From Slopes to Shirts: Art and Adrenaline

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  1. T shirt/2. Design by Arcteryx (Photoshopped as an exercise by me. Original artwork not mine.) 

Was it the bold colours, the strong shapes or the deceptively simple design? Something about this shirt snagged my increasingly short attention span even as I brushed passed it en route to the door with some friends. I dismissed the idea of buying it before the idea had even time to form. It hit me enough for me to pause, take out my camera, and commit it to memory. I don’t know what it was, but I felt an inner connection.

Such is the power of art.

Emotions, physical actions, things can only exist fleetingly. But creative representations of those tantalizing entities can allow you to revisit feelings again and again. For example, the feeling of drawing a clean line on cotton-like snow translates into a clean graphic; uncluttered feelings can be expressed via a limited palette. Ever looked at a piece of art and thought, “I know exactly how this painting feels?” Ever wonder why, even though artists come from diverse backgrounds and employ different techniques, they all seem to be able to say the same thing? Like different ways of communicating good pow, we know when a piece of art articulates how we feel when we see it.

“Pure” -One word can have so many meanings across senses. For example, pure can denote a lack of distractions (as in the case of distracting colours) or a purity of emotion (a lack of distracting emotions). In each case, we can zero into the idea of purity by focussing in on one colour, one emotion.

“Freedom”-Freedom of feeling, freedom of visual meandering. Lines that defy the borders of the page both visually represent the lines we create skiing or riding; they represent our line of sight disappearing into the otherworld, and pay tribute to the persistence of imagination. Seeing lines both remind of us physical sensations and motions and feeling free.

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But let’s back up a bit. Communicating common emotions and ideas like that are not ski or snowboard specific. How can graphics depict more layered, nuanced emotions and movements? When our minds are free, ideas bounce willy nilly. Clashing colours and busy images also bounce off one another within the boundaries of a graphic, defying their captivity. The feeling of pushing and pulling the edge of your skis or board to create that perfect turn? Indicated by triangular graphics that allow us to relive that bodily motion via our eyes. Have a vivid yearning for snowcapped peaks? How about strong, etched photographs of mountains saturated in neons? Need to amp that up a notch?-why not use high contrasting, neon pairings of colours?

I left the store without buying the shirt. Within milliseconds I’d forgotten it but not lost it. The memory of the feeling it stirred within me gave the hue of a feel-good feeling to the rest of my night. And, four days later, I was nostalgic for the Whistler experience. Opening up the photo, I tried drawing it and was pleasantly surprised to realize it was not an abstract work of art after all but a clean, vivid depiction of snow falling onto trees.

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More Art in Whistler shops and streets.

Man, art is beautiful and good for the soul.

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Meeting Your Heroes

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I bet everyone can think of someone that they would like to meet. Just the other day, I watched a video of Miley Cyrus supporting an alternate method other than culling wolves, and I wanted to meet her. Just to see someone famous as normal as the everyday people that I see, removed from their sets and environments and placed into my world.

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I followed the Sochi 2014 Olympics through media. I, like so many other Canadians, rooted for the gold medal favourite. It felt like I had intimate knowledge with HD footage of the events and in depth interviews and really, the positivity of the games seemed magical. It made me feel positive; it wasn’t until later that I realized how politically stricken the event was, and worked-to-death athletes who even themselves couldn’t predict the gold medal winner. So to see them today seemed like an impossible event, breaking all the laws I thought I knew about how the world worked.

I got to the venue early, excited despite not being able to find any friends to go with. People thronged all around, chatting animatedly with their friends, more or less overexcited. To other people, too, seeing somebody famous that they only knew through TV was magical. As evidenced by the giddy reactions, no one really knew what to expect when the two athletes finally appeared on stage. No one clapped loudly. If you only see people on TV, you probably aren’t used to clapping for them. The speech commenced, and I alternately wished they would be more casual or suspended my disbelief. The show, though, went on regardless-right in front of me.

The older brother was just as funny as he was in his videos, and the younger brother was pretty much the same as he was in videos as well, speaking through his snowboarding rather than his words. Their task, to inspire us, was old news to most of us; their story had been through the media so much. Overcoming adversity and “expecting challenge” came through as the main theme, interspersed with personal anecdotes. Surprisingly, it was brotherly love that stole the stage and made the audience clap. The hour felt like 15 minutes.

