I only had a few moments to react when I turned around and seen this man caught in the headlights of the car behind. I didn't think, I just shot. I am posting this today for reasons that I hope to keep photography fun and the act of capturing life as authentic as possible. For reasons to remind me why I love photography. That life isn't always stationary but moving and you are either ready or your not. If you blink and think...you may miss a moment. It's not about creating the perfect shot, it's about creating in general, everyday. You shoot, to capture the moments, the people you meet or pass you by, the places that you experience. You photograph to express what you see, and feel. You photograph because you can and feel compelled to. I hope you enjoy My "SHOT IN THE DARK" . Keep shooting, learning, and creating. Stay passionate.
Well friends and family near and far, we have arrived at the last day of 2017. What a year it has been! Filled with many highs and lows, with some doors closing and others opening, with many reminders to stay on the path i am on now. There were incredible connections made and some losses along the way, but in the end each of them taught me that its all part of the grand story of living. Threaded together by the common theme to live each experience fully. One of my highlights to my year was taking a trip to visit a place that I once called home, in Alberta, Canada. As I stood there looking out on this beautiful expansive vista, a place that held a lot of memories for me, I began to think of my past and also what was next for me. I thought about how I had changed and what stayed the same. The mantra that continues to come to me and has been whispering in my ears all my life was to “follow your bliss”. Seek out that in which drives you, and that your passionate about. Surround yourself with beauty and people who love you and the rest will follow. Be inspired to inspire! And be open to different paths. Life isn’t easy, it’s filled with it’s up and downs, with jagged edges as well as smooth ones, with a array of emotions,…especially if you wear your heart on your sleeve like me…but I can honestly say I wouldn’t change anything for the experiences and adventures, I have had, good and bad. It has created who I am today. I keep learning and relearning life lessons, and strive to be open, courageous and an authentic human being. Keep living your direct experience and stay curious my friends. Happy New year to you.
Photo credit- Michelle Cloutier
Have you ever heard the expression “autopilot”. It’s literal meaning is of a device that steers a ship, plane, or spacecraft by itself, without a person. However you hear it often being used to describe when someones has done something without focusing or thinking. This expression came to mind while I was walking up the mountain today.
I am sure you have experienced it. Where you woke up, got ready for your day, drove or walked to work. Ate, drank, and maybe even exercised. Then when asked about your day, your mind draws a blank and you scramble to recall it. What did I do, or see, or feel? Naturally you blame it on your mind getting old and that it's slipping or something but is this really the case?? Or is it that most of us have checked out of our daily direct experience. Putting ourselves on "autopilot" mode throughout our lives and never fully taking in each experience for what it is. So when it comes times to actually recalling it, we can't, as we never gave the brain a chance to formulate a memory of it. We are simply going about our daily lives without actually fully participating in them. So how do we get back into the drivers seat to our own lives?
I think one of the easiest ways to begin to recall your day is to practice mindfulness. Bringing it back to the basics of solely focusing on your direct experience. When your walking, walk; when your sitting, sit and when your standing, stand; and so on. Making a conscious effort to be exactly where your at, without adding or subtracting anything to that moment. Leave the "thinking mind" behind and completely immerse yourself in the present moment with all the senses. What is it that you see, feel, hear, smell or taste. Just notices things without judging it or attaching a memory to it. Take it for what it is. The more you make an effort to practice awareness in your day to day, you will be surprised by what you begin to remember and fully experience in the end.
This was my last day in Cuba back in April. I had set out the tripod and phone to document a bit of my process. I was quickly joined by a curious Cuban boy. Little did I know that what I was about to record was to be exactly how I would describe and express what Cuba means to me. You can set all your intentions and have your plans and ideas but in the end, you can't expect anything, and just need be open to whatever arises in that moment. That's the good stuff. When your not seeking, it finds you. This is Cuba, bursting, bustling, and alive. Full of calm to crazy moments, joy to hardships. It envelopes you, and can literally sweep you off your feet. Each trip I take there I learn a little bit more about their culture and who they are. I learn to take it as is for what it is.
A few days ago, my Cuban artist friend started telling me about my life, he read things from my past, and present, which were true, I said but tell me about my future, what do you see, he said I can't see that, I said why, he said because it's all in your mind.
