Friday, December 30, 2011

Going Back

Seven days are not long enough in Maine....I didn't even see some of the people I wanted to see, but these last few days have been full of thoughts, plans, work and decisions.

Now I head back to Philadelphia with a plan, so it's less scary. More to come soon......but suffice it to say: beauty lies along the horizon....

Grizzly Bear - On a Neck, On a Spit

My last few posts have been too vague for my comfort level and I aim to fix that this weekend.......

But for now...

Happy New Year!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011


Radiohead - Reckoner

I have done almost nothing for three days.....

I am very relaxed and feeling cocoon-y.....but, I feel like my hermit status must shift a bit, so today I am off on a hike into Acadia National Park!

I have been journaling a lot lately about the paths ahead...and am reminded of that ever-referenced Robert Frost poem.....

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;        5
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,        10
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.        15
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Crunchy Underfoot

I just turned off all the lights at my parents house; just the first floor, I suppose, since the second floor lights were already out and rooms full of sleeping people and animals. I walked out onto the porch in my mom's super thick and protective winter coat, boots, gloves, scarf and hat, because it is three degrees out there.


Three is when your body feels really tight and rigid and you can really only think about how strange it is to feel that cold anywhere exposed to the cold while the rest of you feels just fine.

Anyway: I stepped out on my porch and stared up and rapidly pulled in a breath in awe. The amount of stars, numerically, is incredible! But the sizes, too, are mind-boggling: some small and some large, some white and some yellow or copper or blue. Some constellations tiny and compressed, some large and extending for what must be trillions and trillions of miles.

Orion stood out to me tonight. I could see his belt and his knife, but that is not impressive. I could also see every point on the wooden part of his bow, as if I could just lay a real one on top of the stars and fit the curve perfectly. I saw his hands, his wrist, the bend of his elbow and the shape of his arm. I could see his head and hair, his feet, legs, and of course, the dogs laying underneath him. I could see many other constellations, too, but Orion stood out tonight.

Three degrees!


It is so beautiful, outside in the cold, when you look around and see the cozy, warm glow of the houses against the stark black night studded with millions of stars. Looking out to the northwest, you can see the twinkle of lights of other houses across the bay, and the way that the sky is reflected onto the surface of the ocean. You can see trees reaching their naked fingers up into the sky. The only sound is the occasional car on Route 3 or sometimes, the twisting noises of tree trunks twisting in the wind.

I wished, a few minutes ago, that I could sit on the snow. But, three degrees is cold and the stars will be there again tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Thanksgiving in New Jersey Misadventure

Lately, it has been all about the rediscovery of truths and necessities in my life: those things that sometimes we file away and forget, and when they are missing for too long we wander around our heads and hearts and houses seeking something impossible to find because it isn't laying about anywhere.

One of the things I love about Texas is its wide, wild, open spaces. I love driving through them: seeing barbed wire fences, cows, cactus and sunsets. Oh the sunsets! The mile markers, the Texas shaped highway markers, the vultures sitting on power lines, and the oak trees. The grass and the light. The scrubbiness of Texas countryside and how the texture of the plants and light changes as the day advances from misty morning to dry afternoon and dusky evenings. Even at night the land makes a noise as the wind blows across the dust and the weeds: when you drive with the windows down the perfume of the land blows through the car and just makes you realize where you are.

Late Afternoon Texas Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush and Live Oaks

I love driving, always have. I love driving long distances in the day and at night. I prefer the day because I love to stare off into distances and see what is coming. I love to look out at fields and notice the animals living there. I love to watch clouds change as I drive underneath them, and I am a sucker for sunsets.

Today I drove from Philly to New Jersey, to my cousin's house for Thanksgiving. I had some new records to listen to, a box of knitting projects and a snack or two and took off up I-95 towards Morris Plains. Just south of Trenton, I hit terrible traffic and crawled for an hour and a half and traveled two miles! Luckily for me, this was not caused by a truck spilling industrial chemicals all over the highway but just accidents and road work (I hope everyone is okay).

A Road at Night

After I found my alternative route, it was dark. I turned off my GPS because I looked at an old fashioned map in the Service Plaza and figured out my way. I listened, in the early dark, to Beirut's new album from start to finish, and had a beautiful drive, by myself, through the night.

