For snow days. For ice storms. For cabin fever. For life on weather hold. For cold nights with the furnace on blast … Here are 2 good movies that’ll get ya thinking.
Author: The JT LeRoy Story. A crazy story about a crazy story. What is art? Does it matter who the artist is? Was it all a hoax? Is hoax even the right word? For me, this drama says more about “us”—a society hungry for celebrity—than it does about a middle-age woman channeling a teenage boy to write books.
Midnight Special. A sci-fi that doesn’t feel like sci-fi. Such a subtle movie. What’s it really about? You have to use your brain, figure things out for yourself, make the connections and be rewarded.
For certain reasons, as well as no reason at all, I didn’t go out on New Year’s Eve. The trick here is to plan your no plans in advance. Don’t do any “we’ll see what happens,” or “maybe we’ll check out that one party for a little while.” Decide ahead of time. Put your sweatpants on early. Then when the light falls, you’re already settled in and cozy.
Anyway, as holidays go, this one was a bit sad—a night full of memories. However, we were warm inside by the fire and our plates were pleasantly full, which, despite anything, is a life affirming way to spend a winter’s eve. At one point, a tidy package was discovered outside our front door. We unwrapped it to reveal a candle smelling of cedar, along with the loveliest note. “Can’t help but feel the emptiness. I hope this warms your heart and home.” I lit the candle and cried … for him … for both of them.
Early the next morning, we drove up a volcano through the blizzarding snow. Tony and Ryan were awaiting us at the ticket line. We hopped the lift and rode hip deep powder until our faces froze off. It was smooth and creamy. It was largely untracked. We whistled and hollered. We went fast. We were happy.
And just like that, a cycle starts anew. Happy 2017, everyone!
1 mini ramp. What happened was, it rained a lot, and I started missing my old mini ramp this spring. I didn’t tell anyone, though. Within a week, the universe, along with Colin, Johnny, Niki and Deva, had delivered a lovely used ramp to my residence. Some things just work like that.
2 border crossings. I’ve taken to making a list of places I wanted to go. A “to-go” list. For years, the little surf/hippy town of Tofino, B.C. and the medieval ocean-faring country of Portugal have been on that list. Now they’re not. Because I went there, to both places, THIS YEAR! On the making-shit-happen scale, 2016 was a level 10, I’d say.
5 months living with Mark. My steady boo moved in on August 1. After what amounts to years of living alone, the struggle to not become curmudgeonly was real. But turns out, having someone at the house when you get home is quite lovely, because then that someone is around to open stuck jars of jam, and there’s someone to drink wine with as the light falls, and when that someone happens to be someone you love, well isn’t that just a little bit of life magic?
6 nights sleeping out under the stars. I thought it was more. Surely it was 15 or 20? It’s one of those mysteries of memory, how all those nights sleeping in my old bed, the shades closed just so, one just like the next, they all blend together, and so 1 or 2—or 6—nights passed bathing in starlight, an owl crying over there, the tallest of the trees rustling and creaking, or if in the desert, a coyote howling in the nearby dark … Nights like these are so full of sensory experience that they just take up more room in your mind.
2 broken hearts. Twice in 3 months, I held the head of the dog I love while the life passed right out of him. Lefty? I think about him all the time. I dream of him often. And now, with a little perspective, I can look back and be proud that I didn’t cling, that I was afraid but didn’t let the fear rule me, and that I was able to walk with him into the best death possible.
For Durango, our lil pup, barely 5 months old, Mark and I are still struggling and struck dumb, with no understanding and no peace. Durango departed us one week ago today. Christmas, Twin Falls, Idaho. 10 p.m. We left him in the car. He was alive. We came back, he was dead. I shook him, pressed his little ribs cage and blew into his little lungs, we panicked, we yelled, we called every vet in town, we didn’t know what to do, our hands froze, we cursed the cold, we drove too fast up the dark highway to an emergency vet hospital, we got pulled over in their parking lot, the cop saw Durango and said “Go!”, we rushed him in, they stuck a tube down his throat, they stuck a needle in his heart, but it was all … too late. We had to leave him there, on the table. Just leave him and walk out. Get back in the car. Drive home to Portland, 12 hours through a cataclysmic snowstorm, staring out the windows, pits in our stomach, suffocated by the stillness in the car, feeling like everything was the same but impossibly, irreconcilably different.
My dear friend Genna said to me recently, “Sometimes there’s no lesson to learn, no ‘takeaway.'” I shall choose to believe that. Or maybe the lesson is just how we get to know our own capacity for love when faced with its sudden absence? Anyway, for now I’m staying in, living a sparrow-brown existence, avoiding my phone with it’s many megabytes of puppy photos, and pretending everything is alright—because eventually, it will be.
