August 6, 2014
17. RECEIVERS

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"Which one would you take home?"

Museum day! A favourite kind of day.

James Turrell participated in a breathtaking takeover of the Guggenheim.  He transformed the iconic conch-shell spirals into a beautiful expanse of light.  Seats with steeply-angled backs lined the perimeter of the wall for sitting and gazing at the light moving above.  How I wish those seats were everywhere, designed for watching the sky!  A huge rounded mat covered the middle of the floor, holding twenty people at a time. Everything about the design of the space was hospitable. We were welcome there. We had a shelter for as long as we needed it.

I lay down among strangers on the mat.  I was struck by the physical experience I had.  Immediately, I felt the mat warm beneath me, glowing from the last person’s body heat.  I could feel the voices of people lying around me vibrate through the floor.  A man on my left departed and a woman came to replace him.  Her arm touched mine and neither of us moved away.  A small crowd of us lay together, entranced by the the shifting colors, getting lost. 

Suddenly, we were jolted out of our reveries - a tall man tripped while stepping out of the mat, he fell toward us and caught himself just in time.  The woman and I, caught by surprise, burst into laughter.  We were struck by the absurdity, hit by a wild joy that we were strangers and were nearly clobbered together. 

After watching the entire cycle of colors (Had I lived in that place all day? Was I born there?), I stood up and started to ascend the ramp to the upper-level galleries.  My body was suddenly cold: I had acclimated to the body temperature of the group; moving forward now felt solitary and isolated.  I was no longer part of the organism. Leaving that dome of light was really difficult: I knew that I wouldn’t return to New York in time to see that place. I would leave the building and never see it again.

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I grew up going to art museums. The Portland Art Museum is humble, but boasts a decent permanent collection; I always loved visiting the room of Impressionist paintings as a child. In my mid-twenties, I volunteered at the museum and every week I would walk the galleries and I came to know the place intimately. The photography wing, the mid-century panels in the Clement Greenberg collection, the tiny Rothko, the Calder mobile, and Judy Chicago’s lifesavers are all familiar friends to me now.

My parents had prints of Vermeer, Cassatt, Van Gogh on the walls. We listened to classical music and Bob Dylan at dinner. They are both phenomenal photographers. I love looking at all of their beautiful old prints from the seventies. I’m proud to photograph on my mum’s camera. In the house I grew up in, there was a print of Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror on the bathroom wall. I always loved it, it is a fixture of my memories.

I remember going to an Ansel Adams exhibit at the World Forestry Center when I was very small. Dad pointed out an image, he told me stories of how long Ansel would have to sit in that spot, waiting all day for the light to be perfect. He had already imagined how he wanted the photograph to turn out, he just had to wait for the light to set the stage. He would explain contrast and composition, little comments about the images. I learned to see. I still carry a deep love for those iconic Western photographers, the Group f/64 images of Cunningham and Weston.

After we would see exhibitions, he would always ask on the drive home: “Which one would you take home?” Ah, the ultimate question! Not just “What work did you like?’ but What work do you want to see every day when you wake up? What piece can you pass years with, look at in the light of every hour and every season?

Of course, that is not the reality. We fly or travel distances to visit museums and galleries - we must receive the work, be open to it, let ourselves be changed by it, and leave it behind.

Mika and I had a lot of long conversations about our frustrations with other museum patrons. We kept seeing people walking up to a work, snap a quick photo, and move on, never actually looking at the piece with their human eyes. Oh the grief to see Starry Night, the most popular work in MoMA’s collection, surrounded by people taking their picture “with” it. Even now, I am nauseous thinking of it.

I see so many people more intent on documenting their visit to a place than being in a place. They want to prove that they were in the same room as Starry Night, but have yet to see it.

Encountering a work of art asks something of us. The artist invites us into a place of vulnerability and we must be confronted: this is uncomfortable. A work can bring up memories and emotions that disturb our day, they shove us, and shout. It is difficult to find the space within ourselves to receive the work.

