Friday, July 30, 2010

1 of the 100 things I love about yoga...

There are so many things that I love about Ashtanga yoga. I have been doing yoga for about 4 years, but only consistently for a year. By consistently, I mean that it is consistently in my life, despite my sporadic lack of discipline. Nonetheless, I love it and the benefits are infinite.

One significant gift that yoga has brought into my life is a more positive body image. Never am I so in touch with my body as when I practice yoga.

In the most obvious way, you can’t spend three to five hours a week head to toe in skin-tight lulu spandex without confronting some lumps and rolls, no matter who you are. No three-way mirror required. You get to be up-close and personal with what your mother gave you.

On a deeper level, I have learned to see my body as a tool rather than a burden.

I can’t hide from myself halfway through a class when I am attempting to curl myself around myself and at the same time breath and then ‘pop up’ into a vinyasa. Here I am forced to understand my abilities and limitations.

I have some pretty wise teachers at my studio. I can say that without a doubt that I have learned more from them than five years of university. Many of them say ‘if you were meant to have a perfect asana right now you would.’ Wise, right? One teacher in particular says ‘if you can, you must’. Also wise!

This dichotomy between acknowledging what you are able to do and knowing the difference between not being able to do something and not wanting to is powerful.

It is in the most difficult poses that my body teaches me important lessons about who I really am. Do I give up, or persist? Do I panic and distract myself or do I embrace the discomfort? Do I honour my body and where it’s at today or do I crank myself into Marichyasana B and risk injury? These considerations lead to answers about the real me. There’s no fooling anyone in yoga. Not even yourself. 

In yoga body is my teacher, so how could I not learn to love it?

I won’t lie and say that I love my body every day. I can certainly get caught up in expectations and comparisons. I might see someone with a flat stomach and think ‘I should get a personal trainer…’ but really, I am smart enough to know that no one has a perfect body, and yet everyone’s body is perfect. It’s about having a relationship with your body that is mutual; a little give and take.

For the most part I accept my body as perfect for me. If I was meant to have any other body, I would. And if I really wanted to I could. But as it is right now I understand it. I do my best to give it respect, and I am blessed with mobility and freedom from pain.

Thank you Body! In yogic tradition:

shantih, shantih, shantih

Love Always,
Joan Blondina

Monday, July 26, 2010

i gotta get home there's a garden to tend...

I gotta get home there's a garden to tend
there's fruit on the ground and the birds have all moved back into my attic, whistling static,
when the young learn to fly I will patch all the holes up again

well i can't believe that my lime tree is dead
I thought it was sleeping
I guess it got fed up with not being fed
and I would be too I need food in my belly and hope that my time isn't soon

so I try to understand what I can't hold in my hand, and where ever we are, home is there too
and if you could try to find it too, cause this place is overgrown into with works in bloom,
home is wherever we are, if there's love there too

in the back of our house theres a trail that wont end
we were walking so far that it grew back in,
there's no trail at all,only grass growing tall,
get out my machette and battle with time once again,
but i'm bout to loose because i'll be damned if time don't win

I gotta get home theirs a garden to tend, all the seeds from the fruit burried again
there own family trees teach them thank you and please as they spread their own roots they watch their young fruit grow again
and this old trail will lead me right back to where it begins

So i try to understand what I can't hold in my hand, and whatever I find i'll find my way back to you
and if you could try to find it too, cause this place is overgrown with works in bloom
home is wherever we are if there is love there too.

"Home" by Jack Johnson

Pretty, eh?

Love Always,
Joan Blondina

Thursday, July 22, 2010

on the road again...

It's been pretty hot and lazy around here (to clarify, I am NOT complaining!). It is so hot, in fact, that even the cats are too lazy to hunt my yarn which I have carelessly left out a few times.

So I have not yet documented our last road trip, which was over two weeks ago. 

We love to travel, and hopping in the car with camping supplies, towels and flip flops always reminds me of the first summer we were together. We have always loved our little adventures. 

This adventure began when we shipped the kitties off to Warren's brother-in-law's house. It was super nice of him to take them, especially because he is extremely allergic to pets. He's a good guy!

Next we headed to Whitby to spend some time with my parents. They will be moving soon, so that was one of our last times to enjoy the house together. We also visited my sister's new apartment where we broke the place in with the world's best falafel (which, surprisingly is not in Lebanon or Israel, but in Ajax ontario ;)) and some laughs! Warren and dad golfed (woot woot dad! You beat Warren twice!!) and mom and I shopped at value village and had wine on the deck. I love my parents, and this was the best possible way to start the vacation.

Next we hit the 401 east for Ottawa to spend Canada Day with a good friend of ours D-vo. 

