Neighborhood hawk flies
Low, clutching a heavy load…
Grown squirrel for lunch
Texas sounds then sings them back
Even chirping frog
Yellow with brown marks
Camouflaged, still, and waiting
The first Saturday of every November is usually the day of the Austin Powwow, which I have attended every year since the early 2000’s. I go to honor my Native American ancestors and to support the culture. I go to see other people, especially with Cherokee and Choctaw blood, in one place. I go to feel the drums and voices. They vibrate in my very core, so I am moved to dance near them during the All Tribes Blanket Dance. It’s fitting that it’s always on the same weekend of Halloween/Samhain and Dia de los Muertos, other days for honoring ancestors and recognizing the spirit world. So when a dancer from my graduate school art program in Berlin, Claire Elizabeth Barratt ( http://www.cillavee.com/cillavee.html ) asked me if I wanted to collaborate that weekend when she was traveling through Austin on her dance performance tour, I said yes, but the project would have to pay homage to those traditions that I would be missing out on celebrating as I normally do. We had worked together before, with me on video and her dance, but I am a dancer as well, so planned to do both…
I wanted the event to be interactive. Being from Texas, where Mexican culture permeates our state with color and flavor, I thought of ofrenda (offering alters). I also lived in Thailand for two years, so naturally I thought of Thai spirit houses, which are in front of all businesses and homes to offer recognition and thanks to the previous inhabitants of that particular piece of land. Things that are included in these are photos or statuettes of people or animals, flowers, incense, food, and other objects which symbolize things they enjoyed. I decided to make a spirit house from fallen sticks in our yard woven together with mustang grapevines growing along our fence. My boyfriend Todd and I had almost finished it at this point:
Years ago, a Wiccan friend of mine had a gathering for Samhain where everyone held hands under the moonlight and talked about those who they missed. I found it to be a cathartic experience to vocalize my appreciation and love, in that setting, for my great-grandmother who had died recently. I was unable to attend her funeral, but this somehow seemed far more meaningful than any funerals I have gone to. So, I wanted my guests to share stories about their loved ones who have passed away and to bring something to place in the spirit house. One of the drummers performing at the gathering sited the memories of his grandmother’s hands making tortillas for inspiring his the love for and skill on drums. A guest spoke of the tragic loss of a dear cousin to the heroine epidemic, and of the talents and good qualities passed down from ancestors. Keepsakes guests brought were photos, a pet cat collar, a drawing done by a dear aunt, and a piece of jewelry given as a gift. Everyone took their mementos home that night, but here’s the spirit house with Todd and my mementos still on it. Photos of loved ones, some of their costume jewelry, and trinkets.
Most people who have lived in Austin for a long time are true music lovers. The wire tree that the spirit house sits on was inspired by the massive escarpment oak behind Central Market. The long limbs are made of wire twisted with guitar, mandolin, and sitar strings strung with an eclectic array of beads that I’ve collected from around the world. Most of the musicians I know in town are paid performers, so aren’t available or interested in playing for other reasons. Luckily, I found out from my coworker, Audra Tillman, that she and her teammate Michael Lopez, are community percussionists, meaning they regularly attend drum circles for enjoyment and/or healing ceremonies such as sweat lodges. I was planning to create a studio piece playing from speakers for the dance performance part of our event, but they generously agreed to drum for it instead. Michael has a large collection of percussion instruments and agreed to bring extras so that guests could join in. He brought several including an ocean drum, heard in the Water (Summoning) video below and a thunder stick, heard in the Fire (Magnetism) video. This way there would be full audience participation from adding to the spirit house and sharing stories to adding the sound piece for the performance. I had loosely planned arrangements for the music and during our first practice, another drummer, Bob Collier, let me know that his friend Robert Bingham, a seasoned Native American flute player, would be joining us.
