Friday, April 18, 2014

At Last

Winter has been tough in most of the country this year. (Can I get an Amen?)  Frigid. Snow covered. And so ridiculously long.  I mind winter less as I get older, but I have hated this year's.  It snowed just a few days ago.  After a few sixty and seventy degree days--flowers blooming in the yard, me out on the town not sausaged into a million layers for the the first time in going on seven months--enough big fat wet snow fell that it stuck on the ground for a whole day.  In April.


I have asked strangers on elevators (in a town where you don't talk to strangers very often), "Why does the outside hate us?"  I was on a walk in the cold with the dog two days ago and a bundled up old guy on a bike yelled as he rode past us, "Do you know when the hell it plans to warm up?"

I'm just saying, people are angry and tired and fed up.

But I think things are finally about to change and I have collected the proof from my very own yard (and the neighbor's):

The very start of lilac blooms.  I love the tight concord grapeyness of their beginnings.

Asiatic lilies creeping out.  Right from the start they're so themselves--pointy and brash.

Is there anything more promising up north than the first prehistoric looking unfolding of Rhubarb leaves?

A hosta spear troop.

Bird's nest on our rolled up awning. (And, um, I think we need to scrub all of that down when the birdie is done.  Dirty, dirty.)


Neighbor's tree. (totally jealous.)

Spirea leaf starts.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ruth Ozeki and the Little Wave People

Just recently, I read Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being, and loved it. It's sad overall, but is nevertheless filled with so many moments of such honesty and hope, that when I finished the book, I wasn't certain if I should be sad or happy (but happy definitely on the more subtle content end of the spectrum).  It's the feeling I hope to have, maybe, at the end of things?  A mix of important feelings neither good nor bad winning out--as complicated as saying good bye must be and feel.

Anyhoo, early on in the novel, the main character Nao Yasutani (a 16 year old girl set on committing suicide after filling her journal and telling the story of her Grandmother's life as a Buddhist nun) explains the meaning of "ronin".  Long ago, a ronin was a samurai whose master had died, and was then condemned (or freed?) to be a wandering sword for hire.  In modern day, it essentially means a loser kid who hasn't found a path and seems unlikely to.  Nao is a ronin.

But then she further breaks down the etymology of ronin in this way:

The way you write ronin is with the character for wave and the character for person, which is pretty much how I feel, like a little wave person, floating around on the stormy sea of life.

Wow.  I read that teensy paragraph and felt it down to my toes and had to take a break from the book for a day.  That's precisely how I feel right now. . . like a little wave person, floating around on the stormy sea of life.

I'm moments from not having my job of ten years any more.  I resigned, though it hardly felt like my choice.  Not that that's important.  What's important is that I am getting out and roaming free for a bit.  I am lucky to have a husband and a family that supports this.  And this is the right move for right now. But it nevertheless makes me feel small, maybe even wee.  And uncertain. . . deeply uncertain. It's scary and lovely and heartbreaking.

In the end, I bet it will be okay.

Later in Ozeki's novel, Nao's grandmother takes her to sea and has her go out and "fight the waves".  Nao thinks it's a bit silly, but does it anyway.  When she returns, tired, to her grandmother, this conversation happens:

"Maketa," I said, throwing myself down in the sand. "I lost. The ocean won."
She smiled. "Was it a good feeling?"
"Mm," I said.
"That's good," she said. "Have another rice ball?"

As simple as that.  When sad or lost, sometimes the cure is to recognize that there are forces so much larger than you that you couldn't possibly win against them.  It's important, I think, to try, but then when you lose, to enjoy the exhaustion of a fight well battled and acceptance of not being a winner without also being a loser.  Important stuff.

Read the book.  I think you'll like it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On not taking yourself too seriously

My friends have super mixed opinions of Jimmy Fallon.  They either seem to like him a lot or don't think he's funny at all.  I wasn't a huge fan of his on SNL, because he could never keep from breaking during skits.  Before he joined the cast, the moments that the cast or guests broke were few and far between, and so when it happened it felt like a special gift, like you were seeing some rare joyous moment when even professionals couldn't keep it together.  Jimmy Fallon made that not a rarity.  It became a weekly occurrence, and I didn't like it.

But now that I'm older and Jimmy Fallon has moved on to Late Night and now the Tonight Show, I'm a huge fan.  I think the talk shows are a better fit for him--but mostly because it seems like those outlets allow him to be fully him.  He's a joyous dude and maybe he always broke on SNL because he's so filled with laughter.  Isn't that a nice thought?  I don't know him, obviously, but I adore his gleeful child-like approach to humor and entertainment.  It's as if his whole professional career is about not taking himself too seriously and convincing all of his guests to do the same.

