The themes of negative space, grey area, and the beauty of imperfection have been reappearing in my life lately. Blurred areas where it isn’t black or white or said or pretty or really even understood, keep drawing me in, whether through my current time off between movies, the need to infer rather than tell in my flash fiction class, the metal scraps left behind from jewelry making, or the book sitting on my coffee table, “wabi sabi: the japanese art of impermanence”, by  Andrew Juniper.  Each has led me somewhere totally different than I thought I wanted to go when setting out and it’s only now that I’m beginning to realize the grey and the negative were probably the point all along, it just took me a minute to realize. 

Frequently when I take time off between movies, I feel somewhat aimless and ungrounded, as if I’m on vacation, fun, but always aware there is an end in sight. But, this time, I’ve begun to switch my thinking. Maybe movies are the negative space, serving to support my writing, reading, traveling, blogging, jewelry making, hiking, cooking, and learning adventures. Maybe the space I’m in now is enough and should be viewed as important, necessary, and productive, if not more so, as the time I spend on set. 

I began my most recent foray into flash fiction on Wednesday night, with the great teacher Meg Tuitte, and was reminded again of the importance of grey area in this kind of writing. With most flash pieces being under 1000 words, it is necessary to jump into the middle of a story and trust your audience to keep up. Without time to give a background on each character and then curve slowly towards the climax, one sentence might have to do the trick. It’s a great exercise on being clear and concise. 

Likewise, in the small metals class I’m taking at Meltdown Studio, in Albuquerque, I began by making a brass cuff. When I didn’t like that, I stamped out a bunch of shapes with the idea to make charms for a necklace. And, in the end, it was the rectangles with shapes missing that were my favorite. Negative space.  (The words happen to say “she jumped out of the boat”, a little reminder to myself that once out, it’s almost impossible to go back in:)

And then, last night, I just happened to pick up a book that’s been on my shelf for years, but that I’d never read. Though only at the very beginning of Andrew Juniper’s “wabi sabi- the japanese art of impermanence”, I was drawn in with this idea, “the Japanese were to become masters of space, and have throughout their long artistic history stressed the importance of space or nothingness as a juxtaposition to things that presently exist”(p 9). I love the idea that that space is just as important as the existing object or idea. 

I am reminded of an interview I heard with Bill Gates on NPR, though not sure on which show. They were discussing the possibility that Gates real legacy could end up being The Gates Foundation and all that it has been able to do around the world, rather than Microsoft, though that too helped change the world. You just never know when this will lead to that and then to that. The thing you thought was the goal could end up being a mere stepping stone to something so big and amazing, your little brain couldn’t even fathom it back then. 

As I think about all of this and as examples keep popping up in my life, I am reminded to enjoy the ride. Not to be cliche, but it really is all about the journey. The grey negative inbetween might end up being the point in the end, so why not let go of some perceived goal, success, point in the future, just enjoy, and see where it leads?

It must just be one of those nights where the world is seeming especially bizarre. Not in a bad way, just in a “what on earth are we all doing on the small round sphere, spinning through space, being happy, feeling sad, getting old, making movies, fleeing war, dying from Ebola, falling in love, building houses, meeting friends for tea, becoming obsessed with TV shows on Netflix, carving pumpkins, dressing up, electing officials, winning baseball games, listening to music, writing stories, escaping volcanoes” kind of way.

Tonight as I watched the news, there were stories about Hawaiian volcanoes, solar flares disrupting Earth’s technological infrastructure, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the upcoming elections, and ongoing tensions between Christians, Jews, and Muslims in Jerusalem. The newscaster felt it necessary to remind his audience that certain things, like solar flares and lava, can not be controlled. I laughed. What can be? I couldn’t help but feel that it all seemed a bit unreal and I watched as if in a dream, thinking periodically, “wow, this is life.”

Outside it was an absolutely gorgeous fall day, brisk turning to warm and back to brisk. As I contemplated upcoming work projects, story ideas, whether or not my plants need food, and what to make for dinner, others did the same. Watching the last episode of what surprisingly became my all time favorite TV show, (I thought I was too cool for teenagers, football, and Texas until “Friday Night Lights”), I cried and then simultaneously laughed at myself for crying. As I carved a pumpkin to match an emoticon, 😍, neighbors decorated their houses with cobwebs and skeletons.

And all I could think was, here we all are. What can be controlled? Our actions. Our thoughts (with practice). That’s about it. We do what we can, try to be happy, and let go of the rest. And periodically we come across places or projects or people that touch us in some way and help us make sense of the apparent random chaos. As I thought about it all, I kept coming back to the idea that it is, and we are, all simpler than we like to believe. Kindness, health, love, beauty, connection, food….

