Category Archives: Steff’s Big Adventure

A Roasted Chicken Kinda Day

Some days — grey-sky, nothin’-doin’ kinda Sundays (or stat Mondays) — are made for puttering around the home, listening to some podcasts, cleaning, cooking. And those are the days made for roasting chicken. Thank you, cosmos.

Got me a fatty of a bird I’m gonna roast up soon. Tuck some sundried tomato & basil butter under the skin, roast it on a bed of celery, carrots, leek, and all kinda onions. Puree most of ‘em after for the most veggie-licious gravy ever. That, a little stock, some pretentious jelly for flavour. Boom. So good.

I will miss days like this when I’m abroad, but I know I’ll also do an amazing job of making a “new version” of this. I picture myself on a rainstormy day finding a way to make comfort food that smacks of home. I’m bringing maple syrup with me, bitches. The Quebec stuff. Real deal. Oh, yeah.

Food is an emotional thing. Just like roasted chicken, things like Yorkshire pudding evoke my childhood. Pouding chomeur takes me right back to being 8 and standing on a chair to look in the oven at the carmelly-mapley Quebecois version of a sticky toffee pudding baking on Sunday nights.

I can’t buy that memory anywhere else. Same thing with the roasted chickens, stews, breads, all those smells I remember from my childhood kitchen. My mom and dad weren’t the BEST cooks, but they sure put their effort into it and we ate pretty well. And all the muffins you could dream of.

Here’s a story for you. Best.

We went away for a day when we were kids, only to come home and find a ladder against the left-open living room window. The grand theft item? Muffins my mom had made. A couple of the neighbour kids came in, helped themselves. Couple glasses used for milk left on the counter was the big evidence. AHA! My first Sherlockian encounter.

It was the neighbours in the kitchen with a butter knife!

Chicken with all the fats.

Chicken with all the fats.

T & D, trouble-making brothers up the block, were sent over to meekly apologize. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went home with muffins in-hand post-apology too. It was that kind of a neighbourhood.

I’m hoping I luck into reasonably well-stocked kitchens. I’m tempted to bring a silicone muffin tin with me on my travels. (I already have the meat thermometer I’m bringing!) I mean, muffins are serious and there ain’t a storebought muffin in the world I think holds up to a solid home-baked one. Emotional food, indeed.

That will be one of the great aspects to my travels, for me anyhow, is that I want to learn how to do all the cookin’ of what I’m eatin’. I want to be pushy and friendly and get myself invited to family get-togethers. How cool would that be? Politely elbow my way into the kitchen. Watch how it gets done.

And I will just die if I get to go to those big meat-a-paloozas. Grill pits, underground fire pits, brick ovens, over an open flame. Whatever, man. If it involves primal meat cooking in the great outdoors, I will find a way to get there. I will need to connect with serious foodies in every town and not take no for an answer.

I can do this!

But for now, I’m capping this grey day with a roasted bird. It’ll be nice salads and other treats, all week. I’m enjoying cooking these days.

Enjoy the home pleasures while I can, right?

By the way, I’ve got the domain reserved for what will be my travel blog. You can go ahead and bookmark it, and it’ll take you here in the maintime. It’s called The Full Nomad.

“Going full nomad” is gonna be a “thing.” Mark my words!

Dark & Beautiful: The Brain & Creativity

brainsbrainsbrainsThe human brain is a marvelous and terrifying thing.

I once heard that science knows as little about the deep sea as it does the human brain. The last frontiers. Is that true? Really, the only thing that matters is that I can buy its truthiness. Science can’t even really explain why some PMS makes me want to club a baby seal, but other times I’m fine. Hello?

Yesterday, for instance, I managed to be productive and focused, but inside I was terribly, terribly depressed and angry.

Fortunately, logically, I knew it was just hormones and weather. I realized there wasn’t an actual reason I should be either depressed OR angry, and I knew where I was in my cycle. The way I was feeling wasn’t rooted in reality, and I understood that, come morning, odds were highly likely the mood would vanish.

And poof, just like that, it’s gone. Today I’m hopeful, creative, charged, and just bought the domain name for the creative and existential project to consume the next half decade of my life. If that’s not optimistic, even at the low, low price of $8.99 per year, I don’t know what is.

