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Journal

Our Island

The Açores (Azores in English) are a group of 9 volcanic islands located in the middle of the Atlantic, half-way between Europe and the Americas - quite simply the middle of nowhere.

Our island, Ilha de Santa Maria, is known as the "Ilha do Sol”. When describing it, they say it is like the child of Hawaii and Ireland. There are more cows on the island than people. Only one traffic light. At times it seems as if the entire population of roughly 5,000 knows each other; if not by face, then by car or truck. We have seamount diving, some surf, small forests, old ocean pools and a couple of waterfalls; walking trails abound, and a little charming town by the name of Vila, which we like to call “the City".

Here, time stops, and the outside world is forgotten...

 

 

Sailboat at dusk, São Lorenço Santa Maria Azores

Black and White Hibiscus Bloom
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Winter Family Cleanup Sessions

Winter Family Cleanup Sessions
image credit Alex Nabaum

It is during the winter when the winds are high and storm surges strong that keeping our coastline clean becomes a real challenge. Just after the storm ends & the sun comes out, our work begins. At low tide, you can usually find our family at one of the local beaches cleaning up what we can, and if the waves are good after, we hop in for a bit a surf. 

This year, we decided to share the tradition and invited others from our community to join. And so, the Winter Family Cleanup Sessions were born. We hosted our first organized beach cleanup with @monk_surf along the Northern coast of Anjos on December 2nd this year.

We weren't sure what the turnout would be, considering our Facebook Event had only 3 attendees confirmed and one of them was our own family lol : ) But 22 volunteers (both adults and children) showed up to participate which was awesome!

We met some great people and successfully removed over 100 pounds of ocean plastic, ghost gear & trash together from the rocky beach in under 2 hours. Bar dos Anjos, the local restaurant and bar, generously offered free water to all volunteers.

Most importantly, we had fun empowering the next generation of kids to make a difference : ) With good vibes all around, we will definitely be doing it again -and maybe even catching a wave or two after...

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Days in the Sand

Days in the Sand

 Our slow island life continues into the winter. With the kids in school and with opening our store in Vila, we still have ample time for trips to the beach for some surf and bare foot morning cleanups...though the water is getting chilly now, and we need our cozy socks and certainly enjoy our wood burning stove for warming up afterwards.

 Two and a half years have passed now for us here in Santa Maria- writing it doesn't seem like much - only two and a half. But that small number sums up our life here, and so it feels much more substantial than it sounds - this two and a half.

 Two and a half years - that's 902 days. Enough time to completely shift & restart, to build community, to make new friends, to find balance and begin to thrive. Time to create, to turn inspiration into something tangible.

Enough time to feel at home.

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Lovin' Jean-Marc Barr & the Big Blue

Lovin' Jean-Marc Barr & the Big Blue

We love the ocean, old movies, music, and dolphins? who doesn't!

Jean-Marc Barr starred in one of our favourite films, The Big Blue by Luc Besson. It's a liberal depiction of the free-diving adventurer Jacques Mayol.

Mayol was French, but born in Shanghai and learned to free-dive in the oceans of Japan. (How cool is that??)

He would later write the book, Homo Delphinus: The Dolphin Within Man. For those uninitiated, freediving is the art of diving deep on a single breath of air. Divers say it's like being at one with the ocean. Mayol was the first to reach a depth of 100 meters (330 ft)

Jean-Marc, who portrays Mayol, is a French/American but born in West Germany (a country that no longer exists!). He studied philosophy at UCLA, The Conservatoire de Paris, and the Sorbonne, before moving onto acting in London, eschewing "big" roles to focus on work that inspired him.

What's not to love about these two: obscure & beautiful, bilingual & multicultural, AND they both...wait for it...dove with DOLPHINS!!! 💥

 

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Must Have Been...

Must Have Been...

It’s a Tuesday evening here on the island of Santa Maria in the Azores. “It Must Have Been Love” plays on our vintage marantz stereo receiver and outside there is a saturated double rainbow over the ocean we can see from inside the house...there’s magic in the air.

It’s 6pm, the time of day when the local Radio Clube Asas station plays dreamy 80s hits, the time when we usually all come inside to wind down from the outdoors- and we slow down.

The mood has us thinking of the days when this music played regularly on the radio- days pre-internet. There was such a magic to that time- Life was so different. How do we bring that back?

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Looking Back Halfway Through 40

Looking Back Halfway Through 40

A year ago we were unpacking a half container from our previous life in Canada and settling into our new home here in the Azores. We were laying out the design for our first book, selecting paper qualities and working on print timelines. We were developing concepts for our first jewelry collection and tinkering anxiously with instagram as a medium to connect with the outside world from out here in the middle of nowhere. 

We adopted a wild island kitten (Jiji), spent many days at the beach, in our garden, and hiking the island. We planted (and failed) and tried planting again (successfully) our first trees, flower bushes, palms and fruit/vegetable garden.

