2015: A year of valleys and peaks.

2015: it has been a year of deep valleys and high peaks for me, both literally and figuratively.

It began in the hospital, at the bedside of someone I deeply care for.  Here, winter and spring blurred by slowly in a haze of emotion, my life taking on a holding pattern as I entered a full-time support role for those around me.  The next thing I knew, it was summer.  At this point, the health challenges still had not gone away, but they had changed and those of us intimately involved have since been able to adapt to a new normal.

So that was the deep valley of 2015.  I am stronger for the struggle endured, but also grateful to have emerged from it to a few high points that inevitably followed.  Post-hospital bedside, I realized that in fixedly supporting others through their hardships I had forgotten to take care of myself as well as I should.  This realization, combined with a dream that had been percolating in my mind for some time, prompted me to embark on my Pedal Powered to the West bike tour.  With a combination of being alone on the road, travelling with a close friend, and visiting friends along the way, I was able to find a sort of personal healing.  Returning home, I was happy to be fired up and inspired about life again, not to mention strong enough to continue being a support to those who needed me.

Everything is always changing; this is one of the beauties and also banes of living, but one that is always worth keeping in mind when riding between the low and high points in life.  When we’re struggling…this will change.  Take the long view and realize that this moment is not forever.  When we feel like we’re on top of the world, this will change as well, so don’t be disappointed when it inevitably does.  This is the rhythm of life and it’s better to dance with it than fight it.

Today, I’d like to take a moment and focus on a few of the high points of 2015.  Before I get to that a few thank yous are in order, but read on for some photos and stories in the captions.

First, I am thankful for health: both my own and for those around me.  We all have different struggles here, but if you’re reading this then you also have health to be grateful for (just as I do in writing this).  Focus on the positive, not the negative.  Every moment we have is a gift in a life of constant change, and we will miss them if we take them for granted.

Next, a nod to all the clients I’ve worked with this year.  My sincere thanks goes out to all of my returning clients with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with for yet another year.  This year I didn’t have much energy to spend seeking out new clients, and that makes me even more grateful for the established partnerships that we were able to forge even deeper.  That said, to the few new clients I did have the pleasure to work with this year I am very happy that we were able to connect.  Sometimes paths cross in ways that are natural and organic, and I can sincerely say that I feel that way about all of you.  As a freelancer, my time is limited and so I am careful about who I choose to work with.  One of the huge benefits of this is that I can honestly say that I believe in the work each of you do, and I’m glad we can work together in mutually beneficial ways where we are both happy in what we have to offer each other.

Finally, a big thanks to all my friends, family, and students.  Whether you realized the role you played in my life this year or not, thank you for lending me your support.

And with that, here are a few personal highlights from a year that is now in the history books.  These selected moments do not necessarily reflect the daily grind of work or even daily life.  Rather, they are the fruits of one of my mottos in life: keep dreaming, and keep working day-by-day to get a little closer to living those dreams.

Minimalist Lake Winnipeg Portrait

Regardless of the season, my soul requires nature to recharge; amidst the busyness of our urban jungles, this is one of the ways I find balance.  This little slice of frozen heaven is on Lake Winnipeg, near a cozy little cabin I retreated to amidst the snow drifts on shore.  As a friend once told me in Alaska, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing and bad attitudes.”

St. Patrick's Day Aurora Borealis

The contrast of light and dark is beautifully observed when the elusive aurora borealis dances against the dark prairie sky.  In Manitoba, winter days are short and nights are long, but the darkness needn’t keep us from spending time outside.

Winnipeg Folk Festival 2015 - night life at Pope's Hill

Every year, the Winnipeg Folk Festival serves as a kickoff for my summer.  The festival is spectacular in its own right, but personally it has also become a meeting place where old friends come together despite the diverging paths we’ve each chosen over the years.  For five days every July, we erect a village together and live simply in each others’ presence.

Winnipeg Folk Festival 2015 - Mariachi Ghost

Creativity abounds in the festival scene, and seeing people doing that which they are so passionate about it is so inspiring to me.

Bike Tour Packing

A journal, camera, and all the gear needed to be self-sufficient on a bicycle in northwestern Canada.  On trips like these where every gram is carefully considered, bringing something as heavy as an SLR camera is a huge decision (but not one that I regret in the slightest!).

