Category: Jamie’s Adventures

Creative Living Adventure: Horseback Riding

On the Adventure Bus

This season I’ve done a major shakeup to my schedule. One of the things I wanted to get back to was going on regular adventures with Justin. We love exploring and sharing new experiences together and this past weekend we did just that by going horseback riding with Toronto Adventures. We left the house in the dark, watched the sunrise as we rode the all-night bus to our pick-up spot and boarded the Adventure Bus at 7:30 AM.

Claireville Ranch

The bus took us up to Claireville Ranch in the Claireville Conservation Area in Brampton, just north of Toronto.  It is so close and yet, for a city girl like me, it feels like a getaway. Of course, the realities of the environment quickly become clear.

When you step off the bus, you are greeted with the smell of horses. Want a quick pee break before you start your ride? There’s the outhouse. While you’re standing in line to get your helmets, don’t be surprised if the horses are peeing too! Lol, Justin and I looked at each other with smiles and said, “Nature.”



Getting Ready to Ride

For the ride you could choose to rent a helmet or go without. We tend to be a “better safe than sorry” couple and so we put down our $6 each. As Justin said, “If the leaders are wearing helmets, I’m wearing a helmet.” Good thinking! I tried on all the pink ones and the ones with horses too but none of them fit so I went with classic black.

Once we signed our waivers and made our helmet choices, we stood together as a group and were assigned our horses. “You, Georgia.” “You, Ditto.” “You, Sierra.” Justin was matched to the biggest horse in the group, Chip. A bit intimidating, yes, but Chip turned out to be a lovely horse. I was so glad. On Justin’s one and only previous experience with horseback riding, he was thrown so it was a big deal that he had said yes to this adventure and I really wanted him to have a lovely experience.

Of course, I was thrilled when the leader looked at me and said, “You, Karma.” Now that’s got to be a good sign! Karma is a beautiful horse, as you can see from the photo. It didn’t take me long to figure out that she was companionable but didn’t suffer fools lightly. For the first hour of the trip, we were negotiating.

Before the ride, we received brief instruction, including being told not to let our horses eat the grass. We were also informed that every one of the horses would definitely try to do so!  With Karma, if we were all stopped for a bit and she wanted to eat a little grass, she’d totally ignore my correction. However, if we were  moving along and she tried to grab a nibble, I’d correct and she’d respond right away. Perfectly reasonable, Karma. I get you.

Cowboy Breakfast

After an hour, we made a stop for a “cowboy breakfast” that had been prepared for us in a clearing. Coffee was an immediate yes and really good too! Then there were eggs, beans, bacon, sausage and hash browns – plenty to fill you up after your gentle morning ride. It was interesting to hear the guides talk about the horses and their time at the ranch. Our leader had been volunteering there since she was 8 years old! As she said, “Once it’s in you, it doesn’t leave.”

After breakfast, we had another hour ride ahead. In the first hour, I had been struck by how familiar the terrain was. These were trees I recognized, plants I recognized, but something about the ride reminded me to look closer, to be present. Yes, I have seen goldenrod before but I have never seen a whole field of yellow alive with monarch butterflies from the back of a horse.  Priceless. And then there was the oddly quintessential Toronto moment of being able to ride a horse under a highway bridge and look at graffiti. All of this while in connection with the strong presence of Karma. This was a day I won’t soon forget.

Friendly Horse

After our ride, we had some time to hang out at the ranch. What a treat to spend more time around the horses.  It’s interesting. During our lunch break, one of the participants was saying that she found the horses expressionless. She said, “There’s no smile in their eyes.” The guide said, “You have to learn to read their energy. I can tell how happy he is to be out and on this walk today. I can feel it. You just haven’t come to know them yet.”  I wondered what it was like to learn the language of horses, to understand their signals and I was delighted to be taught a little lesson by the horse you see in the photo above.

As we stood nearby, he came right over and it was clear to me that he wanted to say hi. I walked over gently and he moved his head closer. I put my lightly closed fist up and he pushed his nose into it. My heart soared. I thought that was it but then he gave that little nudge, that nudge that I recognize from all the cats I’ve known, that nudge that says, “I want you to pet me here.” So I followed his lead and rubbed that velvety soft spot right above his nose and reveled in this moment of connection and communication. Thank you, you beauty.

