October 10, 2016

Thirteen: Ryan and Noah

These goofy boys have been cracking me up since they were second graders in Sicily. Ryan's family moved to the DC area this summer and needless to say there have been plenty of sleep-overs, silly songs, ridiculous memes, obnoxious dabbing, gaming, texting, puns, and even some nostalgic beyblading. There's something very special about military friendships and it makes me happy to see this one still going strong (here's a peek of them back in 2013). So hard to believe they are teenagers now. 

October 7, 2016

Our View

Lines and letters intersecting, twisting, and coming together in a collaboration between art and poetry; artist and viewers; mother and child. 

 We spent the afternoon at The Hirschhorn circumnavigating Linn Meyer's striking work, "Our View From Here". Ever since watching the time lapse video of how Meyer's installed the piece of the course of many weeks, I had been itching to see it up close, but I had no idea that it would have such a big impact on both of us. As if we were being pulled out to sea on a rip tide, we were immediately sucked into its alluring currents and caught up in a surreal scenery composed of lively black lines.  

On impulse, when leaving the house earlier in the day, I had tossed two post-it note pads into my backpack along with sketchbooks and oranges. Halfway through the circular gallery space, I dug the tiny yellow pads out and we each continued to work our way through the piece with the added task of jotting down words that came to mind. We eventually met back at the beginning of the circle, claimed two comfy black chairs and started to collaborate on a poem. 

Moving sticky notes around on blank sketch books, but eventually transitioning to the floor so we could really play with them. Selecting the ones we both loved the most, setting aside those that might or might not work, shifting combinations until it sounded right to both of us. I loved how different our words were and yet, how beautifully they worked together to form a satisfying little nugget of our experience. It is essentially our very own "view from here". 

Our View

Undulating ripples
Peacock vortex
Tangled rainbow whorl

To a point

Swirling, swooping, cascading, pulsing
Lines, lines, lines, lines

by Camille (age 10) and Lucia (age 43)
Inspired by Linn Meyer's "Our View From Here"
The Hirschhorn, October 7, 2016 

October 4, 2016

Historical Bits and Pieces

We have been spending a lot of time immersed in the Colonial period: visiting a variety of living history parks/ national historic sites; reading journals, texts, and historical fiction; and working our way through the fabulous PBS "reality show", Colonial House. I have always been a voyeur and this recent historical immersion process has really been fascinating. Our visit to Yorktown, Virginia last month was filled with nitty gritty details, artifacts, and ephemera. A haunting little cradle with hand-made dollies, a green mug left on a bench by a Colonial farmer who had probably been resting between chores, maps and navigational tools inside an officer's tent, disturbing medical tools and Colonial era treatments, flax and hops plants growing in the garden, and hand-hewn tools. Sometimes the folks working in these historical re-creations are excellent, sometimes they are weird, but regardless of the staffing, the physical items from daily life always catch my eye and plunge me back into day dreaming about what it must have been like to struggle and hope during that stage in our country's history. ***All of the staff at York Town were great! and I highly recommend a visit, especially in Spring of 2017 when the new museum will be open and the expansion of the living history park will be complete. 

October 1, 2016

A Letter For Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah feels like it crept up on me this year, swirling in with the messiness of September and endless days of rain. It starts tomorrow night. Usually by this time, I will have stacked up a pile of holiday books, dug out our shofars, and have big bowls filled with apples as seasonal decor. But none of those things have happened yet, and they may not. This time of year always involves intense juggling of schedules while attempting to craft together a rhythm that works for everyone. That intensity increased when we made the decision several years ago to become a family that lives in both the homeschool (Camille) world and the traditional school world (Noah). And for some reason this year feels even more overwhelming. I have been puzzled by that feeling because although both kids have fairly busy schedules, we have actually cut back on their after-school activities and I have been diligent about trying to take of myself with daily yoga/meditation and regular yoga classes. I think that feeling of unease is related to a larger sense of uncertainty hovering in my conscious and unconscious mind. 

