29 September 2008

Mystery genre blues

I was trying for the umpteenth time to describe Gomez and their music to someone. Every other writer who has ever written about them, myself included, describes them as "genre-bending" (we try to inform, really, but we just can't help ourselves!). They have an abiding love of raw, rootsy blues and folk and rock music: Junior Kimbrough, John Lee Hooker, and more recently people like Tom Waits -- but in their music you can also hear a love of electronica and house and Kraftwerk, and a love of The Grateful Dead. Alongside Gomez' rendition of pure psychedelia that turns up now and again, you can totally hear 1970s and 1980s power pop and prog rock in their tunes. The band also owe a debt to the Beatles, the Stones, and I daresay Crowded House, as well as a respect for all the old bluesmen and folk musicians who came out of the South, some of whom were "discovered" by outsiders and then the mainstream when Alan Lomax started his collection of recordings starting in the 1930s.

You can see that this group of five plus a sixth erstwhile member might be a little hard to pin down. This seems to be, commercially speaking, a tough obstacle to overcome. Fun for fans but worse for weekend shoppers, Gomez' style and approach tend to range a lot from album to album and even within a single album, so you never know what to expect, nor where exactly to file the CD in the shop, nor quite how to sketch a brief summary of what they do in a two-paragraph review.

But I seem compelled to keep trying, like a blind woman groping her way around an elephant, trying to get its measure.

27 September 2008

Workin' on a film, Part 2

Home with the family, with my sweetie up on top of the roof and my little sweetie playing with her friends. My husband is demucking the gutters. I'm doing laundry and blogging while I make sure he doesn't fall off the roof. The children have made our cherry tree into "a Webkinz tree" and festooned it with googly-eyed pets; the little round exercise trampoline is now a pet ferris wheel.

And I can't help thinking ahead a bit about how I'm setting out on that quest again to "find myself in the music," as a woman with a lovely, gravelly voice said on the radio on my way home from dance class. Tift Merritt, the singer being interviewed, also talked about how intense she is and how that works quite well in some situations (like performing: on which she said, "I like to feel 'emptied out,'" she explained) but not always as well in others ("real life"). How familiar that sounds! I thought. But I'm still wrestling with this feeling that I have all of this nervous and creative energy and haven't yet figured out how to channel it, nor even how to let it show. I heard Merritt's song start just as I stopped at a yard sale on my street. Its proceeds were going to a hockey team, and ironically I "found myself" in a couple of nice black, filmy dance clothes that moms must have tossed on the heap of donations, the camisole top a "hoochie-koochie mama top," as a friend of mine would say.

Half an hour later, I was taking pieces of my clothing out of the dryer while they were still damp. One was made of rayon and just benefits from that initial relaxing in the warm air; the other was a 10-year-old Indian cotton shirt from Tar-jhay, white with little multicolored flowers, that I took a drawstring out of and still adore, I thought as I smoothed out the little ruffles at the bottom edges of the two-thirds sleeves. I love knowing my fabrics. A dress of my daughter's had stayed in the dryer too long and I had to spray it and massage it to get the right wrinkles and folds and relaxations and make it lie flat and pretty again. And I thought, people might not realize you can do that. Finger-pressing, ironing, drying -- all are tools you can use to get certain clothes looking good.

You know those facings under the row of buttons and buttonholes that fold over when you dry a shirt for too long without buttoning it up? Well, if you finger press them and button them up to the neck before you put them in the dryer, you can sometimes eliminate that. And maybe some folks don't know that. I like knowing my material. I love the process of smoothing out warm clothes and helping to come to rest in their shapes. I like helping us both have a nice shape: me and the clothing.

Did you ever read the book The Dive from Clausen's Pier, by Ann Packer? (She has a new book already out in paperback I'll have to check out.) I loved and found quite familiar her interest in fabric and sewing clothing in that story. I've always taken great hope from her ability to explore the pleasures of fabric's textures and shapes. I still don't know for sure whether I'll find ways to play with that in stories, music, dance, or all of the above. Film is exerting big magnetism for me; I've managed to put myself in the position of a dedicated volunteer for a while now and learned a few things, only recently starting to get little rewards in return besides the intrinsic joys of being exposed to lots of films.

