Saturday, July 30, 2016

Walking the Mountains

Today, Hugo and I went on our second solo hike. Our first one was a gentle path up Mouse Mountain which has gradual slopes and only a bit of scree at the peak. The entire hike takes no more than 45 minutes round trip. 

I’ve wanted to do solo hikes for quite some time. After Asia, I’ll be booking a ticket to Spain to hike the Comino de Santiago, which is a 783KM medieval pilgrimage from Roncesvalles, on the boarder of France, to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.  Backpackers can stay in hostels along the way, which mean’s slightly less to pack in, but still this trek isn’t for the weak of heart. 

The Comino isn’t the only reason for wanting to start solo hiking, I think there’s quite a negative stigma for girls to go off alone in the woods, and admittedly, all of those fears were fed while hiking with Hugo today.

I’ve been reading numerous hiking books the past while about womens’ experiences during long distance treks, learning about their lessons, fears, hardships and realities while on the trail. I’ve been devouring memoirs about solo hikes, such as Cheryl Stray’s memoir, Wild, as Stray vividly battles her life-demons by escaping to the Pacific Crest Trail. I especially love Aspin Matis’s book on taking that very same 1900+ mile trek in order to forge a new identity for herself since being raped on her second day in University. The hike taught Matis to be more than a victim, but a survivor. Shirley MacLaine discusses The Camino with her very own solo journey in Spain, which is more spiritual than anything I could ever hope to gain. 

Since I’ve been running a minimum of fifteen miles and counting per week, hiking up Fraser Mountain seemed like a nice change of pace and scenery. So, with a water camel and munchies in my backpack, Hugo and I set off for the mountains. In all honestly, I was rather nervous on my own. Those constant conversations that try to dissuade girls like me from doing what girls like me like to do, independent ventures, seemed to be echoing in my mind most of the way up. There was no shortage of these “but, what if” fears spontaneously filtering into my mind, bullet point after bullet point. Getting lost. Bear attack. Breaking a leg. A tree falling on me. A tree falling on Hugo. Excreta. Excreta. Excreta. Such ridiculousness.
Admittedly, after hiking up the mountain for over an hour, Hugo and I sheepishly turned around and headed down the mountain without successfully completing it. The sky was getting darker with angry clouds and the sign at the trail head warned us not to hike this specific trek during gusty hours. I couldn’t help thinking that Cheryl or Aspin or Shirley had nowhere to turn around when they were in the middle of their multi-day hike. People, girls women, take on and successfully complete solo hikes, all the time, while enduring educated risks from low water supply, a strained Achilles heel, exhaustion and a bear encounter or two. Why in the hell couldn’t I complete one silly, little day hike without my crazy brain talking me out of it?

What I and girls like me need, is that when we tell people that “Yes, I’m going to travel alone.”, the response isn’t “be safe”, “be careful”, or “wow, you’re braver than me”. The response should really be “good for you”, “there are great book resources out there” or “more people than you realize do exactly that, too”.

I’m responsible, I sent a text to a girlfriend informing her of where I was hiking and how long I would be, I packed food, water and a first aid kit, as well as music so an animal could hear me coming. A girl hiking alone isn’t reckless, when done with thought and preparation. It’s so frustrating that hiking, as well as traveling alone, is treated as though it’d done in reckless, careless spontaneity, and I mostly hate that we, women, have been programmed into believing it so.
All in all, a good portion of the hike was lovely. I picked huckleberries, and am snacking on huckle berry muffins as I type, and some of the time I was able to shut my brain up and walk light-footed up the trail while singing along with T-Swift. I sat on the rustic benches and happily ate my apples and cheese. My legs are tired and I’m feeling quite lighthearted. Despite not completing the entire hike, I congratulated myself of completing most of it. I suppose my victory really comes from mapping about another solo hike for next Sunday.


I'm not most girls.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Zoom Zoom

My Yellow Sunfire finally retired.  It resided outside a tire shop for an admittedly long time. When I justified that the shop said I could leave it there for as long as I wanted, my Dad argued that the store owner didn’t mean for Forever and that they were going to charge me a parking fee.

My mom had been diligently sussing out a new vehicle for me. Like me, my mom has a tendency to rely of the goodness of strangers, but her mechanic friend strongly disagreed with this logic stating that the yellow potential she found was a lemon and not a steal. With desperation, as my booked flight coming ever so nearer, my requirements went from a yellow, two door and standard to something, anything, affordable and reliable. Finally, I flew out to Calgary to take home my new, used car.