Perspective

I mean, how many people have the opportunity to point at Planet Earth and go “I want that,” then set into motion the mechanics of taking on the whole wide world for five years with no roots, anywhere, no limits? One in 100,000? One in a million? Lucky, indeed.

It’s knuckle-cracking elbow-greasing time when it comes to this little going-Full-Nomad project of mine. A friend has offered to help me set up my blog. I’ve decided not to host that content here on The Cunt. This place has been great for me, and I’ll likely still use it to unleash my wrath and rail at the gods from time to time, but I’m in a different place now. I’m a different person now. I need a new creative home.

Despite my older, mellower ways, it’s pretty safe to say I’ll never be Mary Poppins. Nor would I want to be. I like my wrath and fury, my joy and faith. I like the mix of pathos that swirls in my brain. My yin to my yang is right there. I may tilt and pivot, vacillating from seeming extremes, but I’m usually able to hold onto a small measure of awareness that, whatever the tempest, life is generally a smooth-sailing place for me. Or at least a place I manage to navigate without peril.

Storms are Genesis

Chimp_Brain_in_a_jarEarlier, I saw a quote from Kurt Vonnegut about how it’s impossible to be a serious writer if you don’t suffer depression. I’m sure if he were to expound, he might have said something like it’s the variations of emotional themes which make great writers what they are.

They’ve loved, they’ve lost, they’ve lived to tell another tale.

Throughout history, writers have been the teller of the tales. They’ve kept the legends alive, passed the records of humanity from one generation to another. It wasn’t until humans began to write that we really had a record of not only the social structure but the emotional worlds in ages long past.

Writers record the human condition. We try to grasp what happens around us, record how it affects us, and inspire the next step. Today, different mediums allow for writing/recording/inspiring to happen visually, in audio, and of course on the page/stage/screen.

But all of it starts in the brain, when someone sees something and has a thing or two to say about it. Poof! A synapse fires, a thought is born, a project springs forth.

That inspiration and the ability to create something of where there was nothing, it blows my fucking mind.

The human brain is a marvellous and terrifying place, indeed.

The Psyche and the Fulcrum

Surviving nearly a year of dark, fearful deep depression baffles me. Survival didn’t seem an option then. I’m grateful my forays to bleakness are seldom now, rare even, and I’ve the faculties to buckle up and hang on until it’s over, which is never more than a day or two.

I have no illusions. Once I’m gone “Full Nomad,” there’ll be days where I find myself fatigued and homesick, wishing I had a bed all mine. But it’s days like today after I’ve told myself “It’ll be better tomorrow,” and I wake up, and it really is better, that convince me I’ve got this. I’ll have brief downs and see myself through them.

Done and Done

That’s another funny thing about the brain. The more we realize and act upon our strength, the more our brains can sell us on our toughness when needing a pep-talk down the road.

It’s fantastic we’re as resilient as we are. One of the greatest gifts ever given is adversity. It never feels that way at the time, but no matter what the loss or the price is, a healthy person will become better, stronger, more resilient as a result. I know I’m grateful to have proven already I’m “tough enough.”

Like the saying says, we don’t know how strong we are until we have to be strong.

That part is inspiring and comforting. What’s terrifying is the brain’s ability to shut out all hope and languish in darkness. Science needs to unlock mental illness. I’m glad it’s getting more attention.

And Now, More Mysterious Than Ever Before!

Strength and resilience aside, the flipside to the possibility of that terrifying darkness is the jaw-dropping experience of creation. Some brains conceive rocketships to the stars, incredible food combinations, cures for disease, life-changing books, or soul-charging songs. Poof! Magic. Inspiration, creation. And so the creative cycle continues.

With every new experience, a new creative door might open. I can’t begin to imagine what seeing the world and blowing my perception wide-open will do for my brain. What will I create? What will I learn? What will I experience? How will it influence my thoughts for the rest of my life? My creativity? How much will it increase my resilience?

I’ve already lived through incredible extremes of the human brain. Or like to think I have. In less than eight months, I start the project that I hope will shake me to my foundations and awaken me from my white middle-class life, and change my world-view for the rest of my days.

