Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Great Artist Migration of 2000

The prompt for Sunday Scribblings this week is to tell the story of how you came to live where you live.

Jim and I left California during the Great Artist Migration of 2000. Our U-Haul labored over the mountain passes as a dusting of snow fell and our dogs whined. We held our breath, hoping the truck would make it over the mountains. We fought exhaustion. We carried our paintings, our futons, our art school debt, leaving behind families and jobs to begin a new life. We fled a scourge of 22-year-old millionaires with laptop computers and big brains who’d overrun our neighborhoods and apartments. The city that awaited us would welcome our kind. We hoped...

I don’t know how many creative folks fled San Francisco prices at the height of the dot-com boom, but it felt like an exodus at the time. Neighborhoods like the Mission district were being taken over by insta-rich techies, and art studios were closing their doors every day, unable to pay the rent their landlords eagerly doubled. I didn’t get this “start-up” phenomenon. Order your groceries on-line and get free delivery? How was there profit in that? I thought there must be some secret. It turned out the secret was: there WAS no profit! Oodles of those big-brained 22-year-olds found themselves jobless, evicted from the same apartments we artists had been evicted from to make way for them. But we were already gone by then, and our tire tracks had melted with the snow.

We’d headed for Oregon with the idea we’d fall in love with one or the other of the university towns, Eugene or Corvallis, but we hadn’t, so we kept driving. As we rounded a bend in the highway and had our first glimpse of Portland we both gasped, and as soon as we found a motel we called a realtor. We bought the second house she showed us the next day.

When it comes to cities, there IS such a thing as love at first sight! Portland is a snug small city nestled between river and hills with a vast wilderness park rolling to the north and the white silhouettes of two great mountains standing sentinel. The neighborhoods were built in the 20s and every house is charming, even the dilapidated ones. The politics are liberal. Roses and rhododendrons grow like weeds. There’s great coffee and great beer, and a bookstore that takes up a whole city block. There were swing lessons at the art museum for Valentine’s Day, and shops selling clothes made by local designers, and food from every corner of the world. There were pubs in old grade schools and movie theaters with pizza and sofas, there were bike trails and hiking trails and bridges. There was a market where hundreds of artists made an honest living sitting in the sun, wind, or rain, selling their jewels and their knitting, their glass and mosaics, their bath salts and paintings and mobiles and T-shirts. And best of all, there were cottages to be had for a song, tucked among lilacs and stands of firs, where artists could afford to put down some roots and own a little piece of world.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Candy Shop of Hate

I've finally finished this painting which has been languishing in my studio for a couple of years, waiting to be finished. I've been painting a lot this week, working on some new pieces for my "Faeries" series, and when I'd have a nice color mixed up I'd apply it the Green Thumb faerie too. Dab dab dab. Voila. I'm especially fond of the unkind-looking cat lurking in the flowers.

On another note, in my last post I admitted to sometimes secretly rooting for the planet to get even with humanity for vandalizing it so relentlessly. It’s an awful and senseless thing to wish. From a certain soulless perspective, I can’t help but see disasters and epidemics as tools of natural balance, and humans as a species of animals that is out-of-control overpopulated and needs to be checked. But then my humanity exerts itself and I think, the same thing that has allowed us to overpopulate, that allows us to supercede the basic laws of ecology, should enable us to... become better. We’re smart. We figured out agriculture, and how to survive winters in places like Siberia and Canada, and how to outsmart every obstacle the natural balance puts in our paths so we can have more and more babies... We should be able to also figure out how much we suck and GET BETTER.

Anyway, the day after admitting my traitorous allegiance with the planet, I read just what I needed to read: an interview with Jane Goodall in the new Sierra Club magazine. If anyone has a reason to root for the planet against us it’s her, and yet she has an extremely compassionate response to the very population issues that are threatening her beloved chimpanzees:

“There are many animal welfare groups that sometimes seem to forget that human beings are animals too and we need to include them in our sphere of compassion. There are people, particularly in the conservation community, who seem to have very little regard for the social injustices and miseries around the world. If you know enough about poverty and its hopelessness, you totally understand why people are cutting down trees and setting snares. If you know families ravaged by HIV/AIDS, or if you’ve been to refugee camps and seen the children, you have a new perspective. And then it’s irritating to find conservationists not wanting to bring people into the picture.”

