Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Big Blue Lake!

I'm back in Tahoe for the winter animating away. Enjoy this holiday card, share it with your friends and look for more to come in the new year!

Friday, June 5, 2009

The New Zealand Project

My boyfriend and I have headed to New Zealand for the Southern winter. Here's a link to our travel blog.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Semana Santa or How many Spaniards does it take to move a KIA?

The week preceding Easter is high times in Spain. Known as the Semana Santa or Holy Week, every pueblo has its own series of daily processions with fluctuation levels of strange traditions that could only be inherited over centuries of cultural layering. Several of us at FV sought out a cross section of events for our cultural edification. The big day was Viernes Santo – Good Friday. 4 of us ladies rented a roomy KIA and took off up the coast for adventures.

The first stop was Vera, a small, industrial town about 20 minutes from Mojacar. We parked on a side street and began wandering through the streets in search of the church. After asking directions, we crossed a plaza, turned a corner and were confronted by a crowd of people dressed to the nines in black suits. Feeling very touristy in our beachy colors and sandals, we squeezed
in the back of the crowd and got a view of the church entrance. Coming out the door was a life-sized figure of Maria Dolorosa, her silver face and ashen expression the very definition of misery. Under her gold brocaded velvet gown we could see several pairs of suited legs – men bearing her heavy weight through the crowd. She made her way through the narrow streets, stopping every now and then for a rest and then backed into another church around the corner. Then the not-so-somber crowd dispersed to the bars for a café or cervesa before the next icon was scheduled to appear.

We didn’t want to wait around, so hopped back into our KIA and winded our way up the rugged coast. Being the only person who had driven in Spain before, I was the designated driver. It was a beautiful spring day, green and floral. We paused in a turn off to poke around some ruins and enjoy the view. Piling back in, I backed down a narrow road to turn around. Suddenly, the rear of the car dropped and lurched and we heard sandy scraping on the bottom. Upon further inspection, it appeared I had backed into a rather large ditch, full of prickly bushes. One rear wheel was completely floating in mid air, while the other was spinning in sandy gravel digging the middle underside of the car firmly into the dirt. Both front tires were still on the road, but pretty much useless without power from the rear. We were officially stuck.
A few hundred meters down the road were some cars and picnickers fishing from the beach. Shelley and Jane went off to recruit some help and came back with two reluctant 20-something Spaniards. We enlisted their muscles as I gunned the engine, but the result was only to spray one of them with dirt from the spinning front tire. We discussed calling a tow truck as a white VW van drove up from the beach. The rail thin, hippie-ish man in his 60’s stepped out with his barking dogs and scratched his head at the conundrum.

At this point, Jane had taken things into her own capable hands and was standing by the main road waving down any SUV type vehicle she saw. First a Land Rover with an elderly couple pulled off, then another vehicle passed us, turned around and pulled off. Here we had hit the jackpot. Out stepped a formidable woman and 3 burly men in their 30s. We now numbered 12 able bodies and decided to give it one more go. Not even turning the car on, we but it in neutral and everyone together pushed. It moved! Once again, uno, dos, tres! And the wheels began to roll. Once under its own inertia, we easily pushed it out of the ditch and back onto the road! Everyone cheered and we expressed our profound thanks in broken Spanish and broad smiles.

Viernes Santo: Part 2
On our way again, we enjoyed the scenic route to Cartagena, map-making center of the world. At 2 pm everyone was out walking around in holiday style, a promenade to see and be seen. We enjoyed paella y postre at a cafeteria on the main square with our amiable waiter, Oscar, serving our every whim with a smile. After lunch we admired boats in the marina and tasted sweets and meats at the artisan market but by 4pm the entire town had emptied out. It was time to move on.

Our last stop was Murcia, a small interior city which reputed to have some of the best processions within the area. We parked by the river as the first drops of rain began to fall and ducked our way to the main cathedral for refuge from the deluge. The rain lightened after about 30 minutes and we asked a few people about processions, getting various answers and indications of the direction we are supposed to go. We had a schedule and a map, but over the course of the evening, both items turned out to be somewhat useless. However, making our way in the general direction of someone’s indication we came around a corner and were confronted with bar crowded by men in black dresses with white lace trimmings and the traditional Spanish footwear. Women in black lace, children in velvet robes mingled with the jovial crowd. These clearly were the people to ask. Turns out we were behind one of the churches and the procession was scheduled to start at either 6:30, 7:00 or 7:15 depending who you asked. So, we went to the front and staked out some plastic chairs along the route for a good view as strangely dressed people continued to stream by, some talking on cell phones, others smoking a cigarette, all holding various walking sticks, lanterns, posts. Many had billows of fabric hanging over their cinched belt like a pillowy layer of fat. Later we discovered these rolls of fabric were stuffed with candies, toys even hard boiled eggs and sweet breads which they handed out to children and the occasional lucky adult in the crowds (we tried our luck at getting some but were mostly ignored).

