Hello New Zealand, Hello The Wangapeka

I arrived in New Zealand on December 29th, 2016, summer in the southern hemisphere.  The air was fragrant with all sorts of floral aromatics, the warm breeze was fresh from the ocean, and I was excited to be in such a new and different place.  Just some of the things I noticed right away:

  • Cars drive on the other side of the road.
  • The plugs are all different and have individual switches.
  • The light switches are tiny and reversed (up is off!).
  • You hang clothes up to dry outside (no one has clothes dryers) because it doesn’t rain for months on end.
  • Everyone makes their own yoghurt.
  • The licence plates are just a number, no country/province necessary when you’re an island nation.

Nelson, NZ

Having lived in Canada my whole life, there are some things ingrained into me that I hadn’t realised until I came to NZ.  That shadow in the bushes?  Not a raccoon.  That rustling on the path at night?  Nothing to worry about, certainly not a bear.  There are no predators here.  There are no naturally occurring mammals here.  Mice, rats, stoats, and possums have made it over, but no large predators.  No snakes even.  It feels a lot like BC, but the ever-present feeling that there are hungry beasties hidden about is a vibe I still, 6 months in paradise, cannot quite shake.  There something deep and old about the fear of predators; I see fields of sheep everywhere and just cannot wrap my head around there being nothing for them to worry about.

Coming from the worst winter in my life (in all aspects; the weather was just terrible!) into a tropical wonderland was the most perfect thing.

I stayed with a wonderful woman, Rona Spencer, for a week.  She showed me all around town to orient me, and took me on a walk up to the Brook Wildlife Sanctuary.  The birdsong here is incredible; Tui and Bellbird have the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, and Canada’s no slouch when it comes to bird life!

In the shuttle on the way to the Wangapeka

After my week in Nelson, I headed up to The Wangapeka.  I now know it by many names: The Centre, The Wanga, officially The Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre.  I and another retreatant took the shuttle up a day early (Colin is great if you ever need to get anywhere in the Nelson area, or book him up to the Centre, he really knows the drive!).  My early-companion had been to Wangapeka before and showed me all around to get me oriented.  I’ve had many kind and wonderful guides since coming here; they always seem to show up right when I need them most.

I walked up to the whare (pronounced “far-ay”- the “wh”s here are pronounced as “f”s), the beautiful teaching house.  I saw NZ’s first Stupa.  I heard and saw many things for the first time that made me feel like I was in a magical place.

If you don’t know what a retreat is, it’s basically taking intentional time away from life to do personal work.  The retreat I went on was a 2 week Chenrezig retreat.  It’s a form of meditation that helps explore many aspects of self, with the ultimate goal of cultivating compassion.  It was my first time using a mala, which are beads on a string to help count mantra.  I remain an atheist; there are many aspects of Buddhism I cannot get behind, but many that I can.  I have found it incredibly useful to explore the mind using some of the tools it offers, Chenrezig being one of them.

So many people have been doing work of various kinds at the Centre for so long that it feels… anything I say will sound like mystical hoo-hah.  It just feels special.  Knowing that people have faced their inner demons, have explored dark and deep crevices of their minds, have had the guts to delve into themselves and root around, gave the place a feeling of gravitas, of solemn importance.  It made me feel comforted; I am not the first person to be going through a great loss, nor will I be the last.

I think I fell in love with The Wangapeka when I arrived.  It could be that a drowning person will love any lifeboat, but as time has gone on, I don’t think I love it just because it helped me so much in a time of great need.  I see the work being done there, see that just having a place for serious retreat work is a gift.  The care and attention put into that place over the many years has made it a special place.

I did a solo retreat for a few days after Chenrezig ended.  I went to the highest hut, Omahu, and had uninterrupted time all to myself.  I has one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen, for what it represented to me as much as the actual sight.  I cried for joy when I got up there; how lucky I am to have landed here and get to be in such a place.

The view from Omahu

Since that first retreat I’ve been back several times; I did a week long “intro retreat” to further understand retreat work in general.  Then, I was back in Nelson and prepared to send my roommates and many friends off for a month-long retreat.  Many pieces fell into place: my roommate Chani was the retreat organiser, I had been cooking a ton and sending delicious food to Wangapeka-related meetings, I made it known that I loved the Wangapeka and wanted to help in any way I could, I was completely at loose ends (I cancelled my flight back to Canada) and I was looking for work.  This perfect storm was bubbling away when, three days before their retreat was due to start, they found themselves without a cook.

