Archives for category: Writing

One of mine from a few years ago, found while dusting the bookshelves and baking pumpkin brownies.

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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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One week into my new year here on earth and I’ve honestly been too busy to think about much, other than my sore feet. But, as my recent jobs, working on shows that take place in both Ancient Egypt and the 1940’s, come to a close, I have some time to reflect.

I’ve always liked where my birthday falls within the year. With three months between it and New Years, I am usually a bit clearer about my wishes, hopes, and a word for the year. Three months ago, I chose “happiness” as my word for 2014, in an attempt to keep things simple.

Now, for age 35, I’m adding the word “congruence.” Hoping to stay on track with happiness, I am attempting to make sure my choices and decisions are in line with that desire. It’s taken years to finally figure out that I truly am the engineer, manifester, designer, or whatever you want to call it, of my life. Happiness is a choice and one that I want to make daily.

I’ve spent much of the past year really paying attention to the small things that repeatedly bring me joy and those that don’t. I’ve allowed things to change and evolve and accepted that things which used to do the trick, might not anymore. And I’ve had to realize that my life might end up looking very different than I once thought it would, but that if I’m staying on track with being happy, then it doesn’t matter and it’s all good.

Eight weeks ago, I signed up for an improv class on a whim. It was something I hadn’t done since college and that I hoped would go well with my creative writing classes; getting me out of my head, keeping me present, helping me to have fun and take myself less seriously. It achieved all of those and yesterday, after the last class, we were all given “World’s Best Improvisor” awards.

I had to laugh at how perfectly this fit into my life. I feel like the universe keeps asking me to replace outdated plans and agendas with improvisation and trust. By staying present, paying attention to what makes me happy, letting go of what doesn’t, and keeping my decisions in line with that happiness, I have more of it in my life every day.

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Lately, I can’t stop thinking about getting lost. Old fashioned lost, like the kind that was possible until ten years ago, when blinking blue dots took over our sense of direction. The kind of lost that social networking, cell phones, and credit cards don’t allow. The kind of lost where you have to rely on remembered landmarks, an internal compass, strangers, or the old paper map found in the glove box.

Listening to NPR this morning, there were two stories about being lost. The first was about an airplane carrying 239 souls that has simply vanished. As numerous countries join together to try to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, it seems a common sentiment is one of disbelief that, in this day and age, anything, much less an airplane, can just disappear. As I look at maps of the area being searched, next to the size of the plane, the scope and scale is mind blowing. Whoever was behind losing this airplane seems to have succeeded.

The second story was about apps that can be downloaded while traveling, to avoid getting lost; Rome2Rio and maplet. I was reminded of the time I arrived late at night in the jungle near Palenque, Mexico, and ended up finding a hammock to rent and the time I walked alone from the train station in Rome, hoping to find any hotel with a vacancy. I did.

When traveling, I find that the most important app or map is trust. There is only so much reassurance that the blinking blue dot on my iPhone can provide, when I am out of my element, away from all that is familiar, and vulnerable, as all those who travel are. I make sure to deposit coins in the shrines found in most Mexican bus stations, hoping the Virgin will help protect my journey.

Over the past few weeks, as I thought about getting lost, it was that idea of trust and vulnerability that kept reappearing. Perhaps it was because I felt internally unsure where my path was leading, but getting lost externally and having to give up any perceived control, keeping it about the journey rather than the destination, seemed more and more appealing. But, as I watch news reports about the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, I realize that the desire to let go of the map or GPS was partly because I didn’t believe that getting really, truly, completely lost was possible. It is frightening that it is. As the world searches for this plane, I, and all fellow travelers, will just have to trust that being slightly lost, vulnerable, and taking the scenic route is all part of the journey and that at any moment the course could veer in a direction we never could have planned.

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I’m a bit late to the party but, as of this morning, I tweet. As in #followsmagikc #notsurehowthisworks #whatsupwithhashtags. For the past year it seems that hashtags have become unavoidable, though I’d been doing my best.

But, when a friend sent me a link to something called #AmtrakResidency and it required a twitter account, a name beginning with @, I decided to become @SmagikC and see what happened.

Looking at my keyboard, I am reminded of how recently the @ or # were only rarely used and that a name ending in .com was unheard of until after I graduated from college. Microfiche, the Dewey Decimal System, and the Post Office were our relied upon systems for information. I wonder which symbols on that keyboard are next up for something no one has imagined yet and how that invention will impact our world.

In the meantime, I plan to #findthebeauty in the everyday, in any way possible.