Vancouver Jazzfest for the non-Jazz Fan

Why would a non-Jazz fan be excited about, and show up to spend a bunch of cold hard cash at a Jazz Festival . . . or in my case Festivals . . .plural?  Simple – jazz festivals are rarely only about pure jazz  – or what I think of as pure – 3 or 4 guys working an endless jam with few vocals and definitely no dancing.  While I respect the tradition and the complexity, it’s not my style.  I like more fun, more vocals, more guitar and definitely more dancing.  I love the music that grew from jazz roots, which covers pretty much all music actually, but I’ll stick to some direct offshoots – blues, Americana and a whole lot of great music that doesn’t fit neatly into any category other than great (well at least on my playlists).

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Here’s my personal lineup for the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, a ten day musical extravaganza crossing multiple genres and tastes at both ticketed venues and free outdoor events all across Vancouver.

Kicking things off right I was lucky enough to score some sweet free tickets to see the Dirty Projectors on Friday night.  This is a very different band for me, but since it’s free, I’m going to check out their weird and hopefully wonderful synth/indie pop.  Friday, June 23, 2018 at the Vogue Theatre.

I cannot wait to see the sublime guitarist Nels Cline, who performs with drummer extraordinaire Scott Amendola as Stretch Woven.  This is Nels Cline’s side gig from his day job as Wilco’s guitarist.  His guitar solo on Impossible Germany is maybe one of the best . . . ever.  If he plays this and I get to see it live, I can truly die a happy woman.   Saturday June 23, 2018 at The Ironworks Studios on Granville Island.  

You might be familiar with Morgan James from her work with Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Jukebox.   Stunning vocal range and a delivery not to be missed.  Check out her cover of Prince’s Call My Name.   It’s not jazz, it’s not rock, it’s just fantastic.  Sunday, June 24, 2018 at Performance Works on Granville Island

Another talented female vocalist will be gracing the small, intimate stage at Capilano University as part of the North Shore Jazz SeriesEileen Jewell sings Americana, blues, North American folk/tradition.   I fell in love with her Alt-Southern, New Orleans blues style “It’s Your Voodoo Working” the first time I heard it.  Tuesday, June 26, 2018 at CapU

I don’t have enough words to describe how much I love St Paul and the Broken Bones.  Amazing musicians, amazing performance, amazing show.  I caught them at the Joy Theatre (a fabulous new venue on Canal St) during this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (another Jazzfest for people who don’t only love jazz – but that’s a whole other story!).   It was one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen and good enough that I almost missed the call for Day 1 of Jazzfest!  Check out this acoustic set from NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts and then image it electrified, on a big stage, late at night, with drinks.  Yah, you got that.  Don’t miss them.  Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at the Vogue Theatre.  Holy crap they will blow the dust outta those old bricks!

Robert Plant and the Sensational Shape Shifters are on my wish list.  Like I wish my musical fairy godmother magically gifted me one of the $200 tickets.  Coz that’s outta my price range.  I try to keep it around $25 and will stretch it to $50, but I’m not ponying up $200 clams, especially at the staid, sit down Queen Elizabeth Theatre.  Great acoustics, but boring as.  I saw Mr.  Plant and his Shape Shifters at the Forecastle Festival in Louisville, KY a few years ago. They were fantastic.  The performance was halted and the grounds evacuated for rain, hail and tornados (seriously, you can’t make that up) so I’ve always wanted to see the end of the set.  If this is your one show and you want to spend the whole budget on it, definitely worth seeing.  It’s not a nostalgia act, the music is new and relevant, his voice holds up and I love how he owns every line on his face.  He earned every single one!  Like I said, wishing for the fairy godmother of tickets to drop on by!!  Friday, June 29 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.  

Wrapping up my ticketed events is Jerry Douglas, Dobro master and multiple Grammy award winner.   I’m expecting a free wheeling show that covers everything from bluegrass through rock and jazz to blues and maybe some Celtic.  Yah, that’s what happens at Jazzfest’s, amazing musician’s that just don’t fit neatly into an FM radio category!  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday night.  Saturday, June 30, 2018 at the Vogue Theatre. 

And if you want to try a sampling of everything on offer,  but don’t have budget for multiple ticketed events, catch one of the free outdoor shows:  Downtown Jazz at the Art Gallery , or the Granville Island or North Shore series.  And of course, David Lam Park on Canada Day is a Vancouver tradition not to be missed.

