Stories by Annie Bananie


The Magic of Children

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I love these photos. To me, they speak of fairy tales and magic. They were taken a few weeks back in the throws of spring, when nature was bursting with life. In that time, where even adults see the magic all around them. I met Alice and her family at Fletcher Park and we had a beautiful time. Alice was like a spring fairy running, jumping, picking flowers, climbing trees and playful. She reminded me of my own inner child.

I grew up in the country and have vivid memories of the great outdoors. Some of those are searching for four leaf clovers, “saying he loves me, he loves me not”, as I pulled on the white, soft pedals of daisy flowers. This might be why daisies are one of my favourites! I built forts and went on long bike rides. I swam and daydreamed. I am grateful for those moments and grateful that both my businesses involve working with children. I love their zest for life and to be honest, I am a child at heart.

Children see magic everywhere in the new leaves sprouting from the trees, in wildflowers reaching up to the sun. They find joy in the small things like collecting sticks, and rocks. I love to help cultivate these experiences and take images of families in these moments of connection in nature. Photography is a true passion, a love. It’s a love that I have carried around with me for many years. I got my first camera at 16 years of age and ever since, have been documenting the world around me. I traveled around the world and photographed many children and found a common thread; all children no matter what race or colour love to play and engage in the world around them. If we adults give them enough space to explore, they will find a way to engage. I love that saying “less is more.”

Rama Lotus Closure

I sit here, writing in shock as I absorb the news that Rama Lotus Yoga centre has permanently closed. Rama was founded by Robert Hay in 1994 and later acquired by Tara Cousineau. It has been an icon in the yoga community for bringing yoga to the public before it became mainstream. It’s teacher trainings have created wonderful teachers, that students can find in the community at large. It’s a place where you would walk in and feel completely at peace and know that you are meant to be.

I remember my first time walking into the studio, I was three months pregnant and just returned from two and half years of living in South East Asia. There were so many changes going on for me at that time. Not only was I adapting to reverse culture shock, but I was to become a mother! So many changes, that I felt a little lost and my footing on the Earth a little wobbly.

My very first class at the centre was a prenatal class in the Earth room. The Earth room was my favourite room, with the painting of the universe above the platform, it’s sky light windows and room to move. I can still picture Kristine Karpinski walking to the platform with her long hair flowing at her back and her nurturing presence emanating to her students. On that day, I met Amanda Porter who sat beside me. While we waited for the class to begin, we chatted and I felt a kinship with this beautiful woman. We would soon become great friends and to this day our girls Zoe and Lila still hang out and say that they are sisters born from different mothers. That first class and the atmosphere of Rama Lotus and it’s people reassured me that was I safe in all the life change before me.

That first introduction to Rama Lotus was more than a feeling of finding a new home and new friendship, but also my first introduction to Kundalini yoga. I must be honest that I walked into that class with a big ego. Six months prior to attending the class, I had spent 3 months in India. One of those months, I lived in an ashram doing meditation and traditional Hatha yoga twice a day. So when Kristine started the class in the Kundalini style of opening with One Namo, Guru Deve Namo and an approach to yoga that I had never experienced before, my ego was jostled. That little voice in my head said: “this is not yoga”, but my heart fell in love with the chanting and the feelings of elation post-class. So, I kept going. Six months later, I gave birth to Zoe on my living room floor and felt the experience was a spiritual one, it opened my world wide open and in pushing her into the world, I felt connected to all women of all time. I breathed through the contractions and felt that the practice of Kundalini yoga helped me give me a positive birthing experience. The breathing exercises helped me through each contraction. Giving birth rocked my world and Kundalini yoga was a big part of the empowered feeling that I felt and I wanted to share it with other women.

Ten months later when Zoe was 10 months old, I took the Kundalini teacher training with Robert Hay. It ran every second weekend for 6 months. Rob my husband at the time would bring Zoe over on our lunch break for some breastfeeding and mommy time. I made new friends with whom, I am still friends to this day.

