Tuesday, April 28, 2015

It's pronounced "Vees"

So it's been a long time since I wrote about this particular subject - it involves passports and suitcases and swimsuits (usually)...
And this.
This post.
Wow. So long overdue I feel silly even posting it.
And yet as I contemplate our upcoming adventure to France and Italy I just have to post it. I'd be doing a serious disservice to the world by keeping this hidden paradise to myself.
The remote, the rustic, the rapturously beautiful island of Vis.
But it's pronounced "Vees." Get it right.

Situated in the middle of the Adriatic Sea off Croatia's Dalmatian Coast, up until the 1980's it was a military base for the Yugoslavian army. Because of this it's one of the most unspoiled (yet inhabited) islands in Dalmatia - more for those desiring a quiet adventure than a lively night scene. An island full of vineyards, family farms (i.e. amazing food and wine) with hidden beaches you hike down to, Vis had our names written all over it.

From Split we took a morning ferry to the island. They have a huge car ferry as well as a high speed passenger one but it wouldn't have got us to Vis until much later in the day and we wanted to make the most of our "island time." Unfortunately just as we set sail so the rain set in. For almost the entirety of our Vis visit. But not to worry. We made the most of it... as you'll soon see.






As Seattleites we're used to ferry rides. In Croatia they're not so different - just a little bigger, a few more people and everything's in Croatian. But we made the most of our 2 hour sea voyage. I wrote. He read. A beer and a book. His mini heaven.

We arrived in the harbor of Vis and pushed our way through the hoards of people the ferry seemed to vomit out in order to secure a rental car for our stay.  I felt like a soldier ready to brave a fierce battle in a foreign land as the ark-like door to the car deck descended. I'm sure there was a way to reserve a vehicle in advance but, well, we went with the "fly by the seat of our pants" strategy. Thankfully it worked out for us. 
The guys at Ionios were super friendly and got us all set up with our quirky Crayola-yellow convertible, along with a map and directions to the nearest grocery store so we could stock up on breakfast items before we headed off in search of our VRBO villa. 
The narrow roads (which seriously look like alleyways or really generous bike lanes) wind up the steep hillsides providing ridiculous postcard views of terra-cotta clad harbors and wild hills rolling verdant and lush.




My go-to guide for dining while traipsing through Croatia was the oh-so-reliable (and amazingly international) TripAdvisor. Before we departed from Split I did a little dining recon. A TripAdvisor must was Lola Konoba & Bar. And just an FYI "konoba" means tavern... you'll run into that word a lot if you're traveling in Croatia. 
The restaurant was, well, totally my kind of place. Perched above a building, the entire restaurant (as far as I could tell) was alfresco with seating areas situated in different terraced portions of this secret garden. The ambiance and decor made me wonder if I'd stepped straight into the pages of an Anthropologie catalog. And when we arrived it looked like they'd just had a wedding there (I spied a seating chart still leaning against a wall). I can only imagine how perfectly wonderful that reception was... 
The service was impeccable, especially considering we were literally the only people eating there that night. A note on dining on the island: since most rentals run weekly with Saturday as the turn over day it tends to be the quietest one of the week. We also came just before the peak season hit so yeah... we had the whole place all to ourselves. Not gonna lie... it was a little awkward. 
But the food was anything but awkward! It was exquisite! This was most certainly the finest dining we experienced while on our Honeymoon, and the meal was more akin to something we'd see in the states. Croatian with a twist. I'd highly recommend Lola Konoba & Bar - especially if you're wanting a romantic evening out on the island... or a destination wedding?





After our delicious dinner we decided to explore a little more of Vis Town- one of two cities, ok villages, on the island. The place is littered with beautiful old stone buildings, their painted shutters either white or green - faded from sun and storm. The patterns and texture they created in the evening light captured my inner photographer. So I did what any artist would do... I stole Ryan's camera. 
Okay maybe I stole it one too many times... It is his camera and he is the photographer after all..
I bought him some gelato thinking that would smooth things over. 
It didn't really work. 
After a scolding I handed the camera back to him and all was well.







