Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Smiling Rocks

Monday, October 17th, 2016

I was sitting on the back stoop with Brody in the backyard. I’ve sat there every nice day (and a few rainy ones) for weeks now, and not noticed these rocks to my right. I mean, I saw the rocks, they help cover the runoff from the eaves and where the grass won’t grow up near our woodpile. So, I’m sitting there watching Brody and eating a handful of almonds and then I started noticing all this . . . Seems the kids at Tiller’s backyard birthday party took a sharpie to our rocks and I didn’t even notice.

You can’t help but smile when the rocks are smiling back at you.

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Rock art by Liliana, Tristan, Tiller, and Trinity.

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and Brook, Scarlett, Leah, and Milo. . .

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And Emmy, Mia, Ingrid, Rollie, and Sydney.

Bountiful: The Joy of Being a Total Ouiser

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Clairee: “Why do you give all these to me?”
Ouiser Boudreaux: “Somebody’s gotta take em, I hate em, I try not to eat healthy food if I can possibly help it.”

Anelle: “Then why do you grow them?”
Ouiser: “Because I’m an old Southern woman and we’re supposed to wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. Don’t ask me those questions. I don’t know why, I don’t make the rules!”

–  Steel Magnolias

I’ve been working really hard on looking at positives this Summer. Summer makes looking at positives much easier, what with all the sunshine, and water, and ice cream and such. Basically, that means I’m trying to make quick work of the things I don’t enjoy, and then finding (making) the time to do the things I love. Reading, writing, running, dog cuddles, listening to music, dabbling in the worst painting ever (anyone local want to take a painting class with me?), volleyball. . . Hell, y’all. I’m taking up tennis again. But the thing that absolutely brings me the most joy? My garden.

My garden has expanded in the last couple of years. Instead of the one bed I started out with down at the street, we now have a sunnier spot in the side yard and we’ve put two more beds there. I love vegetables. Pretty much all vegetables. But tomatoes. Oh, tomatoes! They are my heart and soul.

And I went a little bit overboard this year with the tomato plants. Not really, but keeping up with all of them has proven challenging. We have tomatoes lining the windows.

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And tomatoes (and okra, and basil, and cucumbers, and peppers and beans) in baskets.

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In response we’ve taken to pickling and freezing like we were my Grandma. Our fridge is already packed to the gills with pickles. And pickled things. The last few days, we’ve been bombarded with more vegetables than we can possibly eat. I gave a bunch to my sister. And today, I spent the day putting up veggies.

So, I made another jar of dills, and then an extra “Kitchen Sink” jar – Cucumbers, green beans, jalapenos, and banana peppers all jammed in together.

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I made okra and tomatoes. Reminds me of my mama. So good, even if I’m probably the only one that will eat it.

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I’ve already frozen about a kabillion cherry tomatoes, but I froze some more. (Those are easy. Dump them in a bag. Seal the bag. Freeze them. Use over the winter for sauces and soups. Yum.)

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We still have tons more of the cherries, so we will probably make caprese salad for dinner every night this week. My favorite and the kids like it, too. (Although, let’s be honest, it’s just a vehicle for olive oil and mozzarella, right?)

And I also tried out roasting cherry tomatoes and they were so damn good that the neighbor kid and I almost ate them all and had no more to freeze. I’ll have to do those again. Easy and delicious.

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I made a ton of pesto. I usually make it every week or so during the summer and then freeze it. There is nothing better than homemade pesto on a cold night in January. I put it in piles on a cookie sheet and freeze them, then put them in freezer bags for storage.

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This time, though, I put some in mason jars to freeze. I’m hoping that will help with the color issue. Freezing it makes it lose it’s brighter green color and it basically ends up looking like baby poo. It does not taste like baby poo. We’ll see how that goes. That second jar below got hit hard, because I had to taste it and make sure that it tasted alright. It’s gonna be pretty good, I think. I also feel sick from too much pure pesto ingestion.

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And then to cap it all off, I set up some of my herbs to dry: Marjoram, oregano, lemongrass, chamomile, lemon thyme, tarragon, and chives. (Already have a ton of dried basil.) Finally found a use for my grandma’s clothes pins that I brought home from the lake. I couldn’t bear to get rid of them. Weird, I know.

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I know. I’m a total Ouiser. This is universally acknowledged by all who know me: Cantankerous, sharp-tongued, blunt and honest. I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 40 years.

