I had a really good post planned out in my head that was going to be written in the style of a fairy tale, and talk about this 19-year-old girl who dreamed of visiting a certain city and how she bought a guide book and read it cover to cover and would talk to her friend M about how they'd both live there one day with their respective boyfriends. But time ran away with me, and before i knew it i was leaving the house and in the cab and on the train and in the airport and on the plane and now here i am.
I'm in San Francisco!
It's a trip that's been 17 years in the making. I've brought a LOT of Polaroid film with me but i'm still worried it's not enough. I cracked open a fresh moleskine on the plane and intend to do a lot of journalling, and am hoping to share photos here every day or so. And meet some friends and have lots of coffee. And soak up as much of this city as i can. Despite those teenage dreams i've arrived with my expectations in check - this definitely feels like bit of a soul trip for me, but i am open to whatever happens.
Next Thursday I'm hoping to organise a mini get-together in a cafe somewhere, so if you're nearby come and say hello! I'll be sharing more details on Facebook when i've had a sleep and know where we're meeting.
I can't believe i'm here! I got teary as we flew over the Golden Gate Bridge :)
Walking around the streets of Montreal was rather like being in the most extraordinary mixed-media painting; there was so much colour and texture, all collaged together into one big of mess of sumptuosity. Honestly, if it wasn't for the all the snow in the winter, I could see myself living there. Have i mentioned how attractive the men are in Montreal? They all look like sexily-deshevelled graphic designer types who carry leather-bound portfolios and laptops, and sit in coffee shops "working". Love it.
This week Jan is hosting an Autumn Colour Week over at Poppytalk - yesterday the colour was yellow, and as I sorted through my photos for this post i kept uncovering yellow: Montreal is such a sunshiny city.
1. Putting together little videos is so much fun - i need to do this more.
2. Seriously - photos that move! who knew?
3. Thank you to everyone in this wee clip - you made my stay so much richer, and more fun. And I'm sorry I didn't get to film everyone - lots of people are missing, so i will have to catch you next time.
4. Special thanks to Jeanine, who was my partner-in-crime for the whole week... Louise to my Thelma. I love you, lil Frenchie.
5. If you're thinking Squam Art Workshops might be your thing, please please meet me there next year - there's time to save... there's time to plan! The new classes will be announced in the new year.
6. I have one post about Montreal simmering on the stove and then it's back to normal programming, including a special Creative Life interview tomorrow...
Happy Sunday x
There are two moments that stand out for me from my time at the Squam Art Workshops, and for both of them I was alone. I discovered very quickly that you have to find your own rhythm when you attend a retreat of this sort; it's very easy to turn up at your cabin with a suitcase full of expectations, and it's definitely best to leave them on the plane. I was surrounded by friends I already knew, bloggers i felt i knew and could finally hug in person and people i had yet to befriend. One of my biggest thrills was getting to meet some Unravellers in the flesh - it's wonderful getting feedback in an email, but sitting down and discussing their experience of the course over breakfast completely knocked my socks off.
After a few days filled with people and hugs (and a LOT of coughing - I wasn't able to shake off the cold, and spent the entire week sounding like Kathleen Turner meets Marge Simpson) i found myself alone on Friday afternoon. It had started to rain and i wasn't sure the clouds would clear - Friday was my designated day to take photos of the lake - but as i toyed with the idea of lighting a fire in the cabin, the sun suddenly came out (as captured above) so i grabbed my cameras and ran outside. People-hugging aside, this trip away has, surprise surprise, been all about the Polaroids for me. I've had moments, in both Montreal and by Squam Lake, when i thought my head would explode, there was so much new stuff to see and shoot. My camera and I were bonded at the wrist, and I discovered that Polaroid portraits are my new obsession. That afternoon, as i walked along the twisting path by the lake, i tried to capture the scene.... the changing leaves... the stillness. Sitting on a rock at the edge of the water, i flipped through my polas, as you do when the sun is on your face and you can only hear the leaves rustling. And it was at that exact moment the wind raised its head and whipped one of my Polaroids in the air, flipping it out onto the lake. I let out a very ineffectual and croaky 'noooo!' as i watched my Polaroid float away. For a split-second i wondered whether i should wade out and get it, but the water was cold, and i was ill, and as ridiculous as it sounds now, i honestly had to say to myself with a soupcon of irony you've just got to let it go. So i stood on the rock, and watched my photograph bob along the water, getting smaller and smaller. And it was then that, out of nowhere, a man in a green canoe came paddling around the rocks.