Finally, I wanted to do the performance under the massive Pecan Tree in our side yard. Full with growing pecans, it’s branches drooped to the ground like an escarpment oak. It’s far reaching arm extended in the perfect spot in the grassy performance space and was at the perfect height for the billowing fabric symbolizing the veil between the earth dimension and the beyond. It is said to be thin at that time of year, so our dance personas, representing the material and immaterial worlds were performing outside and inside that “veil”.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Another tree gave of itself for material for our drapery. I wanted to braid a willow ring like I have for dreamcatchers, and is traditional. It is too hot for willow to grow easily here. However, there is a water reservoir next to my workplace and a big storm brought a few large sections of it down to the ground. I carried it home and Todd and I wove it into a ring to hang the mesh from. On the night of the gathering, the weather was absolutely perfect. The temp was just right with a slight breeze to ripple the veil~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Below is a collection of videos and photos taken on various cameras, some during the performance, some reinactments and constructions. As much as I wish I had a full video of that night, I really wanted the attendees to enjoy themselves by participating with instruments rather than documenting. I also didn’t want to inject a roaming camera person and special lighting into the performance space. Still, thanks to shutterbug enthusiasts Raphael Umscheid, Todd Rychener, and myself, there is enough documentation to share the story in an A/V format. Additional thanks to guests who attended, improvised with instruments, and shared stories at the Spirit House: Jodi Brooks, Scott Jones, Ayanna Spears, Gil, Emily Summerfield, and Jeremy Simon. If we decide to do this again next year, I will definitely make sure to get photos of guests.
Before Claire arrived, I had designed four movements from 1) airy/abstract choreography and music transitioning into 2) watery movements, symbolic of summoning, followed by 3) the percussionists creating a circle of sound by playing from left-center-right as a video of silhouettes walking in a loop would be projected onto the curtain (https://vimeo.com/311101181). After whirling around and around, Claire’s character, “The Medium”/Material and I, “Walker Between Worlds”/Immaterial would finally sense each other between the thin veil…our hands magnetized to each other. 4) The last movement was to embody the material plane with a deliberate dance rhythm and African-inspired action as the Medium pulled me out from behind the veil, removed my pale cloak and handed me a drum to play as I lead the guests to the Spirit House altar, ending our night with stories of loved ones.
After Claire arrived, she added the missing pieces that would tie the story together by adding distinct characterization of her part as Medium. She would be Animal as Medium and wear her cat suit as she did the magic of the natural world. She also brought beautiful flowing fabrics to dance with that made it clear through visual queues of how the fabric was activated, and which color it was, that it represented one of the four elements.
With no further ado************************************
Water (Summoning and Hypnotism)
When we harvested three big grocery bags full of plump and tasty pecans this winter, it almost felt like the tree was giving thanks to us for honoring it.
Even the shadows
at twilight couldn’t conceal
ripe pawpaw from me
Relentless screeching to mom,
“Gimme more bugs! MORE!”
Sparrow on one arm
Mockingbird on the other
Weathered wooden chair
We were so fortunate to experience the NW with two weeks (Aug. 8th-22nd) of gorgeous weather and rain only happening at night. So many flowers were in bloom still and I was able to identify online, all of them but one. I met up with the Rycheners in Seattle, had a day there, we flew to Anchorage, rented an RV and rolled around Alaska. I went back to Washington to meet up with my dad for camping and the art opening where my latest studio work was being shown.
Sunset from the plane
Gray clouds close over
Orange sliver in the west
Like sleepy eyelids
Seagulls and a bald eagle. Sourdough bread and chowder sampler bread at Duke’s – seafood, clam, and lobster. A-Frame duplex covered in vibrant flowers. Monkey Puzzle Tree. Barnacle and black seaweed covered steps. Massive freight barge, heavy with train cars, floats slowly down the Puget Sound. Maple’s red seedpods. Salty air.
Museum of Pop Culture
I think this is going to be a museum about Jimi Hendrix. It definitely looks trippy on the outside. The music playing in the lobby is standard auto-tuned pop of the 2010’s. Nothing calls to me visually or sonically. We are pressed for time anyways, so $30 a ticket isn’t a price we are willing to pay to explore and see if anything else of interest is beyond the entryway.