And with that, the reminder that the present is all we have... learnt not from a zen Buddhist but a Cuban . So Cuba, Thanks for welcoming me back and keeping me warm. I enjoyed the ride, the music, the connections and conversations. Stay tuned for my observations of my travels and what I have been working on. Hasta pronto !!! .
Name Correction- I realized that I didn't catch his right name till after but decided to post it anyways. My apologies little Paco! .
It is 7 a.m. when I begin to stroll the streets. I have my camera over my shoulder and sketchbook tucked under my arm. I’m wide awake and a bit wired from a fuerte cuban coffee.
The morning light is delightfully intense — streaming down the middle of the road, filtering everything it touches with a golden hue. As I make my way into the central plaza, I’m joined by school children and their parents as they hustle them off to school.
“Mira mira,” I hear one yell to the other, getting the attention of the women ahead of me. I keep going, slowly discovering the city one block at a time. Again I hear, “mira, mira, linda,” and this time it’s directed toward me.
They now have my attention as I wonder what “mira mira” means and why he just called me Linda when my name is Jennifer. I quickly look up both words in a Spanish Phrasebook and find that “mirar” means “to look” and “linda” means “beautiful.”
This lost-in-translation moment led me to the adventure I was hoping for. “Mira” was the intention behind my month-long trip to Cuba and “linda” was the perfect word to describe the experience.
Like a modern day flaneur (urban explorer), I hit the streets to observe, explore, and create with no particular destination in mind, documenting my process along the way. I went with the flow of Cuban life and let the moment take me to where I was meant to go and to whom I was meant to meet.
Completely smitten and inspired from the beginning, I quickly fell in love with Cuba’s raw beauty, contrasts, and complexities. It had all of the variables an artist seeks to play with — colour, light, movement, and textures. I didn’t have to go searching for inspiration because it was everywhere, enveloping me when I allowed it to. Like a spectator in an audience, it was merely my job to stay alert enough to receive it.
This act of awareness, of staying alert, became a central theme for me while traveling. I assumed the role of flâneur, taking time to stroll, observe, and explore in the urban spaces.
Charles Baudelaire wrote about this act of observation in “The Painter of Modern Life” — “For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world.”
As an artist and wellness educator, I learned early on that without the act of observing, there is no foundation to work from. If you hadn’t taken the time to appreciate what was in front of you, it was like skipping chapters in the book and only reading the last page.
Traveling in Cuba for a month gave me the chance to fully immerse in the daily culture and, over time, I settled into a natural flow that let me be the silent observer.. The streets were always alive with people, and both the interiors and exteriors revealed rich layers of history and stories. It seemed easier to capture portraits as the people were warm, engaging, and less preoccupied with their busy lives. From these observations, I was able to develop some tips and tricks to to share with my fellow flaneurs.
Stay alert, observe and look, then look again. Pay attention to your surroundings and take in all the details of the place you’re experiencing. Look up and down, look deeper at the layers of an urban environment. A lot is always happening, especially on the streets of Cuba.
Make time in your itinerary to get lost in a city. Step outside the plan, and you may be pleasantly surprised by where it leads you. Don’t worry if you’re going the right way and practice the act of exploring. Over-planning can lead to too many expectations and, sometimes, disappointment.
LOSE THE EXPECTATIONS
The definition of explore is “to travel in or through (an unfamiliar country or area) in order to learn about or familiarize oneself with it.” So do just that. If you are going to explore, fully embrace the country for what it is, not what you’ve heard about it. Leave your expectations at home and pack only your open mind.
Cuba is the perfect place to experiment with your camera and create a variety of compelling creative content. Try new things and refine old techniques. There are no rules to creating, so try panning, slow and fast shutter speeds, night photography, both intimate and candid portraits, or pick a theme. Cuba has some inspiration for everyone.
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
Step back, look up and around. Get low, go high, walk forward and backward. Do the creative dance that makes other people look at you funny.. Capture your subject at different angles and also head on. Take on the perspective of a bird, dog, ant, or fly on the wall.
GET UP EARLY AND STAY UP LATE
Throw your routines out the window. You’re traveling, so get up earlier than you usually do and go to bed later than you normally would. Take the time to see a city in every light. Waking up before everyone else gives you the chance to experience a side of Cuba others might miss. Photographing Cubans heading off to work and school and hearing the bread man sing songs are things to catch and savour as memories. Sure you’ll be a bit sleepy, but it’s nothing a shot of cuban coffee can’t fix.