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Afterwards there were pictures and poster signings. I waited at the back of the line with someone I had just met who had also been alone. It was an unlikely match in my opinion. I felt like I was being more judgemental though, more vocal than usual, by token of being at a very media/promotion conscious event. You can go so many routes, all of them set out for you: be the fan, be the insider critique, impressing others, or be nobody at all, confused with your own feelings about meeting your heroes. The olympic medalist is obviously an exceptional person whom we could all learn from, but it was his brother that I really wanted to hear, because I had heard him speak before. On a screen. I felt I “knew” him better, and so that was the experience I was looking for. While others I had no doubt followed the Olympic medalist, I felt the greatest gift in meeting his medalist in humour but not Olympic medalist brother.

Famous people are real people. Media personalities are real people. In order to make money, people need to brand themselves and have a positive media presence, and accepting that is something you learn when you meet someone who is famous. Like customer service, it’s just etiquette and also a social script. How would you feel if you walked onto the bus every morning and instead of saying Thank you, you awkwardly didn’t know how to act around a member of the public? Although it’s weird, and seems to put an edge on meeting your heroes-even everyday ones-at the end of the day, you met your hero, period. Real people meeting real people. What’s inauthentic about two people meeting? How could you walk away as if you were just staring at a hero on screen?

But my favourite memory is still the one of seeing and hearing them talk, and walk in front of me, as normal as everybody else I know, in the school I know, in my world, where everything is magical because hard work makes anything possible.

The Joy of Owning an “Artistic” Object

There is a certain heady joy to owning an object of “art”. From records with artistic covers, haut fashion articles of clothing, art posters, furniture, fancy tea sets, a one of a kind guitar-the list goes on-the pleasure of living alongside a piece of art is undeniable.

So what makes a mass produced item capable of being as “special” as your favourite campfire song? Mass produced artful items are never meant to be art on their own, but vessels for the owner’s experience. Though we love the art aspect of it, our greatest desire is to interact and play with the item, from playing the CD the album art belongs to, to riding that bike that is a feat of engineering and design. Even though the item is mass produced, it is special to you.

Think about how you feel anticipating owning a piece of art. Getting your hands on a new album, article of clothing, archival quality print, well designed tool. “Art” is so much more than a “thing”-art can be a friend, art can be solace, art can be a relationship middleman.

Once you own the piece of “art”, there is an aspect of maintenance. “Art” becomes a thing to care for; an embodiment of the fragile emotion of wonder and painful longing. The “Art” is both there, a physical thing, and also a painful reminder of what isn’t there, mainly the impossibility of ever capturing the fleeting moment of the peak of surprise/wonder/joy. Owning it thus is a painful activity, characterized by this polarization of feeling. The piece of “art” therefore must be taken care of, constantly tended to retain the maximum amount of the special feeling. This is done by enshrining the item, constant reminders or touching of the object,  and reminders to others of one’s ownership.

Think about that beautiful object you own or cover art from your favourite album. Do you cherish interacting with it? How much feeling do you put onto that object? Does looking at it automatically cause a reflexive emotion or memory to surface?

Happiness Is…

Finding love in and within people outdoors. Strengthening bonds in fresh air. Re-learning how to see beauty everywhere.

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Whistler/Blackcomb mountain. Sadly we did not pay extra to ride bikes, but as a treat for the kids, my parents invited me, my brother, and my cousin to ride the Peak to Peak Gondola, which none of us had ridden before. WB is actually as stunning as they say because of the grand scale of things, and I recall once again that “there are no friends on a powder day”. There are no alliances and loyalties when it comes to choosing a favourite place, Cypress!  Also, being rich one day would seriously improve my happiness if it involves this kind of expensive but life-improving beauty.IMG_2380

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To make up for not biking on Whistler I signed my cousin and I up for a free beginner mountain trip led by students. I forgot to tell her that students of said outdoor club are a bit crazy to some people, and she was in for a time of her life. Although it was her first time, she had the time of her life, and so I did. I felt bad though because my bike wasn’t the smoothest braker or plushiest suspension but they did say mountain biking is an expensive sport, and hopefully a less cushy bike will encourage me to build skill. All in all, I’m chuffed that a family member actually enjoys adrenaline sports-so it does run in our family.IMG_2332

Like everyone else that drives down the Sea to Sky highway I try to take a shot of the elusive uncluttered glimpse of the Howe Sound and mystical islands unfolding in the background. I captured this shot out of many dozens, and was surprised that I had gotten such an unobstructed view. Patience pays off.IMG_2397

I didn’t want to make the trek out after spending a ridiculous amount of time and money on transit to get to said mountain biking area (I had ended up travelling back and forth by accident, wasting hours) but the scenery turned out its best exuberant jewel-like colours. I was tired and grumpy but no matter; to share experiences with people and collectively enjoy this sort of company and setting put a smile on my face. I think that if we were more open to things when we’re reluctant we might just be happier people, if only because we’re more tolerant. And of course the more open we are to experience the more beauty we are likely to see.

