Frozen citrus twilight
tinged City’s fading sight;
sleeping willow tendrils wrap around me in
this naked January
I promised a dance to Winter
and I remember
that the river, though cold,
to flow, to breathe
beneath the ice
To view the full Steller flipbook, click here.
Happy New Year!
New Year’s Eve is always a time for reflection. As I get ready for tonight’s festivities, I look back on 2014 and feel only gratitude, joy, and, truthfully, a shred of disbelief – in 12 months, I visited 10 countries and 33 cities on 2 continents.
I crossed the English Channel from the White Cliffs of Dover to Calais, France. I toured these gorgeous bodies of water: Lake Lucerne in Switzerland on a foggy, rainy, summer evening (all the more magical), the river Seine in Paris (for the third time), the Rhine River Valley in Germany, Miami’s South Beach, and the Amstel river in Amsterdam. I swam in the Tyrrhenian and Mediterranean seas in southern Italy and the Amalfi Coast, and the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
As I wrote back in September upon my return, I sampled delicacies from different places, danced all night, read by rivers, boarded boats and trains and tiny little cars on tiny little roads, went to the tops of mountains and bobsledded down them, traversed valleys, strolled cities and small, cobblestone alleys, drank cappuccinos, drank (a lot of) fantastic wine, discussed current affairs with people from around the world, sat on cafe patios, read books that made a difference in my life, made lasting friendships, expanded my knowledge, lived and thrived in the countryside, counted stars, learned, embraced. And I did it all with complete strangers, or completely alone.
I had the immense pleasure of visiting four of the most beautiful, celebrated, and renowned wine regions in the world – Napa Valley, California, USA; Chianti, Tuscany, Italy; Niagara, Ontario, Canada; and the Rhine River Valley, Germany. Each experience is special, for entirely different reasons. I toured California from north to south throughout (a much less-crowded) January with my love; lived in Chianti for two months at a writing residence, where I finished a future manuscript, with international artists that I am fortunate to call my friends (Tommy Graham, Ellen and Patrick Coffey, Kristin Man, and Alli Rath); regularly visit the breathtaking Niagara region; and spent a couple of memorable Riesling-and-bier-filled days in Germany. For more pictures of my summer vacation, check out my September post here.
Each place is saturated in my memory. They are vivid and colourful and inspiring and alive. I feel so privileged to not only have truly experienced life, but to have participated in the art of fine living. I’m thankful for everything.
I wish you all a very healthy, happy, prosperous new year.
Here’s to more adventure in 2015!
I’m honoured to be featured in FEMMELDEHYDE’s beautiful new creation, Issue 10: Surrealism, along with other wonderful Toronto writers and photographers. Read the entire issue at www.femmeldehyde.com.
“We danced in silver moonlight as the skies shed a single star in melancholic ecstasy”
Click here or on the picture below to read my short piece, Sanctuary of Lovers, the title of which is taken from this poem:
Do you know, knower, what the night is?
It is the sanctuary of lovers.
On this glorious night
I am drunk with the moon.
The moon has fallen in love
and the night has gone mad.
– Rumi, Gardens of the Beloved
Hi, everyone! I am excited to announce my new project, Travel Poetry, a digital literary travel magazine. We are accepting submissions for the inaugural issue until the end of January. Please follow the Blog at http://www.travelpoetrymagazine.com/blog/, or on Instagram at @travelpoetrymag, where I post travel vignettes, photos, and poetry. And, of course, visit the Submit page to submit your poetry or short stories.
Here is the latest post from Paris, France:
Each night, in the quivering reflection of puddles
shivering in the cold,
rolled beneath sidewalks awash with tears,
the curbsides of cafes,
a streetlight’s lazy halo,
the shifting shapes of love that stroll blindly in the night,
shadows of passers-by dance
a melancholy waltz.
Arms and legs sway and twirl,
swirling in the street
sheets of rain upon their elongated limbs.
