Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Just keep swimming, just keep typing

I have been grantwriting for my dad. I have been grantwriting while kicking and screaming. Every once in awhile, I drop my head into my hands and whine to the air around me, "Daddy, I can't do this!"

But I just keep typing.

This is a government grant and it wants rediculous, illogical things from me. It also wants the finished product to be three times longer than it currently is. If I could just write a simple case for support, I would be fine. But no, I have to jam my information into the format that the governemnt dictates. Plus, Dad's organization is an umbrella organization so the logic is harder to communicate. His organization helps the organizations that help the poor. Since he doesn't directly make the lives of the poor better, it's tougher to say how the governement's $50,000 that will go to hiring a Development Director will help the poor. I hate it.

But I just keep typing.

It’s kind of like when I was a senior in college and had to produce a 30-page research AND analysis paper on Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and how it relates to Postmodernism. Dr. O’Gorman recognized that our brains could not contain the scope of a logical argument that large and complex. It would be impossible for us to simply start at the beginning and write through to the end. She told us just to keep typing. She said that every day, we should write at least a page of some part of the argument. We didn’t have to pick up where we left off the day before. If we wanted a day off, we should write two pages the day before. She said this was how she wrote big papers. Then, when it comes time to put the paper together, you put the little bits of argument together, fill in the gaps and write the transitions. And, what do you know? It worked. I even got an A- from the universally acknowledged “toughest grader on campus.”

So I just keep typing.

I started with the easiest section, which happened to be in the middle. Then, I wrote a little for the next section. Then, I went back and filled in a little more from the first section I worked on. Then, I tried the introduction. Little by little, bit by bit, I started fulfilling the requirements, even though they are stupid, illogical requirements.

I just emailed Dad a completed draft. I thought I would never get there. I thought it would be little incomplete bits and pieces forever. I thought my dad would wonder whose child I was, complaining about how hard and stupid it was to him, my boss. What kind of a work ethic is that?

But he told to just keep typing.

I don’t have to produce the final draft. I just have to give him something to work with. I kept typing because he has so many other aspects of this grant to keep track of. All I had to do was write the narrative. I couldn’t abandon him to that, too. So, I wrote the narrative. I keep telling him it’s not very good. He may secretly agree with me, but he’ll never admit it. That’s not his style. He’ll tell me what he likes about a section and suggest some directions that I can go with it to flesh it out. We have a pretty good editor/writer relationship. I won’t make him write the final draft. His suggestions won’t be that hard to implement and I’ll end up just doing it to create a second draft, even though I’ll protest that it’s not very good and that his suggestions are what give it any value at all. He’ll add a couple of things to the second draft and I’ll end up discussing them with him and thinking of a few changes of my own. We’ll go back and forth and all of a sudden, we’ll have a final draft to send to Uncle Sam.

Because I just kept typing.

When I write a book like Anne Lamott’s and Don Miller’s books someday, I’ll take this essay and use this situation as a metaphor for something larger, probably God’s love and his plan for my life. I worry, though, that you, my audience, get bored with big idea essays like that. Plus, they take longer to write than simply relating events that happen. I want to keep the blogs coming so that you will keep coming back. Making them into thoughtful essays slows down the process. You wouldn’t believe how many thoughtful essays I have made notes for but have never gotten around to writing. So, here is my story about hating grantwriting. I’m learning so much from my dad about effective fundraising. It’s a skill I have potential to develop and I am developing that skill totally against my will. It’s not at all like singing. I think I am also learning that grantwriting is not the path for me. I hate it. I’m sure that means that I’ll be pulled into doing it for the rest of my life, like when people find out that you make good potato salad and pressure you to bring it to every picnic ever held. Ugh.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Let me tell you a beautiful story.

