Wednesday, August 31, 2005

School of Mom

It occurs to me that not everyone has had to work as hard in their lives as I am currently to learn about community and how to build it. Lots of people go right out into their adult lives and meet their neighbors, form bonds with the everyday people of their lives like checkout girls and postmen and just generally feel at home where they live. Heck, it seems like every one of my cousins on my dad's side has gone out into the world and made it a better place for, at least, the old people in their apartment buildings or the neighborhood kids. So many people I knew left the community of college and jumped right into the community of their Chicago neighborhood or the married lifestyle they adopted in their suburb. Other people seem to be part of their community with ease, meeting people for coffee, writing novels, just hanging out at friend's houses because the friend lived a block away, having block parties.

But not me. I went out into the world and stayed isolated in my apartment. I drove between half an hour and an hour to work every day and back, stopping at the chain stores amd restaurants in the strip malls that happened to be on my route to and from home. Once home, I tended to stay inside, reading, grading papers or crafting. On weekends, I'd drive between half an hour and an hour to a friend's house or a restaurant to meet friends that I'd made in college or at the first school that I worked at. Sometimes, I would go out for drinks with the other teachers that I worked with after school on Fridays. My community, such as it was, was made up of people I chose because they appealed to me and was geographically dispersed. It was like a forest with only one kind of tree, none of which are very near to the other ones: not a very healthy forest at all.

Why? Why was I so abysmal at integrating myself into a community, any of the communities available to me like church, the neighborhood where I bought my house or even the internet? I had studied Inner City Community Development; I knew the theory of communities. I read books with beautiful communities, especially the books of Charles DeLint. I wanted community. So, why didn't I take the bull by the horn like any good Murphy would and just do it?

I think it's because I didn't know how. I could have learned some of the actual skills from my father. He build community within his offices and at church, but that activity took place at his offices and at church. I was mostly at home, so he wasn't modelling those skills where I could see them. As I got older and began to shadow him at work in inner city community development, I began to learn how to be a leader and a little bit how to interact with people succesfully (a skill in which I was woefully deficient until then). Still, though, Dad was past the point where he could show me the nitty-gritty of starting out in a new place.

So, why didn't I learn about building community from my mother? She was an at-home mom until Daniel and I were in junior high. Didn't she engage in the community around her in our suburb that was so nice to raise kids in? The answer is a very blunt, "No." I struggle with building community because I spent my time as a child learning about the rhythms of life from my mother, who did not spend much time building community. So what did this intelligent, funny, compassionate woman do if she wasn't attending PTA meetings, being a room mother, setting up play dates or volunteering to hostess church functions?

My mother was building family.

My mother turned her focus inward and built a family that is healthy and happy together. As kids, we go out in the world with a sense that our family is a foundation that will hold whatever life we build upon it. So many people that I know leave their birth families behind as liabilties or weak and sore spots in their lives like cavities and have to do the work of rebuilding a new foundation. (A certain amount of mixed metaphor, I know.) There are a variety of reasons why that happens but I have not had to start a new life as an adult on my own because my mother put her energy and sacrifice into our family. I know that her focus was successful because I can't stay in this utopia since they are not here. If even one brother moved out here, then I could stay. But since all five of them are resolutely living in the Chicagoland, I have to move back.

So, I learned how to build family as a child, the way women have always learned these things: from watching our mothers and aunts and grandmas and practicing those skills in games of "house" and role-playing with our dolls. (As a side note, I also learned how to shop this way.) So, when I got married right out of college, I put my own energy into building family. I didn't worry about meeting my neighbors or volunteering. I taught high school, often to kids that needed a good teacher desperately, practicing the leadership and people skills that I learned from my dad, but then I came home to my husband and put my energy and sacrifice into our relationship, just like I'd absorbed from my mom over the years.

So, when my husband left and I learned that although it felt like he was building family with me, he was actually just telling me what he thought I wanted to hear, and then when I lost my job teaching, I had to find a new place to put my energy and sacrifice.

There is no moral to this realization. I do not know if the choices I made were right or wrong, ignorant or enlightened, naive or preturnaturally wise. Similarly, I don't know if other people (or even myself) should model themselves on my parents or not, although their choice do seem to be right to me. But the question of "Why are you having to work so deliberately to learn this very natural thing?" arose in my mind and it feels good to have an answer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Cave sweat

Yesterday was another perfect island social gathering. It was the first Sunday that I had off all summer, so we went to Sauna Night. Instead of being at Allan’s, like it traditionally is, it had been moved to Tim F’s (not to be confused with Tim the Human, who is his friend) house, which was only about a mile away. First, however, we went over to Allan’s to hang out with him and his internet girlfriend, Holly. Allan is probably Jeff’s best friend, although neither one would likely admit it and Holly is fairly cool. Since she, too, is imported from the mainland, I find that I have a lot of perspectives in common with her. Although she works for Shearwater, I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunities to get to know her personally, so this time together was good. We talked about first periods and first bras. It’s an essential step with girlfriends, you know. I had put together cheesy potatoes at my house, then Jeff and I went over there to bake them. When my potatoes and Holly’s chai were ready, all four of us went over to Tim’s.

