I was 14 and my life was hard in the family way. My parents had recently divorced, we had moved to a new neighbourhood and I had started high school. On top of that- all the things a teenage girl experiences with changes in her body, self image and where she stands socially. Without a strong support system at home I was admittedly a little lost.
I can't recall the first time I met Kyle the details of it have blurred over the decades since but he lived across the street from us and quickly became a favourite at our house. He called my Mom Mrs G and from Day 1 called me Wenders. I knew in my teenage mind straight away that he had a crush on me and because I didn't feel that way for him it was easy to use it to my advantage. Please don't mistake this for being awful- I was never a mean girl but he lifted me up to a place I hadn't been before and it was fascinating. We were the same age but I was a year ahead of him in school and so he somehow thought walking with me gave him some kind of 'cred' Ridiculous really- I certainly wasn't popular but you see -even the idea that he thought I was cool and treated me like that was special and helped to give me a bit of the confidence I was lacking. Here is a message he sent me a couple of years ago:
"The first day of Grade 10 (Grade 11 for you)..the pleasant surprise of finding you at my door waiting to walk to school. You so pretty with your honey smacked hair..so full of energetic mischief..completely irresistible. You automatically brought me "cred" in the halls of school. Watching the stars from our backs that summer and spending the evening of my 15th bday with you and Mrs G (you got me a cake!).. All good memories. Happy memories. I miss you. Love you Wenders. K"
We spent a lot of time together, we would fall asleep talking on the phone at night and once when he was sad I gave him my most favourite Kermit the Frog that I'd had since I was a little kid. It was the kind that was made of wool so it itched a little bit and it had velcro hands so you could wrap it around your neck for a hug. Those Christmases we would sneak rum from my house and drink egg nog together when everyone else thought it was gross. We were at such an awkward age walking to high school together making each other laugh like kids but secretly wondering what each other looked like naked. We were Kevin and Winnie and those were our Wonder Years.
That summer we were 15 was when I began to discover boys- but not the best friend across the street kind...for me it was the older cooler hotter boys who went to a different high school. I had a little crew of friends and of course Kyle was not a part of that but when I would return home at night after having been out and about, and probably trying my first coolers or beers, I would go to his house- sneak into his backyard and scratch on his bedroom screen. He would laugh at me and say sarcastic things and we'd whisper and laugh and I'd cross the street to home feeling loved. We never kissed, or had any physical contact- but we did get close...once. I had been out with my friends and gotten 'drunk' when i got home and went to his window he came out. My Mom and her boyfriend were out or away and so I was home alone. I can remember Kyle being highly entertained with me and so of course I played it up. It was the one and only time it crossed my mind to really flirt with him and see where it went. Looking back it was all for attention and to be true I'm sure that the older boy I was crushing on wasn't into me and so there was good ol' Kyle. I let him help me stumble inside put me to bed and tuck me in- and despite the fact that I probably would have let him touch me over the shirt or kiss me he tried...nothing.
I moved away the next year to another Province and because I'm old and this was well before the internet existed for us we wrote letters. It was a devastating time in a young girls life to make such a major change and the transition was difficult. I missed my life, my friends, my Kyle. One evening that first winter I was handed a piece of mail that had a mixed tape in it entitled "Kyle's Tunes". It was full of music from his 16 year old heart and while I don't remember exactly how I reacted to it then I can say that when I found that tape last week it meant everything to me. I have held onto that relic for almost 30 years and could have never known that I would see him only once again as an adult. We always kept in touch though and when I look back through our entire message history in Facebook I see that over the past 10 years we were always as close as when we were young. We shared emotions and confided in one another about our relationships our wins and losses and celebrated our happy moments like when he was about to propose to his girlfriend, or when he was opening his business and when I got engaged and had promotions in my jobs. We even made efforts over the years to share a cyber rum & egg nog together to mark the Christmas season.
Kyle and I shared a very important time in our lives with each other - a time when young hearts are so open to being filled up and broken so easily. Our friendship and love helped to shape me and provide me with a stable place to just be me. A young girl confused about her worth, value and place in the world. After my family broke and we moved and things were so unstable he was a rock to cling to. "I guess sometimes the ground can shift between your feet. Sometimes your footing slips. You stumble. And sometimes you grab what's close to you and hold on as tight as you can". -The Wonder Years.
