Unwinding and Exploring

January 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Things have finally started to settle down here in my little corner of the universe. The holidays were a bit hectic this year for a number of reasons, but the new year brings much needed time to think and recover.

Since the first of the year there haven’t been nearly as many hours to go around at my work so I find myself with lots of time off. While I miss the good paychecks I have been enjoying the freedom. Bill is on break from CSU San Marcos right now, too, so he’s been able to enjoy a lot of that freedom with me.

For the most part, we’ve been using the extra time to explore San Diego and convince it to feel more like home. We’ve been away from Berkeley long enough to begin to miss certain places very much. After you’re lived in a city for a while you start to build up a collection of places that nourish you. In Berkeley we ended up with quite a list. We had our favorite grocery store where you could get every vegetable and spice imaginable. We had our favorite gelato shop and our favorite book stores. We spent hours wandering around Urban Ore (the most amazing junk store ever!) All of these places began to define Berkeley as a place in our minds and then began to define us as well.

Then we moved here and suddenly we didn’t have that list of places, that definition of place to ground us. This is true despite the fact that San Diego isn’t completely new to us. So we’ve been rambling around trying to find the places that will mean San Diego to us eventually. The process of exploring is exciting, challenging, invigorating, and sometimes disappointing. Turns out the new places you find can never really replace the old ones you left behind, but as they grow on you, and as you open yourself to them they can change and inspire you in new ways.

Over the past few weeks we’ve wandered the halls of the Hotel Del, watched a sunset with good friends at Windansea Beach, tried out an organic and completely vegetarian market in Pacific Beach, wandered musty shelves filled with rows of deliciously old books at D.G. Wills bookstore in La Jolla, and walked with purpose through Balboa Park looking for nooks that we may have missed before.

I have to say that one of my favorite places is the bookstore that I just mentioned. D.G. Wills is the kind of place that seems like it’s been there forever. It’s nestled deep in downtown La Jolla and the owner spends more time out on the sidewalk drinking red wine with his friends than he does actually in the store (at least when I was there). Nevertheless when you go to buy your book (and you may have to go find him at the coffee shop next door to do so) you get the impression that you’re talking to someone singular. He either wants to talk about obscure philosophers or about football. Your choice. I loved it!

The inside of the bookstore is small with shelves all the way up to the ceiling. In some places the isles are a mere three feet wide. The shelves and floor are made from dark aged looking wood and there are pulleys and compasses hanging from the ceiling. On the rare occasion that a piece of wall isn’t covered by a bookshelf there are posted discolored pictures of various famous writers, editors, and scientists that had come to speak there over the years.

The best part about the shop, though, is the used book section. The used books are hidden behind a secret bookcase door in the back and include books of poetry from the 1800’s and children’s readers over a hundred years old among other things. There are books with titles like, “The Education of the Soul” with musty covers and mysterious little notes handwritten on the inside covers. I could have spent hours!

I’m hoping that the little book shop in La Jolla will become a part of my definition of this city. I think that it very possibly might. In the meantime I will continue my search for places with meaning until I build a collection brilliant enough to be called home.

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A Creative Month

December 8, 2011 § 3 Comments

November was a special month for me this year! Much to my own surprise I was able to finish the National Novel Writing Month challenge which, for those of you that haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, is to write the first 50,000 words of a novel during the course of one month (no it’s not done yet.. but maybe soon).

It was a strange experience sitting down to write 1,667 words every day. Sometimes it was easy. I’d invent a new character, the words would come piling and tumbling out in mad dashes. I’d write a thousand words in an hour. Other times it was really hard. At the end when there were no new character’s to meet, and bad things were happening to the ones I’d already invented, and I felt like trashing the whole thing. There were days when I would rather have maimed myself than write another word. There were a couple days there where the only reasons I got anything done at all were this site and this amazing drink.

The experience as a whole was wonderful, though. Aside from learning about writing novels and forming characters and tricking myself into writing when I was tired or stressed out, the experience reminded me of some very important points about creativity in general. I think a lot of people think that being creative feels like taking a deep breath and then exhaling. There’s this notion that being creative is therapeutic, that it is relaxing, that it is simply a matter of getting in touch with yourself. I’m not saying that creating things is never like that, but I would argue that it isn’t like that very often.