I want to capture it, to possess it. When I encounter a work of art and it deeply affects me, I want to take it home with me! I don’t want to say goodbye and leave it behind.

I am afraid that memories will not be enough. I am afraid of forgetting. I am afraid that I will never return to a place. Or, in the case of time-based exhibitions: I feel a sadness that this is the only moment in which this place will be created.

But it is always worth it: I have felt such profound joy and life-giving spirit in art museums and films, in concert halls or outdoor lawns to hear music, watching and experiencing dance and movement. I have received these momentous gifts and I carry them with me. I will always remember lying under the shifting lights of Turrell’s Guggenheim dome and find peace in that place. I am ever reaping the benefits of it.

When I told a friend that I had recently visited the Brooklyn Museum, she immediately gushed “Oh, so you saw the plates!”. She was referring to Judy Chicago’s landmark installation The Dinner Party, a significant work of feminist art from the 1970s. It is a permanent installation and is the central fixture of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. “There’s something comforting about knowing that that table is always there, unchanging,” she said.

She’s right: knowing that a work resides at a museum is comforting. I know that I can return to that place to see it.

At the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art this Spring, my destination was the Turrell retrospective. They also hosted a lovely Calder exhibition; I was wandering among his singing mid-century mobiles, and a friendly security guard engaged me in conversation:

"Which one would you take home?"

I smiled, considered the seven pieces that surrounded me and selected one.

He smiled and pointed to another:

"I like that one. I don’t know what it is… it speaks to me somehow!" he gushed.

Upon my first visit to the Museum of Modern Art, I stumbled upon Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror in real life! She lived and breathed before my eyes! I had no idea she lived there! What a surprise to see my old friend in the painted flesh, forever contemplating her identity. I’ve changed since I saw her last. She will stay put and I will continue to change until I see her again.

July 3, 2014
16. WALKERS

"Solvitur ambulando."

 - a Latin phrase: “It is solved by walking.”

My brother went to work and I went to Brooklyn.

All previous visits to New York City had kept me in Manhattan so I was eager to explore a new borough. I took the subway southward and rose to the surface in Greenpoint.

I met Leah for breakfast. We had last seen each other at our friends’ wedding a few years prior. Although losing track of each other for a time, she reached out when she heard I would be visiting her city. I had a whole day to explore and asked her advice for the what to do with myself. She made the (very very good) recommendation of strolling to the water and taking the ferry to Dumbo for the afternoon.

And so I followed her advice. I explored Williamsburg, finding all the restored brick factories that I’d read about. I took rest and energy at Blue Bottle, stopped at every beautiful street mural or building-high wheatpasted animal adorning the alleyways. I followed a vague compass point in my imagination toward the water.

My feet found the East River and I sat in the sun until I was fetched by the ferry. Thirty minutes of glorious bright warm wind and an angry white wake churning behind us.

At Dumbo, I lingered on the boardwalk for hours, watching Manhattan live her life. I had begun a romance before my journey (he kept in touch for all 3,000 miles of my trek) and I sat in the sun and spoke to him on the phone. It was our first long phone conversation, the first of many that week. He had never been to New York so I described the Brooklyn Bridge before me and the magnificent sight of the city.

I had a general idea of my destination a few miles away so I once again let my feet wander on, under highways, past parks full of after-school basketball games, through the busy center of downtown Brooklyn, reaching the front steps of the school where Riley worked.

We embraced and happily spent the evening together, enjoying the long conversations of friends catching up, walking through the city, taking trains across town for dinner.

At the end of the night, I journeyed back home. My day had carried me in all directions across town. My feet were tired from the mileage. As always, I found the right train and sidewalks to get home.

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“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” 
― Steven Wright

The practice of walking is very dear to Mika and I. There is ever a feeling of pilgrimage to it: taking the time it takes to cross a distance, walking without a destination. It is a type of prayer and silence. We share a love of slowing down, and also of a steady pace.