Tim’s house is entirely constructed of materials and methods that tread lightly on the earth. It has a timber frame and plaster walls. The insulation is shredded newspaper that’s been soaked in borax (to keep out the bugs) that is blown into the space between the walls with a high-powered blower. He has a small cast-iron gas-powered double burner that he salvaged and a wood-stove. Much of the furniture is made out of wood that he milled himself from logs on his property. He hasn’t processed them except to mill them into boards. They retain their natural edges and look really cool. His water all comes from the pond down the hill, so drinking water comes from a tank mounted on an old TV wall-mount that is installed on the post next to the sink. He has a similar outhouse set-up to Allan’s, meaning that there was a small building with a bench and a hole for solid waste, and you urinate outside wherever you want. The separation of the functions is so that the solid waste can be used for manure. The less liquid that gets collected in the 55-gallon plastic barrel, the easier it is to work with. (Don’t ask for details; that’s all I know.)

Down the hill from his house, where we parked and just in front of the pond, he has constructed a HUGE sauna. I didn’t go in it at first because it seemed like it was really full at the beginning of the party. It seemed to me that the number of people who showed up and then disappeared totaled at least 15 people and regardless of how many they told me would fit in the sauna, I just couldn’t get the image of a clown car full of sweaty, naked people out of my head. When we did eventually get ourselves up off the couch to be part of the second wave, I realized that I had been right to wait since there were people there that had never actually showed up at the house first; they just went straight into the sauna. The added bonus of waiting was that I ended up, for once in my life, with the cool people that I wanted to converse with, rather than the hippy-dippy strangers with whom I would had only been able to sit in companionable silence with. Jila and Scott, two guides with Shearwater that I really like, went down the hill with Jeff and I. Bridget, one of my favorite straight-talking women on the island, was still there and just a few other random people, included the woman who had substituted for Sarah (not Sukima) in my yoga class that morning. Both Bridget and Scott are extremely funny, so instead of the contemplative relaxing experience that I have gotten used to in Allan’s sauna and the sauna at Doe Bay, it was a rather rollicking, releasing experience.

Tim’s sauna is made out of ferro-cement that has been formed around big branches that curve to make a big dome frame. It’s very organic feeling and reminded me a little of the Native American mound at the Field Museum that we used to visit for interpretive programs when I was in Indian Princesses, especially since the few candles in Tim’s sauna seemed to replicate the lighting created by the simulated Native American fire that burned in the center of the lodge. Tim’s sauna, however, was smaller: probably 20 feet in diameter and probably only 7 or 8 feet tall at the top of the dome. On the same section of wall as the entrance (a heavy piece of canvas or leather; I’m not sure, it was dark) is the wood stove. It is built into the wall and the mouth of it that takes new wood actually opens out into the anteroom, where clothes are left and wood is kept dry. On the other ¾ of the wall is built a 4 foot deep curving bench. When the sauna is full, people sit two deep. By the time I got there, it was easy to lay back and breathe deep when necessary. It was very dark in the sauna, especially when one first enters it. One time, upon re-entering it, I called, “Jeffrey! Marco!” His “Polo” helped me find where to sit. The two candles cast only enough light to create shadows and to turn our bodies into silhouettes for each other. It was actually very beautiful and primal. All bodies are gorgeous in silhouette. I will now always picture this sauna when I think of Plato’s cave. The floor is flagstone and there is a shower in the middle of it. When you first turn the shower on to cool off, the water is warm because it has been sitting in the pipe above the stove. Then, the shower begins pulling the water from the pond and it is cold enough to leave you gasping as it hits your body’s core temperature spots: torso, back shoulders, lower back, head and neck. Since the shower was actually in the sauna, though, the extremities that weren’t actually under the stream of water warmed up almost immediately, so the discomfort of a prolonged cold shower was alleviated. Since the floor was stone, it was warm and most of the water that ran off of us went up into the air as steam. This made the sauna a totally different kind of heat from Allan’s sauna and the sauna at Doe Bay, which are made of cedar and create a very dry environment except when water is poured on the rocks. This wetness contributed to the rollicking atmosphere. In wooden saunas, you have to wait quietly while your body warms up and produces sweat to overcome the dryness. In this sauna, the ever-present steam condenses to one’s relatively cool body immediately upon entering, like water on a cool glass in summer. This condensation seems to encourage the body to sweat for itself immediately, so the time of meditation that usually takes place while waiting is completely skipped and the stage of spewing out toxins commences immediately. The spewing-out of toxins is often quite festive, don’t you think? If the cold shower isn’t quite enough to shock the system or if one starts to feel claustrophobic, the pond is just beyond the sauna. Actually just at the mouth of the anteroom is a rope swing hung from a 50 foot tall blasted tree. As I followed the other girls around to the side of the pond where the brush had been cleared to create a bank from which to enter the pond, I heard Scott say to the group of guys that were standing around the swing, “Well, they wouldn’t put it here if it weren’t legit on the other end, would they?” Keep in mind that it is completely dark out except for starlight and we of the second wave of sweaters had not cased the joint, so were wandering somewhat blindly, so Scott’s bravado was particularly stupid and therefore particularly funny. As the girls got around to the edge of the pond, we realized that since it is the middle of August and we have had very little rain this summer, the rope swing probably wasn’t legit at the other end, which made us laugh all the harder. As Jila and I swam in the cold, cold pond, she noticed the stars since it had been overcast all day. I pointed out that of course the stars came out, I was having a perfect island experience, wasn’t I? However, I could not shake the nagging feeling for the rest of the night that I had pond plants on me and maybe even a little bit between my cheeks, like sand in one’s swimsuit after a day at the beach when you’re a little kid.