A Candle's Fire

Tonight's drive made me think of all the drives I made between Austin and Houston all those years ago when that was a drive I made all the time. That drive is all countryside, while this one is almost all city...but the driving is the same. The sense of moving through space, of shifting and getting away from the day to day, of controlling your destiny more so than when you are in a plane. I love it.

I realized tonight that one of the truths about myself is I need space. I need space to drive, space to live, and space to bicycle. I need wide open sky and stars and trees and fields with cows. I need open windows and sunsets and time. Time just to be, just to listen to records as the clouds pass overhead, as the asphalt passes underneath, as mile after mile passes by and you get to where you are going.

Good to know...

Leonard Cohen has a new song called "Show Me the Place". I just listened to it four times while writing this.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Six Month Mark

Isn't it funny what can happen on a Saturday?

please excuse crappy phone photos from here on out

I have spent the afternoon making jewelry....lovely, soul-sustaining artwork in my friend Allison's gallery. I pulled out all the almost completed and old pieces from their ziploc bags and polished them, took them apart, set some cabochons, and ultimately, re-oriented how I felt about them. Tonight, they join the ranks of other pieces on the bright white shelves of Zuzu in Collingswood.

It feels good to take a look at old things that have been hidden for too long. Sometimes, it's like your eyes just forgot what something looked like, and in other cases, its as if a piece wakes up for the first time. All of  a sudden you can see it for what it always should have been.

Case in point....The Under the Sea Necklace just woke up....

The Under the Sea Necklace originally was a necklace on lots of chain with a clasp and it was very dark: very heavily oxidized. Today I cut it all apart, threw the extra pieces I was tired of looking at into the pickle pot, and proceeded to clean the oxide off the pendant with steel wool. And then I saw it and realized: this is how it should have been all the time! 

After that, I set the earrings that have been scuttling around the bottom of one of my jewelry boxes for months and months and months....these earrings are set with pictures from stereographic images....the vertically oriented ones are of a hillside in Mexico, and the horizontally oriented ones are a mountain in Scotland.....

Jewelry is an amazing force in my life: as is all creativity. Without it, I literally wither and begin to become a nutty shell of my former self. Had I known this as distinctly as I know it now, I probably would have researched Philadelphia a bit better. Had I known alot of things, I would have researched Philadelphia better. But now I know: six months in, I know what is important.

While polishing these pieces and thinking about the next six months, and the changes that will inevitably happen, the luck that will wax and wane like the moon each month, I have been dancing to The Smiths.

I have no doubt that whoever has walked down Haddon Avenue tonight has wondered why on Earth that tall girl in cowboy boots is dancing around while clutching small pieces of silver and steel wool. But that's okay. Maybe they will go home and dance around while clutching their laptops, their knitting projects, their dogs or cats or babies. 

Soon I am off to Karaoke Obscura at the Tritone, and soon after that I am off to New Jersey and New York City, and then to Maine for the holidays. The time passes by so's hard to know what to do just to take advantage of the days....

Dancing to The Smiths sounds good now, though....and singing Regina Spektor or The Yeah Yeah Yeahs later on sounds great.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Meditations on a Sunday morning

I just deactivated my Facebook profile.....I need a break from all of this constant contact. I need time to think, just to be. I have decided to suspend it for a week.

Funnily enough, I almost reactivated this morning when I woke up! As if I couldn't go through a morning without it.....that means that deactivating was a good choice.....what a strange life this one is, this 21st century life. We have so much, buzzing around us, all the's hard to know what invest your time in.

This morning, when I woke up, before I had coffee or anything else, I watched this video as it was delivered to me with my weekly BrainPickings bulletin. I find the Holstee Manifesto be very inspiring to me at the moment. Right now I feel like I am struggling unnecessarily all the time: I can't give myself a break. When I read the words of this statement, it gives me pause to think about what I am doing and why it is that my daily life is not making me happy.

Last night I went to go and see Kurt Vile and the Violators at Union Transfer: I was so tired from working all day at the Philadelphia Craft Show, but I am so happy that I went. His music is so beautiful and the band's guitar playing is so was fantastic, and made me realize how much I love to see live music. Since living here, that has definitely fallen off so I have recommitted to going to shows whenever possible.