Once the training was over, I began teaching prenatal yoga and loved it. I loved guiding women in different stages of pregnancy into a meditative state where they could tune into their body, their breath and their inner strength. I can still picture a room full of beautiful women, holding their bellies as they sway to the soothing sounds of Snatam Kaur’s voice.

One of the beauties of Kundalini yoga is that the practitioner keeps her eyes closed during the class. This really allows one to feel the body, the breath and go deeper into the meditation of the practice. It’s perfect for prenatal women who are going through one of the biggest transitions in their lives. It’s a perfect training for giving birth as you learn to follow your breath and move through challenging postures like holding your arms out in line with your shoulders for over 3 minutes. Try it, its not easy, you really have to dig deep inside of yourself and build that stamina of mind over matter. In class when women were in this posture and there was 30 seconds left, I would say “30 seconds left, you can do absolutely anything for 30 second”. I would see these women on a weekly basis and watch as their bellies grew and one day, they would stop coming. Often, I would see them on the street pushing a stroller and often they would say: “Thank you for the yoga classes, when I was giving birth I could hear your voice saying “you can do absolutely anything for 30 seconds.” There was such a reward in hearing those words. It was an acknowledgment that I was doing what, I had set out to do; empower women.

Later, I taught a regular yoga class, which was as equally satisfying. My current partner Jay Flesher attended that class religiously. Don't get me wrong, I did not leave my husband for him. If truth be told we laugh about him being my yoga student. Never did I think that the quirky, bald guy in yoga class would become my boyfriend and never did he think that the hairy arm pitted yoga teacher would become his girlfriend. Yes, in the throws of my hippy days, I forewent shaving. It was a symbol against society and the impositions we pose onto women. Our coming together happened as a surprise, after I separated. All this to say that Rama Lotus is a bench mark in my life and I believe this to be true for many of it’s students and teachers throughout the years. It was a place where many people found solace in their pain, a place where lives were changed and life perspectives evolved. My memories of that place are plenty and I could go on, but I won’t because this post is long enough!

The news of the closure, just came out today and Facebook is exploding with teared up emojis. The community is in shock. I send all the people that were involved with the centre much love and compassion. Yoga is forever in your heart, it is a lifestyle and a way of life. Rama Lotus might have brought new insights, and you carry those insights with you, wherever you go. Walk in peace, compassion and love for all of human kind. Thank you Rama Lotus for all that you have given to our community and the world.

Sat Nam and Namaste.

I like posting a photo with every blog entry.  I couldn't find a photo of my time at Rama Lotus, so I posted this one. It’s a picture of a film photography image, that I took at the edge of the Ganges in Rishikesh, India. Here is to all the teachers and experiences that teach us the ways of the spirit.

I like posting a photo with every blog entry. I couldn't find a photo of my time at Rama Lotus, so I posted this one. It’s a picture of a film photography image, that I took at the edge of the Ganges in Rishikesh, India. Here is to all the teachers and experiences that teach us the ways of the spirit.

My Very First Newborn Session

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My very first newborn session was four years ago of this sweet child called Irene. She was under 10 days old and ever so sleepy and precious as can be. I arrived at her house with my crop frame camera and a sheep skin, some blankets and little hats. The photos were taken by a well lit window, and I loved the process of rocking her to sleep and gently placing her in different positions. It was this session that I realized that newborn photography is not easy. One needs to be patient, gentle and know how to position the baby for those beautiful shots. It is then, that I realized that I had a lot to learn and got very passionate about that learning.

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There is something about these little new human beings that touch me to my very soul. They are so vulnerable and yet powerful. They remind me that life is a gift, to be cherished. Having had two children of my own, I also understand the vulnerabilities of becoming a mother. It is magical and at the same time can be difficult, as your life is changed in a deep way. A new mother needs to redefine who she is and contemplate her old self, with the new. Some things that mattered to her before becomes irrelevant and a new perspective on life emerges. Breast feeding does not always come naturally and navigating through physical sensations post birth and fatigue is also a factor. In this first session, I learnt that newborn photography is not only about taking photos. It’s about being conscious of what the family needs in the moment and providing support, while documenting their story. .

