Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If the World Were a Catalog

I love public radio's Marketplace and today, while I was working from home, I heard the lovely voice of Molly Erdman. Molly started a clever blog called Catalog Living on which she posts pictures from all the catalogs that clutter our bedside tables along with tongue-in-cheek captions.

I'm not a catalog collector, but I like that Molly spoke about the anxiety we have because of fantasy home imagery. I believe it's akin to looking too much at fashion magazines and wondering why, after steady dieting and exercise, we still can't recreate the look of the D&G model. We actually live.

My pained attempts at perfection in our home (everything has a place I always say) is an ideal and ideals tend to live in books and the imagination of their creators, not in the real, hard surfaced world where 14 hour work days coupled with pinched budgets result in something more akin to a Rauschenburg work, artful but definitely messy.

Something to think about this time of year when out of town guests and catalogs will surely collide...

Now, in the spirit of tidying things up, I've freshened up the look of Blueprint. Let me know what you think. It's an homage to the Delta, where I learned how to properly set a table whilst making a "spaghetti cake", with a big city, modern day feel.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

She Sleeps and Her Writing Does Too

(Mississippi Delta, Sunflower County, Mississippi by Maude Schuyler Clay)

I swear this post was only going to say. "Mary is sleeping. Come back soon." But then I thought how unfortunate it would be not to share a few things:

1) I'm feeling the miss in Mississippi. I've been driving back and forth from the bright lights to quaint mountain foothills for work. You'd think the natural landscape would be comforting, and in some distant way it is. Still, North Mississippi and north Georgia country are the same but different. Equally beautiful in different ways: stark and flat vs. thick and rolling. In my mind I see Maude Clay's black and white photographs of the Delta so rich with earth, but it's her conversation -or the gallery director where her work hangs from time to time - that I crave.

2) Found this old post that made me glad I'm still writing. I posted just before I headed off to Asheville. (Little did I know that trip would alter the next moves my little Queen was making.) The post reminded me that it's good to take out our journals or old letters from time to time and reflect at where we were and think about where we are going.

Now, if you are wondering why there is no mention of wedding plans, remember, I didn't want this to be an update. Rather, I think when the prospect of marriage occurs, it's ok and maybe even a good thing to dig a little dipper into our souls. And that, my friends, is what I'm doing...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Language of Plants

(Solomon's Seal- Clearly an appreciation for Judaism even in the garden.)

It's been raining the last few days, so I haven't had a chance to get out and take a photograph of the progress. Chris made headway with an uplifting (literally) set of stairs that encircle a willowy crepe myrtle.

I did run out and get some plants for the patio, including: Solomon's Seal, Japanese Painted Fern, Autumn Fern, Coral Bells, and hardy begonia. For outside of the patio, a few azaleas, white ones in particular that remind me of the bush that create outside my bedroom window as a girl. We'll see how they take to our little space. I need to get some humus to enrich and lighten the heavy clay soil. If only I were born with a green thumb, this wouldn't be Chinese.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Afterglow of a Patio

(Hardly hopscotch, more like a game of chess.)

It's funny to think about, but I lived in a space the size of this 500 sf patio in London. I was 23 and things like lumpy beds, shared kitchens, and cubbyhole-sized bathrooms did not phase me. I was too busy reading Oscar Wilde, feeling so glamorous in his words that I never noticed the shabbiness around me.

Five hundred square feet is a lot of space to fill with stone though. In this case, we hauled stone, shoveled dirt, and set stones with the help of three friends over the course of a weekend. Then on Sunday, when our shaky arms and legs could take no more, we declared the patio part of the project complete. It happened fast.

As I hunched over the earth collecting small stones to fill the gaps between larger ones, a rush of warmth, the kind I'd feel when my sister would brush my hair, came over me. On this very ground, all our closest friends and family would be gathering to celebrate our partnership.

