A most excellent cause for a most excellent blog

September 18, 2008

Hey y’all!  I know I haven’t posted in several months.  I’m sorry I’ve been absent from the blogosphere, but I needed to put blogging on hold to pursue other, more important things.  I couldn’t find the time to post and if I did, writing here felt contrived and forced because I’d been away from it for so long.  Hopefully I might start up again in the future. 

That being said, I’ve come out of hiding to make a simple request.  Some of you might be familiar with Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl and her fabulous writing, photography, and musings.  She happens to be my mom.  Recently she was nominated by BlogAsheville for blog with best writing.  I thoroughly concur, and think she should have been nominated in about twenty other areas too.  I know some of my readers are also Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl readers.  If you aren’t, you should certainly check out her blog here.  You just might discover you want to add her to your own blogroll.  Anyway, voting is this week, so please visit BlogAsheville here and vote for her.  She certainly deserves it.

Happy Mother’s Day!

May 11, 2008

If you’re ever in the mountains of North Carolina and you spot a pretty woman wandering around in a hilly field with her eyes turned up to a sunrise or storm clouds or a flock of darting birds, there’s a good chance that it’s my mom.  And you should certainly say hello, because she is absolutely one of the most amazing, kind, talented, and generally wonderful people on the face of the planet.  And I’m honestly not biased. 

Mommy, whether with pen or camera in hand, strives to bring beauty to the people around her and a world that is so often closed to that beauty.  Even when we were very young, she taught us that there was a time to be goofy and loud, and a time to be very quiet, sensitive, and receptive.  She taught us that listening and thinking are often much more worthy than talking, because if you listen closely and think carefully, the words you do say will be worth more than a thousand empty, careless words.  Some of the most sacred times I’ve spent with Mommy and with my family are the ones that involved very little talk, the times when we’ve watched meteor showers together, or hiked together, or simply sat and read together inside on a rain-laden day. 

Even now, as a college student, Mommy is often my first critic.  I send her my stories, poems, and art and ask her opinion.  And even though my professors are professional writers, poets, and artists, I value her opinions and suggestions dearly.  If I’m stuck on a particular passage in a short story, she’s the first person I turn to for help.  I can’t tell you how many times her ideas have sparked writing that saved a floundering story.  She is an incredible writer, perceptive to the nuances and minutiae of everyday life and everyday struggles.  We share a love of details, irony, and wit.  And fortunately or unfortunately, whichever way you see it, we share a ridiculous love of wordplay and puns. 

We also share very, very similar senses of humor.  If you don’t know her well, you would never know what a hilarious nut she is.  She is one of the funniest people I know.  Don’t be fooled by her initially dignified appearance.  She’s a total goofball, and she’ll do about anything to make us laugh.  We’ve always found something to get tickled about, even when we were struggling, and I believe that humor is one of the most important character traits a person can have. 

Mommy has always anchored me mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  She is a endless source of patience, guidance, and love.  She is a constant when so many things are fleeting.  She loves me unconditionally, and I can’t tell her how much I appreciate that.  Mommy, I admire you, treasure you, and love you more deeply than you can ever imagine. 

I wrote this poem in honor of you and motherhood in general.  No matter what I’m doing or where I am, our minds, spirits, and hearts will always be intertwined. 

Dar a la luz

When my mother was pregnant,
she sang songs to me
even before I had ears.
She would cup both hands around
the growing mound of her stomach,
filling me with the muted vibrations of her voice
and the beating of her heart,
my heart.  I was asleep but waking,
curled in the soft, dark sea of her womb.

Both times she gave birth,
she did so naturally.  Each contraction
was a fiery push and pull, the urge
to keep us close and the need
to grant us to the world in an excruciating exit. 
In Spanish, to give birth is
“dar a la luz,” to give to the light.
When I learned the phrase, I said it over
and over in my head.  Voy a dar mi niña a la luz:
I am going to give my child to the light.
I imagined both a sacrifice and offering,
the greatest favor and the greatest risk.

My mother knew this even as her body
was shaped around mine.  The moment I left her,
I was still connected to her, but howling and
overwhelmed, infuriated with the gifts of vision,
of light and air, of my own heartbeat. 
I flailed the air until the doctor tucked me
back into the warm cocoon of my mother’s arms. 

***

My mother taught me gardening
even when I was little.  I would help lay the beds,
casting moist handfuls of dark topsoil over
the brittle red clay.  She taught me names of plants,
verbena, beebalm, salvia, wood phlox. 
I stood in the glittering spray as she watered them
and walked around the garden with her
when she finished.  She pointed out perennials
and seedlings, showed me how to gently pry apart
pods and how to cover the seeds
just enough to bury them, so that water and light
could reach them.