Irene has since, grown into a smart, fun, loving, four year old girl, who loves the outdoors and drawing. I find myself lucky as her family has continued to book me for photo sessions on a yearly basis. It has been a pleasure to watch her grow into a confident young girl.

In the above photos you can see her at almost 10 days old, 16 months, 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 years old.

Dreams

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I have a dream of having a van, just like this one. In my dream, I am driving my VW across the country and photographing families in nature along the way. The thing about me and dreams is that my dreams often come true. For example, I dreamt of teaching yoga at Rama Lotus and it happened. I love this story, because it’s one of those dreams that just fell in my lap. I was taking Kundalini yoga teacher training and wasn’t even finished the training yet, when the prenatal teacher approached me saying that she was moving to British Columbia and was going to suggest to Robert Hay the owner of Rama Lotus that I take her place. Once my training was finished, I immediately started teaching and was amazed at my luck! My dream came true and I taught there for over ten years. I have many more stories, just like that one and I will make my On the Road with Annie Bananie Photography come true as well. Dreams are possible, first we need to dream them and then take the actions required to bring them to life.

One thing that I have learnt is that dreams come true, but they sometimes happen in their own time and might look a little different. Throughout my 48 years on this spinning planet, I have found myself saying: “Wow, this is a dream come true, from a decade or two ago”.

What are your dreams? What dreams have already come true for you?

Hail Storm

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I think that we can all agree, that it’s been a wet, cold spring. I for one have been craving hot sunny days! So when the rain clouds parted for the sunshine this afternoon, Jay and I jumped into the kayaks to take it all in. We floated on the water and sat in stillness, listening to the birds, and feel the peace in nature’s beauty. It was one of those moments, where I got out of my head and really took the time to appreciate the world around me. The meditation didn't last long. We noticed incoming dark clouds and thunder in the distance. We made it back to shore, just before the hail storm hit. Balls of ice bounced off our cars and the patio table. The wind blew in it’s haste sending green leaves to the ground. Hot steam rose from the lake, as cold pellets cut through the water’s surface. It was like mother nature was confused as to wether it was spring, summer, fall or winter! Once the storm passed a beautiful sunlight shone through the trees sending a feeling of magic through the forrest. I grabbed my camera and braved the mosquitoes to take some shots.

Mac and Yoli

Introducing Mac and Yoli a sweet, fun, loving couple that will say “I do” September 21rst, 2019, and I am honoured to say, that I will be their photographer. I am so looking forward to celebrating their special day. Photography truly is my passion and it delights me to my very being, to be able to offer my services.

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Sweeper Ants - Travel Story

Mermijita in the Oaxaca province of Southern Mexico is a rugged, wild beach with a strong surf. Its black sandy shores are like hot coals in the heat of the day. It’s not a beach vacation where you float around in the ocean, while holding a margarita. It’s where you walk the water’s edge with the waves crashing at your feet, in respect for the ocean and its strength. If you dare to stand ankle deep, the tide tugs and tries to pull you in as you push back with all your might. People have drowned in its undertow and red flags fly at its shores reminding you that there is danger in its waters. You become humbled in it’s presence and experience being with it, in humility.

At the far end of the beach is Punta Cometa. You can see it at the top right corner, of this image. This rocky scape boasts hiking trails and a great sunset view. It’s the most southern point in the Oaxaca province.

At the far end of the beach is Punta Cometa. You can see it at the top right corner, of this image. This rocky scape boasts hiking trails and a great sunset view. It’s the most southern point in the Oaxaca province.

