I’m having a hard time coming up with my word for 2023 so, as I often do, I sit with scissors and glue stick and start to cut images and words out of magazines. I do this throughout the year, but really love to see what happens at the end of December when that week between Christmas and New Years challenges us to look both forward and back, to both dream of what’s to come and try to make sense of what just happened.
My most recent go at this exercise, though not finished, ends up full of flowers, snails crawling on cars and funny, smiling faces. It does not give me a clear answer or direction but rather points me towards fun, creativity, and nonsense; a journey rather than a destination.
I think if anything about 2022 was learned it’s that life is hard and weird and it’s always best to see the adventure and curiosity side of what could only otherwise be described as a terrifying human trip on a small planet hurdling through space.
I just listened to an astrology podcast that said 2023 will be the year of “What if..?” And, it’s our choice which direction we want to go with that question. What if it all falls apart? OR What if it’s all better than I can imagine? What if everything works out? What if my wildest dreams come true?
Blessings for a peaceful, joyful, fun, creative, and adventurous 2023!
I love the off season. Just as beautiful. But, empty. Cold. No leaves allows for a better view. Wool socks. Wear your hat. People surf the Atlantic in winter, wow. The sun sets earlier here. Than out west. Cardinals against white are very red. Beauty. The Cape.
I just landed back in New Orleans for one week, ending the year where it began. It’s warm and humid and there’s a Saint’s game and an eclipse and an election and it feels wired!!
I had no idea some people get so dressed up for football games; gold and black sequins, stilettos, and lots of purple mixed in. Tailgating under the 10 freeway, steak houses full, and sidewalk daiquiris spill over. Let the good times roll.
My room is on the 19th floor and after finding a quiet place to eat dinner, I snuck back, overwhelmed by the frenzy and still fighting the cold I caught two weeks ago. I have a view of both the moon and the Mississippi River, though I hope to be asleep when they both fall into the earth’s shadow late tonight.
What a time to be alive.
I voted by mail two weeks ago and have proceeded to mostly tune out the media since then. I feel optimistic and scared at the same time, the PTSD of 2016 is real. Tonight I will say a prayer and try to let it go, trusting that we are exactly where we are meant to be regardless of the hoopla.
Tomorrow I’ll eat beignets, drink chicory coffee, and enjoy this strange city and the fact that I get to be here again, in all its sultry chaos.
It’s pretty here, prettier than I imagined it would be, with rolling hills, lots of little lakes, and so many trees it’s hard to see where any of the towns are. Last weekend was sunny and warm, this one grey and rainy, but both pretty in their way. Fall is just reaching its peak, leaves are red, pink and orange with only the occasional gold I’m more familiar with; hardwoods rather than aspen and cottonwood.
I haven’t been on the road for work in a while and am slowly remembering how to live with a mini fridge, microwave, and on too little sleep. It won’t be a long job, those days might be behind me, but five weeks feels long enough.
I imagined having the energy to go explore small towns and thrift stores on my day off but am too tired when Sunday comes and I forgot how closed small southern towns are on Sundays. Church and Jesus are a thing here.
Though being on the road is difficult in many ways, there is also something about waking up in a town I would likely never otherwise be with a day to explore, all while getting paid, that I still love. Today began with blueberry pancakes, sitting at the counter of a diner near the hotel, cheap coffee and college football on tv. College football, like church, is a thing here. So are biscuits, for which I am eternally grateful.
My dad started growing zinnias this summer; rows and rows of zinnias. And now he has so many that each morning he cuts enough to fill a 5 gallon bucket and brings flowers to whomever he sees throughout the day. He tells me he can’t believe how happy it makes people. I think that is the best thing I’ve heard in a long time.
I must come up for an idea for a printmaking class I’m taking tomorrow and I just drew the saddest little grasshopper you’ve ever seen. He’s looking up at me from the pages of my notebook like “ really, that’s all you’ve got?” After all of the amazing, inspirational printmaking studios (tallers) you visited today, that’s it?
I am in Oaxaca, Mexico, after somewhat spontaneously deciding to join my mom (a printmaker) on a printmaking tour and workshop (facilitated by @juliannakerwin). It’s been almost 20 years since I was last in Oaxaca and even longer since I carved a piece of linoleum or wood in a printmaking class.