We weathered our first winter storms, walked our dogs dreamlike through the Calheta fog and witnessed numerous moon and sunrises - embracing the natural rhythm & seasonal cycle of our island. 

We began learning, practicing, & stumbling through Portuguese (our daughter Etienne became fluent). We launched Neon Joyride, published our first book, and wrote a few more. We all began learning to surf. We hosted our first visitors, and were able to share our new world with our family and a few close friends. We said goodbye to a family member and our dog Whiskey walked through the Lion's Gate. We all made some new friends. 

Tomer & I turned 40. My mother said it right- our 40s are when we come into our super powers. We still have our youth, our health, some wisdom, & enough life experience & energy to make things happen - to live the life we choose, to follow our true paths.

In the last year, we have all become more aware of our choices - and of how to live more consciously, more sustainably. It's a process that takes time & intention. We chose to live slower, lighter & with less. And it feels better than ever! I have learned that even slowing down takes time - even on a small island in the middle of nowhere...it's taken 2 years to settle into our new rhythm here in the Azores. 

Still learning to let go & to go with the flow. It sounds easier than it is, but it's been so good...learning to just breathe again and listen to the universe, to let it guide you. So much of this year has been redefining what feels good, individually and for us as a family.

The journey continues and we all grow. Moving both onwards and backwards in a loop-d-loop fashion, turning our previous life and selves inside-out, focusing inward, growing outward.

Through all of the change, this past year has been spent together, with each other and our children...I am so grateful for that -Knowing that we have filled our time here with meaningful moments. We continue to seek, to grow, to create, to connect on deeper levels with each other and ourselves. Gardens blooming inside & out. It's not all sunshine and rainbows, but we have been blessed to get a lot of both!

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Island Magic

Island Magic

Island living is magic...everything about it. Being so near the water, smelling the humidity in the air and watching the mist rise in the morning... along the coast the fog and mist meet with the salty spray of the seas- 

This picture is from a morning exploring São Pedro on the Western side of our island. Early morning and in the evenings clouds hug Pico Alto, our tallest mountain.

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The Oceanic Feeling

The Oceanic Feeling

In a previous post we talked about Hesse. How one person leads to another and one idea to another. For example - Hesse dedicated the first part of Siddhartha to Romain Rolland, a contemporary of his. I had not heard of Rolland before reading Siddhartha and not of Hesse before meeting Paul (see other post). So of course we checked out Rolland - a writer, humanist, mystic and an early Western explorer of Eastern thought; he coined an interesting phrase - "The Oceanic Feeling".

Rolland describes the "Oceanic Feeling" as the sensation of being one with everything, the feeling of the eternal. He coined it in a letter to S.Freud - "Mais j'aurais aimé à vous voir faire l'analyse du sentiment religieux spontané ou, plus exactement, de la sensation religieuse qui est...le fait simple et direct de la sensation de l'Eternel (qui peut très bien n'être pas éternel, mais simplement sans bornes perceptibles, et comme océanique)". 

He speaks of that ephemeral feeling of being limitless, of being one with the universe. 

The ocean forces us to stand still, to watch it, admire it; and by doing we stop for a moment or two, we think, we turn inwards. Hearing the crashing of the waves, the sounds of something so awesome (in the truest sense of the word), we feel at once insignificant and eternal. 

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Wild Dolphins

Wild Dolphins

Not sure how many people have seen dolphins -Not at a waterpark, not on a tour or at some tourist feeding spot or swimming attraction -but out of nowhere, when out at sea and in the wild. There are so many photos of them and movies, and yes even statues and snow globes, and on and on. But to see them in real life, up close and personal, swimming and playing beside you, diving in and out of the water in arches, racing, diving beneath our inflatable boat and popping up again is something that's so special it's difficult to even describe, except for to yell through a huge smile when describing it to someone - WE SAW DOLPHINS!!!

Mammals, dolphins are actually small whales. They are truly a magical creature. Their energy is contagious and being with them brings out your inner child, time stands still and you feel like the luckiest kid in the world. 

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Living with one traffic light - the island of Santa Maria

Living with one traffic light - the island of Santa Maria

We have just one traffic light on the island and it's only on sometimes. The island itself is just shy of 97km2. To give you an idea, the smallest U.S. state of Rhode Island is over 3,000km2, roughly 30x bigger. So what's it like? You get to know everyone and everyone pretty much knows where you live. They'll show up sometimes, to ask a question, to borrow something or to remind you to bring back something you've borrowed. 

It's one of those things, where you think, should I pick up the phone and call them, or just walk over and see if they are at home. We usually choose the latter; it's always more fun and the way of living slow. 

Back to the traffic light. We're not sure what it's for, accept to maybe slow us down on the way into the main town, though there are speed bumps just before. Perhaps it is to remind us that we all need to stop, even on a small island it's good to be reminded to slow down, to stop and to smell the palm trees...

 

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