Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How to move

I'm moving again, away from a lovely apartment, neighborhood and a community of friends I adore.  And I'm ready to do it, to see what comes next, to start a new chapter in Kosovo.  I've grown to love change, to lend it a helping hand if it's not happening fast enough, but this was not always the case.  I hyperventilated the night my parents told me we might move to Tennessee. In front of a plate of bribery Chinese food, inedible at the words that my father was checking out a new church.  I won't move to Texas, I shouted before nearly passing out.  Driving across the country in an aerostar, landing in a new junior high halfway through my 6th grade year, this little 12-year-old drama queen had many more breakdowns.  

How could I move to land-locked Tennessee? I'd lived in Oregon since I was two years old, where my favorite summer memories were at the coast, waking (being woken) at dawn to splash barefoot across the ocean inlet, searching for the perfect sand dollar.  Lying in the dunes at night to watch for shooting stars, running down to scuff along the dark water line to "spark" in the phosphorescent-rich sand.  How could Tennessee compare? 

But I remember one summer night at our house out in the country, joining my mother on our front stoop, watching neighbors stroll by, saying hello and commenting on the heat of the day.  We sat in silence as one by one the fireflies created a sea of lights in our overgrown grass. 

I'm looking forward to see how my world expands, and what I grow to love in my new home. 

(Photo from Desktop Nexus)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

poetry in the laundromat

My friend just posted this video on "dirty jobs," thinking about the worth of work and our perception of manual labor. (It starts off talking about the castration of lambs, a unarguably dirty job, but he gets to the point, if you stick with it.)  It added to a journal entry I re-read last night as I'm packing away my books, sorting through what to keep, and a Mary Oliver poem that finds the beauty in everyday life. 

To the man in the laundromat calling out loudly to the owner, a wiry white guy whose faded jeans were too big for him, Hey, man, you need someone to sweep the floors? The owner continued uninterrupted, walking to the back, saying over his shoulder, Not right now but give me your info, you never know when we'll need someone. He was still walking as the first guy halfway followed him, Yeah, I could sweep, clean up - whatever you could pay me.

by Mary Oliver

In Singapore, in the airport,
a darkness was ripped from my eyes.
In the women's restroom, one compartment stood open
A woman knelt there, washing something in the white bowl.

Disgust argued in my stomach
and I felt, in my pocket, for my ticket.

A poem should always have birds in it.
Kingfishers, say, with their bold eyes and gaudy wings
Rivers are pleasant, and of course trees.
A waterfall, or if that's not possible,
a fountain rising and falling.
A person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.

When the woman turned I could not answer her face.
Her beauty and her embarrassment
struggled together, and neither could win.
She smiled and I smiled. What kind of nonsense is this?
Everybody needs a job.

Yes, a person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.
But first we must watch as she stares
down at her labor, which is dull enough.
She is washing the tops of the airport ashtrays,
as big as hubcaps, with a blue rag.
Her small hands turn the metal, scrubbing and rinsing.
She does not work slowly, nor quickly, but like a river.
Her dark hair is like the wing of a bird.

I don't doubt for a moment that she loves her life.
And I want her to rise up from
the crust and the slop and fly down to the river
This probably won't happen
But maybe it will.
If the world were only pain and logic,
who would want it?

Of course, it isn't
Neither do I mean anything miraculous, but only
the light that can shine out of a life.
I mean the way she unfolded and refolded the blue cloth,
the way her smile was only for me sake;
I mean the way this poem is filled with trees, and birds.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Beautiful Beets and Demanding Squash: A Love Story

I almost didn't read the last page of Orion's Sept|Oct issue.  The title "On Cold-Weather Vegetables" didn't exactly reach out and grab me.  I live in L.A, where roots and beets and squash are not necessities.  But.  I'm moving to Kosovo.  Cold-weather will once again be part of my seasonal life.  Meals are more of a celebration; unexpected visitors always mean caj (tea) or coffee, snacks, and perhaps a meal shared at the table.  So, on my bus ride to downtown L.A., I folded back the last page of the magazine and settled into Katrina Vandenberg's beautiful homage to the demanding parts of life, unexpected tastes, that commitment to what's difficult and unwieldy in love and life and veggies.

veggies"Back in July, the tomatoes and corn the farmers offered were cheery, Crayola-bright. October is scary ... Cold-weather vegetables are demanding. They require a little muscle behind the knife... Inside, their flesh is richly colored and dense. They're messy ... We wrestle with them. They refuse the ease of the salad bowl and insist on long roasting.

...They're acquired tastes, ones I didn't love until I was in my thirties, my husband an even more reluctant convert than I. But this time of year and at this time in our lives, our meals together are changing. When the air begins to bite with cold and the smell of decaying leaves, the colors and tastes of what we eat begin to deepen.

I watch my husband from the kitchen window as he pulls dead morning glory vines from the trellises. I love him differently than I did the day I married him.