Pike’s Place Market
Creamy yellow Golden Trout with pink lips and middle stripe; Three and a half to four ft. long chrome King Salmon; Two inch round, two ft. long king crab legs on ice; Bouquets galore – white lilies with lavender edging, silver painted branches, poppy seedpods, dahlias
snowy mountain tops
melting into river trails
heading into bays
Glenn Hwy. overpass overlooking pale ice blue stream frothing on the edges; Spruce broom rust in the tree tops kept tricking me into thinking there was a baby bear up there; After watching the roadside for hours, in hopes of spotting an animal, I say, “It’s time to see a moose! That’s my declaration.” A few minutes later, while getting something out of my backpack, Todd yells, “A moose!” By the time I jump over to the window, it is already far in the distance. All I can see through the screen obscuring my view is a flash of a fuzzy moose and horns silhouette. Rocks arranged on bare dirt hillsides with names and animal shapes. We stay the night at a small RV park next to a glacial mountainside. I realize a glacier and iceberg are not the same thing. The cliffs across the street are speckled white in a couple of places. Through binoculars we can see they are dall sheep.
We stop in a small town named Nenana. We take our photos under an “Alaska” sign / photo booth on the side of the street. Wander around looking at the buildings and I spot a second bald eagle suddenly flying above me. My lens isn’t long enough to capture a great shot of it, but cool anyways. We stop in for lunch at a quaint little restaurant for lunch and the waitress offers us a zucchini from her garden, which lasts us several meals because as I mentioned, it was Alaska-sized! On the way out the door, we notice a book with names and dates next to it. I had just read American Gods, so between Mr. Rychener’s comments and that, I remember it is guesses of when the ice on a nearby body of water will melt after wintertime. Like in the book, something heavy is probably sitting on it that can fall in to prove the date. The winning guess gets a cash prize.
Tanana River whirlpools
To see a video of these strange river vortexes, visit: https://vimeo.com/236171268
We hear strange insect / birdlike sounds from the trees then realize it was these tiny red squirrels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFQKzsz1j7s Two tasty local beers: Kodiak Brown Ale with ballistic Grizzly Bear on the can + Moose Drool light ale. Long-lasting jewel toned sunset. Pattering of drizzle on leaves sounds like a rain stick.
Surprise “use-at-your-own-risk” canoes; “Snowball flowers” (Cotton sedge grass); Boggy, mosquito ridden landscape. Deliciously mild low bush cranberries for days. I can’t get enough of them.; We see some birds fly in and out of the trees. Mr. and Mrs. Rychener say they are gray jays, but I don’t get a good look. ; Fisherman’s catch of silver with purple striped trout
Reindeer (caribou) dogs roasted over an open fire; Misty morning on Moon Lake; Raven honking on top of a tree sounded like geese
On the road near Eielson AFB
Cliff side’s jagged edges make easy climbing ledges for spray painting who loves who and favorite sports teams. A pipeline, suspended up high, stretched alongside the pavement. Trance inducing, the trees go on and on…
Flocks of Canadian Geese fly over the RV park; In hope of bread, ducks swim towards a girl and her brother fishing in the pond. A young one gets entangled in the fishing line. The boy goes for scissors while Todd helps unstring its wing. My good buddy / neighbor / coworker on Jeju Island, S. Korea, Dave picks us up and takes us to local hangout, The Golden Eagle Saloon, for a mini party with him and a musician friend, Isaac, who I also knew on the island.
Afterwards, we pick up some of his fellow Shakespearean actors living in an artists’ camp in a birch forest. They are both from Wisconsin, where I was born, and one happened to be from the graduating high school class of my dad! Those trees are known to be home to flying squirrels. A prop rests at the base of the trees – a wooden cutout of a ship with a red wig hanging over the bow.
Dave drives us out about an hour away under a lovely sunset. We carefully watch for moose while singing 70’s and 80’s rock songs or listening to jazz and electronic music playing on the radio. Finally we arrive at Chena Hot Springs. I can’t say enough good things about the place. I would go there every day if I could. The springs are enclosed in boulders that you can stretch, sit, or climb on. There is a fountain you can sit under. A strong sprayer to pound your shoulders with. The water ranges from warm to as hot as it can get before scalding you. We would have stayed much longer had they not been closing for the night.
