Sixnie & Salt

A love letter to film, and an unexpected gift

July 29, 2017

How many photos do you have of you and your partner? In today’s digital age, you probably have hundreds, if not thousands. I lived with Ryan McAlpine for almost 3 years. You know how many photos I have of us? Maybe 50. And that’s because of film.

Do you remember how special film was? When you only had 26 frames, you didn’t waste them. You didn’t click away mindlessly, you chose your moments. You waited for the right shot and then you waited again. You had to use up the whole roll and then bring them somewhere and wait some more! It was torturous, not knowing what turned out. I resisted the digital age for so long. I loved film. I loved the lesson in patience, I loved the way my hands smelled after hours in the darkroom, I loved the way the camera shutter clicked, that satisfying clunk. There’s a reason we love photos from that time so much, why their vintage quality almost makes them look more real. It’s because we take too damn many photos now. Today’s kids will never get to experience that feeling of walking into the photo shop to pick up a double set of your newly developed photos, all of which turned out. Of tearing open that package in the parking lot and passing them around in the car with your friends, laughing at the moments you’re all simultaneously reliving, together. It was euphoric. Film taught us to be hopeful, that things would turn out alright.

When Ryan died almost 12 years ago, I thought I might never be alright again. I don’t know if I’ve ever told anyone that before, but that’s the exact thought I had the night I went home from that emergency room without him. It was the only I could think actually. I stared at the ceiling, chain smoking and picturing his dead face in my mind, thinking over and over: I may never be alright again.

I recently dug out my old film camera, the one my grandfather placed in my hands when I was a teenager and said ‘a camera is a gift that teaches you to see the world without a camera.’ I put it together and ordered several obscure batteries and cleaned out my old camera bag and found 2 rolls of never developed film rolling around in the bottom of it. It took a few tries to find a place that developed true black and white film but a week later I was sitting in my car, ripping open packages with anticipation just like I used to. One roll was dead, a single hazy image came out. The other was the last roll I shot on the camera. There were some of a camping trip, a few of the house and then there he was. Three frames, never before seen. His eyes, eyes I haven’t looked into in over a decade, staring back up at me, cradling our old dog.

What a gift.
And a reminder that everything turns out alright.

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April 9, 2017

a 6th birthday @Sixnie&Salt

The end of March marked 6 years since I woke up from a coma. On the evening I came to, there was a sign at the end of my bed that said
‘Today is March 31, it is sunny outside, you are at Guelph General Hospital’

I immediately and simultaneously thought 3 things:
1- What the fuuuuuuuuuccckkkkkkk
2-Water. Dear God. Water. Please. No coherence. Will never ask for anything ever again. Dying. Give me water. Only water (hours later I was offered a disgusting faux-mint moistened swab to quench a two month thirst).
And 3-I cannot BELIEVE I have missed out on being able to play the world’s BEST April Fools joke by ONE FREAKING DAY

Okay, jokes aside, my post-coma year in 2011 was one of the worst periods of my life. When I finally was discharged from the rehab hospital, I had nowhere to live, was too sick to work, had a goddamn tracheotomy tube sticking out of my neck, a brain injury and was in a painful haze from being weaned down off a boatload of fentanyl. I could barely talk or walk. You know that cliché about when things go to hell you find out who your true friends are? It’s an unfortunate truth. The guy I had been casually seeing for months met another girl while I was having my big nap. A bunch of my friends bailed on me. My body, my mind, my relationships, my heart- everything hurt. To be clear, this isn’t a ploy to air my grievances with those who I felt abandoned me, not at all.  People, particularly people in their mid twenties, are not always emotionally equipped to deal with a friend with critical illness and the grapple with mortality that comes along with it. I harbour resentment towards no one and I bring it up only to illustrate what it was like for me at the time. As anyone who has had their health taken away from them can tell you, the road to recovery isn’t just about your physical health, it is multi-faceted, long and overwhelming. 

One particularly bad night about week after I went ‘home’, I laid awake in bed in a friends spare room, my possessions piled around me in boxes, staring at the ceiling, trying to figure my life out. I was mentally in such a dark place, I didn’t know where to start or how to do it. Then a song I had never heard came on my spotify that had been playing randomly in the background that straight up saved me from giving up. You hear emo kids say trite things like ‘music saves lives’ all the time, but for me it was really true that night. I needed that exact song so bad in that moment. It was William Fitzsimmons ‘Beautiful girl’ and I listened to him sing ‘girl you will get better, you will get better’ over and over and in that moment, for the first time since getting sick months before- I believed it.

A couple years ago I ended up working merch for William at his Toronto show and I got to tell him that story. When he went on stage and started playing that song, I watched in wonder at how far I had come from that sick person clutching her stomach on that bed. I only recorded this short clip towards the end because cause I was so caught up in the moment but here it is below, along with the full song. I keep it on my phone and still watch it when things are hard.

At the risk of adding to the faux inspirational garbage that saturates the internet: Wherever you are in life right now, no matter how daunting the road ahead of you seems, however far you need to go- you can get there.

Thanks to William for writing this song and telling me that I would get better.
It worked. I did.

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What a strange thing! to be alive beneath cherry blossoms.” ― Kobayashi Issa

April 8, 2017

Cherry Blossom Portraits @Sixnie&Salt

Victoria is in full bloom right now, it’s basically a cotton candy dream around these parts. Here are a few photos of my dear friend Rachel and I playing in the cherry blossoms.

Cherry Blossom Portraits @Sixnie&Salt

Cherry Blossom Portraits @Sixnie&Salt

Every day you play with the light of the universe.

Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

Cherry Blossom Portraits @Sixnie&Salt

Cherry Blossom Portraits @Sixnie&Salt

The birds go by, fleeing.

The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.

You are here. Oh, you do not run away.

You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth

Cherry Blossom Portraits @Sixnie&Salt

Cherry Blossom Portraits @Sixnie&Salt


How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,

my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the gray light unwind in turning fans.

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

-Pablo Neruda

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