I have always hated the word “normal” and now this term has become ever more cringeworthy. In the news we are inundated with the turn of phrase “the new normal” and you cannot have a conversation without saying “when things get back to normal” in an effort to make future plans. But here’s the thing, normal was never and should never be the desired state of outcome for our lives. Normal is a sad excuse of maintaining a status quo, without making any trouble. Well look around, we finally got into trouble. Big trouble. And the beloved normal is to blame. Normal is lazy. Normal is boring and stagnant. Normal is devoid of creativity, progress, and evolution.

We need to move forward with the idea of being better, so let’s strive towards not getting back to normal life, but moving ahead to an exceptional everyday life. Throw away the outdated and dusty ideals associated with normal. We are better than that. We have to be.

Take this from someone who has spent the better part of the last month grasping for any minutiae of information regarding Covid-19 and I can tell you this, it doesn’t matter how much we read or listen to the news we, as a collective layman society, know nothing more about Covid-19 and can offer no new insights to the scientific experts and decision makers leading us through this pandemic. This is NOT the DaVinci Code that, only by watching ALL the news and Tweets and Facebook stories and Instagram posts, you’ll amazingly figure it all out. You, me, and my neighbour Walter are not going to solve the puzzle of this disease. Why, because we are irrelevant. Unless my buddy Walter here was an infectious disease expert but alas, he is not.

We have been told repeatedly the job we have to do and it’s quite simple – Stay home. When you absolutely have to go out, you keep at least 2 metres of distance between your own germ carrying vessel and others.

Any other time I would be tooting the horn of civil liberties for the populace but right now I’m with the government in releasing only “need to know” information. I don’t feel we’re owed all the transparency that’s being called for. Why? Because our collective working class opinion doesn’t matter right now. And, we have displayed that even with all the harrowing information out there about the disease and the simple rules to stay home, we still don’t listen. There are still people gathering in groups, hanging out at Walmart and the grocery stores. So no, I don’t think the government is obligated at all to release the projections they have been given to guide their decision making during this situation. If I thought it would solidify the degree of seriousness in those people that weren’t already abiding by the rules to stay at home then yes, by all means release the data. But I don’t think that. The same people who aren’t taking this seriously are going to take that information and look for loopholes, and the other spectrum of individuals are going to use that information as a means of placing the blame from here on out upon those that delivered that information. Because it is SO much easier to place blame, then take on the responsibility yourself. The Prime Minister has said repeatedly, the magnitude of impact the pandemic will have on our country and the lives of it’s citizens depends on YOU and YOUR BEHAVIOUR.

So, I’ll put this simply: I don’t care about your “need to know”. I don’t care if you think it is within your rights to have transparency. What you need to do now is listen to the rules given to you by the big brains in our country and worldwide to STAY HOME. Wash your hands. Distance yourself from other Germbags.

Let the government with all their advisers do their job and you do yours. Trust that everyone wants the best case scenario for all of us. Trust and have faith that once this storm passes, and it will, what’s left over will show how well we pulled together or how horrible we fell apart.

I have spent this last week in grief. Grieving the loss of what life was, what life is, and what I thought life would be. We’ve lost huge, massive foundations of our life – security and safety. We’ve witnessed the fragility of humankind and the environment, but we’ve seen the absolute persistence of both as well.

So yes, I’m sad. I’m sad to hear of all those people that have lost family and friends.

I’m mad. I’m mad at all those fucking idiots that don’t listen to reason and warnings to stay inside.

I’m anxious as all get out, because that’s really my default setting. I’m worried about someone I know getting sick or myself getting sick. I’m worried about the unknown – where do we go from here??? I’m worried that my children will be afraid. I’m worried for friends with small businesses, friends that have been laid off, friends that are alone, friends that are immune compromised or have children that are.

But, as with everything in this diametric universe there is the flip side. I am relieved to slow down. I am thankful for a job that has supported it’s employees through this time. I am grateful that my friends and family are in the good health. And I am beyond thankful to all those first responders, hospital staff, and essential services workers who still do a job every single day for the benefit of all of us.

I’m still a hot mess, and I can pretty much guarantee I’ll be like this for awhile. But in the meantime I’m keeping my eyes wide open to see those small glimmers of hope, those moments where memories are made and miracles happen.

I thought I had long ago dealt with the trauma I experienced with Fitz’s birth. It’s not something I need to explain, it was personal and subjective and I don’t need that experience validated by anyone. I realized today, though, that that fear, which I thought was gone, is actually very much still here. It had disguised itself so well as a rationality that I didn’t even realize it had been a major player in my life for the past 4 years.

I realized it through a conversation. Through noticing my choice of words. I used the words ‘pain’ and ‘hurt’ more than once along with ‘afraid’. Even though I was saying, “I like and expect a challenge when pushing my physical limits”. I was even confusing myself.

It wasn’t until I was back in my car, obsessing over what I said when I realized “holy shit, I’ve been avoiding any physical challenges for the past 4 years because of my child birth trauma.”

