March 27, 2017
“You’re going to do what you want to do”
I went to college because I thought it was expected of me. I moved to Bramalea because I was told it was an opportunity. I got married because by 23 I thought I was supposed to be, after all my sibling was. I think asking for a divorce, November 8, 2002, was the first real decision I made by myself or at least for me regardless of the consequences. And yeah, since then I’ve made a lot of “me” choices, but I was already 32 years old. Yes, I admit completely, sometimes I wonder if I had stayed in college, or what if I had gone back, or not at all, what my life would be like today.
What if things had worked out differently between Louise and I, or Laura and I, or if back in 1994 I had told Mary that I loved her. I still remember the day we said goodbye at her condo. How could she not know or see that I loved her. It didn’t make any difference though did it as our lives continued down different paths. You can not repeat the past… but of course you can! Not… old sport. What if, after all this, I end up back in Owen Sound, or Kincardine or Hanover working as a stock clerk in some chain store… would it be worth it? Was any of it worth it?
I must let go of this “oh crap how am I going to do this?” feeling. When I was in Bramalea in 1990 I got a full-time job as a stock clerk and with almost no money I got my first apartment on Elizabeth Street. I moved to Main Street next and had two more addresses before I went to Ohio. I went clubbing ever other weekend and I was on a bulletin board service with that crowd. I will do it again.
Oh wait, I did. I moved from my parents in 2003 on to a third shift temporary job, got a room and had my car. From there I went to Kincardine full time, because I wanted to, and got the apartment downtown. Then I went to Hanover after that to pursue my dream of owning a store. Next, I was at a friend’s house until I got back on my feet again and took a job up north. That job afforded me a decent savings plan to be where I am right now.
I wrote all of that on May 18, 2013 the day before I got my first job out here in Alberta at a summer resort of course the names were changed to protect the identities of people involved back then.
And now, here I am out in Alberta. I am, at present, unemployed but not worried about it. I am constantly applying for jobs and I hope to find something out here soon. In the meantime, it has allowed me space to slip back into that voyageur mentality I have forgotten these past couple years.
In 2013 I was comfortable with my limited resources and, at least, somewhat controlled materialism. I traveled from Kincardine, Ontario to Pacific Rim National Park Vancouver Island with only a brief layover in the Cline River Alberta region (four months).
I’ve been thinking a lot about that time and all the places I got to see on my journey out west to the Pacific Ocean. I think that, while continuing to look for regular work of course, I should get out more and explore. I love British Columbia and all there is to see there. If I could find a job, there I would take it. Alberta is a beautiful place but I am a wanderer, a free spirit, and I don’t see the point in being tied down to any place when I don’t have a spouse or kids or any real debts to worry about.
I really don’t have any set plan in mind except to find a job so I can put a roof over my head beyond that I need to re-align my focus to me more. I have a lot of hobbies that I could change into something that could earn me money. I am a writer, albeit what I call a paragraph writer, and an amateur photographer. I like to write blogs and short stories and really should do it a lot more than I have been. And the beauty of that is I can do it anywhere in Canada.
My biggest challenge is finding stability from October thru April when the weather sucks the most and I can’t just live out of my vehicle as much as I would like to. I could spend my winters in a warmer American climate but what most people don’t realize is that to even visit the U.S. you must have a job and a home to come back to. You can lie and go off the radar but eventually it catches up to you and there’s nothing worse than being forcibly removed from somewhere. I would love to have a place down in Slab City California where I could spend my winters writing and exploring philosophy and other interests but it doesn’t work that way. You can’t just pick up and go there on a whim, unless you live in the U.S. already then, it’s a different story.
So, I need to pursue what my options are here in Canada. In the winter, there is only one “somewhat desirable” climate and that’s on Vancouver Island. Like going to the U.S., you can’t just drive over there and do whatever you want and even if you find a way it is still “somewhat” not “entirely” desirable. They still get winter out there so you must be prepared for sub-zero temperatures, certainly not like eastern B.C. and to the east that can see minus forty or worse but cold just the same.