Grab a friend, or just show up and make new ones; there is so much fabulous music to experience over the next 10 days, get out and enjoy it all, because . . .

Without music, life would be a mistake. - Friedrich Nietzsche

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Take a Long Walk . . . It’s Good for the Soul

The first long weekend of a brand new summer is always full of so many possibilities.  Camping, biking, patio parties or beach bbq’s . . . the weather is (should be!) warm and sunny and it’s time to shed those winter hibernation habits and get outside.

My daughter and I both love hiking; from my way of thinking there are few things that can’t be fixed by taking a long walk in the mountains.  So we have made a habit of taking longer and shorter hikes together for . . . well, I guess her whole life.  I wonder where she picked up the habit. We’ve completed multi-day backpacking hikes on the Juan de Fuca trail on the West Coast of Vancouver Island,  scrambled up the Stawamus Chief (fixed ladders and chains included), slogged the 18km up to spectacular Garibaldi Lake and back (and afterwards soothed our aching bones in the outdoor hot tub at the Fairmont Hotel in Whistler) and two years ago made a bucket list trip to Nepal and trekked in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas.

By choice or luck, I’m never quite sure which, we live in a city blessed with endless hiking possibilities. A short drive and fifteen minutes of walking and you are, if not in the backcountry, at least well into the mountains.   It’s called Super, Natural, British Columbia for some very good reasons.

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The North Shore Mountains are part of the Coast Mountain rainforest, making it a spectacular location for hiking.  Deciding to hike the first section of the Baden Powell trail, 12kms across the North Shore Mountains from Deep Cove to Lynn Canyon, seemed like an ideal adventure on a long weekend.

The Baden Powell trail is  41.7 km long and crosses the North Shore Mountains from Deep Cove to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. Named after Lord Baden Powell,  it was built in 1971 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of British Columbia becoming a Canadian province. The project was started by the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of B.C. and much of the work of building it was done by the Scouts, Guides and their leaders.

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I’ve hiked most of the trail in sections by myself, but never a one-way end-to-end route, because you need two cars  – one at each end.  You can take public transit back, but as friendly as bus driver’s are, they are not cool with taking your wet, muddy pooch on the bus and my terrier was often my hiking buddy.

Sunday morning we headed over the Lions Gate bridge and up to Lynn Canyon, our eventual end point, to leave one car.  Fifteen minutes later we were circling with all the other day trippers trying to get parking in Deep Cove.  The Cove, as it’s locally known, is a gorgeous day trip from downtown Vancouver but has, sadly, become a victim of it’s own success.  On summer weekends it’s a magnet for, literally, hordes of camera toting tourists and parking is non-existent.  The local municipality is trying to take back some control of the situation and we noticed new regulations prohibiting tour buses in the tiny village without a permit.  I think it’s a great idea and will limit some of the “dump and run” bus tours.

The starting point for the Baden Powell trail is an inauspicious trailhead between two houses on Panorama Drive in the Cove. It used to be hard to find, you had to know what you were looking for, now two HUGE signs with arrows point to the trailhead and it’s a human traffic jam for the first 45 minutes to Quarry Rock.

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It’s a shame that what was once a lovely morning hike to a spectacular viewpoint is now about as appealing as Costco.   As my daughter said, there is none of the quite, contemplative nature of walking in the forest, it’s an anxiety provoking drudge.  We knew what we were getting into, Quarry Rock has developed an unfortunate reputation in the last few years and is mostly avoided by locals now, but we really wanted to complete the entire trail so we put our heads down and hiked through the first 45 minute section as quickly as possible.   Despite the foot traffic, the view is still gorgeous.

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Immediately past Quarry Rock, we walked onto real hiking trail in quiet forest and all the people magically disappeared.  Heaven.  Finding the tiny, overgrown trailhead after the completely overused, eroded Quarry Rock trail was a bit of a trick, but we found the BP marker and finally headed out into the quiet loveliness of the North Shore Mountains.

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We like to use the AllTrails app for pre-trip planning, as well as some of my dog-eared hiking books, so we expected a bit of a climb up from the Cove and then a level-ish trek across the front flank of Mt Seymour.  Well . . . it was more up than level, we climbed  pretty much steadily for most of the first two hours.  The trail is well signed and well maintained, these little markers became our familiar guide as we headed west.