The best conversations can be had as we stroll side-by-side, facing the world together. We recently spoke on the phone, recounting the many memorable walks we’ve shared. Exploring galleries in the springtime rain, crossing the Burnside bridge on a blazing afternoon. I’m particularly fond of the years we lived in Southeast. Those were some of my best walking years. I know that neighborhood as my landscape. We’d walk to the library together, walk home from The Sweet Hereafter on late weekend nights. We’d come across neighborhood free boxes and carry it all home, armfuls of cast-off treasures.

Together, our world became bigger. We walked through museums and neighborhoods and grand avenues across the country together. The Freedom Trail in Boston, the Loop in Chicago, the side streets where our friends lived.

We continue to move through the world together.

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“Walking shares with making and working that crucial element of engagement of the body and the mind with the world, of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world.” 
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

May I take a moment to tell you how amazing it is to walk? I don’t know what your experience has been like in your body, but perhaps you don’t fully realize this.

During four or five different time periods in my young life, I didn’t know how to walk.

I have passed years on crutches or in wheelchairs. I know what it is like to forget how to walk.

During those years, I would try to remember and fail to recollect what that movement felt like. I’d watch other people walk and wonder if I’d feel the same sensation again. My legs actually forgot the world and then remembered it again.

Do you know the feeling of missing a step? Of moving your foot forward and, an expanse of space opening up beneath you, you fall forward? An awful surprise that you can’t trust your own feet and the ground beneath them? It takes your breath away, doesn’t it? It feels like that.

There is a small mountain that is my favourite place. Two-and-a-half miles up, I’ve hiked it a few times a year for nearly a decade. Every time - really, every time - I walk up the steep trail, I remember what it feels like to not be able to walk and am overcome with gratefulness. Being in that moment, realizing that this act was once impossible for me, it is deeply profound. That trail holds up my legs.

I’ll take you there sometime.

June 8, 2014
15. SISTERS

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NEW YORK CITY

I left Mika behind in Boston and took a bus to the city.

I love New York.  That’s pretty easy to say and comprehend, cliche even - we’ve been seeing the tee shirts for decades. It felt good to be in the city.  I also knew that I would be alone a lot, that felt good too.  A chance to walk the city and explore.  It would give me some space to breathe, to contemplate how far we had come, and to begin to realize that Mika was not returning with me.

I. Blood

My brother has been my reason for travel for a while now: he left Portland to attend art school in Los Angeles when I was twenty-two.  It was so hard to see him go, it was the first time a member of our family was moving far away.  He became the first pin in my map.  Every year, I would fly down to play in California with him.  Disneyland, Hollywood, the Getty, Griffith Park.  We would drive for hours, spend time in traffic together, go to movies, bask in the heat and the noise.  While he was in classes making films, I’d explore downtown Pasadena.  The old city center was like the movies, the streets familiar in their dusty gleam, art deco facades and 1950s convertibles. 

Three years ago, he took a job with a design/advertising firm in New York City, so my annual holidays shifted coasts.  I like it so much better.  With our homebase on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I can walk to Central Park with my coffee in the morning, or loiter around the Guggenheim.  I’ve gotten my bearings and know how to get around.  Suddenly, I am a short subway ride away from the center of the world.  The High Line!  MOMA!  Chinatown!  Soho! 

His walking pace is now at New York speed. His legs are long - when we walk down the street together, I am nearly running.  Always running to catch up.

Mika’s brother is in New York as well.  She and I have shared an old joke that our brothers are the same man (indeed, they share a striking resemblance) - our talented older brothers, working impressive jobs, who we’ve never seen in the same place.  He is also tall and walks quickly.  Sometimes we feel like we are always running to catch up with them. 

I arrived into a grey muggy day.  Aaron and I had agreed on a corner in Midtown to meet - a bustling crowded spot.  It wasn’t hard for me to spot him in the surging wave of people on the sidewalk: I found him across the street, tall and steady against the swarm.