D-vo is a great guy; one of the best. He always shows us a great time, and is the best tour-guide in the city. He didn't grow up in Ottawa, but I swear he knows more about it than any capital city native. He brings us to the best restaurants, the coolest bars, and introduces us to amazing people. There are always things planned from parties, to D-vo style tours of the city, to surprise trips to exotic provinces ("Sara, did you bring your passport"?). This time was no exception!

So, being Canada day, the plan was to be super touristy and hang out downtown, have some drinks at the market, see the queen, stop in at a party, and see some fire works. 

Downtown was pretty well all closed down for the celebrations. Everybody wanted to see Queen E herself. 
 And guess what... we saw her! Do you see her there. She's really tiny, but there she is, with her red suit and white hat! Yup, we waited through all the (ahem) Canadian talent to see this... we were ready for a drink by this point!

We spent the day walking around, amazed at the sea of red. I love Ottawa. It is a city with a lot of spirit. If it weren't for the epic winters, I might already live there.

We walked until the sun went down, and enjoyed the best fire works I have ever seen! 

D-vo really showed us a good time, but it was time for us to move along. We got up early the next morning, grabbed some coffee/tea and hit up the nearest grocery store for supplies for our next adventure. 

A few hours west, and were were, once again, in Algonquin park. To prove to you how much I love it there, I hereby am going on record that when I die I want my body's ashes sprinkled onto one of the beautiful, crystalline lakes that live here. I love this park. It's by far my favorite in Ontario. Five minutes into the park we were greeted by this lovely creature:
a MOOSE! I know you can't tell, but trust me, it was a moose. She was pretty camera shy, so this was all I got. But don't worry; I met plenty of critters who were willing to pose for a shot. More to come...

But first we had to set up camp, and get on with the relaxing! Here are some photos of life at Pog Lake.
Obviously, we were in the wild, and were lucky to see a few, non threatening, cute critters! I am a big animal fan, and I love doing wildlife photo shoots like this:
On a canoe ride we saw this beautiful loon tending her nest. Warren called her lazy... men. The next day when we paddled past we saw that she had abandoned her nest. When we looked around we saw this:
AAAWWW! She was taking her little fluffy babe for a swim!

Other critters we saw:

Ya, nothing too ferocious or anything. By the time we were up and about it was too hot for any bigger animals. Probably for the best. I saw this on the news this morning. Better to photograph the little guys!

When Warren and I go camping we like to make really good food. No hotdogs (god forbid!) or jiffy pop. We make REAL food. Slow food. 

We did some spicy veggies over cornbread:

A campfire pizza:

Corn and potatoes with an organic, free range chicken:

And not ever to be left out of our camping ritual, HOME MADE MARSHMALLOWS, with graham crackers and organic dark chocolate. Ya, you're jealous, I know. There are no photos of the actual s'mores in action, because that happened after hours, but here are the marshmallows: 

They are the yummiest, fluffiest, vanillaiest things you will ever eat! Next year, come camping with us and you will see!

We had a lot of fun on our little getaway together. It will be too long until the next one. I will just have to look over these photos over and over again and relive the relaxed, easy feelings of being on the road.

Love Always,
Joan Blondina

Friday, July 9, 2010

it's so pretty out there...

A word that I can deeply relate to at this time in my life is inspiration. The world is full of it, and when the time is right you can't not see it.

I couldn't always see it. It's something I learned. Now I find myself walking around in my little blissful world, smiling to myself with my own little secret to happiness!

It's fair to say that I am not pre-disposed to being blissful. It took some hard work on my part. I have had many times of moodiness and negativity, aching at the thought of what others have, look like, do... I couldn't always appreciate what was before me. I went through a time where I felt like I was in the wrong place, relationship, career; the wrong life. I know what it feels like to be uninspired.

Somehow in the past year something changed. I shifted thinking. It could have been moving away from the city that I just could not relate to to a city that I can connect with on a deeper level (someday, I want to talk about what home means to me...someday). It could have also been spending a month in arguably one of the most beautiful, inspiring countries in the world. I can't exactly say. All I can say for sure is that most days are bliss, and it has nothing to do with anything other than letting go of expectations.

We don't have a lot. We have both opted for jobs that fit with our passions and values rather than pay us the big bucks. We rent a one bedroom apartment and share a compact car. Warren wears many of the same t-shirts that he has had since I first me him, and I often shop at value village. We're not thrifty, we're choosy! I often say that's it's better to have a rich life than a rich bank account (I am not yet convinced that you can have both).