Education is really the only hope. She points out that it has been proven, time and again, that once women receive basic education, family size starts to decrease. It’s all so basic, and yet so immense, such a scary-huge amount of education to provide! And I’m not talking about abstinence-only education, ye gods! But I’m not going to get into that. I just wanted to say how that magazine arrived in my mailbox just when I needed it, and Mother Jones came the very same day and damn, that is a good magazine. My love/hate relationship with my species continues, but it’s good to remember to hate the right people! (Tom DeLay anyone? Ooh, Rick Santorum, I LOVE to hate him! There are just so many, it’s like a candy shop of hate -- isn’t that a sweet thought? Probably not what Jane Goodall was hoping to impart!)

Yes, I KNOW hate is not the answer, but understanding, compassion, and hard work... to provide education, to provide stability that will decrease family size globally. But oy, the scale of such an effort makes my head hurt. WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PEOPLE????

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Spilling the Beans

I've been tagged by Meg to spill some secrets. Here they are!

1. I once had a spicy dream about a guy I thought was married and woke up feeling guilty about it. I found out the next day he was NOT married and we started dating and now he IS married -- to ME.

2. In theory I'm 5' 4", but in practice, I'm between 5' 7" and 5' 9", because I wear very tall shoes. I feel blunt without them.

3. I love Pride & Prejudice, and I also love the juicy literary 'sequals' like Mr Darcy Takes a Wife that imagine the Darcy's behind closed doors, if you know what I mean.

4. I'm not that into music. It just slides through my head unnoticed, and when I'm alone I choose silence. When I tell people this they look at me like I've just kicked their dog.

5. I was going to move in with a boyfriend once, and he waited until the U-haul was packed up to tell me he didn't think it was a good idea.

6. I went to Europe alone for 6 months when I was seventeen. I acted brave but I was scared and lonely a lot of the time, and I didn't really know how to feed myself so I subsisted mostly on cookies.

7. Once when I was about seven, something got me to wondering what I looked like with my eyes closed, so I went and stood in front of a mirror... and closed my eyes. I was immediatley embarrassed to have not understood the fundamental problem with this in advance, and blushed fiercely and never told anyone, until now.

8. In seventh grade I stole the teacher's edition from my math class and copied out the whole year's worth of homework overnight. This did not prepare me well for algebra the following year.

9. I'm so fatalistic about the future of the planet that I imagine our own children and grandchildren will have serious health complications and shortened life spans because of environmental degradation. Sometimes I find myself rooting for the planet to get even with humans, and then I remember I am human too.

10. I made an effort to believe in God when I was younger but had no success. I don't really have a belief "system," but I expect that more and more things will be explained by science as the years go by.

Tag yourself if you want to share your beans too!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Sunday Scribblings #4

[story removed by author]

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bubble Mentality

I live in a bubble (Portland, Oregon), to which I moved from another bubble (Berkeley, California), and the thing is, I am almost never in the company of Republicans. It is so easy to fall into an us/them mentality, as I realized after my last post. I should clarify that when I said how I'd like to watch Republicans stew in their own foul juices, I was thinking of Republican law-makers, those responsible directly for the truly, hideously awful state of just about everything in our country right now. I can't tone down that thought. The amount of hatred I feel is a powerful and ugly thing that I fear is beginning to give way to hopelessness and apathy -- and given a choice between hating George Bush and shrugging and giving up on the country, I have to choose hating George Bush. That doesn't mean I hate all Americans who identify themselves as Republicans, though I also can't honestly say, as some commenters had the grace to say, that I respect all opinions. I would be lying if I said that. I can't wrap my mind around why anyone would continue to support this administration of criminals. I don't want to go on at length about it, in fact, even though these beliefs are a huge part of me, I have been so uneasy since reading some of the comments to my last post, I have realized this just isn't the forum for those thoughts. I'll save my political rants for the people in my bubble. I don't want to offend any of the very wonderful people whose blogs I love and who may be Republicans. I am ALWAYS open and curious and eager to hear people's reasons, if they're willing to engage in the discussion, and I'm not a bully. My tone was glib in my last post. I can only blame that on bubble mentality, and getting so comfortable living in a liberal mecca that I forget not everyone feels the same way. And while I can't fathom why anyone would support this president, I can still LIKE them without talking politics, a kind of don't ask-don't tell policy. I truly hope I'm not continuing to offend anyone. I am still very uneasy about the whole thing and am fairly certain I won't get into politics again -- except for the occasional dance of glee as the indictments and resignations continue to roll in. That I can't help.