Shadows part, then melt
by a boulangerie, fingers slide
slowly down a creamy neck.
Elegant, curved, a woman swerves delicately
on a moon-coloured arm.
Here in puddles where shadows meet
Life ripples briefly,
on the drowning streets of Paris.
A deafening barrage of shrieking children, frantic parents, lazy walkers, loud talkers, anxious employees, aggressive hagglers, and booming holiday music hit me upon entering. It was a depressing composition of repeated staccato notes, in the phrases of “I’m sorry” and “Excuse me” and “Watch out!”
I felt like I was on fast-forward, my heart palpitating, head spinning, and green tea sloshing mercilessly out of its cup, burning my fingers.
Meandering through the crowds, I overheard different pieces of survival advice in conversation:
“Oh, I always have a big breakfast beforehand.”
“Take a few deep breaths, and you’ll be fine.”
“Coffee. A lot of coffee.”
It seemed that I was the only person who did not know what to do or where to go. I did not walk briskly through the mall with an intended road map in mind (first Williams-Sonoma for dad, then Roots for mom – she just loves those wool socks). The truth is, I possess none of the skills of a professional shopper. I wander, I look around, I pick up and put down. I found myself taking small steps and small sips of tea, gazing at items in store windows for a short time before moving on, my body gently rocked side-to-side by the rushing crowd.
Finally, I made it to the front of the bookstore.
Ah, peace and quiet.
Unsurprisingly, here, I finished most of my holiday shopping. It really is that easy. And if you believe your loved ones are not big readers, I beg you to think again. There’s an escape route for everyone.
They might like Canlit, non-fiction, romance, mystery, history, or art. They might have an idol, a pet, a New Year’s resolution to finally start yoga, a desire to learn French, or an inexplicable relationship with Mexican cuisine. There’s a book for them.
There are cookbooks, how-tos, big and beautiful photography tomes, literature on the performing arts, language, business, or travel. There are books for kids, teens, tweens, adults, grandparents. There’s a book for the plumber, the private dancer, the stay-at-home parent, the cheese addict, the architect, the storyteller, the graphic designer, the cinephile, the writer, the baker-on-the-side, the teacher, the music buff, or the wine aficionado in your life.
And in no way am I limiting the selection to shiny new hardcovers or glossy paperbacks. Do you have a book in your own collection that you think might benefit a close friend or relative? Give it to them. Let them know why. Books, and the stories inside of them, are meant to be recycled into new hands.
Growing up, my parents always gave my brother and I books, and then quizzed us on them afterwards to ensure that we read them. We spent hours in the library, and they took note of the books we were engrossed in. In December, we found them under the tree. In return, we wrote little poems and heartfelt messages in handmade paper cards. We signed them with our own insignia at the bottom, pretending that they were from Hallmark or Carleton: “Cristina Cards” or “Joseph Cards” circled with a sparkly gold pen.
My parents grudgingly accepted our small gifts, while insisting that we did not have to give them anything, that they had their family around the Christmas tree, which is more than enough. They appreciated the little things, the practical and sentimental value of a gift. They taught me the art and importance of truly giving.
So, my brother and I bought them books, too. Last year, I added to my father’s bookshelf Open Secrets: Wikileaks, War, and American Diplomacy. For my mother, The Glass Castle. For my brother, Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization. (He’s a plumber).
You may not think so but, as I learned from my family, buying a book is an intimate and thoughtful act. It is as personal as a piece of lingerie, as gracious as a box of chocolates. It’s like placing a blanket on top of someone after they’ve fallen asleep, or smiling at a stranger. If you’re buying a book for someone this holiday season, you’ve made a conscious effort to enhance their life. You care. Think about how much consideration goes into choosing a book — it means that you are attentive to what they say, that you know and support what they’re interested in.
A book may not be the only gift you’re giving someone, but it is perfect on its own, or in addition to something else. Make it even more special by writing a little note inside. They’ll treasure it forever.