I loved the impatiens.  When I was young,
I thought the name meant that the flowers
were impatient, thrusting their green limbs
through the dark to burst into being.
The bed brimmed with seedlings,
perfect miniatures that grew larger
and blossomed, a rich carpet of pink, cream,
melon petals. 

At the end of the season, green pods swelled
into chambered fists clenched around a pinch
of tiny brown seeds.  Young pods held firm,
but the largest ones burst at a touch,
flinging the seeds into the air and dirt. 
After weeks of rain and sun, these too rose
into being and bloomed.  The bed
crowded with life, each plant stretching
towards light, their lacy roots still interwoven. 

 

Not another stinkin’ heavenly ray picture!

March 26, 2008

This photo came after a drizzly morning on spring break.  Light passed through a hole in the clouds and lit up the hazy mist that remained.  I took as many photos as my tiny camera card could hold.  My mom and I went out together, racing each other to get the best vantage point.  Later, we sat looking at the photos on my laptop.  We oohed and aahed at them.  After about ten of them, my mom jokingly said, “Oh, c’mon, more heavenly ray photos?  Jeez, why’d you take so many?”  Which is highly ironic, since she probably had taken about twice that.  But while my mom was joking, there are so many people in our society who are not, who oblivously miss the blatant, astounding beauty around them.  And there’s also a sarcasm prevalent among the arts that’s appeared with the advent of digital photography and Photoshop art.  There are so many photos today that have been digitally manipulated to the point that, while they are beautiful, they look nothing like the scene that they originally depicted.  People, especially artists,  look at a straight-out-of-the-camera photo of a glorious sunset or a foggy forest, assume that it’s been Photoshopped to make it beautiful, and for that reason, blow it off.  Hence, our “just another heavenly ray” culture. 

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And yes, compared to their creations, my photo might look plain.  But I’d like to think that even among seasoned photographers and professional artists, there is an appreciation for moments that are simply beautiful, that even if they don’t make a photo show, manage to make someone pause and remember that they have been blessed with another day on this earth, another beautiful sight, and yes, another heavenly ray. 

Long time, no see

March 23, 2008

Spurred on by Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl‘s recent blog revival, as well as the urgings of friends and my excellent blog neighbors, I am now back in the blogosphere with a bang!  I’ve had trouble finding time for my blog amid my busy schedule.  But instead of allowing it to languish, I thought I would at least try to post photos for a while.  Maybe later, I’ll have some more in depth posts and start up Friday Facts again. 

This photo is from my recent stay at my parent’s lovely new mountain home.  The view, which isn’t really visible in this picture, is magnificent.  I took this photo after a dreary day of rain.  It was the biggest rainbow I’ve ever seen, and the clearest.  It looked almost cartoonishly bright, as if you really could find the end of it and climb it.  We all felt that it was a positive omen for the recent move and a blessing on our new home. 

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The lovely lady sprinting in the corner is my mom, a.k.a. Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl, running exuberantly to take her own excellent photo, which you can view here

Oh, and Happy Easter, everybody.  May your soul and heart be blessed by this day.  :)

Friday Fact: The Snowball Effect

December 1, 2007

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When you feel like what you do doesn’t make a difference in the world, just watch “The Way Things Go”  and you’ll feel a lot better.

The first time I saw this was in my sculpture class.  The video starts out with a close shot of a spinning garbage bag with a tire beside it.  At first you’re intrigued, but after about a minute and half of watching it, you start to get pretty impatient.  Then you notice that the bag has slowly been getting lower and lower as its ties unwind.  Eventually it starts to brush the tire, softly at first, then hard enough to make the tire start to roll.  Thus begins a 30 minute long series of chain reactions involving rockets, candle cars, fire, and absolutely genius use of the effects of gravity.  The artists weight tires to make them roll even uphill.  They use chemical reactions to power wooden cars, to light fuses, to cause incredible pyrotechnic effects, and one of my personal favorites, to make a flaming tetherball.  They figured out angles and triangulation of things to perfection.

According to the two artists who did it, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, there were no cuts.  The movie is shot straight through.  There are no breaks in the action, except for minor ones where fires took really long times to do what they were going to do.  It’s fun to watch it with a group, because every person has their mouth agape in amazement and captivation.  It is utterly intriguing, all thirty minutes of it.  I’m sure it was a heck of an sculpture to set up. 

You can watch about four and half minutes of it here at YouTube.  Here is a shorter clip of a different part of it, also from YouTube, that shows the incredible walking shoes.  Better yet, you could rent the whole thing. 