Waiting will be a bitch. Luckily, Trusty Brain shows me positives in proceeding slow and studiously, while laying proper groundwork for a long, successful journey.

Way to go, brain.

Brains

Pondering the Pineapple Express

The “Pineapple Express” isn’t just a stoner movie that’ll have you hitting the Cheetos, it’s a weather phenomenon that instills dread in the hearts of West Coasters.

It’s days of unseasonal warm weather coupled with dreary heavy clouds, battering rains, and sometimes winds. It’s not like monsoons in the tropics, it’s just medium-to-heavy rain that seems endless, for days. With the humidity between 90-100%, it feels like you’re walking around in a wet paperbag for three to six days straight.

There’s some localized weather phenomena that affects where I am, Victoria, BC, where “the shadow of Mount Rainier” is said to save us from about 50% of the rain that falls in Vancouver. We might be just across the strait, less than 100km from Vancouver, BC, but they’re a rainforest, and downtown Victoria ain’t. Half the rain, baby.

Between the rain, back in 2013 on Victoria's Clover Point.

Between the rain, back in 2013 on Victoria’s Clover Point.

But you wouldn’t know it on days like these. Not because of all the rain, but because all the clouds sock us in and that moisture’s still THERE, it’s just holding out to put out for Vancouver. I guess Victoria doesn’t drive a flash enough car to woo the likes of this rain.

Still, like a school boy on a hot date, those clouds are fit to explode, and I feel the pressure as it slowly rolls overtop this island, starting its dump further up the coast as it lays into Vancouver.

It pounds behind my eyes and the back of my head. I can even feel the little shifts. Clouds clear in a patch above me momentarily, and so will my head. Rain resumes, so does the foggy brain. It’s baffling.

They call these “low-pressure fronts.” It’s evident even in the people. We trudge and grumble. There’s a “rainy-day hunch,” too. We don’t even know we’re doing it — it just happens when walking down the street in heavy rain. It’s a forward slouch with a hunching of the shoulders, and it effectively ensures more like a 60-40 rain-split, where your back gets most of the wetting action.

‘Cept those days where you’re walking into a headwind and then you’re just screwed, bro. Done. Those are the days you get rain-soaked straight up to mid-thigh. God help you if you’re not wearing water-resistant clothing, or better yet, Goretex. I’m not the only former Vancouverite who’s had 2-3 layers of clothes all get soaked under a “rainproof” jacket on the very bad, no good, wrong rain day.

One of THOSE days. I dared to shoot photos in the wind and rain. Luckily *my* gear worked. But 95km winds will give you THIS face.

One of THOSE days. I dared to shoot photos in the wind and rain. Luckily *my* gear worked. But 95km winds will give you THIS face.

We grumble and whine and moan, but this rain becomes a part of us. Day after day it grows prohibitive and inconvenient, not to mention mind-numbing and depressing, but the odd heavy rain becomes something we almost cannot live without.

I loved to the Yukon in 1994 and spent the year living in Whitehorse. When you think “Yukon,” you think endless snow, so naturally it must get quite a bit of moisture, right? But you’d be wrong. It’s incredibly dry. It snows in October, then pretty much just stays dry and sunny and cold until April, when it rains a couple times and the snow finally melts.

I’d moved there in October, after Vancouver’d had a three-month dry spell. By the time I saw and smelled rain again, it was the following April and I hadn’t seen rain in 10 months. I cried, I was so happy to see it.

So today as the rain pounds and batters the streets, and I sit with all my windows open while enjoying the unseasonal warmth, I’m loathing the dreariness despite enjoying its idle, and dreaming of when I will live in a place with more sun than rain in winter, and wondering if I might miss these Pineapple Expresses one day.

After all, there’s a catharsis that comes with rain. Like if it rains any harder it’ll even wash away my sins. It’s soul-soothing and permissive. My inner-Catholic is a big fan of rain and all its symbolic cleanliness.

