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November 29, 2006

on travel

oh, how i want to go...somewhere. most of the time i am wanting to go to a somewhere and breathe different air, explore, be changed, find another corner of myself that's gotten musty and air it out. i will, hopefully, never lose this longing.
Frances Mayes (the author most famous for the book Under the Tuscan Sun) speaks of this. reading the following, i felt like she'd seen right into my head and heart:

travel pushes my boundaries. when you travel, you become invisible, if you want. i do want. i like to be the observer. what makes people who they are? could i feel at home here? when travelling, you have the delectable possibility of not understanding a word of what is said to you. language becomes simply a musical background for watching bicycles zoom alongside a canal, calling for nothing from you. travel releases spontaneity. you become a creature full of choice, free to visit the stately pleasure domes, make love in the morning, sketch a bell tower. you open, as in childhood, and -- for a time -- receive this world. there's the visceral aspect, too -- the huntress who is free. free to go, free to return home bringing memories to lay on the hearth.

my hearth is very full, but there is always room for more.

Posted by hadashi at 6:44 PM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2006

happy Thanksgiving

and here, in no particular order, are a few things that i am thankful for:

- public libraries.
- wearing a sleeveless top, skirt, and open-toed shoes today.
- the whole concept of high tea. or siesta.
- our lemon tree has roared back to life. and the peach tree's performance this summer was juicily gratifying.
- the iPod and all the worlds it has opened and re-opened for me.
- my beloved amazing sister. my parents are pretty durned great too. okay, i love my family.
- gerbera daisies.
- Pandora Internet Radio.
- rice, in all its various combinations and incarnations.
- washing machines. specifically, my machine in the garage that i can use at any time without quarters. and while we're on the subject of appliances, i might as well mention flush toilets.
- those cool gel pens that write in sparkly colored ink.
- that sometimes, when i'm out surfing, i see dolphins swimming.
- humans can sing AND dance.
- being healthy and well-fed.
- i'm a woman. and i can vote without fear. and have a career. and a checking account. oh yeah, and marry someone of my choosing, for love.
- that i have the most mind-blowing crush on that guy whom i chose, and yes, we're in love.
- minty lip gloss.
- wisdom and innocence, and how the two are compatible.
- this radio program.
- my passport.
- when you find a parking space right in front of where you want to be.
- screen doors, front (or back) porches, and hammocks. (i have none of these, but the concept of them is nonetheless wonderful.)
- that one can still feel God in very old forests, and sometimes very old churches.
- Cute Overload.
- my Brita filter pitcher.
- that distance and time are not a barrier to several extraordinary friendships i am blessed with.
- i live within walking distance of a Trader Joe's. and TWO local farmer's markets per week.
- the smell of the ocean and the feel of sand underneath (what else?) my bare toes.
- you're never too old to learn something new.
- free nights and weekends, and really cheap international long-distance.
- my mother's pumpkin bread recipe.
- that i can know and be loved by the One to whom i am thankful for all these things. that the grace of Christ clothed in the everyday and ordinary is still extravagant.

of course i'm leaving out lots of things, but i need to go to the kitchen and get started with setting various things on fire. happy Thanksgiving, and may you have much to be grateful for!

Posted by hadashi at 7:45 AM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2006

my eyes this place have seen

i'd like to think i know where i live, but i'd be wrong. the odds are stacked against me anyway; in a city this multiracial and sprawling, there will always be hidden corners, people i know nothing of, ways of life that are utterly foreign to me.

today, T.T. and i went to see "Where We Live: Photographs of America from the Berman Collection" at the Getty Center, and attend a lecture by four of the featured photographers. interestingly enough, the man who gave us the Matrix trilogy, Bruce Berman, has also given the Getty over 500 photographs that can be loosely described as dealing with life in the 20th-century United States. around 200 of these are on display, representing 24 photographers. i wasn't sure how the photos were chosen -- was i simply seeing a representation of Mr. Berman's taste in photography, or was i really seeing an archive of life in America? the photos were arranged rather confusingly, and any context to help identify themes or interpretation was not readily apparent. however, there were enough good photos to keep us moving, and there were even a few that were riveting. those were the ones in which documentary and art combined to promise a secret story, that suggested movement of life and time and people...but not place.

it was somewhat interesting, then, that three of the four speakers were photographers who deliberately make pictures in this way. they will return to the same spot over years or months and document what it looks like at the time. perhaps the best-known of these is William Christenberry, whose photos of his native Hale County, Alabama have recorded the slow evolution of the rural South. Alex Harris has cultivated long-standing, deeply affectionate relationships with his elderly Mexican neighbours in New Mexico, and makes portraits of their living rooms as the years progress. but it was the work of Chilean-born Camilo José Vergara that most captured me. the exhibit featured selections from his book, How the Other Half Worships, documenting church buildings in poor urban communities.

the "storefront church" has always fascinated me in a passing sort of way -- they seem to pop up on the most random corners in neighbourhoods that are predominantly Latino or African-American. they're usually in squatty concrete buildings and have really great names, like "God's House of Prayer For All Nations" -- that one was near one of T.T.'s former dwellings in Pasadena -- or " Shield of Faith in Victory First Church," which was on the way to my sister's house in Atlanta. when i'm driving through East L.A. i see numerous storefront iglesias that always seem to be right next to a bakery or a butcher (it makes sense; whether Catholic or Protestant, Christians loooooove to eat!). but before listening to Vergara, i never really gave much thought to the secret stories each might have: who worships there, what the building was before it became a church, how many surrounding buildings have been destroyed, how long that little church has survived through sheer stubborness.
Vergara has been documenting urban neighbourhoods across America now for decades. he likes to return to specific corners or buildings and capture whatever is there at that moment. however, there is human interaction: he almost always has spoken to the people there and often develops friendships over time. he has relationships too, he feels, to the places; in fact, after 9/11 he published a book in memoriam of the World Trade Center (all proceeds went to the Red Cross) since he'd been documenting the buildings since their first days of construction, and could tell a very personal story through 30 years of photos.
it made me wonder what my relationship to my places are, especially since i've always seen myself as relatively rootless and transient. it made me wonder how much more i might improve my vision if i would really look at certain places and see them as specific, time-stamped moments: as Vergara said in his accidentally poetic ESL way, to say: look. here. right now. my eyes this place have seen.
i can't pretend that i've been terribly observant of my surroundings, but i take this as a challenge to see beauty where there is banality, and pattern where there is chaos. my longtime photographer friend Zippy certainly understands this; i was reminded often today of his photo essay that captures the odd elegance of blank buildings on a particulary grimy stretch of L.A. street. his eye through the camera often frames the most uninteresting bits into the most astonishing canvas of idea and memory. (thanks, Zippy.)

so. the flock of crows that land on the telephone wires every evening at dusk and soil every single car below: they're a part of my home's landscape, and i should watch them more carefully. when i burst out of the back door and start down the stairs to take out the trash, i should pause...noticing the way the palm trees on the horizon look when all those planes are hovering over them, waiting to land at LAX -- this is a tableau of motion and grace, if i choose to see it. my eyes may need quite a lot of practice, but i think i'll enjoy the places i'll see.

Posted by hadashi at 9:42 PM | Comments (2)