There is no such thing as an opportune moment to have your life abruptly re-arranged beyond your control. Hardly a welcome feeling, it demands all from its victims each and every time it manifests itself. Suddenly daily activities no longer seem so important. All you want is to be left alone to cry in a dark room and wallow in profound sadness. The absolute last thing anyone would want to do in this situation is leave the safety and comfort of their bed, get dressed, go outside, and be surrounded by happy people at 3 different festivals in the same day.
It had already been an emotional rollercoaster of a week. I felt as if nothing was going right and I was beginning to lose control over my photography, not to mention my life in general. My mood kept see-sawing from sad to utter despair and I didn’t know why. The immense pressure of it all combined with the undertaking of such an extensive project was causing me to lose faith in myself and my abilities, and it was beginning to show in my work. It was at that moment when the news arrived.
I found out that my parents had to make the heart-wrenching decision to have my seventeen-year-old childhood cat put down. To some people this might seem trivial, but in the context of a year-long journey in which you have left the comfort and security of routine in pursuit of adventure and emotional growth, even the smallest things can impact you the greatest. Anyone who has embarked on such an odyssey–be it spiritual, geographical, or otherwise–can attest to the fact that despite the amazing experiences, there are still moments spent feeling totally and utterly alone in the world.
Anyone who really knows me can tell you that animals are my world; I consider them part of my family. I find an innocence and compassion in their eyes unmatched in their human counterparts, and because of that I hold them in the highest regard. I got Avalon when I was seventeen, half a lifetime ago. Her passing, although expected, hit me hard because I was now being forced to face the loss of a large part of my youth. I simply was not ready for that.
When I got the news I completely broke down. Huge gut-wrenching sobs erupted almost immediately, and I couldn’t hold them back. In the beginning of this project I knew life would go on and that I would have to power through weather and sickness, that I would miss out on family events and outings with friends; it is all part of the experience. And so, apprehensively, I eventually made it out the door and to the 3 festivals I had planned on attending that day—a day which can only described as having been survived, not lived. I felt such a disconnect from my surroundings that I may as well have been a ghost, and my images from the day will most likely be a reflection of that. Nevertheless, I did make it out the door and that in and of itself is a victory.
The next morning the sky was dark and the clouds were threatening to spill over, mirroring the very emotions I was experiencing. A night’s sleep had helped quell the storm in my mind, but I still harboured some trepidation as I headed out the door towards my final festival of the weekend, the Tour de l’Ile. Failure was not an option, as only 2 nights prior I struggled greatly to find my place at Tour la Nuit. This was my chance for redemption.
Upon my arrival on the scene I plastered a smile on my face and approached the 25,000 participants, who had tightly consumed every inch of Parc Avenue in anticipation of the start. Within minutes I was welcomed in among the crowd as they all clamoured for my attention and posed for my camera without hesitation, their smiles re-igniting the fire in my heart. In what seemed to be no time at all I had already spent a roll of film, a roll full of the beauty and compassion that I so desperately needed. The kindness I experienced that day was the best therapy I could have asked for, it allowed me to rediscover my confidence and fueled my courage to continue on. As I loaded my second roll of film into my camera I quickly glanced around; not a single photographer was to be seen… they were all stationed at the media tent, far removed from the action.