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Archive for March, 2014

Fun with Fashion: 100 Day Project Update

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only.  Fashion is in the sky, in the street.  Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.  Coco Chanel

The last thing I want is to become one of those talking heads where everything is satiny smooth and you know what the next question is going to be.  Isaac Mizrahi

I tried.  I bought a sturdy square box large enough to hold the watercolor paper that I cut in various shapes.  And then I splurged on an even larger sea grass basket that could fit anything that was too bulky for my sturdy square box.  And I made up rules, to carve out time for creative play with the focus being fashion and the expectation being that something — a quote, a photo, a collage, a story, something, anything — would end up in that sturdy square box each and every day.  And, in late January, I hoisted my creative sails and set forth on the 100 Day Project, a community-wide challenge to nourish our inner artists and relish the creative process.  Although my journey is unique, my focus and rules, my own, I am not alone.  Well over one hundred other people have also signed up and are in the midst of their individual 100-Day adventures.  I’m not sure how the rest of my fellow sailors are faring as they navigate these creative waters.  I can only report from the deck of my own creative vessel.  And I can tell you that I was way off course to think that the fun that I’m having could be stuffed into a sturdy square box or a larger sea grass basket.

Sure, I’ve complied by my rules.  As of today, when I peek into the 100-Day box, I see the stack of sixty-five sheets of watercolor paper, each one adorned with a daily dose of creativity.  There are quotes on some, collages cut out of catalogues on others, photos I’ve taken as near to home as Joy Center in my own back yard and as far away as Paris.  There are packing list-mini-sketches that I’ve drawn for each of the trips that I’ve journeyed on in the last sixty-five days, and there is an article torn from the pages of the New Yorker that inspires me to see the whole world as fashion.  And therein lies the challenge.  I do see the whole world as fashion.  And how can you press that into a page and stuff it into a box with a lid?  My project has turned out to be so much more than my daily snippets can possibly illustrate.

A trip to a boutique, either my favorite hometown outdoor shop or a store I discover while venturing forth on a trip faraway opens up a whole ocean of possibilities far too big to express on a piece of watercolor paper.  As soon as I climb into my rental car after landing in Portland, Maine, I steer myself down to the waterfront, find a parking spot, and walk up the narrow cobbled street to Bliss, one of my favorite boutiques in the world.  I do this every time I travel east to visit family and friends, and I did this in late January just days after starting the 100-day project.  When I enter the space and see the way the clothes, gorgeous clothes in natural fibers, are displayed, I am in bliss.  I can hardly contain myself.  Boutiques are like treasure chests for me.  I don’t know what I’m going to find, but I anticipate that it will be wonderful and I know that the journey is going to be fun.  There is the perusing and the choosing and the trying on.  There is the connection with the people that I meet and I always seem to meet the most fabulous of fashion playmates.  On that wintery trip east, I not only played at Bliss, but at a boutique a few days later in my birth town of Bath.  It was my maiden voyage to this particular store and the treasure was bountiful, in the displays of sweaters and skirts and dresses in soft wintery wools and gem-like hues, and in the interchange with the store’s owner.  We bubbled as we spoke, and that bubbly good feeling, it’s a breath of fresh air on a salty sea and how do you paste that onto a page and put it in your box of fashion clippings?

Some things do make it into the box.  There are the photos — the ones that I’ve been snapping with my trusty cell phone’s camera.   Many of them have found their way into my project.  But what about the energy and the stories behind these photos?  How do you bottle that up?  I photographed my Writing Sister, Holly, at our five-women retreat in Healdsburg, California, just days after the trip to Maine.  Her hair swept back in a carefree ponytail, she is smiling into the camera and looking fit in her brightly-colored boldly-patterned Desigual-designed long-sleeve T-shirt, the T-shirt that she bought at the airport in Barcelona.  It is a photo of a strong empowered woman.  However, her story, the one of walking, one step in front of the other, all the way across Spain last September, one challenge, one joy, one hardship, one moment and then the next, for 800 kilometers on the El Camino pilgrimage route, the story that she shared in her own snapshots and poems and vignettes just moments before she posed for my photo, that’s what set my sails flying, that’s what made me feel alive.   And that’s just one example, one photo.  I’ve taken dozens.

