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Like a cat

B is like a cat. He wants up, then immediately wants down. Hands me something, like my clog, and then immediately wants it back. Then he’ll run around with two sets of tongs for a while. (To be fair, I don’t think cats can do that.)

He’s started learning animal noises.

“What does a snake say?”

How does a mouse sigh?

“What does a horse say?”

And he’s finding his voice. I shouldn’t laugh. I think I’m supposed to stay serious when he gets so loud (we have lovely neighbors we would like to keep), but I can’t help it. Extended vocal techniques. Meredith Monk has nothing on him.

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How and why I stopped freelancing

A quick disclaimer: This is NOT an article about how to find a full-time job. There are a million posts about that online. And anyways, beyond the general advice1, I’m not sure how useful those articles usually are anyways. Every person’s path to a job is super different.

This is about the steps I took to make the transition from independent work to full-time employment as smooth as possible for my clients, my collaborators, my new employer, and most importantly myself. It’s also about the thought process behind that decision.

In many ways, this is all a long explanation of the feelings behind this earlier post.

It wasn’t without stress, but it worked out pretty well with a lot of prior planning and communication.


Wispy clouds against a blue sky

Before I go in to how, a little about why.

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Against cynicism

I’ve had a post languishing for years in my drafts folder, return to it every once in a while but never feel like it’s quite right. For one thing it feels way too long. It’s about cynicism, about how I feel like it’s one of the most toxic, pervasive things both on a very personal level and also when you look at society as a whole. When I re-read it, it feels too preachy, or starry-eyed, or whatever.

Anyway, Nick Cave replied to a fan back in April this year about this very topic. He said it all way, way better than I ever could.

Read Issue #190 of The Red Hand Files

A quote from his letter:

Unlike cynicism, hopefulness is hard-earned, makes demands upon us, and can often feel like the most indefensible and lonely place on Earth. Hopefulness is not a neutral position either. It is adversarial. It is the warrior emotion that can lay waste to cynicism.

Accompanying his letter is a photo of an artwork by Philip Guston. Guston was a self-taught Canadian American representational painter. He often explored dark themes in his work, including himself and his own mental health issues, using primarily a limited monochrome and pinky-red palette in his later work. A lot of his paintings are almost cartoon-like except for the very rough linework. Klansmen feature heavily in some of his most famous paintings. He deemed these self-portraits. They aren’t explicitly violent per se, but they are menacing. They depict the banality of evil, how it lurks inside.

The figure in the piece that Nick Cave chose has a hood, but it has no pointed peak. They have a slightly pained expression (hard to figure out how Guston achieved that with such minimal brushwork) and are criss-crossed with dotted lines through their head and torso as if they have been sewn back together over and over. There is vivid red smeared on the hood, a head wound.

It’s a good image choice.

I can’t figure out where it is from, reverse image search turns up nothing. Maybe it’s a detail. I’ll keep searching.

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First trip to Michigan

A large, iridescent bubble with a faint reflection of a house floating in front of a leafy green tree

We took B to the cottage for the first time. The weather was a bit grey and cool, but it turns out we were lucky. A huge storm ripped through right after we left which took down a tree and made it impossible to reach, also knocked out the power for two days. Followed by temps in the 90s, and B hates heat like that. So it worked out!

Lots of sitting on Great-Grandpa’s bench swing, massive bubbles, sunsets, good food, playing with balls bigger than he is. And we got two afternoons at the beach on the lake. Turns out he absolutely loves cold water. He would crawl up to it, be shocked by a small wave, and then hastily crawl away laughing his head off. And repeat, for 30 minutes. The only things that would distract him was trying to eat pebbles, and shoveling sand into his mouth.

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One way to fall asleep

Lying in bed for ages thinking “why can’t I get to sleep”, then I finally realize every muscle in my body, every fiber of my being is tense.

How does it surprise me every time? A mindful body scan usually does the trick.

***

When I was a kid, probably around 5, I distinctly remember this moment where I was lying in my twin bed staring at the doorway and suddenly thinking, “How do you fall asleep? … I don’t know how to fall asleep!”

I realized that I had never actually experienced the moment of falling asleep (of course not, I was half-asleep at that point) and started overthinking it. It became this process I didn’t understand, and then I was just lying there wide-eyed not understanding and confused about what to do next.