So, after a little longer in the sauna, I stood around outside, looking at the stars while my body cooled off so I wouldn’t sweat into my clothes. We went back up to the house and I learned that my cheesy potatoes had been a hit. Apparently, what I considered to be a rather cop-out dish was actually considered a novelty and classic midwest cooking. I had used the potatoes that I’ve been getting from Rhonda week after week and cheddar and asiago cheese. Also, butter. The potatoes were Yukon Gold and some kind of purple potato with white flesh. Fanstastic. The asiago cheese fell to the bottom of the casserole dish and formed a crust since Allan’s oven has no consistency of temperature and actually got hotter after I put the casserole in and turned the knob down. Yummy, salty brown cheese. We hung around for a little while longer and then headed home. All in all, a satisfying island social experience.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Barter Economy

This community is a phenomenal one for barter. I was at the office supply store at the beginning of the week (finally) making copies of my quotes. The lady at the copy shop liked the idea so much that she commissioned 200 of them to take to three different quilting retreats. Apparently, people have begun bringing little presents for the other women. So, as she was totalling up my copies, she said, "How about we just trade for these?" So, instead of paying her, I walked out with free copies and 6.50 in cash. Woohoo! So, I spent the cash on new string and a little notebook at one of the new giftshops called Magpie. While I was in there, I spoke with the owner because it seems like her stock is the same personality as what I make. She said to come by at the end of the Farmer's Market season about selling the bottles on commission out of her shop. She didn't make any promises, but it certainly seems promising. This is a good place to be an artist.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

August People

There is a thing in the world called an "August Person."

August people are folks who have waited all summer and are finally on vacation, dammit! They tend to be fairly stupid and very demanding. The saunter into the shop at 2:16 in the afternoon and are upset that I don't have an afternoon kayak trip to put them on. (I have both 1:00 and 2:00 trips.) They want me to guarantee that they'll see wildlife. They want me to read their minds when they ask questions like, "So, what's the story with the currents today?" They whine that 3 hours is too long and don't I have any shorter trips? They are indignant that I won't just rent them a kayak, never mind that the tide change can be up to 13 feet and we have some pretty tricky currents. They want to carry their 3-year-old in their lap while they paddle. They definitely wait until they're on the beach and suited up in sunscreen, hat, expensive outdoor wear, spray skirt and PFD before telling the guide that they have carpal tunnel/bad back/shoulder surgery and will this be a very strenuous activity? If they're from California, they can't go on the morning or the evening trips because it will be too cold. They insist that they've just called me and made a reservation that they now have to cancel and take five minutes of convincing that they're not describing the directions to any of my launch sites, I'm the only one answering the phone and I have no memory of speaking to them, and I have no idea why hitting redial on your cell phone called me. Speaking of cell phones, they are visibly and audibly offended that - although they've chosen a somewhat remote island in order to "get away from it all" - their cell phones don't work consistently. They're so wrapped up in their own world-view that the mechanics of how cell phones work is no longer something they have to know, in the same way that the inner workings of a toilet would mystify them if they really stopped to try to puzzle out how it worked. They don't know and they don't care how it works, they just want it to work. Cell tower? What's that? Mountains? Rural area?

