31 October 2007

Nearly November

It's Nanowrimo time again.

I have but a skeleton of a plot for this year's novel, but I think my settings and characters are ready to emerge from another project (my sweetie gently suggested, that maybe my bad guy from last year's novel takes the focus away from them? maybe he needs a story of his own? and I'm seeing the wisdom in that, and the bad guy's story is just itching to be told because it turns out I know more about male bad guys than I had thought and I've been trying to write about a bad woman, and I don't know many of those but I'm always gobsmacked when I do come across them). I also saw a couple of inspiring documentaries that made me want to write this stuff down in fictional form, and I am also in the back of my mind thinking of this as the story on which a screenplay could be built. So there has to be a lot happening, some layers of intrigue, which I'm not as experienced at but want to get some practice at.

And I'm completely digging this idea of creating something from nothing. Everybody in the business world talks about adding value and I think, what's something that has high cultural and social value here? Movies and fiction and theater and poetry are certainly among those. Athletics is another: a few sports have been elevated to high entertainment, their participants richer than the royals of many nations. Doctoring is another. Medicating is yet another. But I have a skill set that helps me create lots of somethings from nothings.

One inspiring documentary out of many, many films I've seen lately is one called Steep, coming out at the beginning of 2008, about the history of big-mountain skiing. It turns out that not many people knew you could ski on a slope steeper than 45 degrees until about 1971, when a guy named Bill Briggs prepared himself, climbed to the summit of the Grand Teton, the tallest in that craggy, patchily covered range, and skied down. His friends, who got to the bottom of a massive couloir and decided they couldn't do the summit, watched him go on toward the summit alone. An avalanche came down a few hours after he left them, and they thought for sure he'd been in it, but he skied right up to his friends just after it swept past and boggled their minds. It was Briggs' perfect day.

And that might be the money shot of the film, that camera swinging around the mountain from the air shortly after they descended to see Briggs' beautiful lines in the snow that only stuck to those slopes for a few days a year and this had been one of them. Briggs said a thing I'd never thought of: he said he felt it was nature enhanced by a human's participation.

That we can bring about a net benefit rather than occupy an enormous carbon footprint is such revolutionary idea to me on some fundamental level: I feel as if I'd never really and truly considered myself as anything but a blight on the earth.

I see we all have an effect, every time we make the choice to take a bus or ride our bikes and let the planet take an extra breath. Every time we plant and tend something.

It feels like standing in the sun at the edge of a beautiful meadow full of wildflowers after a cold climb through snow and mud. I can see how I can make something new just by being here, by listening carefully, by serving in the ways that I know best and sharing that with others.

22 October 2007

What matters most

Went to an interesting event on Thursday: a lady's talk at a local restaurant. She came back from extreme illness (and this reminded me of other friends who have these debilitating gastrointestinal diseases) and started making books and art and sending her ideas around the world through a package of stuff. I was a little taken aback when I saw the array of books and candles and oils spread out, with many drawings that are pretty and colorful and dense and in a particular style, all of them in that exact style. I liked some of what she had to say but not her style of interacting with the group; everyone was put on the spot at least once. But later, after her talk about loving and nurturing our beauty (in part by remembering that it's inside and out, of course), I thought about the nugget of truth in there that sometimes it takes that near-death experience to remind us of what our most important truth is.

I have had lots of vicarious ones and only a couple of near-death or out-of-body experiences: being alone on that hillside in winter in Ward was one, the overnight in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania was another, as was being stuck under a waterfall that was part of a river rapid that had moments before ejected me and everyone else from a raft. I've been close to enough deaths and near deaths, too, to know how fragile our connection to life is.

What have I learned that I need to do? Make it safe for people (including me) to tell their stories. Take my perspective and make it clear, then take yet another perspective and make it clear. This seems to be my work, my service. Yesterday I went to our little neighborhood film's premiere party in my cartoon earrings, braids, t-shirt with a kitty playing electric guitar that says "You rock!" under a long wool skirt and ankle boots. I had a great time with everyone and felt like I'm paving some kind of way that other people aren't necessarily willing or able to do.

And in reflection, Ingrid's talk was a good reminder for me of the meaning of keeping what's important to us close to our heart and in our sights. What makes me glad I'm still here and didn't drown in a river when I was seventeen? Every minute with my little family, first of all. Mostly when I think about some chain of events or set of causes and effects lately, I want to express it in fiction. That's my driving impulse. Watching the new George Clooney film Michael Clayton yesterday (written and directed by Tony Gilroy, lately known for writing the Jason Bourne trilogy), about a law firm's "fixer" who gets into a fix within his own firm, reminded me so much of my drug rep story that I've been starting to set down; I want so badly to see my name next to a screenplay credit on a Section Eight film. (I'd settle for that, even if I really just want to direct.) That film was just my kind of intrigue: lots of suspense, tested loyalties, and twists.

And sorry, but Aaron Sorkin is not the only once-in-a-lifetime talent there's room for. I refuse to accept that, which is yet another good motivator for bringing my stories to life, which is something like what this fellow I went to high school is doing.

16 October 2007

Nuts and Berries of the Living Dead

We did it! We made a movie. I edited it yesterday and today -- there's still a hiccup or two in it but it is very fun and funny. I may recut it again. Still have to learn to manage the sound; I didn't quite pull that off in the few days I had to do this project.

But it is rendering as I speak into a format I may be able to upload onto youtube -- nope -- too big! Google? Google has changed my life. (Yet I'm still not sure why their stock is worth hundreds of dollars a share.)

