Today someone said to me “How are you so calm when you have this situation going on with the bank, I’d be over there smashing on some tables.” It’s true I have felt like doing that for a few seconds.
Right now I have $72.25 to my name in cash in my wallet and an empty gas tank and 7 more days before I have any more money coming in. I’ve a meeting with the bank tomorrow to try and sort out the $500 worth of fees they’ve charged me for literally having no money. Talk about punishing the poor.
But yet, I edited a card today that talks all about abundance and planting and being surrounded by love. Yes, I feel a little anxious about this end of my two and a half months traveling that hasn’t gone as easily as I’d hoped but I am for the most part super chill, happy and calm. The nine of cups, feels like it was just meant to be today. The other card for today was the SUN card, which is my card in the deck. Such a huge reminder to trust myself, and not freak out as I go on this personal growth journey and wow feeling all the feelings of contentment and fulfilment. I have a full fridge, I have friends that are right there and have and are willing to help me. I’ve really made leaps and bounds of progress in regards to my confidence in asking for help and communicating my needs to others.
I left on this Queer Tarot cards photography tour at the end of December, and visited Philadelphia, Chicago, Alberta, Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island. I did over a dozen more photo shoots along the way, and each one has changed me and taught me so much.
Philadelphia is an eccentric city, rough on the edges, warm in the middle. I have family there, so I spent the new year festivities with their friends, appreciating the warmth of friendship and open homes from people who’d never met me before and really who I had very little in common with. Cute gifts for the Van and so much food I thought I’d burst on multiple occasions. I’ve been to Philadelphia before and felt feelings of being very alone. Partially because I’m truely the only gay in the village when I stay with my cousins, despite them being the most open minded and forward thinking humans in my family. I’ve been there many times with feelings of sadness and loss heightened by being single, surrounded by couples who have been together for years and still really care about each other. This time I felt those feelings but didn’t let them linger, I was there to rest from my hectic year of travel, moving and change, but I also had an itch to get out and explore. I did and moved around a lot more alone than I’d ever done before. Traveling alone is still my favourite, it feels like I really build a relationship with a place, finding my own land marks, getting lost in subways but finding my way eventually and feeling satisfied about it. There’s no one to hurry me, no one to tell me I’ve taken the long route, no one to feel bad about suggesting to go visit a weird out of the way place that interests me. Just me and my curiosity. Living slower, journeying slower, getting lost more and enjoying every single moment.
Straight after xmas I tried furiously to connect with local queers in Philly, it appeared to have a huge scene, which I failed at going out to see. I’ve been going to bed with the sun and being off to sleep by 10pm so staying up and going to a night club alone felt frightening. It feels frightening here back in Vancouver too. So I jumped on Instagram which has been a wonderful way for me to find and connect with people. I messaged the humans of BABE COVEN, and some local drag artists and anyone else I could find who was witchy and queer. Meeting these people took me out of being in the normal places of town I would have wandered onto longer bus rides and trains to other cities.
I captured humans who inspired me, living in bodies, with mental health and in situations that would challenge even the strongest I know, and still killing it, having amazingly kind words to share. Encouragement, resilience and activistic pride in themselves. And I’m over here feeling sorry for myself because I have to struggle a few weeks with no money. It really, really puts all of life in perspective. Humbling, loving perspective that makes me feel so darn proud of the community I’ve met, the stories I’ve captured and told – because these humans deserve to have their voices heard.
Cheap travel that costs more time than cash. Flying is fast travel for those that are time poor, I was traveling on the smell of an oily rag, so I caught the train from Philadelphia to Chicago to meet a friend I’d been chatting and maybe a little flirtation with for a quite a few months.. It blows my mind how this Tarot project has connected me and others. Two of the people in my Tarot cards met through the project and are still dating a year later, and I met this human in Chicago, and it felt like we’d been best friends before in another life. When a friend takes you for a tour around their city, it’s really like getting introduced to it in different way. The Occult shop in Chicago is weird, wonderful and I felt at home immediately in the community that gathered in their back room after hours talking about magic, and workings and philosophical ways of understanding and making sense of life. The collective energy of magic in a room like that raises the hair on the back of my neck, tingles down my arms and spine. Hot Mexican food and cocoa with whip on top that sticks to my nose as I drink it. Tables covered in tarot cards with the names of DND characters past inked into it, crisp days, 5 degrees C that felt like minus 10 C outside sitting on train tracks filming interviews then hurriedly running off to safety as the bright light of an on coming train shone forth from around the corner a few hundred meters ahead. Wandering around the luscious green and earthy dampness of the conservatory’s fern room, the splash of water and the gurgle of babies echoing around the arched glass roof. It was magical. Leaving Chicago, and seeing that it had snowed in Indiana between returning and the 5 days earlier when I arrived.
