Solstice. Full moon waxing hard. Just washed a brace of wine tumblers to a playlist of Radiohead, Case/Lang/Viers and vintage Neil Young. The last vestiges of a rowdy, celebratory meal with dear pals. Reflecting on the past year, and what’s to come.

This month, I grabbed my kiddo and adventured along the Pacific coast of Oaxaca, Mexico. I have an affinity for the dark and stormy brackish ocean here in BC. But as you get closer to the equator, the water warms, and the colours shift to azures and emerald greens. An amazing experience. Swimming at dawn, beachcombing for shells on deserted beaches, and piles of fresh guacamole in Huatalco. Dia de la Virgen Guadalupe, dancing in the church square, and sitting on the sidewalk on upturned buckets eating the best damn street tacos I’ve ever tasted in La Crucetcita. Sleeping on the edge of the jungle in Mazunte - a little seaside town so tiny it doesn’t make it onto most maps. The hiking here kills. Casa la Mermejita in Mazunte sits perched up in the hills, a stone’s throw from the Pacific. Designed by a local architect with eco-sustainability and geometry in mind, 6 Casas are named after the geometrical shape they were designed in. At night, the deep silence of being up in the trees is juxtaposed with the brilliance of the stars, the rustling and caterwauling of nocturnal creatures and the roar of crashing waves below - wild and beautiful. In the morning, Lady (yeah that’s really her name) fixes up a breakfast of fresh chunks of papaya and pineapple, drizzled with thick Oaxacan yoghurt, and granola that she roasts up in a cast iron pan. And - the reason why I came here in the first place - surfiing in San Agustinillo. Oh. Oh. Oh. I don’t even have the words to express the feeling of being on a board in this kind of ferocious unsheltered coastline. William Finnegan, in his excellent Pulitzer Prize autobiography Barbarian Days (A Surfing Life), describes surfing as part gratitude, part mastery. As a novice surfer, I can’t lay claim to any mastery. But I love it, so much, I got the gratitude part down pat. And the people we met. On the street, in their homes and businesses, in the back of collectivo ride sharing trucks, we were met with kindness, humour, and that greatest of virtues - hospitality - the real measure of a person.

Here’s another thing: my daughter - who’s growing into a pretty fly young woman. Travel is the best way I know how to teach her about the things that matter. To be in unfamiliar places and spaces engenders tolerance, compassion and courage. It makes us pliant and flexible citizens of the world, and encourages us to seek out difference, to step outside our comfort zones. We know whats in our own back yard. It’s what’s on the other side of the fence that I want her to always reach for. This adventure we shared together - it’s the kind of experience that’s evolving her into a strong, kind, independent woman.

My holiday kitchen is heady with smells of the Oaxacan dishes I’m attempting to recreate, hopefully to share at my next long table dinner. Already plotting the next trip back. To surf and hike, to eat, and to wake up to that gorgeous early morning light…

Happy Solstice.

(** If the spirit moves you, please consider donating to these awesome local organizations, who are doing so much to make this city better, and bring our community together: Insite for Community Safety, AIDS Vancouver, Western Front, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, Oppenheimer Park Dinner, DTES Kitchen Tables Project , and my old friend Elia Kirby’s hive of creativity, The Arts Factory ).