31 January 2010

The Hikes

As I mentioned, I'm really not much of a walker. Give me an alternative and I will likely take it. But in the spirit of the aforementioned cabin vacation, we took these really great walks while we were in Comptche. First into town, and then later, along one of the heirloom routes that Miriam's family has worked out over the last few decades. The latter cuts across several country lanes and through some great big woods. The photos speak pretty well for themselves.

Despite these fantastic photos and my stellar company, I'm still not sure about walks. By the end, I felt like I was going to run.

30 January 2010

The Cabin

I've had all these things to show you, gathering dust since late November, when we took a West Coast vacation through Mendocino County and up to Portland, Oregon to be with friends for the Thanksgiving holiday. There are so may moments worth recounting that I expect this will come in several parts. It all started when Miriam invited us to come stay for a weekend in her family cabin in Comptche, a tiny tiny town just 20 miles or so from Fort Bragg in Northern California.

We headed up on a Saturday afternoon. After leaving California Hwy. 101, we drove mostly along a winding road through a sleepy hollow sort of landscape, light green and lush and rocky beautiful the whole way. We lost the light thirty minutes shy of our arrival, so that by the time we pulled into the cabin's gravel drive, our eyes were tired from squinting at road signs. We were in a forest, we figured, dark as it was by 6:30, but that was all we could tell.

My grandparents have a cabin in northern Wisconsin, perched on a hill, looking over a lake. Jungle Lake, as we fondly call it, is painted in a blue wash and decorated with vaguely Scandinavian knick-nacks, built by my dad's family in the 60's. Not knowing what to expect, as always with my California, I imagined to find the same sort of thing at Miriam's in Comptche. I woke up our first morning, to find something else entirely.

In truth, they aren't so different. The redwood forest that surrounds Comptche, at the scale of the majestic, is more impressive probably than the familiar woods at Jungle Lake. But where the cabin itself was punctuated with their families' history there--a museum of treasures collected on hikes adorning an exterior wall, lamps and drinking glasses handmade by Miriam's dad and the cabin garden tended by Miriam's mom--I was constantly reminded of the parallel traditions we kept at Jungle Lake. We have a birch cribbage table that my grandfather made from a felled log and an announcemnent still hangs in the hall closet for a pounce tournament "tomorrow morning" that we made when we were kids. Each time Miriam would explain a ritual of Comptche, I would remember one of my own. In a bit of a flood of memory, I realized how much I'd forgotten of the Jungle Lake traditions since I moved away.

They're a lot like time capsules, cabins. They envelope you in that familial slowness, where things assure you they will remain the same forever and you can just laze about in that promise. In the comfort of someone else's cabin capsule, I was able to enjoy that very home feeling. It was a perfect way to begin our Thanksgiving.

26 January 2010


Last night, for the fist time in my life, I actually felt like going on a walk. Honestly! They are usually not my thing--too slow and pokey and unsatisfyingly moderate as activities go. And of course, in this rare moment of walking impetus, I stepped outside to feel rain drops falling ever so lightly on my head. Damn.

In a particularly admirable turnaround, I headed back inside and embarked instead upon a postal extravaganza. With the same excitement I'd reserved for that brisk walk, I got out my pens and paper, my packing tape, my envelopes and my labels and Jay-Z and the lot of us set to work repaying my long overdue mail debts. A stack of sealed and addressed letters is staring back at me right this instant, on top of two very handsome parcels. Excuse me while I sigh softly in satisfaction.

I only got about half way through my list, truth be told, but it is a start. Now that my letter hand is back in top form, I plan to address the rest of them soon enough and maybe launch some debts in my favor. And as long as this rainy season keeps up, it looks as though I'll have plenty of openings in my schedule.

24 January 2010

The Biggest Project

Making my portfolio turned out to be the most fun and also most challenging part of my applications. No matter how many proofs I looked at, of course, something could always be improved upon. And the version I shipped out is not pefect, but it's pretty good. The contents include sewing, drawing, prints, spanning late college through present day. I'm particularly proud of the final enclosure, which repeats a pattern used in one of the included pieces through machine embroidered silhouettes and sewn binding.

It's scary when your life seems to rest on something that is in some ways, so accidental. I've always felt stifled by the pressure inherent to making art--the feeling that each piece must fit into a decided repertoire and express you perfectly. When a given project can't or doesn't do that, I feel crushed by the waste of time and resources. And then I get monumentally discouraged.

But in making the portfolio, for the first time, I looked at it all together in a series. And to my surprise, they held each other up. Where one print fell short and seemed overly simple, another object chimed in with detail and nuance. It was reassuring and liberating to see that they were related, if only through their common creation by my hands, and I feel really proud of the work--all of it--for the first time.

I've embedded a link to the PDF pieces here, in case you'd like to see what I mean. Though it's rather late for critique, let me know what you think.

23 January 2010

Back on Course

Well. Did you miss me? I rather missed myself.


More than two months have happened since I checked in here, so bear with me while I remember how to write about it. In sum: I suffer from a disorder by which I constantly imagine that I am capable of doing more than is actually possible. In the broadest sense, I've thought for much of my adult life that I will hold no fewer than seven simultaneous careers with wild success, as a matter of course. And in the smaller sense, day-to-day, I also imagine that I might sleep 9 hours every night, perform 24 hours of projects during every day, and also relax in between. I'm just ambitious.

Over the hiatus from marymaker, I applied to eight Master of Architecture Programs, drove up the coast of California to Portland for a week of vacation, celebrated John's birthday, compiled a portfolio, finished up my class in drawing at Berkeley City College and went back to Wisconsin for the Christmas holiday. Through it all, I've managed to work at my job and eat and sleep. Truly, it felt like the greatest magic trick of all time.


Still wet.

Now that all of that has passed, I still have some craziness up my sleeve. Classes in physics and architectural history, freelance sewing projects and this weekend--filing my FAFSA.


But. I've made some resolutions for 2010, to limit my commitments so I may do the things I'm doing, only better and with more focus. At least that's the goal.