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About 45 minutes from Quarry Rock we came to the Mt Seymour road and crossed over into Seymour  Provincial Park.  The trail sits about halfway up the the mountain, making it an ideal year-round hike. It rarely gets permanent winter snow pack, although it is often wet and muddy.  Our day started out cool and overcast, but the sun gradually came through.  The trail was damp, but not muddy, making for all in pretty much perfect hiking conditions.   As we traversed Seymour we started crossing the numerous downhill biking trails on the mountain.  We ran into a few groups of bikers and hikers, mostly in 1’s and 2’s, everyone quietly enjoying a day in the mountains.  Downhill riders are a pretty funny bunch . . . I guess someone had a memorable day when they named this biking trail.

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Here’s my pitch for safety in the mountains.  Although most of this trail is less than 30 minutes from someone’s backyard, well maintained and well signed, it’s still mountain hiking.  Unprepared people get lost, injured and sometimes die in these mountains.  They are deceptive because they are so close.  It’s easy to get lost, the weather can change quickly and unpredictably and distances can be longer and more difficult than anticipated.  So always practice some basic safety rules:

  • Tell someone reliable where you are going and when you expect to be back.  Then go to that place!  If you make a last minute change, let your contact know.
  • Take adequate food and water, some warm clothing and a rain jacket.
  • A basic first aid kit, waterproof matches, a candle and a light source are always a good idea.
  • A whistle is a great multi-purpose tool – signal for help when lost, scare off bears and cougars or let good looking bike riders know you are nearby – many uses!
  • One of those shiny emergency blankets is very small and very light, but also really warm.  We’ve never had to use anything but the occasional band-aid, but you never need this stuff until you REALLY need it, and then it might just save your life.
  • Cell phones – we take them but don’t rely on them.  This trail had cell service from start to finish, but lots of trails don’t.  Half an hour out and you can be well out of cell service. Don’t rely on being able to call for help.
  • The North Shore has an incredibly skilled (because they are so incredibly busy) volunteer Search and Rescue team.  Be responsible, they would love to be out of business!

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We made it across Seymour, almost missed the downhill turn for Hyannis Drive and then hoofed it straight down to the Seymour River.  The trail disappeared once or twice, we had to pull out the AllTrails to relocate ourselves and it was rocky, steep and slippery in a few places.  A bit tougher going, but nothing unmanageable.  When we reached Hyannis the sign marker indicated 3.5km to Lynn Canyon.  Yay, we had covered most of the distance and thought we would knock off this last stretch in short order.

Fooled again.  I didn’t take enough water (2 bottles would have been ideal) and the one Lara Bar we each had in the Cove was starting to feel like a long time ago.  And we had no idea the last few K’s would be well . . .  straight up and down the entire way.   Note to self, for a 12k hike take better snacks.

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So we went down and down, across the Seymour River, then up and up and up and then down and down and down again until we finally reached Lynn Canyon.  Those last few sets of stairs were killers and all we could think about was lunch.  We had to make a slight detour as the famous Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is closed for the summer for repairs . . . repair away I say, that thing better be safe!

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I wish this great pic was mine . . . but all cred goes with thanks to another travel blogger, brownbeartravels.com.

We literally scarfed down all the snacks and kombucha we had left in the car . . . I know, good move right.   All in, it was a fabulous day of hiking, the trail was a bit more challenging than either of us expected, but we loved the variety and it was a great way to explore all the interconnecting trails that weave up, down and around Mt Seymour and Lynn Canyon.  Next section – Lynn Canyon to Grouse Mountain – and things get a bit more seriously backcountry.   And why all this hiking you wonder?   Well . . . life goal for September 2019 . . . hiking at least the first section of the Camino de Santiago, the four plus week pilgrimage route across Northern Spain. I better get some foot mileage in.

I was feeling more than a bit weary when we got home, but since I already had tickets to see the incredible slide guitar player, Martin Harley, I manned up, got cleaned up and put on a pretty dress.   A couple of beers made me forget my aching feet and his Mississippi blues were simply astonishing.   My absolute favourite song was an old Lead Belly classic from 1933.  I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a more beautiful version of Goodnight Irene. Can’t stop listening, it’s on endless rotation!!

 

Between Heaven and the Deep Blue Sea

Vancouver, my home, is a beautiful, safe, clean cosmopolitan city of glass towers and green spaces perched between ocean beaches and mountain playgrounds.   Yes, this is what it really looks like and yes, we are so lucky.