Now that's the work of a real photographer!
The sunset was glorious and we ended that first day excited for the "Part II" of our Croatian Adventure - Vis!!! 







Friday, April 17, 2015

Swan Song

I've run out of words.

I know, I know... You're probably wondering how that's possible, since I haven't written a single thing for this blog since... I don't know... February?

Well get ready! You're about to be inundated by posts.
Feast or famine, people, feast or famine.
Man I really need to get myself out of this "all or nothing" mentality. And I don't just mean in my writing habits... It seems to be my default mode in nearly every area of my life. But that's an entirely different post.

At any rate I'm talking about words for what I'm about to do. What I'm about to dance.
The incomparable and exquisite Swan Lake.


©Angela Sterling Photography

This ballet and I, we have history. A lot of it.
I think it's my fifth or sixth time dancing this gem. Every time it feels new. And yet every time it feels like coming home. My arms, my back, my body, my soul they thank me. My hips and feet not so much - they get a bit abused by all the running and standing, but, well they can suck it up... The rest of myself is utterly rejoicing on the inside and out at the privilege and delight it is to dance this, my most favorite ballet.

©Angela Sterling Photography
And today marks the beginning of the end. Actually that would've been yesterday - our last weekend of shows. But today's the day when I get to start "crossing things off" - roles I won't be performing again. Quite possibly ever - or at least until I go Home...
It's bittersweet these endings. On the one hand, my hips and feet are excited about the upcoming rest they'll receive (a 3-week break in 3 long days). On the other hand, my soul is sad at the thought of having to say goodbye to this beautiful ballet - a ballet that is so very much intwined with my heart and soul.
I've run out of words because I've already written a piece about Swan Lake for 4dancers - a dance blog I contribute to (quite possibly more frequently than my own blog - yikes!).
So I'm not gonna try...
Please, click here to read the piece - Searching for Swans. A piece that came from the depths of my heart and soul.
My "swan song" to Swan Lake...

I hope it inspires you and tugs at your heart too.

Photo by Lindsay Thomas

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Time

The blue bar has been stuck at about an inch across my screen.

Waiting.
More waiting.

This is not why I made the trek to a coffee shop… for the internet to NOT work. I mean isn’t that the primary purpose of going to one anyway? To get a side of coffee with your free wifi? That’s what the $5.00 Americano pays for right? That, and keeping my hipster barista clad in his expensive hobo-chic flannel and torn jeans.
But apparently Whistler, B.C. hasn’t caught on to this current coffee shop requisite.

Oh well. The view - a towering snow-covered mountain peak set against a powder blue sky with wispy slate clouds hovering here and there - makes up for it I suppose. I mean when there’s such a view to be had it seems almost criminal to be staring at a Facebook news feed.



Yeah, the internet's down.
But I’ve managed to beat the rush. I sit perched in my corner bar seat (definitely the best seat in the house) and watch the skiers and snowboarders make their way back from the mountain, all their gear in tow. Maybe some day that’ll be me again. Man I loved skiing when I was a kid!
But for now I’m content with the buttery-smooth coffee and jammin’ tunes of Mount Currie Coffee Co., the fact that I get to wear shades (the sun finally came out!!!), and the 5+ mile jog I took today in this alpline heaven. It was by no means record-breaking even for me, but a pretty big milestone- all things considered.

And Monday is the big day. The day I finally return to work since mononucleosis.

40 days of rest.
Full of sleep, long walks and time to reflect. Reflect on my recklessness and God’s hand of intervention and provision.
Time. Lots of time. Without pointe shoes. Without ballet. Six weeks and four days to be exact. I haven’t taken that much time off since I was twelve. No joke.
Time. Time to worry because too much time has passed.
Will my body still remember how to do this? How to tendu? How to pirouette? How to dance!? Will I ever be able to get my body back into shape?