In closing, I have a dark secret to share: I was once a Republican too. That is, I knew nothing about anything, I was just an indoctrinated military brat with a very loose grasp of the facts, but I did register Republican voters in 1988. Interestingly, the Republican organization in Orange County paid very handsomely (easily double what a teenager could make at a regular job) while the Democratic registrars were all volunteers. Hmmm...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Farewell to "Rolaids' McClellan

I know it's not "grateful friday" but here's something to be grateful for:

Scott McClellan is gone!! Personally, I like to refer to him as "Rolaids" McClellan -- I can't think of a more miserable, nauseous-looking man, this little mouthpiece of evil. I know there's no reason to celebrate his resignation because someone worse is bound to spring up in his place, maybe even someone more articulate, who sweats a bit less, looks less constipated, has a bit thicker a veneer of sincerity, and then maybe more people will be fooled... but... does anyone watch White House press conferences anyway? Sigh. I'd like the think he's out there right now munching on Rolaids and filling out a MacDonald's application, but I know it ain't so. Puffy little weasel will find some plum job!

On a more cheerful topic, Alexandra and I went to hear Anne Lamott speak last night!!! She's such a warm and funny soul and one of the few people in the world for whom I would go to a church to hear thoughts on faith. Couldn't all Christians be like her? Please? She's a deeply loving person, and she talked a bit about how hard she's trying to practice Christian love towards our current administration... because apparently the doctrine is that Jesus loves us all equally. Really? Does Jesus REALLY love Dick Cheney? I could never be a Christian because I know I could NEVER accept that, never never never! She admits to having big problems, too, accepting that "God has such bad taste," and says she's achieved about 4% love so far. That's something! But... I don't mean this as a joke... I know Jesus is all about love, but what incentive is there to be a good person if Jesus loves Dick Cheney too? It makes no sense to me! But I do think it's a worthy pursuit to work hard at love and empathy and kindness, rather than being infected with hatred by having to live in a world controlled by evil men. And it IS work. It made me think of Liz's post a while back about adding Bush to one's spiritual altar. I can't really wrap my mind around it! (I have a secret wish that the world could split like cell mitosis and create two identical worlds, and the Republicans could all be in one doing their polluting/money-grubbing/war-mongering thing, and the rest of us could watch in a magic mirror as they stew in their foul juice!!)

Anne Lamott actually didn't talk much about politics. She read an essay from her book about a ski trip she took some Easter past with a terminally ill friend, and she spoke of her 16-year-old son and how he grew up on bookstore floors (and I remember! I worked in her local bookstore during college, and remember her there, and Sam on the floor with his toys while she taught or spoke), and she talked a little about her planned July 14th revolution that is all about libraries and kindness, and she led us to sing "My Country Tis of Thee" (it sounded beautiful, as if we were a choir), and when a baby cried in the audience and the mother tried to creep out guiltily with him, Anne said, "Please stay. Your baby is welcome here," and the mother did stay, and the baby didn't cry again. It was marvelous.

