Micro-date #9 – Sunset at Remic Rapids

I am enjoying this idea of what I have been calling “micro-dates”. Micro-dates are those dates that are shorter, smaller, and often more impulsive dates that I decide to do in the moment. My recent dates include the ones where I made my favourite tea and hung out on my back porch looking at the stars, and on another night, making myself a fancy dinner. In this instance of a micro-date, I had the craving to watch another sunset.

I love sunsets and sunrises and when I am on vacation I will often get up early in the morning to watch the sunrise. A favourite memory from a couple of summers was being at a friend’s cottage and I would wake at sunrise to head out for an early morning swim. Their cottage is in the middle of a fairly large island and there were not any other cottages located on, or near this small island. I would quietly slip out of bed and grab my towel as I headed down the stairs and out the door, around the outside of the cottage, and down to the edge of the water. There were always two options – one to dive into the water off the diving board, or the other to slide into the cool and yet warm water off the ladder. I almost always chose the ladder and after stripping down to my birthday suit, I would slide quietly into the still smooth water and begin moving through the water with a steady breast strong. I loved the stillness of the morning, the soft light of the sun rising over the hills at the edge of the lake. For the first half of the swim, I would be swimming into the gently rising sun, and on the second half returning to the ladder with the sun rising behind me.

For this micro-date, I had just made dinner on Easter Sunday and after enjoying the meal I was feeling the desire for some quiet time on my own. I wanted to see if I could catch the sunset on this spring evening. The weather was just slightly on the edge of being warm enough not to wear a jacket, but with the breeze that is often along the edge of the river, I brought a coat just in case. I thought that I would pick up a tea latte on my way down to watch the sunset, and I pulled up to the first Starbucks on my way. Sadly, the store was already closed for the day, or perhaps it had been closed all day since it was Easter Sunday. Feeling disappointed I carried on my way still hopeful of finding a coffee or tea shop open along the way. The next one was closed as well and even though I was beginning to believe that I wouldn’t find anything open, I spent another 20 minutes driving around looking for a drink to bring with me to enjoy by the river. I was feeling a bit thwarted in my efforts to get a drink treat and realized that I had an image in my head that I was chasing for my date. It felt funny to acknowledge that a date I had only decided to go on less than an hour ago had a whole story attached to it, as to what I imagined it “should” be.

I carried on down to the parking lot at Remic Rapids. I had chosen to go to the rapids because I had read a review somewhere that this was a lovely place to watch sunsets and when I pulled into the parking lot, there were a number of vehicles parked along the edge of the parking lot facing the river’s edge. About half of the cars had one to two people sitting in their cars, perhaps they were waiting for the sunsets themselves. I parked my car and spent some time walking along the river while I waited for the sun to set.

I enjoyed strolling along the shore of the Ottawa River watching the light play against the early spring grass, still brown after a long winter covered with snow. We had not yet had enough warmth during our days for the green shoots to make their way through. I came upon a tree full of leaves brown, dried, and curled tight clinging to the tips of its branches. I find trees like this intriguing because trees lose their leaves in order to conserve their energy to survive the winter and grow new leaves in the spring. I know these leaves will eventually give way to the new growth in a few weeks, but I wonder what happened for this tree to be clinging to its leaves. Did it think it still had time before the cold hit to release its burden and then ran out of time before the cold winds moved in?

The light started to shift and I stopped occasionally to admire the shadows of the changing and fading sun along with the trees. The early evening light cast an amber shadow and long grey shadows along the shore. I could feel my breath slow and the tensions of the past week finally fade away. The early evening was quiet with the few people who were out along the pathway content to wander in silence. The faint sounds of cars passing on the parkway a backdrop to the occasional honking of the geese nearby. and the slight roar of the rapids a little further up the river.

After about 20 minutes of wandering along the shores of the river, I wandered back closer to my car and the spot that I hoped would have the best views of a sunset. I watched the setting sun from different angles, across the mountains on the other side of the river and through the branches of different trees. At one point my camera captured the sun and its refracting rays splitting in two.

I think I prefer the sunsets along Britannia Park/Beach, but this is a lovely alternative and allowed me the opportunity to capture a different personality of the sunset along the Ottawa River.

As the sun dipped beyond the slight hills on the other side of the Ottawa River, I made my way back to my car to drive back home. I missed having the latte that I planned of buying on my way down to the park, but I enjoyed my wandering time along the shores and watching the sunset on my own. I enjoy these nature dates with myself.