An afternoon of exploration: I revisited Chelsea Market, a favourite place.  And The High Line!  A floating garden, a pathway through the sky.  At twilight, it is magic.

Our evening’s entertainment was the off-Broadway immersive theater performance Sleep No More.  Macbeth performed through movement and dance, four created warehouse floors of rooms and storefronts, cemeteries and forests.  We were given masks and told to go explore, alone, explore like children this small world that lay before us.

Aaron had already attended the performance once and bought tickets in anticipation of my visit.  I love surprises, it was such a special gift.  He and I are very independent people, so I appreciated the solitary manner in which the installation was laid out.  However, halfway through, Aaron and I found each other, spotted each other across the room through our face-covered masks.  We explored together for a while, then parted and continued on our journey through the darkness.  This is how it is: we connect when we are able, when our busy days offer us a phone call, when plane tickets can be afforded we shall stand and explore together for brief moments of time before we are again separated.

II. Choice

Mika and I both travelled abroad in our early twenties.  It is the best thing to do when you are a new adult.  We left our homes alone, primed for fresh change and new experiences.  We made friends with strangers and these strangers became our kin.

We are sisters to many people, some we are related to by blood, most we are related to by experiences and choice. The friends I’ve adopted into my family know who I am now and, I feel, who I want to become. My everyday is shared with my partner and a household of six friends - we are a family and have built a home.  They are the companions that I share life with. 

It means so much to me to travel and be with the people I care about.  Exploring a new place is one of my deepest joys, as is being present with friends in those places.  There is nothing like sharing the same space together.  I’ve been fortunate to travel thousands of miles to celebrate weddings, to join friends for concerts, to experience their hometowns and their beloved cities through their eyes.  I visit them in London, in New York, in Seattle, in Boston, all over the American South - dozens of little red pins on the globe, each of them a home of mine.  I keep returning to Nashville nearly every year.  Now when I go back, I have favourite places to eat, neighborhoods that I know.  I have bearings and can get from one side of town to the other.

III. Sewn

My brother is connected to my history, to who I’ve always been - sometimes that makes it more difficult for us to connect.  As time elapses, we have to work harder to speak regularly.  I think we both forget how we are each changing all of the time - it takes effort to meet the new person!  There are sides of Aaron that I’ve never seen - they come out with his close friends or colleagues - there exists a space between us.  We carry a deep deep thread of connection, and yet: our day-to-day lives are on opposite coasts. 

I think of how much time passes between visits to so many friends.  I am grateful for how often some can travel up to Oregon, I get to host my siblings and share all of my favourite places with them.  What joy!  See, here is where I grew up!  Here is my River Gorge, it is the most beautiful place in the world!  Here is my life!  And we can always pick up where we left off.  Someone once used the phrase “meta-friend” to describe these bonds - these people are a part of my life, we will be together when we are able.

I share phone calls with Aaron and Mika every other weekend or so.  We stand in different places and talk as if we are on opposite sides of the room, not opposite sides of a country.  By the grace of plane travel, we will all be together in a week’s time in New York City, and then again months after that.  I know that I will always be with them again, and again.

Mika and her sister share a beautiful tattoo. It is an aggregated map of every place they’ve ever lived together, a mesh of streets from around the world.  Together, they share a landscape. 

Their feet know those streets and they find their bearings.

May 14, 2014
14. CREATORS

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“Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist, there are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination. From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges and absorbs the impact.”

 - Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

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DEAR READER,

TONIGHT WE ARE SPEAKING DIRECTLY TO YOU. 

PLEASE PULL UP A CHAIR AND JOIN US.  MAY WE OFFER YOU A DRINK?

