Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Summer: Not Over Yet!

A really pretty old sewing machine
The only thing more fleeting than childhood is summer...

Yes, that's an advertising tagline, for a group that send underprivileged city kids to camp.  But it strikes a chord.

Some friends are moving, and they have a bucket list to do in town before they leave.  In an exercise of "counting my blessings", I'm cataloging my summer in a reverse bucket list, to measure the good stuff I've done these past few months that surprised me with their simple good feelings.  Here goes. 

I toured a metal-work shop and geeked out on old, rusty metal sewing machines that would eventually be used in different designs.  I walked through gardens with kohlrabi plants (I wanted to sneak a taste but they weren't ripe) and hiking trails, such as the Little Bear, that reopened after the Schulz Fire of 2010, where the persistence of nature amazed me.

 I saw beautiful sunsets over Lake Buttsky in the Midwest, a shy bride at a wedding in the open air at the Portland Arboretum, and a few rainbows over my beloved Mt. Elden as I drove home.  The Lake Buttsky sunsets made me giddy; the rainbows made me nostalgic; and the bride just made me cry.

I held my 94 year old Grandma's hand and soaked her up.  I touched the rocks in the hand-made silo at my other Grandma's childhood homestead and imagined all my ancestors who worked the land I stood on.

I skipped the 4th of July parade and rode a horse for 3 hours, trotting on an open trail, tasting real freedom.  I spent an afternoon listening to my 2nd cousin play her own songs on her new banjo and tell me about her loves.  I've taken my son to a baseball game, hiked with him, and discussed important philosophical questions with him.  "Who's funnier?  Seinfeld or The Marx Bros.?  George Lopez or Buster Keaton?"

New Banjo--ain't it a beaut?
My horoscope this week told me to "Come up with your own definitions about what's gorgeous and revelatory. Take epiphanies any way you can get them."

Beautiful wedding

A beautiful old silo at my Grandma's Homestead

I'm paying attention to these last days of summer, trying to find the last quirky pockets of pleasure and soulful beauty.  And because they can never be repeated  exactly the same, they will always be the last things.  Everything is extremely poignant! 

I'm looking really carefully so I don't miss anything!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Talk Derby to Me

"Talk Derby to Me!"

  I may be stretching the boundaries of "cultural" events when I write about the Roller Derby debut.  And, my fellow blogger, Margo, already writes quite charmingly about derby, from the inside, as a REAL derby girl (see her blog post here.)  But I figured what-the-heck, and thought you might like to see some of the derby shots if you weren't hip enough to go yourself.  

The derby event was on June 30, when the High Altitude Roller Derby (H.A.R.D.) team took on Dirty Verde Roller Derby and their guest skaters from the Havasu Hit Girls.  They won (but that was almost beside the point.)

Mary, Meghan, and me. 
That's me, Meghan and Mary on the right.  We were in 2nd row seats, and we were all sweaty just sitting there.  GoGo Liz, one of Flagstaff's killer jammers almost passed out from the heat.  (Of all the dangers of roller derby, high temperatures were not what I was expecting.)

The match was exciting.  It's cool to see athletic women, and everyone in the crowd was pretty enthusiastic.  I'd say the audience watching was almost as fun--a Who's Who of Flagstaff.  There was Dre, in his fuzzy boots, doing the MC job (post-bicycle crash, non-the-less) and just tons of beautiful people, dressed up in solidarity with the girls on the track.

But the real stars were the ballsy girls on the track.  You could tell they were a tight team.  Everyone of them was an athlete, and a lot of them were drawn to the sport when no other sport would do.  I was really impressed with their courage and tenacity... and there's just NO WAY I would get out there on the rink. 

Thanks ladies for one of my favorite cultural events of the year!

Lovely sisters Laura and Dawn.  Beautiful people everywhere

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Midsummer Night's Eve Artist Party

pretty people
light hearted

  This weekend I went to a downtown patio party in Montparnasse.  Okay, so it could have been in Flagstaff.   It was hosted by a popular local photographer, let's call him ManRay, who was celebrating the solstice with his woman and extended family.  I was introduced as "part of the family."