It has been a weekend of music! On Friday, I went to a Secret Show in someone's living room in North Philly with my friend who has definitely become one of my best friends here in Philadelphia. He invited me and off we went to someone's house, sat in the living room, were hosted by a lovely English girl who reminded me of my friend Mercedes, and listened to four acts who played four songs each. We went to see the Lawsuits, but Alessi's Ark was such a surprise: her music is SOOOOOO beautiful, I became very teary-eyed during her singing. She was lovely and warbled: her mouth changing shape to echo beautiful bird sounds as she sang.

The fall is here! The ginkgo trees are bright yellow. They pop out at you from corners, against walls, against fences and trees. As I drove to Doylestown the other day (photos to come later), I was overwhelmed with color!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Dr Richard Feynman Beauty-Honor-Curiousity Misadventure

 This morning, I watched this series of short films and listened to the words of Dr Richard Feynman. They are magical words, and magical films, and these are my thoughts after watching and listening.

 The Feynman Series - Beauty

"Beauty is truth - truth beauty, that is all 

Ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know."
 - John Keats "Ode to a Grecian Urn"              

Lately, I have been meditating on beauty, and truth, as it were. Lately, I have been living in a great, old, American city. This great, old, American city is filled with amazing historical buildings and ideas: the ideas that this country was born of were born here. Here Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin and William Penn and other abolitionists and believers in democracy strolled the streets, dreamed of the way they could be, and built them.

They paved the streets in cobblestones and traintracks. They built City Hall in the image of Parisian buildings. They built the Franklin Institute, the main branch of the Philadelphia Free Library, and Fairmount Park so that Philadelphia would be the most beautiful of American cities. And they succeeded. They built house after house, all stuck together in rows. Some row houses have three floors and others two or four. Some have trees lining their streets, some are bare. All the houses are old, old, old, according to an American timeline. The outsides have changed little, the insides dramatically. Despite time or fire, wind, snow, rain, these houses stand and will stand, I am sure, for a very long time.

So this idea is beautiful, really. Using Hall Quarry granite, carving out a European city, a beacon of America on the edge of the Delaware River. A city born of the ideas of equal representation, democracy, freedom and liberty.

Then they paved over the cobblestones, covered the traintracks. They maintained the city around City Hall and around the park. Center City flourishes, South Philly grows, Queen Village maintains its classic beauty. Around the edges, though, city planning and city resources grew thin. Slowly, they became dismantled, as did every great American city. The industries moved out of the city, but left unemployed workers and empty factory buildings for us to see every day. Giant brick buildings broadcast who once lived and worked there: who made their living there, but no more. 

Those young people who were born around those city edges, the ones who saw their grandparents and parents have solid, stable jobs at factories in Philly all of a sudden saw empty brick buildings. All of a sudden, they questioned whether they had a future here at all. And the answer was, no. The schools deteriorated when the city and government limited their funding. An overwhelming sense of dependence on data as the determining statistic for education overwhelmed schools populated with children who knew there was no future for them: they began to fail.

People grew sad and disenchanted. They saw the people in Center City and wondered why the rest of the city was so different. What had they done? And they had done nothing. The City itself, the powers that be, had sold their future for the present. The idea that all of us had to now pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, when in reality none of the wealthy had done this, at least not in several generations, pervaded the City and if you were not able to do this, you were degenerate, pathological, a culture of poverty.

I take the train to work in the morning and pass an amazingly beautiful, Grecian style building. I wonder what it was, because now the doors and windows are boarded up. There are trees growing through holes in the sides of the building. Across the park near the school is an incredible church. It must be over 150 years old, judging by its spires and stained glass, sculpted windows. The front is boarded up now, the windows are broken out. There is scaffolding in front to keep people out. 

Now Philadelphia is decorated in so many amazing murals, all across the city. The murals celebrate the diversity, beauty and history of this city. Every time I walk past them it makes me happy to see such beauty on the sides of old, giant buildings, apartment buildings, under over-passes. I do wonder, however, what is the future for the children of Philadelphia. Will they be able to appreciate the beauty here? Or will they simply see how the old is paved over? Will they see the empty buildings and see opportunity? Or will they continue along the strange path that our old industrial giants have taken...

The Feynman Series - Honours

This week, I learned that I have the honor of participating in an exciting program: EduPERCS: Partnering Educators and Researchers in Collaborative Science. I will be working with a scientist whose focus is on ocean health and ocean awareness, and who specifically wants to work with middle school students and help them understand what "real" science is and how scientists do their work. We will be collaborating over the next year (and hopefully years after): my classes will speak to her, work with her, and I will share ideas with her so that we are really working on a program together. I am excited to see what happens!