I watch these videos on people who have converted vans and campers to live in year-round but what they don’t share with you is the fact that they had the money to begin with. I watched one great conversion of a van into a camper, complete with all the amenities, what a great plan – oh did I mention it was a $43,000vehicle and they did about $5,000 in upgrades. I mean it’s a neat story and I would love to do it but I don’t have that kind of seed money to make it possible. Too many of these videos fail to reveal the fact that “oh we sold our quarter million-dollar home” or “oh we are both attorneys and had crap loads of money in savings” or “our parents died and we used that money from their summer villa”.
And then you have people like the two women in the U.S. who make videos about living in their cars. First, both have regular jobs so a steady income and second both live in warmer climates – Texas, Florida and California. If they do pay their bills they are less subjected to things like expensive auto insurance and vehicle maintenance (since these vehicles seem to magically run all the time with little or no issues – my guess would be because they are not subjected to temperatures that range in one place from minus 20 to plus 20 Celsius in the same month).
The option of living in your car is great until you realize that in Canada you can tolerate about minus ten with the proper camping gear but below that you or your vehicle will most likely freeze to death. The one video the girl has a zero degree Fahrenheit (-20 Celsius, which is the bag I own) sleeping bag and she layered. I’ll bet she wasn’t subjected to those freezing temperatures for more than a night or maybe a few unlike here where it can be a few weeks before you see temperatures break the low twenties (25F is -4C). I think, at most, I tolerated about three nights in a row when it was -10 Celsius and my greater fear was whether my vehicle would start (and for that I have auto club which is another expense). You simply must be in a warmer climate for this to be possible, or, as mentioned before, have lots of money to buy a vehicle you can convert – in which case you aren’t really “roughing” it.
I didn’t tell anyone about it but the very first day I was on my road trip west I stopped in Parry Sound where I promptly left my headlights on and drained the battery. Fortunately, I had auto club and it cost me nothing extra for them to come out and give me a boost. I didn’t discover that I had left my lights on, and no one of the dozens of people walking by bothered to share that with me, until about 11:00 pm and I was ready to find a better place to park for the night. I had Gold coverage with auto club, for about $125 a year, and called them for a boost. I was lucky, a boost could cost up to $250 which would have taken a chunk out of the money I needed to pay for food and gas. It’s another factor, what I like to call the “human disadvantage” that isn’t covered by the people who live in their vehicles – leaving headlights on, flat tires, burnt out headlights, et cetera.
That’s bringing up many of the bad things that could happen, so now, as part of talking about all sides of the story maybe I should tell you about some of my experiences with traveling out west and living in my van during the journey.
I think for that, though, I will need to start a new blog since it will involve me going through my travel diary and going into detail about a lot of the things I did during my quest to the west.
March 21, 2017
I received a comment on one of my blog posts the other day that read “Maybe you need to write a poem about your muse and what you’re looking for in one”. It was quite a thought provoking comment and I decided to sit down with pen and paper and explore it more on a personal level. I looked at the times in my life when I did the most writing and who was present in my life at that time. Then I identified what personality traits they had that I knew them for. These traits would, in my mind, then contribute to the thoughts I had at the time that inspired the poems I wrote. These were my muses and their personalities shaped me.
I will not give any names but I would like to share the personality traits that I associated with them and created from. Person one’s traits were poetic, free spirited and quite soulful. This muse helped me to write about paganism, nature and the soul. Person two’s traits were romantic, innocent, gullible, devoted, playful and loyal. This muse helped me to write about love and darkness. Person three’s traits were warm, spirit and heartful. This muse helped me to write about a deeper feeling of love and lust. Person four’s traits were mysterious, saving, wounded and dark. This muse helped me to write about escape, distant love, a renewed spirit. And personality traits that are shared by several included being unattainable, soulful and playful. These traits in each muse kept me driven, devoted, longing for more.
Right now, in my life there isn’t anyone that I would label as a muse to inspire creative writing and there hasn’t been for several years now. I don’t think that is a short coming on anyone’s part it’s just that I am not as soulfully connected to anyone be it because of something they are doing or I am I won’t try to define. That is not to say that there are not people in my life I find interesting and draw experiences from it just means that they do not provide the mental fuel needed to inspire me into creativity. I am sure there are two or three women in my life and my past who are now trying to match themselves up to what I just wrote. Do not bother asking because I will not share it.
It is hard to look into oneself to find the spirit and song needed to write well. I recall a time when my muse had just left me and I could not seem to come up with the right words. I know one will ask, are all your muses women. Yes, they have been. I don’t think there’s a set rule in that either men can be muses too and not just to women. I think that, for me personally, that’s the way it is.