But growing things makes me happy, and makes me feel tethered to the earth, and I am going to be super pleased to have that frozen stuff over the winter. I’m gonna need some help eating the pickles this summer, though, so hit me up if you like pickled things. And I’ll definitely have them at Wednesday night pool dinners, so come by and have some.

P.s. Debbie, if you read this, and you like pickles or pesto or anything else you have seen above, I would like to propose a trade, because I badly want to try your ice cream. Badly.

Queen of Wands, Death, Ten of Cups: A Prayer

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

IMG_9685May I learn from The Past, but not let it define me.
May I find strength and clarity in The Present.
May I find peace in The Future.

Pop Music: I Get It. Everyone Needs a Big Mac Once in a While

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
Radio, video
Boogie with a suitcase
Your livin’ in a disco
Forget about the rat race
Let’s do the milkshake, sellin’ like a hotcake
Try some buy some fee-fi-fo-fum
Talk about, pop musik
Talk about, pop musik
– M

(Oh, yes. Yep. I sure did.)

I read this article, Hit Charade, in The Atlantic this morning. (Oddly, it was written last year – not sure why it popped up today, or where I saw it.) It’s a fascinating and disturbing discussion of the songwriters behind huge pop hits. Interestingly, the majority of this crap is created, via a fairly precise money-making formulaic process, by a handful of men (who are primarily middle-aged, white, and Scandinavian.) Finally, an article that kind of sums up why my eyes involuntarily roll when I have to hear this shit.

As producer Louis Pearlman put it:

. . . the Backstreet Boys went from playing in front of Shamu’s tank at SeaWorld to selling out world tours. Millennium, released in 1999, is one of the best-selling albums in American history. Pearlman then decided to start an identical boy band, performing songs by the same songwriters. “My feeling was, where there’s McDonald’s, there’s Burger King.”

That’s it! It’s fast food. It’s not good for you. They’re feeding you Big Macs.

No one can live on Big Macs.


I have a group of neighbors (and beloved friends) that I hang out with a lot. We joke about our differing tastes in music pretty often. I am the self-proclaimed music snob. They will play a song, or the radio will be on in their car, or they’ll be discussing pop music or the Billboard awards show? (I don’t know, I muted that conversation, ladies) or mention a song (or sometimes an artist) and I will say that I don’t know that song or artist. Years ago, they were in complete disbelief that I might not know a Beyonce or Drake or Maroon 5 or Taylor Swift song, or whatever, but I think they actually get that I REALLY DO NOT KNOW THAT SONG. NEVER HEARD IT BEFORE. I REALLY DO NOT LISTEN TO THE RADIO. (Okay, occasionally NPR or 97.1 THE RIVER, but I’m not talking classic rock here.) Now, to be fair, we can usually find some middle ground in classic rock or some eighties stuff. And also, so as not to be painting them all with the same brush, some also like stuff that I consider good. (You know who you are. Get over it. I am not painting you with my sweeping brush.)

This is not at all limited to that group, either. My own children like this pop crap. Nicky Minaj, and Selena Gomez, and other “artists” that all sound the same to me. We have a rule in our car that the driver gets to pick the music. I took my son and his friend to a baseball game one time and played my music in the car and they proceeded to toss me such insults as, “Pop music rules” and “Rock and roll sucks.” (My heart broke. The saving grace is that he actually has come around on that, and while he still listens to crap, he also has a nice appreciation for the harder stuff.)

Sometimes I think, “Well, I guess this means I’m really old now.” Other times I think, “Was this how mom and dad felt when I bought that “Like a Virgin” 45, or when I turned over the Some Great Reward cassette again and again for hours on end? There is no doubt in my mind what they were thinking when they saw this album come in the house.
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I still remember. Dad did what Lisa and I refer to as “Cat Face.” It’s akin to Grumpy Cat; Cecil was the original grumpy cat. Cat Face was derived from Cecil getting the look my cat, Scully, had while riding in the car.


Super-tangential side note: I picked this album cover for its’ memorable parental shock value. Shocking at the time, but later, even more ridiculously fun teenage shock value moments of memory include the following:

  • My dad’s disgust over a Lubricated Goat CD lying in my car
  • A particularly heated discussion over dinner about whether Jesus might have masturbated, somehow precipitated by my recounting tidbits of a My Life With the Thrill Kill Cult show I had seen at Masquerade the night before.

