We are so excited to announce that KAREN is back and will be a regular on our blog from now on! You may remember Karen from her guest blog post on our trip to Chicago last summer. She will be collaborating with us every couple months under the name Trouvé et Découvert, meaning "Found and Discovered", which is very fitting for Karen. We are so excited to experience life alongside Karen through her writing, especially since she has started her new adventures in Vancouver. For each post, Karen will write a piece and we will interpret her words into images. The first few shots are by Karen of her new home in Vancouver and the rest are the photos we were inspired to take.
When we read Karen's words, we were inspired to create images that felt youthful and fun. It occurred to us how differently we see our own memories in our minds when reliving them and we wanted to portray that dreamlike essence.
I moved out of my parents’ house in the middle of November last year. My last big move was from my small, periwinkle-painted bedroom to the basement, and I surprised my family and myself by reacting with a strange grief for what I was losing. Privacy, I said, and not having my own space with a door to shut are what I’ll miss. Though I would have a door and privacy in the basement, it was a space we once all shared but never inhabited fully. My room upstairs was mine since we moved into the house when I was nine; all my dreams were there.
The year I moved downstairs, I cut my hair into a pixie and broke cleanly from using bobby pins, elastic bands, barrettes, and headbands. I kept them all in a drawer in the bathroom I shared with my dad and promptly forgot they were there until I collected the things in my other drawers and brought them into the basement. Doing a thorough sort through of my possessions before moving this time, I pulled the hair drawer off its rails and set it down to pick through. My memories as a girl with long hair were all there, and what I feared I’d lost when I moved downstairs I realized I didn’t miss.
The old scrunchies made of the same bright, stretch knit as the leggings I wore to death as a preteen unfolded in the back corner of the drawer. I squeezed one gently with my fingers and remembered how I would wrap it around my ponytail, the finishing touch. I coordinated the colours of my outfits less precisely then: I agreed to wear huge blocks of fabric – a single-coloured turtleneck with single-coloured leggings – with accessories that were not quite the same shade, but close, and pass it all off as being successfully matched. It startled me to see the scrunchies again, that they were just below the bathroom counter. I was living with material remnants from so many past selves that once had significance to me, and I liked to think I had grown far away from them. Purging and packing for Vancouver, I needed to know that I was grown. These hair accessories brought me back to a time when I was more emotional, deeply shy, and inexperienced – three things that have gripped me fiercely since my move to another basement in another city.
With the feelings intensified, I have to dare to address them. It has become easier to feel sorry for myself than to run with any newfound confidence, and I sleep late to avoid facing the challenge of a new day. Often I think about how much I admire every other adult who’s ever moved, ever endured phases of life, ever lived. I am moving forward with my life so that I can be happier, but what I didn’t realize was that I am daring to be happier. In “Morning Poem,” Mary Oliver addresses those of us who struggle to wake up and meet a world created anew: “each pond with its blazing lilies is a prayer heard and answered lavishly, every morning, whether or not you ever dared to be happy, whether or not you ever dared to pray.” I admit it’s not difficult to see the natural riches here in Vancouver with the ocean so close and Spring even closer.
I am now living in a basement suite of a house originally built in 1908 and bought in the ‘70s by my cousin, who has managed it since then with different business partners and rented to many people over the years. My suite had a talented gardener and long-distance walker; an Irish couple who got pregnant while here and travelled back to Ireland to have the baby; and a young woman living on her own for the first time and on drugs. One of the rare tenants who caused problems for my cousin and her husband and haunted the whole house with sounds at odd hours, the young woman moved out on the first of December, though for a day prior we thought she wouldn’t. A week later my mom came to help me clean and set up the space with borrowed furniture, dishware shipped from home, and a new bed. Another week and the bed came, and I was embarrassed by how huge it looked and how high off the ground it was. It was so much at odds with my old single bed and what had become a small, quiet life.
What I want to find out is if I can take up space here, if can I put down roots, if can I get past the feeling that something is squeezing off my air supply when I think long-term and imagine not living in the same city as my best friends and my parents. I made a list after making so many lists about the stuff I needed to detach from, pack up, organize, give away, and throw away. The list that came after separated out characteristics I would move out with and those I would leave behind. Confidence, curiosity, abandon, and openness were on the side of moving out; assuredness and harmoniousness were on the side to leave behind. I thought about how much easier it was to make a list to take with me than one to leave behind, and I remembered why I wanted to do it all in the first place. Openness will creep in where assuredness slips out, and I will try to be a beginner again. If things don’t match I will deal with it somehow, and then again, like those outfits I used to wear, maybe I will convince myself that they do.