Saturday night I was working at the Cafe. I wasn't working too hard but I was busy: just the right amount. However, the other girl that was waiting tables (20 years old, very small) was not working hard. We were supposed to be taking every other table but she always seemed to be eating when a new group walked in. I didn't resent her because I wasn't working too hard but I was a little annoyed because my sense of fairness was irritated (we do have tipshare but I'm a better waitress so our total increases when I work more tables). So, I'm generally feeling good but there's this niggling dark spot in Quinn's direction. There's another niggling dark spot in the direction of the back table. A woman named Raenya had waltzed in there and sat down after pouring herself a glass of wine from under the counter (not the featured wine of the evening). She comes in lots of nights and behaves like a queen. She was the most recent runner-of-the-cafe before the resort hired Marissa and everyone loved her. The only reason that she isn't still running the cafe is that she turned down the opportunity. So, she gets treated like a semi-goddess. I, however, never worked with and don't see what all the fuss is about. I just see that she's makes us open bottles of wine that won't get finished and messes with my routine by getting things for herself. So, overall, I'm feeling pretty good, but there are two little dark spots in the environment when my attention falls in those directions.

I finally take my break and eat a little dinner. Quinn is eating again and sitting at the bar. I really didn't want to listen to her talk about herself (I think I kind of see her as a student because she's at that mentality level. She's basically an adolescent and therefore discovering her place in the world and so that's pretty much all she talks about. I don't resent it because it's so developmentally appropriate but I also don't want to be involved in it all the time.) so I sat in the booth that is as tucked away as possible, near the back across from Raenya's booth. I took a book with me and presented a pretty nice portrait of leave-me-alone-I'm-on-break, if I do say so myself. I was just beginning to let down and relax into my dinner. You know, that sweet time when the stress of keeping attentive can be let go and some quiet let in. The stress wasn't bad but the absence of it is oh-so-good. So, I was just beginning to hit that state when I hear Quinn say from the direction of Raenya's table, "Rebecca, come here." I was like that moment after you've had trouble falling asleep but you've now quieted almost enough to lose awareness of the world and drift into sleep and the phone rings. The abrupt shift from sleep barely grasped to awakeness is jarring and disappointing because you know that getting back to sleep is now out of the question. Plus, she didn't just barge into my consciousness to ask me a question, which would have been discourteous enough, she also wanted me to leave my obviously private moment and go to her, like some sort of servant. Not only that, she wants me to go over to Raenya's table. Two small dark spots combined into one big one at EXACTLY the wrong moment.

But Quinn's excitement that she wants to share with me comes from the fact that Raenya has a beautifully decorated cigar box full of lovely necklaces made from pearls, turquoise, carnelian, some dark green stone: all pretty, earthy rocks, no flash. AND, Raenya says I can have one.

Now, these are necklaces of value. They are made from semi-precious stone and Bali silver. I worked in a bead store for several years and I know that these should be sold for at least $18 and probably more like $25-$30. Also, they're beautiful. They are that Asian/Buddhist chic that I have so much trouble designing because I want the formality of the materials to match the formality level of the design. Whoever made these necklaces totally disregarded the formal nature of the stones and put them together in casual styles. So, out of this dark place of annoyance comes this gorgeous sense of, "For me?!? Really?!? I can have this?!?" I hadn't done anything special, it wasn't my birthday, I hadn't even been a particularly good server. Raenya had no obligation to me but gave me a gift anyway. The surprise and grace of the gift was even better because it came in such stark contrast to the dark feelings I was having toward the people involved. As an added bonus, Quinn was called away, so I could try the necklaces on at my leisure and look in the mirrors to assess them without having to be a girl with Quinn and comment out loud on which looked better on whom. I could think quietly about which ones complimented me best. Interestingly, although I liked other designs better than the one I chose, they all used stones that didn't match my coloring, soI had to choose one that was not my first choice for design but was the only one that looked good. Also, there were other necklaces whose stones matched my coloring, but whose designs I didn't like. The one I chose was a second-place design but still totally acceptable and there was only one like it. In other words, there was only one necklace that I liked both design and coloring and so it was like it was made just for me.

The additional beauty in this gift comes from the backstory to how Raenya got the necklaces that she was giving away. There is a small Buddhist woman on the island named Fatima. I have never met her and I didn't know her name until Raenya told me, but I've been seeing her everywhere lately. She's about 5 feet tall and shaves her head but it has grown back to stubble. She is very dark and has an Americanized Tibetan/Nepali look to her features. She is always wearing long white dresses of linen and cotton that drape dramatically and she layers several garments on top of each other artfully. However, her appearance has never struck me as artificial. She seems at home in the dramatic clothes; they are not costumes. This may have to do with the fact that she tends to wear big, ugly man-cardigans over top of them. She also wears jewelry. Great big beads of earthy stones just like those that Raenya had. She wears lots of them together and manages to pull off the look on her tiny frame because they seem such a casual addition. As I search my memories of her, I would swear that she spoke to me on a couple of occasions, engaging me to say, "Excuse me," or "Hello," in a friendly stranger sort-of way.