In my BSF study we’ve been making our way through Leviticus – not exactly a page-turner if I’m gonna be honest. But when we hit chapter 25, when the anxiety hit an all-time high, well wouldn’t you know the Lord, He met me there.
In the worry. In the Word.

Sabbath rest. Sabbath years. No work for 365 days. No planting. No sowing. No pruning. Just rest. For the people. For the land. Sounds great at first but then… yes… just let it sink in a bit. The sneaky whisper of anxiety bubbles up - woven within our human nature.
No work’s great and all, but where are you going to get food for today? How about tomorrow? And what about next year when you haven’t planted a single thing? Where’s it going to come from then? If you don’t do it, who will?

The voice of worry. The voice of striving. Not the voice of a loving God who provides our daily bread. Not the voice of a gracious God who allows us to glean from His goodness. Not the voice of a sacrificial God who did not even spare His only Son.
In light of this – of His good and faultless character - how can I doubt?  “ How will he not also, along with him, graciously give [me] all things?”

Sabbath rest. A time to trust. Trust that He. Will. Provide. Period.
Sufficient for each day; no more, no less. He promises He will. I can choose to listen to the lies of Worry or I can trust and thank Him for providing my daily bread, choosing to live “daily” – right here, right now in Today. Easier said than done, but, well, that’s for another post…


Harder than waiting, harder than running 5 miles, harder than dancing is resting - trusting. That’s the real work that I’ll be doing over the coming weeks and months as I step back into the studio. Trusting that He is with me through all of this. He will strengthen my ankles and help my muscles fire. He will restore my stamina and endurance. He will get me back on my leg and toughen my toes. All I need I can find in Him.

So ready or not, here we come. It's time!

Choosing to trust. Choosing to thank. Choosing to believe and dance.

"The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:28-31
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will hold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10
 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Vantage Point

The gray light filters in through the north-facing windows of our apartment like molasses passing through a sieve.
I guess if you're looking for sunlight, northern exposure definitely isn't ideal... then again if you're looking for sunlight Seattle isn't either.

The large newish apartment complex next door, along with the thick blanket of clouds that hovers over, as far as I'm concerned the whole of Washington state, don't help my quest for Vitamin D and a lower energy bill.

It's definitely winter.

Sitting on my couch, my computer on my lap, I feel indecisive. Should I face the windows and the thick oyster sky or my wall of sea and mountains? The one, a monotony of gray scale and glum; the other of stormy seas and mighty mountainscapes. No matter what vantage point I choose I'm confronted with my lot.

Mono.
As in mo-not-o-ny  noun - tedious sameness.
Mono.
As in mono-nu-cle-o-sis  noun - a disease that makes people very tired and weak for a long time.
Mono.
As in the prefix meaning one; single.
At least that's what Mono's supposed to be... a one time virus; highly unlikely you'll ever get it again.
Guess that makes me "highly unlikely."
Somehow I'm not surprised.

When I think back on the past month and a half... wow. It all seems a bit incredulous. The mind, the power of human will is a force to be reckoned with. It might almost be in contention with the behest of the body. Almost.

---

Nutcracker is never an easy season to get through, never mind when you have 10-ish different parts and there are only 10 other women dancing in the corps de ballet. But it is what it is. We band together as a team and push through the marathon of nearly 40 shows. And well, you just get used to functioning in a perpetual state of exhaustion. It's just how it is.
So I didn't think much of it when I started feeling achy and run-down on Thanksgiving.

Okay... maybe the sheet-soaking night sweats, and the 102˚F fever should've tipped me off. I just thought it was the flu. For two weeks... No biggie
And then those tonsils. The size of golf balls, they looked like peetree dishes. Nauseating. I chalked it up to strep throat and started taking antibiotics immediately.
Through it all I danced the double show days, the Peacocks, the triple whammies - I didn't miss a show. I couldn't, I wouldn't miss a show. Not this year. Not this last year. Of my Nutcracker. 