We moved to a one bedroom apartment because we want to be together as much as we can! We used to live in a two bedroom townhouse, and we only ever used a quarter of it. The rest just collected dust. We just want to be together! Moving was one of the best decisions we ever made. 

Yes, we live in a city that most people gawk at, but honestly, it's beautiful! There is not a 'smart centre' in sight and everything we need is within walking distance. From our windows we see houses worth millions of dollars next to high density housing. The park across the street is filled with families, the sound of children playing, groups of frisbee throwers and amazing diversity, culturally and socio-economically. Compare our neighbourhood full of gardeners, lemonade stand entrepreneurs and cyclists to a sleepy suburban neighbourhood where the kids spend sunny days inside an arena, the parents are fighting crowds at Costco, and the SUV's in the driveway outnumber more practical vehicles. Which life is more rich? It's just my opinion, but I would say mine! Do people in big expensive houses look outside their living room window and say, ten times a day, "it's so pretty out there"? (the first month we lived in our apartment that was my mantra...)

I don't intend to put anybody down or judge people for their lifestyles. I just want to convey my passion for pursuing things in life that really lead to happiness. Which brings me back to the idea of inspiration. Life inspires me. And when I let go of what I think life is supposed to be like, and become open to possibilities, I have access to a level of peacefulness I didn't even know existed. I have learned that happiness is not about the world around me, but the world inside me. I can find inspiration in the most simple of things: a beautiful stone on the ground, the shadows in the leaves of a tree, hearing a belly-laugh from a stranger, the sensation of warm, bubbly dishwater. These things make me smile. It's all about perspective.

I take a lot of pictures of things that inspire me. I am no photographer. That's evident. But I like to think that the photos I take show some of the beauty in my world.

I have a new found love of 'nesting'. This has not been typical behaviour for me. I have always liked to surround myself with beautiful things, but always with the feeling of freedom to pack up and leave in an instant. I have always had really itchy feet. Since moving away from home to go to University at the age of 19 I have always felt the need to move around. Not commit to a home. I used to take inventory of all of my stuff and feel comfort in knowing that I could pack it all up and go on the road. Like a snail wears it's home on its back. I read Jack Kerouac and identified with the vagabond lifestyle. I dreamt of taking off for months, and always regretted that I could never really leave everything that I have worked for behind.

I read somewhere that the term 'hobo' comes from the words 'homeward bound' and this rings true for me. Traveling, trying out new cities, exploring other lives, all lead to where I am now. I find myself urning for roots; for a home base. A place to display my books, to nurture a garden, to represent us. This doesn't mean that my travel bug is gone, but it means that travel will always lead back to the same spot. Travel has inspired me to get to know my own home.

I am inspired by my home. Inspired to make the little place we have into a refuge. I love filling rooms with things that improve our quality of life. I love making things cosy. We have turned a slab of concrete and metal bars into an outdoor heaven for us and the cats to retreat to. The tiny, windowless, fan-less bathroom has elements of nature to make it warm. I am always inspired my our beautiful wooden chopping block, and the way veggies look sliced and diced atop it. Our mix and match napkins look so homey on the handmaid kitchen table that Warren ate cornflakes at as a child.

My home is no longer just a place for my things. It is the safest, cosiest, happiest place in the world!

Someday soon we want to buy a house in our neighbourhood. It will be nice to be able to paint and renovate and nest on another level. But for now, I love our little home with all it's cosyness!

As much as I love home, I am equally in love with travel! I haven't been everywhere. We don't get to travel half as much as we want to. Sometimes I feel sad about this. It's hard for me not to be jealous when I hear of my friend's travels. Most of my friends are globe-trotters.

Travel is something l value. I am not really referring to 'vacations' like Montego Bay or Varadero, although those are both great places! I am referring to the kind of travel that forces you to forget everything you thought you knew, and learn how to live in a new way.

Within the twenty-four hours of travel I am always reminded of this: travel has this way of simultaneously beating you down and lifting you up. If done right it's hard (where to eat? how to use the money? where to sleep? how to drive on the "wrong" side of the road or use the transit? how to communicate?) but also amazingly rewarding.

I don't always get to go to the places I want when I want to. But I try to consider what it is about travel that I love, and how I can incorporate that into my life as it is. What I love about travel inspires me to have a richer life right at home. Road trips into the nowhereness of the rural highways outside of the city... choosing different foods at the farmers market to try... having a soy latte with a book in a coffee shop... these things remind me of travel. There are so many adventures to be had in this life of ours, and we don't have to travel to southeast Asia to experience them if we don't have access to travel all the time.

There are thousands of things that inspire me, and I have only just scratched the surface! 

Life is good!

Love Always,
Joan Blondina