January 31, 2011

The Blue Mountain

My husband and I have visited the Blue Mountain for the first time with our friends. It's a beautiful place for those who love all kinds of winter activities. I myself don't ski, but my husband had to give his new skiing shoes some test runs.

In this place, it's always a few degrees colder than in the city where we live. When we left Toronto, we realized that the white winter is still reigning. I wanted to stop by every snow-covered tree, but my husband had some objections to moving at that pace.

January 26, 2011

My Moscow

I would like to show you my Moscow. It’s a city that will always have a special character. Living in Moscow is like living under a volcano.

One of our friends wanted to move to Canada, but he changed his mind at the last moment. He explained his motivation to stay by saying that, in Canada, he will not have enough adrenaline on a daily basis. When he was driving us to the airport, he was speeding and breaking so many rules of traffic, to the extent that I got enough of an adrenaline rush to last me for the next five years.

Moscow is different for everyone – some people love it; others don’t. There is a Russian expression that goes, “Moscow does not believe in tear”. If you have survived in this city, you could survive almost anywhere.

In Moscow, on my favourite boulevard in the center of the city, you can see the following people at the exact same moment – an extremely done-up young woman, a little old lady, and a highly intoxicated gentleman, who is bathing in the fountain, right in front of everyone.

If you ask somebody for directions, and they don’t respond, it’s likely that they are in Moscow for work-related reasons, and they don’t really live there. Many citizens of Moscow love their city, and would be glad to show you the way to any place.

I love Moscow, but I prefer to miss it and enjoy it from afar. It’s more like a solid friendship than true love. This city has shown me the best things it is capable of. It has often been very unfair to me, but, overall, we have come to some sort of an understanding. We have shared too many amazing moments together!

Every time I visit it, I recognize this city less and less. We seem to be drifting farther from each other. I feel like that special Moscow atmosphere is gradually being replaced by something else. The famous grandiose architecture is still there, life is bustling, but the spirit is becoming something different. Unfortunately, it’s not just me who notices this – my good friends who live there tell me the same thing.

Maybe, just as it is impossible to go back to your childhood, it is impossible to go back the same city you remember from the past.

January 21, 2011

Almost like Bridget Jones. Almost

 I don’t really like going out to lunch with friends who are constantly on diets/on the verge of a nervous breakdown. However, even if I, having learned from experience, try to shift our meeting place to a park or a museum, I tend to find hidden obstacles anyway. One of these obstacles is called “hunger” and the others include “being in a hurry” or “having little time”.

For example – I go to meet a friend, who is trying all she can to lose weight, at the latest big exhibition. I have specifically planned the whole time to be spent away from any lovely place where, hypothetically, we could stop to eat. The friend arrives at the last minute, or, what’s even worse, gets you to wait, calling you every minute to keep you updated about her progress in your direction. (One of these days, I would like to do a post about people who steal my precious time.)

So, the friend is ready to enjoy some art, but there is one problem – she was in a hurry to meet me, and she hasn’t had time to eat. Bam!

At our chosen eating location, even if I select a particularly harmless salad with shrimps, I will likely get lectured on the amount of calories hidden in each shrimp, not to mention the amount of cholesterol carried by these harmless sea creatures. For herself, the friend will order some salad with arugula, instructing the waiter to make sure there isn’t a gram of salt in it. She victoriously looks over at me in the process of making the order, as if to say “This is what I eat when I am really hungry.”

The most unpleasant part comes when the order arrives. She gazes at my salad with wild hunger and hatred in her eyes. She observes each shrimp as it sails towards my lips. She frowns slightly as she chews her grass.

Once the salad had been demolished, it’s is time for coffee. How do you like your coffee? There are many ways I enjoy it – sometimes with sugar and cream. I make my coffee however my spirit demands at that moment. In my dieting friends’ company, this could be a dangerous misstep. I receive my retribution at once. I am told a story about a mutual acquaintance who has gained a lot of weight recently. I start wondering – could that also be me?

In general, most topics of discussion take a detour in the direction of one subject, in its infinite variations – the subject of the ideal body, and all the imperfect bodies that surround us.

Imagine the following – we are talking about Dancing with the Stars. What ends up happening is not so much an exchange of impressions, but rather my friend’s account of how she dances in front of the TV in order to maintain her form. Another time, we might be visiting a spa, and all she can talk about is how no one has ever given her any more than (subtract 10-15 years from her age), or how, only a few days ago, she got carded at a liquor store.