Afterwards Alexandra and I went out for veggie burgers and talked about our current writing projects at a neighborhood pub, just the kind of thing I was so looking forward to doing when she moved here last year. We hadn't lived in the same city since 1994 when we both lived in North Berkeley and used to go for long walks at Tilden Park and eat whole pints of Ben & Jerry's (each). She's since lived in Seattle, Israel, Bulgaria, and Los Angeles, and now she's here in Portland, often to be found camped out in some remote corner of Powell's Books with piles and piles of books around her, like a fort. I'm so pleased to finally have my best friend living just minutes away, and I'm also so pleased she started blogging, because she had been so SECRETIVE with her writing for so long, and now I get to read it every week, and I love it!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

New Friends

"Yes'm, old friends is always best, 'less you can catch a new one that's fit to make an old one out of." - Sarah Orne Jewett

I think I've caught some new friends fit to make old friends out of. Thank you, blogland! Liz and Kelly came over for dinner on Saturday night with their husbands Jon and John, and with Liz it was once again, like the first time I met Kelly, not at all like meeting someone for the first time! I already knew she was a kindred spirit and it was just so easy and pleasant. I wish they lived in town rather than a few hours away, and I wish Kelly and John weren't moving away! Jim and I enjoyed ourselves so much drinking wine with them and talking and laughing. Alexandra came over a bit later, and it was a delighful Easter Eve. I look forward to seeing you all again soon! (Alexandra certainly tonight and perhaps Kelly too at the Anne Lamott event!)
Easter was also lovely, and piggy wasn't missed at all. The carrot soup turned into a carrot/yam/apple/butternut squash soup, as somehow every orange vegetable in the house leapt into the pot, and it was SO good I will try to put up the recipe, which I had better write down before I forget it. My mom also made an aperatif for between courses, a palate cleanser, if you will, of raspberries and gelatin and prosecco (dry Italian champagne) that was like a frizzante jello cocktail. So fun! My niece Izzy had asked that she please not be the only one to hunt eggs this year while we all stand around and watch her (she's growing up!) so we did a treasure hunt instead, with everyone having to track down their little present by deciphering clues in my parents' big house. We played a game, argued a little politics, ate dessert, and that was that.

Now this is completely off the subject but I feel compelled to repeat it because it is SO absurd. If you can't take another Tom Cruise freak story, this is not for you. Apparently, Tom stormed out of another interview, this time with a Swedish newspaper, but not until after the reporter asserted that Scientology cannot, in fact, cure dyslexia like Tom claims. This is what's so funny to me: Tom Cruise replied, "I'm going to admit you have the courage of a madman. This is something no journalist has dared say to me face-to-face." And then he drew his samurai sword and murdered the reporter. Okay, so he didn't, but if he wasn't going to, WTF? "Courage of a madman?" Huh? Who exactly does Tom Cruise think he is? Well, I've actually read that according to his Scientology "operating thetan" level, he can control animals with his mind, so maybe when the reporter went home that night his cats ate him in his sleep. Anyway, insanity can be SO diverting, especially when it involves famous short men. Just one last Tom Cruise freaktoid: when refuting the rumors that he and poor Katie are splitting up, he said something like, "I'm not going to let her get away." If somebody else had said it it might sound sweet, but coming from Tom Cruise, it just conjures images of leg shackles in the Scientology dungeon! Ick!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sunday Scribblings #3

When I was wee... I was a Navy brat, and lived in eight houses in three countries and one island over eighteen years.

I learned to swim before I could walk, had my own grass skirt, and loved to eat sand. We lived at the edge of sugar cane fields and sometimes fat cane spiders got into the house. My older brother and I were wild naked natives and the other Navy wives clucked their tongues at my mother who told them to, “shut up, you old biddies.” I was attacked by a flamingo, but I have no lingering phobia of flamingos.

Treehouse. My dad’s stories of hanging upside-down beneath Monterey pier collecting alloy samples for his Master’s thesis, when a sea lion suddenly surfaced for a nose-to-nose introduction. Jaws had just come out in theaters and for a heart-stopping second, Papa was sure he was dead. My much-anticipated baby sister was born and turned out not to be nearly as much fun as I had hoped. She grew up soooo slowwwwlllly and didn’t know how to play any games and cried when I sang to her.