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And if the city itself isn’t spectacular enough, across the romantically named Salish Sea  we have Vancouver Island, home to our provincial capital, Victoria.  Once derisively called the home of the “newly wed and nearly dead”, Victoria has gone through a renaissance as young professionals seeking (slightly more) affordable homes for themselves and their families move to “the Island”.

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Victoria Inner Harbour

The jewels in our geographic crown are the stunning Gulf Islands, a collection of eclectic, magical islands dropped in the middle of the Salish Sea between the mainland and Vancouver Island.

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Southern Gulf Islands
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Nothing to see here, just another sunset on Fernwood dock.

I have the great good fortune of working in both Vancouver and Victoria, traveling back and forth on a regular basis.   A scenic, but somewhat time consuming way to travel is on a BC Ferry.  Imagine a small cruise ship that loads vehicles from 18 wheel trucks and buses to RV’s and personal cars into the cargo holds, with amenities for several hundred passengers in the passenger lounge areas.  And spectacular topside viewing decks.  If you have the time, the crossing from the mainland to Vancouver via Active Pass and the Gulf Islands is spectacular.

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The last time I sailed over, it was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon and I was happy to relax in the lounge, reading and taking in the gorgeous scenery.  We were all absolutely thrilled when a pod of Orcas (Killer Whales) decided to put on a show off the bow of the ferry.  On other trips I’ve seen Orcas hunting seals on the rocky shore line and been entertained by dolphins playing in the ferry wake.

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But if you have a bit of spare change, or if it’s a work trip and you have expense account, the only way to go is flying Harbour Air float planes, or in deluxe mode, Helijet.  You can ride in style on a Sikorsky from Vancouver harbour to Victoria in 35 minutes.  And it’s AMAZING!  This was a fun, sunny trip last summer.  My commute never looked so good.

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Tonight it was Harbour Air on a 12 seater float plane and it was my lucky day because I finally got to ride co-pilot!  It was a blast to watch the pilot doing his thing to get us safely back to Vancouver.

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This is what the little float planes look like on a sunny day in Victoria  So cute, so much fun!

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This is what it looked like when we landed in Vancouver today.  Less cute, more dodgy. IMG_0790

Part of the serious responsibilities of the co-pilot is wearing the headset and monitoring air traffic control (well I wasn’t really monitoring, that’s the pilots job).  But I did get to listen in.   Who knew there were so many planes and helicopters flying through the Gulf Islands that they need air traffic control for both harbours.   As we left Victoria we had to check in with air traffic control for a weather update (rainy, not too windy but a growing chop coming up on the water) and then get our direction for take off and cruising altitude.

As we headed into Vancouver, we flew straight into this big black cloud.

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We had a Sikorsky off our right wing, it went past us and then we all dropped down to get under the weather.  We were not much above the water, following each other into Vancouver as we were passed off to the surveillance of the Vancouver harbour air traffic control.  Loved listening to all the chatter between the air traffic control and the planes, it was a whole different flying experience.   Home looked a bit gloomy on final approach, that was only outdone by how damn cold and rainy it was when we landed!

IMG_1104IMG_1106If you live here and have to go to the Island or are visiting Vancouver and have some time and money, fly to Victoria for the day, it is a trip you will never forget, though maybe do it on a sunny day!

Check out our local Island boys, Towers and Trees, with their dreamy song for the magical place we call home, the “West Coast”.

 

Juno Awards Weekend – Vancouver

JunoFest, Juno Awards – a fabulous weekend celebrating all things Canadian music.  After a 9 year hiatus, the Juno Awards finally made a return appearance to Vancouver.   Hosted by CBC Music, it was a spectacular weekend the crossed genres, age and musical tastes.  Didn’t matter if you were into hip hop, funk, straight up rock and rock or some alt-country, there were shows for everyone.

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Kicking Friday night off was the free concerts at the VAG courtyard.  Caught The Boom Booms before heading on to other venues.  The only question is, how have I not seen them before?  And when do they play again!

Got swept up in a wave of neon-clad EDM lovers arriving for The Funk Hunters with their a high energy show and Typecast album release party.  Sad to miss that, I’ve seen them before and it’s a high energy dance party, but so many shows and only one weekend . . .