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Here is our setting: we are sitting together at an old bar.  Black and white checkered tile, dimly lit white ceramic lights, glowing bottles behind the bar.  There is a taxidermied penguin on the back counter, likely from the previous century.  Your feet are tired from a long day of walking.  Condensation on your glass, jazz on the speakers, the taste of bitters and citrus.  Mika and Anna have reached the end of their shared journey.  You have now travelled with them for two weeks.  Did it seem like longer?  Were you able to stand with them in these places? 

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Earlier today, they spent their last moments of joined time visiting their ever-lasting home, church, hideaway, temple, sacred space: the local art museum.  The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston: in Boston, the last city, the end, the closing, a death, a death.  

They find themselves to be constantly on the verge of bursting into tears.  The physical contact of Felix Gonzales-Torres’ beautiful blue beads, Diane Arbus’ portrait of Susan Sontag, Chuck Close gazing down upon their heads from a great gallery wall.  Anna’s impending departure, alone, to the next city: it is all too much to bear.  So they put it aside for a little bit longer and instead let their emotions be captured by all that they see before them.

They explore the historic Boston city center, winding among tourists along the Freedom Trail.  They dine with Anna’s old friend Mary Frances; she knows the city well and is one of their only conversations with Someone From Here.  They keep to themselves and explore miles and miles of Old American City (a foreign experience: we in the West have only mountains for history - they speak different words than buildings do).

They find themselves ending their night here, at Marliave.  It has sat on a creaky side street for 130 years.  The bar is very beautiful and poorly cared for.  They hold the last page of their road trip in their hands and look forward to all of the white blank pages to follow.  Surely they must fill them up!

AND SO THIS PROJECT WAS BORN.

Of course, of course!  Two women who feed off of artwork, beauty, words well put and shouting, painted figures, of course they will collaboratively create.  It is the only thing they are able to do, create, create.  This is how to stay connected, to allow the adventure to become a deep well from which to draw.

Surely, it is the only, inevitable thing - written in their stars, their bones, their bloodstream - to craft, to make and bring forth.  Do you see the glow in their eyes?  The excitement of ideas pouring into their imaginations?  Do you feel it too?

THEIR HEARTS SURGE AND ABSORB THE IMPACT.

March 21, 2014
13. SLEEPERS

There is a passage from the Biblical book of Proverbs.  It was once heard in Sunday School and has haunted me my whole life.  I have never gotten it out of my mind.

"A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
    and want like an armed man.”

There’s an eerily beautiful lyricism to it, and I’ve always considered it a frightening little song.  As a child, I feared that I would ruin my life by sleeping too much.

This is a problem for me because, you see, I love sleep more than almost anything else.  

I realize this is not a unique sentiment, nobody walks around saying how much they hate sleep.  But I love it.  Love.  I drink it in, I revel, I soak in hours of sleep.  I recharge HARD.  On bad days, I look forward to the relief of sleep, knowing that a freshly prepared day lies on the other side.  On best days, falling asleep is the sweet settling sail.  I sleep and my thoughts are quieted, gathered, composed.  Everything makes sense to me if I can just close my eyes for a little while.

I have never forgotten that Proverb.  There is no shortage of opportunities for guilt in religious traditions, but what of listening to our bodies?  It is not laziness to be intuitive!  When great change or seasons or toil or heaviness or lightness comes upon our bodies and our hearts, we must take rest.  Find rest.  Seek rest.  It took me a long time to learn this.

We now take rest seriously.

We arrived on the other side of the continent.  We explored Mika’s new town, stood in her new Massachusetts front yard, roamed and explored a country.  In one great sweep, we felt the The Change of it all.  We felt the distance and the hours and it was time to rest.  We slept in, we watched films for hours, we feasted, we worked on small projects and dwelled in quiet together.

I recently found an anonymous Spanish proverb, perhaps it can now take up more space in my mind than the previous one:

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then to rest afterward."

March 9, 2014
12. REMEMBERERS

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We had one last day of driving.  Do you remember?

When we departed our tall tall narrow city house, releasing all of its fetching winding stories to climb into the cloudy sky? 