Badda bing badda boom, chef Heidi to the rescue!

I learned how to use the ordering system, how to portion, what the dietary requirements were, made meal plans, and got oriented with the kitchen in three days.  Then I cooked for a big group for a month!

It was some of the happiest time of my life.  Waking up every morning with a purpose, knowing I was helping support the work people were doing, making delicious and nutritious food, being around wonderful people in that place, and going to teachings in the morning and group meditations in the evening- it was exactly what I needed.

I even got a couple of breaks, and got to go on a hiking trip into the Nelson Lakes.

After the month, I stayed to cook for a work week, where amazing woofers helped with whatever needed doing.  Then I was asked to cook for a “harp meditation” weekend, and I spent my final days in one of the higher up huts, Skydancer.

It snowed a bit, heralding the start of winter.

It’s been nearly two months since I was last there, and I can’t wait to go back.  I’ll be cooking for a 4-day Chenrezig retreat soon, then for the AGM, then staying on to cook for a six-week retreat and all the ones that happen on the weekends concurrently.  I feel so lucky to have the opportunities that I do.  If you spend enough time setting up bowling pins, you can stand back and have a go at knocking them down.  I have been bowling a pretty terrific game since I arrived in NZ, that’s for sure.

Oh and during that month long retreat, my publisher sent me the final MS to proof.  I did some intensive editing in the caretaker’s office between lunch and dinner.  They also asked for the acknowledgements and my bio.  What hilarious timing to have to write a paragraph about who I am.

Because really, who am I?

…I’m Heidi.

Thanks for reading.  ❤

Heidi out.

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Hello and Welcome to the New HG!

Hello Dear Readers.  Personal post ahead!

Thanks so much for still sticking around with me.  It’s been a doozy of a time, a real top-notch shitshow for me personally.  The past 2 years have been awful.  But things are great now.  The Coles’ Notes: I was with my husband for 14 years, and now we’re getting divorced.  I had a home and two cats, now I no longer have a home or cats.  I was in Canada, now I’m in New Zealand.  I was awesome, now I am EVEN MORE FRICKIN’ AWESOME.

(Here’s me at my own private “Polar Bear Swim” at Tahunanui Beach in Nelson, January 1st, 2017!)

I love life.  I have had the best time of my life the past few months.  It’s hard to go through something as disruptive as a divorce, but I’m doing well, and have a new improved outlook on life, the universe, and everything.

I wanted to share some things about me and keep you in the loop.  As this blog is primarily about my writing career, you’ll be pleased to hear that my novel, Sleep Over, is coming out soon!  I am beyond excited that I’ve come this far and will finally get to see one of my books in print, from an amazing publisher.  (More updates to follow of course!)

(Here’s me in the shuttle being driven further into New Zealand to the Wangapeka.)

As you can see, I have opted for a new name.  H.G. Bells reporting for duty!  I picked a new name that I think will be easy to 1) pronounce 2) spell and 3) remember.  I hope to hit the ground running when Sleep Over comes out, and my new name will hopefully at least not completely hobble me when it comes to being the new kid on the block.

And it has the added benefit of being similar to one of the ‘fathers of sci-fi’, H.G. Wells.  I hope to follow in his footsteps and contribute to sci-fi as he did (ambitious much Heidi?  Baby you know it!).

So my next few posts will be about me in New Zealand.  It’s so beautiful here, and it’s been an incredible place to begin healing my poor broken heart, meet amazing people, and generally expand my horizons.

(Me up at Omahu at the Wangapeka… the most beautiful place.)