We are entering our final year in the DC area and that always brings with it a slew of mixed feelings and preparatory anxiety. We have lived here longer than anywhere else in our history as a military family, so the roots are a bit deeper and twistier, and digging them up will be painful. We are also facing a move back to Japan with much older children and a crazy muppet of a dog. There are more emotional, physical, and logistical details than in our previous international moves. But I in addition to those moving-related worries, I am feeling a deeper sense of concern about the current state of our world...wars that never seem to end; racism that seeps, stings, and slays; the upcoming election; illnesses that attack with a vengeance; natural disasters that change lives overnight; and disconnection, apathy, and insularity. 

Needless to say, I haven't been sleeping well or living with a light heart lately. And that's exactly why Brain Picking's feature about E.B. White's letter came at just the right moment this week. E.B. White is one of my favorite writers and this letter of his is something I want carry with me right now. Perhaps something everyone should be carrying with them right now. I am tucking it into my pocket as we prepare to enter into this contemplative period of the Jewish High Holy Days. Wind the clock, sprout seeds of goodness, and maintain hope for a sweet new year. L'shanah Tovah! 

Dear Mr. Nadeau:
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
E. B. White

Williamsburg, Virginia, September 2016

September 11, 2016

Phone Calls and Extra Batteries

Today marks the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and I find myself consciously shutting off news stories, avoiding dreaded images, or actively re-directing conversations about it. Previous anniversaries of this date have never really had much of an impact on me, but for some reason today felt different. And this evening it hit me. It has to do with my dad.

My dad was no where near the twin towers, on a plane, or any where near the Pentagon. On that September day, my dad was in south Louisiana and I was in Washington state. And yet he will always be apart of my memories on that tragic day. It was early on the West Coast and my dad called to make sure we were awake and aware of what was happening. He wasn't the first person to alert us, but he was the one I spoke with the longest that morning. We were on the phone together as the second tower fell. My dad seemed to quickly grasp that our country was about to go into an intense tail spin. In between trying to calm me down, he began to switch into survivalist mode. Trying to figure out ways we could stay in touch if the phones shut down or who we could each contact if we were in trouble. He wanted me to make sure we had batteries and extra water. His response sent me into a bit of my own internal tailspin with dueling emotions...comfort that someone seemed to have some ideas for a plan and fear that things were about to get much worse. 

I think today's anniversary hit me because it was a harsh reminder that I can no longer pick up the phone to call my dad when bad things happen. I feel a bit of guilt to think that my reaction today is about grief that isn't even directly related to today's anniversary. And yet, isn't that at the core of today? Reminders of loss, reminders of life continuing to happen, reminders of fear and uncertainty, and a reminder that we were all a bit changed on that day fifteen years ago. And perhaps most importantly our universal human need to be connected, comforted, and protected. 

September 10, 2016

Yaocomaco and Piscataway Tribes of Maryland

 This year we are plunging into a study of Early American History and planning to take full advantage of the plethora of local historical sites. And that is why Camille and I got up early on a Saturday morning; packed the car with sunscreen, water bottles, a pile of audio books; made two quick pit stops to get freshly made doughnuts and traveling necessities (Twizzlers and Doritos); and hit the road for Historic St. Mary's City. We were hoping to make it in time to participate in their Native American Discovery Day. And as we were making the nearly two hour drive there I found myself hoping that it would be worth the drive. As soon as we arrived, it was clear to see that it was well worth the drive.  

We quickly jumped into doing a variety of hands-on activities: fire building, creating pinch pots with local clay, carving soapstone beads, and making a pokean (Native American hacky-sack made with corn husks, feathers, and beads). We learned about the native plants and food sources. Shot arrows. Helped to build mats from reeds that were collected that morning to add to the rooftops of the re-created Yaocomaco witchotts (longhouses). St. Mary's City, the first capital of Maryland, was established on the grounds of a Yaocomaco settlement. 

One of the highlights of the day was watching the Tayac Territory Singers and Dancers, members of the Piscataway Indian Nation, led by Mark Tayac son of the current hereditary chief, Chief Billy Tayac. It was hard not to be entranced by their beautiful outfits and their voices singing in Algonquin Piscataway while drumming and dancing. The Piscataway were one of the most populous and powerful tribes in the Chesapeake Bay region north of the Potomac. It was an honor to see them sharing their history and culture today. Want to learn more about the Piscataway? Meet Naiche is a good place to start.