When it comes to other honours in my life, of late I have had a fair few. I have learned that one of my first students, from 6 years ago, has just finished Marine Boot Camp and will return for combat training in two weeks. He is very excited and loves what he has chosen to do, which is to fix and work on computers for the Marines. I am happy that this means he will not be out on the battlefield, and hopefully will be less in harm's way. Another one of my students' parents emailed me because she found the postcard I gave to him 6 years ago on his bedroom floor. She told me that he ended up loving school, attended summer school all through high school, and finished with his freshman year of college already finished. He is now going to the University of Texas at San Antonio, living in an apartment, and apparently is 5'11"!!!! She wrote:

"Thank you for the positive impact you gave... in the short time he was in middle school.  I'm sure as a teacher you always wonder about some of your students and what became of them.  It makes it all worthwhile when you hear great accomplishments from former students so we hope we made your day."

So, for me, honours are what we receive when we are being quiet, diligent, doing our jobs as best we can, and sometimes we are handed surprises that make us intensely happy and fulfilled, and make all the frustration and confusion less important. Honours like this are the most important, the most real. I have to agree with Dr Feynman above that other honours, the honours of trophies and certificates, are ultimately meaningless when you can experience the real honour of helping someone other than yourself. 

The Feynman Series - Beauty

Last weekend it was very chilly and the rain was still misting down, and I went with my friends to Wissahickon Park. We parked and wandered down the trails, talked to the ducks, looked at the old old bridges, spotted a stream, climbed into some tree roots, peed in the woods, ran down the trail, and the littlest ones of us were swung by the arms of the larger ones. 

Later, we fed the ducks with bread that a nice fellow-park-attendee could spare. We spotted beautiful wood ducks with all their colors, mallards, and their duller, female companions. We talked about why the lady ducks are less pretty than the male ducks, and again, the littlest ones of us had more to say because they were curious and mystified as to why the lady ducks were not pretty like lady humans. 

Afterwards, we went to go and drink some wine and have some snacks, and the older ones of us talked and laughed and watched the littlest ones draw mobiles on napkins, draw and write a story on a scrap sheet of paper, and stick straws into a hat. Again, the littlest ones walked around the restaurant, talked to people, came back, ate ice cream and off we went home. 

My friend Karen's children are amazing and are a wonderful age for curiosity, passion, and exploration. They are four and seven years old, have no television at home, have an art teacher for a mom, a house painter for a dad, are Brazilian-American, and live in a giant, old house in Germantown where they can run around, whether inside or outside. They are curious about everything: sharks, turtles, lizards, dinosaurs, cheetahs, knitting, spider webs, ducks, river water and trees. They reminded me to everyday take moments to appreciate the amazing beauty that surrounds everything. To question what makes everything work. To spend time in trees and parks, to play with others and especially animals. To make magical hideouts, to dress in costumes, and to eat cakes and cookies.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Double-Decker Train Misadventure

 The Kinzua Bridge  --- a place I hope to visit this fall or winter

Steamboats, Viaducts, and Railways

"Motions and Means, on land and sea at war
With old poetic feeling, not for this,
Shall ye, by Poets even, be judged amiss!
Nor shall your presence, howsoe'er it mar
The loveliness of Nature, prove a bar
To the Mind's gaining that prophetic sense
Of future change, the point of vision, whence
May be discovered  what in soul ye are.
In spite of all that beauty may disown
In your harsh features, Nature doth embrace
Her lawful offspring in Man's art; and Time,
Pleased with your triumphs o'er his brother Space,
Accepts from your bold hands the proffered crown
Of hope, and smiles on you with cheer sublime."

--- William Wordsworth, 1835

Last weekend, I rode a double-decker New Jersey transit train to and from my cousin's house in North was amazing! I rode on the bottom on the way there, and on the top on the way back. The top is definitely the way to's like flying very shallowly: barely coasting above the ground as you pass through urban desolation, graffiti, trees, into suburbia....and back.

In other news, it is fall! Autumn snuck her way through and especially over the last few days it feels different here. The season is quieter, somehow. I am planning a trip out of the city soon to look at the trees as they change. I haven't seen it in so long; but my memories tell me that the switch happens fast...