I think that the really hard thing about the invasion of the August people is what is does to the locals. Even if we can greet most of the rudeness and ignorance with humor and detachment, we're also working as many hours in a week as we'll work all year. Making hay while the sun shines, you know? That density of interaction with tourists means that we have less time to decompress from one day to the next and so tempers get short. We have less ability to be civil to one another. What's nice is that you can usually apologize and explain that "it's just August, I'm sorry." Still, no one likes to be snapped at and no one likes to be reminded that they're capable of snapping like that. On my best days, I enjoy the whole experience: the grumpiness, the surreality, the changes in personality. Other days, I go home for some quiet time reading a book or watching a movie. Last night, I watched High Fidelity for the first time since I saw it in the theater. I'm feeling much better now, thank you. :-)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

How's my hair?

I've decided to go to my ten-year high school reunion. Actually, I've more than decided; I've booked the plane tickets and made an appointment with my hair dresser.

Some might say, "But Rebecca, you're moving home at the end of October. Why spend all that money to visit a month early?" I know. I've kind of agonized over it myself. But, the fact of the matter remains that I'm interested in seeing the people that I grew up with. I looked at the names on the email list and just some of the names made me smile. We had a pretty dynamic class that was not terribly plagued by cliques. Molly Ringwald wouldn't have had any angst at my school. I've also had some major identity issues since high school and am currently in the stage of figuring out who I want to be now - again. Touching base with who others perceived me to be when I was young can only be a positive experience, I think, especially since some of the early feedback that I got when I occasionally ran into people when I was working at my old high school is that I was apparently a lot cooler than I thought I was. Gosh, I love our revisionist memories.

I'm only going to the part of the weekend that involves appetizers and open bar at a place in Chicago on Saturday night. I have no interest in actually going back to the campus (hello, they fired me) or meeting any of their kids at the picnic. If they're so suburban that those are the only part of the festivities that they DO attend, then I can't believe that we'll have anything in common enough to fill more than 5 minutes of conversation. I am a little nervous about encoutering all of the people who have chosen the suburban life that I have left behind. Who will I be to those people? Should I dress aggressively island-style. Should I blend in with basic black and jeans? I still have all of those suurban clothes in storage. Should I take on that armor again? I don't know who I'm about to be once I move to the city. I assume I'll blend the old suburban chic (knee-high boots, black turtleneck, etc) with my new island elements. I like the evolution of my personal style from era to era in my life. However, this reunion falls at a liminal point. I'm not freaking out about it, but it is an interesting dilemma.

I justify the trip because I'll take two suitcases full of stuff, which will be 100 pounds that I do not have to pay to ship. I'm flying Southwest, so I saved $70 from any other airline. I'm combining the journey to Seattle for the airport with a sighseeing trip that I'd been planning, so the expense of getting to Seattle and back is money I would have spent anyway. Daniel asked why I don't just come home then and the response is that I really want to go to Barterfaire in October. Jeff and I will drive the 600 miles to get there and that will be 600 miles into the trip home. Plus, Jeff can't drive home with me in September; he's still making summer money guiding kayaks.

So, I'm planning to sit in the corner of the bar, maybe with my friend Emily, who is the person I'm closest to from high school (mostly because we also went to the same college) and watch the interactions. I'm not Ms. Peppy-Run-Around-And-Re-introduce-Myself-To-Everyone. I'm told I look exactly like I looked in high school, so I'll let them come to me and the ones who are interested enough to come talk to me will be the ones that I'm delighted to talk to. If I could find someone to sit with me (like maybe Emily's husband Joe) and to make sarcastic observations to, it will be even better.