With any task completed with my mom as a sidekick, begins an adventure. I landed in YYC at midnight and it took two failed email money transfers, three different ATMs and a locked debit card to come to terms with the fact that, at two in the morning, Doug, the owner, would not get the full $2,500 payment for purchase his car nor would I get the keys to my new wheels, which was ironically located in my mum’s garage. So close, yet so far away.

I’ll be the first to admit that there were two bouts of buyer remorse: one at seven the following morning, regarding mileage and the second breakdown at ten when the fear of hydroplaning in the Ice Fields Highway took over. I envisioned my body being found only once the glaciers receded in 2025 because of older summer tires. My good friend, the Lovely Amber, also pointed out that any car would be much more reliable than The Old Sunfire.

All in all, my four day trip was probably the most fulfilling visit I’ve ever had in Calgary. Once my car was registered, insured with keys (finally) in hand, I met at the Italian Market, two, really wonderful old colleagues from my SMART Days. We sipped exquisite coffee and discussed future life options; they shared tails for traveling to such places as Hawaii, Europe and India (my type of girls!) and chatted about all three of our choices to happily remain in the Spinster Lifestyle (See prior brackets!). 

One of my precious evenings was spent at the envious worthy apartment that belonged to the Lovely Amber, Amber was the one who actually inspired me to start my Calamity Kirstin Blog. This girl was meant to do big things with her life. She’s deeply driven and has carved out quite the career in the oil and gas industry – professional wardrobe and all. She also has this whole other travel side to her. I love hearing about her life in her cozy apartment with her Partner, Steve. She is the type of person that there’s passion when she speaks Amber wants to share stores and truly cares about mine and my life. I truly hope I will remain in contract with her.

Finally, I had the pleasure to meander through the streets of Kensington while reminiscing with my old Golden Friend. We spent the night at my very pregnant sister’s house, my Golden Friend drinking wine, while all of us got caught up with each others life, over my niece’s rugby practice. 

Finally, after several mountain passes of driving without a CD or the Radio, we pulled into Prince George with, for probably the first time in my new car’s life, the cheque engine light on. With the help of my moderately showy yoga attire and after some mild flirting, the Mr. Lube guy used the Computer which detected low coolant. I may have failed to check all my engine fluids prior to the 900KM drive. Oops. My Mazda forgave me for the cheque engine debacle as I’ve promised her that I would take better care of her than I did the Sunfire, and for that, I’ve fallen in love with the Silverfox.
World, meet Jill!



Ps. I still don’t have any CD’s and I can’t figure out how to connect my iPod. So, I hoping someone will give me their old Justin Bieber CD... my momma don’t like you and she likes everyone.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Making a Life of Ones Own

I can’t even finish Kate Bolick’s book without writing about it. Essentially, this book is a combination of Bolick’s life throughout her past forty plus years and how during certain milestones of her life this editor came across a handful of women who were famously single during the eras of their own time. All of these women are at one point unmarried and without children, and in the pages of her book, Spinster, Bolick focuses on this aspect of their life. While providing pieces and clips on each woman, Bolick sorts through her own life in chronological order, where she identifies with each of the woman’s singlehood. 

Bolick has provided me with plenty of solid examples of women who have not only survived, but thrived being without partner. Edna Millay is one I’m particularly fond of. She was notorious for breaking hearts; having had scandalous encounters with both men and women, it seemed Edna was never quite meant for merely one person. Bollick explains that Edna had a way of making people believe she was gorgeous despite not being particularly astonishing physically, there was simply a presence about her, perhaps it was her sure disposition and intellectual persona.

Edna Millay does eventually get married, but her marriage is far from conventional, as her husband was known to often encourage open relationships, for the both of them, and it seemed she was quite content with the arrangement. I appreciate this perspective, as the current conventional and monogmonous relationship that marriages are currently being built on are seemingly not always the prefect option as their success rates are ever failing. Bolick also explains that in today’s world, despite the fact that divorces are very much acceptable, the promise of faithful marriages are commonly broken when cheating often occurs. Perhaps unconventional relationships should be a little less frowned upon.

What I love about this book is that Bolick admits to how unsecure she be with her singlehood and how she sometimes wavers on her choice of (or the choices the led her to) being without a partner. There are several fragments where she mistrusts her decision and at times longs to be in a committed relationship where she has someone to share the successes and bills (in my case, orange juice) with.