At last, a day without fields (our eyes were tiring of them); a day entirely urban.  The remainder of Pennsylvania, into New Jersey, moments of driver-thrill on the edge of New York City.  Do you remember when we shouted at Manhattan from afar, glad to not drive there, grieving to not set foot there together, swiftly passing onwards, upstate, Connecticut, up, up, up?

The final stretch!  You were almost to your new state.  New license plates, new taxes, new skylines, new customs.  We have been the only Oregon plate since Montana. 

Do you remember the silence when we were trying not to think about the end?

And how we reflected on the trip up to that point?  It had been two weeks.  Graciously: two of the longest weeks we’ve known.  Years were somehow fit into those weeks.  And once we started searching for connections, it didn’t take long: we’d very naturally had the only adventure that the two of us would have. Do you remember?  We called it “a cross-country journey through art and conversation”.  We stitched all the miles together into a beautiful woven wrapped thing, a cohesive thing, our shared space.

We didn’t realize how hungry we had been.  Hungry for connection, thirsty for paint and ink, starved to speak of what matters.  To stand and allow ourselves to be changed by the work before us.  We had been homesick for all the far-away people who knew us so well, to hear their words, to hold their faces in our gaze, to sit quietly in the same room with them.

Was that when we changed?   That moment in the car, looking behind us at how far we’d come, when we saw that we had left something of our old selves behind?  That moment when we spread our arms, leaving vulnerable our beating hearts and breathing chests? 

Do you recall arriving late in the evening, into the Boston we had aimed for?  Rolling down the windows, letting the new air fill our stale, bug-swathed car?  How suddenly it mattered to pay particular attention to where we were?  You had to get your bearings because you had travelled to that place, and, unlike all the other places we inhabited: you were staying.  

We did not yet understand this.

Do you remember that night? 

We slept at last, safe on the other side of the country.

February 17, 2014
11. CLIMBERS

Here’s my challenge to you: Try something you’ve never done before.  

When was the last time you did this?

Our exuberant hosts in Philadelphia are excited about climbing.  They have all of the right equipment and plenty to share: shoes, harnesses, ropes, chalk, positive energy, calluses on their palms.  They know of a great spot hidden in the middle of the city: a man-made rock wall on the edge of the park and train tracks, hidden in the woods.  From my earth-level vantage point, it is a high high wall.  

In this moment, I have never climbed before.  You see, I have a lot of complicated history with, well, sports.  Activities.  I have never done any of them.  I am a semi-disabled woman: it’s a long story.  The short version: I am not sure that my legs will get me up this wall.  I have limitations. 

But I have decided to try.

It is a beautiful muggy afternoon.  We rig up, watch Caleb lead-rope our routes up the mountain, John the Baptist preparing the way in the wilderness.  He makes a magical great swing for the kids.  

I try.  I like the feel of my feet on the wall, I don’t like that the wall GOES STRAIGHT UP.  I am used to scrambling on mountaintops, generous handholds at the crowning peaks of hikes, not this unstoppable great barrier.  I try and try.  Mika claims that I am on that wall for much longer than anyone else, she marvels at my willpower.  My goal is to make it halfway up the wall.  I climb a quarter of the way twice, so I suppose that is satisfactory.  But it feels like a defeat.  Willpower is not enough.  I’ve been fond of the phrase “fail harder”, but that sentiment does not make this moment less emotional.  I was worried that I would not be able to do it; it is just as hard to discover that I really can’t do it.  Here are my limitations, I feel them in my muscles and bones.  They are tangible and not to be argued with.

Mika performs beautifully.  She makes it two-thirds of the way up the wall the first time, conquers to the top on the second try.  Bloody hands, shot arms, sweat pouring down her face.  It is magnificent.