We booked our eco lodge through Air B and B and it did not disappoint. Our ECO lodge was at the end of the rugged beach and it’s wild nature was exactly what we were looking for. The lack of road access meant, no big resorts looming about only cacti, tropical plants and the quiet of the birds, the waves, and insects. Our taxi took us to the end of the road and we walked the beach to our little oasis. Other than one other bungalow, we were alone. And that is precisely what I needed. I wanted to retreat into the quiet of life in the jungle, a place where I could simply relax and do all the things that make my spirit sing. It had been a stressful fall and I craved a space where I could relax and just be, and I had found it.

My promise to myself was to wake up for sunrise, and greet the morning light gently caressing the world around me. I wanted to eat loads of papaya and write on a daily basis, and that is what I did. What did I write? I had a small computer and wrote with abandon about my growing up in a small northern town of Ontario, about my travels, motherhood, and being a business owner. I love writing, it is a form or release. When I walk away from a writing session, I feel lighter, with more space to move about in the world. I did yoga, read and simply relaxed while doing nothing. Jay was a perfect support. While I stayed at our hut and on the beach he would walk to town, go to yoga class, get a massage and found his own sense of a personal retreat. In the evenings we would meet to watch sunset and later make a killer supper and play crib. What a perfect little cohesive little existence we made for ourselves.

The palapa was a three level building made with brick and mortar. With no road access, Os the manifester of our cabana had brought all supplies by donkey. One brick at a time and one donkey load at a time, he built the palapa by the sweat of his own brow. His vision is to host people like us, who want to live in the jungle surrounded by wild life.

The first floor was a well equipped kitchen and a great place to lock our valuables. While in Mexico, one must think about where to store valuables, as theft is real. The second floor was a room open to the outdoors, with a fresh breeze, a hammock, and a writing desk. It was the perfect place to do yoga, read, write and hang out. The top floor was accessed by a ladder, kind of like climbing into a tree house. This was our bedroom and it sat right under the palapa. The bed was in-line with the window so that we could lie there under the mosquito net staring at the ocean. The waves were so strong and loud that the first few nights, I barely slept as each crashing wave sounded like a burst of thunder in a raging storm. The sleepless nights were not a bother, as I layed there in gratitude and in awe of my surroundings.

We were powered by solar panels, washed our dishes outside and had a dry compostable toilet. I loved the feeling of living in simplicity and cohesively with nature. There is something to the saying: “Less is more.”

Playa was a gentle dog. I loved how she would always appear out of nowhere, running towards me looking so happy.

Playa was a gentle dog. I loved how she would always appear out of nowhere, running towards me looking so happy.

A beach dog started following us everywhere we went, including in our hang out space in the palapa. We called her Playa, which means beach in Spanish. I am not a dog lover, but somehow she made her way into my heart. I felt sadness in leaving her, and that time came to soon. We spent 10 days there and I could have stayed for another month, a year, a lifetime!

There is nothing like nature to remind us that we are but a spec of dust in this universe of wonder.

There is nothing like nature to remind us that we are but a spec of dust in this universe of wonder.

The last evening, we ended the day, with the glorious colours of the sunset. Its pastel landscape, painting the sky and touching our souls with wonder and a knowing that there is something bigger than ourselves. Nature really is my church. We returned to our palapa full of gratitude and ready to cook supper.

In our absence a copious amount of ants had swarmed our lock box and lines of them marched in confident paths through the trees, and blades of grass. I swept them away with a broom and some water and got away with a few bite marks. Later Jay noticed that there were more ants at the neighbouring palapa. We didn't think much of it, but later we were alarmed.

After supper, I sat up in our hang out spot, swinging in the hammock and reading my book. A half hour later, I decided to go to the bathroom. Upon stepping out of my perch, I noticed hundreds of ants dotting the cement floor. I sat there stunned. Where were all these ants coming from? I walked around them and climbed the ladder to our bedroom. Here too, there were ants on the floor and climbing to the inside of our mosquito net, where we had carelessly left it open. Alarm bells started ringing, we can’t stay here! It’s an ant invasion!

