A Cemetery is a Great Place to Meet Someone

My favourite day in Paris was marked by an unexpected encounter while exploring a site for the dead.

But prior to that, I took the metro to an art exhibit that proved to be absolutely magical.

I saw pictures online of La Nuit Étoilée while researching my holiday and thought it might be hype to increase upfront sales when numerous publications warned to get tickets in advance. I did book MONTHS in advance, just in case (also because I’m “type-a”), and was relieved that I did because the exhibit was indeed sold out on the day I attended. I understood why when I entered; the animated exhibit is a completely immersive, multi-sensory show where the viewer becomes part of the artwork. Set in three parts—showcasing contemporary art, Japonaiserie and the iconic work of Vincent Van Gogh—this is something that must be seen to be believed.

Afterwards, my friend and I took a short walk to an unlikely tourist destination in Paris: Pere Lachaise cemetery, final resting place of artists, philosophers and rock stars of the ages. It’s such a landmark that people sell maps at the entrance. Being my frugal self, I pre-printed a map from the internet … that proved worthless. My friend and I quickly got lost while searching for the grave I wanted to pay respect to, that of my favourite artist Gustave Doré. As we walked amongst row after row of eerily creepy—often open—nineteenth-century crypts, I took a moment to rest against a tree and try to figure out exactly where we were amongst its 110 acres.

“Maybe a spirit guide will appear,” my friend commented.

And no word of a lie, within two minutes of her stating that a Frenchman approached us asking if we needed help finding anything.

He introduced himself as Glen and informed us he was a lawyer that lived and worked in Versailles. He debated traveling to Normandy that day for a dip in the English Channel but decided against it because of a questionable weather forecast, instead opting to visit one of his favourite places in Paris - this very cemetery. He then inquired about what grave we were looking for. When I told him “Gustave Doré” he was impressed; it was apparently a rarity that anyone requested to visit that site. As we made our way over, I noted that someone had once placed a small rock over a now weathered paper note left for the artist. Glen and my friend chatted while I also gave silent thanks to a man that has provided immense inspiration and wonder to my life.

After Gustave, my friend wanted to visit Pere Lachaise’s most famous (or infamous) gravesite - that of sixties icon and lead singer of The Doors, Jim Morrison. This grave is quite controversial within the cemetery and there have been numerous calls to remove it over the decades since he passed in 1971. Today, one can’t even walk up to it. A steel fence surrounds it and several of the perimeter headstones in order to protect against further vandalism. Even in death, rock stars require crowd control.

Glen seemed keen to continue the tour and ended up showing us around for over an hour. As someone who appreciates the macabre, I specifically asked to be taken to the creepiest parts of the cemetery. He happily obliged. These included some truly beautiful and haunting headstones and crypts depicting ghosts, spirits and the afterlife. There was even a crypt with a stained-glass window detailing the folklore behind the will-o’-the-wisp, once believed to be a phantom light but since explained via science.

At the end of our day, Glen asked if we wanted to go for a drink but my friend was feeling a bit tired and we declined. Prior to parting, I exchanged my business card with him in the hopes of keeping a well-informed contact in the city but I’ve never heard back.

Was Glen a spirit? Was he an actual lawyer seeking reflection in the calm of the necropolis? Or was he just a dude trying to hit on two foreign chicks? All I know is that a cemetery is a great place to meet someone. Dead or alive.

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The grave I most wanted to pay respects to, that of my favourite artist Gustave Doré at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The grave I most wanted to pay respects to, that of my favourite artist Gustave Doré at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Jim Morrison’s infamous gravesite at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Jim Morrison’s infamous gravesite at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

This grave in Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France is stunningly beautiful and haunting. It’s been  featured as artwork on album covers  (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

This grave in Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France is stunningly beautiful and haunting. It’s been featured as artwork on album covers (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Grave of Belgian poet and novelist Georges Rodenbach at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Grave of Belgian poet and novelist Georges Rodenbach at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

A Prince tribute show that I wish I got to see in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

A Prince tribute show that I wish I got to see in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

In the City of Love, condom machines are readily available on the street, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

In the City of Love, condom machines are readily available on the street, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

My next indulgence: the signature desert of Angelina Paris, the Mont-Blanc, along with their famously rich hot chocolate. It was a bit too indulgent for me (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

My next indulgence: the signature desert of Angelina Paris, the Mont-Blanc, along with their famously rich hot chocolate. It was a bit too indulgent for me (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

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).

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.

The Simple Life

Winter is coming.

