Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Things that are taken away

I couldn't sleep last night so I got up and prepared more books to bind. By today, three more. Well, one is a mini, waiting to be gifted.

Last night, I read Linda Sue Park's wonderful historical novel about a Korean family during the Japanese occupation, leading up to WWII, called When My Name Was Keoko. It was well researched (except that I'm unsure if comfort women actually got a satisfactory apology from the Japanese government), besides being well written, and it made me so sad about history that we'll never know, not only about this pocket in time and space, but so many others. I learned about the late Korean marathoner, Sohn Kee-chung, by reading the book, and then noticed that his story had been shared recently in the Guardian. My sister noted that I seem overly sensitive to this topic, but it's the same feeling that keeps me from being able to read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and makes me wonder if I can handle reading the late Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking, sitting in my current pile of books. Humans keep doing unspeakable things to each other.

In that light, I shouldn't be too upset that the DMV ate up a few hours of my day. But I still wonder about how important, or not, our lives are to each other.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I did a whole list of them last night, to calm myself. Self care is at the top of the list, which is a challenge to maintain, but it has to stay at the top. Still, I managed to finally finish binding an edition of books. Blank as of yet, but I had been itching to bind them with a very laborious method, which is why it took this long (I had made the paper in April). I also got a nice fat pile of books from the library, so priority number two (writing/reading) feels like a wood stove with plenty of fuel.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Receptive and The Creative

[For an exhibit in the Philippines this fall.] Farmers market, a gift for women in the mail, stamps bought, haircut, a gift for ME at the door (a beautiful book of Hawaiian plants for papermaking by Marilyn Wold--treasure!), a little reading, a little nap, ironing a big hanji piece, a talk with Eric, and other Saturday items. The despair and euphoria have evened out into life. Living my life with soup and noodles suits me fine.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Order and disorder

A couple weeks ago, we sighted a hummingbird at these flowers. Has never happened, not in 30 years, such a sight. Today was full, getting to the loose ends, so many that I could make an entire rug. For a really big floor.

After two years, I took a big breath and reorganized my hanji. It's still crazy, since I have no proper paper storage. No flat files, nothing. But at least it has gone from one ENORMOUS roll plus a zillion smaller ones to several neatly stacked rolls (plus the zillion smaller ones, slightly better organized). I mailed things like art and cookies. I bought a frame for a brilliant pulp painting by Tom that now hangs over my bed. I'm so lucky to even own it! It's perfect. I hung more art and negotiated the sale of two pieces. I advised a paper colleague on traveling to Korea. I admin-ed a lot, made a couple of cords, rinsed some paper coated in kaki. Forgot about it until it flew off the balcony and I had to run downstairs to catch it before someone threw it away. Kept almost making work. The big thing will be to DO it. But I had to weave the rug first.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Enthusiasm in small steps

[This evening, home.] I threw coins this morning, and the I Ching advised me very well. Though there was lots of rain today, I had waterproof shoes and a big umbrella, and got good work done. First, a photo shoot. People have wondered over the years why I pay a professional to shoot my slides. I met Stefan in 2002, and after a hiatus where I couldn't use him b/c I lived in Chicago for three years, I went back. There is no comparison to the people I used to hire. He's that good. People think I can do it myself. Well, I can't. I am no good at lighting, and would rather spend my time and energy making art or learning techniques or laughing with friends or sleeping, than forcing myself to understand the mathematics of reflection and refraction and whatever. I love being able to work with someone who is good at what he does. I love seeing my pieces treated like famous models at a shoot. It helps me feel like what I do is worth something, worth enough to hire an intelligent, worldly pro to help me put my best foot out into the world. And over the years, he has seen the range of my work, and understands how to shoot it. If I didn't enjoy the process of working with him so much, I'd ship my work to him to shoot without me. Trust.

I was disappointed with how little work I had for him since our last shoot. I must remedy that. After the shoot, I braved the rain to meet Helena for a delicious lunch at the Asia Society before we walked over to the Frick, a first visit for both of us. Though it's not my kind of art, it was still fascinating, and I found an exquisite trompe l'oeil that included images of two tiny scraps of paper, each with a drawing of a head. Then we sat down for tea. It's so nice to see friends again, get real hugs, be out in the world, walk, get around w/o a car, and work. The best end to the journey for today: I came home to an acceptance letter for a residency in the southwest! I am enthused.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Finally, the finality begins