It is interesting to note that while I prefer stronger independent women, at least sexually, that my muses have been much more reserved, submissive and receptive to my needs at least at first. Perhaps that is only how it is for me or how it is for everyone’s muse. I don’t think that one must be romantically or sexually involved with one’s muse to draw inspiration from them. In the case of at least one of my muses we were never more than just friends and with another one we never actually met face to face. I think that to find inspiration to write I need a woman with the combination of all traits above to come into my life, sadly most of those personality traits are dead and gone in our current society. I will need to look further into myself, as my commenter did say, and perhaps seek inspiration from the past. Write about something you know they say.
March 16, 2017
I’ve been putting off re-writing my book for some time now. I came up with a book of my poems under a pseudonym a few years back now and, as expected, it bombed miserably. I think I might have sold 2 or 3 copies out of the small press run of 100. I decided that I would re-write the book and this time include my name on the front of it, perhaps if it was written by someone people knew then it might sell more? It’s a reasonable hypothesis, but then, on the flip side that could also discourage it from selling at all.
I had a re-write completed, but for some reason when I edited it over to Word it duplicated parts of it, not all of it though because that would make sense. I found about a dozen poems had been duplicated. Of course, I didn’t make this realization before wasting time on a publisher’s proof of the book which set me back at least a month – that was over a year ago, and everyone is still waiting.
So why has it taken so long for me to edit it. Well, several factors really.
The first is that I know there’s not enough poems to fill a book. I need at least 75 though my preferred number would be 100. I just did a count of single copies of poetry and prose and it came to 67 (only 45 of those are actual poems). This means I will need to come up with about 35 new poems or prose to achieve my goal.
The second factor has been time. It’s not that I don’t have time but with the abundance of spare time also comes the lack of inspiration in many cases. This means that I must find a time when inspiration to write and spare time to type come together at the same point in the universe. This hasn’t happened too often up to this point. Last year, for example, I was working my ass off from March through to September to the point where every minute I did have free the last thing I wanted to do was dig through piles of papers or thoughts. I have free time now, but as I noted the other day I will need to take that time outside in the fresh air and sunshine because otherwise I will not find any inspiration in a basement apartment with only a single two by three-foot window looking out on the bottom of a deck for a view.
The third factor is inspiration itself. Many of my poems and prose were written during times in my life that were tumultuous and unstable. One could say that right now, being unemployed, that this would be one of those times but it really isn’t. I continue to look for work daily but I’m financially stable enough and thankfully receiving insurance that I do not feel, at least currently, at risk or in peril – ask me again in six months.
I don’t know, I would have to say that a significant factor, and really a part of the third – inspiration, is that I am lacking a muse now. I looked back on several of my poems and I can recall a person or people or even events in my life at that time that lead to the writing of the poem. I am currently single, not seeing or interested in anyone really, and I am separated from friends and family who are back in Ontario. I would love to meet my muse, she’s out there somewhere looking for me too I think -it’s just a matter of time. Isn’t it always just a matter of time.
My life is not so set and balanced that I can sit down and write twenty poems right now. I have found that I am unpredictable. Take for example if someone needs me to write them a paragraph on something or another. I will wait until just before it is due, write, edit maybe once and submit it to them. Whereas when it comes to writing something for myself even if I set a deadline I find myself dragging my feet or pen – in this case. I don’t know why, but it has led to taking over a year to get this – prepaid I might add – book completed.
So, does this mean now that I have written about it that I will see the err of my ways and strive to complete it by some point soon? Probably not.
March 14, 2017
As some of you may know when I’m not working in retail I’m an amateur photographer. I’ve photographed across half the country from as far north as Baker Lake, Nunavut, east to Toronto, Ontario, south to Louisville, Kentucky, USA and west to the Pacific Rim on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I used to post my photos up on Eyefetch until the site went down, it’s back up again but who can trust it to be stable any more. I moved over to Flickr back in 2014 and I’ve been a Pro (paid) member ever since. I think I have about 3,600 photos on there now ranging from random shots meant more for stock photos to the very few, sometimes staged, that I liked the look of.
I’ve been told several times by friends that I should sell my photos and even been told which sites to go to but I continue to offer them on Flickr as Attribution (name credit). I personally don’t choose to sell my photos for several reasons.
