Bainbridge in Bloom and BARN

The Bainbridge in Bloom garden tour is an annual event on the island, hosted by private garden owners, and produced by the Bainbridge Arts & Humanities Council. They hire musicians to play throughout the gardens, and yesterday I got to experience two gorgeous places as I sang with my women’s chamber group, Byway.
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I figured out what these are: Allium Nectaroscordum, or Mediterranean bells. The bees love them.

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Also, Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN) had their open house on Saturday afternoon. The concept is progressive and brilliantly executed; it’s a community gathering point for physical resources and materials as well as knowledgable, talented individuals who teach and guide. There are 11 studios: Book Arts, Fiber Arts, Glass Arts, Kitchen Arts, Metal Arts, Electronic and Technical Arts, Jewelry and Fine Metals, Media Arts, Printmaking, Woodworking and Small Boat Building, and Writers.

I want to do it all!

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Prom 2017

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Heading out for BHS prom (K lent me a dress, so even though she wasn’t there, her sparkle was).

Dinner at Cafe Paloma with P and D beforehand was such a treat that I was tempted to stay and talk much longer. We did stay until closing once, with R and her brother J when she was here on a rare visit to Seattle.

I love Seattle in the summer–when we left the restaurant after 8 pm, the light was still glorious against the downtown buildings while we walked north to the art museum. As a prom venue, the Seattle Art Museum has some cons: required catering service so pricey that the food for the evening was ice water; echoing space=few smaller rooms in which to congregate and talk. It also has some pros; the art collections on the third floor are very cool, especially their Northwestern Native American collection.

I was struck by the hi-low atmosphere of young adults in formal dress wandering through the galleries while rock music surged through the museum. It’s representative of late adolescence, which embraces contradictions and is extraordinarily open to multiple ways of seeing things. I’m really going to miss this graduating class–In Don DeLillo’s words, “it is not possible to see too much in them.”

November Happenings

Early in the month, we took the girls to see Portuguese Fado singer Mariza. This is the second time B, K, and I have seen her perform here in Seattle, and we found that Mariza’s style and substance has evolved.

This interview  partially explains her evolution to include quieter, intensely emotional songs. I was strongly reminded of Jacques Brel, whose “songs were written not to be sung but to be performed. He delivered them with such pained and profound emotion that he, famously, ended each concert dripping with sweat.” Fado expresses disquiet, longing, loss, and as sung by Mariza, it was a prescient expression of many of us in late November.

20161112_193953K won her category at the Puget Sound chapter Fall competition of NATS! We are so proud of her.

2016-11-17-19-00-2013 years old! A. recently read or heard about the concoction called Ambrosia Salad, and asked for that instead of birthday cake. 🙂

2016-11-20-13-16-15Opening gifts at his party here.

2016-11-24-09-35-01This year’s Turkey Trot was sloshy, muddy, rainy, and cold but our times were better than last year! S continues to be an encouraging and inspiring personal trainer–I’m so grateful for her positive attitude.

2016-11-24-14-02-45Peaceful, quiet, calm Thanksgiving afternoon with the nuclear family, including Tasha.

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Everyone (but Tasha dog) soaking up the beauty at the Bloedel Reserve.

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2016-11-25-12-47-32Gratitude when I wake, gratitude as I eat, gratitude as I walk, read, talk, write, ruminate, run, sleep. This is the way.

 

 

Identity

Personal identity: a concept worth investigating in nearly every work of literature and art.

The etymology of the word is an interesting angle; identity (from Latin idem) means “the same”, so I suppose maintaining the same characteristics over time gives us our identity.

The Picture of Dorian Gray raises the issue of exerting influence over others’ identities and being open to influence. K’s character, Sibyl Vane, undergoes a radical shift in her personal identity–from actress/chanteuse to beloved and lover of Dorian. This is the important take-away: In the first identity, she is an independent agent. In the second, she is dependent on someone else to help her maintain that identity. Therein lies the tragedy.

Look: K on the cover! The article inside neglects to mention Scott Breitbarth, the musical director and choreographer for the show, so this is my shout-out to the brilliant work he’s done!

2016-10-30-09-57-21We went to the 5th Avenue’s production of Man of La Mancha last night, and this was the question the play raised for me:

How does a person’s commitment to their personal identity play out for tragedy or triumph?

A truth about life: change is all there ever is. So does someone inflexible in their personal identity suffer? Similarly, does someone too malleable or changeable suffer?

Man of LaMancha reminded me of 1984, which I’m re-reading right now. The scene with the Knight of the Mirrors who disabuses Quixote of his illusions is strikingly similar to the later O’Brien scenes with Winston Smith. Smith, who looks in a mirror and has a difficult time coming to terms with the person he is, or was, or will be.

 

 

Lull

We’ve weathered one storm system without too much damage, and now this is the lull before the big storm. Alexander McCall Smith graciously kept his speaking engagement here at the BHS commons this wet and windy afternoon, and it was entirely delightful!

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(Fun connection to my life: He is the grandson of the doctor who founded Hokianga Hospital in Rawene, NZ, G.M. Smith.) His gentle wit, the way he giggles at his own tales, the string of anecdotes from around the world–I could listen to him for a couple of hours, even though in principle I agree with his view that no one should go on about anything for longer than 50 minutes.