Sometimes you have to make journeys that are hard. There are all kinds of hard journeys. This one isn't as hard as most. Your greatgrandfather walked through a vast hunger. My grandfather watched his people vanish before his eyes. Your son will have a hard journey. My daughter is on a hard journey. But we make our journeys. We have no choice. We can't hide from who we are. That's no life at all. You know that. --Brian Doyle, Mink River
The immediacy of loss is searing, and I had purposely scheduled my final journey away from my final time with Ben via rail, hoping that the length but security of the tracks would give me time to process. More time to cry when you are on a train for half a day instead of on a plane for an hour. I had no room for airports or NYC or security checks. We got up so early that the moon and stars greeted us this morning for the long drive south, but the sun rose by the time he dropped me at the station. It took three trains to get home, and I shuffled between crying, reading a mediocre book, and staring out the window. The last one was good, since I was so mesmerized by the growths in the trees that I couldn't comprehend, saddened by the takeover of huge swaths of water by organisms that aren't very good for it, and soothed by the river, trees, sky, movement. I have already started to book myself to go out and work and socialize, starting tomorrow morning, but that is no guarantee that I won't cry while doing all of those things. This year is worst on my record since 2005, or 1998/9, or whenever. I know people live through relationships all the time, all stages of them, but I really dislike the ends of them.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Grateful that I have traveled, though I am stranded right now

I may have posted this on my blog last year, from Ireland, after hiking and peeing on a slope when no one was watching. I've been away from my computer since Monday afternoon, so all I can do is scavenge from old ones online. I just finished reading Mink River, which was beautiful and feverish and perfect for these times (and why I picked a photo from Ireland). I started it last night, and have been at it all day, while in a slow process of heartbreak. A new kind for me, but an ancient human one. Books might save (or distract) me, even though what I want right now looks like: a shower, a ride to a train station, and several train tickets.

In a matter unrelated to me, but also pertaining to heartbreak: the dog of my hosts last summer in the Cleveland area, died last week. They had to put him down because of cancer. I was shocked to hear the news, very sad. I will see them next month and stay for a bit, and we will share our losses.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I had a great video chat last night w/one of my oldest and most dear friends. Eric had recently gone through old stuff from growing up, and sent me our fourth grade class picture. I canNOT believe the pants I was wearing (I still am not quite sure how that happened, but suspect that my mother and I forgot that it was picture day. Or, maybe it's just how I will always dress, as seen in Korea). Don't ask what I'm wearing today, but don't be surprised to know that it clashes. I used to care SO MUCH about my wardrobe and now I wish I could wear a uniform every day.

Well, not really. Right now, I'm surrounded by uniforms, under a framed print of a very orange tabby cat, in an army base library. I'm still sorting out lots of things: paperwork, relationships, how long I will keep chewing this gum. In the meantime, I'm grateful for those who keep working and making beautiful things. Jean Betts was generous with her time and kindness, to me, a stranger. Since I can't afford to pay people for their expertise, I sent a mail present instead.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Real surprises

I was shocked to find out last night that a sealed keyboard box actually contained brushes and paint for Chinese painting. Ben is uncovering all sorts of mysteries now that he is truly reorganizing: today is his final day in the Army. So much transition going on that I'm back to washing and hanging underwear daily since I don't know where I will be from day to day.

I engage in highly selective public sharing, even though only a handful of people read these words. I realize now that I've moved so far away from the openness and oversharing that I started with, out of fear. After seeing people's public words being used against them, I'm doing here the same thing I did with the lovely silver rental car I had for the last 2+ weeks: I imagine the worst-case scenario, and paralyze myself. [Though I'm proud to say that I returned the car last night safely after driving through almost five hours of rain and fog, the kind that makes you wish you could pull off the road but you don't because that would probably make it worse.]

I have been living this peregrine life for five years, but lately I have thrown aside all of the things that keep me sane and healthy. This year has been one of the worst. My irrational paranoia is that someone will come after me with a gun. Worse: someone would WANT to do that. I have been in an unhappy place for a while, but I think I'm crawling out of the worst of it. My friends and mentors have been extraordinarily kind and patient with me in the process, and remind me to try the same with myself.

Today, I'm starting over. And the same thing happens tomorrow.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A perfect week

The moon tonight is more stunning only because I know it's getting fuller, and because I've watched it travel across the windows at the ceiling of this comfy visiting artist pad. I splurged tonight on takeout (I never ever do that!) and the evening was nice. After an overly hot and humid couple of days in the front of the week, I was so grateful that day after day, I could turn off more fans during class, the last one going off today.

This class was such a treat. Low key, amiable, hardworking, no balking at the hard work (like clean up), and each took to different techniques. Such a treat to have a completely conflict-free classroom! They even waited for me to pack up at the end and helped carry my things to the rental car, and then insisted on having me follow a car to Somerville so that I wouldn't get lost on my way to a visit to the Harvard Art Museums' off-site location.