Which means I am getting all up in my feelings, nostalgic about the passage of time and currents of change, and trying to capture it all for posterity through the words in this journal. There’s something about the first snowfall, as the flakes fall softly to the ground and blanket the landscape in silence, that leaves one ripe for introspection. It’s almost as though nature is encouraging a pause.

I’ve been in deep thought about my future of late. Especially about how what motivates me now is to re-live moments of my past.

Visiting my mother is the one tether to a familiar reality that I covet to embrace again.

Every time I visit my mother, I am not only catching up on the happenings of my hometown but also seeking solace in the relatively unchanged world of my childhood.

One of the highlights of my most recent visit—beyond being showered with puppy kisses from my much-missed Monty—was simply sitting with my mom every morning, sipping orange pekoe, and playing along to the Price is Right. Pretty much everyone in my generation gets hit with waves of nostalgia as soon as “Come On Down!” is uttered; watching it was a ritual as a kid, especially when at home sick from school. After all these years, most of the games have remained the same. Plinko is the perennial crowd pleaser, but I was always partial to Cliffhangers which I’m happy to report is still in rotation because the theme song is such an ear worm. Throughout our bonding exercise, my mother and I got worked up, cheering for contestants who walked away with cars and trips around the world, and feigning disappointment with those that didn’t know the correct price of a basic toaster.

Banal moments like this may seem like the filler that connects the more pivotal, recorded events of our life, but I’m learning to take more pleasure, more presence, in them. It’s not just watching a game show with my mom; it’s the perfume of love, history and comfort that permeates the room without wont of spoken word. The essence of life is coded in these moments of simplicity.


Now all those simple things are simply too complicated for my life
How'd I get so faithful to my freedom?
A selfish kind of life
When all I ever wanted was the simple things
A simple kind of life

Interstate 15, Part II

I like Montana. I like the mountains and crisp air and postcard panoramas. The first night of our road trip we stayed in its capital, Helena, which has less than 32,000 citizens. This statistic nicely details just how sparse the population is within the state. It's very ... breathable. Outside the natural scenery, the capital is somewhat nondescript in appearance; being two hours delayed from the unexpected detour, we made our way to a wood-fired pizza place and then just retired to our hotel room for the night not feeling like we missed anything. For future trips, I feel Butte would have been a better overnight destination. With snow-capped peaks framing it in the distance and historic architecture steeped in legend, the word "majestic" seems well-suited to describe its beauty. 

One can take Interstate 15 all the way from the Canadian border to the Mexican one. It's a nice drive with lots of rest stops, fuel stations and, within Utah at least, numerous billboards reminding people that God is watching and you should atone for your sins. 

Outside of having an ultra-conservative religious base that practices polygamy, I didn't really know anything about Utah. Ignoring the influence of creed and instead seeking enlightenment from mother nature, I was completely in awe of the rock formations in the southern portion of the state which includes a number of protected areas, national and state parks such as the breathtaking Grand Staircase National Monument. Eventually turning east off of Interstate 15, we were in the thick of it while enroute to our next stop: the biggest tourist destination of them all – the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  

Highway 89A in particular, a scenic route that runs through a Navaho reservation in Arizona, was the highlight of my entire trip. Driving through it was a showcase of some of America's most iconic landscape; landscape which has featured in many a Hollywood western to represent our storied, brutal history. I half-expected the ghost of John Wayne to manifest on the horizon as we drove this isolated stretch of roadway. Or perhaps hear the distant call of the roadrunner. Meep Meep.

Our adventure-filled day ended on a magical note as we slept in a teepee under a galaxy of visible stars. Living in a city with constant light pollution, this reminder of the scale of the universe (and my place within it) was a cathartic ending to a long, tiring, immensely memorable day. 

Start of Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Start of Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hiking off Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hiking off Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Our accommodation for the night, a teepee in Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Our accommodation for the night, a teepee in Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Interior of teepee, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Interior of teepee, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Teepee selfie, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Teepee selfie, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Also the first BBQ of the season, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Also the first BBQ of the season, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

❤️

Birthday memories of an amazing man whom I will always hold dearly in my heart. My dad will be forever loved and missed.

My dad in New York City, one of his favourite places (2012 ©Deborah Clague). 

My dad in New York City, one of his favourite places (2012 ©Deborah Clague). 

Hong Kong X

Every morning after waking up, I would open the curtain from the window and flood my room with light from the rising sun. I wanted the view of the city—my impeccable view of Victoria Harbour—to be the first thing I saw. It was a sight that would fill me with motivation and gratitude. And as my trip was nearing its end, I wanted to soak up every minute of it in hopes that the feeling would carry forward long after I left Hong Kong. 