  This is starting off charmingly! I thought to myself.

bonbons = bon amour
  Joni Mitchell was there.  Yes, she was.  She had just stepped out of a big yellow taxi after the opening of her new gallery, with a new dog.  Of course she was radiant and happy, wearing the second signature necklace of the day.  "When I posed for him 20 years ago, with my clothes on..." she started her story.

  The outdoorsy filmmaker was there, let's call him Puck.  And he called me by my nickname, then apologized, but since I always think of him as a mischievous fairy who plays pranks on people, there really is no need for apologies...

  The recognizable yogi was there, with colored strands in her hair and a purple slinky thing that probably should have been illegal.  Her nice husband and kids had just bought her a pole.  Pole dancing was her new thing.  This sounded really exciting.

   I had an a-ha, a mid-party realization; I don't listen or ask for gossip anymore; my esteem went up an inch.

ceviche, ooh-lala
  It was time to pig out.  The tapas were calling me.  One of the top-10-friends-I-don't-ever-see called my name.  I was happy to see her, I turned fast and.. oh my.  I heard glass crash, a disaster at my feet, yet I still looked around and wondered if it was me.  Was it me?  Everyone was so well-mannered that they didn't say.  And the nicest jazz musician in the world covered for my blush.

  A man was referenced.  And referenced again.  Then once more. 

  I met a connection, talked business just long enough to send the receipt to the tax man, and then found a very interesting and magical trail-off.  Amazing.

  The shrimp/mango ceviche, the bon-bons, the white sangria, the conversation, the urban brick walls, the twinkling lights, the saxophone, the weather, the compliments, the friends.

And... then it was time to go.  Sleep well, sun, you might be tired from shining so hard.

sitting on the steps
lights, gold brick, and a Grand Canyon artist

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Immediate Art of Hozhoni

Chris Taylor in front of "Map Monster" by Krissi Schott (left) and his own aboriginal art piece.
  It's not everyday you walk into a studio and the artists are beckoning you over, clamoring to talk to you, and drawing your portrait.  And you just met them.

  That's what happened to me today when I visited the Hozhoni Art Gallery, and got to see their exuberant show "Drawing a map from you to me and all points in-between."  The Hozhoni Foundation provides individualized services for people with developmental disabilities.  The artists have shown in places such as Brandy's, Sundara, and the NAU Beasley Art Gallery, and it's no secret that they produce surprising, endearing, and happy (yet complicated) pieces of art.  In fact, I have a piece of art from a Hozhoni artist hanging in a prime spot in my house.

"Head South, Killer Whale" by Martin Ortiz.
  Chris Taylor, a faculty member in the NAU Art Dept. and manager of the Beasley Art Gallery, along with 10 NAU Art Education students held weekly workshops with the Hozhoni artists throughout the Fall of 2011 to prepare for this current show.  Chris spent a year studying Aboriginal art in Australia, which is largely based on map-making and combines tradition, history, culture and spirituality, as well as a documentation of land into their images.  Chris's experience with the Hozhoni artists was super-creative--he told me how unexpected and fun their interpretations of map-making were.  For instance, when Chris was talking about map-making, Martin Ortiz understood the concept from the perspective of a killer whale headed south.  

  "This is a way for them to tell their stories," Chris said.  "If we slow down and look at their pieces, we'll see that this is some of the best art being made in Flagstaff.  It's so immediate and with such an honesty that you can't ignore it."

  The Hozhoni workshop experience was a good one for Chris and the Art Education students.  He wanted students to experience more diversity in mental ability, and found that once the NAU students came to Hozhoni, they were hooked.  Some got school credit for their hours, but others simply volunteered.

  Indeed, there was something refreshing about visiting the studio.  The artists were so proud of their art.  They didn't seem to suffer from egotism or lack of self-confidence.  And their hearts were so open to visitors!

  "They're not too cool-for-school," said Chris.  "And that's what makes them cool!"