I also thought, too, of the patio that inspired the patio I was standing on. The other I never had the opportunity to experience completed. When I left, it was only partially finished, surrounded with summer blooms and long grasses. It became a quiet metaphor for unrequited love and left a heavy mark on my heart and aspirations. I moved on, but still I dreamed of that patio.

Whether it is a job in a museum (got it) or bookstore (got it) or a piece of chocolate (got it many times over), my heart gets what it wants. I've always believed this and I believe it now even more than ever. It's the same with the patio, and although it took a little inspiration and cajoling on my part, Chris and I can stand on it at the end of the day and commend our work together.

Oddly, I have never addressed the patio space in the course of BPFASH, and I believe some background information on their history would be helpful. However, for now, I'm still soaking in the aftermath of completing something we set out to do, and recovering -- I'll admit -- from it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Gift For You, Dear Reader

Sadly, I put all of my poetry collection in a place only accessible with a chair. Perhaps, a most egregious error.

Fall always makes me think of Jack Gilbert and his earth-scented poems that recall the past. He often writes to his wife Michiko, who is now dead; but in particular, it is his poems about partnership, the kind driven by romance, that I adore.

So here, for a Thursday in fall is his poem, "The Great Fires":

The Great Fires

Love is apart from all things.
Desire and excitement are nothing beside it.
It is not the body that finds love.
What leads us there is the body.
What is not love provokes it.
What is not love quenches it.
Love lays hold of everything we know.
The passions which are called love
also change everything to a newness
at first. Passion is clearly the path
but does not bring us to love.
It opens the castle of our spirit
so that we might find the love which is
a mystery hidden there.
Love is one of many great fires.
Passion is a fire made of many woods,
each of which gives off its special odor
so we can know the many kinds
that are not love. Passion is the paper
and twigs that kindle the flames
but cannot sustain them. Desire perishes
because it tries to be love.
Love is eaten away by appetite.
Love does not last, but it is different
from the passions that do not last.
Love lasts by not lasting.
Isaiah said each man walks in his own fire
for his sins. Love allows us to walk
in the sweet music of our particular heart.

Jack Gilbert

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Paths on Old Property

We retraced our steps from last summer, only this time there are less weeds and more dog paths twisting around the trees. (And there are more holes thanks to a pretty lemon beagle that likes to dig.) I spent the morning picking flag and stack stone to begin the first phase of the landscaping project. We decided on a mix of gray and brown to pick up the natural granite on the property and the red Georgia clay.

We want to create a few terraces throughout the property and envision our nuptials in the backmost part of the lot, in a grove that forms an almost perfect rectangle. I think we'll mulch the area just for the wedding, but that's a way off. We spent all afternoon a few months ago mulching the front lawn, and I ended up with blistered hands and a bright red sunburn. Trenching for the patio begins this weekend. I'll be wearing gloves.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Never the ____________, Always the ____________

(The enchanted forest when men were boys.)

On more than one occasion I have said that if women spent as much time setting and achieving personal goals as we did planning our weddings, we'd be a lot happier. So here I am, planning a wedding, and of course there's a twist.

The short version of how we find ourselves here: A few weeks ago Chris took me to a favorite spot of ours - the enchanted bamboo forest - and he got down on one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. He dug up a split of champagne after I produced the requisite "yes" and we toasted to climbing the next plateau - because relationships are really less like a mountain and more an intense incline that levels for a while until the hike up. Being unapologetically sappy, it was dreamy and perfect. In our jeans, walking our dogs, taking a few minutes to salute our friendship.

We have been enjoying being engaged for the moment, but I couldn't help but think how and were we would say "I do" when it finally dawned on me that we must do it at home, and in our back yard, in particular. How quaint, you are thinking, but how practical, I was thinking. Instead of dumping all our resources and energy into a space I have little connection to - there are, after all, few places where we could be feasibly publicly marry that move me - why not prepare the house for our nuptials and invite all our friends to christen the new chapter of our lives together.