I feel I’ll be betraying all my lineage by escaping this climate. From the Barra Islands Camerons in the Outer Hebrides to my Viking MacNeills, Irish Monks, and my Breton line, they’re all foul-weathered people. They overcame the challenges of the land, sea, and skies, and thrived in it.

I have the luxury of failing them all and wimping out. City-folk. Pah!

As a result, I’ll be letting the rain dictate my weekend. Food, cleaning, writing, sloth, Netflix, drinking, reclusion. All fine and glorious things. All behind the rain-streaked windows, wearing comfy jammies and sporting bedhead.

No shame, man. No shame.

Letting Go So I Can Move On

Today is the day I allow my Victoria blog domain to die. Now it’s just another lowly wordpress.com site.

Writing-wise, it was like a bad pair of jeans. Sure, it gave me something to write about, but it would always feel wrong.

Despite that, Victoria has been where I’ve reconnected with writing after losing my inspiration for nearly five years. I’ve tried on many genres of writing while here — for money and otherwise.

With both paid and unpaid writing, I now feel that life is too precious to spend it earning money doing things I don’t love, and even less worth it when money ain’t involved. I haven’t figured out the secret to only getting paid to do what I love yet, but I’m getting closer. I can feel it.

Girl checks out the sunset on Victoria's Dallas Road. By me. Some rights reserved.

Girl checks out the sunset on Victoria’s Dallas Road. By me. Some rights reserved.

I was never gonna be the Victoria-it-place girl. I’m glad the one blog post on about lepers got a lot of recognition and was reprinted in the Huffington Post, but the rest of the blog, I found it hard to give a shit about it.

Learning that it’s the genre and type of writing that was bumming me out is a big thing. It’s the opposite of inspiration, that. Other people can write about food joints and place trends, but it ain’t me.

I’m now learning the writing I want to do can’t be done in one spot. It’s like an REM song — I can’t get there from here.

I can’t explain it to you, but you’ll know it when you see it.

I shot this on day five of living in Victoria. March, 2012. Sunset at Victoria's Ogden Point Breakwater. I will miss this place and its special feeling after I'm gone.

I shot this on day five of living in Victoria. March, 2012. Sunset at Victoria’s Ogden Point Breakwater. I will miss this place and its special feeling after I’m gone.

In future adventures in writing, I see more observational, contemplative work. That’s my jazz. I also want to try fiction again, which I’ve only written for classes before, but that I may have a knack for. After all, inside my brain is a dark and bizarre world at times. I’ve begun cobbling out the plot for an unreliable memoir of a serial killer, for instance.

I’m sure there are those who’ll scoff at the notion that I can know what my “missing piece” is and where I’ll find it, but there aren’t a lot of times in our lives when we have an unmistakable pull telling us where to go, what to do. For those of us lucky enough to decipher that code, there’s this weird undercurrent of certainty that battles the fear of change.

I may be terrified of my five-year world-travel plan, in some ways, but I’ve never had more certainty that a risk I was taking is the right one. Believe me, I’ve thought of all the freaky what-ifs, but the core of certainty remains.

“Certainty” is an iffy word for it, but I can’t find a better one.

It’s like that scene in Donnie Darko where Donnie sees that strange orb of pre-destiny extending from other folks’ torsos, in that split moment before they commit to a direction or action, affirming for Darko Dr. Roberta Sparrow’s theories on time travel.

The global nomad thing just feels that way for me and my writing. What I seek, it’s out there. It feels almost like I’ve accidentally mislaid a piece of my soul and need to go retrieve it.

I remember when I was younger I used to think relentless wanderers were people running away or seeking something. I know it’s more complicated now. Today, I feel like some of those wanderers are plugged into a bigger picture, they’re not running from anything — they’re embracing everything.  “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Abroad, writing will become a kind of clearinghouse for me. I will absorb, process, and relate everything I’m experiencing in the moment. Like French cinema, I may not get it when I’m in the theatre, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy the imagery and I’ll appreciate it more in the days to come.

I look forward to trying all kinds of writing exercises, seeing what fits and what doesn’t. Same with cultures, landscapes, and cuisines.