And, Kelly will have just cut me new layers and blow-dried my hair, so at least it will look great, if nothing else.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A Xerox, a Xerox, my country for a Xerox

Like I've said in the past, I've been selling my little quote bottles like the proverbial hotcakes at the Farmer's Market. So much so that I've run out of quotes from the entire ream that I had when I moved here. The problem with that is that I did not keep a master copy so by the time I had realized that I was going to run out, I did not have enough just to take them to the office supply store and run off a couple of copies. The problem with THAT is that the document uses a gazillion different fonts, so I can only print it out from my computer. The problem with THAT is that my computer refuses to talk to printers. It's like after the first printer that it was married to left him, he'll renounced love ever since. Sometimes I can get it to print a test page after I've installed new software, but it's all in gibberish. It's a little like getting endangered animals to mate in captivity. I just haven't found the right printer yet. So, since I can't print the document off my own computer and it's is literally impossible to transfer to someone else's PC all of my font files that I've downloaded from various tawdry websites, I've decided to start from scratch on Jeff's roommate's Mac G4. I made all the quotes size 8 Ariel and emailed it to myself so I could put the file on her hard drive. (Actually, I copied it onto a floppy since no one I know has dial-up anymore for me to use, then transferred it to Jeff's computer and from there I emailed it to myself.) I've since been spending the last few weeks downloading new fonts from one, reputable website and formatting all the quotes. When I'm done, I'll burn a disk with both the quotes and the fonts so I can do this from anyone's computer. Well, anyone with a mac, which will probably have to be my brother David. Whoo, boy. While I've been reformatting, I've been trying to print out at least some pages so I can keep making new bottles for the market. However, for various reasons (I've given you too many useless details as it is, at least useless except for the humor value of the build-up) I had none for the market this morning. Now, I don't absolutely need to be making them while I sit there for the market, but it is one more aspect of the bait I use to get people to talk to me about the Exchange. Crafty people ask me what I'm doing, I tell them in ways that subtly mention the Exchange, then they usually ask what the Exchange is. It's a well-crafted plan.

So, I'm running around Eastsound after I've dropped my stuff off at the Village Green and parked my car. I'm running around because I think it's silly to drive around a town so small plus I needed to park my car early to get a space close enough to the fair that I can pack up early with no problem. (If you pack up early, you can't drive onto the Green and I'm working an odd evening shift at Shearwater today.) So, I'm walking from place to place, looking for a photocopier because I have about 10 sheets of quotes that I created when I was first putting this project together 5 years ago. These quotes aren't in the big database and exist only on these sheets of paper, so I can't just use them. I must makes copies. However, EVERY SINGLE place that has a photocopier is either closed on Saturday or doesn't open until 10:00, which is when the market starts. (I love this island, but occasionally I wish I had some of the conveniences of the suburbs. Don't worry, it's only occasionally and I really don't want anything else about the suburbs so there's no fear that I will move back to them for a Kinko's.)

Here comes the reason why I'm telling you all of this seemingly trivial stuff. I pass the Post Office on my way back from the Radio Shack, after having already struck out at the Mail Depot, Ace Hardware, Rainbow Station and Office Cupboard. I go in to pick up my mail since I'm there and I hear voices in the back through my box. (The Post Office is also closed on Saturday. The library is open, but not until 10:00.) I used to pick up the mail for the bookstore at the back door, so I'm friendly with the post office staff, plus I hear Jeffrey, who I've had all sorts of fun conversations with at the Exchange. So I think to myself, "Self, why don't you just ask? All they can do is say no," So, I went to the side door and ring the bell and who opens up the top half of the door but Jeffrey! After some pleasantries, I assure him that he should feel welcome to say no, but would he mind running off a copy of these 10 pages. He says, well he really shouldn't but why not. He disappears into the back, I listen in on the other emplyees bitching about the boss, who obviously isn't there and then but a few completed scrolls in Jeffrey's hand when he comes back with my copies.

Really, is there any chance that I would have been able to get a US Post Office employee to do something like that for me anywhere in the life I left behind? Would I even know the employees? Of course, I wouldn't need to, but self-sufficiency is no comparison to the joys of community. That victory was so much sweeter because I had to ask a favor and weave one more strand into another relationship, which results in a stronger bond with another human being. Cool.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Yoga dreams

At the end of my yoga class on Sunday, we lay on our backs for realxation with our blankets pulled up over our shoulders. Since I was warm and supine, as I focused on my breathing I fell into a light sleep. You know, the after-the-alarm-clock-first-rings-but-before-the-snooze-goes-off type of dreaming. So, in the dream, my heart feels like it is exploding in slow motion with hurt. My subconscience formed the words to ask God to help me let go of it and the pain floated away from me like a helium balloon released.

I'm not generally that literal in my beliefs about prayer. I usually believe that by putting ourselves in a supplicating role through prayer, we stop blocking sub-consciously the body's near-miraculous ability to heal itself, and that includes the brain chemicals that create our emotions. However, it was my sub-conscious asking in this situation. That throws my whole theory out of whack because I know that it worked. The hurt was from a specific wound that hadd been dealt to me during my divorce either from my husband or his best friend. I had been worrying it around like a loose tooth for days but now, I have NO IDEA what was bothering me. God took it took the memory of the pain and indignity like the bad corporation in a science fiction movie took memories from Arnold Scwartzenegger.