Lucky Pennies

November 26, 2007

A while back, June tagged me in a post asking about the name of my blog.  Because I’ve been really busy, I somehow missed the link and only realized it was there when a kind fellow blogger reminded me of it.   Most of the time, we never find out why things are named the way they are.  I was intrigued to learn the significance of the name of her blog, Spatter.

Mine took a while to come up with.  It’s hard to strike the right balance between something that’s intelligent and interesting that also makes at least some sense to your readers.  I finally came up with “Lucky Pennies,” which is based on a poem I’d written around that time.  I went through a spell where I’d find pennies everywhere you could think of, right down to the kitchen sink drain.  I started to wonder if it was a sign or something, and decided to write a poem about it.  The poem is about noticing and appreciating things that are small and insignificant to others, hence my subtitle, “sweepings off the floor of the world.”  All around us are gifts that have no monetary value, but that endure and stay with us in our minds longer than anything we could buy.  Lucky pennies get kicked around a lot before they’re noticed.  But the person that does finally notice them is more blessed than a rich man.  Here’s the poem:

Lucky Pennies

It all started with the pennies.
I’d see one in every parking lot,
glittering near the storm drain
where it’d been swept to
in the last rain, or in the road,
where it’d rolled from some rich lady’s
pocketbook and been scuffed and forgotten.
They’d skid up and down the aisle of the city bus
until I’d reach down to pick them up. 
I would hold up checkout lines, feeling
under the counter edge for the one I’d dropped
until someone waiting, impatient and gray,
would say something sharp.
Soon there was one wherever I looked.
I’d trowel them up, green and corroded,
from the roots of the garden, find them
kicked into the crack under my door,
in the drain when I’d wash dishes,
in the bottom of the washing machine,
in the sweepings off the floor.
Everyday I collected a small prize, worthless,
and yet I was so rich. 

Soon it wasn’t just the pennies. 
Soon I was collecting a prize every time
I blinked.  One day, it was an antique button,
intricate and woven, pounded into the dirt path.
Sometimes it was a rock, a quartz crystal,
or granite studded with mica.
Some days I couldn’t stick in my pocket.
Some days it was the pink glint of sunrise
on my hood as I crested a hill
into the suddenly sun-dazzled day.
It was the skeletal leaf, chewed by bugs
into thin brown lace, or the sight of a heron
soaring just feet over the roadway.
It was the old lady, out tending her poppies
every morning, who would wave at me,
and her poppies would wave too in the draft
of the passing car.  It was sound of rain,
the sound of wing beats.  Soon I was drunk on glory,
stumbling at the sight of sun-edged clouds
and trees, of hummingbirds and fog-filled valleys,
crazed, but yet so sane, empty,
but yet so full.

Friday Fact (late again, sorry!): A Bloomin’ Building

November 17, 2007

The past few weeks at work, I’ve been writing visual descriptions for pictures of India that are going into a online database for teachers to use.  Sometimes, this involves a little detective work, because the lady who took the pictures left us only cryptic slide notes in horrible handwriting.  So I was puzzled when I came to a picture of a strange-looking building with the title “Temple-Delhi.”  I looked up more photos and was astounded by what I found.

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It was a temple that looked like a flower!  Not just vaguely resembling it, but definitively flower-like.  It’s called the Indian Bahai Temple, but the locals and most tourists call it the Lotus Temple.  It’s made of concrete petals supported by steel beams.  Just out of sight in the middle of the petals, there is a steel and glass dome to keep out the elements.  The flower is surrounded by nine huge pools over which there are walkways and bridges.

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The petals are formed fairly simply: spheres of varying radii and with centers in different places.  The architect figured in deflection for wind and expansion and contraction, so the petals can move about 3mm for every meter.  There are neoprene layers where the beams meet to buffer changes in position.  Because Indian cement is evidently extremely variable, all the cement to make them was imported from Korea.  To get the color, the cement was then mixed with dolomite from near Delhi and with white silica sand from Jaipur, India.  And to make sure the concrete didn’t cure too quickly and therefore weaken, a sprinkler system was rigged at the top of the petals.  On hot days, the mix was regulated by mixing in ice. 

I tell you what…this building has gone on my list of things to see before I die. 

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The caged bird sings!