SAY HOLA AMIGO
Be open to connecting with the locals. This may require you to learn a few phrases in the local language. As I learned on my first day, simple phrases can keep you from getting lost in translation. Know when to be open, but also know when to respect people’s privacy and give them space. Recognize that you are a tourist in someone else’s country and life. Ask to take photos. Be polite. Smile.
Learn about the country you’re in. Don’t get caught being naive about the history, traditions, politics, or culture. Knowing a little can go a long way, and can keep you from trouble, or can help you get out of sticky situations.
BRING THE ESSENTIALS
There are four essential items for any flaneur.
First, the bag that holds your gear. I go with the undercover photographer look and choose a simple, slightly rough-around-the-edges cotton bag with lots of pockets and compartments. I don’t want you to know I’m a photographer until you do.
Second, a good pair of shoes is crucial. I would prefer to go barefoot, but I always make sure I have a worn-in pair of comfortable walking shoes in my bag.
Third, the perfects scarf can save the day and be accessory at the same time. It can be used as a beach towel, skirt, shirt, or protection from the sun. Not to mention that if you wait to purchase a piece of fabric from local artisans, you’ll have a souvenir when you return home.
Finally, a good sombrero is a must
In 1999, it began...that yearning, to go out there and explore. I had just finished University, and now had some new found freedom available to me. I could feel it, this fiery energy within, and a quiet voice that was getting louder by the day to travel and experience something new.
My first reaction back then, was that I needed to find someone to go with. It seemed the norm or right thing to do. So I asked around, here and there. Some people said maybe, others said no I can't, or i'm not ready and broke. There were plenty of excuses. Then there were the ones that gave me hope and said YES, ill let you know soon, please WAIT! Of all the answers, the last one, affected me the most. I waited one month, until it occurred to me, that I actually didn't have to. I could go alone. That this journey was not meant for others but for me, and that I shouldn't wait any longer.
That was the last time I waited. Within weeks of this decision I had bought flights and coordinated working Visa's to spend one year in Australia, solo. Leaving with $200 dollars in my pocket, and a open mind hungry for adventure. This was my first solo trip and a life changer and certainly wasn't my last. Becoming an advocate for listening to that inner voice in following my bliss to create my unique story.
For me, solo traveling has been a a priceless education. Giving me that chance to truly connect with myself, others and everything that surrounds me. Learning first hand about other cultures, histories, geography, and humanities of the world on a daily basis has been invaluable experience to have lived.
I can't recommend it enough. It will change you, knock you your ass, and bring you back up. There will be tears, pain and yes laughter, lots of it. Sure you may go out there alone, but you won't be solo for long. This is coming from numerous trips taken since. There are always plenty of people and things out there to connect with. The good thing, is, there is a choice. You hold the key to that master plan and have the freedom to do what you want, when you want, with whomever you want and for me, this is golden.
This photo was taken by Jaime Armengol, a fellow solo traveler and photographer that I had met earlier that morning. Captured while we were on a golden flaneur stroll along the Malecon in Havana. It was November 26th, and one of my last days in Cuba. A day that has now become significant date in history as Cuba announced the passing of Fidel Castro that evening.
It is this moment and so many more that I am happy that I have lived. Make your mark and don't wait....
My même would have been a 100 years old yesterday if she was alive today. I wanted to recognize her and her life in mine... as she was my first artistic influence. A strong, bold and creative soul with a full heart. Alzheimer's sadly took her early nearly 12 years ago yesterday. I still remember one of the last touching things she said to me in the care home that I won't forget. I showed her a photo of her and i in front of her painting, to remind her who I was. I told her that I had become a painter like her and she was a inspiration to me. She grabbed the photo with her " big hands" and responded simply " so I am in you " and I said yes you are and will always be.
The painting above is my même of a beautiful landscape from Venice and the painting below is mine of Cuba. Be creative always. Thank you meme, Clara Cloutier for inspiring me and others in your lifetime. You are remembered.