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Dear Amsterdam,
I know we haven’t known each other long, but I love you. No, don’t laugh. Don’t say it’s just infatuation or lust. I really love you. I love your bikes, your houseboats, your bookstores, your artists (past and present), your shutters, your canals, the way you mix history with the present, not feeling stagnant or precious. I love your bakeries, houses, beer, museums, trams, shops, and that if someone wants to get high or paid for sex, they can. I love watching older, conservative, American couples navigate your Red Light District and that I was able to figure out the tram system with only a little kindness of strangers. I love that your residents are actually still kind, considering the number of bumbling tourists, myself included. I love watching a mother ride her bike with three children in tow, holding an umbrella. I love your entire aesthetic. I know you think it’s a passing thing, that I say the same to Florence, Paris, and Rome, but, really, no, I don’t. There have been a couple in the past, cities that grabbed my heart and made me want to look at the real estate section instead of tourist attractions, but they were long ago and nothing for you to worry about. La Condesa in Mexico City and Austin while working on “True Grit,” but now I see even those were nothing, compared to you. I know you don’t believe me, but I’ll prove you wrong. Just wait. I’ll be back and I’ll prove that you’re the only one.
Love, me
Xo

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Yesterday was a funny day. My hobbies, the things I do for fun, to keep my brain and creativity working and flowing, came home to roost.

Last year I took almost six months off from my job as a costumer. During that time I took several creative writing classes and began submitting work to various journals and publications. Yesterday I received a copy of the 2014 Santa Fe Literary Review and I am proud to have a story among the pages.

As I was flipping through the book, my phone buzzed to tell me that I had sold an apron on my Etsy site, fresastudio.etsy.com. I started this site years ago, as a way to justify my love of fabric and vintage table linens, but it has been sorely neglected for the past couple of years. It always shocks me when I sell something.

Sitting near me was an Italian dictionary and my guidebook to Amsterdam. Travel and the study of languages were favorite hobbies until, at some point in the past decade, I allowed them to take a backseat. In October I will be able to use both books when I cross the pond for the first time in four years.

It occurred to me that, for almost a decade, I allowed my film career to eclipse any unrelated interests as my life became a cycle of jobs and recovery. Upon realizing this last year, I counterbalanced by taking too many months off; too much time with too little structure. This year has been more balanced, with consistent, but short, jobs, most in town rather than on the road, and some free time to continue writing, making, exploring, and learning.

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I think I’m reverting to my roots. Born a couple of years after my parents moved out of the communal house they were sharing with a few dozen other people, I entered the world just as Carter’s solar panels were about to give way to Reaganomics. There are multiple photos of me playing naked in our back yard garden. When my more conventional grandmother joined me in the sandbox for a tea party, I offered things like bancha tea, mochi, and nori rolls; she didn’t know what I was talking about. I carried my lunch to school in a basket, until I was nine.

Growing up on tofu, brown rice, and kale (way before kale was cool), my sister and I pretended carob was chocolate and went a bit crazy when we got our hands on the real thing. We played with hand made toys, didn’t watch TV until we were almost teenagers, and to this day are pop culturally illiterate when it comes to the entire decade of the 1980’s. Luckily for us, our school supported such weirdness and it was only upon graduating into the larger world that I realized it had been a unique upbringing.

When I moved out and started to create a life of my own, I realized how much extra work my parents’ choices created and I frequently took the easy way instead. I bought prepared food, never baked my own bread, didn’t have a garden, and slowly forgot about all of it. Or, I figured it would magically happen somewhere down the line.

I began working in the film industry shortly after graduating from college and quickly traded all of my free time for the craziness that comes with the industry. Keeping plants alive, not to mention a garden, when working 80 hours a week, was difficult to say the least. I ate three meals a day from the caterers or craft service and, though not wanting to complain about being served what for many is a feast, every single day, it was heavy comfort food, designed to keep the crew’s moral up, not to be healthy. There were days I’d give anything for brown rice, tofu, and kale.

Over the past year, several of my friends and family members have had babies and several others have been diagnosed with cancer. These are only connected in that they both made me stop and think about how I’m living my life and what my priorities are. I realized that the garden and bread baking weren’t going to just happen and that my own health was beginning to suffer from lack of sleep, stress, and poor diet. And, so, over the past year, I have taken a whole bunch of time off to begin to remember how I used to live.

In one of my recent spring cleaning blitzes, I took all of the household cleaners, that had ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, to the household chemical recycling facility. I was left with vinegar, baking soda, Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap, and a multi purpose cleaner from Seventh Generation that seemed a waste to get rid of, though I’m sure vinegar and baking soda would do the trick.

I planted my 8’x2′ raised bed garden with kale, lettuce, carrots, and beets and am waiting until it’s a little warmer to add the tomatoes and herbs.

By working only part time (still 40 hours a week!) on a few TV shows, rather than on long movies, I’ve had time to read, work in the yard, and try to get my health back to where it should be. Because I’m not completely sleep deprived and stressed out for months on end, my cravings for sugar and caffeine have gone way down. To build my adrenals back up, I drink water with lemon throughout the day and put apple cider vinegar on my veggies to aid in digestion.

I laugh to think that I’m reverting to my hippy past, but really all I’m doing is following knowledge that was common sense until only very recently. My grandparents would never have thought of themselves as hippies, yet they understood how to make things from scratch, grow food in the ground, fix things that broke, and to make do with a fraction of what is now considered normal. And I see the contentment that comes from being capable and in touch with ones environment, rather than dependent on corporate ideas of what you need or should want.

As I think about our environment, read news about the increasingly imbalanced climate, hear about the industrial food machine, and think about all of the babies I know who have just been or are about to be born, I want to revert to my hippy roots. I want to do anything I can to make the world, and myself, healthier and happier.

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