One day back in February, I found myself watching a Ted Talk over and over.  I do that sometimes, watch something in repetition until it soaks into the very fiber of my being.  I call it my artistic/autistic mode.  I couldn’t get enough of of this particular talk.  As I puttered in the kitchen, I immersed myself in this presentation by the fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi.  And what I was so intently drawn into with my single-focus was his multiple-focus.  He was all over the board, scattered like a sea breeze above a choppy sea.  It was alive, this talk, and his life seemed alive too — funny and poignant and full of creative movement.  The talk wasn’t boring and his life wasn’t boring.  He wasn’t just designing clothes.  He was creating talk shows and cabaret acts.  He was dabbling and dashing and splashing color into his moments.  His life and his projects, they certainly didn’t fit into a box.

And my life and my projects, they don’t fit into a box either.  There is just no way to make this 100-Day Project neat and tidy.  It is as windy-day scattered as Isaac’s Ted Talk, and it certainly isn’t boring.  There’s the quest for the dress.  I’ve searched the teeny boutiques in Paris’ Marais District and the local winter farmer’s market for the perfect-feeling mother-of-the-groom dress for my son’s May wedding and I have found two contenders, one Paris loose and flow-y, one Upper Peninsula wool and silken and handmade stunning.  I’ve rolled down my car window on wintery snowy days and hollered out to people walking by that they are looking great.  I’ve even walked the red carpet.  That’s right.  The red carpet.  In Moscow, Idaho, in early March, with a stuffy nose and very little make-up and the clothes that I’d worn on a hiking trip just hours earlier, I, along with my daughter-in-law, seized the opportunity of a lifetime as we stepped out of the car and into a Hollywood moment.  We gave it all that we had.  And then we, along with college professors and cowboys and students, made our way over that red carpet and into the local downtown theater where we watched, on the big screen, all the glitter and the glamor of Hollywood at the Academy Awards.  And there is just no way to stuff any of that back into a box.


At the Oscars: Moscow, Idaho, March 2, 2014

At the Oscars: Moscow, Idaho, March 2, 2014

It’s Spring!!!

Now is the brightening.  It seems as if the sky is hanging equal to land for this one moment before night gives way to longer days.  wild winds sweep through old dreams to clear the way for new rising energy of light, entering our waking senses and the hearts of primroses and daffodils.  Earth is breathing faster, working the sun fire that flares warmth to lift our spirits . . . What will you plan and hatch, bring into this year?  Let the freshening thaw dissolve inertia.  Rose Flint  Mother Tongue Ink

A crow, perched on a white pine’s branch, called out to me yesterday morning as I walked along the snowy path to yoga at Joy Center.  “It’s spring!  It’s spring!” my crow friend seemed to be singing.  And, indeed, despite the mammoth piles of snow that are now covered with a fresh six inches of glittering white, despite the months of record cold that still remain a shudder in our bones, there’s a warmer breeze blowing in.  Two of the three bunnies who have hunkered in under our deck for this long winter are now basking in the sun while munching on sunflower seeds under the feeder.  They seem relaxed, their bunny jackets unzipped.  I’ve noticed that I’m more relaxed, too, my jacket unzipped, as I walk outside to car or mailbox or errand in town.  And Sunday, on a piercingly blue sky afternoon, I skate-skied for miles along the groomed trail heading up to County Road 510.  It wasn’t warm.  In fact, it was downright cold at eleven degrees with breath-frost forming on the inside of my pulled-up scarf, and, yet, even on this frigid day, the sun felt strong, and the stream beneath the bridge that I skied across, it was running free under a layer of thin ice.  Oh, to hear the sound of running water!

Yes, spring is upon us and the earth is thawing and the sap is rising and I wonder what is thawing inside of me, what possibilities are rising up in this season of the sap rising and the new being born?  I began the month of March in Moscow, Idaho, with a week-long visit with my son, daughter-in-law and nineteen-month-old grandson.  That’s when the stirring began for me.  And it wasn’t just the forty-five degree days and the robins flocking in the neighborhood trees and the city sidewalks free of ice and snow that unleashed my winter holding.  It was something else.  The possibility of new possibilities.  In most sessions of yoga, we kneel sturdy on one leg, stretch out the other, slide the arm on the extended side down the leg as we reach the opposite arm over toward it.  The pose in Sanskrit is called Parighasana, Gate Pose, and you can almost feel it, how you are opening up, stretching a boundary, moving past limitations.  “You are opening a gate inside yourself and there is a whole world to explore, one that you didn’t even know was possible yesterday.”  That’s what I say as we breathe into this stretch.  That’s what I was feeling as I breathed into my week in Moscow, Idaho.