There's something else. According to a 1985 study entitled "Materialism in the Home: The Impact of Artifacts on Dyadic Communication", the objects in our home, e.g. the furniture and its arrangement, pictures we hang, plants we display, etc. are "messages about ourselves that we want to convey back to ourselves, and to the few intimates that we invite into our house." Identity, the study highlights, is "achieved through artifacts." But what about the abstract, say a wedding. The study identified the artifacts as being either historical, ancestral, fraternal, or developmental. A wedding would be all these things. Could a wedding become artifact?

The philosopher Marx W. Wartofsky would say yes. He distinguished a handful of types of artifacts, among them secondary artifacts, which is essentially a representation of actions embodied in socially shared practices. Heady, I know, but this view reinforces - and maybe reassures me - that the location is perfect. So join me as I explore our home in the context of of an impending marriage. It just might get messy...with dirt, of course.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

If These Walls Could Talk

"If these walls could talk." You won't be hearing that phrase very much anymore.

When I was a little girl my father held up a coffee mug and announced that, in fact, the very mug in his hand was made up of the same molecules that made up me. It was a profound thought for my petite brain to comprehend, but the memory stays with me.

My father is a master of these odd and often whimsical pronouncements (though some would call them meanderings because he does tend towards rambling.) We spoke yesterday about houses and he delivered to me another observation, though this time hundreds of miles of away, that my fully matured brain - according to a story I heard on NPR our brains peak at 25 - understood.

"The problem with the housing market is that people started thinking about homes as a financial investment," he said, "rather than a place to raise a family." He reminded me that aside from Mary St. where I was conceived (I can't make this stuff up!), every one of the Warner brood grew up in the same tiny cinder block home. And now, my father pointed out, his granddaughter crawls along the same terrazzo floor we used to eat Cheerios.

My parent's house is nicer than it was when we grew up in it, mainly, my mom claims, because she "couldn't have anything nice because we were always breaking stuff." There are plantation shutters where we had vinyl blinds; a sparkly oven in place of the hot box that was better at heating the kitchen than baking a cake; and I heard they recently finished a bathroom renovation that's replete with natural stone glass full doors. And now the floor, my dad says, you can see your reflection in it.

I point out all these changes not to belabor the conditions in which I grew up - honestly, one bathroom was all I knew so I didn't care about it unless I was standing in line doing "the dance" behind two more of my siblings. Rather, I'm suggesting that our houses reflect a society that demands instant gratification, not works in progress whether they be websites, art, people, or the very fabric of society - relationships.

I'd almost say that my parents' house is a compelling mirror of their union. There were those years when my mom encouraged my dad not to spend so much time in the back yard, that instead he should spruce up the front yard, put in grass, hedges, flowers even, but often despite his best intentions, the grass would eventually die, the shrubs would get, well, shrubby, and my father would return to the backyard to tend the rambling garden he hid behind our home. My dad, you could say, is private and I now see how he treated marriage: it was an oasis, hidden from the prying world.

I finished Elizabeth Gilbert's book Committed, and while I know some readers are perplexed by her writing, I took away from it a better understanding of the rules of engagement, namely, there aren't any. It is, rather, this prying world or the one we are trying to impress that labels "works in progress" as somehow unworthy. If this is true, then we are all unworthy because not a one of us is perfect.

Neither are our homes. Twenty-eight years later, the lawn remains mostly brown but my dad has these rich memories of all six of his kids making an effort to help him pull weeds, scatter seeds, or rake the autumn leaves. There was a triple homicide just up the block from my parents' house a few weeks ago, a testament to the despair the neighborhood (but not my parent's freshly painted house) has fallen into over the years. A wave of homeowners left and rented to people whose respect for the idea of a home is dwarfed by the chromed out idols (read cars) they park on their over grown lawns. But my parents won't leave their "investment" because to them a price could never be put on the memories they have from creating a life together within those humble walls.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You Get What You Need

(It's 3 am so it must be time to be creative, she said.)