Paradise: a cul-de-sac with kids in every house and a lake full of snapping turtles across the street. I had best friends on either side, three houses in a row. We were all gymnasts and the sprawling yards knew many back-handsprings over those few years. So many snow forts, so many humid summer evenings of hide and seek.

Ah, Italy, golden Italy. Being a powerful creature, roaming and leaping off cliffs, learning Italian, learning to flirt, being unassailably innocent and filled with wild daydreams.

For a long time all I took note of was that Belgium wasn’t Italy, and I mourned. It was cold, and the people were cold. I remember Belgium for my brother’s early-teen troubles that paved the way for greater late-teen troubles, and I also remember it as the place my power dissolved. I think this happens to so many girls of this age: fourteen? We cross into some new country inside ourselves where we’re no longer Queen, but just another awkward citizen with a succession of bad haircuts. For me, this quite literally involved crossing into a new country, so that’s what Belgium is in my memory, despite the good things: the place that ended that golden, roaming, powerful time of childhood.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Cardamom: Game ON

(above is a corner of my mom's garden)

My 10-year-old niece Izzy and my 13-year-old cousin Alyssa are both visiting from different parts of California this week for spring break, so I'm getting a dose of kid-life for a few days. We've been to the zoo (where we saw tree kangaroos trying to kill each other and a gigantic bat licking his penis); we've spent hours at Powell's books; we've eaten pancakes, pizza, and icecream; we've watched Howl's Moving Castle and American Idol. We've also done crafts. Here are the girls decorating their new journal covers with collage:

While various collage elements were drying, we started blogs for the girls. I thought Alyssa, who is a budding writer, might be induced to participate in Sunday Scribblings (she might), but for Izzy, the idea of a blog quickly became a way of searching for other profile pages that listed Dylan Sprouse as an interest. I have never heard of this 13-year-old mini-man, this teeny-tiny heartthrob, and it made me feel very old and - to borrow a new word from Blue Poppy -- "yeeky". But lo and behold, there ARE other bloggers who worship this tiny male person! One even posted stalker-esque photos of him trying on clothes in a store! However, unsurprisingly, none of these blogs had been updated for a year or so, which led me to speculate that other aunts had entertained their nieces by helping them start blogs. Izzy's blog title, incidentally, is "Master Peanut Speaks" and thus far contains (besides the Dylan Sprouse-dominated profile page) a photo of a monkey and the words "Hi. I'm new." I have more hope for Alyssa's blog, which is titled from a line in one of her own poems: "Fading Street," which I find wonderfully evocative, and (hint hint, Alyssa) I hope to see more writing living there in the future!

Meanwhile, preparations for vegetarianish Easter continue, though I must confess I used organic free-range chicken broth in the carrot soup. I really enjoyed reading everyone's comments to my last post -- seems like I'm in good company. A lot of veggies and semi-veggies out there, and a lot of good tips & ideas, as well as a really tricky one sent by M, that really makes a profound statement about the changing world and our food supplies.

So I have a few cooking challenges for myself: 1) Figure out tofu. I've never really cooked much with it, and I'm going to learn. And 2) Cardamom! This is rather silly, but after spending $13 on 2 ounces of cardamom yesterday just for one weentsy little lowfat carrot cake, I am determined that this pricey spice not sit in the back of the cupboard and languish until Christmas cookie baking time. So, what can I make with cardamom? We shall see. Oh yes, we shall see. Cardamom: game ON!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Piggy's off the menu

Jim and I have been meandering towards vegetarianism for some time now. Not with any great intention and will, not with any pamphlets in hand, or soapbox. We've just been tapering off. We used to buy those individually fresh-frozen chicken breasts all the time in the big bags, but gradually the gargantuan size of them, the sheer hormone-induced monstrosity, began to gross me out. As I chewed, disgusting thoughts would come to mind (pardon me, but thoughts of pus, and of beaks lying shorn off in a heap), and I'd leave the hunk of flesh uneaten. We scarcely buy chicken anymore, and then only organic, but now there are reports coming out about what a sham organic labeling is, and I hesitate to buy that anymore.

