Thanks for finding my blog. I’ll be posting again soon, it’s time to bring back the “jurnule.”
Thanks for finding my blog. I’ll be posting again soon, it’s time to bring back the “jurnule.”
Well Sister, only one of us can be right. And I have a drawing to prove it.
This is Drumlin Farm. I haven’t been back since this trip in first grade and can’t remember anything about the trip. It sure looks nice, and if I lived in Massachusetts, I’d love to volunteer there. I am well aware that what is in my head is more of a romantic view of what farm life and work is like. Sometimes I want to get away from the hustle and bustle and intangible work of grad school. And I want to get away from the desert. Today was the first day since I moved to Phoenix in which it rained and was cloudy all day. The sun didn’t come out. The rain is so important here, I hope the plants are able to soak it all in.
And since when have goats been nice? Those must’ve been very nice goats. Very nice indeed. Goats + geese = frightening farmish animals.
You’d think I wouldn’t have had much barn experience growing up in Massachusetts. On the contrary. The cranberry bogs near my house afforded all kinds of agricultural opportunities, one of which included driving by a big red barn every day to get to school.
One day we stopped at the barn. The man who owned the place took us inside, where we met two horses that lived there. It has been a long time since I’ve seen horses in the area. The bogs too have changed, some bought out by juice giant Ocean Spray, others closing down, either neglected and returned to nature or sanded over to make way for housing developments. Near my parents’ house, the latter has happened, and when I saw a wild turkey wandering through our neighborhood in broad daylight this summer, I wondered if it was because the wilderness was shrinking. I’d only encountered these wild turkeys once before – I had to stop in the middle of the street as a rafter (the name for a group of turkeys – I looked it up) crossed the road to get to the other side. That other side is filled with vacant lots now, waiting to be sold to contractors. The trees are gone. I came home one summer around 4am, driving nonstop from Kentucky, to find that my parents had chopped down all of the trees on the side and back of our house. Some of the frailer ones had rotted, succumbed to ants and age and were threats to fall on the house during icestorms, nor’easters, or hurricanes. But the people hired to cut the towering pines went overboard and my parents were too dense to stop them (they have admitted this several times, probably every time I come home and lament the empty yard). I walked around the backyard in that early morning fog, crying. The next week I examined the stumps. They were bleeding.
I was raised with reverence for nature. It helped that we lived in a fairly undeveloped town. I played in the trees, imagined roots were steps into my forested castles. The bog across the street painted a beautiful picture in summer sunsets and was host to a bevy of children and their parents (and my cat) during the winter. The older neighborhood kids built jumps down the slope, and we always had to be careful to navigate our sleds or tubes down the path that led to the truck path in the middle of the bog, otherwise we might end up falling into the bog or the thinly-iced-over ponds. Once, I asked my dad if the snow covered lump at the bottom was a log because I thought it was and I didn’t want to go down the slope but he assured me it was just a part of the hill. My wise cat jumped off the sled about half way down, before I did in fact hit the log with the nose of my sled and tumbled head over heels into the packed snow below. Just another wintertime war story. Those days were magic. Mom always had hot chocolate waiting for us back at the house, me, my dad, my cat, and, later (and soon to come), my brother.
I had read about haystacks in The Little House on the Prairie book series my mother read as a child and so passed on to me. I’d also seen them on TV, in the eponymous series. I’d seen hay bales on hay rides, pumpkin picking with my family and friends. When I moved to Kentucky, my friends born and raised in the Bluegrass State got big chuckles from my asking what those rolled up things were in the fields. I’d never seen hay rolls before. I’d also never seen cow ponds.
Here, in the desert, “nature” looks dead to me. There’s the primped and pristine irrigated lawns in the city and then the stark loneliness of the buttes and cacti. I am looking forward to getting back to rolling green hills and tall trees.
Suddenly I’m flying
Flying like a bird
Like electricity – Billy Elliot
I never danced pointe but I thought it looked beautiful.