I spend the first two days, before the tour starts, reacquainting myself with the food, smells, markets, and sites of Oaxaca, of which there are so many! The historic center of town is jammed with galleries, studios, restaurants, shops, and parks, with a fair amount of Americans but not as many as some other places. There are plenty of opportunities to practice Spanish and plenty of menus not yet translated which yield regular surprises- like last night’s dinner of small plantains in mole; I thought the plantains were just a part of the meal, not the whole thing. They were delicious! Chapulines (crickets) are served as snacks everywhere. Dried and covered in salt, chocolate or lime and chile, I avoided them 20 years ago but eat them freely now because, why not? They are the reason behind my attempt to draw a grasshopper for tomorrow’s class.
I don’t remember seeing as much printmaking in Oaxaca in 2003, so I Google it to learn more about its history here. In 2006 there was a massive statewide teacher strike that turned violent and around that time print shops sprang up to create large scale and large quantities of prints in support of the teachers. Oaxaca is a politically active state and being one of the poorest states in Mexico, has ample reason to protest ongoing inequalities and corruption. Many of the printmaking studios have had a direct relationship with these protests while others have gone more of a fine art route but what seems clear is that there is great support for the art form, in all its forms, from the community.
What a day!
I attempt to bring my little surfing cricket to life and I won’t know until tomorrow how he turned out. Our teacher is lovely and sets us up with materials, tools, and directions in his front courtyard.
After working on our own projects we tour more studios; some master printers who print for world famous artists and others who bring their presses into the literal streets, supply materials, and help anyone who walks up make a print. Both versions are awesome.
I ink my plate and lay it face up on the press and lay a piece of cotton paper gently over it. Our teacher, Federico Valdez (@federico_valdez_art), guides us through the process until we each end up with three little prints of our own.
After finishing our prints we wind through the hills outside of Oaxaca City, through beautiful Etla, in search of a paper factory that ends up being closed. As keeps happening, someone knows someone who knows someone and we end up in the studio of an amazing paper maker (and human) Roberto Valenzuela of Papel Oaxaca. He was a biologist, dismayed at the environmental impact that paper production had on the planet and decided to begin making paper from agave, banana leaves, and multiple other natural fibers. He is a dear!
Now it is Sunday night. It is raining outside and I fly home tomorrow. I feel so much gratitude for the inspiration this art form, trip, city, workshop, and country have given me. I can’t wait to return to Oaxaca, but in the meantime I am excited to practice some of what I’ve learned back in New Mexico .
Soaking up the humid air, sandy feet, and salty skin before we return to the desert. Lobster, ice cream, bagels; luckily accompanied by long bike rides, walks, and swims.
Relaxing isn’t my go-to state. It takes me at least a week to sink in and let the mental lists go. Some part of me has a hard time ending a day without having something to show for it. So, the “something” must shift. Today I finished one novel, am almost done with two more, played and lost Monopoly, watched some birds and squirrels, and biked into town.
I think about those backyard birds and squirrels and how they spend their lives; eat, poop, sleep, try not to die, procreate, repeat, die. They don’t appear idle, nor do they seem overly anxious or concerned, until a hawk appears. Life is what it is. Neither good nor bad.
The grass is brown around the edges in Cape Cod and people dig through garages for rarely used sprinklers and hoses. Coming from the West, it’s hard to call it a drought, but the plants are undeniably crunchier than usual. Moderate, not severe, according to a map of droughts covering the USA.
On a quick trip to Martha’s Vineyard, a woman points the beach plums out to us. In August they turn dark red and, after cutting the seeds out, are ready to eat or turn into jam. We are too early but try them anyway, they are sour and hard.
I download a birdsong app on my phone and it quickly picks out sparrows, cardinals, a goldfinch, and cowbird. I’m reading the novel Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy, about a woman in the near future following the last flock of Arctic terns on their final migration to Antarctica, after most other birds have gone extinct. So far, it is great! But, it has me thinking as I walk and bike by low lying houses, beach plums, and seagulls.. how beautiful and fragile we all are and dependent on a precarious balance.
There is rain in the forecast. There is also humidity in the air and so many green trees. Drought seems a relative term.
It is cool and rainy out, in answer to prayers prayed over the past four months. Pollen, smoke, dirt, and dust that’s been swirling in a seemingly unending wind since March has finally settled and our small part of the West can breathe easier, at least for today. Much of New Mexico has been on fire since the beginning of May and only now are the firefighters getting any kind of help or relief.
The rain seemed to cool not only the ground but also that fear which has built in all of us as we slowly realize we don’t know how to be under this hot, dry ‘new normal’. Over the past month I’ve been twice surrounded by street racers while driving in Albuquerque, seen people yelling at each other in public, and had to step outside and deeply inhale the dusty, smokey air while reading articles about how low the Colorado River is, to keep from having a panic attack while at work. The anxiety, anger, and sadness is real.