Cost for this date – free

I rated this date 7/10

Micro-date #8 – Butter Tuscan Shrimp

I love to cook. I love looking at recipes and finding new things to try. Making food for the people in my life is absolutely one of my love languages. With my daughter, I am prone to make her favourites because she has certain textures and flavours that she loves. I will put the effort into making meals for other people, but for myself, I will often do what I call functional cooking or batch cooking. Functional cooking is the slapping something together at the end of the day and it could be anything from a peanut butter and jam sandwich to cooking a salmon filet and microwaving some broccoli. It gets me fed, but it does not have the love and care of when I am cooking for someone else. When I am dating someone, and well into the depths of the relationship, I love to cook for them. It relaxes me and helps me also feel loved to nurture someone else in this way. But I rarely put that extra effort into something special for myself.

Two days ago I was scrolling through Facebook in the middle of the afternoon while I was procrastinating on finalizing a report I was working on. In the midst of my feed popped up a recipe for Tuscan Butter Chicken. It was from one of those sites that has a whole story about the meal, how to cook it and the entertaining tidbits of minutia that the author thinks is important to set the ambiance for the dish. I didn’t care – I loved the picture of perfectly cooked pink shrimp nestled in a creamy sauce with pops of green and red (spinach and tomatoes) woven throughout. The story told me that there was nothing really Tuscan about the meal except that the flavour combination reminded them of time spent in Tuscany.

Middle of the workweek. Check. Time for a micro-date to spend some time making something a little more special looking and feeling. Double-check.

I wrapped up work half an hour early and headed a block down from my office to the grocery store with the recipe – and therefore my shopping list in hand – shrimp, garlic, fresh basil, baby spinach, grape tomatoes, fresh pasta. I added in some fresh spring asparagus as well because it looked so yummy and I love pasta brimming with veggies. Once home I put on my favourite dance tunes mix and started prepping my meal by sauteeing the shrimp and while those were cooking cleaning and chopping up the rest of the ingredients. I put a larger pot of water on the rear cooking element to get it boiling while I worked on the sauce.

Once the shrimp was cooked I was ready to transfer them to another bowl while I cooked the rest of the ingredients. Now, this is important, because the bowl was right beside me, on the front element of the stove. The pot with water on the rear element waiting to boil water. As I started to put the cooked shrimp into the waiting bowl, I realized that I had accidentally turned on the front element instead of the rear element and as the shrimp and some of their juices hit the very hot glass bowl, the whole thing exploded, covering my kitchen floor and counters with shards of glass. The lid that I had miraculously been holding over the sautee pan protected the rest of my shrimp, but the stove, my counters, my floor was covered in fragments of varying sizes of glass bits.

This did not feel very date-like!!! I turned the shrimp off, turned the other front element off, and actually turned on the proper element to get the water boiling. Then I found a pair of sandals and my broom and started the clean-up. I cleaned up as much as I could on the stovetop, but had to wait for the element to cool before I could clean up all the glass. With that taken care of, I went back to preparing my meal. Soon my kitchen began to smell the fragrant scents of melted butter and sauteed garlic. I added grape tomatoes, basil, asparagus bits, and heaps of baby spinach and after all, that sauteed down, I added freshly grated parmesan cheese and some heavy cream. It smelled so good!

Beautiful Tuscan Shrimp before I added the pasta

By this time my pasta was cooked and I tossed it in with the shrimp, vegetables, and rich creamy sauce. I poured myself a glass of homemade sweet tea in a fancy wine glass and sat down to enjoy the dinner that was super simple, but definitely more effort than I had been putting into my meals lately.

Plated meal with fresh pasta and grated parmesan cheese

I have decided that one of the criteria for me to consider something a date with myself was that I put a little extra effort into doing something for myself because this is not just about spending time with myself but finding ways to nurture myself a little bit more. At the end of my meal, I felt complete and indulged. I packed up my leftovers for other meals and finished cleaning up the stove from the earlier glass explosion.

Cost of my micro date – meal supplies, approximately $20

I rated this date an 10/10 (even with the bowl explosion)

Date #7 – Death of a Ladies Man and the music of Leonard Cohen

Another source of ideas for dates with myself has come from the arts and entertainment section of the Ottawa Citizen and from a blog on Ottawa Road Trips. I am pretty sure one of them was the source for my discovery of the Irish Film Festival. Although I learned that the Irish Film Festival has been running for several years, this was the first year I knew of it.

There are a number of interesting films, but only one really fit into my schedule with the in-person viewings. That was “Death of a Ladies Man” and I was drawn to it because of the lead actor – Gabriel Byrne – and it features the music of Leonard Cohen. It was hosted at the Arts Court and the Arts Court is co-located with one of my earlier dates, the Ottawa Art Gallery. I booked a ticket for this event several weeks ago, and as noted in my earlier post it was lovely to have this to look forward to after a busy and stressful week.