The next morning, another dear friend I met in S.Korea, Carey, picked me up and then we swung around to get Dave for breakfast at The Oasis. Crab meat eggs benedict and good company. If you ever need some good reading about Alaska before your trip, visit the site Carey writes for, http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/
On the road again
Abandoned four-story, igloo shaped hotel. Beverage business yard sign announcing, “Yes. We have Red Bull smoothies!” *BLECH* Yellow and blue painted metal sign for True Value Hardware on A-frame cabin with wooden sun and rays above its garage door and windows. There are stops along the way where we have to sit for about ten minutes as construction is underway. A stout little native woman holds a sign up in the road reminding us to stop, then eventually gets into a “pilot car” pickup truck and leads us out of the maintenance area.
Denali National Park and Preserve
Our first night is spent in an RV spot in the preserve. The next morning, while hiking along Savage Creek, we hear a sharp squeaking sound, almost like a dog toy, but can’t find its source. Camouflaged with the rocks are these little chinchilla looking rodents, which someone correctly guess it is a pika. Pika facts: In order to warn its neighbors under the rocks, pika scouts looking out from above will give off a sharp squeaking sound when predators, including humans are nearby. It’s a prairie dog! No, it’s a ground hog! No, it’s an Arctic ground squirrel. This large rodent is digging away and pulling out plant roots, chewing them up like pretzel sticks.
Pretty river flow: https://vimeo.com/236217656
The next night we stay outside of the preserve, but near Denali, at an RV park called the Grizzly Bear. Just before sundown, we walk to the river access across the highway…
In the resort next to the river, we hear from a gift shop cashier that she saw a mother moose and calf around 9:30PM. We decide to take a night drive in hopes of having the same luck. I spot a young one cross the road so Todd stops the RV to watch. Several other cars stop as well. People are getting out and taking photos, but we can’t see from where we are so we get out too. We move into a fairly close vantage point but with plenty of shrubbery between us and the mother moose there. We are growing uncomfortable though because one of the people is clearly getting too close and making the cow nervous. We tell her so, but she didn’t seem to either understand or care. A tour bus driver tells us that we should back away, so we leave.
Moose (and willow) facts: Although moose are in the deer family they are given bovine names (bull, cow, and calf). People who use all of the parts of a dead moose use the brain to tan its hides. Females have 24 hrs. to breed. If male smells the mating hormone, he will slowly approach female and rest his head on her rump. If she is receptive, they will proceed.
Several types of willow, which contains vitamin c and the pain relieving acid used in aspirin, grow in Alaska, but I never saw a weeping willow. Most likely because many animals, including the moose, like to eat it in abundance, so it never gets a chance to grow large. They eat 7-10 times a day because they require 50-60 lbs. of food per day. In order to be able to recover from the feasting, part of the year willow puts out a chemical that animals cannot digest. That is when they begin eating other things.
A dewlap is a flap of skin under the chin of a moose. Experts are uncertain what the purpose is, but our shuttle driver, Bard makes us laugh when he says, “Let’s get our dewlap pierced!” Bard said that more deaths happen per year by female moose attacks than by any other cause. Be careful not to get too close, especially to a baby moose because it’s mother is nearby. According to my dad, if their ears go back, they are likely to charge you.
Horseshoe Lake, a gorgeous emerald body of water in a valley. Although we haven’t had luck spotting a moose, we discover moose tracks. There are impressively cut beaver dams and gnawed fallen trees. Female mallards and ducklings splash about and fish. We see a lone fish that Todd recognizes as a Arctic grayling because of its large dorsal fin. We stop to take a photo together against the lush colors and a gray jay lands on a tree near where we are sitting, so we get a good look at it. It’s really cute!
This video shows a creek full of of sediment from melted glaciers. It is uninhabitable by fish or amphibians: https://vimeo.com/236218216
We visit a sled dog kennel where the dogs are so mellow I wonder if they are sedated. When it comes time to put on a show for us though, they go wild – barking and jumping in hopes they will be the ones picked to perform and get treats. The canines are still used to run sleds up to high parts of the mountains that are inaccessible to vehicles, but where park staff are stationed.
