Friday, June 16, 2017

Yosemite

I've now washed everything from my backpacking trip except for a red bandana. If memory serves me correctly, my former students would have called it karipakku; something that you 'borrow' until it 'becomes yours'. There is a gentle undertone of thievery, but also a level of acknowledgement from the burgled party. Out of all the karipakku that I have amassed through the years, the red bandanna seems to have stuck with me the longest.

My friends and I loaded up our gear into the back of my new/used Rav4 on a Friday afternoon, checking with each other that we remembered all the supplies that the Yosemite wilderness would require. Do you think we have enough fuel? Will hiking poles actually help on this trail or will they just add weight? Are there bathrooms near Half Dome or should we pack the poop shovel? After reaching a 'close enough' consensus, the car door slammed shut and we headed East. A collection of CDs dating back to my high school days cycled through the speakers as the landscape grew wilder. Perfumed breezes and the calls of Stellar's Jays drifted through our open windows until finally, the crooked mountain road opened up into the park's wide mouth. "Welcome to Yosemite," greeted the ranger at the gate. The sun danced with the clouds over cascading waterfalls and around immense rock spires.

"Sorry guys," I said to my companions, "time to join the paparazzi." We stepped out of the car and waited for our photo-op in front of an impressive fall. We snapped a few more of us 'climbing' the miniature Half Dome statue, and agreed to tell people it was the real deal if we chickened out of the final ascent. Little did we know that it wouldn't be our lack of courage, but the guiles of Mother Nature that would disrupt our carefully laid plans.

Our first morning in the backcountry began with utter disbelief. "Is that... hail... ?" It was mid-June, and yes, it appeared to be hailing. After working so hard to win a lottery-based permit for one of the park's most infamous climbs, but we were forced to begrudgingly admit that the smooth granite face of Half Dome would be insurmountable with the current conditions. "Well, shit... whose got a Plan B?" Sitting on stumps and drinking coffee from a small boiler, we mulled over our options. "We could wait it out until tomorrow and try again, maybe? Find a baby hike around here today - something short and flat?" Seemingly the best option, the others went to the river to filter more water for the impromptu hike. I stayed behind and built a fire. The crackling logs began heaving life, and the hail hissed as it was consumed by the heat. The night's chill finally began to melt out of my body. It wasn't long before I had company, drawn in by the warmth.

Where are you from? What hikes are you doing? Can you believe this effing weather? As we chatted around the fire, strangers became tribe. There's something about fire that bonds people. You need extra fuel? Blankets? Yeah, we'll definitely take your unused ramen, thanks. I tied my red bandana around my braids to keep off the ashes as I stirred the fire. Wendy and Scott returned from the river, and I introduced them to the newcomers. As we discussed our hiking plans, three became five.

The trail we embarked upon wound through a forest that told its own fire story. Blackened trees spindled up to a payne's grey sky, and colorful birds landed on charred branches. We were relatively alone, although signs of fresh scat and claw marks indicated that bears were not far off. The morning's hail turned into a light snow, which floated silently through the black forest and down to a lush carpet of greenery and wildflowers. A stream emptied into several glittering pools and another waterfall gushed around a bend. The company laughed together and marveled at the wonder of the place; surely this was a forest meant for casting wishes in.

That night we had simple dinners from packets over an evening fire, and laughed until our bellies hurt. The snow had not let up through the course of the day, and it began to pick up as night fell. With the dipping nightly temperatures, it became important to retreat to shelter. I wished my new friends a fond farewell and stayed to put out the fire. Smoke curled around me and I savored a reflective moment alone, in the silent, snowy darkness.

Back in my tent, I untied my wet braids. It had become apparent that we would not be able to make our climb the following morning either. I smiled as I set my red bandana on my lap. It reeked of campfire. My cherished karipakku would be leaving Yosemite not with the memory of an adventure I had anticipated, but with the smell of one wholly unexpected.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

January Twenty-Something

No. No, no, no, no, no. You cannot start on the liquor at 8:30. You are still in your pajamas, for chrissake.