As a flaneur I float between being a silent observer of life to immersing myself into the crowds. Both roles I love and both have a time and place. I’ve gone to Cuba several times now and usually its solo. One of my pleasures and passions is to take a hike into the Valley of Vinales, without a plan or a destination in mind. Just a full day, to explore and observe. On this day, I set out, wandering a bit. I had stopped a moment to check out the incredible view, when I saw a small figure in the distance. Since I had been by myself for a few hours now, I was curious to talk to others. So I waited. As he came into full view, i could see now it was a local tobacco farmer. Stopping within a few metres from me, he took his bag off that was slumped over his shoulder, took a pull on his giant cigar and began to simply observe me. I smiled and winked to get approval of a few more shots. No words were exchanged, just a moment of recognition, connection and awareness of thee other. I looked at him, with all his unique features, weathered hands and face and imagined what his life story was.
I never thought to break the silence to ask, but felt the moment was perfect and more powerful with it left to the imagination on both ends. With a simple nod, he picked up his bag of tobacco and continued on his way.
As a flâneur, I love to walk the streets, in silence,, simply observing. With the camera in hand I try to capture life's moments unfolding. You can see a lot of different emotions and interactions on a given day if you really just become more aware. I think that's why I enjoy this subject matter. There really is so much variety and stories happening that there is never a lack of inspiration, especially in the city of Havana , where this was captured. When i photographed this, I was sitting across the street, sketching , with my camera close. I just looked up to see this older man cross the road and go over to these two teenagers with a child. I continued to observe, as this man, reached out and tickled the babies feet, making her laugh. I found this connection, simple, and amazing. The body language of the youth when this older man presence was priceless. For a moment a social boundary was broken
This photo right here, could describe one of the reasons I am completely smitten and constantly drawn back to Cuba. A place with many layers, colours, history and complexities. Once you peel back one layer, another more impressive intricate detail is revealed. It only makes you more curious to learn what it took to create these impressive urban spaces and imagine what it must have looked like back in the day. No need for a book on architecture, it’s all visually there. Able to see different era’s in time from Art Deco to neo-classical. As a artist myself, this is my favourite part of traveling. Observing and inspired by all the artisans, designers, masonries, painters that create spaces, and places. As flaneur, I try to take time to really observe these things. It begins with appreciating the smaller details to understand the bigger picture. It’s about taking it all in. Not just skimming the surface but going deeper and unraveling the layers one by one
While trekking solo in #Vinales, I tend to wander off the beaten path. I want to say from time to time I get lost, but lost is a strong word when you never really knew where you were going in the first place. That's the idea of wandering. However at this moment in my trek i had been walking through muddy trails for a hour and was seeking a different route to get me home. I came upon this farm house and decided to try to get a general direction. When i came up to the house I was greeted by the most rural image I had seen in awhile. Two cowboys sharpening their axe, a horse tied to a post and a family of pigs. The one farmer gazed up at me, likely curious what a gringo Canadian girl was doing on their front lawn. :) I smiled, and quickly asked which way to Vinales, as they seemed focused at their task at hand 😉. With a simple hand gestural 👉this way.. I said my goodbyes and went off to wander again. The thing that I liked most about that moment was it was unexpected. This being the fun part of getting lost or wandering in the first place is to experience something new. To step outside of your own reality and expectations and come in contact with other ways of living. To have your senses and mind stimulated, awakened and challenged. I know it's one of my biggest reasons I keep traveling.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE
Back to work and feeling a tad off kilter after the holidays.? That's alright, it really comes down to how you perceive it. Life isn't always picture perfect. The road is not always straight but made up of different angles and perspectives. It's wonderfully textured with layers of beautiful imperfections. It's embracing the uniqueness of each moment for what it is. There is beauty in everything.
As you start your new year and set your intentions, remember to not to be too hard on yourself. Keep them simple, realistic, and attainable. Be where your feet are, in the present. We always have high hopes to change our lives 360 style. When in reality, it takes time and effort. Get excited, set goals, dreams, projects...and move forward. Don't look back. Let the things that weighted you down last year, or even yesterday, stay there. A new year is another opportunity to take on new perspectives, learn and grow.
I woke this morning, and I was cold, but I had shelter
I was tired and hungry and didn’t want to go work, but knew how blessed it is to have a job that pays for food.
So I started to get dressed and couldn’t decide what to wear, and was blessed to have a CHOICE and something to wear.
I walked to work, It was -20 degrees and I could barely catch my breath, but then I thought, but I am breathing , and I am blessed to have safe streets without the fear of being killed and the health to still have the mobility to move.