To see the show, visit: https://vimeo.com/236217730
6,000,000 acres; Denali Mountain means “the high, big, or great one” in Athabascan. It was named Mount McKinley because a Republican explorer and gold prospector wanted to celebrate the presidential nomination of William McKinley, who had never even been to the state. President Obama officially renamed the mountain in efforts to restore respect back to Native Americans. It was too cloudy to get a glimpse of its peak while we are there because it is the tallest one in North America, so this opportunity is rare. We see so many other gorgeous ranges on our shuttle tour though such as the impressive Sable Pass, Polychrome Mountains, Geode Mountain, and Eielson. When I try to pick up one moose horn at one of the stops I can’t. I start cracking up over how heavy it is. Needless to say, they are massive animals.
Other things we see on the shuttle are: homosapiens in brightly colored rain gear; low level strips of water weaving around the riverbed is called a braided river; random ring of red leaved plants on a hillside; male moose bones scattered in a field from wolf pack attack, and a weird “fairy portal” made of birch in the middle of a field. Shuttle bus stops for us to see a few willow ptarmigan, the state bird of Alaska. They are ground birds from the grouse family and are hunted as a food source by humans. The consensus online is that they taste like quail and/or chicken. Despite all the bear activity warning signs at the trail heads, luckily we never see one close up on our walks. Fortunately, we see several from a distance. There is a grizzly that appears to be frolicking, but we are told it is injured. Blond grizzly mamas and cub twins foraging for berries on the hillsides. When salmon season is over, they change their food source. It’s hard to imagine they can get enough berries for those big bodies. A lone female moose far in the distance. Caribou (reindeer), which I am uncertain as to the sex of because both females and males grow antlers.
Mice with a red stripe down back running around the park’s Wilderness and Visitor Centers. One hangs out under a hanging planter, as it’s being watered by someone on a ladder, so it can lap up the liquid draining onto the ground below. They scurry too fast for me to catch a photo and I can’t find one on the internet.
Driving back towards Anchorage
Vegetables get enormous because there is so many hours of sunlight. Supposedly it went down completely at 3 AM and rose again at 4 AM. A zucchini about 18″ long and 5″ wide on the bottom end is sitting on the counter of The Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe, Talkeenta, AK. They offer birch syrup drinks, but I really just want a sample of it so I know what it tastes like. The lady behind the counter gives me a couple of drops in a spoon. It tastes almost like molasses, but not as heavy. We enjoy a delicious smoked salmon bagel sandwich. The trees surrounding the place are draped in a soft green moss that I haven’t seen anywhere else we’ve traveled to. In the woodland trail I spy a dark-eyed junco (slate colored subspecies).
We stop because Barbara sees a trumpeter swan couple in a pond. In the next RV park, Montana Creek, we park in for the evening, we go for a walk by a creek and see a school of fish close to the opposite shore, probably salmon, appearing to swim in place. They are most likely laying eggs in the rocks. A large, dying one is swimming alone on the shore we are standing on. Seagulls fly overhead. I occasionally hear one swoop down to try and pick one up or hear a fish jump. Todd and his dad part ways with me to eat, while I obsess over lovely lichen patches with my close-up filter while talking and singing aloud to invisible bears that could walk up at any time, especially if they smell fish. Lichen are not plants, but a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi. They absorb minerals from the rocks, trees, and bones they attach to and create soil by expediting the decay of those hard surfaces. Some varieties are then eaten for their mineral and protein content by moose and caribou.
I traverse through most of the woods there and stumble across a tunnel window. Just after taking a picture, I small man, with a strong resemblance to a leprechaun in his plaid paddy cap, white hair and beard walks into the passageway, carrying a bundle under his arm, grumbling fiercely to himself. I scramble up the hill to the train tracks because a petite woman alone in the wilderness should be especially cautious. Todd said he was probably grumbling because there wasn’t enough gold under the rainbow. Later I see him in an RV near ours. He no longer sports a sweatshirt, but a long sleeved tee with suspenders. I see that he is Asian and his beard was merely speckled with white, but the darkness of the tunnel must have only allowed that to show through.