Road trips over airports. I’m elated to be driving to Colorado for Christmas instead of flying there. It’s a long drive. But think about the airport! The airport, during the holidays. There’s a complex equation that sums up time spent vs. worth. For plane travel, you have to factor in bag-check lines, security lines, boarding lines, weather delays, lines to get coffee, lines to buy expensive, poorly tasting snacks, lines for the bathroom, lines for baggage claim, lines for the airport bus. Ugh. This year, though, we shall allocate between 17 & 18 hours to: podcasts, Leonard Cohen tunes, conversation, and driving through the snowy world being masters of our own destiny.
Kite Hill Cream Cheese: Made, not of milk, but of almonds. Typically, I turn my head at fake cream cheese. It usually tastes off. Is it the emulsifiers? I dunno. But not this delicate, artisanal stuff. It’s rich and supple, saturated with the perfume of green meadows and soft-petaled flowers. Spread on toast, it has the power to save the world I’m pretty sure.
The puppy in the morning time. If you have a dog, then you know that they are inarguably at their cutest first thing in the morning. Spunky. Snuggly. Happy to meet the new day. Now take a puppy and times that by about 1 million.
Hunt For The Wilderpeople: Taika Waititi always kills it. This film is mad and rambling. It’s so warm. So clever. And gah, Sam Neill! Anyway, I strongly advise you to watch the movie and feel good.
A snowstorm blew into town at around 12:18 p.m. on Thursday. The weather persons had predicted it, so when the sky went from hard gray to feathery white, no one was surprised, and we were all delighted to run out into the office parking lot and turn circles amidst the billowing flakes—each of us inwardly pretending that we were the very center of the snow globe. Mark came to pick me up from work around 2, as I refuse to drive in the snow. We put his truck into 4 wheel drive and rolled Northeast-ward from Belmont through the peaceful streets. Inside a Chinese restaurant in Hollywood, I ate hot noodles and felt happy.
Everyone in Portland (as no one in Portland is from Portland) laughs about how the schools close and the city grinds to a halt at the first hint of snow. We all come from heartier, colder places, it seems. In truth, there was only one snow day ever that I can remember growing up in Colorado. And yet, I get it. Things are different here. Portland doesn’t have snow plows. We don’t have salt or sand. Snow shovels? Naw. Also, the temperature hovers right around freezing, turning snowy streets into stone-cold ice rinks. Even with 4-wheel drive, hills you didn’t realize existed, like the one on 47th and Broadway, become insurmountable Everests in these conditions. Momentum is your friend—every intersection, a total hail mary.
Anyway, I like the mythos of the storm. Storms create stories. They’re rememberable, they’re romantic. Even in a place like where I grew up, where it snows professionally, we had our storms. I’ll forever remember this one Christmas eve—I was young. 7? 8? It snowed nearly two feet. Our power went out in the night, and my sister and I laid awake staring at the digital clock blinking 12:00, feeling like the only people on the planet, wondering, desperately, if Santa had come?! When we couldn’t resist any longer, we snuck out to look under the Christmas tree. You couldn’t even see the tree there were so many presents! A mountain of them. Dark shapes in the dark. We didn’t peak under any wrapping papers, or shake any box to determine its contents. We just just stood there and soaked up the potential energy of all those unopened presents. Minutes later, we slipped back into our beds and fell asleep softly, deeply—as softly and deeply as the snow falling down outside.
This time of year more than others, I find it worth remembering that I have enough, I am enough.
Still, I’ve often pondered a world where a small woodsy cabin, forever in evergreens, was part of my life. I’d imagined it to be a humble, utilitarian place, built simply out of natural materials, and I’d go there to quiet my mind, live honestly, be outside.
In fairly breaking news, I’m here to report that I’m in the process of purchasing a small plot of land in the woods of Central Oregon. This modest half acre, shaded by Ponderosas, will in all hopes be the site of said future cabin.
I’m spending all my money on it—my retirement, and any and all savings. Fear-inducing? Yes. There is no safety net. But what’s our money doing there, in the bank, anyway? Why do we work, if not to bring daydreams to right here, right now? And banks, well they don’t always do the best things with our money, do they? So this is a plan to sort of take that money back. It’s a retirement plan I can actually use until I retire (which, let’s face it, will prob be never!).
This year, more than any I can remember, has an on-the-cusp energy. I turned 39 in September. It’s very tipping-point-y. I feel an awful lot like I better start making that ideal life happen right now. If not now, WHEN?
So—I’m on the hunt for tips and cabin-spiration. I was thinking A frame. But now I’m not so sure. Maybe something more modern? I dunno. What do you think?
The pup not being a baby puppy anymore. Seemingly overnight, but really over the span of 5 weeks, Durango hath transformed from a shy little fur piglet into a lanky teenager with too-big ears and paws. His fear of road noise? Gone, and he now walks along on the leash just fine. A V-like-1000 engine Fedex truck revved past us as loud as could be, and he didn’t even care. Just looked the other way and sniffed the wind. Battles, won! But new struggles arise daily. We are currently fighting the Battle Of The Couch. I will keep you posted on the latest developments from this disputed territory.