Living apart from each other for our entire adulthood was a blessing in disguise. It took our time together and encapsulated it in perfection and now that he is gone, nothing can ever change that. My very favourite thing about Kyle and I was that we always said what we were thinking and feeling and we always told each other exactly how important we were to each other. After he passed, I was able to go back and read all of our messages and I was at ease knowing that we were solid. Knowing that we had always said it all and as cliche as it sounds I would urge you to do the same. Write to your friends, your family when they cross your mind- tell them how you feel or how important they are to you. Don't wait- life is too short to not lift someone up and the loss of innocence and what futures may hold can feel sad and lonely.
"...guess I just needed to reconnect with the first girl I ever loved. And that unrequited love stayed pure all these years because it wasn't tarnished by any arguments, no messy breakups or heartbreak. It was my special secret that I kept locked away and then it grew quickly and naturally into a very sweet friendship. One that I will always cherish."
This week I pulled out my Walkman(!) and previewed that 30 year old tape and turned it into a Spotify playlist. This evening, in honour of my sweet friend, I will pour myself a rum and egg nog, and listen to this mix he made from his heart. Feel free to join me in its teenage angst -its there for the taking under Kyle's Tunes. Rest in Paradise my dear sweet friend - and, to return some of your last words to me.....shine on you crazy fucker!
Recently I came across on old journal of mine that I had started in January of 2002 when I left my life in Toronto to move to South Korea on a 6 month teaching contract. In the end I would not return to that life or Canada for nearly 4 years after having discovered that there was a big beautiful world out there and many different kinds of ways to experience life on a day to day level. That adventure, that journey both outwards and inwards would change my outlook forever and when I landed back in Toronto late summer of 2005 it was a whole new world. A whole new me.
On the inside of the front cover of this weathered book there are postcards glued in place from my travels and a tiny bit of paper that I had unfolded from a fortune cookie just before I left Canada that says "You will step on the soil of many countries"
May I forever be that fortunate.
In September of 2003 I was 28 years old, living in a tiny studio apartment in Daegu, South Korea where I had a good life. I had an amazing group of friends from all over the world and a job that I loved teaching English to Korean children. We ate good food, explored every chance we got and drank more soju then anyone should ever be allowed to consume. At this time we had tiny flip phones and the internet existed only in Internet Cafes- or PC Bangs (bang being the word for room) there was no Facebook or Instagram and Social Media was certainly not a thing. I typed long wordy emails home with news of my life and travels. All of my photographs from my time there are still in albums with a bankers box of negatives hiding somewhere in the back of my closet.
My handwritten journal is a treasure to me now and holds the tales of nights out and boys I crushed on and adventures to Thailand and Japan and my thoughts as to what I wanted from this life and when I might consider going home...if ever.
The following words are from September of 2003 and strike me now as pretty unbelievable as they saw me looking forward to the year 2023 and what I had hoped to achieve by then or how I hoped to be living. What is so incredible to me now is that 2023 is the very year that completes a 5 year plan that Matt and I created together- and so it seems there are no coincidences and I am reminded that if we stay our course and remain true to our deep selves life unfolds as it should. I have never had the easiest of life experiences and have absolutely lost my way both from things that have happened to or around me and also choices I have made that have led me astray but finding these words at this time have regained my sense of 'me' my inner guide and my younger self feels confident that all is well.
September 18, 2003
*Freewrite. No edits* Based on a journal entry contest at school. Topic: In 20 years I will be...
In 20 years I will be 48. At the age of 28 it is difficult to know exactly where I will be and what I will be doing. I don't know how the world will be in 20 years. The year 2023 could bring with it war and destruction from a complete societal breakdown. Or our lack of concern and lazy habits could cause our Earth to explode- or at least put us in ecological poverty.
I'd rather hope for a spiritual planet. An enlightened mass- a time of love and good energy. Good karma shared by all. In this world at that time- I would only hope to be happy and that I am surrounded by the ones I love. My husband my children my siblings-mother.
I hope to be engrossed in a successful career- acting, writing, working as a photographer. My passions and dreams realized and making their mark. I hope to have a balance of work and play. I wish to be near the ocean and the mountains- somewhere temperate all year. I hope that in 20 years I have a collection of passports full of stamps and photo albums full of memories. I want to have a space I can call my own - a sunny warm moody room where I can think and read and write - create and meditate. I hope that when I am on the edge of 50 that I am slender and strong and that the abuse I am putting on my body now doesn't manifest itself. I pray that I am raising my children in a healthy and fun environment that I remember that they are people too with needs and thoughts ideas and requirements that are NOT the same as mine. I hope I can operate the technology of the day so they don't laugh at me and say "oh- mum!"