Another view of the Kinzua, before the 2003 tornado came and knocked most of it down.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Musings on Saturday Evening

I just discovered this wonderful knitter's site and read this off a posting of hers. It rings true for me, so true it's pretty painful.....but a good kind of *ouch*:

“Whatever it was, the image that stopped you, the one on which you
came to grief, projecting it over & over on empty walls.
Now to give up the temptations of the projector; to see instead the
web of cracks filtering across the plaster.
To read there the map of the future, the roads radiating from the
initial split, the filaments thrown out from that impasse.
To reread the instructions on your palm; to find there how the
lifeline, broken, keeps its direction.
To read the etched rays of the bullet-hole left years ago in the
glass; to know in every distortion of the light what fracture is.
To put the prism in your pocket, the thin glass lens, the map
of the inner city, the little book with gridded pages.
To pull yourself up by your own roots; to eat the last meal in
your old neighborhood.”

--- Adrienne Rich

A New Jersey Transit Misadventure

Codex by Radiohead

So here I am, on a train to visit the family in New Jersey….I am somewhere an hour and a half or so from Philadelphia, listening to the song that reminds me most of Philadelphia. There is something about this song that resonates so completely with my Philly mental state….when I first moved to the city, listening to this song would make me cry as I walked around. Now it makes me wistful, smile a little, and at least be aware of how I feel about it.

Seawall at Sunset

All I can think about is Maine. Maine Maine Maine….on the brain. Every moment of every day I think about living there and as yet cannot decide if that is just a romantic escape from a present situation that is fraught with complications and chaos, or if the pure resonance of the idea means that this move to Philly was to direct me to the place where I really want to be. When I think about it, all the trees and the water and the calm and the people and the snow and the ocean and the birds and the mountains and rivers and streams and beaches and rocks and pebbles and and and….

An old postcard of Great Cranberry Island

So there it is. Maine……the only place where all my insanity gets some rest. But it is very cold there in the winter, for a long time. And jobs are hard to find. But surely I would find something? And I could rent a house on the Crooked Road, or on a smaller island…or something.

Little girls playing in a field of flowers, Great Cranberry Island, 1913

What is the dream? The dream kindled by this past summer and a lifetime of summers and winter visits up there. A desire for a different way of life more akin to what I like to do with my time and what is important to me. A dream kindled by a trip on the mail boat to Great Cranberry Island, and a reading of the book “We Were an Island” about a wonderful couple who lived on Placentia Island from the 1940s through 1980s. A dream kindled by the idea of teaching in a small island school, teaching all ages of kids together in one room, each day commuting to work on a boat instead of in a car. 

The main pier at Great Cranberry

Each day commuting through dark blue, green, purple, copper, black ocean. Lobster buoys, boats, gulls, clouds, fog, ice, sunshine, the wake of the boat would be my viewpoint instead of the tracks of an elevated train and the burnt-out hulls of ancient factories.

 Is the dream realistic? Well no dreams entirely are, and I guess this is why we pursue our dreams: at least they give us a goal point and maybe we drift slightly along the way while we approach the dream. Is it possible? Yes. Does it matter if it looks exactly like it does in your head? Well, more or less like the image in my head would be nice.

A painting of the Preble House by artist Marshall Ginn

So. The dream. The risky business. Taking such a huge risk, leaping off into the unknown. Moving to a place where life is much different, where the winter is much longer, where the possibility of getting the same job I have now is much more limited….I may have to wait a long, long time……

The mail boat! This boat, or another one like this boat, would be my ride to work if I was to teach on the island!

The last time I took a risk like this was when I became a teacher. The year was 2006, and I was working for IBM as an event planner. At the exact moment when my friend Brennan called me on the phone and asked if I would like a teaching job, I was in a hotel room in Port O'Connor, Texas, drinking lots of tequila on 4th of July weekend. 

It was raining incessantly, it was very hot and there were, quite literally, mobs of millions of mosquitoes flying around everywhere. Needless to say, our 4th of July celebration was inside the confines of a small, humid hotel room at the Tarpon Inn. When he called, I said yes I would love to be a teacher but I had no credentials. He told me not to worry about it, that it would work out. So I went in for an interview when we all got back to Austin,  and the next day, I was offered the job. When I quit IBM, my boss told me that the world needs angels, and that he really couldn’t complain that I was leaving IBM to become a teacher. I took a $13,000 paycut immediately but just didn’t care. I hated the IBM job and was already considering quitting and going back to Whole Foods, but this came up instead.