I’m lucky and I thank mother nature when I realize it. To be surrounded by beautiful places and beautiful people that I could spend the rest of my life exploring.

I thought that this summer would suck but actually, it has been alright. I can see a way of managing anxiety; that is, I have an excess of passion and feeling and if I can just reign it in and not let my mind repeat emotions beyond their capacity I could regulate how I feel, instead of just being a passionate and oft useless ball of energy. It is fun to be passionate, but not sleep deprived, failing, or hurting others and yourself.

Alright. I lied…It will nigh impossible for me to reign in any emotions, so best I put them to good use.

Here’s to celebrating anything and everyday. Tomorrow will be boring but I needn’t box myself into a windowless room of work or boredom, when things like this exist just around the corner.

Stereotypical Summer

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My feet smell like vinegar. Gross. Where did this summer go? Between worrying about school, escaping into the outdoors and renovating the house, the summer has been non existent. I’ve either been bored out of my mind or so busy the days blur together.

That’s typical, I guess. Life is like that. You just notice it more in the summer when you’re supposed to having either a dream break or dreaming of one. Time is encapsulated by the inevitable return of September, whether your year actually works like that or not. It’s September and then it’s Christmas and the New Year and oh man your birthday, where did the time go?

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Life is a game of averages. Your life trajectory isn’t based on that one awesome trip, presentation, or friend you made, but how you lived your life after. That is, life is all about the ordinary. That one awesome day of weather that coincided with your trip? Awesome, but it’s how you spend your rainy foggy days that really counts. It’s a drag, we don’t pretend it isn’t, but suddenly we cherish those sunny days instead of expecting them to just be there.

Clothing Optional Beach

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Yesterday I went to a clothing optional beach on whim to kill time. I didn’t bring a change of clothes, so I was somewhat forced to go topless, or walk around with no bra while wearing a tight shirt. Strangely enough it was far more uncomfortable to not wear a bra than be half naked.

I’ve been dipping in lakes once a week for the last month, and just because I couldn’t get away didn’t mean I lost my love of the water.

The experience was sadly creepy, but the water was amazing. It was not cold at all, and the tide was low. Salt-I had forgotten the water had salt. The last time I had been here I had been an innocent 18 year old and my friend had said brazenly, “I’d totally go topless” while putting seaweed ‘spa’ wraps on my feet. But the views of naked people and roving eyes drove us out. To think fear had kept me out of this place for two years. It is totally not worth staying away from a place of beauty for fear of a reaction that isn’t warranted.

Bus vs Bike

I definitely had a distaste, if not phobia, of water, all my life. Thanks to hiking I’ve jumped into six lakes, six more than I ever had before, this summer, and I want nothing more than to swim in cold water. Of course, I can’t swim more than five minutes without getting tired, and coldness makes that even worse. I’m still afraid of being far from shore, and had only 1 or 2 experiences on a watercraft, but cold, refreshing, wild, playful water-I love it. I love the beauty of surrounding to cold water and the tactile pleasure of walking on sand, and even the feeling of drying off afterwards.

I just found out it takes less than an hour to bike to the local beach. The difference between transit and biking within a city can be minuscule; in some cases biking is even faster. This is changing my life. Biking to useful places isn’t an option in my small town because school, even just groceries, are two towns over and there are only two bike racks per bus, and busses only every half an hour. A city where biking around is a viable option is becoming more and more clear to me why it’s so popular. Biking is far more relaxing than bus riding. Assuming you don’t regularly exercise like me, biking gives an option to those who aren’t athletically inclined to find a way to introduce exercise into daily life.

After lazy around in the intense 30 degree celcius weather, feeling absolutely fatigued from a lack of exercise and abundance of heat all week, I had to jump on my bike and catch the breeze. Instantly I could think again. It was only when I got back home that I found out, out of curiosity, that within 50 min I could bike to the beach, and I had already gone 3/4 of the way on my bike ride. Just that 1/4 more and I would find relief far better than any popsicle or ice cream.