So today I allow one more thing to fall away from me, a passing of my time here in Victoria. In ways that will remain known only by me, that blog was part of how I came to realize my nebulous dream of being a global nomad was absolutely doable. It was how I learned my limits, that living on, and writing about, life on one island was not gonna be enough for me.

Milestones are cool. For me, this is a good one. There’ll always be the WordPress.com version of the blog anyhow.

And so the slow goodbye to Van Isle begins for me today.

In Vino Veritas: Of Writing, Reading, and Travelling

Television. I’m loving it. It’s a limited-time offer, so act now! I’ve paused during an American Masters biography about Alice Walker. Man, she kicks more ass than I thought. I love a smart, confrontational woman.

These lazy nights with movies and TV, they’re an indulgence I know I’ll be foregoing within the year. When I’m travelling, I won’t be watching much TV or film. I’m really seeking a “writer’s life” abroad. I’ll be hopefully working about 30% fewer hours in my editing dayjob, down about 50% overall since a decade ago, and that may help with reading.

There are two things I want to do more — be still, and read. Being still is self-explanatory. Put down the phone, be in the moment. Stare at whatever’s ahead of me.

Reading’s another beast altogether. My dayjob really gets in the way of wanting to read. I edit and read all day long. Between reading the day’s news on the web (which I do a lot of) and work, I don’t have books left in me.

The whole point of going abroad is that I want to try to live well for $2000 a month, not the $3000 or so it can be here. While I want to save more, I also want to work less. Work for for other people less, that is. Read more, write more for myself on projects of interest to me. As I said, the latter isn’t “work.”

The Unreading Writer

snoopy-writing1I have a lot of ideas. A murder mystery. Short fiction. Non-fiction series ideas on food and terroir. But mostly I want to journal and write about life and the people and experiences that come with. In another lifetime, they’d have called me a diarist. In this, I’m a “blogger,” for good or ill.

When I was a Duthie’s bookseller (RIP), I used to read probably three books a week and four newspapers a day. Nothing quite like the joy of a job that lets you read while you work, right?

I don’t read now. That’s not oversimplifying it. The things with pages? They don’t happen here. Every now and then that scene flashes across my brain, where Matt Damon rants at Robin Williams that he doesn’t “understand” the people who surround themselves with all these books, and they’re “the wrong fucking books.”

I have the right fucking books but they’re going unread in lieu of digital media. I used to be the kind of writer/reader who always said profound and snazzily-worded things at engagements and now I’ve become the type who needs to drink a couple glasses of water just to be sure I don’t mumble like some anti-social reject.

Ahh, the old days of being literate as a matter of course. Good times!

On the Clock

So I’ll be abroad, where I’m sure there will be many who bedazzle me with their command of English as a second language, but then there will be many who make my soul weep as the ancient language of my peoples gets bludgeoned into oblivion. I’ve taught ESL. I already know this feeling.

As an antidote to the bludgeoned lingo, I will forego filmed entertainment much more, and turn to words, words, words.

It’s pretty enthralling to think of writing abroad. I think some people travel so they’ll have something to write about later, but I’ll push “pause” and fulfill my promise of writing daily.

I have no illusions of how lucky I am to be able to do this. And by “be able to do this,” I mean simply choosing to do so. I’m not the only person who works from home, isn’t in love, and doesn’t have kids. Others could do this, they just don’t. Or it hasn’t occurred to them.

But I can. I am. I recognize that the only thing holding me back is people I see maybe a handful of times a year and some material belongings. There’s an entire planet full of amazing opportunities, cultures that are changing by the minute, landscapes that are here today maybe gone tomorrow, and my clock is ticking. My mother had 16 years left in her life when she was my age. 16 years. That’s it, man.

Aging Like a Bad-Ass

I’m a first date and a driver’s license away from her death. That’s not a lot of time. Of course, my granny died at 88, so those are the genes I’m hoping I scored. Piss, vinegar, a great smile, and persistence, my granny Mae in a nutshell.

I’d like to be one of those old ladies owning her white hair, great glasses, a caftan, and smoking a bong, laughing with similar-minded old writers and artists in some secluded community, like I’ve seen in documentaries. I love those old artist types. “Fuck you, I’ll say what I want! I’m an artist at 80. My friends are all dead and I’ve earned the right to speak for us all.”