Idaho.  It wasn’t even on my radar of places to explore until late last summer when one of our two sons accepted a job teaching at a small college in the northern panhandle of this western state.  And now, during this week in early March, my fourth visit to the university town of Moscow, I learned that the pull out to the panhandle had become even stronger for my husband and I.  What are the chances of your sons, both of them holding doctorates in vastly different fields, ending up not only in the same state but in the same small town?!?  When our younger son was applying for jobs this winter and University of Idaho was on his list, I didn’t allow myself to form an opinion.  I just stayed on the sidelines and witnessed the unfolding.  So, when it became official in this first week of March that he and his fiancé had accepted positions at the University in Moscow, I felt it.  Spring bubbling up inside of me!  I was excited.  The town, which already was seeming like a home-away-from-home with its amazing Co-op cafe and yoga studio juice bar, with its hiking trails and bike path, took on an even more welcoming glow.  And when I tagged along as grandmother-playmate to toddler Viren during a week of house-hunting for son and daughter-in-law, I didn’t expect to fall in love with a little cottage on the outskirts of town.  A gate had opened up in me and a whole new world was sitting there waiting to be explored.  Montana to the east.  Canada to the north.  Seattle and Portland less than a half-day’s drive away.  To the south a mountain range of unspeakable beauty.

Who knows how it is all going to unfold.  I certainly don’t.  And it’s not the time to buy a cottage home-away-from-home, even an adorable one nestled against those tall western pines and within walking distance to the Co-op and the bike path in the town both our sons are going to call home.  And it’s not really about the specific circumstances.  It’s about feeling something new.  Feeling alive inside in this present moment.  My sister is going to be a grandmother soon.  My niece is expecting a baby in mid-June, and my sister, she can hardly contain herself.  “I just want to jump up and down!” she told me in a phone call the other day.  That’s it.  That’s the feeling I’m talking about.  And it doesn’t matter how long we’ve lived in these body homes.  When we hear the honk honk of geese flying overhead and the rush of running water, when we feel the soft breeze against our skin and taste that freshness in the air, we become young again and the whole world, it opens up and becomes our playground.

Tulips in the Window:  March 21, 2014

Tulips in the Window: March 21, 2014

Count On Unexpected Blessings

. . . the miraculous is always nearby and wonders shall never, ever cease. Robert Fulghum

There are the ones that you know are “lifers”, those moments that you want to press into your memory and savor forever.   And they often sneak up on you, catch you by surprise, and tickle your funny bone.  It happened to me this past Wednesday evening, a string of those precious moments that I’m re-living now with a chuckle of appreciation.  It started out with an ordinary good-bye on Day Six of an eight-day adventure to Moscow, Idaho.  I was visiting my nineteen-month-old grandson Viren and his parents, my son and daughter-in-law, and it was bedtime, and this is what I did each evening at bedtime; I zipped up my jacket, stood by the door of my kids’ townhouse, waved my goodnights and said, “I’ll see you in the morning!” and then I drove off in my rental car, heading for my motel two miles down the road, eager for a night of deep sleep after a day of hard play.

So that’s what I was doing last Wednesday evening, waving my goodnights and blowing my kisses and dreaming of my comfy bed at my home away from home, when the usual ritual took a new twist.  Viren, who, with single-focus, had been playing with Thomas and Spencer and his other toy trains over by the couch where his mother was sitting, looked up at me and skittered across  the room in my direction.  And he beckoned for me to pick him up, and that’s not so unusual; he’s always beckoning for me to pick him up when I am visiting.  But what happened next threw me for a loop.  As I held onto my toddler grandson, he looked over at his mother and then at his father and he waved his little hand and he said, in a voice as clear as could be, a voice filled with purpose and conviction, “Bye Mommy!  Bye Daddy!”  And then, with that same confident tone, he let out a command.  “Mommy, get coat!”  Mommy, get coat?  What was he talking about?!?  Was he serious?!?

He was serious.  He knew what he was talking about, nodded emphatically while his mother, as surprised as I was by this turn of events, picked up his gray fleece jacket, and asked, “Is this what you want?!?”  With another, “Bye Mommy!  Bye Daddy!” and a tiny finger pointing toward the door and a “Go, Gee” — Gee, that’s what he calls me — it became clear that my before-sleep quiet-time ritual was about to change.  My son didn’t think it was such a good idea.  “The motel bed is too high; he might fall off.  He’s going to miss us in the middle of the night!  He doesn’t really know what he wants.”  But my daughter-in-law was pretty sure that he did know what he wanted.  “I’ll follow them over in our car, go up to the room with them, and we’ll just see.”  So, that’s what we did, Viren and I — down the townhouse stairs we went, out to my rental, into the carseat for Viren, into the driver’s seat for Gee, and a drive through town to the motel, with his mother in the Honda Fit following close behind.  Viren seemed unruffled by it all, driving his toy Spencer train along the rim of the carseat, and then, a few minutes later, holding it in one hand, while holding onto mine with the other as we skitter-ran with confidence into a motel that he had never even seen before.