I think in the past I’ve doubted myself and my place as a creative person because the creative act for me has never been as spontaneous and free as society seems to think it should be. Often, for me, getting that perfect color or crafting that perfect sentence feels more like solving a math problem than anything else. For me, creating is often a very logical, left-brained sort of activity. Maybe I should have been a business major? A mathematician?

NaNoWriMo reminded me that no matter how logical or technical the act of creation seems or feels, however, the beauty still manages to creep in around the edges. It sneaks in. It’s dancing around in the background while you worry about all that nitty gritty stuff like plot and sentence structure in the foreground. Beauty is something that only happens while you aren’t looking. At least that’s my experience.

When I read back over what I wrote during November I am surprised to find scenes full of emotion and some imaginative moments. Strange, I think to myself when I read one of those scenes, wasn’t that the night when I felt like writing the least and was worried about using too many adverbs? What I wrote is rough and need lots of work, and it may never see the light of day, but it doesn’t read like a technical manual either.

NaNoWriMo also reminded me that, despite what I may think, I do have time to be creative. I didn’t get much sleep in November, worked some pretty hectic weeks at work, spent several hours in various emergency rooms throughout the county with family members, went to two interviews and applied for a dozen jobs, but I still sat down and wrote those words every day. So right now I don’t have the time excuse. This has been a valuable lesson for a girl who consistently tells herself that she doesn’t have time to create. I’m lucky. I do have time. No more excuses!

Well this has been a pretty self indulgent post. I don’t usually like to post about my own accomplishments, but I this one makes me excited and hopeful. And we all need hope. So bear with me.

Here’s a gift for you… for being wonderful people, and for all the encouragement, and for being inspiring to me. It’s a sad song, but beautiful:

Nanowrimo and a Very Good Book

November 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

I don’t think I’ve read this much since I was a kid. It started because I’ve been writing quite a bit and because I realized I miss the days when I read book after book late into the night. I also, by a crazy coincidence, had a drink with a literary agent a couple of months ago who said that if I ever wanted to get into publishing I should read more and try to figure out what genres I am most drawn to.

So I thought, well, why not? Maybe publishing could be the path I’m looking for.  So I ordered up a bunch of books from the library and got started. I also decided that it might be fun to blog about some of the books that I’m reading. If, by some twist of fate, I do end up as a literary agent or something like that, writing about books on here might be good practice.

Also, as a side note, I’ve decided, very informally, to try Nanowrimo this month. I figure it might help me understand the writer’s perspective if I do go into publishing someday and also… I just like to write for fun. Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Basically a bunch of people (and really I mean thousands of people all over the world) get together with the common goal of writing 50,000 words each in a month. I found out about it the day before it started. And I’m insane. So I thought well I have a fun idea for a steampunk story and I started. I will say I didn’t expect to last longer than a couple days but, somehow, as of today I’m actually ahead of my goal. 12,039 words so far! Now they may not be good words, but it’s still a lot of words.

In other news, you should all read The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Like a lot of the books that I find myself really getting into these days it’s an urban fantasy and it is seriously one of the most brilliant books I’ve ever read. What I love the most about it is you can read it like an adventure story and find yourself endlessly amused by all the magic and imaginative places. Or you can read it as a comment on the slightly-jaded state that many people in their early twenties find themselves in these days.

The story follows a teenage boy named Quentin Coldwater. The book starts off at the end of his senior year of high school when, through an interesting series of accidents and coincidences, Quentin finds himself magically transported to a magic college and taking an entrance exam to get in. That’s right a college for learning magic! This is when all you Harry Potter fans jump up and down in sheer joy. After passing the entrance exam where diagrams move around the paper and math problems turn into bunnies when you solve them Quentin begins a new life at the school. Soon, however, just as he did before he found his way to the magic college, he finds himself wanting more. He longs for freedom from the confines of the school grounds. He dreams about all the things he will do with his new skills once he joins “the real world” once again. He’s sure that in the real world things will “mean more.”