And, of course, no journey would be complete without having an encounter with a “cat in the ‘hood”! As we waited to board the adventure bus for the journey home, we discovered this sweet kitten who was quite happy to play, to pose and to get some cuddles. The perfect ending to a wonderful day.

A Tourist in My Own Town

Tourist in My Own Town
Some days fill you with a deep sense of gratitude for your life. For me, today was such a day.

Justin at Georgia OKeeffe

Justin is home after a week visiting his father in Curacao (who is there staying with a friend). It was so good for him to go and so weird for us to be apart. We Skyped every day and throughout the week Justin would send me fun pictures of his adventures, from the surprise of iguanas to grocery shopping with his dad.

My fear of flying made the beginning and the end the hardest part of the trip, even though it wasn’t me that was getting on the plane! On each travel day, I loaded Justin’s airline number into a tracker and watched its progress with anticipation, sending love to the flight and everyone on it. I am so thankful he arrived and returned safe and sound.

Georgia O'Keefe at the AGO

Today we went on a wonderful Saturday adventure to the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. This year I decided to become a member and I am so thrilled I did. There is such joy in not only being able to go whenever I like but also in being able to share. I went to the Mystical Landscapes exhibit three times, once by myself, once with Justin and once with Shannon. Plus, I’m surprised by how much I feel like (and like feeling like) a part of the gallery.

I knew I would enjoy this exhibit and I did, especially the abstract pieces and yes, of course, the flowers. I was captivated again and again not only by colour but also by composition.

But even more than the art, I was fascinated by the artist. I searched through the gallery’s write-ups for clues about who she was as a creative and as a person. I was struck by her strength and her presence. I wanted to sit with her at a table under the night’s sky with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and listen to her talk about her life and her work for hours.

After our visit to the gallery, Justin and I kept with our tradition of going out for a bite and chatting about what we had seen. Of course, we also stuck with our tradition of taking a while to choose a place to eat! It didn’t matter. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the temperature was idyllic. We walked by our old apartment building right behind the Art Gallery and meandered through the familiar Queen West neighbourhood. We remembered Justin’s late night walks and remarked on how so many of the stores and restaurants on the street had changed.  We reminisced about Taro, The Tequila Bookworm (still there but much changed) and Velvet Underground. (The photo is of the door to that club.)

We stopped for a coffee and perused Yelp for a good spot for a bite. We decided on Beast and it looked like a treat but by the time we arrived they were wrapping up lunch service. We put it on our list for another day. In fact, it inspired a fun idea. Perhaps you’ve seen people create their 40 in 40 lists – 40 things they want to do in their 40th year (or 30 in 30, 50 in 50 etc.) Justin and I have decided to do a similar list based on the years we’ve been married – our 15 in 15! So far we’ll be making homemade gnocchi and going to the Scarborough Bluffs.

For today, we ended up at Canteen on King Street, sitting on the patio with a view of the CN Tower and having a lovely meal. It was so good to be together, chatting about art, eating lovely food, having walked 10,000 steps in downtown Toronto, through old haunts and new finds, doing it all together.

Passion, Creativity & Success

Sacha Lalla, Jamie Ridler & Laura-Jean Bernhardson
Sacha Lalla, Jamie Ridler & Laura-Jean Bernhardson photo by Juli Lyons

I recently had the opportunity to speak on a panel with about passion, creativity and entrepreneurship sponsored by Happy Healthy Women and Fresh Collective and featuring the fabulous Laura-Jean Bernhardson, Sacha Lalla, and Natalie Colalillo and our moderator was the lovely Karla Smith. One of the questions Karla asked us each was, “What is your definition of success?”

Have you defined success for yourself?

Jamie Ridler & Karla Smith
Jamie Ridler & Karla Smith photo by Juli Lyons

There are three main components in my definition of success, all of them inter-related.

1. Sovereignty

I used to call this freedom but sovereignty captures the essence even more. Success to me means being able to direct my energy, my time, my life towards what is meaningful and worthy to me.

2. Legacy

Every time I am able to contribute to my body of work, I consider that success. When that work is able to then make a difference in the lives of others, doubly so.

3. Enjoyment

If I miss out on the joy of living my own life, of creating and sharing my body of work and making a difference, than I will have missed the point entirely. If I am blessed to be able to do what is meaningful to me, it is an act of gratitude to enjoy it.

Me & Juli Lyons, photographer

What’s your definition of success?