It is the evening.  We sit on the rooftop, drinking late into the night, sharing life stories.  It is a wide-reaching conversation, encompassing decades of experiences.  We share belly laughs, we share sad dark stories, we marvel.  I listen and stand next to the younger iterations of my friends: I see their family road trips, watch them prank and bolt at summer camp.  But my imagination can only share so much.  Here are our limitations.

It is the next day: I have never been so sore.  It is a driving day and both of us can barely turn our heads to check our neighboring lanes, lift our arms to the turn signals.

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It is yesterday, months and months after that day in Philly.  I join a friend at her climbing gym.  I am anxious but know that I will likely have fun.  She has been a great cheerleader of my life for years.  Secretly harboring my fears, I decide that it will be okay if I fail.  If this moment does not turn out how I wish, it will be alright.

… but I do it!  I DO IT.  Active verbs, active nouns.  My feet hold the vertical path, arms reaching wide.  I learn the ropes, the knots, the steady landlocked rigging.  I attempt to climb four different walls, all of differing skill levels, and I MAKE IT TO THE TOP OF ALL OF THEM.  I am utterly shocked.  I find myself to be capable.  I feel it in my muscles and bones.  The capability is tangible and not to be argued with.  

Where are my limitations?

February 1, 2014
10. WONDERERS

I marvel that new things can constantly be springing out of the ground and falling from the sky.  Although I just celebrated a birthday and became older, yet I am a child, I am a child.  May I always be surprised.

I was born in Oregon.  I live there still.  Mika moved to Oregon in high school; she had also been raised in a rainy, green, mountainous place.  We are familiar with rain.  We know the many kinds of rain, rain that mists, that showers, that spits, that scatters, that hisses, that sings, that embraces.  My brother and I once ran through a downpour in New York City - he with a popped collar against the water, I with a pulled-down hat.  ”WE’RE FROM PORTLAND” he joyfully shouted to the passers-by who fought against their umbrellas.  We understand rain.  We delight in it.

In Philadelphia, Mika and I joined a mob of friends and explored the city streets in search of ubiquitous Philly Cheese Steaks, (thankful to discover that a meatless version existed for us).  The sky was overcast; three members of our six-person party grabbed umbrellas “just in case”.  We feasted.  As we stepped out of the restaurant door, it began to rain.  Three umbrellas popped open.  We walked and walked and suddenly the skies opened.  

No, listen to me: they opened.  

The most phenomenal drenching dumping wet wet pouring rain was unloaded upon our neighborhood.  Buckets of rain, cats and dogs of rain.   It was like nothing we’ve ever experienced.  We, who know rain.  It was movie rain, the immediately-drenched-in-five-seconds rain.  We shrieked and yelled and laughed and leaped in our useless shoes, our deeply underwater summer garments.  Ah, to always be surprised!

Our rock-climbing plans were cast aside for indoor activities for the remainder of the day: whiskey-spiked cocoa and movies, a visit to the Art Museum to be greeted by a beautiful modern collection: Kandinsky, Matisse, Twombly!  The little boy of our hosts shouted his delight at the echoing acoustics of the Museum hall.  I held my tongue carefully: I wanted to shout too.  

"HEY!"  I yelled silently in the vast hall.  "EVERYTHING CAN BE UNEXPECTED AND WONDROUS!"

That evening, I met with my dear friend Kari and our conversation explored the last few years of our separate lives over Indian food and a bottle of wine.  Ah!  To be away from someone and rejoin, to find that we are still travelling side-by-side on the same road where we once met.

"HEY!"  We shouted to the city streets, night-lit and firing, "EVERYTHING CAN BE UNEXPECTED AND WONDROUS!"

January 14, 2014
9. PERSEVERERS

Fourteen hours of road road road.

The thrill of Chicago driving: Eighty MPH before coffee!  Take care!  You might be killed!

A stop in Michigan, swift glimpses of Indiana.

Just when you get used to your pace: STOP.  TOLL ROADS.

Ah, the toll roads, the grand royal reststops of Ohio.

WHAT IF WE NEVER ARRIVE?

