he was creative and established, and I thought I’d found the one. Until he gave me the silent treatment for several hours, then full-out cried one day because I had forgotten to give him a hug when he’d arrived.

I was done with online dating.

Then someone I had known previously showed up over text. And I thought I’d found the one. Until so many red flags started appearing, I nearly got whiplash.

A year passed before I tried again. This time on the advice of my therapist, who thought I hadn’t been using quality sites and suggested a paid app. I soon met someone who ticked all the boxes. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was so sure I’d found the one.

But after 8 dates without even an attempt to hold my hand, it became very clear this guy had intimacy issues. It died its own death.

I was discouraged, until I wasn’t. Until I realized that none of them had ever been the one. It was all in my head.

Now I happily spend my weekends on my own. I hang out with my kids and my dog and I don’t waste time waiting and wondering and wishing. If I meet someone who is worth the wait, great. If I don’t, then I know I’ll be perfectly happy anyway.

I hope you have a love that is true, or a single life that works for you. I hope you are happy either way.

Mindless Mode

Sometimes all you need… is a little mindlessness. At least, that’s how it turned out for me this week.

I practice mindfulness regularly : I journal, meditate, do yoga, try to eat healthy, and remind myself to be in the moment. I read more than I watch tv, enjoy learning new things, and try to limit my time on social media. I walk my dog often and listen to uplifting music.

This week, that all fell apart.

My daughter experienced what we now think was a severe asthma attack. She’d never been diagnosed with asthma, so when she woke me up on Saturday night because she couldn’t breathe, we didn’t know what was happening.

The last thing I needed was to sit in the moment.

I couldn’t concentrate on my book, couldn’t calm myself through yoga. So I scrolled endlessly on my phone, binge-watched trash tv, and skipped my yoga classes. I didn’t have the energy to cook, or to care about what I ate, so I had chips and cookies and overdosed on dairy. It was cold and windy, so I curled up with blankets and my daughter and my dog and did a whole lot of nothing.

A week later, after multiple appointments and tests, my daughter is doing much better, thankfully. And I am feeling back to myself. It seems a little bit of mindlessness was exactly what I needed.

I hope you find comfort in zoning out once in awhile, that you find some rest in hard moments. And that it all helps you return to yourself.

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