I'm not opposed to the idea of animals eating other animals. I think it's among the most natural things in the world, up there with sex, childbirth, and buying books. But there's nothing natural about factory farming. They are places of great filth and unfathomable suffering, things I do not want my mouth and body to be complicit in. Last Sunday Jim and I went with Kelly to an art rummage sale at the Doug Fir, a hip music club in town, and Jim bought a zine called Invincible Summer by a local artist/writer named Nicole J Georges. It's a charming, funny read, filled with her wonderful drawings and self-portraits, and I was extremely moved by her account of the month she spent volunteering at Farm Sanctuary, a place in Orland, California that rescues animals from factory farms and nurtures them like valuable living creatures, rather than McNuggets-in-progress. Wow. I won't go into details, but suffice it to say, piggy is off the Easter menu. It's not like I didn't know this stuff before, but something about the way she wrote and drew about her experience, was enough for me to finally say, Okay. That's it. Pass the vegan meatballs please.

(Jim and I have already been practically living on Trader Joe's vegetarian meatballs for the past year.)

I didn't even have to try to convince my mom. At the flutter of a mention of not having pork, she seized on it like she already wanted to have vegetarian Easter. So, we're planning a 7-layer Italian vegetable torte, carrot-ginger soup, and other pig-free goodies. I'm not making a vegetarian resolve like I did when I was sixteen, I might still eat meat under the right circumstances, but we're stepping up the pace of our lazy meander towards meatlessness. I think we'll get there eventually.

Happy Easter!

PS - the new Sunday Scribbling will be posted tomorrow!

Monday, April 10, 2006

I was wild once, too

Last night I painted in the studio and watched PBS. There were two shows in a row I'd been looking forward to, a special on venom and its use in medical research, and a Masterpiece Theater adaptation of a book I loved as a child, My Family & Other Animals, by the British naturalist Gerald Durrell. I devoured his books when I was twelve, during my brief phase of wanting to be a veterinarian -- the only thing I've ever wanted to be besides a writer and even then, I would be a writing veterinarian, a zoo vet, a collector of rare creatures from deep jungles, an explorer like Durrell. The movie was charming. It's the story of his eccentric family during the time they spent on the isle of Corfu just before World War II. Gerald was just a boy but already a single-minded naturalist. In Greece he became a wild thing, a nut-brown savage-scientist-child, roaming the hills with his dog and turning over rocks to see what lived beneath. Some efforts were made to force tutors upon him, but mostly, his life was his own. I think this is what appealed to me about the book when I was twelve. Because I was wild then, too.

Not in the same way. I went to school. I was even a cheerleader. But I was golden, and powerful, and roaming, and free. We had lived in Gaeta, Italy (pic above) since I was nine, and it's a kind of childhood I would like to be able to give my own children when I have them, only part of me doubts such childhoods exist anymore. There was so little to worry about, then. This was the early '80s in a small town in southern Italy. There were no drugs, no violent crime. We prowled, climbed, swam, snuck moped rides, explored ruins. Ruins were everywhere. Gaeta had been a port city of the Holy Roman Empire and later a medieval seige town controlled variously by Moors, Normans, Popes, Aragons, French, and Bourbons. In Old Gaeta, the walls of some buildings were 9-feet thick. The mountain between the beach and the port was riddled with ancient towers, secret tunnels, and abandoned shepherd's cottages. There was a temple deep in a grotto with a handprint in the rock rumored to have been made by the Virgin Mary. Once my father and brother got caught out swimming against the tide and had to come up through the grotto in their speedos, much to the chagrin of the priests. In the summer, Neapolitan gypsy families set up bumper cars on the mountain and we'd gather there and dance. We ate gelato every night. Kiosks sold squares of pizza in wax paper to eat while you walked. There was an espanade of palm trees behind the cafes on the port road. Every single soul in town knew every other.