I want my husband and I to still be deeply in love and full of respect, for respect is the essence of love.
I cannot say where I will be but happiness is key. I can only dream that the next 20 years of knowledge that I gain will bring me to a level of intelligence to be self sustainable. That I will not maintain a selfish lifestyle that I will consider the earth and my neighbours near and far. That I will not rely on society to tell me how to live how to act...that I will not turn my eyes to billboards to show me how to dress myself. That I will not line the pockets of the rich and powerful with my need to follow and be accepted. I hope that I can create a platform for my voice through my career one that is sensible and completely altruistic. A respect that will open the eyes and minds of people to the absurd misdistribution of wealth on planet earth.
That was where I ended it. Just like that.
I haven't strayed too far in the end. Most of this is true by way of my choice, some of the things sadly were out of my control - there never were children on my path and sometimes that hurts but I am blessed in many other ways. My passions have never waivered but this reminds me of how important photography and writing have always been to me- and has renewed my desire to keep going with those dreams. I have 4 years now....4 years to close the circle on this and then set new sights to reach towards.
Just last night I wrote a new entry with very specific outcomes I will achieve by 2023 with all of this in mind.
Perhaps one day way off in the future I'll share it with you.
"it didn’t stop my clumsy feet so sore inside my boots from tripping over rocks or my pack from getting heavier as we trudged on"
24 hours ago Matt and I were laying on a rocky sun-bleached pathway in the dark inside the Grand Canyon our packs under our backs in the dust. The moon had lit almost all of our last 8 miles through the narrow canyon and now we faced the switchbacks. We stopped part way up to catch our breath and in the deafening silence we felt the magic in this moment of the vastness in front of us. Not wanting to forget this I stood up and took my shirt off Matt’s eyes widened and he laughed “your turn” I said. The cool breeze blowing up from the valley dried the sweat from our skin and made goosebumps form over our sunburns. With outstretched arms I turned my face to the moon and breathed it all in.
There was so much magic in Havasupai that I need to write it all down here now before it becomes unreal in my memories. All of those moments, all of that amazingness made each step up the side of the canyon wall no easier. We could see the amber beacon flashing in the dark at our destination and I was sure I could hear people if I listened really hard but it didn’t stop my clumsy feet so sore inside my boots from tripping over rocks or my pack from getting heavier as we trudged on. Every step up made my legs burn, my lungs too and every switchback took us another layer closer to our car- where hot Gatorades, the apple I forgot and a big bag of salt and vinegar chips were waiting to be demolished.
Matt, who was always ahead of me made it to the rim first and I heard him say “we’re here” but I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes. The Hualapai Hilltop- the parking lot which even at 11pm was still a bit bustly with people arriving late looking for a parking spot, some people packing gear by the dim light of their vehicles and some standing admiring the view, possibly in anxiousness of what lay before them. There was no celebrating, no one to congratulate us on making it- just a sloppy high-five (I think we missed) and a relief that we had scored a parking spot right there 3 nights ago. We popped the hatch and I crawled inside and crashed on the folded down seats of the rental. Upon realizing how unsavoury a hot can of beer actually was in reality Matt avoided his “Champagne of Beers” he had been waiting for and shared the warm litre of cherry Gatorade with me as we spilled chip crumbs all over the car while trying to eat them laying down. At some point I fell fully asleep and woke two hours later to my sweaty pants freezing against my skin – the windows open and Matt looking super cozy inside his sleeping bag on his thermarest – how the hell he had the energy to do all that was beyond me. It was almost 3 and I decided that I might as well start our drive. We had a noon flight to catch from Vegas and by now I was wide awake.
"what was all this talk of training hikes and squats and incline treadmill walks with a full backpack. I had done none of that…was I going to need to be airlifted out of the Grand Canyon!?"