Even the real world isn’t enough for Quentin, though. Again he grows bored and embarks on one final adventure. I won’t tell you where he goes or what happens there but I will say that it involves buttons that transport you to magical places, racy parties, ancient gods, and a lot of lost innocence. Eventually Quentin follows his search for purpose and meaning to a fantastical extreme and the book circles around on itself in a way that is so brilliant and beautiful that I am still in awe despite the fact that I finished it two months ago.

If you’ve ever been young and disillusioned with life, or if you love books that are rich in metaphor, or if you’ve simply always wished someone would write something like Harry Potter but with adult themes… you might just love this book as much as I did.

I’ll post about some more books soon (and more about YA books as well since I’m in to those lately). In the meantime happy November everyone! Isn’t Fall lovely?

500 Words

September 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’ve been writing a lot. 500 words a day for the past four weeks now to be exact.

The inspiration to try writing 5oo words a day came from a few different sources. The most important of these was probably my little sister. When she was here last on tour I had just gotten my two rejection letters from grad school a few weeks earlier. Emotionally exhausted, I ended up talking with Eireann about her and her music and my own demons for the first time in years. Would I ever be half the creative, beautiful woman she’s become? Would I find a voice someday? Would I make beautiful things too?

And that was when I discovered that my sister is one of my best friends. She told me a lot of things that morning. She told me that the world needs artists, and the world needs people who create  and help create honest things, she told me those people are few and far between and the world needed me in particular because I was one of them, she told me that I couldn’t give up, and she also told me to write. And so, through the pain, and the moving, the changing scenes, and the seemingly endless hellos and goodbyes, I have been.

I don’t know if my 500 words are any good and the stories they sketch are still hazy, but they are infinitely precious to me. My life changes every day. My 500 words are steady ground and they’re something, no matter how small, to be proud of.

Change and Her Sister Pain

September 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’m not good at change. I’d love to say that I can pick up and go anywhere at the spur of the moment, that I can take everything in stride, that I thrive off of variation. The truth is, however, that I really don’t. I’m a planner. I fall madly in love with places and cry when I have to leave them. My home life is immeasurably rich but sometimes my social life is lacking. I put down roots. If I were an element I might be earth.

In short, I have to warm up to change. I have to force myself into excitement.

The last few weeks have been full of change for me. Bill and I moved from my parent’s house way up in the mountains where the nights are cool and star-speckled to Clairemont, San Diego about two weeks ago. Clairemont is different. Very different. I’ve never lived anywhere like it. The part of me that’s still fighting this change wants to tell you only how a streetlight shines in my window all night and how it’s never ever actually quiet here. I’ll be logical, though, and also mention that it’s only twenty minutes to work instead of an hour and a half and that my apartment is peaceful in it’s own way. Other big changes in the last few weeks have involved buying a new car, getting a promotion at Aaron Brothers where I work these days, and Bill starting full time at CSU San Marcos.

I know that these changes are a step forward for me, for us, but I still fight them for some reason. I think it’s because I’m scared of this new life. I don’t know what it’s going to be yet. And that’s really all there is to it. One of my favorite Tori Amos songs has a few lines that I really love… “change waltzes in with her sister pain/ waiting for you to send her away/ wish her well/ break the chain.” I think in that one little verse the challenge that I am up against is laid bare. Change hurts. Moving hurts. Leaving places hurts. There are so many doubts, so many questions from other people, and so many unknowns. But change is also an opportunity for you to break the chains that have held you back in the past. You just have to let the process happen. You have to let pain and change waltz around in your head for a while and do their work.

In celebration of this sentiment I think I’ll go for a walk around my new neighborhood. At first glance it’s simple suburbia, but I’ve spent enough time living to know that there is beauty everywhere if you look for it and that places are never simple. And I’m off!!…..