November 8, 2007

So I promised a long time ago that I would post photos of my recent sculpture, and like the jerk I am, I’m only just now getting around to it.  But here they are.  I was to use the form of a box creatively and symbolically and somehow make it a self-portrait.  I interpreted “box” very creatively and decided to make a bird cage.  I’m not sure that it’s only a self-portrait now, because I feel that it could be interpreted in different ways.  I realize that this kind of metaphor is a little on the trite side, but I feel like my careful craftsmanship trumps triteness.   :D

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The cage itself is all wood, and fortunately, I had an edge as far as wood is concerned since my dad is a carpenter and has taught me more or less all I know about carpentry.  It’s stained in PolyShades.  The chain is handmade from 19 gauge wire wrapped around a flat pen and cut and assembled into links. 

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The birds are sculpted by hand out of Sculpey clay, which I fired in the oven and painted in acrylic.  The biggest bird has that beautiful sheen because I painted it with various glazes of what’s called interference paint over other colors.  Basically, it’s really shiny and expensive.  (One tube was 12 bucks!)  It looks one color in one direction and that color’s complement in the other direction.

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I feel like this is the most poignant angle.  The lighting, too, really enhances the idea of the bird struggling against the owls, which represent darkness and the desire to remain in darkness and drag others into it.  But this bird will fly away soon!

A very overdue Friday Fact: Magnetohydrodynamics, or why the North Pole is getting away from us

November 3, 2007

I was talking to my brother the other day, and somehow we got to talking about an issue that would very much affect people in his field of study, computer science.  Evidently, some of his colleagues in the department are crying doomsday about Earth’s magnetic field doing a full somersault in 2012 so that North is South and vice versa.  And they should be concerned, because if this were the case, it would throw off most things electronic. 

But being my normally contradictory self, I told my brother, “That can’t be right,” and thus turned to my most reliable research tool: Google.  I found out that, as usual, I’m right. 

But as much as I hate to admit it, my brother’s a little bit right himself. 

What his misinformed colleagues had heard about was the sun’s magnetic reversal.  The sun indeed has a magnetic field flip roughly every eleven years, and it’s due to flip in 2012.  So no fear, the end is not near. 

It turns out, though, that the Earth’s magnetic field can also do a complete flip.  We’ve known for a long time that the magnetic pole (which isn’t synonymous with the geographical poles) moves a lot.  At the beginning of the century, it was moving about 10 km a year, and sped up to 40 km a year by the end of the century.  According to the NASA website, it’ll end up in Siberia in a few decades. 

The thing that’s got some people worried is the fact that field has weakened 10% since the 19th century.  A weakening could signal a field flip.  And since the last one was 780,000 years ago, some think we’re overdue.  Hence the cry of a collapsing magnetic field. 

But researchers say this isn’t so.  People who study Earth’s past magnetic field, paleomagnetists, explain that a weakening doesn’t necessarily signal a reversal.  The field has weakened in the past, and poles have shifted, and then reversed direction and headed back.  Besides, reversals take a few thousand years, and during that time, the field doesn’t disappear.  It just becomes tangled, with multiple magnetic poles. 

All of this is governed by something called magnetohydrodynamics.  In the middle of the earth, there is a solid iron core covered by metallic ocean.  This core rotates faster than the earth itself, and its surface has currents and even the equivalent of hurricanes that cause changes in Earth’s magnetic field. 

This is both fascinating and good news!  If you were worried about the magnetic poles, remember that you shouldn’t flip out until they flip out. 

For more information, look NASA’s explanation: http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/29dec_magneticfield.html

Friday Fact: Hand over the goat in trousers, and no one gets hurt.

October 19, 2007

I am home on fall break, and it is blissful and lovely.  And I’m enjoying the break from flatlands heat as well.  It has been misty and rainy here, and I love it, even though it makes me sleepy and lazy.  I’ll post some fog photos soon.   Next week will be awful, because I have a 15 page paper, an impossibly difficult sculpture, and a painting due, and I also have to register for classes and take a nasty little Spanish exam.  But I’m enjoying the time I have to relax. 

The Friday Fact this weeks is brought to you by the back of my bedroom door, which is completely covered in interesting newspaper clippings, comic strips, trinkets, and random, hilarious doodles.  This is from something I clipped out of the N&O Mini Page way yonder back in middle school.  You’ve got to wonder what prompted state legislatures to create some of these laws and how much of our tax money is devoted to the creation of said laws. 

Some unbelievable, and very real, laws:

  • It’s against the law to mispronounce “Arkansas” when you’re in that state.
  • If you complain about a pothole in Baton Rouge, LA, you can be forced to fix it yourself.
  • It’s illegal to educate your dog in Hartford, CT.
  • You can be arrested for carrying bees in your hat in Lawrence, KS.
  • In order to legally go barefoot in Austin, TX, you need a $5 permit.
  • It’s illegal for goats to wear trousers in Massachusetts. 

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