Even with looking forward to the film, I was feeling the heaviness of the past week. After I arrived home after my two-hour walk along the Ottawa River and enjoying my croissant and London Fog Latte on the couch, I headed to bed and took an afternoon nap. I felt lazy and drowsy. I was feeling vulnerable and did not want to interact with anyone, or see anyone. There was a feeling of languishment and just wanting to curl up in a ball for the evening. I considered abandoning my plans for the evening and not heading out to the film. In the end, I decided to keep my commitment to myself and headed out the door in fairly casual attire of jeans, a black t-shirt, rose-coloured wrap, and because I was feeling vulnerable, I put on my Texas original cowgirl boots and headed downtown.

Because of my self-debate about attending or not attending, I was running a little behind my self-imposed schedule of an arrival time. I had planned on finding street parking and normally have had a lot of luck in finding parking whenever when I look for it. This evening I was not lucky in finding parking and I ended up heading into a paid parking lot in one of the hotels that were across the street from the Arts Court. This would result in my biggest expense of the evening – parking at a downtown hotel means you are automatically paying for a one-day rate.

The film itself was a delightful bittersweet independent film that had so many interesting moments within it. Gabriel Byrne portrays the protagonist of the film, Sam O’Shea, an Irish man living in Montreal, teaching poetry at the university, divorced and unhappily remarried and struggling in his relationship with his children. He is a functional alcoholic who comes home unexpectedly to find his younger wife in bed with a much younger man. He is clearly struggling and then finds himself seeing a range of hallucinations, including conversations with the ghost of his dead father, his father who also had been left by his wife. The film features the music of Leonard Cohen, and his lyrics are woven throughout the film, including in the title of the film, and in the title cards introducing each of the “chapters” of the film.

The film is gorgeous, and the acting powerful. It is a richly complex film that is at once intellectual with references to English poetry, sweetly tender and funny, bizarre in the hallucination scenes, and layered with the complex relationships between fathers and their adult (and emerging adult) children, the strains of being a divorced parent and facing our own mortality. There were moments that I laughed out loud – along with the rest of the audience – and these were not just during some of the outrageous hallucinations of Sam. The dialogue was witty and sharp and entirely delightful. At other moments I could feel the tears forming at the rims of my eyes. The title of the film is “Death” of ladies man and there is tragedy throughout the film. I enjoyed this independent film and in watching it, I was reminded how much I enjoy films that leave me thinking and films that are complex and richly layered. I do love a blockbuster movie too, but some of my most enjoyable outings to the movies have been at independent film theatres showing non-mainstream films that attract a smaller audience.

Because this was a film festival, both the director and the producer were in attendance and there was a question and answer after the film had been screened. It has been a very long time since I had attended a film festival and even longer since I had the opportunity to listen to a filmmaker discuss their film, the process, or the intentions behind the film. The director was also the writer of the film and he shared that he had been a fairly recently divorced dad struggling with the impact of the divorce on his children, and his relationship with his kids. He was also the child of divorced parents and wanted to explore the impact of this multi-generational divorce and its complexity throughout the film.

I headed out before the Q&A was completed because I was feeling restless and wanted to leave before there was an outflux of people leaving the theatre at the same time. It was still light out when I was finished with the film and although I was restless to leave the film, I was not yet ready to head back home. I made my way to the underground parking lot and put my ticket into the pay meter to pay for parking. I had to double-check the screen when I saw that the total for my 2.5-hour parking was a whopping $26!!! The price of paying for parking at a downtown hotel.

I headed out of the parking lot and headed west for home. As I mentioned, I was still feeling like I was not quite ready to head home. I could see the dusky pinks and purples in the sky ahead of me showing the promise of a beautiful sunset. One of my favourite places to watch the sunset in Ottawa is Brittannia Beach and I have avoided it for the past three months because it is near my ex’s house and we would often watch the sunset along the beach. I wanted to watch the sunset and was also feeling that I wanted to reclaim this space. I knew that I could watch the sunset and find a place to enjoy the sunset away from where I would not accidentally run into my ex.