He's a breath of fresh air.

And so here's his newest gift:

And how convenient for me that the song he picked for this week's Dressing Room Recording Session is Idina Menzel singing Oscar-winning Song "Let it Go"?

I'm trying to take myself less seriously.  I'm trying to take just about everything less seriously--except for loving people.  Opinions outside of myself shouldn't matter.  And my inner opinions should be gentler and more compassionate.

Let it go, people.  Let it go.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lightening the Load

Is there a day that listening to a band that includes a harmonium, banjo, and xylophone can't improve just the tiniest bit?

You be the judge:

Thank you, Freelance Whales.

That is all.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Late to the Fair

So, I think everyone has already seen Benjamin Ames and his teeny 4 y.o. singing "Tonight You Belong to Me".  Apparently it was on the news and the video went "viral."  But I saw it for the first time today, and so I'm posting it.  Maybe not for you.  Maybe just for me so that I know it will be safe and sound in my archive, and I will be able to re-find it a year or two from now when I need a cheer up or a little free parenting advice.  It's lovely.

You might have just noticed that I snuck in the possibility of needing a little free parenting advice.  Yah, I'm late to the fair with Benjamin Ames. . . but also with being a mom to some wee person.  No longer.  D and I have started the process to adopt. So, in truth, motherhood will take a little bit longer. This isn't a swift process.  But we're so excited to have started on the journey.

I can't imagine that I will talk about the actual process here a lot.  In large part because it won't just be mine and D's journey.  It will be the journey of the generous birth family who walks the line with us.  And their story isn't my story to tell.  We will have a small private life together that would be wrong to reveal.

But I won't likely be able to keep my hope and joy and love and excitement to myself.  And so this video.  Mr. Ames.  Thank you for showing a sweet way of taking the anxiety out of something scary.  Fireworks--literally things that go bump in the night--get the smack down from singing with Dad.  This will be a solution in our house, and I can't wait.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lily and Madeleine

These lovely young sisters had a "tiny desk concert" on NPR recently.  Their voices are gentle and sweet and just the thing for a day like today--a cold day stuck inside doing domestic things like baking and cooking and cleaning.  They elevate all of it.

Important to note, I feel only "stuck" inside not "stuck" doing domestic things.  I love to cook food for our eatings.  I love taking care of my people.  And this music is a peaceful soundtrack to that good quiet work.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

My Favorite Movie of the Oscar Picks

I should be honest and say upfront that I have not seen all of the Oscar nominated movies.  Okay, I've only seen two of the Best Picture nominees: her and American Hustle.  But I've seen a smattering of other movies that have nods in other categories: Cutie and the Boxer (documentary), 20 Feet from Stardom (documentary), August Osage County (acting nods), The Croods, Despicable Me 2, a number of others.  I will see Captain Phillips and Inside Llewyn Davis and likely Frozen before the awards come around.  But I get excited because my husband gets excited because his twin (who was a film major and loves film film film) gets excited and there's lots of talk about who should win and why.

I should also be honest and say I don't really care who wins.  Giant celebratory awards ceremonies for honoring millionaires for being the best at a job that they adore. . . Nowadays?  Seems a little tone deaf.  But film is still good and moving and important.  And so my pick for Best Picture, simply because it was my favorite film of the year, hands down, is Spike Jonze's her.

Looking at reviews online, it seems like people either love or hate this movie, but I just thought it was beautiful.  When I was a kid, loads of movies about aliens were positive--Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Starman--and writers and directors made space for a vision of alien life being gentle and curious.  That's incredibly rare now. Even Spielberg's aliens are angry and violent now, and it makes me a little sad.  It feels like a lack in our vision, and likely a lack of wonder or generosity or hope. Artificial Intelligence--the other Sci-Fi bogey man--has rarely ever been anything other than terrifying.  Machines become smarter than us, and they immediately set to work enslaving or killing the entire human population.

But not so in "her".  A.I. starts as a personalized OS system that begins its life and learning getting to know individual people, and as a result, it loves us.  It's such a hopeful take and I hope more likely than The Matrix or Terminator or 2001: A Space Odyssey or even the ridiculously morose A.I.

Beyond the Sci-Fi genre thoughts, her is also, primarily a story about love.  How do we love?  What constitutes love?  Does romantic love happen in your mind or does it have to also be physical? How do we learn that we are loved or even lovable?  What constitutes a human connection and has that been changed by the influx of technology into our personal lives?

It's a pretty thought provoking movie, with the bonus of also being uplifting as well.  In 2014, my year of pursuing love and quiet joy, her was undoubtedly a quiet joy.

Also, I would totally kick ass at Twombly's day job.