However, my memories are obviously wrong about that because Raenya says that she has taken a vow of silence. Apparently, her personality is so strong that I remember her engaging me as if she had spoken (the way that I most dominantly communicate) even though she had probably only smiled at me while making eye contact. Raenya was selling jewelry for her at the Farmer's Market and at the end of the day when she went to return the necklaces that had not been sold, Fatima indicated that she should give them away. (Raenya used the verb "said.") I am astounded by the levels of happiness that that sort of gift created. Fatima sacrificed getting to see the delighted faces of women like me so that Raenya could have that joy. She gave away the role of gift-bestower. That the gifts were of such unexpectedly high value to the reipients made her sacrifice even more moving. Fatima's gift to Raenya was to give her the experience of being generous with no cost to herself. Her gift to me was the experience of feeling special enough to get a gift of value without having done anything to earn it. Those are pretty fantastic gifts. Does Fatima's ability to give more than the tangible object come from her spiritual commitment or is her spiritual depth the result of making gifts like that? Either way, I'm wearing the necklace every day for awhile so that people will ask about it and I can tell the story. It is a beautiful story.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


I gave myself food poisoning yesterday. I ate half of a salami sandwich with sun-dried tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil, then left the sandwich out at the Exchange for a few hours, then ate the other half for dinner. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking, “Gee, I’m really hungry.” Then, I realized that the odd feeling in my stomach was not hunger but I wasn’t quite sure what it was in my sleep-fog. So I went naked, outside onto the front porch to get a bucket just in case. I fell asleep for a little while and then needed my bucket. It wasn’t as bad as it sometimes is: you know, when you are positive that you’re going to die and all you want to do is curl up on the cold tiles until handsome Death comes to take you. (It's a good thing I DIDN"T need to lie down for too long. Since I live in a trailer, only my torso was actually in the bathroom; the rest of me hung out into the kitchen.) As a consequence of my indiscretion, I was a little light-headed and out of it for the Farmer’s Market today. I don’t know how bulimic girls do it, with that nasty taste in the back of your throat and the light-headedness. I wouldn’t survive. People would be on to me far too quickly for me to get away with it. I have been doing better with the remembering to eat, but not that much tastes good, so it’s been a very deliberate effort. I’m hoping that the lack of taste buds is a similar symptom to the dirty dishes and the inability to make food for myself. Whatever is trying to get born without my noticing better be good. The good news is that I have a little more money lately since I’ve been getting tips in addition to my income and so buying what I can stand to eat is a little easier. Also, today Rhonda gave me several heads of butter lettuce, collard greens, some rhubarb and radishes. Mei-lan, the Vietnamese cook, gave me some ginger sauce to use for my salad. Yum.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Here come the judge, here come the judge

I’ve got some disillusionment to deal with. The folks at Doe Bay aren’t everything I thought they were. I was fairly besotted with them at first, because they were sarcastic and quick-witted and there is so little of that on the island. Now, though, I realize that there are gaping holes in their stories about where they’ve been before they came here. I’ve tried to ask tactful questions to get them to clarify but the answers just confuse the situation more. I’ve been here before (see previous marriage). Although they are excellent chefs, their tastes in all other areas are fairly bourgeois and they aren’t organized in the slightest. Yesterday, I raced to get all the way out there (it’s at the end of the island) on time after working all day at The Exchange, only to find that they had decided not to open for business that day and hadn’t thought to call me and tell me. This was after asking me Monday (two days earlier) to cover the shift because they didn’t have anyone. Marissa didn’t even admit that she had forgotten and just simply apologize; she made up some story about hoping I would come out and do some deep cleaning. Then, when was I was game for that, she didn’t have anything for me to do. She has done the schedule for this weekend twice and it didn’t seem like she even remembered having done it and lost it when we did it the second time. So, disillusionment. I’m trying to be a better judge of character but I get so wrapped up in what people mean to me, especially when we’re new to each other, that I lose track what they actually are. I think I’ll like them again and be able to work with them well, but I’m pulling way back in terms of social commitments.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Tone-deaf Dad