How could I work this love of fabric into a film, I wonder? How could I create literal and figurative threads in this project I'm launching? Is it even a good idea?

Workin' on a film film, workin' on a film

A low-level preoccupation simmers on a back burner of my mind lately: I keep hoping I haven't freaked anyone out with my talk of making a movie. There was a resounding silence when I asked if anyone wants to participate (and the same thing happened when I reached out in another direction), yet I am trying not to make up stories about those things and just rolling along. I was reassured that people played the making-up-Gomez-lyrics game with me. And I know I would be cautious around someone like me, too: film is more permanent, and some people change when a camera is on.

But I a few Ideas I have up my sleeve might make this seem more fun and less intimidating. First, I do not want to be the filmmaker and film all the time, even though I've hinted at wanting to do that. I'm just me and I am really looking forward to the chance to get to know some of these people better. Second, I would really like to hand the camera around and let other people film. I think that would be a hoot. (o jeez I'd better make sure I'm stocked and batteried, and right quick, eh?) Finally, I think of this film as a project about me. I'm not trying to capture every experience and perception of Gomez possible. I don't have room for that much material. I just want to share some of my own joy. Other than that, I really don't have an agenda about making this film.

21 September 2008

An evening with a film editor

Tonight I went up to IFS and listened to the collected tales of Jen Dean, a student here ten years ago. She is now a film editor with some real credits to her name, and an interesting style. She showed ads and some other things she had made. The Cold War Kids video was the most interesting to me visually. The director, when he was giving her his footage, had said, "You know the movie Raging Bull?"

"Sure," Jen said.

"JFK?" "Yeah, my boss [Hank Corwin] edited part of it."

"Days of Heaven?"


"Well, think about those three films and cut this," said the director.

And she did. It was so cool to see elements of those three films in there (and I thought I saw Stand By Me, too), and yet the video told its own story. There was a boxing match, which was the most inexplicable element but the most compellingly theatrical, and I liked the way the crowd chanted the line from the song at the fighters; there was the band's performance; and there were some kids outside tattooing the year onto their forearms: 1949. That latter drama that was unfolding outdoors amongst golden-green grasses and picket fences was so clearly influenced by Days of Heaven and the painter Andrew Wyeth, with its pastoral splendor yet something bleak in the foreground. I liked the contrast between the hilly, hazy outdoor scenes; the lush, coolly tinged footage of the band playing inside a 1940s house; and the boxing match shot in high-contrast black-and-white. Dean even described how she duplicated people in the boxing match scene to create the effect of a much bigger crowd than had really been there for the shoot.

I liked hearing Dean's behind-the-scenes stories and anecdotes. We saw a version of an ad she edited that no one else will probably ever see again because a high-profile actor opted out at the last moment (I'll never tell). Jen worked with on an ad starring Robert de Niro and had a fun little story about calling her former prof to get ideas about old films about New York from a taxi on the way to meet the director of the ad, Martin Scorsese. She's done some interesting projects, enough to find out what she likes (music and fashion, possibly feature-film editing down the road) and doesn't like (high-pressure environments involving lots of stakeholders right there angsting about every step -- and who would like that?). I'm sure she was inspiring to the folks in the room, many of whom were required to be there for their Film Studies classes (in Gender and Film and Women and Film). Ears perked up when she said her twin degrees (Film Studies, Film Production) and her familiarity with experimental and films of the silent era helped her stand out and to be able to "talk the talk" with folks like Marty Scorsese.

"I can't tell you enough how much ad people look at YouTube for inspiration," Dean said. She explained that a lot of ads that execs don't think would play well on national/local TV stations get placed on the internet for test runs, and added that "If you have some spec film or ad, you can really get yourself known" by putting them up on YouTube.