I also used that album because it is one of those albums that I remember studying over and over, sitting in my room, looking at all the pictures while listening. It’s right up there with being a really little kid in our Alpharetta playroom, looking at the people on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s, or a few years after that, sitting in a den in our NY house, playing Rumours, and looking at the cover, wishing I had an outfit like Stevie’s, and wondering what the deal was with Mick’s weird dangling balls belt thingie. [/end tangent]


By the end of The Song Machine, readers will have command of such terms of art as melodic math, comping, career record, and track-and-hook . . . One term remains evasive, however: artist. In the music industry, the performers are called artists, while the people who write the songs remain largely anonymous outside the pages of trade publications. But can a performer be said to have any artistry if, as in the case of Rihanna, her label convenes week-long “writer camps,” attended by dozens of producers and writers (but not necessarily Rihanna), to manufacture her next hit? Where is the artistry when a producer digitally stitches together a vocal track, syllable by syllable, from dozens of takes? Or modifies a bar and calls it a new song?

The reason I can’t get into radio pop shit, but which i’ve never been able to put into words, is this: Where is the artistry? (Not lost on anyone is that the magical outpouring of Prince grief from every corner of the universe was due to his artistry, right?) This article, with its discussion of templates, and magic, proven formulas, and hooks, and emulation. . . gah. It almost made my head explode.

I fully admit that this is a rambling, quickly-penned-in-20-minutes-mess-of-a-post, devoid of it’s own artistry, but this article really struck a chord with me, based on a few recent discussions about my (supposed!) music snobbery. After reading this article, though, I think I am going to stop calling myself a music snob and just start saying that I like music that doesn’t come from a template cranked out by a machine. It seems I’m into Artistry. (Watch out, y’all. I’m now totally highbrow and fancy and stuff. Also, I like lyrics with ideas. Real ideas. And poetry. And imagery is nice, too.)


Small disclaimer:

  1. Some of this pop crap IS on my running list. Particularly, I’m thinking about that Kelley Clarkson song that is mentioned in the article as a Yeah Yeah Yeahs ripoff. But running is different – I like that dissociative feel of the repetition of a beat and the rhythmic pattern of my feet pounding the pavement.
  2. I am not really judging people who listen to the radio stuff. We like what we like. I just don’t feel like there is much about pop music that feeds my soul. But I get it: Everyone needs to eat a Big Mac every once in a while. They taste good, even if it’s not worth it, because you end up in and out of the office bathroom the rest of the afternoon.
  3. There are songs that my kids latch on to, radio songs that make me cringe, but that they cannot help but love. And I get it, those songs are like candies, little gum drops fed right into their sweet little cherub mouths. And so, let it be stated, I am not above a dance party with R. to Taio Cruz’ “Dynamite”; I may have gotten down with the girl to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” And yes, she adored that GODAWFUL ABERRATION of a song by Florida Georgia Line song, “Cruise.” It has been played in my car with the windows down, and damn it, yes, I sang along. Because when your 8 year old wants you to sing it with her, damn it, you sing.
  4. I really like Ryan Adams. Like, I love him with pink and red hearts that cry and expand and fly into the air and stuff. I will not apologize.

The real point of this post? Gratitude. I’m glad there are people out there still making the authentic, true, whimsical, beautiful, and terrible sounds of the individual and the experimental collectives of people coming together and creating original things of amazement and shock, even if it means that I have to make some effort to find them. And I’m thankful that I still feel compelled to seek them out. Just put a bullet in my head when I don’t want to find them any more. I’d rather be dead than live on Big Macs.

Check Ignition & May God’s Love Be With You

Monday, January 11th, 2016

I just posted this three days ago on my Instagram for Bowie’s birthday.

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David Bowie, by Panhandle Slim

I’ve written about or referenced Bowie a number of times here on the blog. I wrote this about the song containing the lyrics above. (And then Todd had Panhandle Slim make this for me. Other Panhandle Slim images here – Have fun in the Rabbit Hole.) He surprised me with it on Christmas a few years ago and I cried.) There was that one time time I got drunk and made a roomful of people I don’t know very well listen to the the song twice at 4 am, because I love it so much. That one time I went down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos of Arcade Fire doing covers with various people, including David Bowie.

I loved him.