So when I sat there, barely able to swallow, feeling the white paper crumple underneath me on the exam room table of my dad's doctor (who miraculously fit me in before the Christmas holiday), all I could think of was whether I had time to go back to my apartment before the evening show or if I'd have to go straight to the theater. Not dancing was not an option.

So when the slender man with the sympathetic face told me I had mono and my spleen was enlarged I was ... agh ... He could've been speaking Russian... my brain couldn't comprehend the words exiting his mouth. The minutes were ticking away and I had to tell artistic if I'd be dancing in the show tonight. 
Okay. So what are we looking at here? How long till I can perform again? A day? Two days?
Try 4-6 weeks. 
Little did I know that was being optimistic.

---

I took the Christmas tree down yesterday. It stood in that now vacant space next to the windows bleeding bleakness.
I was supposed to do it the day before but I just laid on the chaise and stared at it. Not in the wide-eyed I-wish-Christmas-would-never-end kind of stare. More in the telekinetic if-I-stare-hard-enough-maybe-the-tree-will-deconstruct-itself. I should use less ornaments next year...

An abrupt end to my Nutcracker run. A CT scan of my abdomen revealing an enlarged and slightly dysfunctional liver. A distractingly lovely New Years trip to NYC. Tonsils receding. Hope returning. A new year.
And now the fatigue decides to set in? 
Taking down a Christmas tree never felt like such an accomplishment.
The gray monotonous days drift along and I try... try to keep trying.

Feels like the rug just keeps getting pulled out from underneath me.

---

The red rectangular icon in the top right corner of my laptop screen resolves my indecision. I face the framed and painted wall as I plug my computer in to the only power source in my vintage living room. And staring at my decided vantage point I can't help but feel that I'm looking at my life ornately framed. 
Stormy seas.
And it feels like I've been weathering these rough waves for much longer than just the past few weeks...


I'm reminded of an account. Some men and a boat.
Those disciples, experiencing that mountain-top miracle of loaves and fishes, they must have felt so full - full of food, of confidence and promise, of life - as they were shoved-off, sent alone, sent by the Lord into the big blue beyond. I get it. I've felt it. All of it. The rapturous joy - feeling strong and trusted. Then the confusion as the sky turns. The determination and perseverance as wind grows and time goes. Doubt and fear birthed from spent strength and a weary hearts. Sent into a storm. Sent into the dark. Straining at the oars. Rowing and going nowhere.
Oh I'm so tired of rowing... So tired of trying.
I want to chuck those stupid oars out of the boat and scream,
"I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE! Not by myself. Not without you, Lord."

Rest. 
Stop rowing. Stop trying. Stop striving.
He's coming. He's watching. He's walking. On the water. In glory.

Rest.
My word for the year. The hardest word I've ever had.
Because in truth I don't know how to rest. I don't know how to stop. To "give up." Am I even supposed to do that?
Yes and no.
Give up on myself - my ability to prove myself, to do it myself, to row across the lake?
Yes. Absolutely. Essential.
To give up on God - Creator, Savior, Friend?
Never. 
It's in my giving up that He's revealed in glory. It's not my might but His miraculous, omnipotent power. I let go of it all so I can cling to the One who has done it all.

Rest.
Carried by the Everlasting Arms. Where fears are stilled and strivings cease. Where I can just be. Be still and know that HE IS.
"In rest and repentance is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength."

Rest.
Mono. God's tool to teach me. God's unexpected gift to me.
Overcoming it feels a bit like scaling one of those snow-coverd peaks painted before me. But, well, I don't have to worry about that, do I, if I'm resting in Him?
"Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low - the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."
This is my new vantage point.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Split: Part II

So this is INCREDIBLY belated. But then again a lot of the things I do seem that way. Life just seems to take longer for me. I wonder... Does that mean I'll get more time? Haha! Only God knows that. But if there's one observation of my almost 30 years of life I've completed it's that my timeline is rarely ever His. I'm always in a rush when He just wants me to rest. 