Heading down the highway, I worked through my anxious feelings of worrying about how I would feel if I saw my ex anywhere down near the water. I reminded myself that by parking in the further parking lot, I would be able to see the sunset along the Ottawa River through a spot that I knew had a break in the trees along the multi-use path. I was fairly confident that I would not run into him and I was determined that I was not going to let my worry drive me away from a view that I loved. I parked my car and made my way over the mushy muddy grass to get closer to the river. I had missed the peak moments of the sunset but had managed to catch about 20 minutes of the fading colours. The sky was filled initially with slivers of golden yellow and burnt orange in between the pillows of smoky grey and white clouds and the shadows of the river filled with ice fragments. As I stood at the edge of the water I watched as the colour slowly started to shift to reveal soft smudgy pinks and mauve purples. The clouds were reflected in the water that had thawed in between the remaining floating chunks of ice. The early evening was still and quiet all around me. In the distance, I could hear the faint sounds of doors opening and closing from cars in the parking lot. I remained the only person in my little viewing spot by the river and I reveled in the quiet of the evening, the still moments of the Ottawa river in front of me, and the time-lapsed view of the fading sunset.

Sunset collage

There is an expression that was used at the end of a training session when I was learning about neurotransformational coaching. As we sat around the circle expressing our gratitude and learnings from the day when we were done saying our piece, we would close with, “I am complete.”. I reached a point with my date with myself that I realized that I was complete. And with that, I walked towards my car, trying to avoid the soggy parts on the ground. I got into my car and headed home.

I was glad that I pushed myself through my malaise and headed out to the movie. In truth, this is one of the reasons that I wanted to embark on this self-dating venture. Being on my own is easy in lots of ways and with the demands of my job and my kid, at the end of the day, I am prone to curling up and just chilling. But chilling and not doing anything also make me feel depleted if that is all I am doing and I find myself falling into a rut. Setting myself up with dates in advance – and leaving room for those spontaneous moments – is a great way to ensure that I am doing the things that engage me. The Irish Film festival and heading down to the river to watch the sunset allowed for an evening that was intellectually stimulating and deeply connected to nature.

Cost for the date – Irish Film Festival ticket $13.75 + parking $26 = $39.76

I rate this date a 9/10

Date # 6 – A little TLC required

There are times when being on my own is more challenging than at other times. These past two weeks have been one of those times when I was longing for a partner to hold me and tell me that everything was going to be okay. It is my busy time at work and my daughter has been working through her end of semester stress. In addition to that, my car was severely vandalized while in a parking lot near work. I came out to my car one night, late into the evening to discover that someone had stomped on the hood of my car and slammed something large, heavy and round into the windshield of my car. My windshield was shattered and based on the damage and the way that the damage happened, it was clear that it was pure vandalism and less likely to be about trying to break into my car.

I went into survival and adrenaline mode, focussing on getting home and contacting my insurance company. I excel at being able to compartmentalize in order to manage my life and I excelled that night, getting myself home, filing a claim with my insurance company, and an online police report. An appointment with an auto repair shop was booked, as was a rental car and I had a plan to have everything ready to go first thing in the morning so that I could get to work on time for an all-staff meeting. I reached out and told my closest friends and my family and got some support. It all felt very under control.

It had been close to 8:30 by the time I got home and by the time I did all the business to take care of my car, it was well after 10 pm. I climbed into bed and then I began to feel the impact of what had happened. I had a flash remembering that I had in fact encountered someone at the top of the stairs of the car park coming out from the level where there was only my car. Quite likely, it was the individual who had vandalized my car. I felt the waves of vulnerability wash over me. I felt vulnerable, exposed, and alone. My friends and family had been wonderfully supportive, but as I was laying in bed alone, I wanted to be held by someone. I wanted to be held by my ex. It was a hard night.

One of the things that I have enjoyed about dating myself is planning my dates in advance for the most part. What was lovely this past weekend, is that I had booked a hotel room for the Friday evening and something else for Saturday night (but that is a topic for another post!). I found a deal for a hotel room that included the room, plus a $35 credit towards food, or spa time, plus a bottle of wine. I planned to leave directly from work on the Friday to help it feel like a weekend get-away even though the hotel was at the west end of Ottawa. My suitcase was packed and in the trunk of my car and away I went.

I checked into the hotel and was pleased with the upscale feel of the hotel. I was exhausted from the events of my week, so I quickly got through my check in and headed up to my hotel room. The hotel boasts a spa on site, as well as a golf course and several lovely restaurants and caters to the business traveller who wants to combine business and leisure together. Entering my room, the scent of that fresh lemon clean smell pleasantly reached my nose, and I felt a deep sigh in my chest knowing that I would have an evening all to myself without anyone knocking on my door or asking me for anything.