I paced around my unit for 10 minutes or so feeling anxious. What was I supposed to be doing... I forgot. I know I had plans yesterday of what I would do to occupy myself. Carefully laid plans from keep me moving forward.
Shit, how could I forget... liquor liquor liquor liquor.
Gross, rum breakfast sounds awful. That isn't what you want.
What else is nearby and destructive that I can have? Shit, cut that out, you nut!

Practice your music. I don't wanna.
Paint. I don't feel like it.
Facebook - shit, shit, shit. Aww, you did it. :(
Why did you look?
Another dose of sickness.

Reality is a heavy rain sinking into my wool sweater.
Pipeline approved.
Coat hanger abortions are back in fashion.
Your career will be frozen.
Science is a hoax.
I'm so itchy.
GET OUT OF BED. PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE.

Crap, why did I ever get a smart phone?
Oh yeah, cause I couldn't get my flip phone repaired. Shoved into the next wave of reality, plugged in and monitored.
But the GPS is so haaaaandy

Pacing, pacing.
Oh thank god. COFFEE.
I forgot about you, coffee. Routine. Normal. Wholesome-ish.
Something to sit down with and rake up my jumbled thoughts.

okay....... so I'm looking at my Christmas tree. Yes, my Christmas tree. There are no ornaments anymore, just needles all over the floor. It's drooping outline is a reminder that I need to figure out what's next. It's January twenty-something; January 2017 will only be twenty-something a short bit longer, and so will I.

Yeah so the tree - get rid of that thing. I will.
What's next, though?
I wish I still had a flip phone.

Hey! Focus, lady.
WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO?


Saturday, January 21, 2017

To Be Still

You are more than it.

You are more than your Heartbreak
You are more than your Blood
You are more than your Joy
Your Guilt
Your Memories, Obligations, or Fears
You are more than Numbers on a Scale or a Chart
or a Sexual Identity
You are more than your Hobbies
You are more than your Mantras
You are more than a Mother, Father, Sister, Brother,
You are not Color
You are not Money
You have no Face
You have no Body
No Gym Routine
No Couch Routine
No Addiction
You are more than a Factory for processing society's drudgery
You are more than Exhaustion
You are more than Bloodshed, Revenge, Anger
You are more than even Love or Understanding


Strip it all away.

You are more than a sum of your parts, more than a set of societal norms, more than your feelings. 
These are the easy answers; the ones that can be used to quantify ourselves based on specificities of time and environment. They are for the benefit of that which is not us.

If ever you have the courage to release your ego, you may have the chance to steal away

Who Am I

You are exactly the weight of the universe.



Saturday, June 11, 2016

Some Things I've Smelled

I have always paid particular attention to smell. It's a sense that can so distinctly compel us to new curiosities, as well as entrench us in nostalgia (for better or worse).

I'm partial to all kinds of smells; baking bread... the ocean... gasoline... saddle leather... flowers... cow pastures... high school gyms. Every smell has a meaning. Here are a few of my memorable smells;

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..... My grandpa took me to Dunkin Donuts when I was a kid. I thought it was cool because it was one of the only times I remember doing something together, just he and I. It was raining the whole drive there; cold damp air puddled up in the gutters and craters of the Detroit pavement. We pulled into a spot, and he asked me what I wanted as he slid the shifter up. The cinnamon balls. Those were almost the only doughnuts I would eat as a kid who didn't have a sweet tooth. 'Ok, why don't you stay here honey, it's wet outside.' He set his pipe down on the dash, which was still pillowing out little tufts of smoke, and cracked the windows. I passed the time drawing pictures in the fog with my finger and taking in luxurious gulps of fresh pipe tobacco and the cold Detroit rain. 