I've had this post saved in my Drafts folder for about 4 months now, and well it didn't seem right to just erase all that hard work I put in to. I know it might seem a little disjointed to jump back 4 months to my Croatian diary, but, well I've only written one post between Split Part I and Split Part II so it shouldn't be such a cosmic leap. Right?
Well without further adieu... the Croatian Honeymoon Adventure continues in Split Part II... Enjoy!

- - 

Day 2. Or 3? I suppose it doesn't really matter when you're on vacation right?
Well at any rate we miraculously woke up early. And by early I mean 8am... Well it was early enough to get a proper breakfast. But after wandering aimlessly around the old town in search of a good breakfast we quickly came to the realization that Croatians (Europeans?) don't really do breakfast the way we Americans do breakfast. If we really wanted to be like the locals we'd take up chain smoking and just sit at a cafe on the Riva sipping cappucinos (I did acquire that habit), maybe picking at some flakey pastry. 
So yeah. Very little in that description of a common croatian breakfast suited my dietary restrictions let alone our lifestyle. 

Walking back toward the Old Town down one of their main streets we glanced to our right and happened upon this: probably the coolest fish market I've ever seen. Sorry Pikes Place Market... you've got nothing on this! Generally raw fish in the morning couldn't be less appetizing or more stomach-curdling, but these were the freshest fish I'd ever seen. The covered market smelled more of salt-water and sea air than fish juice. There were so many different colors and kinds of fish... and they'd all been snatched from the sea just hours before by the fisherman who we saw sitting on the docks in the afternoons with their boats. I think what was even crazier about this particular fish market is that it's been held in the same location for centuries... Yes. Centuries. Like back in Roman times. Pretty crazy to witness a tradition that hasn't changed a whole lot except for maybe currency and clothes. I'm pretty sure Kunas and Chinos weren't around in Roman times... 
But the rumbling of our stomachs reminded us that we needed to eat food, not just look at it. So our search continued...





We finally chose ambiance over menu and headed for one of the many under-an-awning cafes that lined most of the streets and squares within the old town. Nervously, I ordered two eggs and sausage from the very limited menu. The last time I ate eggs, my stomach didn't fare too well. As we sat around our cafe table covered in a burgundy tablecloth we perused our map of the city. It was our last full day in Split and we'd yet to determine our itinerary. But in truth the day did have one central focus: Ryan's night shot. And by "night shot" I mean an evening photograph. We poured over our map of Split scouting out potential locations that might have that panoramic postcard vista. And then we went in search of it. But not before taking a "selfie" along the palace. I stole the camera away for a couple detail shots - my area of interest. Landscapes are definitely Ryan's thing - he's the big picture taker and thinker of our duo.





Once we exited the palace we walked along the Riva, which spans for quite a distance. As you can see below, the view from this point was quite beautiful, but not exactly what Ry was looking for. I don't know... I thought it was great but we kept walking. At the end of the Riva was a marina of sorts, full of moored sailboats, and perched just above it sat a quiet little park belonging to some sort of church or monastery. It didn't so much overlook Split, but rather west toward the grand Adriatic and all her beautiful islands.  The sprinklers where going under the pine tree canopy and you could smell the gratitude of the plants for the shade and hydration. A man sat there on a bench that overlooked the sea, his lunch pail at his side, eating a sandwich. "How'd you like to come here for lunch everyday?" I  said to Ryan. He smiled and we just kept walking, still searching for our perfect place.




On my Use-It map a little star indicated a certain place that seemed promising. Well when the map describes it as "an adequate place to film an anti-depressant commercial," you sort of hope it'll be worthy of a photograph. The tricky part was locating the hidden stairways that led to it - seemed a lot like a treasure hunt - map and all with X that marks the spot. It was getting crazy hot too. Truthfully I had no idea how hot since everything is in Celsius. Miraculously, my meanderings the night before had paid off. I remembered seeing a stairway tucked away around a corner that had a sign saying "Marjan" just as you round the bend of the Riva. The Marjan, where this lookout was located, is a giant forested park that spans the entire hilltop, hovering above the city.
We hiked what seemed like a stairway to heaven. Those steps just never ended. It was crazy. Sweaty and tired, I seriously hoped this was all worth it. And it was. Not only was the view quite spectacular, but the Croatians, they really have this thing figured out. Right at the lookout point was a little covered sitting area with sofas and coffee tables that, for the most part, all faced the vista. They'd even terraced the levels of the patio to allow for maximum viewing potential.
This was it. We'd return for drinks at dusk and night shots galore!