I’m not sure if it was that night or a few nights later, but I eventually asked my mom how to fall asleep. She looked at me and said, “… Um, just close your eyes?” I did, and to me the next day, it seemed like I had fallen asleep instantly. It felt like a revelation, that there was such a simple answer.

I sometimes notice nowadays, that moment between wakefulness and sleep.

Every once in a while I notice my thoughts getting weirder and more abstract and suddenly think, this is it. It’s quite an incredible state, nothing like it. I guess it’s lucid dreaming, but it’s so short… I try to stay in that state but it’s almost impossible, thinking about it wakes me up and leaning in to it makes me fall asleep.

Sometimes I get in to the same state upon waking, but unfortunately that’s usually because I’m coming out of a nightmare.

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Leave a stone unturned

I think the best creative advice I ever got was from my tutor at CSM.

Don’t dot every I and cross every T, don’t tie up every loose end. Leave some questions unanswered. A piece of art, a movie, a song, a performance, they all tend to be more compelling when they leave you wondering.

I tended to be very goal-oriented in my visual art practice, with an idea of exactly what I wanted the final product to be. This usually left me with frustration when I couldn’t quite get it there, and a piece that was overworked and somehow boring, despite my efforts. When I spent a little more time just focusing on the process and letting go of the result, it was both more fun and far more interesting to look at in the end.

I don’t have much of an art practice at the moment, though sometimes I look at this website as one big, long-haul creative endeavor.

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4+ month update

It’s been a little over four months since B arrived. These are some of my experiences or things I’ve learned so far, plucked at random.

I’d say that the books, conversations, and classes prepared me pretty decently in theory, but the physical and emotional reality is almost impossible to prepare for. Being a parent has been much more visceral than I expected.

A woman walking in to James Turrell’s “Three Gems”

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First walk

Thistle with a bee in McNee Ranch

Dried out tree stump in McNee Ranch

McNee Ranch in the summer

We took B on his first walk on August 20th, in the hills above Montara beach. It was his first time in the carrier, we thought he’d resist but he loved it. The hills are a lot drier than the last time we walked through here, but there were thistles and nasturtiums out. We saw a coyote on our way back down.

We took him to see the sea too. Thought about dipping his toes in the water, but the beach was too steep and the waves too high. Another time.

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A new chapter

Our little one is here, and life will never be the same.

🌱

It has been a whirlwind month, really a whirlwind few months. I was trying to wrap everything up prior to maternity leave and just about got there, then was suddenly faced with a same-day induction following a routine prenatal appointment at 38w + 4d, three days before my leave was due to start. So close!

I’m not going to go in to detail about the birth in public here, it is too intimate of an event. I will say that besides the shock of the sudden induction and a few other blips, the birth itself went just about as close as I could hope to my “ideal” scenario. I’m so thankful for that. Remembering that the pain is temporary and intentional helped a lot, and Sam’s support was vital, as were our nurses Amy and Lukas and doula Taylor. “Ready, present, relaxed” was on repeat in my head.

The days following the birth involved ups and downs in terms of my health, including a readmission to hospital unfortunately, but have gone fairly smoothly otherwise. Not sleeping as well as we did previously, but that’s to be expected!

And most importantly, our little lad. He’s perfect, gorgeous, and so funny already. He won’t appear often in public photos on this site or elsewhere online, but like most parents, I’m happy to share copious pictures with friends and family via text.

The one-on-one conversations I’ve had with more experienced friends, family, collaborators, clients, and acquaintances about this stuff are some of the moments from my pregnancy that I hold most dear, small acts of selflessness and vulnerability on their part that made me feel so much more prepared for this process and what is to come. I’m thankful to have been able to ask so many people about so many things: what it’s like to be self employed with a young child, navigating how to divvy up responsibilities with your partner, the million different paths that feeding a baby can take, how your sense of identity shifts, what equipment is useful and what is pointless, and so, so many birth stories.

So thank you so much to those people that have reached out, and to those that have kindly opened up when I prodded a bit. It has meant everything.

Along those lines, an invitation: if you’re expecting or even just considering kids and want to talk about what it is like, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.