A wild berries of Alaska poster at one of the trail heads helped us recognize the abundant high bush cranberries there. We sampled some. One was too tart, one was awfully overripe, one was just right. Still, I preferred the low bush type that we had a few days before.
Musk ox farm in Palmer, AK. They are raised here in order to harvest the down under their hair. This ultra-soft fiber, qiviut (KIV-ee-OOT), is warmer and softer than sheep’s wool. When these animals are grown, they looked like giant long-haired guinea pigs (with horns). Highly durable and waterproof scarves and other items are made from qiviut. Just a shake will dispel all the water even from a rain soaked garment! Their astounding spiral nasal cavities allow the air to warm up before reaching their lungs, so that they can endure -80 degrees fahrenheit! Obviously, qiviut has helped them survive those temps too. Oomingmak, as the animals are known to native peoples of the area, have been around as long as the woolly mammoth and fossils of them have been seen as far south as Florida. If have ever been a fan of the Cocteau Twins, here is a lovely song, named after these sweet animals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSKO2vDTfq4
has a bar called the Sleeping Lady where an art exhibit featuring work by living artists from Northwestern Native American tribes.
Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington, Denny Creek Campground
Dad picks me up after dark from the airport. He’s smaller than I remember. He says I am too. He says he shrank by two inches after he had spinal surgery. I don’t remember the conversation now, but I remember his is in a great mood and being funny. We haven’t seen each other in four years. I haven’t been to Washington in seven. We arrive in the forest after dark, but I can still see the massive trees. The sky is clear so I can finally see the stars! I don’t have a tripod with me, so I rest my camera on the ground supported by a flashlight.
In the morning, we eat sage sausage that he has made with fresh eggs. I take a walk by the creek (Denny) flowing through the park. It’s the prettiest creek I’ve ever seen. There are clear running waterfalls and pools along the trail. I become so engrossed there that I hardly even wander far from camp, but am gone for hours.
When I return Dad shows me his walking stick that he has hung feathers of Stellar’s Jay, woodpecker, and crow. He shows me a bone that is used to make an arrow shaft from a small tree branch. There are many robins but the light is too dim and they are moving too quickly for me to get a good shot. I did manage to get one of a hairy woodpecker. At night we make a campfire and act silly.
The next day we have breakfast, then head over to Columbia City neighborhood in Seattle, when I am participating in an art exhibit. To see images from that show, visit my other blog post: https://haikuflash.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/su-casa-es-mi-casa
My friend in Alaska, Dave, tells me to go to a diner in North Bend because it’s the one everyone hangs out at in the surreal murder mystery series Twin Peaks. We just happen to be staying 20 minutes from there, so plan to head over for breakfast, pie, and coffee. I have been watching Twin Peaks: The Return every Sunday, so am excited to be in one of the three-dimensional locations I have seen on the two-dimensional screen. We are greeted by a flashing open sign with a blue neon mug and red marquee lights above it representing steam rising from its hot liquid. I’m pretty sure it was in one of the episodes.
The props and memorabilia sprinkled throughout the place definitely lend to the feeling that the show is superimposed on top of the charming diner. I can see close up, the panoramic landscape painted in a strip along the entire wood paneled wall. My cup is emblazoned with the logo for Twede’s Cafe along with their slogan “The Home of Twin Peaks Cherry Pie and ‘A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee’.” A rectangular wooden sign with letters carved out and painted white: TWIN PEAKS Population 51, 201, sits on top of the pie case. A man, appearing to be the manager, sports a t-shirt with a Twin Peaks Sheriff Department decal on the back. To top it off, as we are leaving, we see an FBI Agent smoking out back with one of the waiters as a sun dog glows above us, just like in the intro scene of every Twin Peaks: The Return episode. In fact, that entire fictitious town, invented by David Lynch and Mark Frost, is situated in that area, including other regular scenes depicted in the show, the Snoqualmie Falls (named for a branch of the Salish tribe) and “Crying Man” mountain, Mount Si.