It was all ours. My best friend Jennifer and I were minor celebrities: the two girls who did gymnastics at the beach. We took ballet class up an ancient street too narrow for cars. My older brother sang Def Leppard songs with an Italian rock band. My first kiss happened on an overturned boat, with a Swiss orphan named Oliviero. (I found kissing vile and didn't try it again for two years, then two more after the next one.)

These were powerful wild years, the strongest, brightest memories of my childhood. The heat of Gaeta, the smells and colors, the routes of the passegiata, pretending to be a mermaid for hours on end when the surf was so rough the lifeguards put up red flag warnings. I'm grateful for the freedom my parents gave us there, the blessing to roam. I'm grateful that they felt able to give it, that there was a safe place in the world to grow up. Do kids have that now, anywhere? Watching that movie last night, I felt the powerful lure of that wild childhood, and I wondered.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sunday Scribblings #2 -- Real Life

This week for Sunday Scribblings, Jim and I continued our search for the perfect writing cafe, and again, didn't find it. The place we tried, Fleur de Lys, is a bakery/cafe built in a converted library. Sounds promising, and the oatmeal-fig-pumpkin seed scone was tasty, but the ambience was all wrong for writing. Sigh. But we tried our best. This time I wore my "I am creative" underwear (and have now run out of all inspirational undergarments and will have to invent imaginary pairs for future posts) and tried a piece of short fiction. When Meg asked me what I thought about "Real Life" as the theme for this week, right away a strange idea began to take shape from the swirling mists. And here, without further ado, it is... (and if anyone can tell me how to indent in blogger, I'd appreciate it!)

"Real Life"

**story removed because it is being published. Yay!**

(the end)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Garden Ladies

These are some of the final manufacturer's samples of my Laini's Ladies Garden line that SHOULD be in stores next month, fingers crossed. Yay! There are garden stakes and wind chimes, and some smaller indoor pot ornaments that will look great in house plants. All are printed, die-cut metal with bells and beads, and they're so cute. I can't wait to see them in stores and in actual gardens! This part of the process is always exciting, but it takes a while to get from the design stage to the stores, and I've had to learn to tamp down my enthusiasm in the waiting. Not just with Laini's Ladies, but with illustration projects, and with my book especially. There's always plenty of work to be done in the meantime and lordy lordy time passes SO FAST it's scary, but one gets used to not letting their enthusiasm run away with them... and well, personally sometimes I fear I will squinch it down too much and not be able to find it when I'm ready for it! I'll be rummaging frantically in closets saying, "Where the *#$%@ did I put my enthusiasm!?" But... I always find it. I hope I'll always find it. It just won't burst open like shaken champagne. It will be more subtle, like a smile you can feel all the way down to your toes.

There was the moment when I finished my book. When I got to the last page and typed "The End." I felt fairly calm as I wrote that page, knowing just what was going to happen, already having known for many months what the last line would be. So when my left middle finger typed that last 'd' on The End and I felt a tremendous rush of emotion and tears, it really caught me off guard! As is my way, even though I was alone in the room I tried to compose myself, to freeze my face and keep the tears from coming, I don't know why. My face got hot, a few tears squeaked out, and then I felt this incredible contentment settle over me. I had done it. I think it's good to take my excitement at those moments that ARE under my control: my work, the making of it. What happens after that, the big process when other people come in, other teams of people in other states and even countries, that is so beyond my control. The moments of enthusiasm that come after, they will be serendipities, like feathers falling from birdless skies. I can't predict them, so I won't try to guess or ration my excitement, but just keep working, with an ear out for the arrival of the UPS truck and the boxes of goodies like these!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Time Traveling Cotton

I can't imagine that the person who I plan to mock in this post reads my blog, or is even aware of its existence, but I still feel a shiver of anxiety about public mocking, so I will just say it's gentle mocking. Sort of. I just have to relate this conversation: I can't NOT.