It had been drizzling off and on for the last 30 minutes and now, at 7:15 it started raining harder. Our neighbor on the sidelines explained to me that if the rain didn’t stop by 7:30 they would probably call the procession off. A few minutes later there was a sky-breaking peal of thunder, the ambient daylight faded as though someone had leaned on the celestial light switch and it began to pour! Everyone raced for the shelter of shop doorway, overhangs and strangers with paraguas. The downpour lightened to steady rain in 5 minutes and soon the municipal men were stacking the chairs and the crowds dashing off to the local bars. We followed, disappointed that the costumes and props we had seen were left to our imaginations. Evening fell as we sipped hot drinks in a café and we thought about heading home.

But around 8:30, as we were getting ready to leave, we noticed a great crown over by the church and music bouncing off the buildings. Hurrying over, we saw a float coming out of the cathedral doors! Not sure if this was the same procession finally starting or a new one at the scheduled time, we really didn’t care. At least we could see something!

I cannot describe the strangeness of the procession. It went on for an hour. Hooded men in black handed out sweets from the bowels of their robes to small children who were well on their way to a strong sugar buzz. Huge floats carried by 30 or more men kept coming out of the church and proceeding along the streets. The floats consisted of a rectangular wooden base, gilded and decorated with roses, candles, lights and who knows what else. On top of everything was a statue of Jesus or Mary, or a crucifixion scene. They were obviously incredibly heavy. The men would walk about 30 feet and the leader would knock his walking stick against the icon with a loud CRACK and they would stop, resting their loads on wooden crutches. Then, at another crack, they would start again. Watching them turn a corner was amazing.

To see more pictures of the procession, visit this link.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

April Shower

I left the biblioteca and was amazed to discover that in the hour since I had sat in the warm sun on the plaza, dark clouds had gathered all around Almería. I started down the hill, wondering if I would make the 2km back before the clouds caught up with me.

A few drops splattered on the pavement and thunder rumbled. I was about halfway – not far enough and I ducked into a little gift store. After collecting a few items, and looking over the entire stock twice as the thunder grew louder and the rain began to pour I final purchased the 3,30 worth of trinkets I had gathered and stood in the entrance way. The shop owner pointed out that they had a nice stock of paraguas for only 3 Euro which I dutifully examined with great attention for another 5 minutes hoping the downpour would lessen. A cheap paragua was probably not going to keep me entirely dry for the remaining 2k to the Fundacion. So I dashed across the street to a bar and ordered a café con leche and am lingering with the few other stranded occupants, watching high def music videos punctuated by thunder still stubbornly overhead. Still the rain pours down. Really pours! Thank goodness for laptops!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fundación Valparaíso

This, my first international residency, is a strange mixture of familiar and foreign. I am in Andalucia, the southern-most section of Spain, on the Medditerranean coast in a small town called Mojácar. The town had draped itself over a steep hilltop like a puddle of melting whipped cream. Behind it rise grand, mysterious mountains that have been clinging to the fog for the last few days, only allowing sonambulent glimpses of their peaks and mounds. Orange groves around the hills are doubled over with fruit and flowers, the scent of blossoms of all sorts intoxicate the air. Wildflowers abound – bursting from the ground in spurts and sprays of yellow, purple and pink, with smaller scatterings of blue and white. The sea is a long walk away, and at present with the early April chill, I prefer to look at it from the top of a hill rather than walk along its shores, but that may change with the seasonal transition.

There are 3 ladies who come everyday to cook lunch and dinner for us and clean up after our messy breakfast forays to the kitchen. We are treated to authentic Spanish cuisine in giant earthen casseroles– tortilla, calamaris en su tinta (which only four brave souls dared to try), bread that comes steaming out of the oven right at dinnertime as we sip the red table wine and nibble tapas.