It's well past my bedtime but for you I write. I am not even sure who "you" these days, save for my dear friends who asked when I would put my fingers to work again. They are working, I want to protest, only instead they are directing emails to that person and the next, rarely moving to form the paragraphs that mean something to me.

I've just started reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage. [Full Disclosure: I assisted Gilbert with her book signing when Eat Pray Love was out in paperback. Second Full Disclosure: While I was delighted by Gilbert - she's charming, sincere, poised - I was no so taken with her acclaimed book. In fact, I was a fan of her previous writing, the more "masculine" stuff she calls it in Committed.] At any rate, I've begun Committed and already my head is spinning in a million different directions. My house, if you haven't already figured out is on hold. I exist on takeaway or leftovers, move like an exhausted being at the end of the day from front door to dinner table to bed and hit repeat, and now, having just read 1/20 of Gilbert's book, I've become wildly energetic. I love this book and how that in so little time, I've been awakened by words.

It's funny that even though I have a room full of books I still have to go to the library to get what I need. There are at least a hundred books on my shelf that I know I have not read, yet I am certain that one day I will come upon The Book at that particular moment. For now, it's Committed even if it doesn't belong on my shelf, but rather a kind of universal shelf. My mind has been racing in a million different directions lately, and one of the things it's been racing towards is marriage. It was an utter coincidence that Committed became available the day after my father texted (yes, texted) Chris to say that he gave Chris his blessing to ask me to marry him. This after a week-long deliberation on my father's part, I might add.

Chris was, as one might expect, annoyed by the delay. Why, he asked, does your dad have to make this difficult. I feel like I'm being judged, he pleaded. I was also annoyed that when a guy who I professed to loving, and more importantly he professed to loving me finally got to the next step, my dad stalled. In the last few years, in jest or maybe not, he had on at least one occasion reminded that I was no spring chicken. (I'll be 30 in a few months.) I was galled by his display, hurt by this seemingly unnecessary road block. My thoughts of a father who might proclaim as Winona Ryder's character in "How to Make an American Quilt" did, "Take her, she eats too much," were replaced with the image of father who, according to Chris, referred to me as "his most precious treasure." Isn't that weird, he asked.

If I am getting a little uncomfortable for a few of you I apologize. I don't think that's weird. I do, in my sweetest of moments call my father "daddy", whereas my mother is always "mom." I love my father and the effort he put forth in life to honor and protect me. They call it daddy's girl for a reason. In the same way, my dad wanted to be sure that I would always be Chris' girl. The fact that he wasn't hoisting me over to Chris and proclaiming that I eat too much was somehow reassuring. My dad, I think, wanted Chris to work for it.

Now where does this leave us with Committed? I'm still early on in the book, but I feel it's important to examine these seemingly obvious moments, to reconsider them much like we should reconsider marriage. I don't think Gilbert is asking us to give up on it, rather, I think she is asking us to see it from a new perspective.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Finishing Off the Details

(Get the Job Done with a Finish Board)

Since January I've been slowly immersing myself in the practice of yoga. The year before I was introduced to it by C. whose dedication to yoga was evident in her near daily practice that involved turning off her phone and committing to what most people would consider a luxury. Yoga is not a luxury, rather, it's a gift I continue to tell others about since more than anything it has rewarded me with an innate sense of my inner world, which now more than ever, competes with a vibrant and demanding outer world.

I admit I could be more devoted in my practice. I've been going regularly two days a week - up from the one I started with in the darker days of the year. But as Bill Murray reminds us as needy, well-meaning Bob, in What About Bob?, it's all about baby steps. For now I practice at a studio, with an occasional practice at home that involves Sun Salutations and some breathing exercises. I enjoy going to the studio and have become friends with the owner, a delightful, petite 30 something whose glow belies her age. While most people take their tea on the road after class, I sit with her and talk about the things in life most of us only read about in the pages of women's magazine, too afraid to discuss the things that really move us.