I love this world.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Farmer's Market Gal

Here's a picture of me at the Farmer's Market, courtesy of Jeff's dad. I've written about the Farmer's Market here.

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I started wearing the hat one weekend when I was tired and cranky and didn't want to drink a Coca-Cola first thing in the morning, even though I probably could have used the caffeine boost. So, I wore something flamboyant that I knew people would tell me that they liked, even if they didn't, just because it was so big. I figured that kind of energy would get me through the day. I has a matching bag and sarong, as well, so I'm occasionally told that I'm fabulous. I wear it about every other weekend because it keeps the sun off my poor Irish skin very well. I'm glad that Jeff's dad has recorded it.

This is a close-up of the creative re-use that I sell. The little colored bits in the bottles are words that I have collected in my experience that are wrapped up in bright string. Some are quotes, some are passages from books, some are things people say to me, some are poems. They're actually pretty hot sellers, especially since I'm wrapping new ones while I sit there and give them away for free just for fun.
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Mostly, I use the creative re-use as bait to pull people over to my booth, where I then ask them if they've been to the Exchange while they're fingering the goods. They say, "No, what's the Exchange?" "Well, I'm glad you asked. The Exchange is our community's attempt pull usable items out of the waste stream and make them available for re-use. So, it's two acres of salvaged stuff which is just really neat." Then, they usually ask where it is and I tell them it's a great way to experience a little local color. I've got the spiel down pat. Since a good part of our tourist population is Seattle and Portland hipsters, you know, the ReadyMade crowd, they tend to be pretty into it.

Comments, comments, comments

I'd like to draw your attention to some conversations that have taken place on previous posts. As usual, my dad is prevalent. :-)

Good conversation here.

Odd conversation here. I don't know why the drop-in commenters throw me for a loop, but they do.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Open Mic

Mariah is the epitome of middle-aged-clasic-rock-motorcycle-chick, right down to the smoky voice (although she has some unexpected, delightful spiritual layers once you get to know her).

I do not think that I will ever live in another place where a woman like Mariah can get up to the stool at open mic night and start off her set with a traditional native American flute, playing some new-agey sounding song that a massage therapist might have playing softly in the background during a session, and then follow that up by pulling out her guitar while saying, "This next song is by Emerson, Lake and Palmer . . ." and be received well by an appreciative audience. I just can't believe that a bar in Chicago would sit through that with a straight face. Hell, even I liked her set, as goofy as it's content was. She played well and with passion. She communicated with the audience through eye contact, body language and sincere, confident tone of voice. Who says that she has to be edgy or hip in order to be good? Up to this point, although I would not have said it in so many words, that would have been part of my criteria. In order to be a good performer, my you first have to be cool. The audience at open mic at Doe Bay Cafe on Wednesday nights is teaching me otherwise.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I'm goin' to Disneyland!

I've taken a bit of a vacation for myself. It started with being extremely sick last Monday and Tuesday. I had to call in to work and sit on the couch with nothing to do but watch TV and movies for two days. Then, although I went back to work, I still felt pretty crappy most days. Not so much sick as sapped of energy. So, I worked two shifts on Wednesday, both of which we high intentisy tasks that didn't allow for a lot of downtime so I was OK. Thursday was my regular day off and I couldn't get the girl that had covered my shifts to actually switch shifts so I had to take it as a day off. Since I was still without energy, I did not use this big empty day to do all of the things I should have done while I was sick. I spent the day doing crafts. Now, I had to do these crafts. A woman had commissioned me to do a guestbook for her wedding reception like the bowl she had bought and I had told her it would be done Monday. Also, I had totally run out of quotes that were printed out and since no printer will talk to my old computer with the funky operating system, I'm having to reformat it on Jeff's roommate's computer so that I will be able to use her printer. So, I spent the day wandering between the decoupage station I had set up on Jeff's porch and sitting with Anne's laptap, doing possibly my favorite mindless thing in the world: downloading neat fonts and using those to make a document look cool. I have 26 pages of quotes in 8-point Ariel font that I have to apply new and bigger fonts to. It's taking forever and I love it! OK, big dork, sorry.