11 October 2007

Just for the joy of it

I'm listening to Gomez' "Devil Will Ride" and it is, in one of those tiny cosmic bursts of synchronicity, amplifying and reinforcing the thought I came down the stairs holding in my head and heart to post, which was this:

Music was my big clue leading to something about life that I needed to know. Music revealed that all the world comprised more than what I knew best, a difficult, scary world full of deceptions and entanglements. Music said, hold on, there's also the joy of it: it really is about bouncing around together and unabashedly wanting everybody and everything all at once. I still believe in my heart of hearts that we can solve world peace with music, one note at a time, something no other medium (not religion, nor politics) can claim. A "singing revolution" took place in Estonia when the people took up a song to represent their nationhood, refusing to yield this nugget of their identity to the political dealings of bigger and badder nations (Turkey, Russia) warring for that tiny yet hugely symbolic isthmus of a country. People who loved to sing their song defused a moment that could have turned tragic and stood up for themselves as Estonians.

There's something about singing a song out loud -- and meaning it -- that pulls us to the proverbial campfire to reflect on our experiences in a way that nothing else does today. Some people think TV is an equivalent form of entertainment and diversion, but take those friends to a live show once a year and remind them of the electricity we can share when we decide to spend an evening in one room together, without all the retakes and flattering angles and commercial breaks.

I am still convinced that people know this better first-hand in other countries. I'm always talking about going other places and hearing adult men sing out loud in public. Here they think that will turn them into sissies or something and they're afraid to sing. But go to Europe and the people just sing, everywhere I go.

So I listen, and play. It's all I can do, all I can really believe in.

04 October 2007

Homeward bound

Even living a mere mile or so from where I grew up, it is still a journey to a place or a state of home. Along with the tree I planted when I was eight that is the only thing that has remained constant: that search for home, for belonging. Once our daughter said that: "I want to go home!" and all of our ears perked up. "Where's home?" and the answer has varied: from "Oh! I'm already home!" to "India."

I ride by regularly on my bike and check the property where we lived long ago: the tiny building is still there yet it is surrounded now by a heap of rubble and nothing else remains the same about the arrangement of buildings and spaces on that plot where we lived in that tiny little house next to the Gatelys' bigger house. That house has now been redone and moved up and over on the lot, closer to the street, the big old spruce out front gone now and the rest of the lot razed in preparation for a cluster of new housing units, much more densely packed in than anything that has ever been on that plot of land before.

I spoke one day with the builder of the new development, High Street Lofts, and was delighted to hear that they were not going to cut down my tree, now sixty feet tall. It is a locust tree, with its tiny leaves and long seed pods, one of which I found on my school playground and opened and sprouted seeds and grew with the earth and sun and water. Now it is getting ready to give shade to a bunch of condo dwellers in a year. The tiny house will be gone soon (it's so tempting to buy it and move it somewhere, but maybe not really what I would want -- too many awful scenes there; I'd rather let it go) . Our presence there will be just a memory, but at least one still marked by the tree's great and steady limbs reaching up for sun.

Even with that marker of where I come from, though, I search for what home means to me. Is it just knowing the date by the color of the air: that the early October leaves are just now goldening from green en masse, a good green this year so the air is permeated with green and yellow leaves, even a spray of red here and there? Is it picking up broken glass and trash and shit from other people's dogs and disposing of them properly? Is it speaking up when you hear bullying going on around you every time, not just sometimes?

Would I feel that way if I lived in Barcelona? I have no idea. I can't even imagine it. Probably, because I do have a tie to Barcelona. Huh. And I'd feel that way about Santa Cruz or San Francisco, Berkeley, even Dortmund. About any of the places I've lived at least once. I care deeply for my world, to the point that I'm convinced if I'd been there when Kitty Genovese had been attacked I would have done something, dammit.

It's even extending to my work, I think. I was describing to my neighbor this world I see developing in my novel, permeated with food safety and body image and corporate-sponsored bioterrorism and the standard conspiracies among the fat cats in all corners, and he looked at me and said, you mean this is some kind of social activism? and I said, sure, of course. why not? when you have the chance to say what you truly believe in? and he seemed really tickled by that. I am finding it fascinating to be building myself a platform from which I can launch these complex thought-sets in the form of stories, the campfire tales to which we've been drawn since the dawn of campfires. What could be more fun than this, I ask you? I can't think of many things.

And of course, I thought about that search for belonging and homeyness (like truthiness?) this past weekend when I saw my family. My grandfather is 90 and he's not going to be able to do this much longer, but he's doing it now, despite the pain in his body that won't let go. He and his girlfriend and his nurse just roll him everywhere and sometimes complain that he's hard to keep up with. His mind is sharp as ever, if slowed by strokes and pain.

But he was so delighted to gather all of his grandchildren at his table and see how everyone got along with everyone else. We were all happy to see each other for the most part. There were layers and layers of past and present but we were all comfortable with one another. My father wondered if I was going to chill him out, I think, and I did to some degree. Tough cookies. But it was worth every bit of angst and discomfort to see my grandfather light up. He's always happy to see us, I think, with the kind of pride an admiral feels in his fleet. And he is still proud of me, no matter what, which is always a kind of gift to me, something unasked for yet always given. Not many people in this family can say that about him either, so that is another bequest especially to me it seems.

I felt like my walls were up a bit over the weekend, but I also felt that that was perfectly appropriate for me. I'm busy right now, and I am unwilling to pull away from this work to engage in a painful dance with some people who I am related to but not very connected with these days. There's something too broken there and I just want to turn from it and say, thanks, but I am over here. I have more to offer doing what I am doing than trying to fix someone else's broken lives. I am here but I don't have a lot more to offer right now and I don't feel like spending the time to find out if things would be different now.

So I'm back in my world, over here, the one I've chosen for myself. Living well and all of that. End of story? That's the thing: I don't think it is. Not by far.