As I started the cautious 60 mile trek on Hwy 18 my mind wandered back to our last 3 days. It already felt like a dream. I remember having seen the magical land of Havasupai on a website last year and I was hooked- I wrote the name on a sticky note and stuck it to my computer to remember to look it up further. That note disappeared and I forgot about it- until we were planning our travel for the year in March. We looked at photos and videos online and while it seemed like such a huge hike we both agreed it was what we wanted. I had read that getting a permit was next to impossible – I think the word was “elusive” nevertheless I tried one of several numbers I found on the website and got Leah on the phone right away. We had a week to work with and I asked for dates between a Monday and Friday and before I knew it we were booked and paid for! We spent the next couple of months following the Facebook Community page- researching and getting our gear dialled. Lightweight this, compact that and then we were on a plane to Vegas and in a rental towards the Grand Canyon.
I read a lot of posts, hours worth on the Facebook page. Questions about gear, food, temperatures, wildlife, directions and so on. The questions I focused on the most were the ones about levels of fitness and difficulty of the hikes. Some posts made me want to turn back – what was all this talk of training hikes and squats and incline treadmill walks with a full backpack. I had done none of that…was I going to need to be airlifted out of the Grand Canyon!? I don’t sit on the couch every day but I’m certainly also not in the gym every day. I worried secretly up until I read a post by someone who said just take your time! Enjoy the ride- if you want to hire a horse and ride in like a cowboy do it! If you want to take a helicopter ride in and enjoy the scenery – do it! How ever you get there it doesn’t matter just do it your way and enjoy it- or something to that effect. It changed my brain on this one… of course I could do it. It wasn’t a race and I only had my own ego to contend with – so there. It was just a long walk, a long beautiful walk to magic.
"Highway 18 is a road that they could charge admission for as a wildlife viewing trail"
It was Monday afternoon and we were headed along Route 66 past Kingman. We thought we would drift along stop in Hackberry at the cool little shop grab some dinner and hit the parking lot before dark so we could do the final arrangement of our bags- get a good nights sleep and be on the trail by 4am. We had been watching the weather and knew that there were some clouds predicted but when the wind started picking up and creating dust twisters in the fields we weren’t sure what we were in for. As we got further along 66 we realized that we weren’t going to find any decent dinner – we had been convinced that the Hackberry store was a café- but they sent us back to the Outpost Saloon ‘if you’re starving’ she said…which seemed an odd way to put it.
Starving, we turned back and arrived at a middle of nowhere watering hole that was certainly an experience. When she brought us Styrofoam plates for our dinner I knew it would be a meal to remember. While we were there the rain hit, it was intense. I ate my (I’m sure it was a frozen supermarket) pizza and Matt had his burger and we were on our way. Dramatic sky, high wind and a beautiful sunset carried us past Truxton and Peach Springs and we finally found the sign for the Old Indian Road 18- which was clearly marked. As we turned in we noticed that it was 60 miles- Matt, worried that we didn’t have enough fuel turned us back around to find some gas. It was getting dark and the rain was getting heavier- I was calculating sleep hours and we were losing them fast. By the time we got back to Peach Springs we had decided to look for a hotel so we could shower and get a few solid hours of sleep in a bed. We pulled into the lot of the Hualapai Lodge and inquired about a room- but at $160 USD a night it was not in our plan. She was however able to sell us a $12 hot shower provided us with towels and soap- SOLD!
We each showered and used the time in the lot to organize our gear and make a bed in the back of the rental. By the time we were done it was after 9 and we were exhausted. As we passed back by the front desk I asked about the gas station – it had closed. Luckily we were still able to get to the station in Truxton just in time. Travellers take note- be sure you fill up in Kingman or Peach Springs before 9pm! Finally, finally we were back on the 18 to slay those last 60 miles to dreamland- or not...
Highway 18 is a road that they could charge admission for as a wildlife viewing trail. In the dark it was terrifying as desert hares hopped out of nowhere, herds of cows grazed right at the shoulder, enormous elk ran from ditches we even saw a coyote and a skunk! By now it was after 11pm and even though cars were lined up at least a mile long I stubbornly drove all the way into the lot convinced we would find a spot. Luck was on our side- we set an alarm crawled into the back and were out like lights.
My girl Tara will tell you that if you're having troubles, worries or stress- "put your boots on and take your dogs for a walk". If I'm being honest that quote would be peppered with "F" shots - but I'll let you fill them in! She's right though ~ sometimes it really is as simple as nature and dogs (even if you live in the deep freeze that is Calgary in Spring) its beautiful, meaningful therapy...Tarapy.
Tarapy comes without judgement, with a harsh dose of reality and a great cup of tea. She listens carefully and will always tell me when I'm wrong. Blessed to have her- and to have been inspired by this cozy sunny nook (far away from winter) under her bedroom window. The pups were eager to get going but when the two of us get together nothing gets done quickly.