Writing-wise, I will say that going through a divorce was incredibly disruptive, surprising no one.  What did surprise me, was my ability to complete a major set of revisions for my publisher during the worst time of my life.  I have to tell you, when I got the email that my draft had been accepted it was such a huge weight off my back.  It made me realise that I have spent so much time and effort honing my craft that it was still functional while my whole world was being burnt to the ground around me.  I can still perform as a writer while my world is on fire.  I honestly didn’t think I could do it, and, while I was struggling to get the final draft done during those dark times, I thought for sure it was the end of my writing life.  But I have emerged from that process with a deeper appreciation and confidence in my work, my process, and in myself.  I built the foundation of my craft strong, and I built it to last.  Thanks Past Heidi, you did a real good job there.  (Future Heidi if you’re reading this: hi!  I love you!)

Also, I am strong as fuck.  If there’s a thing on this earth that can break me, I sure as hell don’t know what it is.  (ATTN gods of fate: this is not a challenge, pls leave Heidi alone for a while k thanks bye.)

But, while I am strong, I am tired as hell.  I would love it if Sleep Over could come out and do well so I can breathe a little easier.  I know it’s not easy establishing oneself on the world stage of authordom (and realistically I expect to need several published books before I can count myself as successful), but hopefully Sleep Over will be a good start.  And then I can really shine.  Because, while I can keep up with the process while going through hell, my best work has been while I’ve had a stable and happy life.  I hope to get back to something approximating that some day, and can continue on with a vague life trajectory.

We make all these plans, and then life happens.  We assume we will be the same, but we’re all changing all the time.  Things change, we change, and here I am surfing a big change.  Yeehaa!!!

So that’s me.  Thanks for reading my most personal update yet.  I truly cannot express how grateful I am to still have you with me, for your kind words, your support, your love.  As I’m rising from the ashes of my former life I can see so much to be grateful for, so much to love, so much to feel.  And through it all, be it from the sidelines or holding my hand, is you.

Much love,

Continually Yours,

Heidi Grace Bells

 

P.S. You can email me at my snazzy new email address:  heidi {at} hgbells {dot} com  And as you may notice, my website has changed to match!  hgbells {dot} com is the new me!

Right On Track!

The thing about being rejected NOW, with an agent, is that it feels like nothing at all.

At this point we’re looking for the publisher that wants the book, that thinks the book will be the right fit for their brand.  Ultimately I want a publisher who thinks Sleep Over is perfect for them, and will put it out there with enthusiasm.

I’m not phased by rejection at this point.

I’m pretty pleased with how it’s all going.  This being my Birthday, it’s a good day to take stock and see how all my plans are shaping up.  I’m happy.

Google doodle surprised me today.  How sweet!

Want to know some cool stuff?  You can go to the url at the end and find out the same (and more) about you, based on when you were born!

Since I was born, I (read: our galaxy) have travelled nearly 600 trillion km towards the Great Attractor.  The population of humans on earth has grown by 2 billion, 422 million and change.  (World population is now at 7 billion, 288 million and change…)

My heart has beat one billion, 95 million, 841 hundred thousand, and change times. Mmm, good ol’ heart.

The moon has only orbited the earth 401 times since I was born???  For some reason I am surprised.  I think I need to learn more about the moon I guess.

Anyway, find out all this and more, about you!

So that’s all for now!  Just didn’t want to have complete radio silence until the BIG NEWS that will come (soon hopefully).

I’ll leave you with this image of what Andromeda, our closest neighbouring galaxy, would look like in our sky if there wasn’t light pollution.

Doesn’t look so far now, does it.  Oh wait what?  We’re going to collide with it in 3.75 billion years‽

Cheers!

Heidi out.

Writing Styles: A Kind of Method Writing

I had a very interesting day on Thursday.

I’ve been getting caught up on the climax of my novel.  Imagining the future is *hard*.  Writing about it in a way that makes sense, not only within the context of the plot, but also just as background noise, is extremely challenging.

I’m finding it difficult to weave all my pieces together in the final stages of the book.

I had the idea to go to where the rising action takes me, and head to the location I’ve set the ending of my book.  I think it’s a kind of Method Writing.

The Vancouver Art Gallery.

At sunrise.

So I woke up super early and caught the first train downtown.  I made tons of notes.  Trying to see what it was like, and then see what it will be like.  And not only that, I had to imagine it from the air.

I spent several hours watching downtown lighten in the dawn, watched all the people go about their lives, and went back and forth from the North and Sound steps of the VAG, making notes all the while.