  The Hozhoni therapeutic art program has been running since 1995 by Terri Engel (who was recently nominated for a 2012 Viola Leadership Award.)  According to the nomination letter, individuals really blossomed with the program, exemplified by a dramatic decrease in socially unacceptable behaviors and a significant increase in communication skills, self-esteem and increased independence. 

  But all Terri wants to talk about is how the program is growing.  They have added an "expressive arts" aspect to it, which includes film-making, drama, movement and dance, and it has added another element of self-expression to the artists lives.  Check out their recent film here

Genevieve Parish
Edward Haswood
Billy Sue Dagenhart says
"Be good but don't get into trouble!"

  Hozhoni Art Gallery is located at 2133 N. Walgreens St. and is open Mon. - Fri. from 8:30 - 3:30 p.m. and Sat. from 10 - 4 p.m.  The art is for sale, at very reasonable prices.  This current show is up until June 30, so you better hurry!

My portrait by "Eddie Eddie Edward" Haswood.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hammock Book Reviews: How to Read Poetry

  To me, reading poetry is like eating dark chocolate.  You don't want to eat the whole bar at once, but you instead put little pieces in your mouth and let them slowly melt, savoring each little molecule of flavor.

  Nicole Walker is an assistant professor in the Dept. of English at NAU.   I've been savoring Nicole's book "This Noisy Egg" like pieces of fine chocolate.  She's a wonderful person, and hanging out with her makes you feel like you've downed a cup of triple espresso.

  Nicole and I talked about the best way to read poetry.  She agrees that it's something to be lingered over, and says it helps to read poems aloud, and sometimes even sing them. 

 Nicole is so fun, and so talented, that I was flattered when she got excited about my dorky little game, "poetry tarot."  You ask a question, and flip through the book with your eyes closed.  Oftentimes the page that you land on has some random, exciting connection to your query.  We came up with a few questions and then I flipped through "This Noisy Egg."  It told me some very helpful answers.

1.  Question:  What should I wear today?
     Answer:  Houndstooth
  (from "Picking St. Augustine's Cherries")
   "I wore houndstooth and called out Doctor,
    even though that's not your name,
                          can't you let me in?"

2.  Question:  Who should I love?
     Answer:  Very carefully...
  (from "The Unlikely Origin of the Species")
 "Darwin cites Bacon citing God
  that Man cannot search too far
  or too well in the book of God's Word
  and in the book of God's works
  or in the margins of good science."

3.  Question:  What do you recommend for dinner tonight?
     Answer:  Cabbage and gooseberries.
  (from "The Unlikely Origin of the Species")


  See how different the leaves of the cabbage are and how
  extremely alike the flowers; how unlike the flowers of the 
  heartsease are and how alike the leaves; how much the fruit of
  different kinds of gooseberries differ in size, colour, shape, and 
  harriness, [sic] and yet the flowers present very slight difference."

Poetry is meant to be both specific and universal.  Nicole says that she tries to make connections, but to make them "surprising connections."  I will try to emulate her, and make links from the page to my life--the more personal and unusual they are, the better.   And believe me, I will be wearing houndstooth and eating cabbage and gooseberries for dinner, all while searching far and well for love.

P.S.  One last question:
What will I be when I grow up?
Answer:  A trufflehunter!!
(from "Glasses")

"Turn your back on the door.
Invite them in.  Or offer them water.
They're coming in anyway.
Truffle hunters in their wooly hats
have to beat the pigs off the hundreds of dollars 
of mushroom.
Truffle hunters hae begun to trade their pigs
for dogs.  Dogs prefer to please their masters.
Pigs prefer to eat the raw bounty."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hammock Book Reviews: Sci-fi

  This summer I'm going to work VERY HARD at reading in my hammock.  I'm going to read pages and pages of very fun books, from local authors, processing words in my brain so quickly that I will occasionally break out into a sweat.  And then I will stop reading and take a sip of my (coffee, tea, beer) to fortify myself.  And then I will continue.