The magic of A Sunday Smile photo session- is that it's you at your most you-ness in your space, with your partner, family or furries. I come in and silently record, capture and share your love. Memories to last a lifetime.
"we had a small radio that we would put into the window so we could listen to whatever the radio station in PEI was playing..."
These aren't fancy photos, some of them are from Mum's photo albums, some from a go-pro with a smudge on the screen, some from my phone but that doesn't matter here. Not today. In honour of Canada150 I have a story to tell. It's about the best place on earth. Our family cottage on the shore of the Northumberland Strait in Nova Scotia. Brule. My grandparents (long live The Colonel and The Swan) built it in the 1940s and my goodness if those walls could talk. My cousins children mark the 3rd generation to spend summers on that beach protected from the outside world and all it's worries and woes. In nearly 70 years not one television has found a home there, growing up we had a small radio that we would put into the window so we could listen to whatever the radio station in PEI was playing Juice Newton's Queen of Hearts and Paul Simons Kodachrome will always put me right there on the deck laying in the sunshine with my sister, cousins, aunts...My uncle owned a corner store and we kids always looked forward to his pick up truck driving down the lane because he would hand out tiny brown paper bags full of candy - Fun Dips and Astro Pops (man those things stuck to your teeth!). Swimming all day in the ocean, playing on the sandbars, devouring Archie comics, jumping off the diving tower over and over again and picking cattails from the marsh to be used later that night as fiery torches. Jellyfish stings, mosquito bites, and sand covered roasted marshmallows that you dropped beside the bonfire (maybe because the ghost stories were just that scary!) but ate anyway...just because.
"Waking in the morning to whoever was up first crumpling newspaper and lighting a match to warm the chill out of the air..."
A couple of years ago I introduced Matt to this magical heart and soul of our family. The thing that struck him the most was that our cottage has become a time capsule and that's the most fitting description I've heard. Inside those walls hold 70 years of family timepieces- a modest structure that holds more love and good memories than any other place I've been in the world. Walking up the stairs to the front door is just the same as it was for me 30 years ago- there used to be a bucket by the door to rinse the sand off before you went inside. Behind the door is a collection of hats of all kinds some with feathers, a sailor hat, a hard hat and those hats have been to many a party and brought many laughs. The front bedroom where I can remember my Grandmother putting on her lipstick, crawling into bed with her in the mornings for cuddles or folding the Canada flag on the bed each evening only to bring it out the next morning to ceremoniously hoist it up the flag pole. I had forgotten about that until this moment. The bunk room where the kids slept, where my sister fell and cracked her little head off the dresser, where the boys from down the beach would quietly scratch at the window at night to try and lure us out to have adventures, where I recovered from having my wisdom teeth pulled. The walls filled with framed photos of us, collages, my Grandfathers welcome to the bar after passing his law exam, an autographed fan from some old CBC celebrities and of course as all good Canadians a photo of Trudeau. Ashes of pets, sand dollars and paintings of the cottage. A fishing net strung across the ceiling in the living room over the rafter beams holding treasures galore. The fireplace where I learned to build a great fire a skill I hold dear. Waking in the morning to whoever was up first crumpling newspaper and lighting a match to warm the chill out of the air, the smell of bacon frying in the kitchen. We grew up there all of us- childhood turned into teenage years with so many deep talks at bonfires, and our little beach gang sneaking cigarettes and bottles of beer onto the sailboat and going to "feed the seals". The boys would skateboard while my sister and I would hang around listening to Led Zeppelin, Guns and Roses and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Those were our 'wonder years' they were our Kevin Arnolds.
"...many drinks have gone down, many games of crib won and lost and many a hushed secret shared."
Whenever I can I make my way to NS for a couple of nights shared with family. I look forward to the smell that hits me the moment I walk in the door- it has never changed. My Uncle makes the worlds best Ceasar so it's usually top of the list as we stand in the ktichen and catch up - and I recall bathing in that sink when I was really small, or the multitudes of good old Nova Scotia kitchen parties that have gone on, someone playing the spoons, someone else the washboard the old radio accompanying us with the Rankins or Stan Rogers. The door frame that shows all of our growth charts with our names and the year scratched into the wood. The hustle of family dinners- collecting ocean water to boil lobster, setting the table - oh that table many drinks have gone down, many games of crib won and lost and many a hushed secret shared. I'll invite you next time, you will always be welcome to weave your way into our blanket of memories- but be warned... as you step into the tiny bathroom, move the old rock/door holder and latch closed the door- be sure to cover that tiny hole on the back of the door with a towel or we'll spy on you ;) and thank your lucky stars that the shower has finally been covered on top- or you would find yourself properly initiated with a bucket of ice cold water when you least expect it.