So is Maine my risky, life change of 2011-2012? I feel young for my age, but at the same time too old to be making decisions that are in the ultimate benefit of anyone but me. And a move to rural Maine would be a move only because I wan to do it. It would be a decision made for me, by me, and therefore, only I could blame myself for the consequences. But, the beautiful hopefulness of this idea is that if it does work out, I will be able to celebrate a decision made for my own happiness. It seems selfish to say things like that. I feel like I have made decisions for the benefit of others for many years, and put myself second. The braggadocio comes out when I just say to myself, who cares? Something will just work out….

Famous last words? Or a famous step in the right direction…..finally?

When I think about living and working in Maine….I think about doing more art, spending more time outside, cooking more, more of the meaningful, less of the dismal steps one takes when one is just going through the motions of a life less than enjoyable.

All of these thoughts come to me as I am rocked and lulled by a train ride through the darkness: a ride from Trenton to Newark Penn Station, in an old, chrome train car populated with brown nagahide and chrome seats, stainless steel luggage racks, and a quiet sense of relaxation on a Friday night...I love the train and I love this time to relax and think and be in the moment for a moment. When caught up in the day to day, I forget to take this time just to be. 

Going back to winding yarn balls, 


Links por vous:

I will be starting a Guernsey (or sometimes known as Gansey) sweater for my brother for Christmas. This is my first big-time sweater project!!! 

I am winding yarn balls at the moment for the Carlisle Scarf from Loop is really beautiful! I am still in yarn-shop withdrawal, being that nowhere is exactly like Hill Country Weavers (btw, please take a look at their fiber drive and consider sending something to a fellow fiber fiend who has lost everything in the wildfires), but I am adjusting to the acceptance phase of loss and beginning to embrace my new LYS!

Also, please consider donating $10 to the United Way of Central Texas to donate funds to families who have lost their homes. Luckily, I think, everyone was able to escape the fires, but many have lost homes and possessions. It is hard to be so far away and think of all the help that is needed in my old hometown!

And in polar-opposite land, otherwise known as our neck of the woods, click here to donate funds to Vermont Aid and help people with flood relief. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Fairmount Park Misadventure

Old postcard of Fairmount Park

Yesterday, my increasingly ever-so-lovely coworkers and I went on a picnic to Fairmount Park. This idea was borne out of a nice happy hour on the stinky and flora-filled Delaware River on Friday afternoon. I was complaining about how South Philly is almost treeless, and my friend suggested a day in the park.

Turns out it was the most perfect idea in the world: when I woke up, the day promised to be 85 and sunny with a lovely breeze. We met up at Whole Foods to gather lunch provisions and then set off to meet the others in the Park, at Lloyd Hall

Lloyd Hall is a lovely place where I actually had been before, unknowingly! It was the site of hip-hop rollerskaters last March, when I came to Philly to visit the city. We met there and then wandered over to the Water Works, an amazingly beautiful, shining white stone building on the edge of the river. The Water Works used to be a city facility, but now is a fancy restaurant and site of about 10 wedding parties yesterday afternoon (the weddings were also up on the hill to the Art Museum, but the sheer number was amazing!). 

 The Water Works

Leaf Composition, Parts and Types

Sitting under a tree whose species I could not identify, with bipinnate leaves and long, green, string of pearls seeds, we sat in the grass, in the shade, and mulled over the universe. One of my coworkers tragically had his car broken into on Friday night after our post-work get together, and I feel terrible that everything in his car was stolen and windows smashed. Philadelphia is a hard place. I am beginning to wonder what sort of energy vortex sits below or above this effects many aspects of life here. 

The Schuylkill River is the site of an annual regatta....and is a beautiful river that runs beside the park!

The river is so high due to the amazing amounts of rain we have had here lately, and the pressure and force of the water going over the falls was amazing to witness. As a result of this, apparently someone thought there was a person trapped at the base of the falls (I think the theory was that someone saw a log and thought it was an arm), and so the entirety of the Philadelphia fire department and EMS showed up in Fairmount Park totally prepared to rescue the person who was really a fallen tree. 

At the base of the waterfalls was a miasma of urban and natural garbage: leaves and trees, rubber balls, and styrofoam twisted in the high-pressure fresh water gyre, constantly spun and twisted by the force of downward falling water. Soon after the arrival of the fire department, it became abundantly clear that there was no one in the water. We were joking about how apparently a log that looks like an arm will get them to come out, or in my case, a dog on a back porch, but when your car gets broken into, the police just aren't really that interested. This is when we as a group decided that if you want the police department to come out, you have to say "shots fired" or "someone is drowning!". 