I crossposted a few of these words on Facebook when I first found out Bowie died this morning, but I think of my blog as a journal of sorts. When I read journals, I love it when I come across people’s thoughts on historical figures, politics of their time, or cultural phenomena. If someone reads my words one day a hundred years from now, I want them to know I thought David Bowie was groundbreaking and legendary and he often blew my mind.

Words won’t do justice to David Bowie’s greatness. He was a radical, an original, a true iconoclast.

Addendum: It is not recommended Bowie fans listen to “Space Oddity” this morning. They just played it on Kexp.org, and it made me sob. Beautiful and eerie lyrics on the morning of the death of the man who sang them. Heartbreaking and gorgeous.

Check ignition and may God’s love be with you.

The Plain Gray Hat

Sunday, January 10th, 2016
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Remnants of a once vast collection. + one Argentinian fan.

Hats. I love’em. I used to collect them. Vintage hats in particular, but the random, really great baseball hat, here and there, too. Then I moved into a very small two bedroom/one bath bungalow with my boyfriend (now husband) and at some point, I could no longer justify the space needed to maintain a 100-200 piece hat collection.

So, on New Year’s Eve, I found out the party I was attending that night at my friend Cass’ house required hats. As in, “you need to bring funny hats.” THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER THROW ANYTHING OUT. I had hundreds of the perfect hat. I knew I would need those, even if it was 16 years down the road. Damn it.

Todd reminded me that I still had a few in a storage box in the basement. (I admit that it is also true that you kind of forget what things you have when you keep them in storage and you don’t really miss them.) I rummaged around in the basement and found the box. I opened it. I smiled involuntarily. I couldn’t help it.

Those hats.

I do remember when we moved and I put the rest of them into storage, I kept the “prettiest” one out and put it on our new shelves in the basement, along with many hardback books, photos, some artwork we’ve collected over the years, a collection of hammer heads and figurines that belonged to my grandfather, my old camera collection, and my pottery. (That stuff could be a post of its own.) The hat originally belonged to my Aunt Lessie, who was both an occasional Goat Man, and a very fashionable woman of Savannah. She also forever remains ingrained in my memory for insisting on going swimming at our neighborhood pool with us when I was probably 12 or so. She actually brought her own bathing suit. God, I wish I had that still – probably 1960s! She wore it with her swimming cap, also vintage, a plastic number with plastic flowers on it. She was well into her 70s by this point, and I think my Dad almost had a heart attack when she insisted on going off the diving board. 12-year-old me thought she was a badass. I still do.

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Aunt Lessie’s vintage hat that sits on a downstairs shelf.

She and Grandma seemed to buy many of their hats at Savannah’s Glendale hat shop. Most of their hats had the Glendale label sewn inside them.

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I love the internet. This postcard, part of the Library of Boston archives, was issued approximately 1930-1945.

Um, I guess I should admit that I also collect some postcards, but only of places that any line of my ancestors lived. (If you are interested in Georgia postcards, you can see the rest of that library’s archived Georgia postcard collection here.) I later ended up with these Aunt Lessie hats and about 10 others, plus Lisa and I split all of my grandmother Palmer’s hats. These are the only ones I kept.

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Two of my Aunt Lessie’s hats: The one on the left is Italian, and the one on the right is a weird, stiff material, with plastic flowers. I always loved the way it fit, although now I would probably not wear it often. For one thing, it looked better with my hair dyed black. I used to wear it with vintage dresses and Dad would call me Minnie Pearl.

 

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I did not inherit this hat (or her others) until after she died, but seeing photos of my grandmothers and Aunt Lessie wearing hats fueled my love for hats very early on.

My hat collection, though, really started one fateful day in Little Five Points. I believe I was skipping school that day, although I can’t quite remember the details. I was there with my friends Jenni, John, and. . .one other person, but I cannot for the life of me remember who it was. Time makes things foggy. I bought this one at a vintage store. Or it might have been Junkman’s Daughter when it was over near where Criminal Records is now. Again, fogginess.

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Forest green beret with velvet bow.

Oh, how I loved this hat. I know exactly why; If you are a girl of the eighties, the hat with a bow might ring a bell for you, too.

In middle school, when that video came out, I wanted a hat just like Madonna’s. The green beret with the velvet bow was as close as I ever got. Side note: This hat was later hijacked for at least a year by my boyfriend at the time, who wore it liberally. He also wore eyeliner, because it was 1990. My Dad loved that I was in love with a boy who wore hats with velvet bows, and eyeliner. (And he was a Yankee, no less.)