Environment shapes us and the more I get out the more I see how environments have shaped others. Many move to be closer with their desired environments. Others grow up in non urban paradise, and are happy to stay rooted. If there is an option to see another world without having to move from your own, seize it. The bike is opening up so many options for me, and I’m so excited. I’m limited by my current laziness but I won’t have to if I change my environment. The streets in my town are small and flat but just an hour away there are things that are infinitely more wild, daring, and most of all, powerful motivators to change.

If I even went once a week, I’d find a way to slowly nudge my life away from relying on daring adventures that are above my level, to daily joy knowing that escape and play are attainable and free. And I didn’t even have to catch a bus to get to it.

(Currently heavy with bus phobia after bussing almost daily for 2 yrs)

PS Biking with 26 inch wheels and an adequately sized frame is infinitely better than biking with 24 inch wheels and a too small frame.

Edit: I never did bike to the beach, but I biked a similar distance within the city…

Inspiration

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You were made to be embarrassed about the things you sucked at so you would be motivated to do better.

Every failure is a step closer to success. Stay still to avoid failure and you stagnate.

You will never be happy if your art stayed stagnate, so make yourself happy and just produce.

Every failure that made you cringe when you were younger is what you pull up to define who you are when you’re older.

Failures make you. But you can only fail if you try.

show me your conviction

What I miss: something I love so much that I would do it until I fell down dead but at the same time can go about unhurried. I’d be happier, healthier, and a hell lot more sunburnt. Okay, that’s the problem-or the major draw-with alpine snowboarding. In backpacking you have to commit-it’s all about making it to the destination before dark/hunger hits/bears maul. With alpine snowboarding you can feel the rush of adrenaline and jelly legs but have the safety plug, too; you can stop when your legs give out with no consequence. You can stop to admire the beauty.

I wonder why it hits me so hard. Do I experience things differently from other people? Although not religious, I have always been highly spiritual. Things touch my soul; material is unimportant; the essence of things and people concern me more than practical or taste considerations. I fail again and again, to be typical. As standing out is too painful to bear, I suppress my feelings and become more and more typical, at the same time losing that spiritual high that constitutes me. That is, without these memories that cause pain themselves, I am someone else who is infinitely inconsolable. My fear is so deep I need a tangible high to think about in order to carry on.

What high do I remember now so fleetingly that I truly know how deep my anxiety runs? I remember a scanter memory, that was of a run off Raven’s Express, which was only open for a little while, the way Sky chair was only open for a little while this winter. Come to think of it this was a completely non existent winter. What a waste. 2013/2014 was a non winter too but 100% less nonwinter than this one. In fact I had a handful of days of fresh snow, and that was probably as much as most casual skiiers get, considering chance. So I got a good deal; I complained but really I enjoyed it inside. I remember loving it completely because in my first year I could not tell the difference between a good and bad snow day. All I could tell was that there was no new white snow on the trees, bah, who cared. On the Raven’s Express run, one side was cliff that seemed to be permanently attached to blue sky, and it scared the shit out of me to ride it. In front of me would be a ribbon of white snow that always snaked off around a semi-capped rock wall that hid a turn. There was always a corner I couldn’t do, and although the run was quite wide, I wasn’t; able to control the board well enough to turn well on it, and after the turn the run gathered speed. So, I was scared shitless in paradise but at least I knew I was in paradise, shitless or not. And I could not imagine being happier in that place at any moment unless I had someone significant with me. Snowboarding isn’t just hedonistic, it’s runner’s high, it’s sexual.

I’ve sat on my ass for 7 years since first snowboarding; how many more will I sit? I’m 21, I’m not a kid anymore. My anxiety paralyses me but when I’m able to think really deeply about it, it was all my fault: I gave up, no matter the circumstance. I never gave up on snowboarding facing the same or worse amount of familial ridicule when I gave up on school and taking showers this half year, I am to blame. There is no reason not to be strong after having a good cry; no reason to compromise morals in order to feel less guilty about something that is good for you; no reason to give up because it’s easier. No reason to look for excuses why the world isn’t worth living in; no reason to drown yourself in any compulsion, addiction, deprivation you can handle. None.

Not when there’s something as beautiful as Raven’s Run to get up for. In order to give up you have to discount the beauty of the world, and that’s what I’ve been doing. It’s ironic that we all run from our dreams in fear of failing them the closer we get. Really, all people do in this world is get close to and fail their greatest dreams. Otherwise, there’s be a lot more writer, sports stars, free spirits and so forth.

Only you can make your greatest dreams come true. Only you can convince yourself It’s worth it.