But before descending this mountain we decided to see a bit of the park. Well we didn't really get that far... We stumbled upon a tiny little water fountain just a bit further up the hill... why was it all up hill?!!! and Ryan had to cool off. He's was over it and ready for more than a rinse. It was time to test out these Adriatic waters for real!




After returning to our apartment to cool down a bit and change into our swimsuits we grabbed a quick lunch at Brasserie on Seven - a fabulous spot on the Riva. We liked it so much we returned for breakfast the next day. And then we began yet another trek to the beach - the walking just doesn't stop with us! Bacvice is one of the most popular and one of the few sandy beaches in Split. The actual beach was super crowded but the concrete slab that lined the perimeter, I'm sure for rentable lawn/lounge chairs in the high season was just fine with us.
A bunch of boys were flinging themselves into the sea from some boulders that were pilled near the edge of the wall. Nature's best diving platform. 
There was this old man sitting behind me eating a sandwich, and to be quite honest I was kind of obsessed with his style. He had this incredible tattoo of a seagull on his chest and had on some awesome Aviators and a Gilligan hat. You know... Gilligan's Island. Man. He was killing it. And so were my feet for that matter. I'd had my first pedicure in quite possibly a decade and my little toes had never looked better. In fact they almost looked quite normal. Whoa! 

Needless to say we both felt rejuvenated by the very salty, very refreshing and very aqua-colored Adriatic waters. It was probably the best way we could have spent the late afternoon. 









After returning for a quick shower and change we were back at it. No rest for the weary! And besides... the light was gorgeous! As we walked down the cobblestone streets I prayed a quick prayer asking the Lord to reserve for us two perfect seats back up at the postcard lookout - our destination. And then then I grabbed the camera out of Ryan's hands so I could take a few photos.






Exploring the maze of streets we found another stairway - a slightly more direct route - that led us to the lookout and miraculously there were two perfect seats just waiting for us! Thank You Lord! I sat down with my book as Ry set up his camera for the shot... okay shots. Dozens of them. But the beauty of long exposures is there's time to chill in between. We both celebrated the evening with two very yummy bellinis. Vistas and drinks... like I said the Croatians have this thing figured out! And craziest of all... that glorious moon that rose in the evening sky. Yep. It was the Honeymoon. I kid you not. Appropriate? Um, yeah!




I gave Ry till 8:45pm. My fuel tank was reaching 25% and was rapidly diminishing. Luckily one of the restaurants that came well recommended on both the Use-It map and Trip Advisor was just a few dozen meters away from the foot of the stairs. Fife was a hot spot even at 9pm. There wasn't anything fancy about the food and the menu had a decent offering. The selling point for this spot was definitely the price. It was probably one of the cheapest meals we ate our entire trip. And the food was really quite fresh and portions very generous. I have to say eating an entire fish... skin and all... dang it's good. Especially when you know they plucked it from the sea, that you can see from your seat, earlier that day. Yum. 

Also I might add that that evening we had a particularly humorous encounter with some very sweet, very inebriated college girls seated at the the table next to ours... It's more or less communal dining at Fife so be prepared.



And since it was our last night in this beautiful city we just had to walk around and enjoy the sights and sounds (and gelato) one final time. A guy was singing and playing the guitar in the sunken square outside the Palace. And what was he singing? Of course late 80's/early 90's American ballads. Think Bryan Adams. It was amazing. The perfect end to the first part of our Honeymoon Adventure.