My mom must have picked up on this new obsession, because she gave me the following hat for Christmas one year when I was in high school. (Jason B. Vat 69! And the pink cassette player from middle school. Lisa, why do we not have that any longer? It was awesome.)

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Me, wearing a hat from my mom. Christmas of my Junior or Senior year, I guess? That’s Pop sitting over to the side, wearing his signature goat man outfit.

So, over the years, I collected more and more of them. Vintage stores, yard sales, estate sales. It probably got out of hand, but if you ever loved collecting, you know how that happens. I had so many people start bringing them to me, because they knew how much I loved them. Here’s a not-so-great photo of my room at home one Summer.

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I used to have a protruding clavicle!

I must have really chopped my hair and it looks like it was black at this point. (I cannot even begin to remember what it was like to have so much time on my hands that I would move home in the summer and decorate my room. Does not compute.)

I know it was college, because my sister is wearing a hat that I either stole from my friend Mike Maier, or let him draw on. I know that the artwork on the hat is his. I believe he also drew on some shoes I had, and definitely some jeans. See all the hats on the wall? They went all the way around the room, and it was not the whole collection. There are some on the bedpost over my shoulder, too. You can also see the very odd 1980s intercom system we had in our house (behind the lamp).

Side note: I had a different room in high school. My sister moved into it after I left for college and I took over her room, shown here. In my old room, I would unscrew the intercom faceplate from the wall, pull it out, hide contraband on the ledge inside with the wiring, then replace the plate and screw it back into the wall. I struggle to see how my children will ever pull anything over on Todd or me.

Remember the boy with the eyeliner and the beret?  Here is a hat he gave me for Christmas the first year we were together. We were Freshmen at UGA at that point. It was a beautiful gift. (Another beautiful gift, in the background, is the fan and silver stand that my husband brought me from Argentina a few years ago. I have a habit of picking men who are more thoughtful than I am. Opposites attract, I suppose.)

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I adored this hat and yes, I kept it all these years, despite the fact that it was too small for my large head. I just loved it. I love it still.
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Side note: It was never lost on me that the boyfriend’s purchase, while acknowledging my love of hats, was also a nod to his obsession with Perry Farrell. I mean, come on.

There was one more hat in the box.

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The gray hat.

It is not beautiful. I don’t remember buying it or someone giving it to me, although someone must have. I do remember it being a staple of my wardrobe in college, though. I wore it almost daily, backwards (the 90s, yo), and I think that it’s functionality was the reason that I wore it so much. It was lightweight enough to wear in Summer and I didn’t care if it got messed up, so I wore it while I worked at The Grill, where every time you went home and you smelled like hamburgers and french fries (with feta) and grease. At one point, I lived in a three bedroom house on Prince Ave. with my friend Mya and a rotating cast of characters, sometimes as many as 6 of us living there at one time. There was also a time when every roommate also worked at The Grill and our house completely smelled like The Grill. It makes me gag now, the thought of waking up hung over, or having to be at work at 11PM for a night shift, and unable to find clean uniforms. We’d just share dirty work shirts off the floor of our bedrooms. My bedroom one summer was actually a dining room. With a curtain to the living room and a swinging door to the kitchen. (It is amazing what you start remembering when you start typing.)

I wore that hat out.

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So, here I am, on the day before New Year’s 2016, and we are asked to wear hats to my friends’ NYE party, and I open that box, and I am flooded with memories of high school, college, music, and friends. Of being excited by things and people and culture and life. But it was that gray hat that struck me the hardest. It made me think of that first time in my life that my heart was broken, and I didn’t know yet that pain lessens over time, or that you don’t actually need other people, because either way things will be okay. I learned that, if you’re patient, things will get better. I learned how to be alone and how to get over things, and how to love myself, all around that period of time that I used to wear that hat.

When I saw it lying in the storage bin, I immediately thought of this photo of me in the hat, and my grandmother’s vintage coat (GOD, why do I get rid of things?) standing on the beach in Charleston. I was brokenhearted and had that awful feeling of wanting to run away, of fear, of not knowing I would be okay. I remember discussing it all with my friend Matt, a fellow insomniac who visited me quite often while I worked the night shift at the Grill. We made the decision to drive to Charleston as soon as I got off work at 7 a.m. We took my truck, a hand-me-down tan Nissan truck with a camper on the back that had belonged to my grandfather, with zero bells and whistles and which smelled like old dog farts, no matter what I did to alleviate the smell. We drove to Charleston and spent a cold day walking the streets, snapping photos, and then finding a cheap motel. And the next morning we drove out to the beach – Folly, I guess – and we had breakfast and then walked on the freezing beach. He took this picture without me knowing.