The room had a massive king size bed with four large pillows of varying degrees of firmness. The huge windows ran the length of the width of the room and were the full range of the floor to the ceiling. Looking out the window, I could see the office buildings beside us, but also had a beautiful view of the out of season pool, still covered for the winter and the tender greens of the golf course, muddy with the green of the snow freshly melted. Later in the evening as the sun was setting, it was a relaxing view to watch from the comfort of my bed.

I treated myself to room service for two reasons. I remain a little hesitant about eating in restaurants with the high rates of COVID in our community. The bigger reason was that I honestly just wanted to have some quiet time on my own and be with my own company and not have the distraction of others eating around me. My entree was a veal and bison Bolognese ragout on top of fresh pasta sitting on a creamy grana Padano sauce. It was divine! Because this was date night, I splurged on desert with decadent strawberry chocolate truffles. The truffles arrived on a chocolate mouse, dollops of strawberry coulis and crumbled fragments of honeycomb. It was a silky sensuous bite with every taste, the crunch of the truffle outer crust tickling my senses and allowing me to savour every bite. I deliberately took my time with both of my entree, pausing between bites to allow the flavours of my meal to touch each of the taste buds. I savoured and I paused. I felt truly spoiled.

My delicious meal – I felt spoiled

At the end of my meal, I placed my tray outside my door for someone to pick up and carried on to the second part of my indulgence for myself. I unpacked the tealight candles from my suitcase and set them up along the edge of bathroom counter beside the bathtub and lit each one. I poured myself a glass of sparkling non-alcoholic grape juice in a full wine glass and let the bath fill with hot water. Just before stepping into the hot bath, I turned the lights off in the bathroom and let the candlelight be the only illumination in the room. I put some relaxing piano music on my phone and allowed the music to wash over me as I stepped into the hot water. I sank into the warmth of the water and closed my eyes to let the relaxation settle in.

Setting the stage for my hot bath…

By the time I was ready to head to bed, I was feeling relaxed, and the tensions of the week were melting away. I crawled into the massive bed and tucked the pillows around me so that I felt cuddled by them and gradually drifted off to sleep. In the morning I had a relaxed morning with coffee in bed and some overnight oats that I had packed to bring with me.

I checked out of the hotel and wanted to continue my date with myself, so I drove to a park along the Ottawa River and parked my car. It was warmer than I thought it was going to be, so I tied my jacket around my waist and headed out for a walk along the pathway. It felt so good to be outside with the cool fresh spring air brushing against my skin. I kept a leisurely pace, enjoying the emerging green grass starting to come to life after the snow had melted away. I appreciate the changing of the seasons and how different the same space looks in the different seasons. On this spring day there remains remnants of ice and snow on the river and along the creeks leading away from the river. I can see the tiniest of buds beginning on some of the trees, the slightest of green poking out from the brown tips of trees. After walking for some time, I came across a tree that captured my attention.

Throughout the park area, most of the trees were growing with straight trunks and branches reaching out fairly uniformly. Then there was this tree that had half of its body growing bent over and almost at right angle to the trunk. What event created this growth? This tree clearly continued to thrive after this event. I walked over closer to the tree and spent some time touching its rough, uneven bark, taking several moments to pause and breathe in time with the slight breeze that was passing through this part of the park. As I moved around the tree, I noticed that the tree trunk had actually split in two and from this new angle it appeared as if two trees either grew together and then split apart, or one tree began to divide itself. I reflected on the book that I had read last month, “The Mother Tree” and wondered what story this tree was sharing with its environment around it. And then as I looked up in this space between the two trunks, it appeared to me as if the branches coming above took on the shape of a heart between the trunks and branches of the tree. It felt like a gentle message to me from nature that love was here, was with me even as my tender heart was continuing to heal.

From here, I headed back to my car and decided to treat myself with a pastry and a fancy cup of tea. I drove into Britannia Village and treated myself to an almond croissant from the bakeshop and a London Fog latte from the coffee shop across the street and headed for home. As I arrived home, I settled myself onto my couch and curled up under the quilt sewn by a distant cousin, made up of patches designed by extended family members at a family reunion over twenty years ago. Much like my dinner the night before, I savoured each bit of the flaky, buttery and sweet-filled croissant. I lingered and savoured every bite, and every sip of my latte.

As the date completed, I reflected on where I started this weekend, or rather how my week had ended. I had been longing for a partner to provide me with some extra TLC and found that – not really surprisingly – I was able to nurture myself and give myself a sense of comfort and, well, loving care. It did help take the edge off the stress that I had been feeling throughout the week.

Cost of the date – hotel booking + dinner (above the $35 credit) – $243.09; walk in the park – free; London Fog Latte and almond croissant – $9.67

I rated my date an 8/10