We talk about home a lot too. She's currently renting but owns property, and spent most of last year building the space that is yet another home for her - the studio. Just the other day I was returning a glass to the kitchenette off the sitting area when I saw an elaborately decorated board filled with Corian countertop samples, wood flooring bits, pieces of fabrics. and photos cut from the pages of magazines.

What's this I asked, pointing at the board.

It was our inspiration for the studio. You've seen a finish board before, she asked. I hadn't, but I'd glad I did that day. With so many ideas for the house between the two of us, just such a board would guide us along the way.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer Roast

(Backyard BBQ)

Two months to the date - I'm back. Ok, I couldn't resist the urge to write, but there were things that had to resolved before I could put my fingers to the keyboard recreationally.

Without doing a play by play, I've been most occupied with my new job. I'm the new brand manager for a recycled glass surface company that was, until recently, based out of California. They have since relocated and reorganized in the quiet hamlet of Tate, Georgia, which is where I commute to most days of the week. The funny thing about working for a company that manufactures building materials is that now think about my home more than ever.

So let's cut to the chase.

After a long hiatus of simply upkeep and maintenance, we are moving forward with more renovating plans. In fact, this afternoon, a fully assembled shed will arrive at our house. After doing more research than I did on past undergraduate papers, I found that buying the display model from the hardware is the way to go. The one we purchased had little wear and tear (I mean how many people have you actually seen walk inside the display anyway?), is fully assembled, and even comes with a few extra bells and whistles at more than half the original cost.

With the shed in place, Chris can begin the arduous process of emptying the basement of all things shed worthy so we can prepare the space for remediation. At the same time I am investigating stone options for our backyard patio project. (See above) Originally, I had a lead on dirt cheap marble, but with the cost of matching split-face (for the walls), we've decided to source stone from a distributor up I-75. Marble, although native to the area, would have been like outfitting a hound dog in a fur coat. Ridiculous.

We are, I'm happy to report, content. Of course, like any couple rounding out their second year we don't agree on everything (he wants a pitched roof, and I want to keep from bastardizing our ranch home), but then, I can't think of a single person I've ever agreed with about everything. In fact, in creating home with Chris, I've learned a lot about relationships, how they ebb and flow, and how each day is a discovery. An old friend asked me yesterday if it's love, does what Chris and I have constitute as the real thing? Of course, I said, love is the never ending attempt to want to know someone, even after realizing that we never really know anybody. And so I confess, I could spend the rest of my life wanting to know this man.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mea Culpa

More to come when I have some down time today. The house has been filled with guests for three weeks in a row. Much to discuss!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

To the Women - Make Use of Time

I've been in Jackson, Mississippi, since Thursday. The heavy hotel curtains have blocked out a good part of what I think must be a blue morning, only the other hotel rooms face mine so I can't open them quite yet. I've been up since 5:30 a.m., thinking about what's next. I came to Jackson for my film, the one I told myself I was over and then decided, showing it one more time wouldn't hurt. And it didn't. There was a lovely crowd for it, all quite complimentary and encouraging. Lots of questions at the end of the film. For me though, it was wonderful to see it one last time of such a big screen after working on a 14 in. screen for so long. Part of me is sad to move on from the film: there were so many conversations and friendships that grew out of the process. Another part of me is ready to put it to rest and focus on the book.

If I haven't mentioned this already (though I'm sure I have) the book is an outgrowth of my written thesis on the history of Thacker. Only after meeting with my editor yesterday I learned that rather than a stuff analysis of the show, he'd like to see something more personal. In most academic books, authors clearly identify who they are in relation to the subject they are writing about. I do the same in my thesis, but for the book, my editor suggested that insert myself into the story throughout. You can imagine the relief I felt when he told me this. To any naysayers of my version I can say, Listen, this is through my eyes. I hear pens are cheap these days, why don't you write a version of what you think happened.