I think Thursday was possibly a perfect day. Jeff and I both had the day off and both puttered around his house working on laid-back projects. I had the foresight to bring all the things I needed for the guestbook, so it was as good as doing it at my house. Jeff was in his sewing room with a new machine that he was cleaning so we didn't bump into each other much. After an entire day of this, our friends Rachel and Quinn came down the mountain with their baby Owen and Stephanie, who lives in their yard, came too. We had a little BBQ and then made wine with plums Rae-Rae had picked. Rachel and Stephanie are two of my favorite women on the island and the fact that they arrive with a baby and sauteed vegetables for the grill doesn't hurt. So, a perfect day.

I think after Thursday, I just needed to stay on vacation for a little while. It's important to listen to your body and my body was telling me not to go back to working out and making phone calls. In fact, although I needed the money, I went home early from the Excahnge on Friday and took a nap. So, for the days between Thursday and today, I've woken up every morning and simply asked myself, "What do you want to do today?" Except for shifts at work, I have allowed myself to do whatever I want, rather than to do the things that need to be done. To be honest, the list of things that SHOULD be done wasn't large, (a benefit of island living) but the freedom of not making myself use the vegetables from my CSA and just eating eggs on mayonaise toast or macaroni and cheese or not calling back the few people that have called since I was sick has been delightful. How many days do we truly wake up with an empty slate for our schedule? An when we do, how often do we do the leisure things that we SHOULD finish, because we have this nagging sense that some projects should be finished before others are begun? Pfff.

I am going back to responsiblity today. The vacation is over. Here's my to-do list:
1. blog
2. Pay Progressive bill (get in under 10-day grace period deadline)
3. Work on T-shirt design for the Exchange
4. Format more quotes
5. Print more quotes (Selling like hotcakes at the Farmer's Market)
6. Call Harold, Liz and Andrew
7. Research and sign up to take the GRE and PRAXIS tests
8. email Phyllis with beet soup recipe
9. Start working out again
10. Finally finish unpacking my room

Tough, huh.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Well, I've taken some ibuprofen and some decongestant, sat in the sauna and the hot tubs for awhile and eaten some breakfast. This is the best I'm going feel all day, so I figured I should get a post out while I can. I have some sort of flu, with a drippy nose, sore throat and achy muscles. Actually, I seem to be moving through stages fairly quickly and the sore throat is gone.

Last week Jeff's mom and dad and his oldest niece were in town. It was nice to have people from home and I've always loved Phyllis and Dave. I did have one minor little freak-out on Thursday morning. Phyllis had invited me over to their cabin for lunch and then out to throw a pot with her and Jessica at one of the local pottery places. Phyllis was fantastic about inviting me to join them for everything. In her shoes, I might get tired of sharing my time with my son with "the girlfriend" even if I had known her almost from birth. Not Phyllis, though. She's obviously much nicer and more generous than I am. It made me feel really good. However, I think it was hard for me because seeing the Ludwigs made me think a lot about home and my own parents. When she asked me over for sandwiches with Jeff, I couldn't stand the thought of eating someone else's mom's sandwiches. You know how your own mom's sandwiches have a particular palette of tastes because of the brands and types of condiments that she uses and the technique with which she spreads the condiments and the type of bread and meat that she prefers? Phyllis's sandwiches are very good (she was a Home Ec teacher, after all) but I just knew they wouldn't be like my mom's sandwiches and that was too much for me. I miss my family. So, I freaked out for a little while but once I recognized the issue, I asked Jeff to gracefully decline for me and spent the day by myself making paper bowls, wrapping quotes and baking cookies for the BBQ that night. The rhythm of baking always soothes me. Plus, I get to taste throughout and nothing is as good for the soul as butter and sugar.

Yesterday, I had a crappy day. However, as I looked back on it, I felt positive because it was a normal crappy day that anyone would have. It had nothing to do with any of my transitional life issues. Woohoo!

The day started with a crappy yoga class. My normal teacher, Sarah, wasn't there and a silver-haired, white lady in her mid-50's was there instead. Now, Sarah's a silver-haired, white lady in her mid-40's so the difference wasn't so huge, but the lady yesterday was named Sukima and there's just no way that she was named that at birth and the fact that she changed her name at some point to something so goofy is representative of her outlook on life and that outlook bugged me.

Sukima was like a cross between a kindergarten teacher and Tom Jones. She talked in baby talk, spoke out loud what we should be thinking as we shifted our bodies around, (Now tuck your pelvis in, Oooh, interesting!) and made huge, exaggerated facial expressions. That was the kindergarten part. The Tom Jones part was that nearly every instruction or just general sentence was follwed by an ecstatic noise that generated from deep in her diaphragm. Listen to a live Tom Jones album and you'll hear exactly what I mean. Then, transpose it to a high register and add a baby-talk accent and you'll know what I was living through for an hour and a half. The fact that she spoke with the same British accent as TJ didn't make things any easier.