One story Jen Dean told was of meeting Thelma Schoonmaker, who works with Scorsese on many of his films, and feeling quite starstruck at meeting such an accomplished woman film editor. Dean and she told Schoonmaker how much she admired her. The editor wrote her back and they had a nice exchange. It opened her eyes that folks are folks, and that it can mean a lot to hear a little praise from someone who appreciates their work. She also said it's good to be yourself, and to have the courage of your convictions. Well, perhaps not so much your political convictions: her student film was about how Wal-Mart destroyed her small Texas town, Dean said, but then she found herself given a paying assignment to work on an ad for Wal-Mart, and she just sucked it up and did it. (She didn't mention whether she'd had any misgivings about doing ads for the tanklike H2 Hummer, but did wonder whether the Merrill Lynch ads she'd worked on would be shelved, given the current economic climate.)

Dean said it was about standing up for your best work, heeding your own instincts. She told of being asked to make some changes to a Payless Shoe ad and how she drew the line at the fourth request, insisting that the kid in the striped shirt was her favorite image and she would not cut that. Later her colleague reviewed her performance with their client, admiring the way she "handled" them. She told this story not in a self-congratulatory way at all, rather, saying she didn't even remember it as an exceptional event. She just stood up for what she believed made it work, and she was right. That's moxie.

p.s. In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote the blurbs for the IFS schedule this semester. And I have just now learned that I passed along an error when I summarized one of the films. I'll have to track this down on the morrow. Now I need sleep.

20 September 2008

Goin' to that windy city

I'm listening to Poi Dog Pondering's In Seed Comes Fruit, which is my current favorite Poi album (it was Pomegranate for a very long time), and I open my drawer to put away a shirt and find that all three shirts are the same color. It's like a slot machine coming up all three the same. Ka-ching! Here's the thing: Poi play regularly at the theater where I just bought a ticket for Gomez's upcoming show, where they will recreate their first album, so that's creating this extra magnetic pull for me. Then I remember that Chaka, one of the Poi crew, commented on my blog last time I posted something about Poi. I went to look for a way to write her a note and turned up someone with a name spelled almost the same as hers who makes documentary films, which is what I'm hoping to do at this event. It's like everywhere I turn all signs are pointing one way. Here: This Way. So this is my call out to the universe and Chaka -- maybe she or someone knows someone whose apartment needs sitting around October 1-4.... Faith is the substance of what we hope for, the elegance of things we just cannot see. It's true!

18 September 2008

Mama don't take my Ecopass away

Why write? Because of the folks I heard speak for three minutes apiece this afternoon at the RTD proposed rate hike hearing at the library, which was added to the schedule when Regional Transportation District officials realized there was a huge football game that self-same evening. Hard not to think RTD is out of touch with its constituency at moments like that.

The first question posed when the Power Point presentation bullet points had been read for the record in an extremely rapid clip was: How many of you are here about the ecopass program? Every hand in the room but the RTD official's went into the air.

"I thought so," came the official's response.

It was great to spend the next 90 minutes in a room full of concerned citizens like me representing various constituencies or simply themselves and their own interests.

The variety of views presented was impressive, but a couple of notes organized into themes: please don't take away our access to our precious ecopasses. Don't keep new neighborhoods from signing on. Don't raise the fares and costs to businesses and in turn discourage people from riding the bus. Be creative in pursuing solutions to the current problems; we are a resourceful bunch and you want us, your future ridership, on your side. Preserve access to inexpensive transportation for the people who can afford it least. I was proud to get up and speak for my neighbors, who value their Ecopasses as much as I do.

Not many people had made comments before the RTD director said that already there were changes to the current plan on the agenda for the RTD board meeting next Tuesday night, and another community member recommend attending the next public meeting on Sept. 30 at 1930 Blake St. in Denver. The same fellow was the one who pointed out that these rate hikes were being based on projections of gas prices being $4 per gallon, a peak they've already retreated from.

I also reported on the doings on twitter, where I posted also as vanillagrrl. Darn the iPhone's autocorrections ("sex" for "sez"--grr--and again just there when it tried to replace "grr" with her, here, etc.).

Seems like a good reason to write, on any forum.

How to wear pants: with both of the legs on

My mother said and did a funny thing when she came to visit me most recently. She passed on tips from How to Wear Clothes or whatever the the cable show is called. She suggested little things and brushed off some cobwebs. It was all very helpful, but she caught herself after suggesting which direction we point our silverware in the dishwasher (tines down, to avoid handling them when you put them away). She said, "I should stop. I wouldn't like it if you came over and told me how to do everything." We had a laugh and that was the end of it, no hard feelings.

