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.
It’s not an ocean but a sea, the Greeks keep correcting me. Why do you call it an ocean, they ask? I’m used to oceans, I say, it’s been years since I’ve floated on my back in a sea. The Adriatic is a sea.
The water tastes extra salty as I float on my back, no swimming required. I could do this for hours and just might.
Where am I and how did I get here? One year ago it would have been unimaginable. Planes. Passports. Film sets. Adventure. I can’t kick the feeling that I am in a parallel universe, living two lives, one here and one there. I can’t explain.
After a year of interiors, back yards, isolation, and familiarity, (once the constraints of a pandemic became normal) the exact opposite presents itself out of the blue. A job in Greece and Serbia? After a year of fearing I would never go anywhere ever again? This is a shocking possibility.
It is hot. The sea is blue and the farther out you go, the cooler it gets. I will likely only swim on weekends. During the week my days are filled with all the basics of being a costumer; laundry, strange schedules, working in the heat, personalities. But, on the weekends, I can be in Greece. For now.
Presence and flexibility, my new mantras. The costume department alone has people from four countries, working under four different contracts, in it. I tape a phonetic cheat sheet into my notebook. Efcharistò. Thank you. Little things I didn’t realize weren’t universal are quickly shown not to be. A three hole punch and binder? Nope. They have two here. I have yet to decipher a single symbol on the washing machine, still in search of the quickest cycle. It’s humid and clothes take forever to dry, unlike the desert.
An adventure I didn’t see coming until it was upon me. I take none of it for granted and try to appreciate every small, weird, sometimes inconvenient part, grateful for it and also for my life back home to which I will return before too long.
Anther spin around the sun and this one feels really different. 42. I keep forgetting the number and have to to do the math. 1979. Yup, 42. Last year was all quarantine and zoom and lockdown and 2020 and this one feels anything but. It feels hopeful! Trees in bloom, vaccinations are actually happening, schools are set to re-open next week for the first time in a year, and it suddenly feels like it’s all going to be ok. I kept telling myself it would be, but it like really might be ok! It might actually be great.
The shock of 2020 and all that it held is slowly wearing off. So many lessons. I’ve pulled back from the news and social media and really haven’t missed either very much. I assume they will reappear here and there, but, we’ll see. After a year that seemed to pride itself on keeping me/us on my/our toes and bringing every problem, imbalance, and injustice we’d ever buried or ignored to the surface, the last couple of months have felt strangely calm, balanced, and mundane, in the best of ways. Time to actually process and deal with everything that came up, rather than continuously being hit over the head with something new.
What I did not anticipate was that as the whole world was faced with one epic problem after another, my personal anxiety actually dissipated. Suddenly it became clear that no one knew what was going on and I stopped trying to be the one to figure it all out. My life became more present and I stopped living in my head as much. Hence, I think, less frequent blog posts too. Not that I don’t want to write, I just haven’t had as much swirling around that needs to get out!
And, when I might otherwise be writing, I now find myself in thrift stores, scavenging for the next amazing item to list on my vintage clothing site (http://knockaboutvintage.etsy.com). As a child, I’d spend hours sitting at the table , drawing “fashion books”. I’d make my friends draw them too when they came over to play. For hours and hours. Do what you love, people told me, the rest will follow. They were right! People love and buy the stuff I sell! I have no one to answer to and only need trust my eye. Instead of drawing fashion books, I now spend my time photographing, styling, and listing clothes and it’s fun! Though it started in 2019, quarantine and lockdown gave me the time to get and keep my shop going and now, with each month, I become a little clearer on my vision and where I see it all going… Stay tuned!
Along with this renewed drive and creativity, 2020 left me with gratitude for the mundane. I worked on a TV show last month for the first time in a year and was grateful for a job I once took for granted and complained about. I spent today digging in the dirt, planting plants I was given in response to “what do you want for your birthday?” It’s sunny and beautiful out and once again warm enough to eat outdoors. The birds are fighting over seed in my bird feeder.
