november. the changing of the seasons has got me thinking, or rather questioning "what am i doing?" and i mean, in the grandiose, epic, all-encompassing meaning of the word 'doing'; like, with my life.

don't get me wrong, overall i'm happy as a clam, snug as a bug in a rug. i can't complain when sundays are spent eating salt and vinegar chips and candy bars in someone's pretty-darn-perfect arms and watching a good movie, then heading to family dinners with love all around. my life of a university student/ part time coffee slinger is nothing to get upset about.

yet sometimes the snow seeps into my bones and suddenly i'm left standing on cold kitchen tile with textbooks i can't agree with, and tiny paychecks and won't buy me a porched, yellow house. and i'm saying to myself (outloud and alone, because i also get more crazy in these darkened months): "really? this is it?"

it comes and goes and i try to focus on the good stuff in between- loving leftover homemade pizza from mum, spontaneous brekkie plans, hugs from aforementioned arms...
and, well, i haven't reached a conclusion what to do with the questions in between, but here are some things getting me through them these days:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
~some instructions on writing and life. a writer/teacher, she shares what she's found out so far. a lot of what she has to say rings true, and her advice on writing translates quite well to how i feel about making art and getting my act together. here's an exert from my favourite page today:

"but how?" my students ask. "how do you actually do it?"

"you sit down, i say. you try to sit down at approximately the same time
every day. this is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively. so you sit down at, say, nine every morning, or ten every night. you put a piece of paper in your typewriter, or you turn on your computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so. you begin rocking, just a little at first, then like a huge autistic child. you look at the ceiling, and over at the clock, yawn, and stare at the paper again. then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind- a scene, a locale, a character, whatever- and you try to quiet your mind so you can hear what that landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind. the other voices are banshees and drunken monkeys. they are the voices of anxiety, judgement, doom, guilt. also, severe hypochondria.

there may be a nurse ratched-like listing of things that must be done at this moment: foods that must come out of the freezers, appointments that must be cancelled or made, hairs that must be tweezed. but you must hold an imaginary gun to your head and make yourself stay at that desk. there is a vague pain at the base of your neck. it crosses your mind that you have meningitis. then the phone rings are you look up at the ceiling with fury, summon every ounce of noblesse oblige, and answer the call politely, with maybe just the merest hint of irritation. the caller asks if you're working, and you say yeah, because you are.

yet somehow in the face of all this, you clear a space for the writing voice, hacking away at all the others with machetes, and you begin to compose sentences. you begin to string words together like beads to tell a story. you are deperate to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transendence, to make real or imagined events come alive. but you cannot will this to happen. it is a matter or persistence and faith and hard work. so you might as well just go ahead and get started."



"the beauty of experience is that experience is always open, because further exploration is possible... experience is never finished, it remains unfinished. while you are living, how can your experience be finished? your experience is growing, is is changing, it is moving. it is continuously moving from the known into the unknown and from the unknown into unknowable. and remember, experience has a beauty because it is unfinished. some of the greatest songs are those which are unfinished. some of the greatest books are those which are left unfinished. some of the greatest art is that which is unfinished. the unfinished has a beauty
OSHO, "creativity"



is there an ulterior motive
to the bare branches of autumn;
their hands dropping hints
while they toss summer coats to the ground?

are yellow leaves meant to hit like a slap in the face,
to make a mark on my pale winter skin for staring so rudely.
or are the trees ashamed in the nude,
their aim to place maple hands strategically over eyelids,
meant to cover my view?

i'm inclined to believe we're all in is together;
that the branches lend their leaves as encouragement,
handing out 'there, there' pats on the back in lieu of spoken sentiments
when their song birds have flown south for the season.


vice or virtue?

these fingers could scrawl ink onto empty scrapbooks like they can type a storm.
if they haven't forgotten how;
now accustomed to their computer love affair, rehearsed pitter-pattering across square letters and numbers.

if only they could wrap their weight around a brand-spankin' HB.
like they do their their heads around technology.

forget creative suits and tabbed browsing,
get me back to sheets of paper. give me scissors and a glue stick.

can an old dog forget new tricks?