But the bit about the advice about pants kept nitching at my consciousness. My mom was suggesting, as do the women on the cable TV show, that it's better to wear pants that go all the way to the floor, or come down to your knee (or just below, depending on your knees), but not in between, especially if they aren't close-fitting. I kept circling back around it, not knowing why this advice didn't necessarily sit right. I didn't think it was the usual defensiveness caused by getting advice from one's mother, or anyone really. But this morning when I was putting on some favorite, just-above-the-ankle pants, in white twill with thin blue vertical stripes, I realized what had been bugging me.

I used to dress to emphasize certain features and redirect attention away from others. I had the figure Frances McDormand has in Burn After Reading, but I was only 30. Then I lost 10 percent of my body weight and now I feel more comfortable. I keep track of my eating, getting more and more attentive to the what I eat, and I have the middle-class luxury of being able to attend to my health when I need to, when I'm out of whack.

These days, when I choose a pair of pants, I am thinking of the entire ensemble, of how I feel when I wear them. And today I noticed that I'm not dressing to hide anything. So I don't feel the need to wear only two kinds of pants: ones that end at the knee, or full-length ones that fall to a point always covering the tops of my shoes, to lessen the breaking up of the line of my leg. It's more about being able to walk or ride my bike in them. So today I have my loose capris with my little peg ankles going into my black mary janes, but the white of the pants picks up the white of my shirt, which is sprinkled with bright flowers and makes me happy every time I look down and see it. Maybe I look nice, or maybe I look dorky. I don't know. But I feel great.

Now I'm off to the Regional Transportation District hearing downtown. I'll report back soon....

15 September 2008

Women Against Sarah Palin

Since the Women Against Sarah Palin blog is in the midst of a deluge of contributions and I was unsatisfied after signing this online petition, I thought I'd start by posting my own perspective here.

I am here at my kitchen table writing while my daughter is at school not just because my husband is supporting us but also because of the women before me, women like Helen Keller and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Shirley Chisholm and Susan B. Anthony and Hillary Clinton and my grandmother and my mother too. Women who had to fight longer and harder and against greater odds than most men ever do for what they believed in. Women who had to prove themselves on top of doing the work.

That's why I'm not so thrilled to look up and see that the GOP has anointed Palin the new queen of the right. With all the privileges and perquisites of good fortune but little to no interest nor awareness of history (defining herself as a "hockey mom" and saying "I never wanted to be in public service" are telling confessions), she doesn't seem like a head of state, nor a compassionate leader heralding the arrival of women in the upper tiers of this country's government.

I don't believe that someone who wants to teach creationism in the public schools or who wants to deny women their right to reproductive choice has a proper appreciation of the separation of church and state. Someone who wants to ban books from her school library, and who would educate kids on abstinence only but not offer them contraception is shockingly oblivious to the way the world works today (has she talked with her own daughter lately?). And her less-than-cavalier attitudes toward her city's intellectual and artistic offerings as mayor of Wasilla, as well as her take-no-prisoners management style, don't bode well either.

I beg to differ with Palin that polar bears are not endangered (she must not have watched Arctic Tale). I find it hard to take her seriously when I know she shoots animals from cars and planes for sport. That's just so wrong on so many levels. And then she has the gall to fall for the global-warning denialists' arguments that humans aren't a factor in global warning. Tina Fey's line about that in her SNL parody was great: "It's just God giving us a big squeeze."

So my response to her is just what Miss Manners recommends when you must decline something offered to you that you absolutely do not want: "No, I couldn't possibly." This is what I say to Sarah Palin -- and to John McCain for choosing a second-in-command with this particular constellation of unsustainable values, morals, and ethics, with this lack of compassion for our planet and all its inhabitants, now and into the future.