So I am eager to get back and commit to my story perhaps in a way I was not able to as a graduate student when the demands of academia push my personal feelings, which I believe are equally important, into the margins. I told my friend the other day that I plan to commit to this writing the same way a southern woman commits to planning her wedding: fiercely and without regret. When so many things feel up in the air, it's nice to know that there is the permanence of words on paper.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

G is For Galanga and the Wonderful Curries You Can Make With It

(Galangal root. No, it's not ginger.)

Last week we took our friends to a dinner at the Bangledeshi spot near our house. We haven't been there since last fall, and when I got there I remembered why.

Having lived a somewhat sheltered culinary life in Oxford and in the white collar world in general, I had forgotten what service at other cultural spots might entail. In truth, service has been up to my demanding standards at all the Buford Highway restaurants I frequent. I'm pretty patient, understanding, and often attempt to immerse myself in the scene. I can't think of the last time I've been slighted, save for the Chinese restaurant debacle during which Chris lost it on the waitress who in broken English called him a liar.

But dinner last week was something else. It was a reminder of what dining at other people's tables can be like in foreign countries. We take it for granted that when we enter these exotic restaurants, that we are still in the American South, but really we've crossed the threshold into new cultural territory. Some things are the same though. An insistent waiter is not unlike your Southern mother-in-law- who likes to see you gobble up her pineapple cheese casserole. (If you haven't tried this covered dish delight, you are missing out. The sweet pineapple is intensified by the salty cheese and ubiquitous Ritz crackers.) Then there's the command to try everything, a little of this, or a taste of that. Don't miss the pimento cheese. Yes, it looks unappetizing but it's not the appearance that matters. Right?

When I lived in London and went exploring in Holland, I ended up among a group of new friends who threw together a pot luck. The spread covered all four covers of the world. Try this, someone said as they ladled a curiously yellow soupy mess over a pile of rice. It ended up being a Indonesian-style chicken curry, and the next day, after my host had finished her morning prayers, I asked her to write down the recipe for me. You may not be able to find all of these ingredients, she told me, but she insisted I find them. She was right. For years I substituted galangal root with ginger, because I was too lazy to order the dried stuff online from an international food website. The ginger was a mediocre substitute at best and eventually I quit making the recipe. Then a few months ago, I was breezing through the Dekalb Farmer's Market when I spied a pile of galangal roots. Had my Indonesian friend not insisted, I would have forgotten about them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mold is a 50s Ranch-Style Home's Bestfriend

Not to gross out my dear readers, but I spent the good part of the early afternoon with Fred Rodriguez (Remediation Group), my newest client , as he went through our house looking for mold. Since I'm a firm believer in trading services whenever appropriate, he was valuing the amount of work I needed done on the house. Our friend N., who lives nearby recently had to have her home remediated after a series of health problems. (N. works for Fred and introduced the two of us.)

So what did he determine? Yes, we have mold (but apparently anyone who lives in a house as old or older does.) It's not as bad as N.'s place but we will have to do a significant amount of prep work in the basement before Fred will send in a crew to clean it up. Then what's next?

I was reviewing my nerded out list of house projects the other day and realized that we had accomplished 95% of our goals. I've added about ten more things to complete by this time next year, including packing up the contents of the basement and throwing out what can't be sold in a yard sale. Chris asked Fred when all this needed to be done to begin remediation. "Nothing is so bad it needs to be done now," he said. Then I chimed in, "It will get bad if it starts to bother me because I will bother you Chris."

Clean up begins next weekend.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Environmental Serenade

As I was running around Drew Valley the other day, I started to think about the running I did in Atlanta before I moved here, in particular, the neighborhood by friend's place in Buckhead. In the my the shapes of trees, curves of the street blended into my current surrounding, and as I approached the top of a hill, I had forgotten where I was. It was like waking up in a hotel bed after a night of boozing. I had to think hard. Where was I?