Needless to say we packed our bags and walked out to the beach where phone reception was available and called Os (he was staying in the nearby town of Mazunte). As we talked to our host, we could hear the neighbours who were staying in the palapa next door. The sounds of them sweeping, hitting and yelping with ant bites as they battled agains the army of ants hit my funny bone, and I felt the situation was quite humorous . Like us, they were Canadians and well traveled.

Os explained that they were sweeper ants and to wait about 45 minutes and they would leave. At this point it’s 10:30 at night and we were about a 30 minute walk to town. We trusted in our Mexican friend and decided on waiting it out. Google told us that sweeper ants are carnivorous ants, who knew? They are relentless in their pursuit of their prey and come in swarms and march through homes and “sweep” through to devour salamanders, geckos, scorpions, and snakes. I am sure that they would eat a human if it was incapable of moving . We waited the 45 minutes under the stars leaning on our backpacks and gazing up at the spectacular sky. The milky way sparkled in it’s wake of wonder. Nothing like sweeper ants to make you come out and notice the brilliance above. Forty five minutes later, we returned to our bungalow and Os did not steer us wrong, save for a few ants imprisoned in our mosquito net, we were ant free.

Seven am the next morning came soon enough and our ant friends were back with a vengeance. While Jay was in the shower, and I was greeting Os, I noticed more ants. They were lined up in a 5 feet wide procession and marched up the kitchen wall. They moved in a wave, as though a black blanket on a mission. A couple of geckos cowered in a corner, huddled together for dear life. I stood in the kitchen doorway steps away from their path of execution, and under the palapa. Soon they wove their way through the palm fronts above me and cockroaches started falling from the sky and a scorpion fell at my feet. I didn't even know that all these critters were living right there in the palapa with us! It was very exciting and time to leave.

Despite the ants, I would come back in a heart beat. I have traveled to many places and this is one place that has etched itself in my very being. Thanks Os! It was super fun and exactly what I needed; relaxed with an exciting ending.





Annie Bananie the Clown

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I originally started my photography business as Annie Boudreau Photography. As much, as I am proud of my last name and the French Canadian heritage that it brings, I have been missing Annie Bananie. It’s a fun, loving name and I love hearing children call me “Annie Bananie!”.

People have been calling me that for over a decade. It came about on a Halloween weekend, while walking the streets of New York city. Jay my partner and I were newly dating, and jet setted to New York city to see some Grateful Dead concerts. It being halloween we decided to dress up as clowns with red noses, multicoloured wigs and clothes to match. I was Annie Bananie the Clown and he was Jay Bong the Clown.

It was the best time ever! People were stopping us in the streets, to get photos taken with us. I imagine that, on that day we made it to a few people’s social media feeds.

We took a photo at the goosebump books photo stand and people thought that we were part of the display and again wanted photos taken with us. It was pride weekend and a boisterous, woman slapped me on the bum. I know, not very politically correct, but it was all in good fun. It was a fun experience of meeting people, and an open hearted adventure.

That weekend propelled me to start writing a blog entitled Annie Bananie the Clown. I wrote about my life as a mom, my daycare, travels and my felting workshops. It got some traction in the Ottawa community and I even felt a little like a star of sorts. One morning while standing at the Loblaws check out counter with my groceries all packed in bags, I realized that I had left my wallet at home. I looked at the cashier with an apologetic smile and said: “I forgot my wallet”. The woman next in line said: “I will pay for your groceries.” I turned in surprise and said: “Really? Why would you do that? “ She replied with: “You are Annie Bananie, right?”. I said: “Yes, I am, and I will pay you back of course.” And so it went, she paid for my groceries and I paid her back. It was such a nice feeling to have been taken care by a total stranger. It was also a nice feeling that she knew me, without really knowing me!

And so it goes, Annie Bananie has had many travel adventures and is back to bring families onto their own photography adventure. Please join me among the trees and nature for a fun filled experience that you will not forget. There is one guarantee in life and that is that life is always changing and photographs are the time capsules that preserves those changes.

Big hugs and love,

Annie Bananie :)