Sunday, April 30, 2006

Two weeks worth of firsts:

1. First off, two weeks ago, I experienced my first Easter service that involved streamers, confetti, and noisemakers at Jeff St. Baptist Church - it was so much fun that my roommates and I had trouble stopping ourselves from rejoicing.

2. My first time ever having Easter Monday off (three cheers for Catholic schools!).

3. My first extended period of time driving Edgar, the program's stickshift Geo. Andrea and I drove all the way to Grand Rapids, Michigan for the weekend - and got amazing gas mileage. I only stalled maybe once (with a quick recovery!).

4. Last weekend was the first time I had been back on Calvin's campus since I graduated - I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing (which was an excellent event and involves writers small and great talking about their craft - this year's authors included Marilynne Robinson, Salman Rushdie, Thomas Lynch, and the Pinkneys).

5. Last Monday evening I attended my first community action - it was for a affordable housing trust fund for metro Louisville - coordinated by CLOUT (). We all met in a church and cheered and clapped and did a call and response ("Knock. Knock." - "Open the door!") and held our breathes while two city councilmen committed their support (at least, I was on the edge of my seat). It was great.

6. Just this last Thursday evening I found myself standing in a pasture watching a herd of llamas gallop toward me for the first time in my life ... ever. My host family, the Jupins, picked me up unexpectedly after work and treated me such an experience at their friend's llama farm. Really, it was amazing and incredibly strange to watch. I think llamas have made it onto my list of animals to own at some point, along with goats, donkeys, cats, and a boxer dog.

Well, I think that's it. Although this next weekend I have one more big first coming up:

THE KENTUCKY DERBY! Which, from what I've heard, is going to be an experience. I also get Thursday and Friday off from school this week since this is Kentucky's biggest holiday. Yahooo!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Afternoon walks and ER visits: not what you're expecting

So this afternoon I was walking to the library taking my sweet time and slightly out of it. I stopped at the one crosswalk on my route and saw an older lady with a dusty pink coat on across the road from me, also waiting for the traffic to change. We passed each other in the middle of Southern Parkway and I went on to the library where I sat for an hour or so looking through books and magazines. Walking back I was just as slightly foggy in the brain, taking slow steps and thinking my own little thoughts. I get to the intersection again, press the crosswalk button, and look up to see a dusty pink coat standing across the road from me once again. Who knows if I've seen this lady ten times before, walking out in the neighborhood or whatever, but that coincidence was hard to ignore.

It reminds me of about a month ago when I found myself waiting in the ER with one of my housemates (due to an allergic reaction to antibiotics - don't worry - everything turned out well). We were discovering how un-urgent the ER actually seems to be. We joined the other patients in the waiting room who we soon presumed had been there for hours on account of how few (actually none) were called up to see a doctor. Stuck between the sound waves of some celebrity entertainment show and WWF, I picked up the bright blue book on the table next to me - Psalms and the New Testament - provided by the Gideons. I flipped through it enjoying the King James script, reading aloud verses to Andrea. And then I stumbled across a shalt in italics which seemed to break any sort of grammar rule I had ever learned about italics. It seemed the editor just decided to insert italics whenever he/she pleased. It was the strangest thing - I can't even come up with an example. Just think of the least likely word you'd stress in a sentence and italicize it. Added with the King James speech, it was pretty humorous to read aloud as well as totally disorienting.

What are coincidences then? Italicized moments strangely and absurdly inserted into our lives? Or something more - a new way to view the ordinary "hath"s and "the"s that walk through our lives?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

late night work and the beauty of books on tape

It is four in the morning and I've just finished a run of non-tiredness - that past tired, non-thinking state where my fingers moved to string pieces of the batik together without needing any instruction. It is four in the morning where posting on my blog seems quite easy - suddenly I have plenty to talk about which all seems important and charged with meaning.

But somewhere in my now slowing brain (seriously, I can almost hear even its directions for mechanical movements chugging to a stop), I know that my sudden blog-inspirations are the leftover effect of listening to a book on tape - on CD - to be precise. For the past four or so hours I've been listening to Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich being read to me by some female voice - whose presence within this sleep ridden apartment became so palpable that I started to visualize what this reader looked like (and also to confuse and merge her with the actual author). And just like those optical illusions where you stare at the Stars and Stripes in black, orange, and green for 60 seconds and then look at a blank wall and see white, blue, and red, her voice is left in my head resounding in a weird version with my own words. Currently I'm trying to flush it out with a little music.

I catch myself doing that a lot after reading for an extended period of time - feeling the thoughts in my head parroting the tone of the author. "I'll go to the bathroom now and then return to my drafty bedroom where the air conditioning is stirring..." and it goes on. Mundane thoughts that are not normally even allowed to be constructed into verbal forms, much less into full sentences, are suddenly canned with the author's voice and laden with italics. Good grief. At least it is slightly entertaining while it lasts. But like all optical illusions, the colors start to fade and my own thought patterns kick out such an intruder.

Nickel and Dimed, meanwhile, is an interesting read (or listen) about Ehrenreich's experimental "old school journalist" exploration into what it is like to try to survive as the U.S.'s working class poor do. While she describes her life as a waitress and then as a Merry Maid trying to make it by (pay rent, eat, not collapse from exhaustion), I become increasingly grateful for what a wonderful job I have. Teaching art for goodness' sake even though I had no previous experience doing this. At a school where all the teachers support each other. The return of my italicized thinking marks how deeply Ehrenreich had me in her grasp. I sat trying to finish up this art project and even started to thank the stars for the 8th grade girls who, although they may seem to plague my time at the school, really are a good group - and much more enjoyable to deal with than having to tackle a kitchen floor on my hands and knees (well, on most days). I've done that before - just once a week for a summer (at a bed and breakfast) - and have no desire to ever trade in the mop and its nice long handle for a rag.

But now that the last resounding Ehrenreich-induced thoughts have petered out of my head (and the fact that it will soon be dawn, not to mention that this blog is getting kind of long), I am going to go seek some sleep.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Spring Break!

One of the beautiful things about teaching is that I still get those breaks. This past week I've had a glorious time getting up late, working on art, eating junk, and in general bumming around. I'm still working on those batiks and finally (finally!) am done dyeing and ironing out all the wax. So today I'm to the very exciting part of assembling it all together like a puzzle with no rules (no edge pieces, no middle pieces, just pieces that can go anywhere). I'll post a picture when I'm done.

Besides art, I did something this week that I've wanted to do since I got here: I went to the Zoo. And I wasn't disappointed. I saw gorillas and rhinos and ringtailed lemurs for the first time in real life. I got to pet some goats and a donkey named Julie. I heard the loud cry of a peacock (holy cow!) and marveled at the wide face of an orangutan (so cool). Anyways, it capped off my spring break.

Oh - and this week has been sandwiched by trips to the basement! Last Sunday Maria was watching her show when it was interrupted forever by the weatherman, tracking a storm moving in. Pretty soon the sirens around us went off and we all went downstairs. I'm not used to all this tornado stuff so it was kind of fun, in a nothing-actually-happened kind of way. And then yesterday I was sitting on a front stoop watching a thunderstorm move in at the end of a hot day and journaling when all of a sudden marble sized hail started dropping from the sky and the sirens started going off again. So Maria and I (since we were the only ones home) went downstairs to the basement again - but soon came back up despite the fact that the sirens were still going for a bit. So now I've had enough experience with storms and tornado warnings for the fun novelty of it all to rub off. But (as I thought last Sunday while in the basement) at least now I have something to write about for my blog!