But, so is the beauty. Last night I floated down the muddy Rio Grande at sunset and watched chickens cluck around in a field of wildflowers. The drive home was all pinks and oranges as the sunset exploded and kept exploding. This morning, the peonies on my dining table have officially turned from light pink to brown, like I tripped and spilled tea on their edges. The birds outside are extra vocal, as if they forgot how good it feels to take a bath and can smell the worms just beneath the damp dirt.
Depending on my mood, so much beauty can also be sad. But, today I’ll appreciate it and let it just be beautiful.
As we sit on the beach in Sayulita, Mexico, my boyfriend and I both realize at the same moment that we are no longer the twenty somethings. It’s a strange thing to go from being those young ones, something you’ve just always been, to the middle aged ones with jobs, responsibilities, and commitments and to not be entirely sure when that change took place. Sayulita is full of both perfectly bronzed young babes and older retiree expats and only a few who look like us.
We are up early each morning, partly because his kids have us trained to wake by 6 and partly because we can’t seem to stay up past 10, even as the party rages outside. I love mornings in strange towns; just the garbage men cleaning up last night’s trash, the sweepers, bakers, surfers, and parents of young kids walking on the beach. I take pictures on these morning walks that make it look like we are in a not yet discovered Mexican beach town, but Sayulita has definitely been discovered and we are the late ones to the party.
When I was 23, freshly graduated from college, I packed a bag and headed south with three friends for two months in Mexico. We were those 20 somethings; no reservations, no plans, no worries, and perfectly toned bronze bodies. I learned how to play backgammon in a small bar in Puerto Escondido that became our jumping off point to begin each night. Several games would be followed by tacos and then lead us to some dance club on the beach playing Manu Chao, Bob Marley, Shakira, and Eminem’s 8 Mile soundtrack. We’d get to sleep sometime before dawn, wake at noon, and begin again.
We took photos on my Pentax K1000 camera and, depending on if we were in a town for long enough, would drop film off and wait a couple of days for it to be developed. We carried the 2003 Lonely Planet guidebook like it was our bible because it was. Dog eared, stained, and written all over, I still have that book. Every few days we’d find an Internet cafe and check our email, something I never checked at home, but it was easier than writing letters home to mom. No social media, no TripAdvisor, no Google. Sometimes we’d look for a place and never find it, ending up somewhere unexpected and possibly better? We’ll never know. I do know it all worked out, somehow, every time.
Then, during our last week in Mexico City, as I sat looking through the housing rental classifieds with a friend we’d met who lived there, I got an email from a friend back home asking if I’d like to work on a movie starting in a few weeks in New Mexico. Hmmm, I thought, that could be interesting.
Around this same time, across the world, my boyfriend was traveling and playing soccer for various teams in Africa and Australia. He earned just enough money to survive, buy food, a clunker car, and pay rent on a cheap place to live. Life was great.
As we sit in one cool restaurant after another, I eavesdrop on groups of young women talking about the availability, emotional and otherwise, of the guys and girls they are interested in, of where they are coming from and where they want to go next. It’s not that I envy these conversations, I really don’t, it’s just a shock to realize I’m no longer these women. My boyfriend relates to my realization and has his own version of one.
I love Mexico. Always have. As I sit on the beach my attention is now drawn to the boomer retirees. Goal.
Where am I coming from and where do I want to go next? That film industry thing my friend called me about back then turned out to be ok but at some point in the future I look forward to when it too is a memory and we live near a beach and eat papaya all day.
In the meantime, I’m grateful for the life we’ve created, for the adventures I said yes to back in the day, and for those yet to come.
Turn Turn Turn
To everything (turn, turn, turn) There is a season (turn, turn, turn) And a time to every purpose, under heavenA time to be born, a time to die A time to plant, a time to reap A time to kill, a time to heal A time to laugh, a time to weepTo everything (turn, turn, turn) There is a season (turn, turn, turn) And a time to every purpose, under heavenA time to build up, a time to break down A time to dance, a time to mourn A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones togetherTo everything (turn, turn, turn) There is a season (turn, turn, turn) And a time to every purpose, under heavenA time of love, a time of hate A time of war, a time of peace A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracingTo everything (turn, turn, turn) There is a season (turn, turn, turn) And a time to every purpose, under heavenA time to gain, a time to lose A time to rend, a time to sew A time for love, a time for hate A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late