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

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

Hiking as Mindfulness

Today I went for a hike in the Gatineaus (Quebec). I’m on holidays for a couple of weeks and I just wanted to be by myself in the woods for a bit.

I headed out of Ottawa and up to the National Capital Commission and Lac-Phillipe, the Lusk Cave Trail. I left my ipod behind and headed out on the 12 km trail with just my own thoughts. It was a cool day, a welcome relief from so many of the hot and humid days that we’ve had. The sky was largely overcast and there was (thankfully) not many people on the trails. I also planned my trip to be there as soon as the gate was opened for day visitors, so there weren’t even that many cars in the parking lot.

I headed out onto the trail. I soaked in my surroundings, taking time to just listen to the crunch of my hiking boots on the gravel.  For several minutes I focused my attention on how each foot step sounded on the gravel. As the texture of the path changed, so did the sound of my footsteps. I enjoyed the transition from gravel to sand, to the branch covered paths.

After a while, I let my attention move from my footsteps and take in all the sounds around me. The wind blowing gently on the tree tops.  I opened my ears to the chatter of the birds, and the sound of a flock of crows taking off in a cackling hurry. I let my senses fully opened and smelt the fresh air, the mud on the ground, the rotting of some of the dead foliage and trees. I soaked it in and connected those sensations deeply into my body.

For a little over four hours I hiked all on my own. I alternatively focused my attention on my surroundings, taking in the details of the forest and then on just letting my mind wander wherever it wanted to go. I enjoyed not numbing myself out with music as I typically do when I run or walk on the streets of my town. I enjoyed sometimes focusing on the exertion of my body up an incline, paying attention to my breathing, my muscles and the feeling of joy of making my body move.

At one point on the hike, a mother and daughter entered the trail from another path. They were chatting and wanted to talk to me. I really just wanted to sink into my own meditative hike.  After several efforts to separate myself from them by either trying to speed ahead of them, or stop and let them get far enough ahead of me, and somehow we kept bumping into one another over and over, I indicated to them that I appreciated their friendliness but I just wanted to be on my own for the hike. They were offended and told me that they were just trying to be friendly.  It was clear to me that it was hard for them to understand why I just wanted to be alone.  They were determined to ensure that I was not alone as if this could not possibly be what I wanted.

I decided to strike off onto another part of the trail, away from their need to connect with me because what I needed more than anything was to continue to connect with my inner thoughts and the awareness of the nature around me.

Fortunately for the remainder of my hike as I meandered down another path, I was left to myself.  It was easy to return my attention into my own body, into the awareness of the forest around me.

Returning to my car, I took a few moments on the park bench and closed my eyes. I practiced some deep breath and started at my head. Each breath I breathed in, I focused on a part of my body. The crown of my head, the tips of my ears, my cheekbones, my neck, my shoulders, and all the way down to my toes. I breathed in and out awareness of my body and its stillness. I breathed in and out contentment and joy at the time spent on the trail. I gathered my senses back into myself and just held that moment for a second longer.

When I got in the car and headed back to my friend’s house, I felt an amazing sense of calm and gratitude.  It was a powerful reminder of how much I depend on time alone and in the bush to re-calibrate and ground myself.