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He spoke about his writing process: Wake at 4 a.m. and write for two or three hours, turning out an average of 1,000 words per hour. This is very unusual for a writer, and even more unusual because he very rarely revises. For him, the stories just come out the way  they are meant to be; he taps into a subconscious part of his brain that is constantly examining and questioning the world.

He said he doesn’t hear the characters’ voices, but rather hears rhythms and fits their words to the rhythms.

I’ve a penchant for noir, and McCall Smith doesn’t really write noir. His mysteries are gentle, almost employing the genre as a pretext to examine the humanity and warmth that we are capable of, rather than the dark complexity of, say, Mankell’s world. That being said,  I’m a big fan of McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, set in Botswana, and the Isabel Dalhousie Mystery series, set in Edinburgh. Today he told some stories from his 44 Scotland Street series, and I’m intrigued–they’re on my to-read list.

The New York Times reviewed his short story collection recently–I love the way that review ends: “These stories trust in the liberal, humane values that are at the heart of all McCall Smith’s fiction. Can one have too much of that hopefulness? I doubt it.”

McCall Smith’s themes are above all, compassionate.  His books are soothing, even lulling. Though comparatively sweet and therefore seemingly less important than fiction that exposes a grim and splintery world, I would argue that right now, we’ve all had enough of that.

A ‘lull’ can connote a false sense of security, but it can also mean a welcome relief from a storm. Thank you, Alexander McCall Smith.

 

 

Family photos

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A surprisingly bright October morning at Fay Bainbridge with a fabulously talented photographer friend = family pictures to share!

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The family picture wall in our house is full of the kids as babies and really young children. Photos can be a sort of stagnant story we tell ourselves, and it’s time to update the visual story.

Part mythology, part mirror, portrait photographs have the potential not only to capture a particular moment, but also to show us who we are.

I’ve been reading and analyzing Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray with my seniors, so a portrait’s potential symbolism has been on my mind.

Some of K’s senior photos! We love this beautiful person so very much.

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Photo credit: M. W. at http://www.falafelandthebee.com 

 

The End of December

 

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The Bloedel Reserve held a lantern-lit Solstice walk; the women’s chamber choir K and I sing with stood beneath a giant cedar and sang as the procession crossed the meadow and then again as the procession exited the woods near the manor house. My favorite canon in the solstice songbook P put together is this:

Though my soul may set in darkness

It will rise in perfect light.

I have loved the stars too fondly

To be fearful of the night.

(Music attributed to Joseph Haydn and text from “The Old Astronomer” by Sarah Williams–you can hear a recording here.)

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Christmas Eve day games.

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And Christmas dinner. B’s dad made the wooden bowl holding the centerpiece. S made the individual Beef Wellingtons (out of this world). K made the kolcannon (also really delicious!).

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S’s Havisham-esque bûche de Noël, filled with whipped cream, slivered almonds, Nutella, and marzipan bugs. The best rotting log I’ve ever tasted! Look at these darling marzipan gnomes:2015-12-24 18.06.16

Two nonfiction book recommendations: How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds by John Powell and Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth by Lee Jackson. I read the first in the waiting room while K was getting her wisdom teeth out on the 22nd  (it was one of her Christmas presents). The second was a present from B and I devoured it in a couple of days–Victorian London is a fascinating subject; many reformers (including one primary figure, Lord Ashley) made gains in areas that still merit attention: the treatment of the mentally ill, the vast difference in living quarters and standards between the wealthy and the poor, overcoming political inertia to alleviate the suffering of human beings.

Holidays

It’s Winter Break!

Someone dropped off a bouquet of red and white tulips at my house; I wasn’t home and K answered the door. She didn’t recognize the person and there was no card. Thank you, bestower of beautiful flowers.

On Thursday, one of my past students dropped by to catch up, surprising me as I was re-arranging a bookshelf while my 9th graders watched To Kill a Mockingbird. After he left, the kids were curious about who the visitor was. I told them that they needed to do two things: grow up to be as curious and hard-working as T, and come back to see me after graduating. 🙂

I’m massively proud of students like him, and of my Feminist Forum kids.

On Friday after the final bell rang, students streamed out of the buildings–except for the 20 or so students attending the club I facilitate. There were several students home from college who dropped in to participate, and not until 4:30 did the discussion break with students saying, “I really should get going…”

I walked home shortly after that to a household of teenagers and their friends, gave them the snacks I’d accumulated in my classroom over the course of the day, and retired to my chamber to let a little silence soak in before taking K to a voice lesson.

A few hours later, the whole family went to see Star Wars. Standing in line, we realized the 8:30 showing was the high schoolers’ choice–there were nearly 30 of my former and current students in attendance.

I was strongly reminded of standing in line at International Cinema at college, attending with roommates and greeting various classmates and professors in the audience as well. There is something very healthy about seeing people out of their regular context, a re-affirmation of roles (I got to raise my eyebrows and smilingly say “J! Language!” to a former student using profanity in the public space) and at the same time, a display of additional sides to the complex human beings we interact with.

I’ve got 15 days of vacation, counting from now, and I’m looking forward to more outside time, more time to make music, more time to give life to the other sides of myself that make a whole vibrant person.

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Yesterday we walked into A’s bedroom and found Tasha lounging with her friends.

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We have an open fireplace but no mantle above it; K had the bright idea of hanging our stockings here.

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Gingerbread houses–S’s has an indoor pond! I started to make a wall for a log cabin out of pretzel sticks and icing. I wasn’t patient enough; it sagged in the middle and then I was hungry and that was the end of mine.