I couldn't possibly accept a leadership that disdains our planet's future and would continue to consolidate power in the hands of those with the deepest pockets, leaving everyone else to fend for the scraps, like the rape victims in Wasilla who were asked to pay for their own examination kits when Palin was mayor. I could not possibly accept this. I urge you to stand up for your beliefs by voting, by arguing with the denialists, and by carefully considering our future here on earth. Otherwise I fear we'll end up just like those immobilized, saturated Wall-E colonists, cut off from what we love most and unable to do anything about it. Speak now, speak loud. And thank a woman who broke ground for you.

Nice rack, all velvety and new

A snippet from my morning:

The doorbell rang around 11 and it was two utility contractors who are somehow involved in a big line-replacement project around the neighborhood. They just wanted to tell me there was a big deer in my yard. The pair were amazed at the sight of this six-point buck just roaming around the neighborhood, a mule deer intent on getting some calories before the frost comes. "Oh, yeah, we saw a family of six this morning in our yard. I got my daughter up so she could see them."

I ran around the side of the house toward the buck, clapping my hands and yelling skit, skat! or some other nonsense. He bolted away from the garden and into the middle of my yard, so I followed, a-clappin' and a hollerin' until I'd herded him off my spot. I really did not want him to get to the grapes on the back fence before I have a chance to get out and pick them. (I have found great pleasure in my annual concord grape jelly-making ritual; it's become one of my favorite Signs of Fall.)

The three of us stood and admired the buck, who had paused across the street to survey his situation before he loped over to someone else's yard to browse.

"Weren't you afraid of him? That big animal?" the woman asked me, incredulous.

I looked at her. Should I be? I thought, for the first time ever. "No! Not at all." I said, smiling. "They are nervous around us -- we're so unpredictable to them. So you make some noise and they run away."

She shook her head and laughed, looking at me, then where the deer had disappeared. Her fellow worker shook his head to and fro, looking away from us and down toward his feet.

Now I hear this inner voice asking, Should I be afraid of that massive animal? I still don't think so, but there's this brand-new seed of doubt in my gut where there wasn't one before.

13 September 2008

Free to run

I just thought of trying to write a Gomez song, everyone on the message board who wants to play coming up with verses. We could each write a verse and then pass it to the next person. Fun.

I have to sleep on this -- I can't just come up with one off the cuff.

08 September 2008

This could be the last time

We spent the weekend camping, only about an hour away but we definitely felt like we got a break from the usual routines. It's good to take those breaks, to go and hang out for a while. To settle in and talk and play and eat and plan and joke around together. I have a friend in a group who has had a tradition of going camping together with others in her group yearly, and my friend is bitterly disappointed that so many of her peers no longer want to camp. I understand her feelings -- I would be sad if I didn't go at least a couple of times a year. (My in-laws really had that one figured out -- they took their kids camping and roadtripping all the time. My father, too, knew of the natural wonders that awaited us in our own backyard; my mother was unfamiliar with the entire notion of family camping as I grew up knowing it.)

Fourth of July Campground kept coming up in conversations over this past weekend, because one of our camping party had just been there a week earlier. The talk about that lovely spot brought back memories of a picnic with my grandmother when I was around 10.

My grandmother had driven to our house from her home in Littleton, a rare event in itself, as we usually trekked to her for Sunday visits and dinners and celebrations. At our house, we loaded up the car with food and drinks and blankets and piled into her massive, white Cadillac Coupe de Ville convertible, the roof down. We laughed and kidded and slid around the curves on the red leatherette bench seats as we went up Boulder Canyon, passed Nederland, and then turned off the Peak-to-Peak Highway.

It was a time when I was realizing there was a lot I liked about being outside. I was warming to Colorado (having grown up in both Colorado and California) and found it a thrill to be up in the mountains with my grandmother, Oma, and my family and aunt and uncles, even if she moved slowly and couldn't walk very far (I remember swollen ankles being a perpetual problem for her). We spread out our picnic blanket in a flat, grassy clearing, and everyone scurried around, helping Oma get comfortable. I remember the greens of the wild grasses, the rosebushes, the quaking aspen leaves, and the scent of the fire my father and brother built from the fallen pine branches and logs we'd gathered.

I don't remember anything substantive about that day: no revelatory conversations, nor secret habits revealed on a hike. I just remember a joyful sense of being in the sun, being in the right place with the right people at the right time.