The historic Fairmount Park bicycle guard....this service totally need to be re-instated

Historic photo of the Fairmount neighborhood, on 21st street. Now there are lots of trees here!

 Bad jokes aside, it was a great day. After the park, we went to the Belgian Cafe in Fairmount and had some tasty beverages as the sun slowly crept down the horizon. It was a beautiful day with wonderful people, and I decided that if I do stay here next year, I will move to that neighborhood to be closer to the park and more likely to live on a block with trees of its own.

Lately, I have been having strange thoughts. Philadelphia in many ways is so negative. It is hard to make friends here, people are tough, the city itself is tough, its as if it has a huge chip on its shoulder and is always saying, "What? It's a piece of crap! Whaddya want?" This is, at least, my observation after four months. I don't understand this attitude, which is perhaps why I have been so at odds with this place and things keep happening to break me down. I refuse to be broken down by this place and in fact hope to make it lovelier and better than it was when I arrived.

My strange thoughts start though, when I think about my life and where it is going and where it has been. I know that I need to be in more of a country-place, more rural, more naturally beautiful. I need to be around positive and happy people (this I do have at work, bien sur!), but ultimately, I need to make decisions that effect my life that make sure that I am happy. That have nothing to do with anyone else, but just solely for me. Right now, I am a one-woman show, so this is the perfect time for this realization to happen to me. All I have is me, and I am about to turn thirty-one. I have been married, and now I have been divorced for almost three years. I am just now feeling some of the acceptance stage of the grief of that experience, especially since another relationship has just ended, this time much better than my marriage. It is amazing how long grief can take to pass over. But here I am, almost thirty-one and a "free agent" as my roommate says.

At this moment, the idea that I am mulling over seems nuts. Crazy. Looney-tunes. Full of risk. A fundamental switch in the hope of happiness and a job, eventually. Something deep inside my heart tells me that this is a risk worth taking. I don't want to be a martyr for things not working out, for society being unfair, for anything, really. I want to be a light-being, someone who has wonderful friends, who eats dinner with those I care about, who can take walks outside in amazingly beautiful surroundings, one who risks stability and security for the risk of, finally, fulfillment......

Links por vous:

The Philadelphia Preservation Alliance is a great organization working to preserve the multitude of historic property here in the city of brotherly love...

Somehow, I never had heard of the World Science Festival until this morning....their site is fantastic! Go and check it out!

And here the lovely Verhext discusses just the dilemma running through my fair head these last few weeks...

Lastly, did you read We Were and Island yet? Well if not, hop to it!!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A New England Misadventure: Friendly, Slow Country

Take a walk with me...

I have walked these roads and paths since I was five years old. In those days, I would walk to Hamilton Pond with my family: my brother was smaller than me, and I remember being very aware and scared of alligator snapping turtles that lurked in the rushes at the edge of the pond.

When I began my walk the other day, I was very sad, for a multitude of reasons. Slowly, though, as emotion is apt to do, my mood changed from sadness to awareness to awe to happiness. Happiness at the way the light looked as it shone through the fronds of ferns, awe when the lilypads and grasses turned metallic on the surface of the pond as I walked by, and awareness of others, different from me, as I walked right by a doe asleep in a hayfield.

The light here is so vivid, so full of life-giving, photosynthesis-charged energy, that it is strong enough to look as if it is bleaching the horizon: turning those plants that might have deep green leaves and leaflets yellow, gold, chartreuse. It's as if the sun is here for such a short time that everything bursts with the desire to respond to its influence: the tropisms are intense! Cattails sway, hay changes from green-brown grass to golden straw. The ferns twist and turn in the wind, changing color as they move back and forth.

As I drove up here several weeks ago, it was the light that I noticed most. The light that shone painfully down onto the plants at the side of the highway as I raced by at 85 miles per hour. Everywhere I looked were trees! shrubs! grasses! birds! deer! In Philadelphia, there is a lack of these things and it wasn't until I was in their midst at a rest stop in southern Maine that I realized how much I had missed the nature that, in Austin, I took for granted.