We often work so very hard. Knowing our personal definition of success helps us ensure that all that effort is being put in the right place.

photo by Juli Lyons

Art School: The Stories that Shattered; The Stories that Mattered

JRS First Day at Art School

I spent last week immersed in a collage intensive at Art School. In addition to this awesome “first day” kit from my sister Shannon (thank you, Shannon!), I went to school carrying a bunch of preconceived ideas & stories.  As I headed out on this adventure, I thought it likely that some of my stories would hold true while others wouldn’t hold water.

Here’s what I imagined and what I discovered.

The environment is going to be confusing, unclear and generally a bit unwelcoming. 

The school was easy to find. There was signage inside to tell you which studio your class was in. The first thing we did was introduce ourselves and share why we were there and what we hoped to learn. In fact, I’d have to say it was pretty welcoming because the minute I introduced myself, Carol McBride of The Trauma Project exclaimed, “You’re Jamie Ridler!! We’re friends on Facebook!” There you have it; I knew someone already! Then our teacher went over the curriculum and the materials so we were well grounded in what we needed and what was to come.

The teacher is going to gravitate to those who are already awesome and ignore those who are learning to be.

The students had vastly different levels of experience, both in collage and in other art forms. Some had even taken this class before and were back for more. Our teacher, Donnely Smallwood, was masterful at balancing teaching the basics to the newest of the new while creating space for the more experienced students to simply get to work if they were ready. She was approachable, helpful and a wealth of knowledge.

The tone was beautifully set when Donnely shared an experienced student’s work with us.  She called him a superstar and then explained that what she meant by that was that he had pushed the possibilities, really stretched and worked the technique, the medium and himself to the edges. I took this as great encouragement that if I show up and do the work wholeheartedly, I can be a superstar too. That is within reach for all of us.

The students are going to be reserved and mostly do their own thing.

Like in any group, there were people who were chattier and people who were quieter. I certainly felt that I could engage with anyone and ask for information or help or just engage in a bit of friendly banter. Truth be told, with a hectic life like mine, I deeply appreciated the time and space to just sit and create and do my own thing. In fact, as I often say to the Universe when I discover something I love, “More of this, please!”

There will be one woman who is older than me by a fair bit and everyone else will be younger than me by a fair bit.

This story was completely shattered! In fact, it was quite the opposite. There was one teenaged student and everyone else was around my age or older. It was a room rich with thought-full, experienced learners and I enjoyed being in that community.

It’s going to be mostly self-directed.

The course was a great balance of form and freedom. The teacher gave us a project, like creating geometric collages or frottaged papers, and within that, we could try, use, explore whatever we choose. I found that as long as I kept the pressure off and stayed in a state of learning not proving, I was creating easily, following one idea and inspiration onto the next and the next.

I’ll relish the dedicated creative time but resent the lack of guidance and instruction.

This story was also shattered. The balance was perfect.

Seeing what other people do will expand my range of possibilities.

This story mattered. It was one of the biggest gifts of art school and it was smack dab in one of the practices people fear the most: critique. Our teacher took a stand for the importance of critique in our development. She explained that in order to grow we must stop to examine and learn not just make, make, make, make, make. We put our work on the wall and one by one we shared. I was amazed by the result! We explored the relationships between intention and resolution or intention and stuck, celebrating and learning from the former and building bridges for and learning from the latter.

Seeing what people created with their collages awakened a sense of possibility in my imagination. “Oh, that creates a sense of transparency! Look, that creates a sense of movement!” I wrote down abut a million things that I want to try, thematically and technically!

Seeing what other people do will bring out my insecurities.

I’m surprised to say that this didn’t happen. What helped? Staying clear that I was there to learn not to prove. Feeling deeply that we all have our own gifts to share. Loving the work and knowing that no one can take away my art-love, not anymore.

I’ll create pieces that I feel mark me as a novice and maybe a thing or two I feel good about.

Yep, totally, and I am good with that.

I’ll indulge myself in the repeated fantasy of not returning but I’ll stick it out until the end.

I never once considered not going back. The only thing I realized was that the “intensive” format may not be the best for an HSP (highly sensitive person) like me. It’s a lot of stimulation in a concentrated period of time. I think it would work better for me to have a shorter lesson and then the whole week to explore it. It’s so helpful to know what works for you and to go with it.

It’s going to be on an emotional roller coaster.