I caught my reflection in a mirror and thought, I’m getting older, and I have wrinkles, but this can only mean that I have lived a good life and that I have this day to live.
I am writing this post today and frustrated that I can’t find the words to describe the emotions i have inside for the countless people in the world who do not have the blessings I speak of…but lucky to have the freedom of speech to be able to express how I feel today…
For Aleppo and the rest of the world that is less fortunate as this very moment….
My heart and thoughts are with you…
AsI my made my to the Malecon one day for golden hour , I took one of my favourite routes. I paused for a moment on the corner and thought. It all seemed familiar. Reminding me of a place that I live now #montreal and a place I grew up next to #detroit . Perhaps that’s why I was lured back to the spot. A place of comfort. Almost like three worlds coming together in one beautiful strange dream that has multiple layers. Like the Trumen show where the actors and language changed but my role is the same, and the landscape is similar. Its funny when your past and present converge. Like it was all strangely met to be
Hola Amigo’s, Hola December, Que Tal??? New month, new season. In with the new and time to let go and process the old. Fresh back from Cuba, with stories, documentation and experiences. Catching some monumental events and missing others. Times are a changin. whoa…can I just say, November was one to remember. American elections, the passing of thee beloved Leonard Cohen and the death of Fidel Castro. Putting all of this in one sentence still doesn’t make it believable. Three male figures in history that have effected people’s lives in such polarity of emotions at different times. However, In stating that, I’m not here to bring up any politics or state my views on each event. Lets keep it light. It’s simply a time to reflect, process and move forward
As they say, the only constant thing is change. A word that everyone is talking about when it comes to Cuba. Having this incredible opportunity again to return and document, I hit the streets to capture present day Cuba once again. Change was evident and expected. Streets are more bustling with tourism. Building and roads are under repair and restoration. Old sounds are mingling with the new. Hammers, electric saws, cars, roosters, people and of course music. Creating a buzz of energy. A energy that when on pause Nov 26th, in the wake of Fidel’s death. Beginning 9 days of mourning and a ban on music. Bars, restaurants, and cafe’s closed early, and there was a eerily hush over the city that I had NEVER experienced before.
Among all this change, Cuba’s pace can resemble a sleepy small town. Slow and set in it’s ways but also comforting to be recognized and welcomed by the locals. A place filled with complexities. Cuba is complicated and unpredictable at times but real. A place to truly stay present and expect the unexpected. Continually feeling the lure to return, to learn, be inspired and connect as well, This Cuba chapter has not yet closed for me. A link has been made, from this island to theirs. Back in Montreal and in hibernation mode, I begin the editing process once again. Working on artistic and wellness projects that will be presented in the new year. So please stay tuned. Very excited to be giving sneak peaks to things to come.
What is a flaneur and what is it's role in a our modern day life. The traditional definition for a flaneur is one who strolls, explores and observes in a urban landscape without a destination. A word that I found described the action I took while on the road. At this moment in time it is evident that our lives are getting busier and more absorbed by modern technology. Becoming more distracted and less focus on what surrounds us on a given moment. I feel most of us walk around with our heads down, merely skimming the surface and grabbing fractions of each experience. I can only feel that the importance to taking time out to be more attentive is necessary one. That incorporating the role of a flaneur into one's life could only bring benefits.
To me a flaneur is about being a visual witness. Taking time to observe life. Becoming in tune with all your senses. It is about awareness and capturing moments in the present. It is getting out there and exploring, wandering, without limitations, boundaries or a plan. It is about seeing well and being a witness to the people you cross paths with, the spaces you encompass, the places you travel. It's not about just catching the surface but going deeper and unraveling the layers. Seeing different perspectives. Being a flaneur is not about following to be followed. It’s about creating your own path and trusting it. It's not about second guessing the moment or adding a dialogue to it but embracing it for what it is. As a flaneur, at times you may walk solo, and can be the only one to believe in that path, and other times, you will feel part of the crowd, completely immersed, celebrated and supported. Both are good and different and have their time. The importance is to keep putting yourself out there. As it's your vision, and expression alone. As Nina Simone said"As artist it's our duty to reflect the times". I hope as a photographer I can do just that. To be attentive enough and react without hesitation to capture life.