And two nights ago I stumbled upon the new HBO documentary Tina about Tina Turner. Wowza!!! I’ve always liked her music but I really didn’t get how fierce, gorgeous, and iconic she was until I saw this movie. Just the role model I need for the last 55-60% of my life. Courage personified.
In the end, I emerged from 2020, and I enter 42, less afraid. Of everything. The world is total chaos. People are nuts, but mostly good. The planet will flick us off like a mosquito whenever it chooses. Nothing is certain. The ability to pivot might save you. Flexibility. Creativity. Generosity. I can’t wait to go dancing, travel, and go to a concert. Never again will I take a hug for granted. And my mantra moving forward?
Easter will forever remind me of my Gramma Clarke. Holy Thursday dinner in her Church basement. Hot cross buns on Good Friday. Church on Easter and the smell of incense and lilies. Dyeing and hunting eggs. Brunch after Church, all packed into her small art studio turned dining room or outside, if it happened to be warm that year in Denver. Cousins.
My grandmother passed away on April 5th, 2005, and her absence still makes my heart hurt. Every once in a while I dream of her house and don’t want to wake up. I bought my house three months later and now my lilac blooms every year right around April 5th.
Three years ago when I was working on Big Little Lies in Monterrey, CA, I walked into one of the beach condos we were using as a changing area for the actors and stopped on my tracks. It smelled just like Gramma’s basement. Visceral memories washed over me with that smell. Musky mildew, but in the best way. I stood in that condo for as long as I could, soaking it in.
I always loved drawing in her studio. Trained as an illustrator at Parsons School of Design in the early 1950’s, my gramma was a truly great artist; sketcher, watercolorist, muralist, and draftswoman. I would usually just doodle or maybe draw my fashion books. Or, I’d sit on her spinning stool and look at all of the family photos hanging on the wall. I now have the bookcases from that studio in my studio.
Yesterday I poured small packets of dye into containers of boiling water and added a little vinegar. I got out my Ukrainian wax tools and beeswax and began to decorate eggs. This tradition began after my gramma had passed, sometime in my 20’s, with my mom and sister. Until yesterday, I hadn’t done it in years. But, anytime I find myself drawing, making, or creating, I think of Gramma Clarke and always will.
I was in Vegas one year and one week ago to the day and I’m back. Only one year?!
Back then the world didn’t yet know what was hurtling its way. Some did, but most of us ignored the anxious warnings of doctors and public health officials, preferring to believe that something happening over there wouldn’t affect us over here. We now know COVID 19 was everywhere by then. And so was I.
I am in a hotel room writing this and through my window there’s a closed pool and a sad, only somewhat open Las Vegas strip in the distance. Our film crew is the only guest staying in this otherwise closed hotel and as you walk through the ground floor casino to get to the elevator, there is a strange quiet. No clanging and ringing of slot machines or chatter of guests.
Two days ago, I pulled my dusty suitcase from the top shelf in my closet and ripped off the old airline tags. JFK> ABQ March 12, 2020. We laugh about it now but in a kind of astonished way. We were in the air, flying back from Johannesburg through JFK to Albuquerque on the day the world began shutting down. I haven’t been anywhere since, until now.
I spent years complaining about and taking my film career for granted and now feel nothing but immense gratitude for it. I’ve been able to keep my Union health insurance throughout this year when so many others lost theirs. I get tested 3 times a week while working. I have as much PPE as anyone could ever need. And, though all of the travel used to drive me crazy, I love that it is bringing me back into the world as we speak.
Yesterday I walked and walked. It’s all I do when here. Kind of like NY. Walk, watch people, walk more.
Covid has wreaked havoc on this city. The top layer is open, just enough to stay afloat, but everything else is closed. I don’t know how it keeps going with so few visitors.
But, Vegas will survive. Maybe more than any other city, people want to escape and that is what this city is. One big, dark, weird escape. And personally, I’m grateful for my own little work escape it’s given me right now.