For the past 4 years I’ve let a few hours experience determine how I live my life, or don’t live in this case. I gave up on things that were huge parts of me. I gave up on trying, experiencing, and even just showing up. Because I was afraid – afraid that what happened before, would definitely happen again.

All this from one conversation.

Take the time to not only listen to others’ stories, but also, really take the time to listen to your own. Your version. Your words. Your story. You just might learn something about yourself.

If I could give you all the answers,

I would.

If I could save you from all the hurt,

I would.

But if I keep you from all that the world has to give,

Then I’d be denying you the chance that you have to live.

If I save you from your very first heartbreak,

You will never know True Love.

If I gave you a reason for every little thing,

You will never know everyday magic.

And if I shelter you from all the Hate,

You will never know the need to stand up against it.

You must live little darling,

And that can sometimes feel like too much.

But you must live little darling,

Because otherwise, you’ll miss out on all the fun.

If you never fall,

You won’t know how great it is to fly.

If you never fail,

You won’t know how to get up again and try.

If you never hurt,

You won’t know what it means to heal.

And if you never cry,

You won’t ever know what it means to feel.

You must live little darling,

But know – you’re not alone here.

We’re all just living little darling,

And with that, there will be nothing to fear.

I can’t do it all for you, my little one,

But I can teach you what you need to know.

I can’t do it all for you – I’m sorry,

Because you and I, we both need to grow.

Eternity lives in moments.

In the most desolate and desperate situations, hope can shine and miracles do happen. Know this and be well.

I remember the details with perfect clarity of that evening of Dec 23, 1997. Amanda and I were returning home on a snowmobile from a overnight cabin trip with friends in the middle of Labrador, our home. It was a lengthy trip over the frozen lakes and we had left in the mid afternoon with another couple of friends but got separated along the way because we had to make a stop to switch gas tanks. Not long after we started on our way again, I was sitting comfortably and listening to music on my Walkman when Amanda yelled “look out! We’re going in!” Through the ice we went, Amanda went to the left of the ski doo, I went to the right and immediately submerged into the frigid December waters of a Labrador lake.

Time did not stand still. It simply did not exist. The whole world, my world, was eternal. There was no beginning, no end – just that moment.

I can still feel that sensation of weightlessness from falling into the water, like a dream where I’m flying. Then I felt a pull, dragging me down, like icy tentacles grasping at my legs as my clothes started to weigh me down. I was enveloped in absolute terror trying to keep my head above water, then utter hopelessness with ice breaking under my arms over and over and over again as I tried to get out of the water. Light turned to dark, day to night, and then miraculously I was out. I have never been able to recall that instant other than exactly as I described – fighting to get out of the water and then *poof* I was sitting on the ice. I remember feeling like I woke from that dream to find myself sitting there. Not knowing how I got there but knowing I was given a new chance. I can feel the ice underneath me as I crawled to Amanda and we remembered enough from survival lessons in health class kept our distance so as not to break the ice again. We argued. I told her we would not give in, that was not an option. Together we made our choice to not give up, then we screamed for help. We screamed. I can still feel the ripping in my throat. Jagged, tearing screams into a clear and quiet night, reaching nothing. You could see for miles and there was nothing. No one. Time did not exist. I could see the lights from the iron ore mine, I was trying to determine how far they would be if we had to crawl that way to get off the ice. I could feel nothing of the cold, even for being soaked to the core with layers upon layers of soaking wet clothes. I knew the threat of hypothermia would become imminent as well if our situation didn’t change soon. Then another miracle, first a distant sound of a rumbling engine, then a bright light staggering in the distance. How, I will never know. It defies explanation how our screams were heard over the roaring engine of s snowmobile. How we were seen in the middle of the lake when we never should have been there. But we were.

There, the 3 of us, rode to the highway on a snowmobile meant for one. I was on the back, barely holding on, screaming again inside as I felt the ice breaking under my feet as we drove off. We arrived at the highway to flag down anyone that would stop and take us to the hospital. And so there, once again, a miracle, after a few hours of observation, tightly wrapped in warm flannel blankets, once the shaking subsided, neither one of us had hypothermia, no one else from our party had been in trouble (which was my fear) and we were released to go home. I tried not sleep that night. I felt I had just squeaked past death’s hand too many times that evening that I was not going to be given any more chances. Eventually though, sleep took me.

I may not have gone on to change the world, but my world was changed from that moment. And from there I’ve helped create 2 new precious worlds and with that I know, without a doubt, miracles happen. Miracles are real.

Kevin Collins Photography

Back in October our family had a free weekend, so a last minute decision, and we ended up at the Toronto Zoo. We used to have a membership several years ago but found that we weren’t going enough to justify it.

They were having a Halloween weekend, and kids that dressed in costume got in for free, so naturally, it was crazy busy there. I brought along my new Holga 120WPC and a Nikkormat FTn and am fairly happy with the results. I was using a zoom lens I didn’t even know I had. I primarily use prime lenses these days so it was fun to use something a bit different.