Even if she buys herself some ice cream on an excruciatingly hot summer’s day, the label of the product must be carefully studied. It becomes the subject of a complex mathematical analysis, which is meant to determined the number of sunflower seeds she would be allowed to consume the next day. Drinking champagne, she recalls every single glass of champagne she’s ever had in her life, although, by now, it’s about time to lose count.

I just prop my head on my arm, and slowly exhale, in attempt to breathe out the dullness of the situation.

These days, I can’t even get myself to go out to lunch with friends who go on diet in a more reasonable state of mind. I really hope I won’t catch myself acting this way when the time finally comes to lose a bit of holiday weight.

January 16, 2011

A different approach to ice.

One gray winter’s day in 2007, my husband and I decided to visit the Ice House that Microsoft Canada had built for the launch of Windows Vista and the 2007 Office System, where people could have a look at the latest software.

A person who works in computer technology couldn’t possibly miss that. Despite the freezing weather, there was a long line to visit the pavilion. My husband and I accepted out fate of standing in it. Either it was so cold that the people didn’t stick around too long, or we were just lucky, but in some twenty minutes we made it inside the pavilion. Another pleasant and lucky circumstance came about when we ended up standing right next to two guided tours. There weren’t many people in my way, and I so took lots of photos. However, because the weather was particularly gloomy, the lack of any direct sunlight meant that not all the photos turned out well. Besides, it was a long time ago, and I was hardly even a beginner in the field of photography.

January 13, 2011

The Letter and Cesaria Evora


My parents have gotten my letter with the enclosed pictures of our vacation in the Dominical Republic, which I have mailed at a strategic moment before Christmas. In the recent times, whenever I send some mail to my parents in Russia, I feel like a dog who forgot where she buried her favourite bone – I feel worried and uncertain. Did the bone really exist, or did I just make it up in my mind? Please don’t think that I send letters with a simple toss into the mailbox. Of course not. I stopped that act of childish naivety a long time ago. It ended when we saw a concert by Cesaria Evora in Toronto.

My faraway singing heroine, Cesaria Evora, once decided to give a concert in Toronto. I found out about it, and thought it would be great if we all went together. To say that the tickets were expensive would be to say nothing. The price seemed astronomical.

When we arrived at the concert, I realized that it was a fantastic joy, which I was going to share with my family. Even the audience seemed unlike the people you bump into every day. I think you know what I’m talking about – the atmosphere was electric.

Finally, Cesaria appeared on the stage. She was, of course, barefoot, and wearing a simple dark dress. She seemed a little tired. I thought about how she usually gives very sad interviews.

Then she started to sing. Her powerful voice washed us away into the ocean, where we found ourselves drowning.

In front of me, there was a girl with a perfectly put-together flamenco-type hairstyle, and she had a fresh red rose in her hair. The rose smelled so sweet.

At one point, Cesaria made a pause. I could feel with my whole being that she was going to perform “Besame Mucho”. I couldn’t hold it in, and so I squeaked – “ Cesaria, Besame Mucho!” And she began to sing it.

I decided to relate that whole magical experience in a letter to my parents. It was a letter that they never received. Ever since that day, I only send special-order mail, and even that gets carried away by the wind every once in a while.

January 10, 2011

Roofs, Chimneys and Icicles

So begins the year 2011. Throughout all the days of getting ready for the holidays and organizing the exhibition, I haven’t had a moment to sit down and quietly assess what I would like to do this year. What would I like to change or improve? What would I like to maintain, or leave exactly as it is?

The more I learn about myself, the more I am sure that I can’t just be satisfied with what I have currently achieved. As a consequence, I’m rarely able to enjoy the moment. Or, more accurately, I don’t enjoy it quite as long as it lasts. A short while later, I like to transition to the next goal. When I look back, I see a beautiful image in my mind, and I know that, at that moment, everything was full of harmony, joy, and happiness. Maybe I would even like to relive that day. However, I turn the pages so quickly that I can’t even catch my breath.

I think this is going to be my main objective this year – to learn how to enjoy the moment as long as it last.

January 9, 2011

After the Reception

I woke up and saw a thick, fluffy snowfall outside my window. My first thought was “How beautiful,” and my second thought was “No one is going to show up to the reception because of the weather”. Luckily, the turnout was indeed very good – I can proudly say that we ran out of plastic cups.

I have to admit that I was pretty nervous before the exhibition. Whenever my family and friends would call me up throughout the days before, to try and assure me that everything will go well, I would remember three situations that had happened in my life in relation to exhibitions.

One of those situations was when I was still a student, and a friend of mine was having an exhibition for her graduation project. It was taking place in the late spring, and the weather was quite hot. All of us pretty girls showed up to the reception in short-sleeved or sleeveless dresses. What ended happening was that a guy who liked her bit her on the shoulder. Not too painfully, but hard enough to notice. My friend was always busy talking to people, and he chose to express himself that way to gain her attention.