Fine vintage custom motorcycles, great food, cold beer and live music. Wheelies Motorcycle Cafe and Workshop claims this on their website and they absolutely stayed true to their mission this weekend. Friday night they hosted Chris Andres and Joe Turner who played the Nebraska album in it's entirety. Saturday night was Metal Night in the parking lot with a Phillips Brewery Tap Takeover. On Sunday Wheelies celebrated their 3rd birthday with a swap meet, bike show and bbq. The street was closed to traffic, their parking lot was jam packed and the sun was scorching. So thankful that the Phillips tap takeover continued to quench a lot of thirst and make a great companion for those pork sammies ( I tried the Citricity and its crisp grapefruit flavour was the perfect summer refresher.) The family friendly event (yep the teeny tiny's had a great time petting dogs and eating ice cream sandwiches the size of their heads!) kept steady crowds until just after 3pm when they gave away 3 killer bikes, boxes of swag and cold hard cash.
As it was their 3rd Birthday, they chose the hour of 3pm to give away 3 motorcycles~ tickets for this raffle had been pre-purchased and locked tightly into a drum. Joel took the stage and thanked everyone for their support over the years at the best Bay in all of Victoria- just where is Rock Bay anyway?! ;)
Congratulations to all the winners~ and to Wheelies Cafe in Rock Bay for the community they are building- Happy 3rd and here's to many more!
Last summer I was fortunate enough to have been invited to shoot the wedding of Mallory and Shayne. The day was as perfect as their adoration for one another. Friends and family gathered in their backyard and the two married under an apple tree (and a stunning sparkling chandelier!). Our time together began at the Ocean Front Suites where the bridal party had two rooms on the same floor - yes to making the photographers job easy for prep photos. Thanks guys!
The first look was adorable as Mal had her girls walk with her to the marina where Shayne was waiting. How beautiful is this location- and in their neighbourhood which makes it all the more special.
"It took everything in me not to yell out mid-ceremony"
When I first met the Mr. and Mrs. to be it was at the home they share. I was so excited to learn that this would be where their day would be. From the truly stunning courtyard to the upper deck looking over the backyard I was in location heaven with all the available angles and backdrops. During our conversation Mal filled me in on some family details and all the need-to-knows about the day- including that a friend of the family would be there and as an ex pro-photographer he would probably be taking some photos but that he had promised not to get in the way and would mostly be shooting during the reception after I was gone. NBD right?
I have to say that the day went a little differently than that- and admittedly - in the heat of the moment during the exchanging of rings, vows and first kiss ~ it took everything in me not to yell out mid-ceremony (let's be honest I'd probably have politely tapped the officiant and asked quietly). In retrospect as nearly a year has passed I look back and realize that it was a really good learning moment for me. Invaluable. How did I really deal with it and what have I learned?
Here is where things started to change. We have our family friend who has now made his way directly behind the couple as they exchange rings. I can be forgiving if you are just getting a frame or two and moving aside, but the chimping and observing was very frustrating for me during these important moments. Instead of yelling I had some decisions to make in the moment in order to preserve not only my integrity but the final images. So what do you do?
1. Take care of it before it happens. From that day forward my contract has the inclusion of ensuring that no semi-pro photographers or other vendors are creating distractions or shooting during the ceremony or other posed photo sessions. This is an easy clause to add and absolves you of fault if photos like the ones above appear in the final gallery. With my own wedding coming up this summer I have added an intro to our photographer on our wedding website so our guests will know who she is-but also to ask our friends and family to avoid shooting during moments like these.
2. Get creative. Take a look at the next image and see how I got creative with my cropping both in camera and during post. I wanted to isolate the couple for the first kiss- and while the balance looks a bit off here- it was better than the alternative.
3. Let it be. Taking the mindset of acceptance is sometimes the easiest way. As a wedding photographer you are there to record their day as it unfolds. The reality of these moments might not be what you as the photographer had hoped for - but in the end it is their story. A beautiful day to be remembered for all the moments.
