Friday, May 27, 2011

On Becoming An Accidental Alaskan

I'm going to be on my way to Montana next Thursday, I think; maybe earlier or maybe Friday or maybe I have no idea. sort of semi-intentions are to be out of my office and my home and on my merry, nomadic way to Helena where I will be for about 3 weeks or maybe fewer or maybe more or maybe who the h.e. double hockey sticks knows?!  And from there to Anchorage AK for a much longer indeterminate length of time. 

Katy and Jon will figure it out and come up to Helena on the grey dog to meet me and then the three of us with whatever we can tuck around us in the car will set out across the ALCAN for Anchorage. Maybe a week, maybe longer...then when we get to Anchorage, IF there's time, we will take a train ride from Skagway to Somewhere I Forgot What My Friend Recommended just to round out the their vacation/my new begin-again beginning.

Then Katy and Jon will fly back to SLC and be back in time for work on the 4th of July.

I will cry.

But then, I'll get back to being excited and jump into work, maybe onto a little plane, too, or possibly onto a sled. Wheeee!

A couple of people asked me today if I had any contacts in Alaska and it dawned on me that I don't.

Hmmmm. I thought I had contacts everywhere! Then they asked me if I wanted contacts and I surprised myself by acknowledging that I don't really want contacts. It felt kind of rude to say no, so then I said I meant I don't necessarily need contacts, but I could look people up.

I realize I am feeling more and more free and unencumbered as the days roll on and the idea of starting out with ties there makes me feel less so. Don't try to figure it out. It is, after all, Penny we're talking about here. And now, I am remembering I do have a couple of contacts there--a genealogy facebook friend/18th cousin a couple of times removed who lives in The Valley where my other contact Sarah Palin lives!!!

I left work quite late this evening and this is what I saw:

I got home and this is what greeted me in my apartment when I opened the door.

I thought these pictures would look much worse, because it feels much worse in here. Maybe I should just quit looking at the real thing and believe the pictures. OR, I could just get to work and finish packing up my life.

This part about getting ready is kind of hurting me. I won't learn, either. My next move--and there will be a next move--will still be fraught with trying to compartmentalize my mind's scattered organization, finding a home for all my crap, and summoning the physical strength to do the "impossible." I gave up claiming several moves ago that "this is THE LAST time I am ever going to move again." Now I know it will never be true. So right now, what I really want to to do is go back outside and look at some more of this:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Count The Moons

There she goes again, posting pictures of backscatter.  Well, no.  This is just a picture I took a while ago coming home from my brother's house in North Ogden.  I take picture after picture of that view and I have never been able to capture even a glimpse of how impressive it is, especially on a clear night.

The thing is, as I was looking at my pictures tonight, I thought this one looked like a picture of a bunch of moons.  The idea claimed my reverie and immediately I was back in Seoul, Korea some 20 plus years ago, lying on a cotton mat under a low and wide picture window.  No glass in the window, but lattice and rice paper, and on a very warm summer night, I had the shutters open. Wide open. Big, wide open. I had made the choice of hoping for respite from the stifling heat over the possibility of  an uninvited guest (read "rat") sashaying along the window sill. 

Here, forgive me this amusing foray into a side story as I relish the moment in time when that very guest did that very thing.  In the middle of a restless sleep, I woke for some suspicious reason, raised up a bit and turned from one side to the other, pausing to look out the window into the clear, black night.  Nose to nose, with a fat, brown rat on his way down the window sill leaving or entering my room. I'll never really know, but I tell myself he was on his way in when I prevented that dreadful event.  I don't think we can ever know who was more surprised.  We both froze and I saw his eyes widen in fear as he screeched, "Yikes!  She's awake!"  Believe me or don't, but just know that I am holding back from being as descriptive as I could be.