Finally! They were kind enough to search and find a set of four huge books that were donated from Korea several months ago, that I've wanted to see since I was in California. I had met the professor who had compiled these samples, and knew I couldn't buy my own set. Luckily, the Koreans always donate to Harvard, so I got to go through over 300 hanji samples. I can't tell you how exhausting that is, but I'm so happy that I was able to do this during this trip. They found the books just in time for me to visit on my last day!

I'm hoping for a restful sleep, and a safe drive home tomorrow morning. I can't wait to finally unpack for (almost) the last time for a bit and see my family!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In lieu of hot air

Handmade paper hot air balloon stuffed with packing peanuts! At the original Carriage House Paper.

Today: dyes! But super low key, b/c that's how I am with dyes and colors. It's fun seeing what other people come up with, and I especially enjoy watching one of my students, who is chronologically young but seems to have grown up doing all sorts of things with her hands that 'kids these days' seem to NOT be doing anymore. That is heartening. More rattly paper, testing my new sugeta, another batch of kozo cooked (but for lace, not paper). I went back to the studio after class to make a little of my own during quiet time, and also found out that I can visit a special collection tomorrow to view a new publication from Korea on hanji! So that will be the final rounding out of a very papery week in Boston.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"paper paper paper"

Said Velma. Today was a paper day. We beat and beat and beat. And I happened to go back to the studio later after class to find all the paper had blown away and shrunk. Not what I expected. BUT so very pleased despite it all, b/c it is beautifully rattly paper, which is not all that easy to do. So I hope they are pleased tomorrow even though it didn't turn out the way I said it would (it never seems to...).

Tonight I went to visit the International Paper Museum in Brookline. I was supposed to meet both Sidney and Elaine, but she wasn't feeling well, so he gave me the full tour of the artwork, garden full of papermaking plants (this is a tiny banana one in the driveway), paper studio, offices, library, and exhibit space.

Tapa! I could have stayed for much longer looking at all the paper prototypes. Then he treated me to a viewing of two videos. I got to pick, and both included footage from Korea. But it was the rest of the footage that was so fascinating. I had read Elaine's book last spring, but this was a great complement because I could finally see it all in action. Some things were so new, yet ancient. It was inspiring to think that paper could motivate an entire family and sustain them for so long. I'm hoping tomorrow I can sustain enough energy to get through a hot day for more papermaking, dyes, and weaving!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Class in a sauna

That's how it feels up on the 3rd floor. I'm disappointed w/this batch of Thai kozo and really wonder--same exact problem from last year in Cleveland. I wonder if we have to switch to lye to make it cook down, since it's not budging. Luckily, there is some magic mitsumata that will save the day tomorrow, I hope. The cooking vent is crazy loud so today was hard, but my students were troopers. Tonight I got to see Katherine and have a good dinner, but I got horribly lost both ways. The way home, which was only supposed to be a few miles, took about an hour. Rain, night, no directional sense in this city. I'll be grateful for the sleep.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Some cooling

The weather has cooled some, which is WELCOME. I swing on this every day, just a little.

I tried to find the gym today and FINALLY found it, and then walked to class through a basement maze. I love theatre set stuff.

Poor crumpled cracked acrylic gloss medium deer. I can relate.

The wall of samples is growing. This was after a day or day and a half. Wendy is watching over us.

I soaked fiber today for tomorrow's papermaking. I dread it, b/c of how physical it is. I am weak these days, and exceedingly out of shape, so this will be a trial. And we're not even doing full-sized anything! Hopefully I will get enough sleep tonight to drive me tomorrow.

Monday, August 01, 2011

On my feet

All day, which hurts. Today was our first full day of class and I pushed hard. But I keep thinking I'll let up once I cover X amount of material. We'll see if that actually happens. I do think I will do a major shuffle, though, based on what I'm sensing. I was amazed that the big pot of paste I cooked up this morning after breakfast was used up completely. The acoustics are challenging, since we're in a space that is WIDE open to the ceiling. Like, up to the top of the building. From the bottom of it. Probably about four stories in a standard apartment, so apparently my voice is lost.

I've met some great people, and already have connected with a cellist who knows a papermaker. And of course I know the papermaker! It's so weird being here, teaching in the art program, alongside an entire chamber music program. I see people with their name tags that indicate their instrument, and I wonder what happened. That used to be me! [Up there is one of 3 dorms alongside each other. It's not the one I sleep in, but I suspect they are identical.]