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The other thing I notice about this photo is that it very clearly shows my “old” nose, before the drunken face-first wall incident of my 21st birthday, or the “Memorial Day drunk driver hitting us head on in Florida on the way back from Brant and Melissa’s wedding” accident, both of which busted my nose and required surgery to fix. It looks pretty much the same now, but I can still tell the difference.

I still remember that morning on a Charleston beach, and the thoughts I was thinking, the things making me feel sad and overwhelmed. The feeling of not knowing what would happen. I was on a precipice. And it reminded me of the sadness and depression I felt just last year in 2015, on a different beach twenty-five years later, where I walked my dog at 7 a.m. on New Year’s Day, and snapped this photo of myself.

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There I was that morning, on another precipice, seemingly standing at the edge of the world. I was in a similar place: Not heartbroken, but sad, lost, frustrated, and wanting to run away from all of my confused feelings. The difference was that I had already been there once before. And I didn’t really run that first time, 25 years ago, even though I had the benefit of spontaneity, no responsibilities, and a road trip. I came back from Charleston to Athens, and I learned how to deal with feeling the things that I didn’t want to feel, and I learned that no matter what, I would be okay, because I loved myself and I could take care of myself. I learned that Everything would be okay.

And I learned it all while wearing one nondescript, really nasty, trashed gray hat.

Mossy Rocks: A Dream

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

I just had this weird moment over coffee, where I remembered seeing a flash of mossy green rocks. Something beautiful in the landscape. It felt like I forgot to do something. I paused and thought about what it was I was forgetting, and I realized it was in my dream last night. I rode in a car, face to the window, as we drove by a myriad of beautiful landscapes. The feeling was one of almost a panicked forgetting that I wanted to go back to see something later.

In my dream, we were on a vacation, and driving around on flat roads, with landscapes by the roadside. In my dream, it felt like the beach, but with these cool, emerald green landscapes that were almost vignettes. I’d pass one, and think, “How beautiful. I need to go home with the family, then come back and photograph that when I have time to by myself.”

And that memory of wet green longing is what I remembered this morning.

I think maybe it is partially my mind trying to balance my obligations and the needs of my family with my desire to spend time on my own and explore things. I also think it is my mind telling me I need to reconnect with nature. I don’t get that anymore now that the lake house is gone. I think that is a gaping hole in my heart and my stomach and my soul, and I need to figure out a way to fill it with something else. And I think the photography facet, the fact that I wanted to photograph these landscapes, is my yearning to create.

There’s no story here, no revelation. I’m just writing it down so that I don’t forget the longing, and to remind myself to find and photograph the mossy rocks in 2016.

I am a Writer

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Your own reasonsI had an experience lately that got me thinking about my writing and the reasons I write. Disclaimer: I don’t think of what I write as Art; I mean, come on. I’m just not that pretentious. It’s, more than anything, therapeutic, pleasurable, and a gathering of my thoughts. It is an action rather than a result; a trip inside my brain that might come out with a few souvenirs, but is very much about the journey. I feel better and more focused when I write things down. I remember details of my life and experiences more fully when I take the time to type them out. I sometimes feel a compulsion to sit and write things down, to outline and tell the story of the images in my mind. As I am writing them, I usually remember more detail than I thought I could. The small, poignant pieces somehow come into focus, and things that I thought meant very little take on a larger meaning for me. There is a satisfaction in both the swelling flow of words that come out when I sit down and write, and in the exquisite pleasure of finding the perfect word or phrase. I even enjoy going back and editing what I wrote, and those are the times when I read something and realize, “no, it’s not perfect, but this might make it better.” And aren’t we all just trying to find ways to make ourselves a little bit better? There is satisfaction in improvement.

I write for many reasons: To document pleasurable moments, or pretty vignettes, or to make sure that I never forget a story that made me cry with laughter. I sometimes write down stories that were handed down to me from my family; If I don’t write them down, they may be lost. There are stories I don’t want to lose, and some of them don’t even belong to me. I write because I need to, and I want to, and because it almost always makes me feel lighter after doing so. I write about people and places that made an indelible impression on me that I must not forget. I write about loved ones who are gone, because I am afraid that I will forget some precious detail of who they were. And they were human and amazing and funny and weird and insane.