Tonight my students performed a dance at the undergraduate Performance Studies Showcase that blew the audience out of the water. It was one of if not the most beautiful thing I have ever seen a student or group of students do.
I remember when Kendra and I met in August to discuss plans and assignments for COM 194 – Creativity and Communication. We discovered we both loved So You Think You Can Dance, and thought that assigning students to create a dance would be one of the most difficult but coolest assignments ever. Kendra had a dance student at ASU come in and teach our class how to interpret messages and words into movements. Each group (our class is capped at 100 people) of students were assigned to pick a historical moment that they remember, one of those “where were you when you heard” moments, and to talk to each other about how each of them felt individually during that event, and then they were to come up with a 10 minute dance, to show alternative histories, a different way of explaining or describing what happened and how we felt. This particular group chose the Virginia Tech shootings, and everything about their performance was beautiful and brilliant. It’s one of those things I am always going to remember, what my students were able to do themselves, what a group of people who got together in August and signed up to work together, a rag tag group of students, can create together. How their bodies can tell a story.
I was not able to be in class the day some of the groups presented their assignments and missed this one. Luckily Kendra thought it was the best of all of them and asked if they would represent our class at the showcase. They weren’t able to use the candles (because of fire codes) that they had in the class performance, but they were able to benefit from being in a theatre, complete with black curtains, one lone red light, and they completely shut it down tonight. They went last, and, subjectively speaking of course, the best was saved for last. The audience was so quiet. When they were done performing, all Jen (the host for the night, director of the theatre, and performance studies faculty member) said was “Wow.” There was a pause, everyone still quiet, and one of the dancers asked, “Would you like us to explain it?” And the audience said in chorus, “Yes!” Seeing these students so proud and eager to share their work, to teach others what they were doing… ah, it was amazing. An amazing moment.
Kendra and I were talking tonight about their performance and how this dance was really none of our doing and we take so much pride in it. I count myself lucky to have been privileged enough to see it, to feel it. It was one of those things that was so good, you want to be able to say you were a part of it. I only gave them the suggestion to look for a Sigur Ros song for tonight’s performance. They chose “svefn-g-englar” off of the Agaetis Byrjun album. It was the perfect choice for their performance. They all were dressed in black except for one guy who was in white. They were doing leaps and spins, crawling on the ground, CPR heartbeat resuscitations, splits, lifts, used handkerchiefs and rope and held each other. There was so much care and beauty in this performance.
I am listening to the song on repeat, replaying the dance in my head. I was videotaping the whole showcase tonight, but the lights were so low for the dance not much was able to be captured on video. I held the camera in my hands a few minutes ago, just trying to watch, on a precious, fragile screen, my students being precious and fragile. I wish you could see them. Just a random group of people who danced.
18 years and 2 months after you write this entry, you will defend your thesis prospectus. I can’t believe you knew French and that you’d read Arendt already.
Good luck tomorrow.
According to the Brown University book award I was given in high school, a Mirriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary, the following describe mages.
mage ˈmāj n [ME, fr. L magus] (14c): MAGUS
magi pl of MAGUS
ma·gus ˈmā-gəs n, pl ma·gi ˈmā-ˌjī, ˈma- [L, fr. Gk magos - more at MAGIC] (1621) 1a: a member of a hereditary priestly class among the ancient Medes and Persians b often cap: one of the traditionally three wise men from the East paying homage to the infant Jesus 2: MAGICIAN, SORCERER
mag·ic ˈma-jik n [ME magique, fr. MF, fr. L magice, fr. Gk magikē, fem. of magikos Magian, magical, fr. magos magus, sorcerer, of Iranian origin; akin to OPer maguš sorcerer] (14c) 1a: the use of means (as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces b: magic rites or incantations 2a: an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source b: something that seems to case a spell: ENCHANTMENT 3: the art of producing illusions by sleight of hand
I doubt this was an autocthonous topic, arising then weighing on my mind ex nihilo. We likely had a fire safety day at school. I was likely fascinated. (“Mages” is matches, by the way. The illustration here is pretty straight forward.)