'Is that your photo?' he shouted.
"Yes!" i shrieked back.
This magical being of the lake paddled over, scooped my Polaroid out of the water, and paddled back to me on the shore, the sun glistening on his tanned muscled forearms, a dashing twinkle in his eye. Oh okay, it wasn't really an Eat Pray Love ending - he was actually a rather portly gentleman named John who was holidaying by the lake with his family. We spent a good half an hour chatting about life - turns out he'd spent a few years in London in his twenties and that was when i saw the twinkle in his eye. As I walked to the dining hall later that evening i kept marvelling at the saved Polaroid. I mean, what are the odds?
My other Squam moment happened later that night. I'd spent the evening with friends talking about work and life, sat by a crackling fire in what was affectionately dubbed the 'party cabin'. When i got back to my own cabin i discovered Jeanine had lit a fire before going to bed, so i entered the warmth and sent her some extremely thankful vibes through the wall. Earlier she'd been telling me about the previous night's skinny dipping and wine by the lake - Canadians are apparently very hardy! - and while i knew there was no way i'd be getting in to the water (are you sensing a theme here?) i knew i had to be out there, so i wrapped up extra warm and trundled out to the dock with my torch and tissues.
I felt a thrill being out alone in the darkness; it was a perfectly clear night, and i lay back on the wooden jetty, staring straight up at the stars. I didn't feel the cold, I didn't need to cough, i just lay there: looking, thinking, wondering, planning. I whispered a few words to the universe, and before I closed my eyes I saw a shooting star. People, i'm not making this up. It happened; it was magical. After half an hour of communing with the stars I took my tired self indoors and sat by the fire for a while before going to bed. i felt full. i felt content. It was a really good feeling.
i remember reading the post-Squam blog posts last year and feeling a mix of envy and curiosity. And i'm here to say that, yes, it really is that good of a time. But there was no levitating over the lake (i tried - it didn't happen ;) and while friendships are made and renewed, it really was mostly about reconnecting with yourself and your creative dreams, and sitting under the shade of the trees, and having some much-needed fun. Lots of smiles. No stress. The perfect way to spend four days. Elizabeth has created a special place we can visit, and i hope it grows and expands as the years pass. There is room for all of us.
I'll be there again next year for sure, so if you are too, can i take a Polaroid of you?
Oh London, how you tempt me with your beauty and decay, your ancient wiles and modern possibility. I hadn't expected to have such a great weekend. I mean, I knew my days with Sas would be full of laughter and connection, but i didn't expect to fall back in love with the city. And when i say back in love I mean rapturously, madly, insanely back in love with old London town. Maybe it was because Sas and I drove across the city on adventures like Thelma and Louise. Maybe it was the sunshine and high energy around the Notting Hill Carnival preparation. I got to see so many of the places I love - Battersea Power Station, the Natural History Museum, Portobello Road, the Barbican, Greenwich Market. I discovered that Chiswick is a place I can see myself living, with my little car (more on that soon) and my portable business. Doing the work i do I can live anywhere, and this weekend I felt my brain expand as i soaked in all the possibilities, stuff i hadn't considered for a very long time. I'm not saying i'm leaving Bath... but now i know i could, and that realisation is going to make the next 12 months a lot more interesting. You only live once, right?
UPDATE: My mum just emailed me, after reading this post, and shared this: 'Just to let you know that your grandad (my dad) assisted in the construction of one of the chimneys on Battersea Power Station - I know it is not called that now, but just a little snippet from the past.' - how freakin' cool is that?!