The train ride through tiny colonial towns, old buildings, some restored and some falling down, being reclaimed back into nature. Imagining the people who lived there originally and how that would have been if I’d been there then. How much America’s true heritage and ancestral magic has been wiped out by white “settlers”. Feeling the pain of the land, and revelling in the beauty in what remains, when covered in a snowy blanket of whiteness. As if the land hides under a blanket of pure white waiting to see if it is safe to show herself again.
More specifically I landed in Calgary and was immediately whisked off to Canmore in the biggest most obnoxious looking (but the best shade of yellow) giant pick up truck. I had organised (at the last minute confirmed – much to the testing of my trusting in the universe and patience) a couch surfing accomodation for almost 2 weeks of adventure out of the grey rainy city in the snowy beauty of the Canadian wintery mountains. Snow up to my knees, frozen lakes with hollow air pockets under the ice that rattle as I skated over them, ice sculptures, and snow carvings. Creativity and the ability to make art out of the most unlikely of materials always has me in a sense of wonder. Breath taking trees covered in snow, with the sun blasting through looking like it was straight out of Narnia. Mountains so tall that they take your breath away, and cold so crisp it feels like your breath is freezing in your mouth and your fingers are going to fall off. Then everything settles, my fingers adjust to the temperature and my cheeks flush with cold and excitement. I visited Bamff and decided I disliked the touristy-ness of the place and enjoyed the energy of the locals in the post office more. I got around on the bus, and hires cross country skii’s, and snow shoes every day consecutively till the gear hire team greeted me as I walked in – “You again – what on earth are you up to today!”. The smell of fresh roasting coffee beans wafting across the highway as a heard of elk stop traffic to move from one nature strip to the other, demonstrating how tolerant of humans animals are and how much less wild and free to roam they are in the areas that man inhabits. The wildlife bridges which are still a few decades off looking like foresty walkways across the highway a good effort to start reducing the massive impact on the wildlife roaming. Being in this snowy wonderland felt wonderful. Free, wild and exciting, I was alone and quite about my queerness, but I was having a wonderful time. Getting so much exercise, spending hours and hours outside, climbing hills, snow mounds and “pizza-ing” my cross country skii’s for dear life on a steep windy down hill that I didn’t expect and not crashing into a tree all gave me the biggest rushes of adrenaline and dopamine, it doesn’t surprise me that some people chase winter and winter sports across the world. We have that all right here on our doorstep in Canada. I guess back “home” in New Zealand it is like that too, and distance is relative, it all seems so much closer and smaller to me now.
Jetting back to Vancouver, I picked up Mystery for the next major chapter in my adventure. Off to the Islands. It amuses me how I’ve come from a small country with small cities to a huge country with huge cities and immediately feel out of place in them, searching for the small town vibe, and falling in love with the little island villages. When the bay is across the road and down a path, and parking at the beach cliff tops is magic, how could I tear myself away to come back to Vancouver? I visited galleries and witches in Victoria, and witches with puppies and took photos of young artists who’s work in the gallery was also about exploring self identity through tarot. Random connections and friendship referrals. Meeting amazing humans who threw them selves into this Tarot project and shared the stories of their love and independence, skills, hard work and creativity always blows my mind. Messaging a name I searched on the internet off the gallery wall, not expecting to have found the right person, and ending up meeting them, doing a photoshoot and hearing all about them, their life, art and journey out of a christian family, exploring their gender and identity and experience in youth housing. Humans are so incredibly powerful and resilient, I hope one story I share can inspire so many more stories to continue to be written all around the globe.
Then I headed north. Leaving Victoria on the one fine, dry, sunny day amongst snow fall and doomsday warnings of winter snow fall far beyond what the mild west coast ever gets. I drove my van- house up over the high mountain pass with my not-fit-for-snow tires, praying for the dryness to stay till reached the other side, made it to the wee small town I was aiming for and breathed the biggest sigh of relief. I relaxed there over night, some much needed calm for my nerves. The next day produced the most break taking early morning shoot in the marshlands and anxious planning of the next leg of my journey to Salt Spring island – before the snow storm.