$30 bought you a wristband to all Junofest venues all weekend.  Seriously, what a fabulous deal.   Didn’t want to get caught in lineups outside of capacity venues, so put all my eggs in one basket and headed over to the Imperial for the Outlaws and Gunslingers show.  Good choice me.  So much good music, so much party.  Ok, maybe too much party but heck, it’s once every 9 years.

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There was a collection of instruments on stage that would make you cry, this kind of says it all for me.  And I’m a sucker for pedal steel.

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Harrow Fair were my “oh wow” moment from this show.  A little bit Civil Wars, a little bit Shovels and Rope, just damn good.

We jumped at a chance to be “seat fillers” at the Juno Awards show.  Why not – free tickets and a glamorous, dress up night out. Ever wonder what it’s like pre-show leading up to a huge broadcast event like the Juno’s?  Hurry up and wait.  Hurry up, then wait some more.  Then hurry up.  Then do whatever you want, because it’s chaos and no-one really gives a f*ck what you do anymore!  Walking the concourse was like being a kid in a candy store – just kept bumping into musicians all dressed up and looking fine! And kudos to Vancouver for putting in the effort to ditch jeans and lulu’s (for once!) and showing up all rock and roll glamour and finery.

The Red Carpet outside Rogers Arena.  We didn’t get to walk it .  so sad.  We were lined up at the back gate . . .of course.

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It feels a little bit like Cinderella after the ball sitting at home now in pyjamas, having peeled off the sparkly dress, high heels and false eyelashes (I said it was glam!).  I’m still winding down from an amazing event, hosted by Michael Buble with Diana Krall, a Barenaked Ladies / Steven Page reunion and a tribute to Gord Downie that got it just right.

We were originally “holding” in seats looking down on the stage and could see both backstage and front of house at the same time.  It looks like a composite shot, but it’s not.  We watched performers arrive, walk up the stairs at the bottom of the picture and emerge through the screens on stage.  Super cool to watch the transition and not something you get to see every day.

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Arcade Fire opened the show, followed by Vancouver native, Lights.  Everyone was on their feet for the Gord Downie tribute from Sarah Harmer, Kevin Hearn and a perfect acoustic version of Bobcaygeon from City and Colour. If you’re a Hip fan the video montage and simple vocals will give you goosebumps.

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You always hope for a stand out, bring the house down performance and we got ours.  Jesse Reyes had the musical who’s who of Canada on their feet and owned the night with Figures.    A tiny little gal with a huge voice and a bigger attitude.  You go girl.

And …..that’s a wrap because this Cinderella has an actual real job Monday morning; my little rock fantasy weekend is over.  And what a fabulous, festive, fun-filled music weekend it was.  Bucket list – check and check!

Growing into Fearlessness

Courage

  • The ability to do something that frightens you
  • Strength in the face of pain or grief

Courage has been much on my mind lately.  Courage to make necessary changes.  Courage to step into the unknown. Courage to follow that path less traveled to pursue a dream.   Courage to live our best and only life.

I’m reading “Hotel Honolulu” by one of my favourite writers, Paul Theroux.  A story of a writer whose life implodes and he retreats to Hawaii, broke, unable to write and ends up managing a seedy Waikiki hotel.  Maybe not one of his most literary efforts, but the interwoven stories of the characters follows a thread of lives well-lived, lives wasted, unexamined lives and the few that decided they didn’t give a f*uck and lived unconventional lives on their own terms, for better or worse.   One of characters, Benno Nevermann, started out with zero advantages and made his fortune by inventing a weather-proof window frame.  After selling the company, he spends his time traveling the world, searching for people from his past to discover what had become of them.  This is the paragraph that I keep going back to:

“Old girlfriends, old enemies, old bosses, competitors from the past – they necessitated his groping in the wonderful tunnel of time, searching for clues.  Why had so few people succeeded? Why had so many failed?  But for most of them nothing at all had happened except that time had passed and they had grown older; he found them living in the same town, on the same street, in the same house.”

Nothing at all had happened except time had passed and they had grown older.  That sounds like the worst indictment for a wasted life I can imagine.  But taking a diversion, or making a permanent re-route in life takes courage, a lot of courage.  Staying with the known and familiar is easier, it might have it’s own price, but it requires little effort.

For those of us blessed, or burdened, with a gypsy soul, it’s always going to be about the unknown, the unfamiliar, the uneasy.  Are we just born courageous, is it an inborn trait?  Maybe, but it can also be learned by practicing courageous behavior until small (or maybe large) successes help us develop the self-confidence to know we can step into the unknown and overcome obstacles. By practicing courageous acts we can grow into fearlessness.