Last night was the first performance of the 28th Annual Spring Concert of the Orcas Choral Society. We have another one at 2:00 today. I had a solo, which is pretty much unheard of in any choir for a first-season member. It went very well. There's a little part that I occasionally mess up (and cover very well) and I didn't mess it up, which makes me happy. The choir is made up almost entirely of retired people and I think they've seen me a little bit as a sweet granddaughter in this whole situation. I would say that some 60 percent of the choir has told me how good my solo sounds or what a good voice I have or patted me on the shoulder as I walked back to the group when I was done. They also audibly sigh and murmur appreciatively when I finish. It's a little embarassing.

I wrote that on Sunday. As that day progressed, I got more and more light-headed and grumpier and grumpier. In fact, I didn't go to the party after the concert because I didn't have the energy to be that granddaughter character. Also, I'm not ready to go back to grown-up parties yet. Grown-up parties are the ones where people stand around in little groups and make small talk while eating good food and drinking tasteful amounts of wine. My suburban life was full of grown-up parties. I even liked them. But since being here, I've gotten to go back to the type of parties that I pretty much missed when I was younger. The amounts of wine and other substances consumed are not tasteful, the music is loud so talking is difficult and there's more running and laughing than standing and talking. I'm sure I will like grown-up parties again, but I'm just not ready to yet.

It turns out that I was grumpy and light-headed because I hadn't been keeping track of what I was eating and, for maybe the first time in my life, I kind of forgot to eat as much as I should have. This is somewhat of a similar syptom to my total lack of ability to wash my dishes. Anne Lamott writes in her books Traveling Mercies, "[The man who worked for the Dalai Lama said] that they believed when a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born – and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible. " I'm fairly certain that my brain is working something out without telling me and as a result, my unconcious mind is not letting me do the dishes or cook a good meal for myself because it needs that room to work in.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Farmer's Market

I have been having a rough couple of days because the Farmer’s Market was so good. I’ve made this decision to wrap up my life here in the fall and go back to Chicago to live with my brother Daniel and maybe our friend Alan. But there was so much community and so much joy at the Farmer’s Market that I’ve been a little conflicted. I worry that I won’t ever find community like this again. I also miss that time in my life (3-6 months ago) when I didn’t think about the future or have any plans. The resting I could accomplish in that state and the sense of freedom were intense.

This is the lay-out of the Farmer’s Market:

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Notice the little red circle that is my position all the way around the corner at the back away from all the action. Since I don’t have an income at stake, I’m actually OK with my spot. Also, any drop-in vendors are placed around me so I’ll get to meet lots of different people. This first week, a woman named Jane was selling her rocks that she’d made designs on by sandblasting them. She’s got this great Southern accent and has an extremely powerful-looking frame. It turns out that she’s a bodybuilder (and a vegan!) and that a year and a half ago, she won the title of Strongest Woman in the World in the 50-55 age group. Pretty impressive, huh. She’s also a lot of fun. I like listening to her talk to the people that were drawn like magnets to her table of rocks. It seems that there is a large populations of lithophiliacs out there. I heard one person say that he really liked flat rocks and that he spent most of his outdoor hours looking for just the right spot to have worked the rocks to flatness. Another woman liked perfectly spherical rocks. She kept bowling balls in her living room as decoration because she liked the shape. Another woman said like she was giving out a reluctant secret, “You know where I find the best rocks: Whiskey Creek.” To which Jane responded excitedly in her deep Southern accent, “That’s my favorite spot, too!” These conversations always ended with an agreement that the hunt was the best part of collecting rocks. I hope Jane’s stall is next to mine again this upcoming weekend.

