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
I’m sitting in Louis Armstrong International Airport waiting for my flight home after a quick two week job in New Orleans. It’s foggy and damp out, warm and sticky for the beginning of February.
The last time I was here was in 2004, before Katrina, Ida, smart phones, social media, before so much; when I was a little baby costumer working on one of my first films. A deer caught in headlights comes to mind. Only now, with hindsight, do I realize how dazed and confused I was back then, unsure of how the whole on location in the film industry thing worked. In the eighteen years since, the strangeness of living in hotel rooms for months on end and becoming part of a temporary film family has become quite normal.
Back then I had no idea how that film family would impact my life. Last night I sat in Bar Marilu with friends I’ve known for years and laughed for hours about all of the absurd situations we’ve been in together. Eighteen years is a long time! So many film sets, crazy costume designers, racks of clothes being wheeled through arroyos, accidents, fun nights out, insane actors, cities, and adventures.
My recent job turned out to be old home week and I feel immense gratitude for the friendships I get to pop in and out of and for this job I’ve had a love/hate relationship with for almost two decades.
Friends, it’s been a while!! WordPress didn’t recognize me just now when I tried to sign in, but, here I am!
How was your 2021?! Where to begin…?
One year ago feels like a million years ago. Pre vaccine, pre Biden, pre schools re-opening, pre end of tunnel light anywhere to be seen, pre January 6th, pre California spring break road trip, pre unexpected job in Europe, pre Delta/Omicron, pre film industry turmoil, pre realization that we were well into a new normal from which there would be no escape. My expectations for 2021 were low. Travel wasn’t on my radar, work barely was, just getting though seemed like a good goal. And then, on New Years Day, we took our dog for walk and I found a $1 bill on the ground. This changes everything, I thought. 2021 is gonna rock.
And it mostly did. It was a hard year in ways I didn’t expect and a fun year in so many other ways I never saw coming. Bold was the word I wrote down and, though I didn’t remember that until recently, it was a year of saying yes, going for the adventure, and deciding that it was more fun to get on the ride than to sit, watch, and worry.
I’ve spent the past week mulling words over in my mind. What do I want in 2022? I knew the vibe but couldn’t think of the word that would bring it all together- kindness, optimism, adventure, presence, faith, simplicity, trust, grace. I want to see the beauty in the chaos that I am pretty sure is here to stay. I want to answer the question “What if?” with what if it’s way better than I can imagine? I want to lean into the adventure and the butterflies in my stomach with excitement rather than anxiety; two sides of the same coin. I want to give the person having a meltdown in front of me in the checkout line the benefit of a doubt and react with kindness and compassion, or at least not disdain. I want to tune out of the news and take the media with a gigantic grain of salt, realizing it is their job to create anxiety and that it is my job to turn them off. I want to ask for guidance from above and be brave enough to follow it, even when I have no idea where it’s leading. I want to be content with all that I have and to be joyful.
That’s my word for 2022.
Wishing you and yours a very happy and healthy New Year!!!!
It’s too warm for December 1st, but also gorgeous out. 65 degrees every darn day. Hard to complain and yet I do.
The cranes flew so closely over our heads, I could see their under feathers illuminated by the setting sun. I wore just a sweater, no need for coats this year; good for working outdoors, Covid patio dining, and sunset walks.
My dad has binoculars stowed under the pallet we use as a seat on the river’s edge. We watch ducks swim by, unaware of us until, in a frenzy, they are. No elk or beaver tonight. But so many cranes.
That Belgrade hotel room feels like a long time ago. One month home. I made it back in time to smell roasting green chile waft from grocery store parking lots, to see hot air balloons fly en masse over my city, and to watch post season baseball; and without contracting covid, losing my bags or mind, and just before a likely nationwide strike affects the entire film industry. Sigh of relief.
I was unable to relax for my first two weeks home and tore apart my house, closet, and studio in a frenzied desire to get rid of any and all clutter. It felt like I had suddenly woken up from a 15 month Covid induced nap; 10 pounds heavier, with a dusty and cluttered house. Something about getting out into the world had shaken me up and I brought that adrenaline fueled energy home with me.
Two weeks in, I collapsed on the couch in my clean house and finally slept.
There is a simplicity in Europe that I hope to retain from here. Appreciation for small things, meals, and spaces. Trips to the nearby sea and a really good loaf of bread. Since arriving home, the negotiations between my film Union and that of the Producers have not been going well and I think about the quality of life issues involved. My European co-workers were appalled at the hours that we, the Americans, took as normal and expected. They couldn’t believe that those hours were actually desired in order to bank and keep health insurance and pensions and that so many were ok with giving up time with family and friends in exchange for things they deemed basic rights. It also appeared that they were content with smaller cars, apartments, bank accounts, and vacations than those we deem desirable.
Being away made me realize just how American I am. As my first few weeks home showed me, I am not good at relaxing. I strive and scheme and worry about the future, feeling a desire and need to make it and to keep growing. I think as an individual more than a part. I have managed to slow down recently. The adrenaline has worn off and the to do list has shrunk. It is beautiful here. October in New Mexico, crisp and golden and vast. As an impending industry strike looms, I try to pay attention to the collective. How can I assist? How can I live simply for the time being until we know what will happen? How can I make decisions that move in the direction of quality of life rather than striving for bigger and more? These are the questions I brought home from abroad.
I wish I’d brought a swiffer sweeper pad for my floor I think while lying on my hotel room floor stretching my back. Small dust bunnies peer from under the bed, ready to hop out at any moment.