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..... When I was in high school my family took a trip to Jamaica. I think it would be a stretch to say that my parents would jump at the opportunity to go back; we were staying in a port town that got trafficked by cruise ships during the day, but more or less turned into a local club scene at night. My brother and I had a great time. One night we were having some Red Stripes with a few locals, and my brother popped off to the shop across the street for a few minutes. I felt uneasy to be by myself with a bunch of Caribbean dudes I had met just that week, but the feeling dissipated quickly. We got to joking around, and then a very silly rap battle ensued. A guy named Alex stepped up to present me his battle, and I remember his necklace swinging around on top of a white tank top. His rhythmic movements pushed over a sweet swirling current of vanilla, sweat, ganja, and hibiscus flowers... it was a stupefying effusion, the likes of which I have rarely encountered since.


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..... I didn't know what mothballs smelled like until my family had some guests from Japan come and stay with us. Kazuko unpacked some of her belongings into my brother's dressers and the scent of mothballs played curiously well to a very distinct floral. Some years later, my family along with my boyfriend's family hosted a few Japanese students, and the smell returned. The four of us sat in the grass, speckled by afternoon sunlight, doing some "American tie-dying". Mothballs, Asian floral, and summer grass...  the smell danced quietly around us. Many years later, as an adult, I moved to Japan and took notice of other smells; the farmers burning their dried cuttings, food carts of the festival season, spring cherry blossoms, tatami mats, and cool bamboo forests. I made some of the dearest friends I'll ever know, and I fell in love once more among those smells. Parting to come back to the States was such sweet sorrow, to borrow a phrase. I wept quietly on the plane as I watched a couple cherry blossom petals float by my window. Upon my return, my dad brought my suitcases up to my childhood room and let me alone. I unzipped a big roller and there it was, splashed all over all of my belongings. Mothballs and floral.

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There are so many smells, all evoking the associations we have made with them.
Some smells bring me back to very dark places and tie knots in my stomach.
There are others that are as light as air and make me ache with joy.
Sometimes I think I can even recall memories I've never had through smell. Maybe that's true. 


Monday, March 14, 2016

[ Fuwa Fuwa ] Peppermint Silk Bars

I've made batches by request here and there, but this was by far the largest soap order I've ever agreed to. Over the course of about two months, I made 400 butterfly mini bars for a charitable organization my mom is part of. I learned a lot about different methods along the way and am proud to have used re-purposed materials to create the packaging, despite the additional work it created. 

This project took a lot of time and energy, but I'm proud to put my name on the final product.



Saturday, January 9, 2016

Bronze & Paint

Recently I finished up a few projects. 

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The jackrabbits were an idea inspired by working at Great Basin; they were everywhere and had a lumbering sort of grace. The sculptures were created with that characteristic goofiness in mind. My roommate, Miki commented that the actual skeleton of my creation must be "horrifying", which made me smile. Miki was also the artist in residence and an inspiring lady who connected me with the foundry to pour my castings.  


Once I received the castings back from the foundry, the next step was to grind off all the extra crap that had glommed onto them while the metal was being poured. This was a laborious, but also hilarious process. I purchased an angle grinder for the job, but soon realized that shooting off metal sparks in a tiny apartment with wood floors was probably not going to end well. Also, the soundtrack for my neighbors wouldn't be unlike somebody chopping up bodies next-door. So my solution became running an extension cord from my boyfriend's work place into the nearby alley where a construction crew was already working. 'Mornin', boys', I nodded behind goggles and a respirator. Yep, this is totally normal. Nothing to see here... just your average crazy lady in an alley with power tools and a bagel. 


Once the hunks of excess metal were removed, I was able to do the finer grinding and finishing at home. Patinas are chemical solutions that create different rust finishes for metal when heat is applied. My patina didn't turn out exactly as planned because I didn't have easy access to a blowtorch, oddly enough. For what I was working with (a hairdryer and boiling water), I am decently satisfied. 

As you can see, the plans for this project were airtight, from start to finish.
And more to the point, the jackrabbits were finished in time for Christmas and found homes with my family.

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Below are a few other things that I have been working on periodically. The bottle came from a dream.