It was on this walk, too, that I realized how interconnected my mood is to my surroundings: how natural beauty effects me. I have a strange jealousy for people who do not experience this, because it must make living in diverse locales easier. It must make the city less tough to take: the cracks in the pavement, the brick, the concrete parks less incongruous.

The surface of the pond was so stupendous! How lucky was I to leave my house in a foul funk, walk down the road that is so familiar to me I hardly notice the steps I take anymore, past the Post Office that will stay open, across the fast-lane that is Route 3 here at the head of the island, and over again, into friendly, slow country.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What is it......

to be in a place that truly makes you feel calm? That truly makes you feel relaxed? More relaxed than you have felt in at least two months?

Tonight it is raining, and the raindrops drip down from the locust trees. The raindrops fall through the sunroof on the drive home, and the feel is it's clean, fresh and wonderful.

Possibilities exist here that don't in other places. Possibilities like: a home in the country where the only sounds are wind blowing through trees and loons calling in the distance. Where ponds are everywhere and people fish in canoes. Where horses snort in stalls in the yard, and jazz music travels in the air. Where you feel both out of place and more than cool in a small town.

How does one live here? How does one make a living in this beautiful place? There must be a way....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Being in the Dark

Orion shines down over the pitch of the roof and the wind blows. There is no sound here save the movement and creak of trees, the breath of wind and the distant echo of cars. The sky is bright, but with stars not incandescent lights. My feet crunch on gravel and whisper through grass. The deer huff and puff at me as I cross the hillside as silently as my human feet will allow. The clock chimes downstairs and the moon hangs, glowing, in the sky, framed by trees. Locust trees sing here at night, and all is quiet.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Tri-State Area Misadventure - Savage Beauty & The Bolt Bus

Hello faithful readers! Sorry for the radio silence: my life is in a bit of flux right now and I have been without internet service for a few days....tomorrow I head off to Maine for two weeks and it will be glorious to get out of the city and into the most beautiful country....

Anyway. Last week I took the Bolt Bus from 30th Street Station in Philly up to New York City to visit a friend and go to see Savage Beauty, the Alexander McQueen exhibit, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you want an exceptional way to get between Washington D.C. and Boston, go and take the Bolt Bus!!! Between Philly and NYC the ticket is $12 each way, there is WiFi on the bus and plugs at each seat for your laptop. Amazing! (Now I have heard some horror stories about the Bolt Bus, such as drivers having to stop for 15 minutes so that they don't go over there 24-hour maximum driving time, or a/c being broken or WiFi being broken, but this did not happen to me, so I am a very contented customer.) Lastly, the Bolt Bus picks up and drops off in insanely convenient locations in Philly (30th Street Station) and NYC (34th & 8th) so that you can hop on and off the subway in both cities with very little effort....

On to the more interesting part of this misadventure....The Met and Savage Beauty.

Walking through the Met to the Savage Beauty gallery line...

Beginning of the this point your wait will be: 1 hour and a half

At this point your wait will be: 1 hour

Amazing tiny medallions in gold!

Weiner Dog Deer......

 Amazing silver chasing and repousee!!!

At this point, your wait will be: 45 minutes

Beautiful golden beads....I want to make these

After you have waited in line for a really long time, the statues start to mock you.

Like this guy: look at that smirk!

Hey baby! Watch those rear claws!

I want my house to look like this painting

Before the next set of pictures are put up, a disclaimer. I was not allowed to take these photos, but I did anyway. I took them with the flash off, out of my purse. You will soon discover the angle of the photos is about hip level, looking up. I really hope I do not get in trouble for posting these!!! Let's see....

These photos go in order as if you were walking through the exhibit with me. There were several rooms that documented different sections of McQueen's career. An interesting sidenote: many plaques contained quotes by McQueen and would lead you to believe that he thought he was God's gift to design. I find it interesting that the curators chose these quotes, being that he later killed himself. It would seem that either he did not really feel that way about himself, or the struggle of being expected to be the most important designer on Planet Earth became too much.


Amazing. If you can get to the Met before August 7th, go! It is well worth the wait in line. The curators have done an amazing job and created an eerie environment in which you are immersed in the ideas and romanticism of the clothing. It will also make you question why he decided to end his life: his talent, creativity and resources were so massive, how could he give that up? I wonder what he would have done had he stayed with us....

Hans Christian Andersen storytelling area in Central Park: see the sleeping fellow? He is my favorite part....