Honestly, it was just great. I feel kind of proud to take some credit for this myself! I’ve learned a lot about what I need in order to support myself during experiences like this and I’m no longer afraid, embarrassed or shy about taking care of those needs. For example, it helps me to have good healthy food and to eat when I need to eat not when lunch is scheduled. It also really helps to journal through the experience. I often spent the entire subway ride home scribbling madly in my Moleskin!

Other people will feel at home but I’ll feel like I don’t belong.

Perhaps the biggest shock of art school, the most powerful revelation I had, was that I felt completely and utterly at home. The room was filled with creative souls, many of whom were also in helping professions. It was a learning environment, which I have gravitated towards my entire life. It was a place full of paper and paint and brushes and glue and magazines and stencils and all sorts of creative supplies – yes! And I was engaged in an activity that touches my heart, that challenges my mind and that fills me up completely! But the biggest part of feeling like I belonged at art school, what allowed that to be true, was letting go of my own judgment of myself as an artist and replacing it with giving myself permission to be a learner. From nose to toes I got it; it is downright ridiculous to judge a piece as lacking in skill when it is an exercise in learning!

I’m going to learn at least something in spite of all this. 

In fact, I learned a lot because of all this.

I’m going to feel proud of myself for going.


Jamie Off to Art School

How I went out for a coffee and came home with three kittens (first installment)

Coffee with Danette

Yesterday I had a date at a lovely local coffee shop with my dear friend Danette Relic. I wanted her artistic input on a project, plus we were overdue for a good catch-up. About an hour before we met, I had reason to ask if we could switch our local to the bakery across the street. Little did I know this started the wheels of an adventure in motion!

After a rich visit full of inspiration and sharing, Danette and I headed out, both of us needing to pop by the art store. On the way a sign in front of a fruit market caught my eye.

free kittens

I don’t know why but I felt that sign was meant for me. I looked at Danette, “Is it bad for me to go look?” She said, “Is it ever bad to go look at kittens?” We stepped into the store.

When I asked about the kittens, the woman stocking the shelves asked if I knew much about cats. I explained that I had lost my cat of 20-years just two weeks ago to the day. She smiled at me, “Oh, then you know.”

She took us around front and opened the door to the upstairs apartment, explaining that the tenants had left it in an awful state and though they had come back for the mom of this brood, they had left the kittens behind. She was worried about them and had been bringing food but she needed to find them a good home.

The smell in the place was awful and got worse as we climbed up the stairs. There was a plastic bag full of empty mickeys of liquor. The couches were overturned and the rugs stained beyond repair. And yet this roughed-up place had charm: French doors to the living room, a skylight in the kitchen, an old clawfoot tub – and kittens.

Danette and I had a peek and saw one terrified grey kitten hiding in the back corner behind the fridge. In the other corner, all I could see was a flash of eyes.

The landlord told us about the difficult tenants, about why she couldn’t take the cats herself, about how she didn’t want to give them to just anybody. She glanced at me and said to Danette, “I look at her, and I know she’s going to love them.”

I called home.

I got through to my sister Shannon and gave her a quick rundown. And though my husband couldn’t hear the details there was something in our voices that had him respond, “Oh, no.”

Shannon handed over the phone. In the midst of a day of meetings, deliveries and repairs, Justin listened to me say, “I want to bring these three abandoned kittens home.” With the weight of the decision on his hands, Justin said, “How can I say no?”

As we left and I headed home to get the cat carrier, Danette reminded me that just over a week ago she texted me from the streetcar that she had had a vision of me with a grey cat.

Clearly this adventure was meant to be.

The Grey Kitten

Read what happened next.

Postcards from My Time Off

Making friends with TreesI had a wonderful week off, a great mix of playing & resting, doing & being.  I might just have to keep that up!

New Restaurant in the HoodI went to a new restaurant in the hood…

JRS Bowl…attended The One of a Kind Show and Sale...

Flowers in Frames…created a flower gallery in our kitchen…

Visit with Shortie… visited with cats in the hood …

Coffee Shop Date… took myself out for coffee…

… finished a long shelved project…

A Trip to the Beach… walked along the boardwalk…

A Trip to the Spa… had a spa day…

Discovering Cardinals… listened to birds…

JRS Art Day with Shannon

and finished off hanging out with Shannon for Art Day.

I’m going to remember to take time off again!