After Life

On Saturday night, I can normally be found on my couch, in my velvet pyjama bottoms and faded Gudetama t-shirt, using my partner’s chest as a makeshift pillow as we watch nature documentaries on Netflix. The cocoon of our living room offering the solace craved by two introverts after a hectic week. A recent switch in our predictability though—at my unknowing behest—brought this splendour state to a sudden halt as I was confronted with memories that I’ve tried to keep at bay.

It was a simple change. Watching a new program listed in my recommendations list that was written, directed and starring one of my favourite comedians, Ricky Gervais. I assumed it was a comedy, and, at times, it is but ‘After Life’ is moreso an unflinching, uncomfortable, honest portrayal of grief and how it leaves those left behind to grapple uncharted emotions after losing a loved one. As we watched it on this particular Saturday night, I tried my hardest to hide the tears streaming down my face. To somehow cloak how relatable what I saw on screen was to my own reality. My partner knows … but I’ve always felt that until loss this deep happens to one personally, you don’t really understand. His parents are alive and healthy. It’s been five years since my father and best friend passed away in a matter of months after an unexpected terminal cancer diagnosis. And it’s been five years since my mother was hurled into a state of loneliness and depression that I, as an only child, have made my main duty in life to offset. It’s been a lot to shoulder and I feel the weight of it every day.

A scene in episode three really hit a nerve. In it, the main character reflects upon memories of the wife he lost while at one of their favourite places, the beach. The contrast between the love and laughter of the past with the sorrow and sadness of the present was incredibly well-acted. It made me ponder how I would feel, how I might viscerally react, during an upcoming trip to a place my father and I shared so many beautiful memories including our last adventure together just two months before he passed.

For in one week, I would be flying to Paris. It is a place forever intertwined with my own life story. A city that has provided inspiration, enchantment and hope (in addition to maternal family lineage).

I had no idea what this chapter would bring.

But I knew his ghost would be present.

Intertwined locks for both my father and I placed on Pont de l’Archevêché, near Notre-Dame Cathedral visible in background, in 2014 (©Deborah Clague).

Intertwined locks for both my father and I placed on Pont de l’Archevêché, near Notre-Dame Cathedral visible in background, in 2014 (©Deborah Clague).

Recommended: Dogs of Instagram


It’s no secret that I love dogs. I feel they are angels on earth and have provided some of the best companionship I have ever known in life (growing up as an only child, that meant a lot). Below is a list of the most heavenly of these creatures I follow on social media:


@beautoxrescues

This is HANDS-DOWN my favourite Instagram account to follow of any genre. Beaux is an absolute delight that makes me smile and laugh daily. His positive reinforcement—that every day can be the best day ever—are as good as any Buddhist mantra. Beaux was born with a cranial deformity due to lack of room in his mother’s womb amongst a litter of seven puppies. Because of this condition, his breeder gave him away to someone that didn’t have his best interests in mind, leaving him chained up in a backyard for years with little food and virtually no veterinary care. He was eventually rescued and made his way into the home of a family that spoils him more than I spoil my Monty (and trust me, that’s a lot). Today, he’s quickly becoming a social media sensation whom I’m sure will have his own line of ties some day.

@thatmidgelife

Midge is a senior dog that was recently adopted from a rescue in the Los Angeles area. Midge is also one of the cutest animals I’ve ever seen. Seriously, look at this face!

@maggiethewunderdog

Maggie has had a tough start to life. She suffered from horrendous abuse that included being shot at, which resulted in blindness, and having her ear cut off. Despite facing these cruel hardships, she has regained her trust for humans and is now adopted by a loving family that provides all the love, cuddles and Milkbones her heart desires (and deserves). I love seeing happy endings like this.

@mugsyhapoochi

I first saw Mugsy on a news report about animal cruelty. She was adopted from a rescue organization in Iran that cared for her after having corrosive acid thrown at her face. Mugsy now lives the good life in Vancouver where she is receiving further surgical procedures to treat her injuries. She may look different but her loving spirit proves that beauty is only skin-deep.

@jackhecan

Jack is a special-needs pet that was paralyzed after being attacked by another dog. He has no feeling in his back legs or bowels and uses a custom wheelchair to scoot around and do zoomies. He was adopted last year from a shelter and his new family aims to dispel the myth that a disabled pet is more of a challenge.

@pirate_marie

I first encountered Pirate’s story via a Dodo video (that, like most of them, made me cry). Pirate spent over seven years at an Oahu, Hawaii, shelter without being adopted. Finally, the right family came along and welcomed her into their home where they have committed to providing an indulgent, spoiled existence for her remaining twilight years. Well deserved and well worth a follow to see how unconditional love doesn’t diminish with age.

My Favourite Things of the Year

The times, they are a changing. I’ve been delaying this post because I didn’t feel I had much to contribute, having spent most of the year trying to relive moments from a simpler time and immersing myself into visual work rather than the written word. There’s always the need to record for posterity, though. And thus, this is what defined my year.


Song: I’ve gone through my Apple Music playlists for 2018 and realize that most of my aural pleasures for the past year have been pure nostalgia. Contemporary music just hasn’t managed to seize my attention the way icons of the past have. And so, I list the music of Prince as being my favourite of the year. I’ve been rediscovering his catalogue and missing the era when rock stars were truly rock stars.

My current favourite is “Little Red Corvette”, which still sounds fresh today.


Book: “Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamont left the greatest impression on me. I normally leave books I’ve read in my neighbourhood Little Free Library but this is one I needed to keep for reference in the future. The advice and wisdom it imparts feels like an old friend.


Podcast: I feel ashamed it has only been over the past decade that I’ve made the effort to learn about Indigenous cultures and the true impact of colonialism in my homeland of Canada. The education I am receiving now is changing my understanding and viewpoint on a lot of issues that still resonate today and I feel certain studies—such as the one presented in my favourite podcast of the year, Canadaland’s Thunder Bay—should be mandatory for everyone living within our borders. It is a gripping, sobering mirror on a microcosm of society built upon systemic racism.


Inspiration: I am in awe of the amazing work digital artists are creating including Waneella who creates quiet, desolate 8-bit scenes of modern life in Japan.

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Food: A roadtrip to the American south-west ignited a love affair with Mexican cuisine that I’ve been experimenting with over the past few months, learning the degree of chilli my palette can take and how nearly everything tastes better with lime. #TacoTuesday has become a regular thing at my place.

Soft and hard shell steak tacos marinated overnight in raspberry chipotle sauce with grilled onion, red pepper, chillis, lettuce, lime-infused sour cream and shredded habanero cracked pepper cheese made by moi.

Soft and hard shell steak tacos marinated overnight in raspberry chipotle sauce with grilled onion, red pepper, chillis, lettuce, lime-infused sour cream and shredded habanero cracked pepper cheese made by moi.


Internet “thing”: my favourite reaction gif is also steeped in nostalgia (and I really should have heeded its warning to not check why “Mario Kart” was trending in early Fall).


Most used emoji: 😂


Most sound advice I received: “Don't be reckless with other people's hearts, and don't put up with people that are reckless with yours.”


Most memorable moment: Relaxing in my harbour-facing room at Hotel Icon in Hong Kong and being completely mesmerized by the evening architectural light show.