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“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”  C. S. Lewis

How can we practice being courageous?

  1. Choose to act even in the face of our fears.
  2. Follow your heart and intuition. Everything else is secondary (thanks Steve Jobs, his Stanford Commencement address is something I come back to often).
  3. Persevere when times get tough, be braver five minutes longer.  Transitions are hard, but stick with them and they become our new reality.
  4. Knowing that you are standing up for what is right will give you strength.
  5. Let go of the familiar and expand your horizons.  Life is only as large as our courage to experience it.
  6. And when things go wrong, when you are lonely and sad (as will inevitably happen) face it with dignity and the knowledge that all things pass.  The ability to sit with the tough times and know you are already on your way to moving through them, will give you courage to keeping moving forward.

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I love it when serendipitous things happen.  As I was finishing up this post I was thinking, well damn, what am I going to use for music?  Then Stand Up for Something by the feisty and supremely talented Andra Day popped on the NPR Tiny Desk rotation I was listening to!  Serendipity indeed.

Stand Up for Something – Andra Day

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Time Warp – Flotation, Sensory Deprivation and Theta Waves

My first flotation experience yesterday was so interesting, a quick check-in on FB just didn’t do it justice.  A friend suggested I join her for my first flotation session at Floathouse in Gastown last night, a twist on Saturday happy hour activities.  I’ve seen quite a few flotation places opening up and heard little snippets about it, but didn’t know anyone who had actually tried it.  Being shut inside a sensory deprivation tank, floating in super saturated water for an hour and a half . . . hmmm, well that sounds . . . interesting.  Not without a certain degree of anxiety (how big is this tank?) and because I’m usually pretty good at saying yes first and considering the consequences later . . .I said sure, I’m in!

What is flotation?  It’s a currently en vogue form of sensory deprivation with big health benefits flowing from the state of deep relaxation and meditation.  While not a formal practitioner of meditation, I’ve long enjoyed the deep relaxation and sometimes profound moments that come from the meditative process in yoga, hot yoga in particular has always been deeply meditative for me.  If I could overcome the thought of being shut inside this little dark tank for 90 minutes (would I be claustrophobic?  bored?  cold?) this might be kinda cool.  If you want to know more details, check out the video below.

What is Floatation

Each room is self-contained with shower, towels and everything you need.  I got naked, coz that’s how you float, took a cool, scent free shower (reduce all sensory input) and climbed into the tank.  10 inches of skin temperature water with about 900 lbs of epsom salts  – yes, 900lbs – several times more saturated than the Dead Sea.

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I took the good advice on my first time to sit comfortably at the door and practice opening and closing it a few times to be comfortable with total darkness and finding the damn handle if I panicked.  So far so good.  Next step, lie down and start to float, which you do effortlessly.  I forgot the next piece of advice, which was to keep my hands on the sides until the water stopped moving. With the complete absence of light or sense of gravity to cue spatial orientation, the movement of the water as I lay down made me feel slightly motion sick, or that I was somehow falling forward.  Strange, but with absolutely nothing to cue me my body to it’s alignment I felt like I was tipping forward.  If you’ve scuba dived at night or in dark conditions, you will have some idea of the complete spatial disorientation of being in a weightless, gravity free, three dimensional world.

The water motion stopped and I just lay there, trying to relax wondering if I would sink.  My skin temperature and the water temperature matched perfectly and soon it was hard to tell where my body ended and the water started.  I chose a 30 minute guided meditation for my first time, it was a great choice.   A basic savasana progressively relaxing from toes to scalp.

Thoughts and some very vivid images came and went, I don’t recall when the guided meditation ended and it got very quiet and there were a few moments when thoughts brought me back to the present, but all sense of time disappeared.  It felt like 10 minutes later I heard more gentle music and was completely unbelieving that 90 minutes had gone by.  It took several minutes to reorient myself to the physical presence of my body and conscious thought and movement in my profoundly relaxed brain.   I had to check my watch when I got out to convince myself that 90 minutes really had gone by!

So what happened that made time cease to exist for me?  Current research says that we have four major types of brain waves or activity.