Because my booth is set so far back, I get front row seats to the entertainment that people bring. A woman in her forties with great long grey hair named Nancy brought 6 giant marimbas. They looked like giant Orff instruments like we had in elementary music school and at church choir: big wooden xylophones with PVC pipes cut to different sizes below each bar of wood to resonate the sound. She announced that all four of her grown children were home for Mother’s Day to play music with her. It was phenomenal. I can just imagine their house while they grew up, with one picking up the mallets to play tunes so that others would be called in to join the fun. Nancy had such joy in her face as she bounced around, counting off the beat for the crowd to clap along and yelling, “One more time!” to keep a particular song going. The music of different sized xylophones played together is extremely complex. I liked picking out the individual note patterns of each instrument, then fuzzing out my ears to listen to the combined sound the way you fuzz out your eyes to look at the Christmas tree to see if the lights are evenly distributed. This Von Trapp family of hippies played for close to two hours off and on. At other times, the Slappy Tubbs band played at different parts of the marketplace. Slappy Tubbs is four guys who are good musicians and have taken on hillbilly characters. It is true environmental theatre like you would find at the Renaissance Faire. They have bits that they do to play with the crowd, like stopping in the middle of a song to pose for a picture if someone is aiming a camera at them. They wear mullet wigs and bright orange mesh-back caps with camouflage vests. However, they have created these costumes and characters so convincingly that they do not seem like a parody; they seem like just a blue-grass band with a sense of humor transplanted from Kentucky to Orcas Island. And, since the music was good, the performance had depth, rather than just being a silly show. The entertainment continued a little further over in the empty part of the field. One of the local blacksmiths had created a giant see-saw that, in addition to going up and down also spun on an axis. It was entertainment because the seats were a good 4 or 5 feet off the ground and the plank was a 10 to 12 foot long log of driftwood. Precarious would be an understatement. I don’t think anyone lost teeth while holding the log in a bear hug while they whirled around and up and down, but it certainly looked like a few people came close. No one paid Slappy Tubbs or Nancy or Zacharya to be there. They didn’t put out hats. They were there because they wanted to share what they loved doing with the community.

Personally, I felt like my contribution was successful. I took my worm bin and made all sorts of eye contact with people when they looked at it and asked if they wanted to see my worms. Only one guy turned me down all day. I had conversations with people and got a good sense of what additionally things I should have available next week. I was amazed at how easily my Renaissance Faire skills came back to me. Being in that environment made me want to give people the experience that they came to the market for. That meant making eye contact and simply saying hello. That meant drawing the interest out and asking questions. I loved it. I felt a great sense of contentment and connection with this community. On Monday, though, I looked back at that pure joy of participation and worried that I won’t find that so easily or at all on the mainland. I know I can’t stay here because I still have ambitions for my life and those can only be fulfilled in areas of larger populations. I know that I want to be with my family. But, damnit, I also want to be part of this fantastic community!

So, for two days, I accomplished absolutely nothing. Monday, I slept in because I had worked almost every waking morning of the weekend. I actually went back to the Doe Bay CafĂ© to work out some logistics regarding a potential field trip we were going to take to get food handlers licenses. I drove Bisquan into town and hung out with him for a little while and then met up with Marissa. By the time I got home, I only had enough time to work out, eat and shower before I had to go get the ferry to pick Jeff up from the week and a half long trek. Tuesday was similar in its total lack of accomplishments, despite the dishes that needed to be done and the grantwriting that my father needs. Without really engaging in any one project, it was time to go to choir rehearsal. I really didn’t want to go to Rhonda’s today. I really wanted to spend a third day moping. But, I had promised and it really sucks for her when people back out. So I went. And the first part of the day went slowly. I yawned a lot and did routine tasks like cutting drip tape and writing on plant stakes. However, at the end of the day, after fertilizing furrows with crab shells and organic fertilizer and digging my hands into the composted manure to put another layer in the furrows, then actually planting the broccolis and cabbages and kohlrabis into the furrows with the drip tape, I realized that I was feeling pretty good. It ended up being only Rhonda, Faith and me and we had a great day of girl talk and quiet in equal measures. The girl talk was good for me; I don’t get a lot of that since I spend a lot of time with Jeff or with mixed groups. It’s amazing how often farming can lead to conversations about sex. All that fertility and fecundity. So, I feel better. I haven’t resolved the cognitive dissonance of wanting to move back to Chicago and wanting to stay on Orcas. Of course, I don’t need to. But I believe that more now that I’ve been making the world a better place for a day. Funny how that works.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Doe Bay Cafe

There is nothing quite like getting naked with your colleagues after to work to sit and steam or boil all of the aches and pains out of your body in the company spa.