Like medieval sorcerers, I was taught a mantra similar to, “If you play with fire, you’re gonna get burned.” The fire, the burning, was not some Merlin’s alchemy, a transmutation practice. My family’s incantation cast strangers in a dangerous light. One of my favorite books, which I cannot find online and have yet to find it in my parents house (we may have given it away to the library – woe to the poor child who reads it) was called Just Say No. Just Say No involved children encountering various strangers with more lures than a tackle box. The “Just say no” campaign was Nancy Reagan’s pet project, as if I need more evidence that I’m an ’80s baby. Apparently Punky Brewster (my favorite show at the time) devoted at least one episode to it. Of course the campaign was originally created in tandem with Ronnie Reagan’s ineffective and money-wasting War on Drugs. I remember attending some event in a park with Scruff McGruff – he handed us cardboard crime kits and coloring books. We shouted back NO! to the man in the dog costume. Remember this commercial? I remember her hair most of all.
So while I devoured all the other books from the children’s section at the library (finally obtained copies of Bony-Legs and the Owl at Home series a couple of months ago) and revisit my childhood books every time I travel back east, Just Say No stuck with me after all these years. That, and my pocket size Book of Saints, featuring full page illustrations of martyrs like Lucy as she burned alive in flames. Her story was my favorite because she refused to marry the Roman soldier. And don’t get me wrong, as you’ll see in these entries, I was still your average run-of-the-mill kind of kid. I just read a lot. And I my family supported my habit.
I was acutely aware of danger, particularly after September 1990, when I was in kindergarten and the story of Melissa Benoit hit Massachusetts hard. The 13-year-old disappeared walking home alone from a friend’s house. Her body was found in a neighbor’s basement, though all these years I thought it was his trash can. Puritan justice was served – life sentence, no parole – the judge stating, “It is said that my predecessors in colonial times had a gallows erected on the green in front of this courthouse and summarily sent defendants convicted, as you have been, to be hanged. I truly regret that option is not open to me in this case.”
Many people are fascinated by crime stories. I was no different. My grandfather was chief of police of a city outside of Boston and, while he was retired by the time I came around, he had raised my mother and together they told old cop stories, sanitized ones hinting at disturbing details, inciting just enough scary to teach me lessons. On duty one night my grandfather reported to a house: An uncle appeared at a slumber party and molested one of the guests then taking off with his niece. Moral of the story: Your mother was never allowed to sleep over anyone’s house, so, no, you’ll have to leave Kristen’s birthday sleepover early. I was always allowed to host sleepovers, but I could never stay at a friend’s house past a certain time in the evening.
One afternoon, I must have been about 6, I walked into our kitchen and saw a man standing on our deck, looking through the glass sliding doors into the house. I ran down the short hallway in our small house to get my dad, who was in his bedroom. When we came back out to the kitchen, the man was gone. Our neighborhood is and was relatively safe – our hubcaps were stolen several times and the shed had been broken into with a crowbar, lawnmower stolen.
Just a couple of days ago, on the phone, my grandfather reiterated, as usual, in his Boston/Italian accent, “Remember what I tell you. Don’t trust anyone.” As a kid, I suspected everyone. Still today, walking alone, especially at night, I am always on guard, following public protocol so as to not appear visible, to keep walking, to make it inside. One summer night, returning with a friend to our dorm on Tremont Street, across from Boston Common, a man appeared out of the CVS awning shadow, about fifty yards from the guarded dorm door. We sped up our pace and so did the man, who kept insisting that we stop and chat, that we should give him money. The pace picked up as he tried to get closer. He said, “Well, I’m a teacher. And I’m about to teach you a lesson.” I had my key out already and our last legs beat out the teacher, who disappeared into the empty streets. A lot of my friends give me crap about walking fast in public, or being too adamant about keeping quiet, or locking doors. One of my favorite Rock Band songs is “I Think I’m Paranoid.”