Haida Gwaii Bike Camping

In 2015, I am happy to report that I spent over two months camped out in the elements.

Have Faith in Yourself

This photo has a lot of personal meaning to it and I put it together intending to make a large print for my studio as a reminder to have faith in myself.  At a certain point on my cycling tour there was a convergence of physical exhaustion, loneliness, and homesickness.  Several days of riding from the nearest town, I felt utterly alone and down.  It was at this point that I noticed this message engraved in my picnic table.  Picking myself up, I looked around and recognized wild labrador plants at the edge of my campsite.  Harvesting some of the leaves (pictured here) I made myself a cup of labrador tea and knew that everything was going to be okay.

The edge of the world at Rennell Sound

This place is known by Haida locals as the edge of the world.  Gazing through this gap at Rennell Sound from Gregory Beach on the west coast of the Haida Gwaii, it is unnerving to know that the next bit of land in that direction is Japan at some 7000km away.  The effort it took to get here was massive, the logging roads alone being a daunting task for a truck in good weather never mind a couple of bicycles in the unpredictable weather that is this wild west coast.  Being largely unsigned, we missed the turnoff we were searching for amidst the maze of active logging roads.  This meant an extra 50km of difficult riding and the imminent danger of dwindling daylight.  We finally hit the coast at sunset after a steep (25% grade for over 3km!) descent to the water but, again due to lack of good signage, we were uncertain how far it was to the wilderness campsites marked on our map.  Half an hour past sunset, we were exhausted and had to make a decision where to camp.  Hiding our bikes in some bushes, we donned our headlamps and hiked a dark 1km from the road to this beach.  The shrubs along the water’s edge were dense and flimsy – utterly unsuitable for our hammock tents.  With my travel partner exhausted, I went ahead along the beach to scout for a good place to set up camp.  Two km up, I found a semi-suitable spot near the base of a trickling stream (good thing, since we also were out of water and dehydrated after the strenuous day).  Hiking back and forth a few times on weary legs to get our gear in, I set up camp, made dinner, filtered just enough water to get by, and was finally settled in at 2am.  We spent two nights here, resting a full day and watching the weather beat down the coast before braving the looming challenge of getting back to pavement.  Hands down, this was one of most remote and wild places I’ve ever been.

Mount Wilcox Peak

Recently I was gifted the book Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies by Alan Kane.  In it, route suggestions are outlined for pretty much any peak you can point at in the Rocky Mountains.  This particular one, Mount Wilcox, was the first summit I completed out of the book, though I’m proud to report that in 2015 I summited four named peaks (and several more unnamed ones!).

Climbing up to Akamina Ridge

With a meditation retreat scheduled in September whereby I was the administrator, I returned to the prairies to work. Shortly after returning, my partner-in-life Adrienne and I each found that we had six free days that overlapped in our schedules.  With both of us being freelancers, it was very much a rarity to have free time together like this, so we impulsively decided to rent a car and go on an adventure to the mountains at our favourite park: Waterton Lakes National Park.  This region is very special to us and we keep returning to experience it in different seasons.  Here is a photo I snapped with my phone from a ledge in the middle of a steep climb.  Confident in these mountain passes, we love to venture off the beaten path and find our own trail up in the alpine.

Waterton's snow peaked mountains as seen from the prairie

A stormy surprise awaited outside our Waterton tent one morning when autumn met winter.  First snowfalls are magical, and this year I was lucky enough to experience this three separate times in Canada: in Jasper, Waterton, and finally in Winnipeg.

Riding Mountain Bison

These two bison were getting in one of their last meals before winter – just like me!  It is a tradition for my family to spend Thanksgiving together in Riding Mountain National Park.  Living together under one roof, we cook for each other, play cards, and watch the frost gather on the windows as we talk idly in a relaxed way that is oh so nice.  Bundled up, we hike and watch wildlife…over the past twenty years I have hiked and cycled almost every official trail in the park, and a few unofficial ones on top of all that.

David Quiring's Print Shop desk

Home for the end of the year, it was time to get back to work and life’s day-to-day rituals.  Amidst the normal, I also reopened my Etsy shop which was closed while I was on the road.  Despite a late opening, I’m happy to say that I had a very successful winter sale.  Thanks to all the customers who purchased greetings cards and prints over the holiday season!  A good chunk of December was dedicated to working with my hands and putting together your orders, and it was work I was happy to do and share with you.