I’ve admitted to myself that ending one of my relationships was so heart retching because although the idea of marriage is not at all appealing, if there were any person I were to marry, it would have been that particular love. Bolick alludes to this exact secret, and quite regularly she questions that very decision to end a specific long term relationship. She explains that she can’t even step foot in an area of Brooklyn for flashes of an old relationship come flooding back, a feeling, within Calgary, I am most certainly familiar with; when we parted ways, a past partner surly took a piece of me with him. 

Ultimately Kate Bolick takes the negatively and often dreaded approach to the term Spinster and turns it into something appealing, something beautiful, perhaps even desirable? Despite being the 21st century, woman are still readily asked about dating, sex, marriage and children first and foremost, whereas men are excluded from this tyrant form of pressure and expectations. What I truly love about this book is that each woman refuses to let the cultural rules of our North American life rule their life. They don’t cave into the pressures of society and their individualism shines through even at their worst. Like Edna, who refuses to set aside her desires for the greater good or to merely do what expected of her at the cost of what she needs to do to feel alive. Simply, everything’s done on their own terms.

I don’t think Kate is promoting the reader to take on Spinsterhood, I believe she is simply providing a great example of an alternative lifestyle and really encouraging the reader to question their life choices, and this could be any life choice. I think she is asking the reader: what made you choose that path, desire or obligation?

- K

Don't organize your life around the persuite of a mate because there are much more interesting things to be doing with your life.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Cabin

For just over a year the word home was known as 150 pristine acres of Cross Country Skiing land that held an absurdly large log house or a girl and her dog, heated by wood with the luxury of a Yoga Studio (where the dining room table used to reside) and a hot tub. At the end of February, I packed the last of my books and moved, quite literally, down the road to The Cabin in which I will stay in until my contract ends in exactly three months. Both experiences have quite educational, to say the least.

With no internet and television to entertain myself, I’ve found other ways to entertain myself. I’m currently growing herbs in my scarf shaded window and have taken a more modest approach to living on the Bearhead Road. I have the lovely view with my morning coffee on a small porch in which I create my weekl(ishy) blogs and grab a coffee in the ‘Hoof to justly stealing internet to post them and check out my email and keep track of my banking (Megan had aiding my adulating setbacks by paying my monthly phone bill using my Mastercard). My pastimes include a whole lot of running on the dirt road and I’ve been blowing through books with immaculate speed. I’m currently reading Spinster by Kate Bolick in which I have an incredible itch to discuss the dualities of gender and what this means to me. My landlord is wonderful as she too, a recent widow, lives alone with her dog. Birds of a feather flock together, I suppose.
I really am quite happy living in The Cabin, although I’m not sure I could do it forever. The windows don’t open, which means my door stays open the majority of the time and the stove heats the entire house within half a minute, which is annoying with the recent hot weather, I keep telling myself that if I’ve survived Peru, I can survive my humid, airless Cabin. I don’t think I’ll have internet or television at the next place that I live, however, as I anticipate living in the city for the next while, movie theaters and internet cafes will be readily available.

I'm a huge advocate of smaller living.  My sister, Shawna and her husband are in the process of building a Tiny House. I don't think it's necessary to go as small as my house, or as their tiny house, but personally, it's made me realize that it certainly isn't required to go as large as most houses are. Less is more. I've realized what I can live without: extra plates, bulk food, a kitchen table, but also what I need to live: Storage for my shoes (currently residing in the drawer under my oven), a bathroom door (yeah...). I know now, that with a small house, you need a place for everything, so it needs to be built with a bit more foresight or where, such things as your broom is going to be stored.

Regrettably, with living so close to the road The Cabin was believed to be open to the Public, as I came home yesterday to the door happily swinging in the wind, as someone seemed to help themselves to my beer and two old iPods. Thankfully, I have nothing of value here, as I had my phone and laptop with me and they weren’t interested in my wine or passport and it seems that nothing else was taken, except I’m left with the feeling of being roughly exposed and oddly violated; it will take me several days for The Cabin to feel safe again.

I remember the first time I drove down the Bearhead Road, exhausted after a ten hour drive, seeking a bear head silhouette which marked my new address with a wood stove and makeshift yoga studio. It’s a bit surreal that a road once so new has now become a bit of me. With my job, I was granted my first ever helicopter ride. When they asked me where I lived, I didn’t direct them to The Cabin, although I am very much attached to the 300 square feet of space, I still walk bits of the 150 acres of the place that I’ll call home, so that's
where I asked them to take me.



Bigger life, smaller wardrobe.