Pennsylvania!  And the land becomes very old.

Green Green Green.

Slow Show through a factory town - it has always been there.  It was waiting for us and we merely passed by.  We noticed it as best we could but did not give it our best.

The blinding angled four p.m. sun blazes the gas station bathroom (of which we have become connoisseurs): it is a good one.  How strange: in the midst of a long long day of passed distance, it is a crumbly white bathroom that takes our breath away.  Lit spiderwebs in the corners, frosted glass.  It has always been there.  We see no citizens of this small valley town:  Everyone is over at the baseball game.  We could have robbed the bank.

The dark.  

We pass two Amish buggies (wire-strung headlights dangling) and LOSE IT.  We are so excited to see those horses.  We are children, we are exhausted, our dreams are coming awake.  Strung out on cigarettes and chewing gum, cheap caffeine.

At the close, the dark anonymous suburbs before the city, a mobile conversation with our next host:

"Hello, this is Anna, answering Mika’s phone!"

"Oh hey Anna!"

"Hi Caleb!  We’re about thirty minutes outside of the city!"

He speaks the magical words:

"Okay, great!  Here’s what you’re gonna do.  The front door is open, so come on in and throw your stuff down in the living room.  You’re gonna head straight back into the kitchen and grab a couple of beers.  Then climb to the top of the stairs and head out the window - we’re all up here on the roof."

A rooftop view of the night-lit city!  Philadelphia!  At last, closest family and spoken Japanese.  The stars are hidden by the city - skyscrapers and taxicabs, new friends fresh-faced in the dim glow.

December 13, 2013
8. TEENAGERS

"And nothing comforts me the same
As my brave friend who says,
'I don't care if forever never comes
'Cause I'm holding out for that teenage feeling,
I’m holding out for that teenage feeling’”

- Neko Case

“It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude, of breathing and stretching one’s arms again…” 
- Mark Rothko

Chicago! So quickly we felt at home. On the road, there had been too many fields for we citydwellers.  The landscape was thoughtful, slow, beautiful; but now was the time for quickening.  The rush, the speed, the light flashing off of the great structures. Trains and broad sidewalks.  Finally, a decent espresso!

We ran through the city and discovered.  We found the enormous Picasso statue, we fulfilled our playful tourist obligations at The Bean.  But the glory of our day was the Art Institute of Chicago.  We got lost for hours and ah! Rothko!  I encountered great harrowing halls of his work at the Tate Modern and London helped me begin to understand Abstract Expressionism.  My learning expanded during Mika’s time at art school; we’d have long conversations about abstract concepts and, as she described it, I suddenly saw the human body expanding off of the canvas. I began to learn how to be present with the work, allow it to interact with you.  Chicago held a shining bright orange piece from Rothko, the most celebratory piece I’ve seen from him.  He was suddenly joyous and shouting.  We joined him.

Back in Minneapolis, waiting at the Amtrak station a few days prior, across from me sat two teenage girls. Eighteen or nineteen, full of sarcastic energy and youth. They sat close together and, leaning over an iPhone, shared earbuds. They danced together and fully inhabited the space around them. Anything was possible.  I felt an odd adult envy of them.  I noticed that I was older, and, despite the horror of high school memories, I felt a sadness across the decade between us.  I am forever glad to be out of my teenage years, and yet: there’s a lot to hold there.  What of constant change?  What of imagination and discovery?  Foolishness and flashes of irresponsibility?

We reveled in the exhaustion of a day in the city.  Completely carefree and full, we sat on the train and, like the teenagers I’ve envied, we shared earbuds in youthful defiance of the businessmen surrounding us. We listened to JAY-Z and smiled to each other. Arrogant and sure, we held rebellious energy in our hands.  We were young, we had taken the city.  We were travelling and had no worries.  

Expand your body beyond the limits of this canvas! Anything is possible.

2:36am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Zh6_Qq114IpVl
  
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