Camera: Nikkormat FTn
Lens: Magnicon XC 70-200mm f/4.5-5.6
Film: Rollei Superpan 200
Developer: Blazinal (1+100) at 20.0C for 60 minutes
Scanner: Epson V850
Catalog ID: 2019-042

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Oct.30/17 4:30am

It was an appropriately creepy Halloween time walk early this morning. The wailing north westerlies dominated the pre-dawn landscape. I hate these winds. These winds lend voices to things otherwise silent.

The trees moan as they bend to their demands.

Their leaves shiver on the branches. Wires scream with warning, pushed to their limits, and the street lights sway ominously. The cacophony leads me to take a different route than normal, away from the overhead dangers. The dead leaves on the ground are momentary companions, pitter – pattering along with me until a gust comes and they escape fervently, breathless as they swirl away. Behind me the the skeleton leaves are foot steps gathering closer and closer, until I look to see that no one is indeed there, only to find that they were disguising the actual footsteps beside me.

I come across empty lots,scarred black and desolate this early morning. With huge hulking metal mountains parked in a silent corner. The chain link fence rattles keeping whatever it needs to keep out, out. Or maybe in. I hustle past not wanting to find out which.

Finally! Back on the home stretch. Relief is quickly surpassed by dread – this home stretch is dimly lit. The only light from the street lamps is canopied by trees dancing freakishly in the wind, making the sidewalk a psycho disco of strobe light shadows.

I pick up the pace, I’ve had enough of this nightmare, and I just want to be home, safe. My imagination has run wild with these wailing north westerlies, and it’s time to find refuge. I walk, in the darkness , as quickly as I can. Ignoring the sounds around me but sensing and heeding their urgency. I’m being chased by these shadows, and the otherwise voiceless are screaming at me to leave.

I feel like a modern day Ichabod Crane making his way home late at night after the party. Finally assured that all will be well, I was no more than 4 minutes from home – relief! However, the lights momentarily flicker, then, just above the treetops,on the path I normally would have been on, an explosion! The exploding pumpkin head through the covered bridge. Happy Halloween 👻

Today is just like many other days. We’re rushing around, wrangling kids, trying to get them dressed in clean clothes and fed a decent breakfast and bonus points for getting them to brush their teeth and maybe sometimes, or all the time like in my case, this side-show shit hits the fan. There may or may not be yelling and words you normally wouldn’t want coming out of your mouth may be directed right towards your kids for JUST NOT LISTENING! The drive to school or daycare is in silence(only if you’re lucky), you kiss your kids goodbye👋 and race off to the work you’re already now late for, throw your butt into your ergonomic chair in front of your computer and (deep sigh of guilt) think to yourself – was all that, all that yelling and rushing and swearing and stress really worth it?? For this?

Well, is it?

This scenario gave me pause today and me made think – where are my boundaries? Where is the line where I say “No, this isn’t worth it”? Where is the level of stress to the point where I can say “I need a break, I need some help, or I need to get away” ?

How can I make boundaries without feeling like I’m letting someone down? How can I draw the line in my life where I commit to it being the enforceable point between ‘manageable’ and ‘too much’? More importantly, how do I make others see and obey that line?

I can’t do everything, and my super-mom friends that I’m always in awe of can’t do everything all the time either. But we try. We succeed. We fail. We persist. And at the end of the day we just hope our babes believe the honesty in our voices when we say “I love you.” 💖

Grief

The house was quiet and still, where once you couldn’t escape the noise. It was mostly happy noise, not always, but it was life. Life’s noise. The ringing of the phone, the tv in the living room with the volume way up, the laughter among friends, and the screaming between sisters. That day the air was heavy and stale, waiting for movement, for a breath to keep it alive and fresh. Shadows hung in every corner, low clouds that eked into every crevice and made the light heavy and dim. In the corner of the counter, where it had always been, stood a coffee maker. The white of the plastic had yellowed from years of use and cigarette smoke in the house. The glass carafe stained brown and chipped on the spout, where when you poured the coffee it would leak down the side of the carafe and sizzle against the burner creating a noxious steam. It still had a half a pot of coffee in it with spores starting to grow. I don’t know how long it had been there, it didn’t matter.

That visit, with me standing there once again with my mother and sisters, was like an exhalation. An exhalation of life, more than just one, an emptiness so complete and final, yet also, endless.

This is death. This is grief.

Grief is death left for the living. It is a vacuum. A black hole. There is no air to breathe. No ground under your feet. No voice to speak, no sound to hear. It is a void, profound with nothingness and at the same time, all encompassing, all consuming. Grief is the penance we pay for having known someone who lived a life worth loving. I closed my eyes and the vision of my self, the self that grew and developed there, slipped away on a sigh.

I stood barefoot on the warmed planks of the splintering deck, a coffee in hand and the grace of the sun upon my face. It was a cool morning, June in Labrador. I knew I had to leave soon. I knew leaving meant so much more than getting on a plane and saying, “see you soon”. It meant leaving everything I had ever known behind – forever. My home, my childhood, and my dad were all dead.