The next story happened during a group exhibition, where all the artists were very attractive ladies. Only one sculptor was there to represent the male gender. He was quite excited to be in such company, and he decided to try and find an elegant shoe, to show off by drinking champagne out of it, like in the old times. It was the winter, so, what he ended up finding was the warm boots of the gallery manager.

The last story is quite recent. I was chatting with my husband during another reception when a young man practically squeezed himself right between us. He had to shove my husband aside a little bit. After that, he went ahead and told me that he was a beginner artist who needed some advice. He had his portfolio with him, which he handed to me for examination.

Yesterday’s reception was wonderful. I am so grateful to everyone who could make it, despite the weather. I would like to say a special thank you to those who work at the gallery.

Thank you also to the people I wasn’t familiar with, who nonetheless stopped by and offered some lovely words about my art.

And finally, hugs and kisses to all who have offered me words of encouragement. Thank you, my dear bloggers!

January 7, 2011

Some encouragement

I'm having a reception for my solo exhibition tomorrow.

Arts on King Gallery, Solo Exhibition
January 2011. Reception: January 8th, 1 pm - 4 pm

I'm inviting everyone who would be able to make it!

January 5, 2011

Marry Christmas to all Eastern Orthodox People!

Marry Christmas to all Eastern Orthodox People!

You might not know this, but the Russians have two New Years. The first one is on the same day as everybody else’s. It’s an official holiday, which we celebrate with the rest of the world, or anybody who lives by the Gregorian calendar. Our other New Year is the Old Style New Year, and it’s one of our most favourite Russian holidays. It takes place on January 14th. This tradition originated in 1918, when the international calendar was introduced in Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church still celebrates all the holidays according to the old calendar. Hence, we also celebrate Christmas on January 7th.
In our family, we have also used this calendar disparity as an excuse to celebrate two Christmases. The more holidays there better, no? If you don’t approach them too formally, of course. By which I mean, if there aren’t any obligations to do things a certain way. Then you just have another opportunity to socialize, relax, goof around, and eat something special. You can enjoy the sight of the holiday decorations. Make some delicious food, and have it without feeling guilty. Open a bottle of champagne. Hooray for the holidays!

You can read very interesting, full of historical and personal details post about Eastern Orthodox Christmas in the Recollections of a Vagabonde blog.

January 3, 2011

So, here’s my day.

In the morning, I called my parents in Russia. They told me that it was snowing where they are.

After that, my husband called his parents in Ukraine. They also told him that it’s snowing.

Around the afternoon, my husband’s brother called from the United Arab Emirates. He said that it was a cool day – it was only +25.

At two o’clock, some relatives from the southern part of Russia e-mailed me, saying that it was raining.

I got a message from California, where they reported it to be very hot.

Then a friend called from St. Petersburg, letting me know about a snowstorm.

I received an e-mail from France, which said that they were also having a lot of snow.

Then my friend called, who travels all the time. My husband picked up the phone, and, passing it to me, said “I haven’t even ask where she is.” I took the phone, and said “Where are you – in Moscow, or in Toronto?” “I’m in Toronto, but tomorrow, I’m flying to New York. It’s snowing a lot in Moscow; Toronto is foggy, and as for New York, I don’t know yet.”

By the end of the time, I was completely confused.

I also noticed that, when I work hard all day trying to finish up paintings for my upcoming exhibition, the cat throws up all day. And I get at least twice as many calls as usual.

Good thing that tomorrow I’m submitting my work to the gallery.

January 2, 2011

January 1st, 2011. Yesterday's photos

I associate the New Year`s celebration with our decorated tree, the smell of fresh tangerines, and champagne. A long time ago, snow and frost was in the list of associations. I can`t quite imagine the atmosphere at New Year`s Eve somewhere in a warm place, like Chile. It would be interesting to try it once.

Lately, nature has been giving us surprises. This year, several of our friends couldn't take their flight back to Toronto because of the weather. Only one family was lucky in that instance. They were stranded in Vienna for three days, and they were put in a five-star hotel. They ended up enjoying themselves in the beautiful Austrian capital. The other friends that got stuck somewhere like that didn't have quite as much fun.

On January 1st, the atmosphere in High Park wasn`t very much like New Year`s Day, but it was still magical. There was a thick fog for the whole day. We ended up taking an excellent walk, and relaxing after our New Year`s celebration. All the snow has melted, leaving only the memories from in my older photos.