  As you can see, I've got ambitious plans.

  Just when I had laid out these plans, I got an email from Patricia Marchesi, a lecturer in the Department of English at NAU.  Patricia's nom de plume is P.H.C. Marchesi, and you should look her up.  She's an award-winning finalist at the 2012 International Book Awards in two fiction categories, Young Adult and Science-Fiction, for her debut novel Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes. 

  Patricia's novel is a science-fiction/fantasy tale about two twins with special talents who are asked to take part in a dangerous mission in another space dimension on the planet Miriax.  Between the two of them, they have the largest concentration of positive energy on the entire earth.  It sounded look a good-vibe-hammock book.  I asked Patricia if she would lend me a copy.  

  I received it in the mail on Friday afternoon and I finished it by Saturday night.  I loved the story line, and the details were too cute.  For instance, the food on Miriax is an adventure in and of itself.  Eating sticky rice makes talking practically impossible, because, well, your mouth is stuck together!

  There will be no spoilers, but let's just say the book follows a classic sci-fi route, and like many sci-fi books, the pleasure is in the journey (to another planet.)  Space travel and inter-dimensionality; these are just the things to ponder over the relaxed days of summer.

  The book also has a good theme reflecting acceptance of one's self, something that is instructive in young adult lit, but important to remember at any age.  For instance, the secondary characters, Vanessa and Jit wouldn't have been able to help with the space mission if they didn't have their unique talents for resilient cheerfulness and creative thinking.

  This book seems to say that it's important to look at our place in the world through both a macro and micro lens.  If we're paying attention, the story makes us aware of the dichotomy of our existence.  We are single beings in a very large universe.  And yet, we have the ability to make a difference through our thoughts and actions.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Your mind: blown"

David Katz caught in his own network
  On Friday morning, my friend JT Tannous turned all YODA on me to describe the upcoming exhibit at the Coconino Center for the Arts. "Your mind: blown,"  he said.  I was deeply affected by his minimalism.

  Tannous and gallery director Robin Cadigan had just offered to give me a sneak preview of "Across the Divide"  during the installation process.  Then I found out that  Steve Schaeffer, one of the faculty members in the NAU Ceramics Department was the juror for the show, and in fact had been planning it for two years.  Now I had to go!  How wonderfully compelling this all was on a Friday afternoon!!

  "Across the Divide" is basically a sculptural ceramic show that pushes beyond traditional clay boundaries with large size, different techniques, or strange and interesting figurative subject matter.  It will be a fantastic addition to Flagstaff's summer art scene. 

  One of the best things about the exhibit is the process of putting it together.  This is no ordinary painting-on-a-wall type of show.  For instance, David Katz and his assistant, Shauna Cahill, hauled 600 lbs. of clay in from Indiana for their piece.  The piece is really fascinating, with its parabolic shapes and bone-like ladders, connecting to grids that contain joints. Katz calls it a "mediated landscape" with very architectural spaces, "an external world and interior world symbiosis organization."

David Katz and Shauna Cahill work on "Confluent Systems II"
  It's big, too.  Over 1/2 a mile of electrical fence wire was used, and over 300 pounds of raw clay was formed over the wire.  Katz said in Indiana, the clay would take a couple of weeks to dry completely, but in Flagstaff it only took 48 hours!

  "It's kind of like an artifact--evidence of the passage of time," Katz said about his piece.  Does that mean that time goes by faster in Flag?

  Other pieces required a lot of work to install as well, and I encourage you to imagine the process of putting everything together. They really took time, and then the artists have to come back and tear it all down!  It's so ephemeral!!  I just imagine, as an artist (and a viewer,) you dare not get too attached to the finished pieces.  It's like you have to love them sideways, so you can see out of the corner of your heart, and then maybe you'll be able to let them go.

  Or as Yoda says, “Death is a natural part of life...Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.”

  In the meantime, catch these pieces while they're alive!  The show opens June 2, 6-8 p.m. and runs through July 28.

This 20 foot wide piece took 6 people to install.