Wouldn’t things have been easier if I did play with mages – actual wizards and sorcerers? Would I have counted them down and out for the count in first grade if I knew what I was spelling? I still believed in Santa and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. I probably believed in wizards. Of course, we know what a Catholic school would have said about real wizards, some of them banning Harry Potter and all. What if Oct. 2, 1991 was my first step toward unbelieving. What if a mage out there, through some nonlocal viewing magic, felt my drawing and took back some of the dust, the carefree believing, siphoning it back through the sieve. I saw Guyatri Spivak give a lecture last spring and, in the middle of an awesome rant about budget cuts hitting humanities the hardest, she explained how we are born singing and dancing and laughing and imagining. And then all of that is taught out of us. I am working hard to bring it back. In these hours where I am burning the candle at both ends, sadly setting aside projects like this blog in favor of requisite work, I desperately need to sing and dance and feel the world, feel my learning.
Stating the obvious.
Two summers later, you could find me playing the Wicked Witch in Priscilla Beach Theatre’s version of the Wizard of Oz. The theatre was a giant converted barn that had played host to numerous Hollywood hotshots like Gloria Swanson, Pat Carroll (the voice of Ursula the Seawitch), and Paul Newman. And although I shared the stage with Rip Torn’s daughter as one of the no-neck brats in “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof,” the role that catapulted me into theatre, making me famous in our little eccentric circle, one lionized by the high school and college women starring in the “grown up plays,” was the one in green paint. Probably because of copyright, the only song the musical used from the actual movie was “Over the Rainbow,” the rest were newfangled versions. I had an entire song to myself. I can’t remember all of the lyrics, but it went a little like this:
I’m the wicked witch I rule the west
Of all the witches I’m the wickedest
When I fly through the air
On my broomstick beware
[something about a devil finding you in the night... fright]
[an axe to grind... I'll find you there... and what's more I'm rot-ten to the core]
This role was a dangerous one. The director had me climbing up to what was once the barn loft, a top tier jutting out high above stage left. The only way up for me, a second grader in a lengthy cape, was up a 100% vertical “ladder,” pieces of wood nailed into the beams. Fortunately, my climb was consistently successful, and I got to cackle and utter the phrase that taught me a new word “Foiled again!” A bright white light pulsed on and off and thunder crashed. Later in the performance, after my second ascent, the witch died. I loved playing a villain. Because of this role and because of my fascination with the Judy Garland movie, my grandmothers fed (or created) a Wizard of Oz collection. This summer I found a wooden jewelry box in my closet. It still tinkles “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” though the spring on which mini Dorothy spins broke a long time ago.
My grandmother knew one of the women who played a Munchkin in the movie, and this woman said the actress playing Glinda was actually very mean, while the actress playing Almira Gultch was a kind woman. That always stuck with me, and probably helped me through elementary school and junior high in a way, when all the pretty girls cut me on the inside. Once in study hall I was drawing in my sketchbook, painstakingly recreating a magazine cover of Michelle Williams (the Dawson’s Creek years), when a popular girl came over and started looking at my picture. A boy who ran in her social group was sitting at the same small group of desks I occupied and remarked that the drawing was really well done. And the girl, who didn’t want the boy to think the drawing of Michelle Williams was beautiful or to express his admiration of her beauty, took my pencil and pushed down heavily on my paper, scribbling a mess across the whole thing. I sat there in disbelief as did my tablemates. After she sat back down, I waited many minutes before erasing the lines. Of course I couldn’t fully erase them. Ha-ha! Ha-hahahahaha!
Sr. Jacqueline was the reason I got involved in the theatre in the first place. She gave my parents a flyer for Priscilla Beach’s summer programs and so they signed me up for “Cinderella, After the Ball” the summer after first grade. I don’t know who I would be if I hadn’t fallen in love with theatre.