Just a couple of years later, Oma died in a car accident in Ireland, when my aunt was driving. That might have been the last time, then, that Oma had enjoyed an excursion in the mountains. I missed her this weekend, all over again.

04 September 2008

Coming to a four-way stop

Traffic is one of those things that I ponder endlessly in my sojourns around my hometown and beyond. Often, I admit my question takes the form of an exasperated, “Who taught this joker how to drive?”

Behind this is simply my wish that everyone had been taught to drive by an anxious (but not too anxious!) parent or friend, and taught to honor and respect not only the rules of the road but also the laws of physics. I always hope that someone has tried to make the point that your sphere of influence shifts when you get behind that wheel. Because their frontal lobes are not yet fully developed, sixteen-year-olds may not be able to fully wrap their minds around the implications of this. But one would hope that each new driver has at least once been reminded that they are maneuvering a one-ton hunk of metal by turning that key and pressing down those pedals.

I find I am in a unique position to observe and record findings on traffic behavior in my community because I use various modes of transportation extensively. I drive (more than I should, but try to minimize trips and distances). I bike, usually distances of up to four miles from home. I walk, and I take the bus for trips downtown, to meet friends, and to take my child to school. My experiences as a pedestrian, a rider, a cyclist, and a driver keep me compassionate toward everyone involved in the transportation equation. Except when I'm hollering at some driver who refuses to stop at a flashing-lights crosswalk.

Lately, though, I feel I've seen more than my share of scofflaws. What peeves me most is anyone who acts as if they are entitled to a free pass for any behavior. There's the pedestrian trying to avoid a half-block walk to the crosswalk or stoplight who darts across the four-lane road. There's the woman in her XL-sized SUV who barely stops at the four-way stop (because she has too much momentum? because the stop sign comes sooner than she expects and the conversation with her friend on her cell is so much more interesting?). There's the bicyclist I saw zip through a four-way stop without even checking whether anyone was coming from any direction (and plenty of people had been, all of them politely taking their turns at the intersection). Yesterday I watched a cyclist sans helmet or clue refuse to come to a full stop at a light and ride in circles in the middle of the intersection while everyone else was trying to get through on their green light.

I was approaching a four-way stop on my bike the other day and a man yelled at me, “That's a stop sign!” before I'd even had a chance to stop, which I had indeed been planning on doing. Apparently, he'd presumed that as a Boulder bicyclist I was not going to stop at the intersection.

This is only going to work if we all follow the rules, I realized. We will have to give others the benefit of the doubt and presume they will follow the rules, too. Right now, half the population seem like seven-year-olds in a snit: “He's not going to follow the rules, so I won't, either!”

What concerns me is how many people don't know the rules, or need to be reminded of the rules. I see evidence of this every day, including our city bus driver who just last week did not stop for a pedestrian waiting to cross at a crosswalk. I asked him, as innocently as I could muster, “Are all bus drivers supposed to stop there, at those crosswalks?” He spent the next few minutes sputtering a response, but it made him think about it!

Always yield the right of way. The person on your right has the right of way. If there's any question about who should go first, follow the first rule of the road, which is yielding the right of way. Remember, right does not mean privilege; it means the opposite of left.

There seems to be a presumption that once we have driver's licenses, we will never forget any of what we had to learn to earn them. This is an awfully optimistic projection, in my eyes. I think it's several years before I have to get my license renewed, and I don't think I will need to pass any test other than to read an eye chart (with and without glasses). So if I'm harboring my own misconceptions about traffic laws, getting my license renewed isn't likely to motivate me to correct them.

When I was studying to take the driving and written tests before I got my driver's license, the teaching phrase of the day was: “The right of way is always yielded, never taken.” I got the part about letting the person on your right go first, but the “never taken” part has always stopped me in my tracks. After years of pondering this, I have concluded that it's among the most confusing pieces of advice I've ever heard. It means you should never presume that you have the right of way in any given situation. But I haven't found that cliche to be all that helpful when I've rolled up to a four-way stop at the exact moment as someone else.