There are many things that I put into writing that do not see the light of day, that are for my eyes and mind only. Sometimes I write and write, and I am proud of something, or I feel that it is scary, but important. I usually put those here on my blog. I also intersperse those with photos, which sometimes speak louder than words, or tell a story without need of words. I used to write even the small things, a joke my daughter made up, or the made up words my son created, thoughts and anecdotes on my blog and I wrote posts every day for many years. These are the things that I find cool, funny, absurd, ironic, or infuriating. Sometimes they are sweet, sometimes they are sour, sometimes they are salty or bitter. Many times now, I will just post these little things to Facebook. I kind of wish I hadn’t started doing that, because honestly, it is easier to post there, and more people see it that way, but it takes away from my content here. I guess blogs are dead. I don’t know. I still have one. I still put words and pictures on it.

The thing about the pieces I write is this: They are always for me. Yes, they might make someone laugh, or cry, or wonder if they are about you, or someone you know. You might wonder why I would put out to the world something so blunt or crass, or delicate or private or flat out embarrassing for others to read. I do it because it makes me feel good, and it is satisfying. Sometimes it is a release. Sometimes it is because I want people to laugh, or cry, or because I feel good about something, or proud of something, or sad about something, or because I thought it was funny or might ring a universal bell. I have a voice. I want to use it. I am a writer. I want people to read what I write. I am not ashamed of that.

So, when I hear that maybe people see some of the things I write as a cry for help, I like to assume that they care about my well-being, and I take a minute to reassure folks that I will be fine. I am not suicidal, and I am feeling positive about working towards making the changes in my life to be happier. People sure are good deep down – they check in on me when I am struggling, and sometimes they share their struggles and I don’t feel so alone.

Some people though, let’s be honest: Some people will kick you when you’re down, just for the goddamn fun of it.

And when I hear that maybe people think that I am just being dramatic and attention-seeking; Well, I’m a writer. I put words out and people can read them or not read them. Whether they like them or not is truly irrelevant. I am a writer, and I will keep on writing. I write for me, and you read for you. You, the reader, are the one who chooses if you want to continue reading what I write. It seems to work okay; It’s a pretty neat system that’s been around for a few thousand years.

In the end, though, it doesn’t matter who reads it. I will continue to write, because it is what I am compelled by my mind, heart, and soul to do: It brings me laughter, joy, release. It makes colors brighter and delicate memories sweeter. It brings loved ones to life again for a moment. It helps me navigate the perilous trails of thought in my mind, and sometimes it tells me which path to take. Writing comforts me, and it sometimes comforts others.  I know this, because sometimes they take the time to write to me, or they pull me aside and talk to me about my writing in real life, and I am not ashamed to say that it makes me happy if someone likes what I read, or finds it thought-provoking, or brave, or crazy, or very sad.

I can think of no better feeling than the feeling of reading something someone else wrote, and knowing just exactly what they mean. There is an awe and balance and satisfying synchronicity to recognizing your own feelings or thoughts or memories in someone else’s words; When someone tells me that they feel exactly the same things that I wrote, that gives me joy and satisfaction.  Writing has made me friends, and at times, it has been my only friend. Writing travels through time and stops the rotation of the earth for a brief moment. It freezes time and distills moments into portraits. Writing is a part of me, and it is a part of me that I sometimes share with the world. It always will be. And if you don’t like my writing, I’m okay with that, too. Because I don’t write for you; I write for me.

I think the author Elizabeth Gilbert puts it a little better. Her book Big Magic is next on my list of books to read. The day after I had this thought-provoking experience, the one that made me think hard and long about what my writing means to me, I came across this quote.  I literally laughed out loud at the joy of the universe presenting me with exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.

Just smile

With love to myself and anyone else who puts themselves out there,

Annie

That Way Madness Lies

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

No, I will weep no more. In such a night

To shut me out? Pour on; I will endure.

– William Shakespeare

Hello, My name is Anne.

If you asked me who I was a year ago, I would have said, Granddaughter, Daughter, Sister, Cousin, Mother, Friend. I would have said that I am sure of myself, of my place in the world, of who I am, what I want, where I want to go. I would have said that I was comfortable with myself and all around me, and that the things I were uncomfortable with I dealt with or cut out of my life with ease. Above all, I would have said I am a Loyal, Honest, and Truthful person, in all of my dealings with myself and with those I care about, and that my life was easy and mostly satisfying.