The first reason is that I don’t feel my photos, for the most part, are good enough to make any real money off. I mean, you will probably never find my photo in National Geographic or any prestige publication. But then how many can say that their photos are not doctored or enhanced in any way before offering them to the public. I change the size on my photos and I might adjust the contrast or click on the Adjust colour option here and there but that’s all I do to my photos. If they are good, it’s because conditions at the time allowed the right photo to be taken at the right time. I don’t have any special skills, I don’t want nor desire to ever attend a photography course and in the end, being an amateur, is a lot less work and cost. My camera, now, is a Nikon Coolpix 510, which cost me around $300 a few years ago, and it does the job quite nicely. I don’t ever want to spend the insane amounts that people choose to do on lens or cases or whatever. I can not fathom spending more than I have on the camera and if it ever needed more I’d probably buy a new one.
The second reason is work load. The way it is now I take a photo. It might be good it might be boring. I upload it and either someone uses it or they don’t. It’s fun going out and taking the photo and sharing it. I don’t spend much time or effort thinking about it. I don’t have to meet deadlines or complete certain projects to pay for my next meal. And when you produce something, even once, people expect you to do it over and repeatedly until it’s no longer fun like it was the first time. Now that being said if someone hired me to “go photograph this house” or “go to this park or that park and photograph it” for money I’d probably do it because it would pay for the gas for the other fun times.
The third reason is exposure. Okay, so I post a photo and charge for it. If I’m lucky someone in the next five years wants that photo and pays for it to be reproduced. I can tell you right now I’m never going to make fifty grand off one of my photos and Reuters or AP will never pick one up and carry it around the world. So, one photo. Done. Now, in my case I allow commercial outlets to use my photos for name credit. They must, as part of attribution, include my name and possibly a link to my Flickr account. They get a photo and I get credit. Thus, my photos have already appeared in many prominent websites including: CBC, Yahoo Finance, MoneySense online, City of Red Deer, City of Winnipeg, a couple radio station websites, a couple real estate websites, inspirational websites and blogs and educational websites even. These most likely would not have paid for my photos and if they did it would be a few bucks. Instead my photos have been shared with thousands of people resulting in over 717,000 views on my Flickr since April 2013. My 3,600 or so photos have been viewed almost three quarters of a million times. Not too shabby I’d say for an amateur photographer eh. And that doesn’t even count all the ones I put on the Weather Network that in total have probably been viewed over 5,000 times.
The final reason is the pleasure it gives me knowing that someone found a use for a photo I took. I’ve been surprised a couple times on how, what I thought were some of my not so great photos, ended up serving someone somewhere across the country. It’s cool and I kind of feel like it is my contribution to society. I don’t have to write the article – on God, or living well, or hunting, or parks, or government or whatever to feel like I have played a role in educating people.
All that now being said, this year I’ve started thinking about listing a few, the ones I think are good, as ones that are “for sale” as opposed to name credit only. I’ll consider some of the other websites, like the ones that sell stock photos, and maybe get involved with them. I could just set up my own too and sell them via PayPal for people to use as wallpaper s and such. I don’t know yet what, if anything, I’ll do in that avenue.
For now, my photos are available on Flickr at the account linked here.
“The first task of the person who wishes to live wisely is to free himself or herself from the confines of self absorption.” The Art of Living Epictetus (Sharon Lebell).
One of the hardest things to learn, perhaps the hardest thing to adapt, was the ability to de-value all the material things in my life. I mean everything, from the smallest insignificant receipt to larger things like appliances to more sentimental things like old journals and photographs.
In my challenge to declutter my life I had to take a mobile home worth of stuff, that’s six rooms, and condense it down to only what would fit in the back of an SUV. It would have been an impossible task if I had not first looked at my material possessions in a different way.
The first thing I collected up to get rid of was all my office supplies. I had piles and piles of pens, tape, notepaper, notebooks, rulers, hole punches, calculators, the list goes on. I kept only what I needed to pursue work and occupancy in another place and the rest went into a box. I asked a neighbour of mine if they could use the supplies and they happily took them off my hands.
