Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lowlands low

Disappointment happens; it isn't unusual. I just don't want to lose hours of what could be good time to it. So when I sat down to do some writing or editing this morning and it didn't feel right, I didn't fight with myself. I was feeling yesterday's disappointment, and I was feeling disappointed with myself for not getting into a groove with the current small part of my big writing project.

Instead, I took the energy that I did have and worked all over my house. Spiritually and mentally speaking, I wanted to get rid of negative feelings, so I found an analogous physical activity: culling unwanted items. This was partially inspired by seeing a friend's progress in this direction yesterday. Her neatly tied, lumpy, bags of clothes looked like clarity and calm to me.

I worked till sweat covered my skin. I went through books, clothes, household wares, just stuff. It feels good to be letting go of stuff I do not need. It isn't even bad stuff, broken stuff, or un-wantable stuff; I simply do not need it. Sometimes it hurts because, once some of those clothes fit and pleased me. So often what stops me is the notion that someone could want something I'm giving away. The control obsessed part of me wants to find that person and give them the stuff individually, instead of letting the tides and deities of thrift bring the right owner to my discarded treasures. Six bags later, I felt a very positive sort of empty, but so dirty, dusty, sticky, sweaty, sore. On to part of two of the process.

Any action undertaken with focus and intent can become more than it appears on the surface, and so cleaning my bathroom and showering became a reclaiming of space and body. Attachments were washed away along with garage debris, fuzzies, and cat hair. Anxieties and soreness and hurt feelings went away together. Now, I'm taking a break from demolishing a pile of clothing chaos into wearable order. My partner keeps playing bits of evocative folk and maritime music in the other room for his work and the afternoon's first boom of thunder punctuates. Mysteries crop up in other tabs and bits of iridescence shine through death. It is time to work again and enjoy the calm I am creating.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Even though my car constantly smells like hot glue...

I do not often extol the joys of summer. I am not really a summer person, and so it is sometimes hard for me to see them, but tonight I'm lucky. The moon hangs so low that you have to tramp around in the dark to get a view of her. She's a thin moon: barely more than a sliver. But the color is a rich amber vanilla and I get the impression that she'd smell like smiling eyes and warm honeysuckle. I think tonight's moon would go with art deco theatre nights and emeralds, but I'm not entirely sure. I don't have much experience with either, truth be told. To set this moon, you must realize that it hangs amongst live oaks, Spanish moss, and chanting hordes of frogs and insects. Their rhythmic groanings, chirps, and calls recall dark monks in catacombs or the anxious rumbling of pre-teens waiting for Twilight movie to begin. (I can barely believe that I'm going to subject myself to that unsettling experience, but I am).

But summer moons and night smells are not the only joys this season offers. We can relish some tastes and textures in summer like at no other point in the year. Vanilla Coke floats are some sort of universal shortcut to my personal bliss. Fresh cantaloup makes healthy as much fun as evolution should have made it. Garden grown tomatoes must have been stolen from Mount Olympus just like fire; we mortals do not deserve their tangy/dripping/vital/fragrant goodness. I'd talk about the glories of grilled vegetables, was life not so cruel. Alas, this year I have not tasted them outside of a restaurant, and some foods deserve to be cooked at home. On the other hand, this year a very smart friend introduced me to sparkling white wine liberally doused with lime juice. It can take hours of stress and ten degrees Fahrenheit away instantly.

Farmers' Markets ought to be a summer joy, and they can be, but my latest trip to ours was severely disrupted by the last fantastic summer win that I'll give myself room to discuss today: thunderstorms. Repeated cracks of thunder and vicious forks of strangely colored light bring the good kind of drama to the already very necessary goodness of rain. We have then near daily this year; the next one's rumblings have started. They are perfect. Calm conversations can take on diabolical or heroic dimensions when the thunder lays its emphasis at just the right moment. They lull us into napping or inspire other antics. Nature gives us many metaphors but few are so always welcome as thunderstorms.
What all of this has been a roundabout way of saying is, happy Solstice. Enjoy the summer.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Following good advice: my best twelve

Honestly, I more often feel moved to give advice than take it, but recently a photographer (the incomparably nice and talented Kyle Cassidy) I admire wrote an excellent list of suggestions for those aiming to become serious/professional about their photographic work. While my aims do not ever include making a living through photography, I do want to constantly and consistently improve.

One piece of advice struck me as really interesting.

"4) Make a portfolio of your 12 best photos. these can be 4x6 1 hour prints. Every month try and replace at least one of these with a better photo. Do this for the rest of your life."*

So, I'm now sharing my first portfolio of my twelve best.

The goal is to be able to replace one of these with a photo I like more by July 16th.

*for those that are interested. Here's a link to the rest of his good advice.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

melting with the right company

When I first arrived folks were getting ready for the arrival of our party's inspiration. Despite the best intentions of our canine assist, we managed to overfill a table handily.