It was extremely helpful.  I actually changed which side of the VAG the climax will take place; the light was all wrong, and landing from the air will be much easier on the South steps.

It really helped put me there, in the future- I went over each building an imagined how it would look.  What would have changed, what would still be the same.

If you’re getting stuck on something, go out into the world.  Make notes.  It might help you.

…It certainly helped me.

Now, onwards!  The final 10k words beckon!

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

Adventures in Anemia

I suddenly understand the Boiling Frog Story.  The way you’ll sit in water as it heats to boiling, because you don’t notice and the change isn’t sudden enough…

So over the past few years I’ve been getting more and more lightheaded.  I noticed it more when I drank coffee and was dehydrated.  I’d stand and my vision would go black around the edges.  Lately I’ve been woozing, to the point where I grab the bathroom doorframe in the morning after getting up.  Big problem, right?

Turns out it isn’t, if it happens gradually enough.  Darn it brain, we’re supposed to be on the ball for shit like this.

But that’s just it; my brain hasn’t been working great either.  I’ve been sluggish.  Can’t focus, can’t concentrate.  Can’t think half the time.

I got some blood tests done (hurrah for finally having a family doctor!) and they called me in to discuss the results asap (cancer oh god it’s cancer, said my stupid brain).  Nope; anemia.

Iron levels are normally from 50-500.  Women start to feel tired at 30.

My iron is at 10.

I bought iron pills.  I’m taking 100-150mg of elemental iron a day, starting today.  I actually took a bit more than that to kick it off.

I have been an avid blood donor.  Turns out I kind of need that blood.  Hopefully I can get my iron up and be able to donate again, but in the mean time, popping iron twice a day, and vitamin C to help uptake.  At least it’s an easy fix.  And spinach, steak, edamame, and other iron rich foods will be eaten more.  Wait, who am I kidding, my diet is pretty iron rich already.  What the heck, body?

Well, we’ll see.

Glad to have that sorted out.

Sharing health things is a little iffy; I only wanted to because this crept up on me so gradually, and my brain was getting more sluggish and too stupid to realize there was a problem, that perhaps if I had read all the symptoms I’d had, I may have been able to put it together.

So I guess, iron: we need it.  Do you have enough?

Ho ho ho, a little iron humour.

And now I’m thinking about Iron Man again…

Isn’t that gorgeous?

Speaking of…

But enough of that.  The artist that did the above painting is Sam Spratt.  Eh kills aliens and doesn’t afraid of anything.

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

My Journey to Becoming an Entomophage

I’m going to just go ahead and post this.  There’s a huge negative bias towards eating insects in our western culture, but the reality is that they are nutritious, packed with protein, and, as I recently discovered, *delicious*.  Over 80% of the world are Entomophages!

Would you like to know more?

So, below is my journey to becoming an entomophage.  I hope you’ll be inspired to take the plunge; if we can get over our squeamishness, the whole world can benefit from eating insects.

My package arrived after being held up with Canadian Boarder Services.

I put my grasshoppers in a container and froze them.

I was making tortillas, and decided it was a good time to take the plunge.

I fried them up with butter,

heated up my tortilla with some cheese,

and added the Main Event!

Tortillas assemble!

After everything was ready I dug in.

If my face is confusing, it’s because this is perhaps the most conflicted meal I’ve ever eaten…  It was a mix of “oh god this is good” and “oh god dont’ think about what you’re eating.”

It was delicious!  The hoppers tasted nutty and nice.  The texture was a little… different.  It was a little crunchy, but not in the hard or sharp sort of way.

The biggest thing to get over was that I was eating bugs.  I was a little squeamish, but I got over it pretty quick when I tasted how good it was.

My husband, Aaron, and our friend Matthew came home shortly thereafter from a workout at the climbing gym.  I told them of my adventure, and Matthew was pretty enthused about it.  I cooked up another batch of hoppers, and he tried a Grasshopper Tortilla too!  He really liked it.

…Aaron is not there yet.  He tried one grasshopper hot out of the pan, and liked it.  But it goes against his “not eating things with faces” guideline.  We’ll see.  Matthew’s boldness and subsequent enjoyment of the dish was really an inspiration.

Hope you get to try some some time; it was a neat experience I will be repeating.