The first evening was spent with the usual questions – family, children, work, and what other residencies have we all been to. The writers do get around and there was some overlap and some tips thrown into the conversation. Now, as the first of 4 weeks slides by, we come to the hard business of actually getting to know one another. The heavy drapery of our artistic reclusiveness pushed aside by our curiosity and the awareness that this is the extent of our social world for the next 4 weeks. Bits of the past life dropped casually into conversation and left clattering loudly on the table like a lost marble that no one jumps to claim. I am the youngest here by a good 15 years, which makes my upcoming 30th birthday suddenly seem rather trifling. Everyone, (with the exception of, Hagit, the Israeli playwright) is on their second marriage, or recently divorced. Life takes on a new perspective, depending on the company.

I was in Andalucia last fall for 6 weeks and while I was ostensibly here to be highly productive on several projects that were sorely neglected at home, I found myself pulled out of focus by a need to thoroughly explore the landscape and culture surrounding me. Reflecting back on that time has led me to the realization that my artistic productivity is based on external and internal exploration. Because landscape is so much a part of my work, I must internalize it before I can infuse it with the internal meanings and concepts bouncing around in my head. One friend, a master of metaphor, described my need to set out anchors in a place, familiar landmarks from previous explorations which make that particular external place a safe place in which to explore internally. Now, here once again in Andalucia, I am no longer dazzled by the white towns on the hillsides, no longer entangled within the narrow web of old men and women winding through the streets to the plaza mayor. I am no longer surprised by the crumbling, roofless houses tucked away in the hills or the little dogs yapping at the edge of the drives as I walk past. I know I should order a vino tinto or a café con leche. There are still things to discover to be sure, but the anchors hold firm and my mind is free to begin its own exploration.

You can see more photos of the first week on Facebook

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Nice Day for a Ride

When I took my first motorcycle ride up the Pacific Coast Hwy and through the Santa Monica Mountains, snuggly situated behind my friend Dave, he explained to me the reason riding is so addicting. When you take a drive in a car, you move along the road enclosed in your protective box, safe from experiencing the speed and environment of your journey. On a bike, the elements become immediate – the warmth of the sun tempered by the air moving over my skin; the smells of the bush, the farmland, the exhaust of the truck loaded with bananas groaning its way up the hill in front; the bugs bouncing off my sunglasses and the cat calls of the local men as two Americanas on a moto whiz by. All these are immediate, visceral and turn a Thursday afternoon drive into an adventure.

With a blue-sky and pleasantly warm day, Erica and I escaped the city limits on her zippy little moto and headed up into the mountains. Our first stop was a short trail through the jungle, which wound behind a rickety house with a pleasant woman doing her laundry, past a few wild fruit trees that tempted us with their laden branches. The oranges were sour and the lemons were sweet! We followed a river to a series of cascades below the Monasterio Cisterciense Santa Maria del Evangelio. At the base of the falls we chatted with a woman from Honduras who was with a small group of service workers touring the monastery. The padre leading the group greeted us and chatted with Erica about her work with Vida para los Niños and eventually they found someone they both knew and were immediate friends He soon was affectionately dubbed “Parrot” by my sister, after a lengthy explanation that his name was Laro not loro (like the green bird that repeats everything you say). Erica promised to attend church at the monastery soon so she could try his pan con chocolate. The monks are famous for their baking and before we left we managed to purchase un pan baguette and un pan de campo. As it was well into the afternoon and our stomachs were rumbly, the pan baguette didn’t even last the walk back to our bike. Good bread is hard to find in the DR. Erica will be back.

We continued on our journey, enjoying the beautiful day and the winding road by the river. Eventually we began climbing and climbing and climbing and just before the crest of the winding curves the bike rebelled and puttered out. Two kids watched our repeated attempts to start it. Reluctantly, saving us much embarrassment, it did rev up and we made it to the top, a long downhill and rows of green mountains ahead of us receding in the distance. We continued through several small communities and finally reached our destination, a small town nicely situated on the banks of a river. Then we turned around and rode home. Really, the destination was the journey and the ride back, in the cooling air with the sun on our backs was just as pleasant.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Best Job In the World

The Ultimate Blogging Job!

The music is called "Puddles" and was composed and performed by my friend Matt Wood.