The household items were the easiest to part with because I didn’t know where I was going to be ending up so I really wouldn’t need two cheese graters for a while. Yes, that’s the first indication I had that I had too much junk in my life when I found two cheese graters in my kitchen drawer. You might be wondering why this is so significant? I mean, everyone has a cheese grater these days and by chance I happened to have two, big deal. Well, you see, the thing is, I don’t cook. I mean sure I’ll throw bags of vegetables and a roast into a slow cooker now and then but I don’t compile ingredients and mix them up into a conglomeration that will hopefully transform into something edible. In addition to the fact that I don’t cook is the fact that I have grated cheese in years. I think I might have grated it once about ten years ago, and only because someone told me to at the time. So, the fact that here, in my kitchen cupboard drawer, were not one but two cheese graters was a clear indication that I bought things for the sake of owning them and that habit needed to change. And it wasn’t just cheese graters in that drawer, I had an entire collection of spatulas, graters, ladles, knives and enough utensils to serve a gathering of a dozen. I’m single, live thousands of kilometres from family and I rarely had anyone over to my house let alone a dozen people. The kitchen items were easy to part with and except for a few of the essentials I boxed everything up and put it in the pile to donate.
I had a brand-new microwave I offered to sell to someone but they didn’t take me up on it so it, along with a crock pot and various other items were lumped into the donation pile. Someone somewhere just got a good deal on a three-month-old microwave.
All the cleaning supplies I had accumulated had to go. Dryer sheets, air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, hand soaps and cleaning cloths were all piled into one box and given to a neighbour. They ended up giving me $10 for it so that was cool.
Clothing was another easy one to part with. I had a lot of t-shirts, sweatshirts and other things that I never wore. I disposed of all my old underwear and socks, literally, and bought new ones. This not only allowed me to replace my current stock with fresh new un-holey pairs but allowed me to dictate just how many of each I would have in my wardrobe selection. I had several bulky coats and light zippered ponchos I never wore and were in very good to brand new condition. I put all of them into garbage bags and added them to the donation pile.
I sold them one of my televisions and even threw in a power bar for good measure so it meant that everything went in one trip. I made $50 off the whole pile and that would pay for over half a tank of gas so I was happy. I had recently purchased an acoustic guitar but just never found the time to learn to play it let alone even tune it so I gave it to a neighbour to give to a young relative of theirs. I didn’t ask for money, someone else was going to get use out of it and that’s all that really mattered to me.
I sold another television, yes, I owned three televisions, to a friend of mine. He paid $160 for it plus a Blu-ray and a DVD player with power bar also included.
I had a collection of over thirty “owl” related items, figurines, pictures, garden art and much more. All of it, along with a dozen or so other things around the house, were placed in the donation pile. It’s amazing how much crap you accumulate only to sit around your house, look at once in a blue moon, and collect dust constantly. Perhaps that’s on purpose, I mean if we didn’t have little things sitting around the house collecting dust we might never be reminded that there is dust that needs to be cleaned. Yeah, I don’t believe that reasoning either.
Now, with food I learned growing up the importance of keeping canned goods in reserves so I had a lot of that to pack up. I wasn’t about to donate it because I can eat it and it just saved me about $50 in grocery costs. So, I packed up my food, it took 3 file boxes to carry it all.
Paperwork and files was the hardest one to sort, at first, mostly because there was just so much of it. I had piles of old tax records that I’ve had to carry around year after year. I checked the Canada Revenue site and it said to keep them for six years (not seven) beyond the last date. Which was great news because about three quarters of it was from 2011 and before.
I had piles of journals covering everything from the weather to whatever thoughts I had drifting through my head at the time to various comments about work. I decided to keep only the one that I wrote during my drive out west back in 2013 and I manually shredded the rest. In total, it took about two days to go through and destroy all the old documents and pile them into three garbage bags. Next time I need to buy a shredder. And finally, old photographs. I don’t think I kept more than a dozen of them, mostly of my parents, and the rest I shredded along with the files.
In total, I think it took about a week to go through my entire trailer home and declutter my life. I took two truck loads to the donation, half a load to neighbours, and two loads to the dump. When I was finished though I had 2 duffel bags of clothes, 3 boxes of food, 1 pack with camping and survival gear, 1 suitcase full of books, 1 carry-on bag full of paperwork and notebooks and my entire life fit in the back of my SUV. Mission accomplished.
Freelance Online Writer, Amateur Photographer, Social Media Consultant, Website Content Manager