I took off early got to the ferry with plenty of time, and toasted my freezing toes over the heater while I waited to board the boat. It was gonna be tight, the snow clouds were closing in and the sun was starting to disappear behind ominous curtains of fluffy white and grey. The water was pretty choppy crossing over to Salt Spring, and my heart was in my mouth, nervously watching the sky and the clock. The snow was scheduled for 2pm but it was going to come earlier and I had to get from one end of Salt Spring to the other yet. First or second off the boat I was thankful I had turned up early for the ferry so I could start hoofing it up the hill into the town centre… the first flakes of snow were starting to fall on my windscreen as the boat docked. I’m sitting in the drivers seat, a bit cold, and terrified because of my limited “driving in snow” experience and the scare I’d gotten in my Van sliding down a snowy hill in Victoria with the first dump of snow fall into the curb. The snow wasn’t sticking quite yet, but still falling, cold, wet and making me more and more nervous. 45 minutes later at the slow pace I like to drive my van I made it to my long suffering friends house – and the drive was snowed in. I jumped out and started shovelling snow, popping that last snow activity cherry and testing muscles that hadn’t been used in a while. Freshly shovelled I pulled my van up the drive and walked my tired, exhausted body inside of a cup of hot tea.
Then over the next week and a half 2-3 feet of snow came down and I was royally snowed in. If I’d wanted to drive anywhere it was absolutely not an option. Beautiful, soft flakes, dry and sticky, covering everything in white. Did you know deep snow takes a LOT of effort to walk through? It is quite impressive really, a short walk and you feel like you’ve hiked a mountain. The next week shoved lots of snow, driveways and boat docks, wandered around as far as the bus routes would take me and frolicked in the snow. My grateful for all of my new experiences and how they all fill me with wonder and curiosity. A sense of raw awe and joy in the newness of what I was seeing around me, which feels dangerously close to that vulnerable feeling on naivety, which my sheltered upbringing made me all too familiar with. I love the wondrous joy that comes with this awe feeling, and how small and insignificant I feel when I look out on the vastness of the world around me. Majestical as it rises up to the clouds knowing that anything around me could snuff me out, and jumping at the thudding sound of the snow falling off the trees as they moved in the wind narrowly missing me.
The road had now been cleared, the sun was out again, and temperatures above freezing were slowly encouraging the snow to start melting. My wonderful friend and I were starting to get cabin fever. Or – I was getting cabin fever and anxiety about overstaying my welcome and that was making the both of us antsy to get out about and do things again. So I tried to get Mystery up and moving, but the engine wasn’t having a bar of it. I thought it was the battery and gave it a really good charge but still no luck. Queue a couple hours of stressful fiddling and I was on the phone to get towed into Ganges to the mechanic – who wasn’t open because it was a public holiday day. My body has gotten used to being on the move. Not sleeping in exactly the same place every night, being back in my van feels like home, where ever it is parked. Parked up at the mechanic’s parking lot I got settled into feeling back at home, making food and lighting a fire. What I didn’t realise (which seems so obvious in hindsight) was that my fuel lines had possibly frozen, over a week in the cold not moving is a lot for an old vehicle manufactured in the ’70’s. Lighting my fire and letting it sit at a lower altitude warmed up the whole vehicle and suddenly she roared to life. Ironically, I’d been trying to get in touch with another friend (no mobile phone) to meet me, and when he showed up to possibly help me, I’d already gotten the dog house off the engine, he hopped up and looked in and the engine started. Amid much laughter, and joking I rolled my eyes, of course he would show up and the engine would spring to life. But gladly Mystery was alive again and I was mobile and it had only cost me a tow truck fee (which I couldn’t really afford) and a few stressful moments – a lot better than it could have turned out, and I learned a bit more about my engine. We were mobile again! Off to the coast to sit on a dock over looking the water, the other archipelago islands as the sun set, splashing golden pinky, peach colours all over the sky. It was almost a little romantic – falling in love with the islands yet again. Warm and toasty in with my fireplace it was just perfect.
More queer tarot card photo shoots on Salt Spring and the cutest heater screening of the Bohemian Rhapsody film in a town hall / old church building was the most perfect thing. What struck me about Salt Spring is that people are less busy being just busy. There’s more community activities organised by everyone because there’s less hassle and bustle. People check in on each other to make sure they’re okay. I love small town community.
I love this community, I love building and telling the stories of the queer community, and some how my story is all tangled up in this as I learn about the world, myself, undo my brainwashed prejudices, and let go of judgements. I love it.
A Story teller.
is a traditional Gaelic
storyteller/historian. In Scotland, they were called seanchaidh
. A commonly encountered English spelling of the Irish word is shanachie
The word seanchaí
, means a bearer of “old lore”. In the ancient Celtic
culture, the history and laws of the people were not written down but memorized in long lyric poems which were recited by bards, in a tradition echoed by the seanchaithe