*danika does a cut and paste, adds a link, previews then publishes.*

. . . see more of this.


looking back, part 3

enough as is.


these days. those days. some days, i worry i'm searching down the wrong streets. terrified that somewhere the map was misread, the directions misplaced. that i'm peddling in vain; this bicycle remains stationary despite my best efforts. i start to think about each minuscule decision, glance, or remark far too analytically than they deserve. these thoughts often stir and pace in spiraling circles down an ice-coated slope. like a slapped-at, worn-out tether ball they get trapped in this ruthless mind.

but there are times i've seen them escape. it happens most often while biking to and from the appointments and responsibilities i've attached my name to. it's during this time-in-between, the time not dedicated to neither departure or arrival gates, that they get away and make their own adventures.

on my route, i take a right just over the osborne bridge and cut through the legislative gardens to the foot path along the assiniboine. most often, it's somewhere around here on my way to the forks that these thoughts make a break.

they take daring trips on sailors' ships. find themselves a river they can float away on. and now it's coming on christmas, folks are cutting down trees. the waters will seize, but they've found themselves a river they can skate away on.

with impending snow, i'm anxiously anticipating what will happen when my route will be forced to merge with traffic on the streets. soon i'll be clutching bus transfers instead of bicycle handlebars. i'm worried what i might become without these two-wheeling sessions to relieve my easily-stifled mind.

but i've devised a plan to split this crazy scene.

i'll follow them there, a stowaway to my own thoughts, and find the river is so wide i can teach my feet to fly away.
that's when i'll notice i'm not so hard to handle, selfish or sad,
and that love's more than just a patch of fancy stitch-work on my sleeve.
i'll notice that what looked like a suspect alley in all the instructions and manuals is the perfect hideout i've been searching for all along.

that i've been circling that alley all the while, i've no need to go anywhere else.

and that, right now, i'm enough as is.


ordinary happiness: a reminder

i can't get enough of these. i borrowed (read: stole) them home from a calendar that came in a friend's newspaper when i was in australia (thanks joe and family) and they've been adorning my walls ever since. they're by an aussie artist. big fan.

check it out >> www.leunig.com.au


looking back, part 2.

(originally posted SEPTEMBER, 2007:)

how great is it when a bunch of tiny good things become the subliminal building blocks of a good day.

i didn't get and A+ on my midterm, win the lotto or get a pay raise, but today was a good day for me.

there was just enough yogurt left in the container for my breakfast of fruit-nut muesli. i managed to carry my teabag across the room to the bin without spilling a drop; tea steeped to perfection till the last sip. i met my new house for the next three months and we get along amazingly; i couldn't help smiling at all of its twenty-something walls in glorious admiration. i was free to accept the first appointment available to get my tattoo touch-up. the kitten on lilac street got off the road just in time before she was run over by some heedless driver. i managed to fit a satisfying nap into my afternoon, woke just in for a dinner date at breads & circuses, and i got green light after green light despite the fact that i was driving home during rush hour.

with that in mind, i hope this new thing called university contributes to one of the small things that make my days to come good ones, too.

. . . . . . . . .

tiny dancing silhouettes

it was the birds that made me turn left and look up.

that's when i saw your bike was riding towards me,

and learned that the moon dances with waves on the horizon.


three hundred sixty-five spins later

i was reading my old blog posts this morning. and it turns out i'm as predictable as the seasons. i'm okay with that. for today at least. here's the story:

-danika meets autumn-
danika: "wow this is awesome. you're pretty. plans sound great. i think you and i are going to be great friends!" *humming a catchy tune, glimmer in her eye*
"wait... what? school? textbooks? hmmm, i don't know about this... aaaahh. i can't handle this."
-danika recoils inter her bedroom and won't come out besides to work, whine, and pick up bad habits-
autumn: "wha' happen'? calm down girl!! i thought we've been over this already! everyone's in the same boat and you can do it! remember how we talked about balance? you were doing really well not too long ago..."
danika: "yeah but... really?! ok... o.k. maybe. well can i just take a time out and wallow for a bit in bed and maybe bake some cookies, paint and organize my junk collections and play with my bird figurines to calm me down?..."
autumn: "well i'd hoped you'd be over that by now, and you really should be doing school work or something productive, but fine. take your time, get over yourself, and we'll regroup. here's an extra sunny spot to nap in..."

SO! i digress... what i'm saying is, looking back on past years (and probably ahead to the next), this is typical, my anxiety will come and go. and when i'm up it's the downs i know it need.

anyways, here's the proof:


"first i was a hatchling, waiting for my little bones to form...

next I was a fledging leaping from the nest despite the fall. oh how we fall..."

i've been pacing around this house for days, hoping the memories that once brought me up will recognize me again soon and put some fire in the belly. been driving in circles around the city, trying to grasp all the moments that can be mine and ours. i'm overwhelmed with ideas of achievement and victory; terrified by the reality of failure, regret.

i need my inspirations to be more than vibrations in the air.

motivate me. motivate me.