My newest body of work brings a focus as a flaneur in the country of Cuba. Traveling there for a month at a time, has given me a chance to fully immerse myself into the culture and their daily settings. Over time, finding my natural flow of being the silent observer and being completely connected with the people and the experience. Completely smitten and inspired from the beginning, I quickly fell in love with it's beauty, contrasts and complexities. As artist, I have never been visually bored as there has never been a lack of subject matter. The streets are always alive and bustling with people and the interiors and exteriors reveal layers of rich history and stories. The people that you meet on the streets don't seem to be preoccupied by their busy lives but living them in the present moment. As they have no choice but to do so. Capturing portraits seems easier and more candid. There is a real tangible sense of authenticity
CUBA -Through the eyes of a flaneur is an accumulation of these moments captured through photography and painting. Recently exhibited in Montreal, Quebec, it gets ready to hit the road and travel back to the place that inspired it all. In November, follow my journey as I present and exhibit my work in Cuba. Taking time once again to hit the streets to observe, explore and create.
Details for the opening of the exhibition are still being sorted out. Please stop into the Bonito Ortiz Borrell in Trinidad, Cuba to get information.
Have you ever felt like your racing against time. Racing through each day with a million goals, errands, projects and questions. Getting so caught up and stressed with finding the answers and getting to the finish line, that we forget to even enjoy the process or the moments it took to get there. So busy to check things off our list that at times it can bring any progress to a pause or even to a screeching hault. We've all been there . The battle of the mind with procrastination or resistance. The moments you are pushing yourself to the limits, that you reach a point where you feel almost frozen with fear. Getting too far ahead of ourselves or behind that we forget to trust exactly what is happening right in front of us.
As a artist, it is something that challenges me from time to time. At times stopping me dead in my tracks with what I ought or should be doing rather then just creating. Very often losing focus and going in circles. In the end, keeping me from any productivity. I realized that in order for me to make any progress I needed to return back to basics. I needed to learn how to simply enjoy expressing. So I decided to challenge myself. To find a place outside of my normal routine and comforts. Somewhere in direct line of the viewer.
This challenge took me to Cuba. After only one previous visit the year before I knew it was the perfect place to find inspiration and test myself in being in the present. Each day I would set out with my camera on one shoulder and a bag with a sketchbook on the other. When something inspired me, i sat. Sitting on the street, stoop or sidewalk. I remember the first time. I could feel all those emotions and internal dialogue coming up. The self Critique coming on strong. Is the perspective right, was that last markings correct? Am I good at this at all? Am I really a artist? Is this right or wrong? Then came the next test, the variable of the onlookers. The ones that would hang out over my shoulder for hours, watching me and at times commenting. At first I could feel it affecting me, tightening up and having the eraser close just in case I felt I had made a mistake.
A mistake, I thought... What does that mean and where did that come from in Art. Is there really mistakes or is just the self getting so wrapped up with our expectation of what the final outcome "should " look like and less what it "could" look like. I remember thinking, no one knows if I meant to make a that mark and who is to say if it's correct or not. It's my expression of what I see....
Thats when it happened. I gave up control of the outcome, let go, and relaxed into the process of it all. I started to loosen up my markings, brushstrokes, and lines and just expressed. The more I relaxed into it, the more my art became more real and genuine. I started to truly enjoy the making of art again rather then the final product.
Back in Montreal now, and in the studio once again, I begin prep for future exhibitions and projects. The self inflicted deadlines, questions, lists, and goals are all there once again, but the path and the perspective to get to the end is different.
Happy Canada's Day. A place I AM proud to call my home. A country I've discovered from East to West and back again. I have climbed a few mountains, swam and fished in some lakes, rivers and oceans. Hiked, canoed, hitchhiked across the country. I've slept under the stars, beside a fire with the sound of a loon in the distance. I've walked with the company of a few wild animals. All of it reminding me of its vastness, and incredible beauty. I have stepped away from it to travel, only gaining a deeper perspective and admiration for it. Returning home to know how blessed I am for the freedoms it provides. I have lived in 3 provinces. Growing up in Southern Ontario, moving out to the West of Alberta and returning East to Live in Montreal, Quebec. Meeting people from all walks of life, and enjoying a diversity of Cultures along the way. I've experienced the hot humid summer to the Frigid cold Winters. All of this, is what formed me into who i am today and why I am happy to be called Canadian.
Follow your bliss, your passions, your intuition, and your dreams. Step outside your comfort zones, your own backyard and be fearless. Imagine if you simply started trusting in your own path. Letting go of any barriers that came your way, and continued forward. Remaining open to it all...