This is why I am writing about traffic. I'd like to clear up myths and misperceptions. I look forward to researching, observing, and discussing not only traffic laws but also the rules of the road, the laws of physics, the transportation planning issues, and the morals and ethics that determine the traffic patterns that endlessly fascinate and madden us as we move ourselves from one location to another every day.

03 September 2008

Seeing something different

Let's try this again. I am blogging from the bus, on my way to the Denver Art Museum. I tried a few minutes ago but running the iPod seemed to make it ultra-slow. Nothing really post-worthy yet but I'll let you know if I see anything great.


There was one painting that stayed stuck in my mind after I had left the museum. It is in the Western art section near the bridge between the Gio Ponti tower and the soaring new Daniel Liebeskind building. The painting was made by a Nebraska artist named Keith Jacobshagen, in 2005-06, that shows a sliver of flat farmland from an oddly distant vantage point occupying a thin rectangle along the lower edge of the large canvas, the remainder filled with a vast, soaring sky with wispy clouds and dissipated jet contrails. It is called, "By June, The Light Begins to Breathe."

As always, I love seeing the impressionist pictures and landscapes. They are a kind of medicine, that reminder of the possibility of representing something very specific about the way you see the world.

The information nugget I gathered today was during the 2 p.m. tour, when a docent said that Monet only painted with about half a dozen colors, and never black: "There is no black in nature," he was said to insist. Monet also didn't blend his few hues (which included just a few colors: cadmium yellow, white, and madder rose, cobalt and another blue) on his palette but mixed them on the canvas with his brushstrokes.

It's as if I need continual reassurance that it's both okay to see differently but also to represent individual versions of reality. It feels, in the same way listening to Gomez does, like permission, a key to a door.

02 September 2008

Ah, September!

Yesterday, we went for a hike nearby. We had lunch at home and then piled in the car and drove for just a few minutes. We walked up to the trailhead. We saw the old familiar warnings about mountain lions, and the bike and Burley trailer of a guy we'd passed who was towing his child up the road. Someday we'll do that -- ride up there and then hike.

Or run. Our child was instantaneously inspired by the fit and lovely women we saw running on the path. They were chatting away as they bounded by, and immediately my daughter wanted to imitate what she had seen. "Let's run!" and she bounded along the rocky path, too, suddenly sure of foot and stride. (Not surprising: she's been on this one path more times than on any other single trail. It's the perfect child's hike.) I followed her healthy pace, and am only a teensy bit sore today. It felt wonderful, really, to use my body to reach for the path as we ran together. My core was awakened by my knee rehab, I swear. I have muscles and control I never knew of. Activities like dance and trail running show me all these things I never knew I had. And to see my daughter's body and eyes and mind awaken to herself and everything around her at times like this was pure joy, what life is for. But I couldn't help it, with all those cougar warnings: I carried a rock much of the time we ran.

This summer gave me the gift of gratitude. Every day I am grateful for my family, my friends, my home, my health. All of these things are fragile and precious and all are crucial to my well being. I am just starting to see how I am integral to theirs, too, which launches me into a new bout of glad feeling.

Today, the first day of September after Labor Day, the typical start of the school year, always feels like the time of clean slates and fresh starts. You've invested in some back-to-school clothes and perhaps a fresh new backpack. You get a new teacher (or seven) and new friends along the way. You get to pick how you present yourself all over again because this crop doesn't know you as well and you're not pigeonholed by the inevitable bloopers in your past.

And the weather has even been shifting its gears, so that fresh fall feeling (an allusion for any eels fans out there with me) is even stronger. The nights have just started their cooling trend and the one day last week we looked up and said, "the light changed!" (Turned out that was the smoke from a forest fire in Steamboat Springs -- it was still summer.) I have a commitment to watch a lot of films and then I get to finish a book, which I'm getting excited about. (Which one will call to me first?) This is like the revelation that as an employee I am valuable and have a lot to contribute: I'm finally starting to see that there is something unique to me that I am depriving others of by not offering them. This is my marathon run and my gift, and if I don't offer mine, others don't see that they too are allowed to give their gifts. It's an interesting job, but someone's gotta do it.