Morning 2 of a 5 day quarantine and I am not sure what to do with myself. I don’t actually have Covid but my coworker tested positive and because I’m considered a close contact, here I am. Being forced to stay in my hotel room for five days actually coincided nicely with a stomach bug I caught two days ago and a swollen knee that’s gone ignored for weeks. Basically, my body is over it and as I should know by now, the body will have its way.
I miss home. Three months away, almost. With three weeks to go. I knew this stretch would be the longest and hardest and I was right. The adventure continues but the novelty has worn off.
I lie on the floor with my legs up the wall and stare out the window at an upside down world. It looks nice outside today. Sunny, late summer, early fall.
I try to think of things to do but come up blank. Two books to read. Netflix. Yoga. Playlists. Blogposts.
I take a bite of toast but my stomach still doesn’t want food. Kefir and mint tea seem ok. My knee is stoked. It’s wanted nothing but to left alone for weeks. “Woo hoo” it says as we lie on the floor.
Four hours later-
In addition to a Swiffer sweeper, I should have brought sweatpants. Who doesn’t bring sweatpants on a trip? I imagined I’d be hot the whole trip and wouldn’t need any kind of pant and through August that proved true. But, suddenly it’s fall and I’m stuck in a hotel room and I really just want some sweatpants, among other things. Sigh.
Mildenhall by The Shins. Great song.
Two hours later-
My glue stick is still sticky. I pull out the Serbian magazines I bought at the airport over a month ago and begin to cut them up.
I cut and paste until the stick runs out. Collage has saved me more than once.
Next morning- Day 3
I wake up, open the curtains, drink a cup of tea, get dressed for the first time and sit down. Well, here I am.
The Taliban is about to reach Kabul. Haiti has just been shaken by another major earthquake. And the Delta variant is ripping across the world, including much of the US.
I wake to these headlines in my hotel room in Belgrade, Serbia, along with news that folk singer Nanci Griffith passed away yesterday at the age of 68.
We left Greece two weeks ago and in just that time wildfires have ripped across Greece and Turkey while Italy recorded a record temperature of 48c. The six weeks we spent there were searingly hot, though I didn’t realize that was as abnormal as it was. An Instagram ad pops up in my feed, selling what looks like an astronaut helmet/mask, said to combat bad, smoky air, or “our new normal”. Outside it is hot in Belgrade today and a nearby trash dump is on fire so an acrid smell wafts through the city. I stay inside, except to go buy toothpaste.
I am ready to go home but still have over a month to go.
I concentrate on my meditations, both to combat homesickness and a sense of helplessness at the state of the world. I don’t know what else to do, nor, it seems, does anyone.
The disconnect of working on a movie in a country with a low COVID case count and the headlines I read daily is disconcerting. I think about one year ago and how unbelievable my current life would have seemed. And then I wonder, what has really changed? Anything? And then I decide to just stop thinking about it.
I look at the beautiful flowers in my room, over one week old and still going strong. I listen to a Nanci Griffith playlist and think about the cross country road trip I took with my family when I was twelve during which we listened to her for much of the way. I bury my head in a book and decide to stop checking the headlines. Maybe there is something to burying your head in the sand. Or just retreating into beauty. It’s still there.
I can’t shake the idea that I’ve dropped into a parallel universe. Last night I sat in a water taxi as the waning moon peeked through the curtains of the taxi’s window, illuminating the water outside. So very Wes Anderson. Ten minutes later I was back from Spetsis, the island I’d returned to for the afternoon, back on the mainland and driving my little stick shift rental car through the Greek night. Our last weekend in Greece, though really hard to call it a weekend as it was one Sunday night sandwiched between Saturday and Monday night night shoots.
Back home, school will begin in just a couple of weeks. The air will begin to smell like green chile and there may be need for the occasional sweater.
Here it is still blazing hot. It is necessary to get into the sea, not just fun. The only way to cool your core.
Last night I watched the sun set over the Spetsis harbor and thought, here I am now. This is happening. It’s so beautiful. And soon it will all be different, again.
I don’t know how I got here. I mean, I do. But, I don’t. Feels like a dream.
I’ve never been somewhere that I’ve know so deeply I would return to. I haven’t seen any of the ancient ruins I wanted to, no time, nor Athens, nor any of the rest of the country. But the little sliver I’ve had was enough. Already looking forward to more.
Boats, islands, unrelenting heat, clear blue water, fresh fish, pre dawn alarm clocks, Aperol spritz, communal dinners, face masks, water taxis, temperature checks, international costume departments… how quickly we adapt.
I can’t help but think how totally unbelievable my current reality would have seemed just one year ago. It still does.
I’m hiding from the heat. It’s 6:30 pm and, after a failed attempt to take a ferry to Hydra for the day (we got lost), I am in my room with a glue stick, post cards, and a Greek Elle magazine. Three of my favorite things. Siesta is just ending. The world shuts down from 2-5, sometimes 2-6, but as the sun dips, people slowly emerge to continue their shopping and errands at stores that stay open well into the night. Dinner gets going around 9 or 10, not conducive to alarm clocks set for 1:30 am.
Masks on the arm or around the chin are the new normal, still always worn indoors. The delta variant reminds us of the strange times in which we are working, traveling, and living. I remember thinking COVID would make me braver and I believe it did. More willing to take risks and to commit, because you just never know.
I flip through my journal and begin gluing images from Greek Elle. The New Moon in Aries on April 11th, 2021; I wrote a list of desires that night. Less than three months later most have come true. Wowza. The power of intention.
I write some post cards, always in awe that mail placed in a small metal box on one side of the world makes it to the other.