Waiting tables went extremely well. The chefs are fantastic. Without exagerration, every single plate came back completely clean with the scrape marks from the utensils clearly visible. That makes my job very easy. The kitchen staff is fantastic. I feel like I've finally found my people here on the island. We were all at the bookstore yesterday and discovered that we've read pretty much the same books. I'm going to loan them my copy of Cryptonomicron. We make fun of each other and tease and are as sarcastic as we want to be because we're not worried that we'll hurt the sensitive islanders' feelings. It's very relaxing to be in that environment again. I think the word I want to use is, "sympatico." There was just an immediate understanding between the three of us that we liked each other. The Head Chef is MArissa and her assistant is a guy named Bisquan (pronounced Bi-shan). They asked me to take the shift Sunday night as well. So, I worked at the Exchange Friday, prepped for the Farmer's Market Friday night, did the Farmer's Market Saturday, worked 8 hours at the restaurant on Saturday night, worked at the Exchange Sunday, and then 6 hours at the restaurant Sunday night. I think a sit in the sauna and a soak in the tubs was well-earned. I'm excited about the rest of the summer at the Doe Bay Cafe.

Friday, May 06, 2005


Today I unveiled my armpit hair to the world.

It was actually pretty anticlimactic. “Yawn,” said the island. I think it was stranger to people when I waxed my armpits. Actually, I think that very few people actually care about the status of my body hair. Probably, this includes you.

So, I don’t necessarily like my overly hirsute nature, but I’m committed to it for a while. It’s part of the experience. Interestingly, although I was aware of exposure, I was not self-conscious. Being on this island is really teaching me that so many surface things are actually surface. I talked about individuality before but have never really felt totally comfortable in being different. I always just sort of accepted it as inevitable but awkward. I feel more like me most of the time now. When I get the $40 a month that I’ll need to start waxing again, I’ll do it, because my clothes pull at it disturbingly sometimes and since it’s long and as straight as the hair on my head, it sticks out to the front instead of only revealing itself as a “cute twist of hair” when I raise my arms, a phrase I read in a William Gibson novel once. Plus, when I get back to the city, I don’t want to be known as the girl with the armpit hair. A Paula Cole for our times. That label would be disproportionate to the actual priorities in my life.

Weekend Plans

I'm starting a booth for The Exchange at the Farmer's Market tomorrow all by myself. I have no idea what to expect in terms of audience. I have an umbrella, a table, a sign I painted on a cabinet door, a scrapbook of creative re-use projects from magazines and an old turquoise and hot pink Coleman cooler with holes drilled in it and full of worms and food scraps. I wrote, "Ask me how worms eat my garbage," and "Eeuw! Worms!" on it. Then, I'll wait tables out at Doe Bay for the first time. Daniel said it's not hard and I should be fine. His big pieces of advice were: always give them the menu quickly so they have something to do while they wait for you and pick up the mug and pull it away from the table to refill coffee so that if you spill, it won't be on them. I actually think that's pretty helpful. Then, Sunday, I'll work at The Exchange since Jeff is still on trek. I'll think I'll be pretty tired by Sunday night. I won't have trouble sleeping at all then.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

More What I Wore

I had a Coke with my dinner and now I can't sleep. Actually, I couldn't sleep last night either and I was not caffeinated then, so I don't really know what's up. However, since I don't have the urge to veg in front of the TV, I thought that I would share a few more of my self portraits with you.

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I got my first pair of Converse (turquoise) when I was 12 and felt very grown up on my family vacation to New Orleans. The maroon pair had belonged to my brother David, who actually was cool. On of them always came untied so I used a BowBiter of Animal from the Muppets. Like most kids, I had several pairs of black high tops over the course of four years in high school. Notice the detail on the yellow pair of the tongue that invariably got bunched up to one side.

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This is a typical outfit for me in junior high and high school. Notice the tights worn under the ragged jeans and the T-shirt tucked in only in the front. I think we were hiding our butts. I also gave in and "pegged" my jeans so that the sillouette of my legs decreased as they went down. Not enough attention is paid to the fashion quirks of the early nineties. Too often they are simply seen as the tail end of the eighties, but since my entire high school life was spent in that style period, I'm actually dedicating quite a bit of time to preserving those images for posterity.

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The first time that I was ever aware that boys were looking at me favorably was when I was wearing this outfit. The linen dress and cotton cardigan are from The Gap and I felt like Jackie O while wearing it. I wore the ensemble for a presentation that I was giving in one class and then wore it to my Poli-Sci 101 class. Dr. Montgomery, who had phenomenal style herself, complimented me, and that I could actually process. I was bewildered by the almost tangible appreciation of some of the male members of my class, but was simultaneously filled with an amazing sense of empowerment.