To see this gorgeous misty waterfall in action, visit: https://vimeo.com/236171694
After brunch and a walk to the aforementioned falls, we go hiking up to Franklin Falls, which feeds the creek running through our camp, Denny Creek. On the way up, we see many small trees growing from hollowed out dead tree trunks that have filled with dirt; cozy cabins; a tree trunk remnant that serves as a rocking bench, which I enjoy with a random little girl on the trail; a tree base that looks like a giant spring onion; and tiny black squirrels. It’s a sunny day, so at the apex we see many rainbows in its mist. The water is cool and fresh. Dad finds an arrowhead along the rocky shore. We see a young guy climbing the cliff side really fast like he is a billy goat. We walk off our Twede’s, so have room for grilled steak, compliments of dad’s friend who owns cattle and uses no hormones or antibiotics. Needless to say it was super flavorful and fresh.
The next morning, we are considering going into the city to meet with the Rychener’s to view the eclipse, but are worried about the traffic, which has been insane the past couple of days. Instead we drive out to the highway near the campground where we have a clear view of the sun. The peak of the eclipse is supposed to be at 10:20, but it is still pretty bright outside, which I am not expecting because I had already seen one in the 80’s that was much larger (lower in the sky because it was evening time) and probably closer to totality because it got much darker. It did cool down noticeably though. I try to capture a shot at 1/8000th of a second, ISO 100, and f32, but my lens isn’t very long and when I review the image, it doesn’t look like much…until I see it on my monitor! So pretty! Very different than the cell phone pix I take, which only show a tiny trace image of a crescent sun shape off to the side.
We enjoy lunch and a pint at my favorite Irish restaurant, Kell’s. They have the best soda bread and so many delicious seafood choices. It’s right on the wharf, so we stroll over to the aquarium, which was closing soon and cost too much for the amount of time we would have in there. Still, we get a good view of the water, boats, and gulls. We have some time to kill before heading to the airport, so we make our way to the Discovery Park lighthouse, West Point Light. The park is non-existent without getting a special permit first, so dad drops us off and comes back to get us later. The nostalgic looking building has been renovated and has been automated since 1985.
I don’t want to leave the wilderness to return to Austin traffic and heat, but I know that the bitter cold will catch up with the Northwest shortly after we leave. Luckily for them, they get the Northern Lights as consolation. We are too early to catch any. It isn’t dark enough. I hope to go back another time for their electric show and go to Valdez too, which is highly recommended by several people.
To see more photos from this trip, visit: https://haikuflash.photoshelter.com/gallery/Alaska/G0000nLeUEupIxYA/C0000wXadIR1Yr_g AND https://haikuflash.photoshelter.com/gallery/Washington-State/G0000lWJERtcV3d4/C0000wXadIR1Yr_g
Visiting real world places used as settings in novels or a script can be way to enhance your interpretation of the material. It can serve to flesh out the scenes you imagined when you experienced the story on paper or screen. Here are a few examples of spots I have both read about and encountered in the physical realm.
Going to a place I had read about in a book…
As a senior in high school, I read An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, which is set in Kansas City, Missouri during the early part of the 1900’s. The story is based on two actual death row cases from that time period. The main character, Clyde, lands a job his first job as a bellhop at a high class establishment, the Green-Davidson Hotel. Described lavishly in the book, the hotel is a strong contrast to his upbringing in a poverty stricken missionary family who spends their days proselytizing on street corners. In the story, his striving for wealth and prestige at any cost brings about his tragic demise.
Shortly after reading the book, I went on a trip to visit my family in Independence, Missouri, which is near Kansas City. I decided to try to find some of the locations described in An American Tragedy. I found a closed down King’s Hotel where the fictional Green-Davidson stood. I could see chandeliers, a wide spiral staircase, and parquet floors through the window. I imagined Clyde in his uniform hauling suitcases up its marble steps for dapper men and beautiful women in furs gliding across the foyer. Seeing the glamorous hotel decades later as a disheveled and abandoned space reiterated the message in the novel that the power behind materialism is fleeting and as vulnerable to destruction as our human lives. Clinging to it as if it can somehow immortalize or make gods of us is a trap.