If you have read The Time Traveler's Wife the following dialogue will make sense to you. If you haven't, it's a rich, sexy, romantic, beautiful, poignant novel in which one of the main characters, a man named Henry, time travels. Not voluntarily. It's a kind of seizure that comes over him and whisks him away to the past, leaving his clothes in a pile where he stood, so he arrives naked at the other end. It's a pretty sucky vision of time travel, and it is an intergral part of the unfolding of the story. It just so happens that the place and time he often ends up is the field near his wife's childhood home, over the whole course of her young life. So. This is an approximation of a conversation I heard 2nd hand and have taken liberties with:

Him: Did you ever finish reading Time Traveler's Wife?
Her: No. I couldn't. It was too creepy.
Him: Creepy? What do you mean?
Her: The way he kept visiting his wife when she was a little girl. Why did the author have to have him be naked? It was creepy.
Him: But... it's part of the story. It's the way time travel works in the book.
Her: She could have had his clothes go with him.
Him: It wasn't just his clothes, it was anything that wasn't him, even fillings. It was crucial to the plot.
Her: But to have a naked man keep appearing to a little girl.
Him: He didn't do anything to her. She put out clothes where he'd find them. It wasn't creepy at all.
Her: The writer could have made it so, like, cotton clothes could go with him. He could have worn all cotton.
Him: You don't think it would be weirder if cotton could time travel?
Her: I'm wearing all cotton right now.

Urk? That's as far as I get, because I started laughing and snorting with disdain. I should clarify this last line was said without humor, without irony, without a twinkle in the eye or elbow in the ribs. This was not "her" hinting that when she time travels her undies come along too. This was just pure... unironic... cluelessness. Which I find hi-larious. I hope you do too. At least smirk-worthy. And I hope you'll read the book if you haven't. And maybe you too will mock someone on your blog, so I don't feel like the only meanie who's ever used her blog for evil. Any takers?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

What would you attempt if you knew you would not fail?

The first Sunday Scribbling has arrived! The prompt this week was: What would you attempt if you knew you would not fail? Here's my answer:

Blank journals follow me home from the bookstore like puppies. I have a library of them in my studio: lonesome books awaiting their words. I feel their hunger radiating at me in waves of longing.

I also have a circus troupe of ideas camped out in my mind, a multitude of winged and bespectacled little folk pacing backstage, juggling, smoking, taking swigs from flasks, and muttering about it being “showtime”. All they want is to leap onto the page and clown and weep and love and die, stagger, tango, fight crime, fly, build sandwiches and braid each other’s hair. They want to LIVE. But I keep them locked away up there, whispering to them that I love them and believe in them and that some day, some way, their turn will come and then they will SHINE.

Meanwhile, the journals sit empty on the shelves while the ideas riot and mutiny backstage. There is such a simple solution to these two problems.

What I would attempt if I knew I would not fail, is I would sweep open the curtain and let my ideas come trampling out in a wild, boisterous stampede. I would lay all my blank books on a desk and let the ideas swoop out and choose, like children shrieking dibs on bedrooms in a new home. I want danger and peacocks and spice to spill out onto the pages, for the books to take deep gulps of words and lay back full-bellied and woozy with joy while ideas ride camels and stage coaches across them, leaving behind wheel ruts and wine stains and long husks of serpent skins blowing in the wind.

I want to write the books I’ve got locked up in purgatory in my mind. I want to release them with abandon, with knife fights, supernovas, calamities, hauntings, and high fives. I've at long last found the magic valve that turns ideas into stories, only to learn that it's not magic at all. It's the simplest thing: getting out of the way of my ideas, sweeping open the curtain and letting them out. Now I want to do it everyday! That is my wish, and although there is no assurance I will not fail, that is what I am going to do.

If I WAS assured I would not fail, I would also scour the world for mythical beasts lurking in labyrinths and lochs and chasms and castles, then I would give them snacks and leave them in peace. I would grow wings and a fine striped tail long enough to loop round my neck like a scarf. I would reintroduce the magic carpet. I would circumnavigate Sicily in a peddleboat. I would sing, carve marionettes, smite evil men, have some babies, and build the best treehouse the world has ever seen. And, I would convince all children that their dreams are living things they can ride like tigers into the future, as long as they love them well and feed them daily.

Happy Sunday. Have a scribble of your own!