I had been in Korea long enough to have overcome a couple of small bouts of homesickness, a whole heap of culture shock, realized my initial naive, if romantic, desire to "get my hands dirty, my feet wet, and my heart broken."  I belonged there at that time more than I had remembered ever having belonged until then. Anywhere or anytime. I felt held there.  I was living with my friend/art teacher/fairy godmother and her parents in a tall, two-story house where they gave me the room on the main floor with the rat-access.  No, wait, I mean the room with the big, beautiful window through which the mother, of a late summer morning, would pass sweet, ripe persimmons or velvety roses to me as I sat cross-legged on the thick cotton mat grinding soot-smelling ink for my day's toil of laying brush to paper.
You might presume to think I jest when I call it toil, that activity of grinding ink, meditating upon the wonders of mulberry paper, setting out the wool brushes, the pale colors, the ceramic dishes.  It was sheer, unadulterated joy and unmeasured pleasure, and it sucked blood, sweat and tears from my very core. I must have written about this activity in this blog before, so I won't belabor, but let me just say, maybe in heaven there is no beer, but I know there is Chinese Ink and Brush Painting.

  Some mornings, my friend and I would take our sketch books or water jugs up the hill behind the house into the cuckoo woods, fill the jugs with cold spring water before skipping back home (yup--we held hands and skipped like school girls down the rocky hill, such was the halcyon, carefree spirit that engulfed us on those days) or sit beside bright, pink acacia bushes and make charcoal drawings of the Buddhist temple and her monks being about their holy business. 

Please, pull me back to the point I started to make at the beginning of this entry.  Merely a glimpse of my life at that time, but perhaps you are sufficiently instructed about how blissfully I found myself placed then and there for me to get back to the moon.  Or moons, really.

Back to my summer night, my big window and my clear, black, star-studded night, after the cuckoo in our chestnut tree had lulled me weirdly to the land of nod. (Really, the unnatural sound of a cuckoo cuckooing can be very strange and unnerving.) I rose up on my elbow, looked out the window and there before my very eyes were two, huge bright-white moons crossing paths with the pace and purpose of a finely choreographed Alvin Ailey piece.

By this time, as wonderfully startling and breathtaking as seeing two moons flow and cross in the sky could be, I didn't question my sight at all. I didn't question the possibility of it, either. Just one more delightful
surprise in a succession of many over the years. What were these two moons saying to me? At first, I thought they were appearing just because they were fulfilling the measure of their creation. It wasn't until after I woke up and admitted to myself that I was only dreaming, that I began to analyze why I would dream about two moons in a Korean sky. Two equally brilliant moons crossing and then going opposite directions in the same sky. Maybe it wasn't a Korean sky, but THE sky--the world's sky. Maybe my mind was trying to work out the inevitable, necessary duality of life, of being alive.

One, and there are many, aspect of this idea is how homesick I can be for some place while living in another that I would be homesick for were I to leave. My skies. My orb-filled Ogden skies, my two-mooned Korean skies, my Montana Big Skies, my Crayola box New Mexico skies. Maybe it's about time to head north and check out Aurora Borealis!

Monday, May 2, 2011

'Twere Cause Indeed to Weep

You know how sometimes you get choked up when you're listening to your three-year-old singing in church as she stands on the piano bench, or when Heidi and her grandfather pass each other unawares on a snowy street, or you're telling a story more than 30 years later about a Korean family you know having been separated during the war? Sometimes music or art will move you to having emotion in your throat. And you just can't help it, you didn't expect to be so particularly vulnerable at that particular time.

Well, how would you like to be the pastry chef who brought Julia Child to sudden, unexpected tears? I knew this dessert was going to be good and it's the scene I randomly selected out of eight or so this morning while getting ready for work before I had to turn the DVD back into the library. (Well, now that you're wondering, no this is not the lamest thing I have checked out at the library. Maybe the lamest thing I have blogged about in a long while. But thanks for asking.)

The following video is just the last part of Nancy Silverton (I should have been her on this day!) making the dessert, and you can find the first part on youtube if you want to make someone in your little foody circle weep. If you're not interested in making it, at least please fast-forward to the end where they both taste the tart together. Pregnant silence as the chef waits to hear Julia pronounce edibility, breaks the silence with a dumb comment about a "good combination," and then Julia tries to talk...but she can't! And she tries a moment later and she just can't get control.

You know how you want to squirm when someone tries to talk through an emotion-constricted throat and their voice goes squeaky? Wait. Julia Child with a squeaky voice? Nawww... But yes! And don't just take my word for it.