Going to a place I had seen in TV show…
On a recent trip to the Northwest, knowing that I was camping near Seattle, an Alaskan friend mentioned that I should try to go to Twede’s Cafe, in North Bend, the town where the fictitious setting of Twin Peaks lives. I had been watching the murder mystery series written by David Lynch and Mark Frost, Twin Peaks: The Return every Sunday, so was excited to be in one of the three-dimensional locations I had seen in only two-dimensions. We just happened to be staying 20 minutes from there, so planned to head over for breakfast, pie, and coffee.
We were greeted by a flashing open sign with a blue neon mug and red marquee lights above it representing steam rising from its hot liquid. The props and memorabilia sprinkled throughout the place definitely lent to the feeling that the show was superimposed on top of the charming diner. I could see the details in the panoramic landscape painted in a strip along the entire wood paneled wall. My cup was emblazoned with the logo for Twede’s Cafe along with their slogan “The Home of Twin Peaks Cherry Pie and ‘A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee’.” Dad is exuberant about the pie, especially the crust, and asks a guy appearing to be the manager in his Twin Peaks Sheriff Department tee, if the secret is Bisquick. He merely reply that it might have some Bisquick in it… A rectangular wooden sign with letters carved out and painted white: TWIN PEAKS Population 51, 201, sat on top of the pie case. To top it off the experience, as we were leaving, we saw an FBI Agent smoking out back with one of the waiters as a sun dog glowed above us, just like in the intro scene of every Twin Peaks: The Return episode.
Discovering a place I am familiar with was in the book I was reading…
As a girl, I went to Wisconsin every summer to stay with my grandparents. One of the adventures they took me on was a visit to The House on the Rock, a roadside attraction near Madison, which is featured in American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I have been there several times and to this day reflect on it as one of the places that enchanted my childhood. Gaiman chose the most striking elements of the site and in each of those passages he conjured the spellbinding energy I felt when I was surrounded by its strange fortune tellers, animated dioramas, horsemen of the apocalypse suspended from the high ceiling, and fully furnished rooms containing orchestras of instruments that would play themselves with the drop of a quarter. I could picture every scene vividly as his characters interacted with the oddities in its many rooms. I was envious of the characters who managed to sneak a ride on the make-believe creatures of the dimly lit antique carousel. As they were spun around on the platform, they were transported to another dimension, just as visiting places in your favorite books will transport you!
Some shots from the juried exhibit, Gimme Shelter, at Columbia City Gallery in Seattle, where I am showing my project, Su Casa es Mi Casa (video and building cards). According to the gallery’s website, Gimme Shelter “speaks to the many types of dislocation happening in society today both locally and internationally. Artists working in 2D, 3D and video address issues of homelessness, gentrification and refugee dislocation.”
My project focuses on twelve meandering months of sacrificing stability to focus on art by completing an MFA, showing work abroad, having difficulty trying to find employment during school and after graduation, and thus also trying to find a long term residence, especially where rising rent costs are prohibitive. Here, 26 surfaces slept in during that time are the focal point. Some while house sitting, dog sitting, renting cheap rooms briefly, or visiting far away friends.
The images are rendered in impermanent media in a style touching on the vulnerability and fragility of a dollhouse, yet in some cases are also reminiscent of an interior blueprint. They are primarily recollections from memory vs. photographic representations. Therefore, the room renderings are wrought with inaccuracies and omissions. Words are imperceptible in the disorienting layered monologue which ponders the meaning of “home” for someone who has accepted nomadism and expansion through travel and creativity over domesticity, yet longs for a place to settle down. The disquieting incompleteness and constant change provides comfort through spaciousness and balances the alternative by thwarting staleness. On the other hand, constant movement is contrary to the stillness needed to support long term goals. Therefore, balance must be found between the two, just as it is required to build a house of cards. The concentration, energy, and persistence needed to succeed during this period of transition is apparent in the tension of the monologue and motion of the builder and camera operators, Stephanie Reid and Todd Rychener.
Camera operation: Stephanie Reid and Todd Rychener
Illustrations, Direction, and Editing by Stephanie Reid
Detailed images of the cards: http://haikuflash.photoshelter.com/gallery/Su-Casa-es-Mi-Casa/G0000UW0W15mhFLE/C0000nFrmMwTH.y4