No, he didn’t seem ruffled at all.  In fact, he acted as if he owned the place, shooting up his arm in a buoyant wave and an exuberant “hi!” to the young man behind the motel’s front desk, marching over to the elevator with Gee, and his mother who had now joined us with an overnight bag of essentials for a nineteen-month-old on the go.  Gee lifted him up once the elevator door was closed and he pressed the number three as if he’d been riding in elevators his whole life — and by the time we reached the third floor, he’d added “elevator” — or his still-murky version of the word “elevator” — to his blossoming vocabulary of words and short commanding sentences.  And he raced down that long carpeted hallway — a toddler’s dream track for “fast” and then scanned Gee’s generic room with wide astounded eyes, as if he was entering the Taj Mahal.  His mother and I stood there waiting while he perused the joint, while he checked out the bathroom with its gleaming sink and granite countertops and reached up and patted the comforter on the king-size bed that his father feared was too high for a toddler overnight.  And then there was the “Bye Mommy!” as he beckoned her toward the door, and just like that, there we were, Viren and Gee, alone in a motel room heading into uncharted territory.

And what is it about hanging out with Viren that is so darn fun, that erases any regret at missing out on a spacious evening alone and a deep night’s sleep?!?  Well, there’s the adorable factor.  Babies and toddlers are so cute that we can hardly stand it and it feels good to bask in their cuter-than-anything vibes.  And Viren, he’s always had a penchant for fun and a glint of mischief in those blueberry-blue eyes of his, and I feel a kinship with this invitation to push the limits of play.  I know it seems ungrandmothery to say this, but hanging out with Viren is a little like being back in college again, back in the seventies when the fraternity and dorm parties were a wild ride.  Except there are no kegs of beer involved, no alcohol at all, just bubbly water for Gee and a bottle of milk for the little guy.  It’s the energy  I’m talking about.  It’s over-the-top; sometimes Animal House silly, sometimes Sound of Music poignant.

The “Gee and Viren overnight” was as fun as any dorm room pajama party that I’ve experienced.  It really was.  And that’s what we did.  We got in our pajamas, Viren in the blanket sleeper with puppy dog feet and Gee in yoga pants, and down we went, Viren in command .  “Go, elevator, Gee!”   We snacked in the first floor kitchen on tasty water and fruit, then headed back up to our third floor dorm room.  And I’d be lying if I said it was all smooth-sailing.  What pajama party ever is?!?  After the book-reading and the PBS special featuring beautiful young women singing Irish ballads, after the Gee-lullabuys and the second dose of silly, after the neck massage and the rest of the bottle, there was the moment where I wasn’t sure which direction we were heading.  At about ten-thirty, at about the time that I was ready, really ready to close my eyes and drift off to sleep, Viren perked up, plopped himself out of bed and started heading for the door.  “Gee, get Mommy!  Gee, get Daddy!” he said.  There was no panic in his voice, no hint that a crying jag might follow, so I matched his tone and replied that Mommy and Daddy were already asleep, that EVERYBODY was already asleep, and I listed the names of the everybodies who were already asleep and I told him that we, too, soon would be asleep and I prayed to my mother and I prayed to my father and I prayed to everybody I knew who had a way with toddlers that this would be true, that soon this suddenly-wide-awake-and-ready-to-party-some -more-toddler-grandson-of-mine and his Gee indeed would  be asleep.  And we were.  After a little tossing and turning of arms and legs, after a thirty-second cry and a grandma hug, after a soft song and a darkened room, we did drift off.

And I’ll never forget this short sweet night of sleep, how I woke up often to make sure that the tossing and turning wasn’t too close to the edge of the bed, how, at three in the morning, the little guy woke up too, asked for a bottle and we lay there quietly and I whispered “I love you!”  And I’ll never forget how the little guy also whispered, whispered the names of Spencer and Emily and Mavis and Toby and Diesel Ten , of Thomas the Train and all of Thomas’s train engine friends.  And what better way to stay on track during a motel room pajama party with your Gee than to drift back to sleep hauling the list of train engine friends along with you?!?

Hiking At Hell's Gate State Park: Lewiston, Idaho March, 2014

Viren and “Gee” Hiking At Hell’s Gate State Park: Lewiston, Idaho March, 2014

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