These 2 really are "Better Together" and I know for a fact because I creep Mal's Insta account from time to time and become inspired by all of their weekend warrior adventures. At the end of the day I learned a lot from this particular wedding and moving forward I will be sure to be in more control of the things I can and to let the rest of it just be.
This is a story about community. A tale of loss, of friendship and the dogs that brought them together.
Meet Max a 7 year old American Cocker Spaniel, who was rescued by The Findlays and Sophie a 10 year old Maltese-Bichon who is his very best friend.
One would have no trouble knowing that Dr. Findlay and his wife the lovely Rita are dog people. As I made my way down the long steep driveway to their home, which is nestled in beautifully along the Gorge Waterfront, I was asked by their friendly doormat to wipe my paws. I entered their home through a bright red door that was still trimmed by a row of multi-coloured Christmas lights- which made the kid in me very happy. On the wall just inside was a special hook with an array of brightly coloured leashes and collars and I could see toys scattered around - happy dogs live here. I wasn't certain what to expect when meeting the pups as Rita had explained that Sophie was unsure of new people, but as I lowered myself to the floor to say hello I took to her instantly. Her sweet little face and energetic personality won me over. I have never kept company with either breed before but from the approving noises from Tim and Rita when Max turned his back to me and sat down at my knees- I got the feeling I passed the test.
Tim, Rita and their dog Sparky had just moved into an apartment complex in Vancouver almost a decade ago when they met sweet Sophie. They had left their door open and she thought she would welcome them to the neighbourhood by stopping in. Sophie belonged to their neighbour Trish- she and her sister Diane both lived in separate units in the building and they all quickly became friends. "The closeness in the building is quite special actually" Rita writes. "We did lots of things together." Sparky was 17 years old at that time and was heroically fighting both cancer and heart disease. Sadly the little Spaniel passed away 6 months later. After grieving their loss for a few months The Findlays decided they were ready to welcome a new dog into their world. They knew they wanted to stay with the same joyful, trusting breed and had been in contact with a fantastic group here in Victoria called Angels Under Our Wings Cocker Spaniel Rescue. (You can find them on Facebook under the same name). It was Lisa at the rescue group that suggested Max and sent some photos to the couple. They fell for him right away and took the ferry over to bring him home.
Max wasn't too sure about his new home right away. He was a scared puppy and didn't want to leave the safety and comfort of his new bed. Tim and Rita tried coercing him with treats, toys and snuggles but nothing was working until they remembered Sophie... "I ran downstairs and asked Trish if I could borrow Sophie and everyone came up." and it worked "by the time Sophie was through the door, Max was half-way down the hall! Sophie didn't like puppies but they took to each other right away" Rita says. Over the next 4 years a community was formed in this apartment complex. Max and Sophie couldn't stand to be apart and would mope without one another. When Trish and Diane would go to their family cabin Max would join them. When Tim and Rita took vacations, Sophie came too.
In 2015 Tim and Rita's neighbour, Sophie's human, Trish succumbed to the illness she had been fighting. Trish's sister Diane lovingly took Sophie in. They still live in the apartment complex together. It was later that same year that Tim and Rita had the most bonding experience they have shared to date with Max. I love hearing these stories as I know from my own experience that there is always a moment with a pet where one of you saves the other, your eyes meet and your bond deepens. It's in that moment that your souls are etched into each other forever. In November 2015 Max went missing. His dog walker thought he lost him but Max had been playing in the water and hadn't heard the calls to come back. He trekked all over North Vancouver looking for his pack. Finally, thanks to a tip on social media they were able to track him to where he had been spotted. "...he slinked out of the bushes wiggling his little bum ~ Tim was never happier to see him! I think we were more traumatised than he was!" "He still goes on dog walks but now he is lowjacked with his very own GPS!"
At the end of 2016 The Findlays purchased their stunning home here in Victoria, which personally makes me feel like I'm in New England when I'm looking at the view from their living room. The Gorge Waterway flows right past their expansive backyard- which is perfect for Max and Sophie (when she visits) to play in. With work in order, they made the move leaving behind the neighbours and building they had come to love over the years.
As always I try to win my way to the hearts of dogs with treats. Today, both Max and Sophie politely and gently took my offerings and then laid them on the floor without a second thought. As we toured their home, I discovered that Rita is a busy girl and aside from her job outside the home she also has a side project creating healthy all-natural dog treats. Now it made sense! These two didn't need store bought cookies- they had the mother load right under their sniffers! A visit to the kitchen was in order and with a tiny ray of sunshine just starting to poke in through the patio door our timing couldn't have been better.