  • Beta – the waking rythmn  – that’s when we are awake and going through our daily lives
  • Alpha waves are slower, we are awake but calm and relaxed, often with eyes closed.
  • Theta – as the brain calms and slows we experience these slow, powerful, rhythmic waves.  Everyone generates theta waves at least twice a day as we drift from conscious drowsiness into sleep and again when we move from sleep to consciousness when we wake up.  If we have the luxury of not being instantly wakened by alarms, children . . you know, life, we can experience unexpected, unpredictable, dreamlike but very vivid mental images (known as the hypnagogic images ) and intense memories.  It’s hard to maintain, since we tend to fall asleep as soon as soon as we begin generating large amounts of theta.
  • Delta – extremely slow, low frequency brain waves usually generated when we are asleep or unconscious.

DreamspaBrainwave

The deep meditative state we can enter during the profound sensory deprivation of floatation allow our brains to slow down enough to remain in a theta wave generating state for extended periods of time.  It was, quite simply, incredible.  When I got out of the tank I knew I hadn’t been asleep or unconscious, but I also couldn’t explain where “I” had been during that time.  A profound, and profoundly calming and restorative experience.  A few of the images have remained with me, as the everyday busyness and sensory overload of daily life dropped away, crystal clear, full colour images and memories resurfaced.

Once out of the tank you have to shower and wash your hair to get rid of the salt and it took me a while to recover my spatial orientation – that usually unnoticed sense of where our physical bodies are located in space – I had kept tipping over in the shower. And then it’s recommended to spend some time in the lounge rehydrating and getting back in touch with the world before stepping out the door.   I had a long chat with one of the employees and he explained the Theta wave state!   How did I feel after?  Energized, it was like I’d had a long, refreshing nap, without the sleepy hangover feeling.   And I slept deeply and profoundly for 8 straight hours last night and woke up relaxed and refreshed.   I’m a convert to benefits of flotation.

Pro tips:

  • Don’t rub your eyes or touch your face in the tank – salt stings like heck and you’ll have to get out and wash your eyes!  Same for shaving or waxing . . . just saying.
  • Remember a hairbrush, elastics etc if you have a long shaggy mane like me. Chrome domes, you got nothing to worry about.
  • I wondered if my skin would feel dry and nasty from the salt, but it doesn’t, just clean and soft.
  • Leave enough time after to relax in the lounge and reorient yourself to the outside world.

I always like to finish my posts with some music, the Revivalists from New Orleans have been in heavy rotation for me and Soul Fight has been rocking my world.

Revivalists Soul Fight

The-Revivalists-credit-Brantley-Gutierrez-HR-for-WEBSITE-ea1394cf66

 

Earworms – 2015 Version

If you’re not a music fiend you probably don’t spend the day putting yourself through ridiculous mental contortions trying to remember THE SONG that is right at the edge of your conscious, but can’t quite grasp. That was my day yesterday trying to remember Rhye’s “Open”.

Not sure why it popped into my head half way through the morning, but it did and there was nothing to do but submit to the inevitable as the images and words ran on an endless loop but no name would shake out. Remembered I’d first seen it in an article on Elephant Journal, resulting in a significant amount of billable time spent riffling through old articles. Nada.  Had a vague recollection that the song had been featured on Grey’s Anatomy, had to hide my screen so no-one could see that I was spending the afternoon listening to multiple seasons of the soundtrack – all music cred instantly out the window.

If you love the super chill sound of Rhye, here’s a bit more about the Canadian – Danish male duo from NPR Music.  (that’s right, they are guys).  I’ll be listening to this today instead of Grey’s Anatomy.

What other singers grabbed my attention this year?  Top of the list has to be Jason Isbell, the current king of Americana and Drive-By Truckers alumnus.  This is a 2-for-1 deal for me, love DBT and Jason solo as well is a bonus. Astonishing songwriting and that Alabama twang – bring it on.

And here’s a treat – Ryan Adams and Jason live together from the Herbst in San Francisco.  They do need to do a record together – the song writing would be out of this world.

Who else has been getting too much airplay at my house this year?  Well there’s a bunch more, but one I’ve played over and over and over is Don Henley’s new record, Cass County.  As NPR puts it, “the Garths, Keiths and Kennys of the world stole country-rock, and now Don Henley’s stealing it back”. My love affair with the Eagles continues unabated and unashamed!

Talking about the record  being a return to his roots in Texas and the musical influences of his family and early years, Don quotes T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” 

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

That’s some of the great music that made my days brighter in 2015, can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.