It has become a tradition of mine in February to set aside some time to follow my bliss. Set aside time, not only for my creativity but for me. Time to go out and explore, observe and be still, be adventurous, be wild, and whatever else arises.. Allow time to unravel the layers I might have built up over the year, and begin a process of healing. The bliss location of choice lately has been Cuba for the past several years. I was smitten from the beginning and it continues to beckon me. There are plenty of places on this island to bliss out but one of the gems of them all has been the valley of Vinales. Apart from being a beautiful lush environment, there is something there. A place where I feel safe to let down my guard and come face to face with me. All sides of me.
Each year I have reserved a set amount of days to this valley. Now that I know it, it has become a place of refuge for me. However the first visit, I can honestly say, I had set a few expectations for this place and for the time I had to enjoy it. I remember being weary when I arrived by bus, winding up and down the valley, to a overcast day, with no view of a lush grandeur in sight , the way I had seen and heard about it. You know how that happens. We are all guilty of it. You have a image, a idea or expectation in your head of how things "should" be instead of the way they are. On the people in our lives, the places we visit, and even experiences we have yet to have.
I think it should be a cardinal rule to not only traveling but to life, that in order to truly experience things fully and for what it is, we must let these things go. It is when we can fall away from those preconceived ideas, thoughts, and stories, that we can truly start to live in the moment and be at peace on what is actually there. When we no longer are grasping, holding, judging or controlling each moment, it is then that we let things naturally flow in and out. That this is when the doors open for us, and our path becomes clearer and the people that are meant to be in your lives are there and can arrive. When you put your intention on following your bliss, with a open mind, well then this is when the magic happens.
That day I got off of the bus, found my Casa, unpacked, and went to bed. A lovely and wonderful thing happened the next morning. I woke up to clear skies and the sun was out. I was eager to get out there and see what it was all about so I quickly asked the Casa owners for a map. They unfortunately didn't have such as thing and simply just pointed me to a road and said walk to the edge of it, till it meets a farm, and keep walking. Truly my style of people. They seem to not worry about me, as perhaps I had this determined expression on my face. So I packed my bag with a few essentials, my camera, sketchbook and some water and set out. I followed their instructions and got to the edge of town. Just before I took my first step into the unknown, I looked up and took a visual snapshot of my surroundings. My basic trick I have done along the way that has seemed to work so far on my travels in not getting lost. The rest I leave it up to intuition, and trust that I will be lead on the right path..
So I walked, and walked, and walked some more over the years. Up and down some valleys, through some caves and farms, around a few bends and mountains. Coming in contact with some animals, enjoying the tastiest quench thirsting glass of lemonade, came a bit too close to a bull and had a few rides and moments with some Cuban cowboys. Cowboys who always seem to think i'm a damsel in distress and need to be saved. A moment like this below.
Deep in the Valley, in the middle of my bliss walk, I decided to take a break to take it all in. The sights, the smells, and sounds, soaking in the sun. Sitting cross legged, I closed my eyes. I was utterly connected with nothing else but that moment....until the light became a mysteriously darker. I opened my eyes surprisingly to this view. A cowboy, perched proudly on his stallion gazing down at me. First a stare down, and then brief exchange of words, that started with Hola, Como estan? and proceeded with the same standard 4 questions , Donde Eres?, Tu es solo?, Tu tienes un novio?, Tu quieres un BF Cuban?. I got to know the basic responses to this. Ending with the final stare down to try to change my mind.
This moment and many others Is why I chose to incorporate this yearly into my life. It has become the best form of therapy one could have. A chance to re-connect with yourself, and nature. A chance to step outside your comforts zones and expectations and come head to head with the present moment. A place to refuel creative energy and be inspired. A place to be with you , you and you. To think and talk aloud and let all those thoughts, dreams, questions, emotions, rise and fall. Some get answered, others don't, others drift or are completely forgotten about. It's great just to have this time to observe them all. Yes, at times you talk to yourself and can feel a bit crazy for doing so but the battle of the mind is not a easy one but necessary one. It's important to eliminate all the distractions and just get back to the bare basics of pure awareness. The valley of Vinales has given me that space and the refuge in doing just that. It consistently brings me full circle and puts me back on track to exactly where Im meant to be.