I’m not as good of a writer I can be. I believe writing is an ever-improving craft and it’s not just about the words. It’s about all the stuff that bubbles under my skin and whether I have the guts to go in there and pop the bubbles. The stuff that scares us and provokes us and enrages us, that’s what we need to tap into. Not just _____ character in ______ setting. It’s that inner-battle that makes anything worth reading about. Give me pathos and passion.

The School of Travel

I suppose that’s what my travel plans are. Pulling back all the safety nets, distilling life down to a few tech gadgets and a single suitcase, going full-on “no fixed address,” it’s all a way to really see what lurks within. I can’t wait to see what comes out of my head when I’m in 24/7 newness, with cultures confronting my own preconceptions of the way things be. I want to see what overcoming fears, adapting to new situations, meeting people I couldn’t have imagined, and busting through personal barriers results in as a writer.

I can’t know. You can’t know. That shit’s like alchemy. You put it in the pot, melt it down, and wait. You get lucky or you don’t. I personally don’t see how this could make me a worse writer, though. That shit doesn’t compute at all. It’s not a factor. Not possible.

That’s not cockiness, that’s just reality. There isn’t a person on this planet I don’t think could benefit from travelling through other cultures and trashing their prejudices. It makes us all better — writers included.

My Not-So-Secret Life as a Recluse

It’s funny, because in some ways, it’s like I moved to Victoria in 2012 and pressed the “pause” button on life. I haven’t sought out new friends, I’ve barely lived beyond a five-square-kilometre area here.

But I mean, seriously, if you asked me five years ago how I would feel about living a life where I didn’t have to see anyone, didn’t have to go anywhere, and didn’t have to work in an office, while having the freedom to walk to a beach, downtown, or to a world-class park, all while avoiding buses and not owning a car, I would’ve laughed at you and said it was a no-brainer, sign me up.

This life I’ve led of virtually no one, no events, no obligations, no belonging — it’s been a kind of dream come true too. I may never, ever have this opportunity again. I’m sure other people would go “But how much did you miss out on? What have you NOT seen?”

I’ve seen hundreds of sunsets or sunrises. I’ve eaten great food. I’ve heard silence often, and for long stretches. I refound my love for writing. I rediscovered photography. I’ve learned more in cooking. I doubled my income. In a year where I wrote under 50 things, one was read by 200,000 people. It’s been a great ride here. It’s been the ride I needed to have.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve grown here, how much wisdom I’ve gained, how much I’ve lowered my expectations on what I need back from life — in a way that makes happiness easier to have and enjoy.

No, I’m not “happy.” Not yet. I work too much, I’m tired, I long to travel, but I’ve found a creative solution to that, haven’t I? I want to “work” as much as I do, but I don’t consider writing like this to be work. This is more like waking up and being myself. That’s personal time spent in a way I love to spend it.

There’s a whole planet out there that I’ve only seen two-dimensionally. I feel like my life’s about to go from black-and-white to Technicolor.

As a writer, man… phew. That’s got me wound right up. It’s not often in life that we have the privilege of knowing when fast-paced personal growth is ahead of us, let alone what the catalyst for all of it is. Even more seldom is when our whole life becomes something that’s more play than work, for years.

I’m going to travel the world, bitches. For years. I’m going to flip the switch, become one of the most social people you’ve ever seen, and be a true woman of words on the road. I just cannot wait to see the other side of who I can be. What a fun ride is ahead.

And now, back to my scheduled program.

In Which Steff Gets Nerdy About Genealogy

Down the rabbit-hole I go.

Genealogy, which I’ve been interested in for the last few years for some reason, is starting to be a thing, officially.

I’ve learned in just the last 24 hours that my family, Clan Cameron, fought on the side of Robert the Bruce in the Scottish wars of independence, 1314. I’ve learned that my Cameron in particular emigrated to Canada on a ship called the Rambler out of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, 1806 by Clan Cameron records but recorded as having left their island in 1790 by my family’s records. They had lived on the Isle of Barra, southernmost inhabited island of the rugged, isolated Outer Hebridean islands, and possibly they moved to Mull for a while, or elsewhere, before ultimately taking on the new world in 1806. This coincides with the Highland Clearances, so perhaps it wasn’t an “optional” departure.