These all natural snacks were inspired by Sparky. With all of his medicines causing dietary issues Rita was motivated to create a treat that would satisfy his temperamental tummy. Sparky Snacks come in 5 different flavours and are all baked with love in this very kitchen. www.sparkysnacks.ca They are definitely Max and Sophie approved.
Diane, Tim and Rita made an agreement that they would do their best to keep the pups close always and they have been keeping up with frequent visits. We hope Max and Sophie will be best friends forever. They seem to be a furry shoulder for each other through all the changes big and small and a reminder of the community and love of their shared family.
It was a different dog Jenny and Scott had gone to visit the day of the Meet and Greet. Still recovering from the loss of their Daschund, Tony, they were only just starting to consider adding a third to their family again. It was Penny from the Victoria Humane Society who suggested a rescue she had from Alert Bay and described the abuse the little Plott Hound had endured at such a young fragile age. This newly engaged couple knew they had more than enough love to give and after a few weeks Hamish came home.
"...he is a shining example of forgiveness"
I heard him before I met him, a long howl coming from inside their beautiful West Coast home in desirable Dean Park. It was his glossy red brindle coat that stood out to me as he approached with his extra long tail wagging. He didn't bark and he showed no fear of me, the stranger in his yard. "He has never shied away from people" Jenny writes to me "despite his cruel start to life- he is a shining example of forgiveness".
Jen greets me from the steps fitting into the scene perfectly in her Cowichan sweater. I'm invited in and offered coffee. I decline though, no photographer needs shaking hands especially with the flat grey cloud covered hue of this day. We are in the kitchen and the first thing I notice is the giant skylight casting beautiful light onto marble countertops. Ideas begin to form and images are being created in my mind. We toured the house with Hamish at our heels and I'm amazed at all the space, the woodwork and the interesting layout. A character home perfect for raising a family but for now it will serve as a great playground for an energetic hound dog.
"...Hamish wakes up and then his tail wakes up"
For the next hour and a half the two of us wind that puppy up into an over-excited, barking, drooling, jumping fever much like a child on Christmas morning. We tease him with food, yarn and his favourite toys. This level of excitement is the norm here at home "He's excited to start every day! First Hamish wakes up and then his tail wakes up its like every day is Christmas day for him"
"...I have never once thought of him as limited"
Spending time with Hamish takes a lot of energy, he's young and agile completely motivated by food and especially the chicken strips I had in my pocket! He bowled me over a couple of times as he quickly learned that the snap of the camera shutter meant he got a treat. I was hard pressed to even notice his missing limb during our time together. After my own dog was hit by a car a few years ago there was a decision to be made - save the leg- or lose it. I was bent on saving it because I was afraid. I was afraid her quality of life would fail, that she wouldn't be able to live the life she deserved but mostly- I was afraid that she might be too much for us- a learning curve that I wasn't open to. I didn't think a disabled dog was something I could handle. Hamish has taught me that my fear was unnecessary and I understand when Jenny said "I have never once thought of him as limited, to be honest we forget that he is missing anything."
As I was packing up to leave, I asked Jenny if there was anything else she needed. Any other images we missed or she had hoped for. She looked at me her face fell serious and she said "Wendhi...you have to see him run"
*This post is from my old SnifferKiss site which I am now merging here~ original date was June 22, 2012*
I recently returned home to Toronto for a quick visit with my girl Robin who has just upgraded her life in all the best ways. She is now the proud owner of a beautiful condo with a fantastic view AND she is a brand new mom to Henri James. He is a handsome 12 week old Border Collie with, what I’m absolutely convinced of- is, the very old soul of a well trained dog from a past life. You should be so lucky with your new pup…this one sits on command, comes when called and waits for the go-ahead before diving into his food dish.
Even being from Toronto myself- I hadn’t considered, until now, how different it must be to raise a dog in the city. I spent 3 days observing my friend juggle her life of appointments, errands and social commitments all the while taking care of this new babes every need. The simple act of a first pee of the day, or the frantic race for the after meal puppy poop would be a challenge for anyone from the 18th floor. I suppose if the wind were in her favour she could pull an MJ with him off the balcony…as long as she put a mask over him first!