The hostess charmed me with her lovely set up and vintage table linens. Her home made the perfect setting for a candlit tea revel. We sipped and chatted on a hardwood floor, under a navy ceiling, to the comforting background of box fans and summer insect noise.

But somehow everything changed when two androgynous troublemakers came in from the heat. They carried cheap beer and BB-gun into our midnight tea party, but they walked like demi-gods of trickery. Of course, folks slowly meandered outside and took turns sinking ankle deep in the backyard sand and shooting a tin can by candlelight.

Eventually we serenaded our birthday girl with blurry warm voices and an un-tuned mandolin. She could have, like Guinevere, asked any quest of us on the strength of our natal-day loyalty. Thankfully she didn't, and just sipped her fine birthday whiskey with good grace. Candles, sun tea, crumbly sweet tea cookies,wispy cigar smoke, bad aim, and dear friends turn the warm night strange and golden.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bad news, good wine, and better books

So, we all receive bad news from time to time, but I've found there are a few ways to most happily put oneself back together, and one of my favourites includes a glass of wine, a snack, and an armload of new books from the library. Today the wine is a Riesling, the snack is homemade cornbread, and the books are travel bits for the upcoming trip to England.

I have two fantastically huge books of travel porn. These are the photo-laden, idiosyncratically organized, theme books of dubious usefulness, hence travel porn. These give me inspiring views that will surely complicate my travel plans. One is The National Trust Book of Great Houses of Britain by Nigel Nicolson and the other is Timpson's English Villages by John Timpson. The others fall into two camps; we have the useful but fairly standardized British guide book, and the much more interestingly focused snotty book for those of us that Lord Whimsy* would call retrosexuals. These historical guides only tell us how to find the old stuff. The books could care less if we get stranded without a loo or a place to sleep so long as we get to see Roche Abbey (from 1147) and Faldouet Dolmen (a grave from the Neolithic era built like a long underground stone hallway). I chose The Intelligent Traveller's Guide to Historic Britain by Philip A. Crowl and arranged by historic period and The Cambridge Guide to Historic Places by Kenneth Hudson and Ann Nichols. The Cambridge one is thankfully much more travel oriented; it at least lets me look up a town and then find all of its historical flotsam in one go.

To distract me from these wonderful companions, I also have a party to attend. My friend has brilliant timing for her birthday; I must thank her. The celebration is to be a charming dress up tea party, but I'm guessing things will veer off from there. I can always trust my friends to embroider our most humble plans with their fitful strangeness. To best support them, I suppose I should make tiny sandwiches and find a frilly dress. Perhaps I'll be able to catch some of tonight on film; I can only hope.

*Lord Whimsy makes terrariums, uses remarkable pocket scarves, and writes lovely books about nature and art and all things related to his particular variant of dandyism. This is a link to Whimsy's really charming first book

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Pleasures of Costume Dramas

The heavy momentum of Victorian gowns, long panning shots of a fictional history lovingly created like a dollhouse with its complete miniature place settings, language that travels down too oft unused paths in my brain, and myriad other pleasures come to me when I settle in to enjoy a costume drama. And settle in I must, this isn't the sort of watching that can be accomplished while I fold laundry or grade papers. I lose myself in the gulf between the world of the costume drama and my own. I feel like I'm gently tearing into a giant eclair or sinking into a downy mattress. There is so much give and softness in this viewing experience.

Tonight, I re-watched an opulent strange little film called Angels and Insects. Though I'd seen the film's larger reveal before and find significant parts of the film uncomfortable and off putting, this second viewing was vastly more enjoyable than the first. The world of the film became more of the focus for me since I have already seen the story unfold. Details came into focus since I came to the experience with knowledge of the narrative as a whole. The plaster molding of bed frames, chair railings, and interior doors compelled me without distraction. I could devote myself to the minutiae of fasteners and trim and light fixtures. This heightened the difference for me between the enjoyment of costume drama and most other sorts of time.

This is my escapism.

I doubt I'm alone in my unabashed delight in the created illusion of history of this genre. Sometimes I dream in this mode, and when I wake I do not remember who spoke or what happened, but instead I remember the rich green browns of stamped leather on the walls and the sound of eighteenth century heels ringing across a polished marble floor. Perhaps this is largely class fantasy, but I think the historical displacement has more allure than simply wealth. In a time before mass production, everything we used and looked at and touched was the product of craft. Individual aesthetics created each jacket, dish, fireplace, and chair. I do not want to fetishize someone else's reality (or many centuries and continents of someones), but a world of craft calls to me. There is something unpredictable about what comes from the hands and mind of an individual. Perhaps I'm just an aesthete leaning toward decadence despite myself. I not only want beauty, but I want it to surprise me.