I am not the same person I was a year ago.

I am still many of those things I listed above, but I am more than that, less than that, and I am changed. I am no longer so sure of my place in the world, or what my name means. What am I now?  Yes, I am definitely still a Daughter, Wife, Sister, Mother.  I am still a writer, a gardener, and a piss poor runner. I am still competitive. I still have brains. I still believe in right and wrong. I still love tomatoes, dogs, music, beer, days floating on the lake, and nights gazing up at the expansive starry sky. I still have my sense of humor. It is darker than it was.

I am more than I was, though. I am a learner. I am a questioner. I am a thinker and an over-thinker. Yes, I was these things before. Yes, I do these things too much. I always have. I am learning that I am both weaker and stronger than I thought I was, that there are things I cannot say aloud, and things I cannot say to others. In my arrogance, I never thought that was the case before, but I just hadn’t run into the things in my mind that were too dark and shameful to speak aloud.

I am a person often bored, sometimes sad, and occasionally in pain. I am learning to recognize these feelings for what they are and to embrace them as such, to let them come sit with me instead of pushing them away, but learning to not let them sit inside me and consume me. I name them and tell them they can be here with me, or they can go, but that they cannot control me.

I am learning to be more present. I have, in the past, been very good at being in the present. You see, the present is very easy to be in when the present is pleasant. It is much more difficult to be in the present when the present is painful or when there feels like no way out of the present. My present has been uncomfortable, and even painful, this past year, and I have slipped into questions of whether or not I made the right choices in the past and even more into paralyzing anxiety about the future. I have been unable to make myself mindful and in the present, because the present sometimes hurts or makes me feel guilty or simply seems insurmountable or hopeless. In the past year, I actually felt the biological imperative of Fight or Flight. I felt it in my mind, my bones, and my heart.

I made a conscious decision to stay and fight.

I took this self-portrait last night. It isn’t technically good. It looks awful. But this is the one that most captured who I am and what I feel, right here, right now, in March 2015. Light and dark and all.

I think one day I will look back at her and I will know who she was, what she went through, and I will know who she becomes, and I will be proud of her for sticking it out when the going got tougher than she ever thought it would.

me2015

“Self-Portrait: That Way Madness Lies”, March 18, 2015

 

 

The Perks of Depression

Monday, March 9th, 2015

One positive thing to come out of my recent bout with depression is the outpouring of love and support I’ve received from friends and family. Phone calls, texts, emails, cards, and the occasional gift here and there. (The wine was delicious. Thank you, @MelisPR.) I received a package in the mail yesterday from my cousin, Laura. Laura’s mother, my Aunt Joanie, married my Mom’s brother, Uncle Charlie.

(left to right) Laura, Uncle Charlie, Me, and Stacey

(left to right) Laura, Uncle Charlie, Me, and Stacey

Laura and Stacey (her sister) are a little bit older than I am (not that you could tell by looking at them – they are both disgustingly ageless) and I always looked up to them growing up. They both still live in Chattanooga, where my Mom is from. Laura, until just recently, was a photographer at the Chattanooga Times. She’s really talented, and I have long admired a series of photographs she did years ago. I think that the series was her “Masks” series. A series of women in black and white, some wearing masks, and speaking to the ways in which women mask things every day. I’m sure there was some kind of artist’s statement Laura put together that would explain it better than I can, but let’s just say I loved them the first time I saw them.

I was working from home on Friday and the mailman knocked on the door. It was a package. I took it inside and opened it up. What I found made me cry.

 

"Ten Cents a Dance"

“Ten Cents a Dance”

 

"Hiding in Plain Sight"

“Hiding in Plain Sight”

 

"Losing My Marbles"

“Losing My Marbles”

 

"The Domestic"

“The Domestic”

 

How thoughtful it was of her to take the time to send them to me, and to send me not just one, but four of them. One of the best gifts I have ever been given. They speak to me now more than ever. And yes, Laura has quite the sense of humor. Losing my Marbles. Good one. She also has a blog, Photos and Migraines, with some great recipes on it. Yep, she’s one of those super talented people that you want to hate, but you can’t, because she’s so sweet and immediately likable.