A friend just told me this is called disassociation. It's when you have so much going on that you layer information and things get confusing. I agree with her in some sense that this is my reality, but I also think it just shows the power of memory. So I went to yoga on Saturday to remedy the situation, forcing myself to take each moment at a time to filter out distraction. It seemed to work. Even though I had planned to make a day of writing on Sunday (I instead spent it up in the air with my guy in a helicopter and later braised beef short ribs), I find myself with a kind of clarity this morning.

With the washing machine whirring and Turner letting out an occasional growl at invisible passerbys to serenade me, I'm feeling quite zen staring out into the backyard as I start my day.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Is it March already? I just finished eating a grilled pimento cheese sandwich on the day that marks my commitment to all things health and fitness related. A kind of personal housekeeping, if you will. The timing is perfect. We just had bash to celebrate Chris' 30th birthday and both of us want to get back to our pre-move-in state. For me, it's all about a schedule. Can I convince him to go for a run with me at 8 am a couple days in the coming weeks?

Part of all this maintenance is to motivate me to incorporate a writing schedule into my life. I was feeling particularly creative after making a movie about Chris for his birthday and realized if I applied that same dedication to my other projects, they wouldn't take years to complete. I haven't decided if Ill go the route of Salman Rushdie, who devotes the morning hours until lunch to write (which may not work for me with my consulting anyway), or the route of my friends who commit to writing on a per word basis. But I need to decide by tomorrow.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Masquerade at Home

(Home for a few days.)

Up for air. Oxford was a whirlwind. I worked for two days straight, then Chris arrived, calming me. We stayed at my friend's place in the county, a B&B in the former location of a hunting lodge. I always feel comfortable in that place. My earliest memories of a meal there was at dusk. The walls, a creamy white wood tongue and groove, combined with the airy overhead mast created a dreamy place where I could dine and converse quietly with my companions.

I don't know how C.B. and I became friends, but it happened the same way you fall in love. Isn't that how good friendships begin after all. She was overseeing a rehearsal dinner for a wedding I was playing the part of bridesmaid. From the outside, she saw my dedication to this affair while the bride-to-be seemed to overlook it. I couldn't live up to the bride's expectations no matter how hard I tried, and by the end of the wedding weekend, we quit talking to each other. It's remained that way, more or less, ever since. As misunderstandings go, the bride and I were never able to make amends. I felt slighted, she didn't feel waited enough upon, and I let go. She did too in her own way. Yet out of this tragedy (because it is tragic to lose a friend) I discovered a new friendship.

C.B. lives in the restaurant she and her husband own. Well, they live above it anyway. Only this last visit did I realize how difficult this must be. People in your home most every day and at every hour. I think of myself cringing at times when I come home and there is a foreign car parked our driveway. I put my happy face on, and for a moment, entertain the guest, whoever they might be. I feign happiness despite getting in an accident or getting laid off when all I want to do is cry.

I wonder how we can live in places where masks are worn as often as the clothes on our backs. I think of my friend and what I can offer her. Recognition maybe or perhaps I can just tell her, "Yes, I know you. I"m glad you get me."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Short Sheeted

(Under the sheets. That's where I like to be.)

Another week gone and here I am packed and ready to leave for Mississippi once more. How many people can say they look forward to visiting Mississippi? Only people who've been there. It will always be a special place for me. In fact, during an interview today with Lucy Schultz of the Oxford Eagle, I was asked where I grew up. I was born in Tampa, I said, but I grew up in Oxford.

I'm departing solo in the morning. Chris will join me Friday afternoon but until then I'll be tying up loose ends with the film, visiting with friends, and relaxing. It's been a rough beginning to my week. I spent the good part of the morning in an Atlanta courtroom waiting for a parking violation case to be dismissed, the afternoon at the drs, and the evening paying bills. Needless to say work is in a slump and I find myself anxious once again.