Comics

July 11, 2011 § 2 Comments

So I’ve been reading comics, which I never really thought would be something I’d be into. I really appreciate the combination of art and writing though. I’m currently about halfway through The Sandman series… which I would recommend to anyone. I’ve had so much fun reading it, and some webcomics that I’ve found (XKCD in particular), that I decided to make some comics of my own. This one started out as a sketch that I made at work during downtime. I then scanned it into the computer and proceeding to apply my pretty crappy Photoshop skills to it. I like my original drawing better, but I’m definitely still learning Photoshop so I’m trying to be easy on myself.

Anyways here’s my attempt! Hopefully there will be more to follow. Also I guess I should take a moment to thank anyone who’s reading this. I know I haven’t updated this blog in forever. 😦  I got pretty discouraged about everything for a while. Feeling better now and planning on updating more often.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In other news. We’re moving in September to North Park/Hillcrest or maybe Clairemont. Pretty excited to be getting new roomies (yay Lance and Zara!) and also about the idea of a new beginning. I’ve also started writing again. I’m working on three stories! I’m still not very good at finishing them, but will post them if I ever do.

Fire

April 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the fires that happened my senior year of high school. All of a sudden our beautiful San Diego mountains were covered in ash and our trees dead and blackened. We were in shock. How long would our forests take to recover? How long before Cuyamaca looked like it did before? How long would it take to rebuild the homes that had burned? How long before the everyone was happy again? That winter after the fires we all drove a little faster down the mountain roads. I think somehow we figured that maybe if the ash and ruin was a blur it wouldn’t hurt us so much. But it still hurt. People’s homes had been destroyed, family treasures had been lost, oak trees hundreds of years old had burnt in a matter of hours. We lost so much. We didn’t know if we could heal, if the land would heal.

When spring finally arrived that year something extraordinary happened though. The trees were still charred and dead, but the meadows came alive. Cuyamaca burst into life. Flowers covered valleys and green grass challenged blackened earth. Sometimes, in contrast with the blue! yellow! purple! wildflowers the ashen Manzanita were almost beautiful. I had never seen wildflowers like we had that spring. Later someone told me that some of the wildflower seeds actually like to be burnt, that they need to be burnt to produce blooms. I don’t know if this is actually true, but I fell in love with the idea.

Five days ago I got the second of two rejection letters in the mail. Both of the applications for grad school that I’d spent the better part of three months preparing have been officially rejected. The day after the last letter came I also received yet another thanks-for-applying-but-we-can’t-offer-you-the-job email. At that point the weight of this last year crashed down upon me. This year has been intense. I have been the happiest I have ever been and the saddest. The love of my life proposed to me and yet I have failed so many things I’ve attempted.

I liked my life in Berkeley. My job was hard, and wore me out, but I was proud of the work I did. I taught children to see the things through the eyes of an artist. I was giving something back to the world. My co-workers, along with the one friend I had who hadn’t moved out of Berkeley, were honestly some of the friendliest, beautiful people that I’ve ever met. I had a garden. I had room to create. And yet, we weren’t content. We wanted so badly to be near family and friends here. We wanted to be able to afford an apartment on a street where nobody had been shot in the last year. We told ourselves that it would work out perfectly. We told ourselves that life would be easier in San Diego.

Nothing ever works out perfectly, I think. My decision to apply to grad school was a last ditch effort. I was tired of being turned down for job after job. I was bitter and angry when places like Aaron Brothers wouldn’t even give me an interview despite years of experience framing and a degree in fine art. So I decided to shoot for the stars.

It didn’t work.

So now here I am back where I started. Even after a few days I have to admit that I am still sad. I am still doubting myself. I am still wondering why I decided to spend so long on something that took my attention away from job searching. I am wondering why all those jobs before I started working on the grad school applications turned me down.

The really amazing thing, though, is that through the sadness I feel the most incredible freedom. Failure is the only proving ground. The self disappears. Profound change occurs. Suddenly you see the world around you. Suddenly you can be grateful for all that you do have. And I have so much. So for now I’m embracing this process and hoping that there are some wildflower seeds down deep in me somewhere… that just needed a little fire to grow. I will have my spring!