These weird personality quirks wouldn't necessarily be enough to put me off the class, though, probably. I've had some odd odd teachers that were still worth listening to because they were so knowledgable and passionate about their subjects. Ask me about Gordon Horwitz sometime as an example. But I quickly began to resent Sukima because wasn't clear enough with her instructions. She had begun the class by asking everyone to go around in a circle and introduce themselves and to give a summary of their injuries. We were to be rubbing our feet in self-massage to take the edge off of hearing the gruesome stories. She did not, however, ask us how much experience we had with yoga. Most teachers that I've had get both those bits of information by speaking with people privately and somewhat clinically while everyone is milling around before class. No, we started with a group therapy session. On the whole, we spent the class being very gentle with ourselves.

However, my desire to learn was willing to overlook all this to have a new experience. I know that my desire to learn was present in full form because I quickly got frustrated because she either assumed a lot of previous knowledge or she didn't care how exact we were with our poses. She would name the pose (cobra, downward dog, mountain) but would give only the basics of how to get into that pose. She never circulated in the room to correct stances or to challenge us to go deeper into a pose. So, I would end up substituing poses that I did know that were close to what she was describing but I was constantly feeling that because I wasn't doing whatt she intended, I wasn't getting the most out of the class. She is a teacher, after all. She must have some reason for instructing those particular things. It's very hard to lose oneself in concentration, when one is always trying to figure out what is going on. It's a little like going to a new church and being unable to worship because you have to figure out which book to find the liturgy in or when you're supposed to stand up, sit down or kneel.

The most interesting thing about this annoying experience was that I did find myself arguing internally to keep my mind open through the class. I have this nagging sense that every experience is worthwhile because everyone has something to teach. So I spent a lot of time not concentrating on my breathing but trying to figure out what I was supposed to learn. I kept explaining to myself that I was just sullen because I had been expecting Sarah and the fantastic experience I have in her class once a week. The antagonistic outlook that I had toward Sukima was probably generated from my disappointment. I was maybe holding a grudge that Sukima wasn't Sarah. Let's face it, Tom Jones teaching yoga to a class kindergarteners (It's not a tumor! Oooh!) could be pretty funny as an outside observer.

In additional to trying to keep myself open to what I could learn, I also found myself trying to challenge myself to go deeper into the poses and fix the things myself that my teacher usually directs me to fix, like planting the entire palms of my hands and pulling my hips back in downward dog. It's a little like learning to edit your own rough drafts. It's easy to be lazy and let someone else find your mistakes, but once you start finding them yourself, you actually learn not to make them in the first place. My favorite literary character, Alanna, disguised herself as a boy to learn to be a knight and I always remember that she would be embarassed when a new teacher would catch her forgetting to do something she already knew how to do, like keeping her stomach tight in combat training. So, I tried to be like Alanna and push myself.

Still, I left class pretty unsatisfied. We had done quite a lot of self-massage and not a lot of stretching. She went on and on about this gift of the flying eagle that she gave to us and how exhilirating it was as a pose, but it hadn't done anything for me. She ended the session with an invitation that if anyone would like to stay and talk about what they'd experienced, heard, felt or SAW, she'd be happy to stay. Blech. However, she also ended by saying, "Namaste," and as I replied, "Namaste" by rote, I had to grudgingly remind myself that there is, in fact, divinity in Sukima to be recognized and honored, just like there is divinity in me that seeks to be recognized and honored. That being said, though, I booked a hasty retreat when my fellow classmembers began to sigh about how relaxed they felt. Of course they felt relaxed, they hadn't really done anything!

So, the day got worse from there. As I was driving back into town, the car in front of me (who had to have known I was behind him because I had been there so long) stopped in front of a driveway that was located just beyond a hairpin downhill curve, so that I had to slam on the brakes and stopped within inches since I couldn't have known that he was slowing down to stop. Why didn't he just pull inot the driveway to let the town drunk out?

I had to work at the Exchange to cover for a girl on vacation and Sundays always suck because there are just too many people trying to unload their stuff before we're closed for the next two days. It was all grumpy, old bachelors working and all of the drop-offs were clothes, so they sat and leaned against the counter while I sorted and hung clothes because they refuse to do that kind of work. I was starting to feel sick at that point, but had to drive back out to Doe Bay to work a shift. Even though I was told I could leave early, the other girl working is not at all good at waiting tables, so I had to stay an extra hour or everything would have fallen down around her ears.

So, pretty much a martyr day but a normal-person martyr day, which feels good, even if I don't.