Beyond the view, there was something else at the window that elicited wonder from me daily. A bird would often circle around my window, perhaps able to see movement behind the glass and as curious about me as I was about him and his urban adventures.


A bird wouldn't be the only creature that I held silent conversation with. 

Visiting Buddhist temples and pausing in the presence of their serenity was a most welcome respite from the constant traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. Outside, people just stared at the screen of their phone (like most everywhere else, just amplified here amongst 7+ million citizens). While inside, one couldn't help but take stock of their surroundings as the feeling of peace carried over the air with the wisps of incense. Man Mo Temple was a highlight but I also wanted to return to Wong Tai Sin, the "good luck" temple. I wanted my trip to start, and end, there in the hopes that its myth might rub off on me. 

On my second visit, I had a strange encounter. One that I should preface with a brief story because I know it's going to sound strange and unbelievable but is not, perhaps, entirely unprecedented. A few years ago, my best friend was on her own spiritual journey and found herself delving into the world of crystals, even attending a conference to learn about their supposed healing power and other mystical properties. One strange experience she shared with me was participating in a breathing exercise circle. As she paced her exhalation, eyes closed and deep in thought, she felt the sensation of someone poking her stomach. Immediately exiting her zen-like state, she darted her eyes to see who it was. And there was no one present. Admittedly, I thought she may have, ahem, also been researching other "natural" ways to seek enlightenment during this period but it turned out to not be the case and she swore by the story.

And now, back to mine. 

On my second visit to Wong Tai Sin, I again paid respects at the alters, each representing one of the five geomantic elements—metal, wood, water, fire and earth—and ended by pausing in the Good Wish Garden. It was here that I took a few moments to reflect on my newfound love for the city of Hong Kong, the hardships I've experienced over the past few years and my hope that the future would continue on a path of light ... when I felt a poke. It DISTINCTLY felt like someone's finger poking me near my ribcage. I, like my friend, immediately exited my trance and looked around to see who it was. 

But there was no one there. 

I looked down at the pond, at the koi swimming around, and for the first time I saw a turtle perched on a rock staring at me.  


At Wong Tai Sin, I returned to the same fortune teller I visited ten days prior. On this occasion, he had a line of two women awaiting his seer services. I joined them by sitting patiently on a stool outside his tiny storefront and recollecting back on the futurities he previously shared with me. After involving myself with some dubious characters over the years, that initial inquiry specifically related to my love life. People these days act like love is an archaic concept and feelings don't exist but I am not wired that way. I value honesty, integrity and respect and lament how rare they increasingly seem to be as people treat the emotions of others like commodity to be traded for ego. This toxicity can, unfairly, also taint future relationships as well and while I have met someone who possesses the strong character traits I desire in a partner, I don't want my past to hold any influence on my view of who they actually are. 

"They will travel to meet you. You will meet at an event relating to dance."

And so it was written.

My partner is originally from Kerala, India, but has lived in Australia, South Africa and South Korea performing scientific research. I met him three years ago at a salsa dancing class neither he, nor I, was planning to be at. The chemistry was immediate. All night, I noticed him staring at me (and I'm sure he did likewise). When my friend wanted to leave, I implored her to stay just a little bit longer as I felt I wasn't leaving without his number. Too shy to approach him though, I felt I could will it into fruition. Sure enough, a few minutes later he asked me to dance and the rest was history. While we've had our ups-and-downs, our ons-and-offs, we always return to each other as we are best friends. 

I waited in line for around thirty minutes and then made the decision to leave. The original fortune I received could have been somewhat vague to anyone, but there was an eerie specificity to my life that gave me hope I already found the answer I was looking for. 


The last image of my trip that will forever stay with me is flying over the red lights of a ferris wheel illuminated against the stark countryside of Taiwan down below. Sometimes the perspective you need can only be found at 20,000 feet. 

Hong Kong sunrise (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hong Kong sunrise (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Hong Kong's famous trams, Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Hong Kong's famous trams, Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Rainy afternoon in the Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Rainy afternoon in the Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Back alleys of Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Back alleys of Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Walking along the promenade at night, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Walking along the promenade at night, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Various amulets available for purchase at Wong Tai Sin Temple (you best believe I now own a "get rid of scumbag" amulet) (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Various amulets available for purchase at Wong Tai Sin Temple (you best believe I now own a "get rid of scumbag" amulet) (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

One last selfie from the top of Hotel Icon (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

One last selfie from the top of Hotel Icon (©Deborah Clague, 2018).