Okay. Best family war cry EVER, right? SERIOUSLY.

Okay. Best family war cry EVER, right? SERIOUSLY.

There’s even a Clan Cameron DNA project! And we have a MUSEUM, bitches.

We have Irish blood on my father’s side too, the Monks. Some of my family have opened relations with the Monks remaining in Ireland, which I didn’t know, and now I might be able to have a whole new kind of adventure in the British islands, one filled with meeting kin I never knew I had. Gosh.

Leaving Home to Find Home

Then there’s my mother’s side, which I know others have compiled information on, which hail from both Ireland and France. Normandy! Brittany! In my blood. Hers was the first generation to not have French as their first language, a fact which troubles me even now. But still, all of these people were a coastal people. I’ve always said saltwater was in my veins, but it’s proving more true now than ever.

I cannot tell you how exciting it is to start having a sense of these things. I didn’t know it would mean so much to me. I’m thrilled to go digging over the next couple of years. The idea of being able to investigate church records and archives on the ground in communities that my families have had ties to for centuries makes me bubble with giddiness.

It’s funny how it seems like only one generation in the whole of my father’s ancestral history might have moved off of an island — he and his generation. Our people moved from the Outer Hebrides’ rugged isolated island to Prince Edward Island, famous for similarly brutal winters, and there they farmed for the next two centuries. Many of my family remain there and throughout the Maritimes.

My father was the first to move to terra firma mainland, but here in the next generation, both his children have moved to a new island, where I am today. My brother and I are both now living on Vancouver Island. Both of us report feeling more “at home” than we have in literally decades.

Are these things really imprinted on the DNA? Are we truly islanders at heart, and have we been for centuries, if not millennia? Is that why it feels like “home” to be separated by a ferry from the Mainland again, after a generation of having been backwards about it?

I don’t know. But I’ll love finding out.

History Is Cool

Later this year, once my trip plans are solidifying, I think an expedition to the UK looms for next spring, summer, and fall, to learn who I am, where my family heralds from, and what the history entails across all branches of my family tree. Eight families, eight histories.

The modern Clan Cameron crest. The motto is "Let us unite."

The modern Clan Cameron crest. The motto is “Let us unite.”

History will be a huge theme in my travels anyhow. I want to stay in all the old buildings — I’ve already found a 15th century Tuscan farmhouse, Spanish villa from 1683. I’ll wander Roman ruins, gape in awe under massive cathedrals, pore through museums. If you want to find me, wherever I’m visiting, head for the Old Towns. It’s there I’ll likely be.

I really do dream of tracking my Irish family as well as my Scots side. I want to learn how the potato famine affected my people, whether we were in workhouses for the poor. I want to know if we were shit-disturbers from ages ago. It seems to run as a theme in my family, where we’re all straight-spoken sturdy sorts.

We’re also survivors. Hard-workers who overcome adversity and roll with whatever life presents us. No doubt a necessary trait for people eking out a life on a scrub of a rock in the southern Outer Hebrides, staring off into the gaping maw of the Atlantic for possibly centuries of wind-battered struggle.

I don’t expect to find fame and fortune in my line. I expect a lot of adversity and challenges, social conscience and diligence. There’s no shame in being the hard workers, the line fighters.

Will I feel my life more validated by knowing the history that precedes me? For whatever intangible reason, yes, probably. I don’t know why that is. We’re a tribal people, I guess, and that sense of belonging is just another attribute of our DNA, perhaps.

In any case, Steff the Sleuth gets to don her inspector’s cap this year, with the help of cousins and other family members, and get to the roots of her family tree.

I’m a very happy camper about this. I’ll tell you some tales as I learn them and share some of my methods with you.

If you’re curious about your family tree, definitely take to social media and ask about it. Your loose connections with family on Facebook may have done far more research that you realize! After all, it’s 24 hours later and I now have a stack of papers with four lines of my family’s names in front of me. Monks, Hynes, and Whites… I’m comin’ for ya.