Then I spoke with A. who has been off for the last two weeks studying for an exam. We haven't spoken in months due to both of our busy schedules, but we were able to update each other with the most pertinent of news, including our grievances and were able to encourage each other. That said, A. sounded good and seemed settled well into her new home in the Crescent City. I'm just wondering when my uneasiness with Atlanta will be a distant and laughable memory.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Too Long, Days Too Short

(A glance back while moving forward.)

I am not at home. I wish I were though since it's 2:33 a.m. and I've been parked in front of a computer for the good part of my Friday and Saturday. I arrived in Oxford, Miss. on Thursday evening, and I've spent most of my time in a office working on the documentary film, which debuts in less than two weeks. I can honestly say that I've thrown everything into this project and it will be nice - and daunting - to see it in the company of an audience that's been waiting patiently for it.

Getting to Oxford was interesting. It's been half of a year since I've returned. The landscape was green then, and the heat forced me indoors, but it's been mild the last few days with the exception of the cold rain that only began to fall a few hours ago. I am enamored with the landscape of north Mississippi, and driving across the states gave way to a pleasing transition of shape and color. Hard edges became soft hills. Pale vegetation glowed beneath a blue sky at en route to my destination.

This morning I awoke to birds and soft light. A few hours before, the neighbor announced his return home with a drunken farewell I heard outside the window. His goodbye seemed more like it was a part of my dream and it didn't bother me. I smiled and feel into a sleep I haven't had in too long.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Choosing the Path Home

(What children think of home.)

A crazy but long week. I head to Oxford, my former home and stomping ground - at least until I started grad school and disappeared into academia - Thursday. I'm staying with a friend while I work with colleague and co-director of the film, Joe York. I feel like this has been a long time coming and I'm ready to finish this project and move on to the next one. I was just telling Chris last night that I don't ever wan to be one of those people who constantly recycles old material, and part of moving forward is letting go, or putting things to rest. Of course, mastering something would be nice, too, but what to master?

A few friends have inspired me to pick up my camera again. Armed with a better understanding of the process of art making, I think I'm ready to switch gears to a visual language. I've even discovered a cache of photos of homes I shot a few years ago and I'd like to play with that topic again, but this time dig deeper. There are a few books I'd like to order to expand my thinking on homes, and after finishing another film project of sustainable building, it would be nice to combine the research. I find it tragic that we endeavor to built a sustainable home, investing oodles of money to create a livable, earth friendly space, rather than work on the relationships with the home that give it its meaning.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dear Isla-

We made our temporary home in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, for New Years. It was a striking contrast to our Atlanta digs - white, bare, airy. It was enough space though, a bed, opposing side tables, a small TV on a table, and a chair not to be used for sitting, but for drying wet bathing suits. A bathroom with a door provided the essential privacy needed for a vacation in gastronomic hinterlands, and it also was home to a mini-fridge capable of cooling the entire room were it necessary. But my favorite thing about the room was that just beyond a floor-to-ceiling panel of windows: a balcony that faced west. Naturally, evenings were spent there sipping leftover wine from the night before or cold beers. It's true that the simplest environs are the most satisfying.

Over the course of the week the room became cluttered with things collected from our adventures around town: sea glass, wooden toys, a can filled with beans and covered with Christmas Contact paper used as a shaker to ring in the New Year, and sand, lots of sand. Every day, a maid came and mopped the floors clean, made our bed, and altogether made me appreciate the life more lived. Instead of making our bed we were speeding around on a moped watching waves crash and the sun set over emerald water.

In Isla, People left their doors open for my prying eyes. Beyond each threshold were small spaces decorated with dolls and twinkling lights, pink cinder block walls, statues of the Virgin Mary, and worn furniture. There seemed little difference between the interiors of these homes and ones I seen in my own. All of these things, these trinkets, are memories.