Been travelling a lot lately. More than my usual wanderings, and to some relatively far flung locations. Typically I travel without listening to much music, thanks to the first generation Ipod cum brick that I stole from my mom before she advanced on in the technology stream. Due to this, I like to wait and see what music pops into my head while on the road. What rhythm from the city or my footsteps triggers a remembered melody in my head, or whether words or an experience pull me towards a string of lyrics wherein I spend the rest of the day trying to bring together the rest of the song as well.
I’ve been listening to Ben Howard ever since I saw him open for Xavier Rudd in Zurich in 2010. A talented young singer and songwriter from the UK, I was instantly drawn into his songs. Now, at long last, he is releasing his debut album, though there are others floating out there, with the newly released track ‘Keep your head up’. After the first listen or two, I wasn’t hooked as the song gradually builds up, and I was thoroughly distracted by the build up, as well, of the storyline in the music video. However, in the last weeks this song has come into my head, accompanying me on my last trip and providing a joyful soundtrack for the day-to-day experience seeking.
People often tell me that I routinely start humming or quietly singing when I’m working or just off on my own. I rarely notice that it even happens, but I have just become aware of where it takes root.
Just a few days ago, I was walking happily in the afternoon sun in Toronto after being mentally stimulated with the incredible collections at the Art Gallery of Ontario. And with my wonderful mommy beside me as we made our way through the busy city centre, we both settled pleasantly into the moment and began to hum our respective soundtracks for the moment. Hers was something upbeat and complex, typical considering the range of music she collects for her yoga class. I lilted along the lines of ‘all I was searching for was me/ keep your head up, keep your heart strong/ … to feel the warmth of his smile/ saying I’m happy to have you home/ I’m happy to have you home/… I’ll always remember you the same/ eyes like wildflowers with your demons of change’.
A few days prior to that sunny afternoon, I celebrated my good friend Rebecca’s wedding in Hamilton, near Toronto. Even with all the clapping, dancing, singing and love in the air, there was a sense of transition. Knowing that while Rebecca had chosen an amazing partner to spend her life with, us her close friends had a changing role in her life as well. I was honoured to be with her throughout the many days of her Jewish wedding (some may call it a marathon) and saw for myself how strong she has truly become (needless to say this wedding required courage, stamina, persistence, and a few painkillers!)
A few weeks earlier I was walking in a most magical and powerful landscape in Northern Norway. Steep cliffs dropped into the murky blue Norwegian Sea, but not before flattening out just enough to allow for a few small bright red fisherman’s cabins to make a stand against the water and wind. The people who called this place home are those of the water and the mountains. These folks I met while hitch-hiking or on ferries between islands, and their precise and respectful demeanour convinced me that this combination of solid and liquid was an addictive landscape that drew the residents back. I could feel why.
Somewhere along the long walks with Andy around the islands and mountains of Lofoten, another ‘northerner’ popped into my head. Paolo Nutini recalls his homeland of Northern Scotland as he struggles with finding place. ‘I have returned to the Northern skies/… with great sense of passing through’, and a few words on bird songs and dark greens and blues. As the sun sank into the sea late every evening, we were treated to a sense of the darkness that settles throughout the winter up there.
And finally, one to take home and dance to- ‘Home’ by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. It’s a new one to me, but apparently it is old news in North America, but I haven’t found anyone over on this side that has heard of them. Point for me for being oh so slightly ahead of the crowd (good thing everything from North Am comes about 6 months to a year later here, except for the fashion trends clearly)
Back in Zurich but still thinking fondly of the snow, and mountains, and trees and friends back in Canada.
The first 3 weeks of the trip were spent in Victoria and exploring Vancouver Island. It was wonderful to spend time fully relaxing with my parents- eating pancakes, drinking tea, watching for the sea otters, and playing cards. We all fit nicely into each other’s schedules as the yoga and golf and choir continued on smoothly. Fortunately for us ‘foreign’ types, there were plenty of great experiences to be had, even in January. Robbie Burns night, for one, where my Dad and his pipe band were the main act, filling our ears and eyes with their melodies and foot high feathered caps, respectively. We even got to dress the part. Very appropriate after the Scotland adventure.
A meal of Neeps, Tatties and Haggis, as well as the history of the scoundrel, Robbie, completed the evening.
As well, we had to see some of Victoria, including the breakwater, Government street, the Royal BC museum with its collection of themed exhibits, and a good number of beaches.
Tilmann and I also made it North of Victoria to ski at Mount Washington, hug some amazingly big trees, and collect our thoughts at some desolate beaches.
And of course, some family time. A late Christmas meal with old friends, and a short day trip over to Saltspring Island. We took the ferry over to Saltspring, on an unfortunately grey and misty day. We missed the views of the other islands, but did find some tasty sea food, an eclectic hardware store, plenty of sea gulls and island dwellers (of the cheese producing and raw chocolate type!)
And of course, my twin spent the weekend for Robbie Burns too! Claire and mom below.
From the island, the trip continued to Vancouver for a few days of mountains, parks, ocean, and even a bald eagle! Calgary was the next stop for a visit with many old friends. Such great conversations, a super bowl party, and even caught the end of a chinook! One highlight- dressing up with the girls for the texas themed party.
Onto Toronto and Montreal. More friends to discuss about the world, life after school, love, quinoa and where we are all heading next. Amazing how a year and a half doesn’t really create much space between these old friends.
Thank you to all who housed me, drank tea with me, shared in the experiences and inspired me for the upcoming year! You are all in my heart, even on this side of the ocean! To those I missed, there is always room to visit in Zurich!