"i landed in the garden longing for the view behind the fence, oh my god. i prayed my bones weren't brittle, for the air we float on can feel dense; oh the weight of it aches."

i want to get lost in the nooks and crannies of my life. feel my way through the dark of the crawlspace under the stairway to the next steps. let the anticipation of the first day of school hit me like kindergarten, and family calm me like a lazy sunday. at the end of the day, my mum's still my biggest fan.

i need my bravery to be more than a fleeting feeling in my chest.

jump. jump. see danika jump.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..

sitting in the internet cafe three blocks away from 'home' and about equally as far from the beach, i feel that you expect i've got a glamorous tan to work on and tiki-torch-in-the-sand parties to attend. i hate to disappoint, but while there may be some sort of truth in those things (in a more realistic sunscreen-y potluck-y way), my reality lies elsewhere...

of course my excitements, connections and daily grind has changed since reaching melbourne. but right now i'm living a life quite settled and telling tales of day ins-and-outs would read as much a list of activities as would anyone elses (for the most part...maybe a little more sand and sun than the forecasts call for in winnipeg). cleaning, groceries, work, wandering walks with myself and with various companions, window shopping, meals in and out and bbqs and drinks with friends...

the truth is, right now i'm dealing with most of the same confusions, frustrations, and problems as i ever was before- some days i feel like i'm in the middle of a quarter-life crisis, trying to find meaning in where i am and what i'm doing; searching to learn what matters most to me and finding a way to surround myself with those things.

i am trying to balance my lessons, memories and thoughts of my past, with my determination to live with appreciation and consciousness in the present, and with my anticipation for things to come.

right now to me this means:

*past* appreciating more with every day how much my friends and family mean to me, and how these connections have been made to last. i have built my life around these people and have so much love for them. i miss hosting waffle-frenchtoast-mimosa-nutella brunches and wine and cheeses, crocheting on corydon and dancing recklessly and crying my eyes out with my homegirls, licking popsicles in the apartment at 2 am, and being able to sit with someone who knows who i am and where i come from and will join me in ups and downs and hold me in their arms the whole way through. these are the things that make me certain i will eventually be ready to go back home.

*present* learning what i'm made of (both good and bad), appreciating a whole new kind of relationship that comes with traveling, and reminding myself to relax (because essentially i have taken a year-long holiday and i'll be darned to spend so much time stressing unnecessarily...though easier said than done).

*future* excitement about my next flight booked to indonesia (now i'm dreaming of relaxing on over-commercialized beaches in bali then heading west to trek through the unknowns of a whole new world, and a rendezvous with julia), plans to move on to bus around new zealand, and then meet family and friends back in australia.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..

and so i keep calm and carry on,
stay happy, healthy, safe,
and keep reminding myself that 'it's all good' (thanks to mum).

(supplemental goods: In the Spring of 1939, with war against Germany all but inevitable, the British Government's Ministry of Information commissioned a series of propaganda posters to be distributed throughout the country at the onset of hostilities. It was feared that in the early months of the war Britain would be subjected to gas attacks, heavy bombing raids and even invasion. The posters were intended to offer the public reassurance in the dark days which lay ahead.)


laying down my hat.

it could just be the post-kasdorf-wedding-love speaking, but i think i'm onto something here...

continuing from my post in march, i'm still thinking about searching for the good stuff, finding it in the small details of everyday life.
but now i'm thinking that maybe it's not the 'small stuff' i'm searching for after all. the important details are the big things:
the only city i call home, where i am used to the cracked sidewalks and can bike them home in the dark.
the people that i know and love, where there is no need for small talk or awkward get-to-know-you games.
the familiar routines, etched with memories and reminders of where i've been and what's happened this far.

i don't know why i have such a hard time recognizing, accepting and justifying the importance of all these 'insignificant details' - the knowing glances, little favours, shared batches of homemade cookies- or why i should consider them insignificant at all. these are the people, connections, and familiar places that make up the foundations of who i am. they are the reasons i have the encouragement and motivation to take risks. they provide the comfort i have in knowing who is behind me unconditionally.

how we define ourselves is in a big way defined by how we look through the eyes of the people around us. if we're not stopping to aknowledge who those people are, if we're oblivious to the colour and shapes of their eyes, we can't help but end up feeling lost, empty and uncertain in who we are.

as much as i can be happy knowing that, wherever i am, someone i love is on the other end of the world wide web e-mailing me back within a heartsbeat, chatting over time zones, or waiting at the airport when my plane comes in (sooner or later :)!), i don't think there can ever be a substitute for being in winnipeg- where my routes reside, my friendships have grown and my heart will always call home.

while i figure out which roads to take and which life i should lead, i am glad to be in the company of people reminding me what i'm living for.
and i am striving to remember to look them in the eyes, because i can only see myself clearly through what they see while staring back at me.


required daily reading

An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

Written in 1998, the Incomplete Manifesto is an articulation of statements that exemplify Bruce Mau's beliefs, motivations and strategies. It also articulates how the BMD studio works.

1. Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.

2. Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you'll never have real growth.

3. Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we've already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.

4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

5. Go deep. The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.

6. Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.