Thursday happened. Thanksgiving came and went, and all it meant to me was a four-day weekend (yay!). In observance, I promptly turned my brain off. Besides that though, I never have much planned for these eating holidays. For starters, I’m just whatever about Thanksgiving food. As a bonafide non-carnivore, I haven’t chomped on turkey in years. And I’m risking work-place discrimination here to proclaim that my aversion to mashed potatoes persists. Still! My lovely friends came over, and the kitchen filled up with people, and a lot laughter happened, much of it at the puppy, who boinged around in a fugue state—completely high on the smells of the feast.
Captain Fantastic. A film worth your time. Despite watching the entire thing, I never did figure out what “type” of movie this is. I like that—a refusal to be predictable. Plus, peep out those clips of Portland!
In the past weeks, I’ve found myself equal parts angry/depressed. I’ve found myself giving my money away to charitable civil-rights-oriented institutions. I’ve found myself writing letters to my senator like they taught you to do in grade school—but you never, ever thought you’d have to, because you thought that while, sure, there were differences amongst folks’ beliefs and experiences, that humans as a whole were generally sane enough to do the right and good thing.
ANYWAY, when it seems like the world has gone bat shit crazy, I would argue that a road trip to a very quiet place in the mountains is just the thing. This is why we journeyed many hours into Eastern Oregon on Friday afternoon, where we found, among the rolling farm lands and rugged cliffs, little cabins strung up with colored lights. We slept deeply, although the puppy was restless, and woke up on Saturday morning to hike up high into the steep hills.
We climbed till our faces and fingers were freezing, and our legs dragged. We didn’t talk at all, just listened to the wild wind in the trees. Gusts of cold air, well they can scrape your mind clean, can’t they? Hours later, dog tired and hungry, we loaded the pup in the truck and drove into town in search of warmth. The streets were quiet—not dead, just peaceful, and we wandered into a wood-fire pizza joint to thaw ourselves with the heat from the oven, with the pizza, with the pints of beer. Outside the window, swirls of snow rolled like tumbleweeds down the street, as the darkness of a late-November afternoon descended, and I’m not overstating this when I say that it was quite possibly the coziest couple hours I’ve ever spent in my life.
The world, yes, it’s crazy. Scary, even! But mark my words, turn off your phone/Facebook. Get away! Navigate on nothing but intuition for a while. Move yer feet, meditate. You see new stuff. You drive. You eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You watch the setting sun break though the rain clouds over the open road, and you come home tired, and you are glad. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Today, I’m having a Leonard Cohen day kinda, shuffling my feet under my desk and letting his ole tattered ribbon of tune take me where it may.
I remember the first time I heard a Leonard Cohen song, on a road trip into the High Sierras with one miss Annie Fast. She had that compilation I’m Your Fan, all of our favorite indie bands doing cool Cohen covers. The Pixies playing “I Can’t Forget“—well I never do forget how good it is. Anyway, this moment, on this trip, was a tiny pinhole turning point. When I got home, I started unraveling his discography like a thread—like you did back then, buying records, one by one until you had a big stack. His songs are like paintings, they capture the light. The more I listened, the more I got the witchy sense that this old gypsy poet was my spirit guide. More accurately, I (a lost and lonesome little girl)—well I wished he was my spirit guide.
Here’s to Leonard. To Mr. Cohen. What an amazing mind. Thank you for always illuminating the biggest mysteries, which are really just the simplest mysteries—the ones we’re faced with every single day.
Daylight Savings drooped over us on Saturday night. I’m bad at math, but an extra hour on Sunday morning was fine by me. These last few evenings after work, though … DARK. The puppy sleeps through the night now. He’s moved on from cowering under the bed at the sound of silverware drawers and doors slamming to creating total household havoc. Rosemary’s Puppy, I call him, from the hours of 7-11 p.m.
But Durango is a cool dude. I like watching the process of his personality becoming. He’s a loving guy that hates loud noises. He’s curious. He’s bouncey. He has one tall white sock. His brindle coat changes color with the changing light. And like most puppies, he sees with his mouth, not his eyes.
Derek asked me on Sunday, “How many people have called him Lefty?” Honest answer: only me. It happened a few times, accidentally, of course. Calling your new dog your old dog’s name is not as much accident as habit. But I think about Lefty all the time. I dreamt about him last night, even—that I’d given him a bath and he had the most luscious, soft and shiny curly black mane. He always did have good hair, didn’t he? Anyway, the garden where we buried him is growing up fine in all this rain, and I can’t wait to see the tulips and daffodils go crazy there in the spring. Lefty, you are with us.