...Andre Dubus describes the meals between married couples as not mere eating but a 'pausing in the march to perform an act together,' a sacrament that says, 'I know you will die; I am sharing food with you; it is all I can do, and it is everything.'

...Christians regularly take communion, a ritually shared meal that acknowledges the mysteries of life and death, but mealtime is especially poignant in the fall, when Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead, and Celts once celebrated Samhain, and ancient Greeks told the story of Persephone disappearing into the underworld — all harvest festivals that connect sharing food with death and gratitude. So we start with what the earth has given us. We shape it into something else. Perhaps there are candles. We talk. We have enough and are together..."

~Katrina Vandenberg

You can listen to the whole story here

(Photo: loxosceles, Flickr.com)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Illustrations | Art I Love: Nathan Ota

Head for the Clouds
Flavorpill's Daily Dose Pick today was Nathan Ota, an artist trained in illustration. Magical.

Watching Over Me

See more of Ota's work here.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

"To Franz Kafka"

Like you, I want the time to meditate
To wander and sit still, to let the day's
Humiliations redeploy and blaze
Across my field of vision to irritate
My soul until the demon language flow
And purge experience to common sense
Making me master of inconsequence,
Letting me know the little that I know.

Yet, like you, I am bogged by aptitude
For getting tedious work done fast, amazing
My colleagues daily by my skill, and hear it
Praised, take it to heart, and know that interlude
Of felt responsibility, hair-raising
Pride of doing well what breaks the spirit.

~ To Franz Kafka, by David Galler

cheese and fruit plate, originally uploaded by rosidae.

(This poem rang particularly true when I was praised at work for the beauty of my cheese plates.)

Writing prompt: You hear music in the background

, originally uploaded by Lucas SD.

Rounding the corner of the park, I skirt the edge of the busy street. The crossing guard sees me and waves just like every Monday. His stop sign swings in the air, back and forth, different today. I slow down and look closely at each person, car and vendor on the street. I hear it, faint in the background, the music that everyone seems to be moving to. The crossing guard lilts as he leads children across the street. The kids swing their satchels to the beat. The policeman directs traffic, his whistle the off beat.

Whatever the song is, I quickly realize I am the only one who doesn't recognize it, who is not involved in the intricate dance. When I stop to listen, the crowd spills around me, not missing a beat. Spinning in a slow circle, I see the homeless man helping the lady with her groceries, their dance a ballet. Stepping closer to hear, to feel the beat through the sidewalk, I narrowly miss being hit by the streetcar whose bell chimes in time; I am out of the rhythm.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Danny & Annie on StoryCorps

The story of Danny & Annie's first date, marriage and being parted by death. Absolutely beautiful, inspiring and heartbreaking. Break out the tissue box, and maybe write a love letter to someone in your life. Or at least a romantic weather report.

Danny & Annie from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Last days in L.A.: Celebrity Stories

Griffith Park, originally uploaded by williwieberg.

It's official! I'm moving to Kosovo to teach English. My tickets are booked, I've given away and sold over 200 of my books, shredded old production documents and given my roomie and landlord my 30 days notice. At this point, if I don't move to Kosovo, I'll have to join the homeless guys camped outside the public library. Not that free internet and books aren't tempting.

As I'm packing up, reading through old journals (mostly mortifying), I've come across those rare moments that make for great L.A. stories. Hanging up on Mel Gibson — twice. (This before his recent rants, so there was really no good reason to disconnect him from the head of Sony.) Cat-sitting for Toni Basil. Taking Bono's digits and chatting with him about his flat in Nice.

In one journal from my days at Icon Productions: Today a man called, asked my name. "What would YOU do, Rebecca, if someone put your experience, your life, in a movie?" he asked. A bit confused, I asked him to elaborate (first mistake: engaging the crazy). The movie "Braveheart" used some of his experiences, he clarified. Too curious to hang up, I asked him which scenes specifically were from his life. 'Well, my brain, for one!' he replied. Regaining my speech, I told him I didn't think we could help him, so he asked for Columbia Pictures' number. I advised him to call information, if the people in the white jackets didn't find him and revoke his phone privileges first.

Or the older couple who called from the midwest and demanded a refund of their $9.25 movie money for "Payback," saying it was too violent, and they only went based on their trust of Mel Gibson's history of past roles.

Or Toni Basil (of "Hey Mickey" fame) and her cat-sitting to-do list, reminding me to call nightly with an update on her hairless wonders.

I'll miss L.A. — the neighborhoods I've come to love, the unattainable beauty of the gay men of West Hollywood, the Arclight movie experience, the pre-show picnics at the Hollywood Bowl, the smell of Kings Road coffee roasting, the hikes at Griffith Park, the jacaranda blooming soft purple, the thrifting on Melrose. I can't wait to tell the stories of life in Prishtina, but I know L.A. will always be home.