7. Study. A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.

8. Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.

9. Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

10. Everyone is a leader. Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.

11. Harvest ideas. Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.

12. Keep moving. The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.

13. Slow down. Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.

14. Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.

15. Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.

16. Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.

17. ____________________. Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.

18. Stay up late. Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you're separated from the rest of the world.

19. Work the metaphor. Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.

20. Be careful to take risks. Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.

21. Repeat yourself. If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.

22. Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.

23. Stand on someone’s shoulders. You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.

24. Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.

25. Don’t clean your desk. You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.

26. Don’t enter awards competitions. Just don’t. It’s not good for you.

27. Read only left-hand pages. Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our "noodle."

28. Make new words. Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.

29. Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.

30. Organization = Liberty. Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth of a split between "creatives" and "suits" is what Leonard Cohen calls a 'charming artifact of the past.'

31. Don’t borrow money. Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.

32. Listen carefully. Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.

33. Take field trips. The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.

34. Make mistakes faster. This isn’t my idea -- I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.

35. Imitate. Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You'll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.

36. Scat. When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else ... but not words.

37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

38. Explore the other edge. Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.

39. Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces -- what Dr. Seuss calls "the waiting place." Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference -- the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.

40. Avoid fields. Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.

41. Laugh. People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I've become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.

42. Remember. Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.

43. Power to the people. Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can't be free agents if we’re not free.


searching for the good stuff

sometimes (more often than not, these days) i’m amazed at how it’s the small, seemingly insignificant things that can turn my mood around, calm me down, and remind me what really counts.

though i’m not sure why, i do know what kinds of things these are and the wonders they do for my sanity.

it’s three hugs from mum in one day, fresh laundry, and a new cd to fall asleep to instead of noises coming from upstairs.. .
it’s basking in a pool of nag champa incense, sipping chocolate chai before bed.
it’s taking my study day off to go on a roomie grocery trip, to chop veggies and bake sheets and sheets of mini quiche (preferably without the guilt from lack of learning that needs to get done, though).
it’s being able to open a window for the first time all year, letting fresh air in to mingle with the streams of sun that fall across my bed.
it’s spray-painting the latest thrift store find (gold bird to matte white) and finding it a home (hung up above my bedside lamp).
it’s seeing andrea at the corner outside my window while eating breakfast in the morning, and at the bus stop across the street on my walk home.
it’s rachel dropping by a busy day at work just to peek her head between the espresso machine to smile hello.
it’s letters in my inbox reassuring me that my selfish, hermit tendencies have not caused the important people to leave me behind...

although without of any solid explanation why they are worth seeking out, these are the only moments that make sense to me.

more than any self help book lying beside my bed, more than ten-hour-days at university securing my future in knowledge (?..).
more than elaborate plans and errands etched into a battered little black books.
more than 5:30 am bootcamp; more than textbooks that put me to sleep, more than money signs accompanied by high numbers.

i don’t know when or why it was that too many things got piled on to my life, but i’m sick from all this food on my plate.

instead of self-imposed deadlines and feelings of remorse, i desperately long to get to a place where my days are filled with these simple, inspiring moments. preferably with time in between to catch my breath and internalize the energy they give me. to figure out how i can cling to that rather than the stress of everyday life. stress which i should, by all my own calculations, be able to rise above more often than i am right now. which should not turn me into a horrible ball of teen-angst; it overwhelms me with guilt and confuision. and this causes me to worry even more- that if i can’t handle myself now, what am i going to become when the rest of life’s bigger realities and struggles get tossed in my face?

for whatever reason i’m continually struggling to adjust these days.
but i am seeking and hoping to do so. soon.
i haven’t yet quite figured out what that means, in terms of planning ahead and changing this current emotional rut i’ve found myself in.

three months in europe sounds promising for a start.
and maybe it’ll be another four months away in the berkshires of western massachusetts come autumn.
maybe it’ll be embracing year two at university for all it’s worth, or at least feeling okay with the unknown.
maybe it will be an illusive alternative option i have yet to discover.
no matter what, i know that what i end up doing isn’t going to be the real solution. what it will really be is more of an internal shift, a stabilization in attitude;
gripping this restless heart by the horns and allowing it settling into itself.

and then, maybe one day i’ll finally be able start spilling ink and scratching pencils onto empty white sketchbooks,
read all the books and magazines that grow into piles on my wooden floors,
and find myself in a place i can call home, be genuinely comfortable in my own skin.
i’m sure i will. (i’m sure i will?!)

for now-
while i’m busy repeating made up excuses and pity stories of reasons why i can’t possibly get myself together-
it’ll be these small moments in between it all.
these ones i get glimpses of when i finally open my lazy, stubborn eyes,
are all that i can ask for.
they’re all that i should ask for,
and what i wish i could see
are surrounding me
all along.