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When I first began teaching, I revelled in looking like a teacher. Although I abhored both embroided apples and turtlenecks, I managed to exude the style associated with my profession to the point that more than one stranger (usually sales clerks) asked me out of the blue if I was, indeed, and English teacher. I liked jumpers and big beads. My ex-husband also liked this look which further explains my devotion to it. Otherwise, I can't explain my desire to look like a wealthy, artsy middle-aged suburban lady. The little head is what my student Tia's head looked like. She had so thoroughly examined and analyzed my style that when I returned from my long weekend in October (early in the school year) and told the kids that I had gotten married, she gasped and asked, "You didn't wear socks with your wedding dress, did you?"

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Watercolors by the Water

On an extremely beautiful day last week, I went to a public beach near my house just because I couldn’t bear to be inside, regardless of the work that needed to be done with my computer. It was a pebbly beach and since it was low tide, I walked around for a little while peering into all of the little cracks and crevices that made tide pools (just like at the Aquarium!). The starfish here are bright purple and orange and I found close to 15 little cracks in the lava-poop boulders that each had around 8 to 10 purple squishy starfish crammed into them to stay as cool and wet as possible until the tide came back in.

After gamboling about, I sat down in the sun, wedged my butt into the rocks and took out my pencil and watercolors. About a year ago, I read a book called Love, Loss and What I Wore. In it, a woman traces the important memories of her life (begun in the 40’s) through the outfits she wore. She uses a simple narrative style and even simpler line drawings with basic, almost cartoonist, coloring to show the clothes. I was moved by her story but I was more impressed by the simplicity. I could do that!

Now, that is a huge statement for me. I cannot draw. I am, if anything, a compilation artist, taking little bits of already created supplies (magazine clippings, beads, yarn, ribbon) and putting them together to make something 3D and whimsical. Poor drawing, in fact, creates much humor in my classroom. However, I realized that drawing the shape that I’ve been looking at in the mirror for 25 years or so would probably be possible. Plus, almost simultaneously with this thought that I might be able to draw, I had a desire to draw the outfit I was wearing when my husband first told me he wasn't sure he wanted to be married to me anymore.

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Look at this poor little girl, with her feet tucked into the bottom of the page. Looking back her, she looks pretty pathetic. However, then and now, I’m satisfied with my representation of myself. By tapping some “outsider art” spirit, I really do feel like I’ve accurately recorded both my physical image and emotional self-image at the same. Trust me, I was only going for the physical in my conscious mind. I guess that’s the point of art, though, to tap the unconscious, right?

I’ve made 17 pictures so far including one of all of the different Converse that I’ve owned. My personal style is a constantly changing thing. As a child, my mother used to buy clothes for me in European styles. As this was the mid-eighties, everyone but those boring kids at Forest Glen Elementary School with no imagination was impressed. Since I didn’t look like one of the three Kelly’s, I was teased quite a bit. It set me on my style path for life. I was never going to look like one of the three Kelly’s, so it didn’t take me long to start trying to look like myself. Since I keep changing, so does my style. It’s been fun to relive that.

On the beach the other day, I drew myself as I am now. When the paint had dried and I was able to flip back into the spiral notebook and compare it, I was amazed at the level of detail and realism that I included. This was when I realized how simple my early pictures were. Both my skill level and my sense of self have gone up in the last year. Art is, quite simply, amazing. Look at this girl! She’s smaller, with some tummy showing. Her hands are visible. She’s got kick-ass hicking boots on. She’s not afraid to wear silk thermal long sleeves under a short-sleeved T-shirt. Her jeans have depth of color and her ponytail is perky. All in all, she’s pretty damn satisfied with herself.

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As a final note, while I was drawing, an eagle landed on the volcano-poop rocks less that 50 feet away from me. I only looked up because of the giant noise his wings made as he landed. I think he grabbed a starfish and flew off. I immediately called my dad on my cellphone to gloat because he tried so hard to spot an eagle while visiting but had to settle for cormorants in Vancouver. He’s been calling me PrincessEagle and Eagle-girl in emails ever since.