Tuesday, July 15, 2014


You haven't lived until you've tried to hang up laundry to dry in the Mistral winds of southern France. It's like flying a kite if your kite is a giant bed sheet that's out of control.

Mistral (meaning masterly in some dialect that has something to do with French) winds are sustained winds that last for hours or days and range in speed from 40km/25mph to 100km/60mph. 

As I'm pinning everything to the line the clothes and sheets billow into me, over me, and sometimes try to tear away to the heights of the atmosphere as I doggedly hold on to them, keeping them grounded.

Each time I take clothes out, I start by pinning them on the right side of the line, using three times as many pins as normal. When I go back a few hours later, they're all scrunched to the left, twisted amongst each other.

Once I left the laundry basket by the clothes line like I do on calm days. I found it twenty yards away in a corner of the yard.

I was thinking how, being from North Dakota, normally when I experience winds of this velocity, they're cutting and icy, blowing snow and burning your cheeks and fingers. Here the sky is clear, it's a pleasant 75˚ F (24˚ C). I barely know what to make of it.

There are also creature comforts to southern France. I've already stepped on one frog and found another one in my room. And last week we found a gecko in the house, a little tiny gecko. He was on the ceiling and none of us could catch him. Until a couple of days later when I found him in the bathroom I share with the teenage boys.

I share the upstairs of the summer home with the teenage boys. They have their room, I mine, and my shower is separate (and larger) than theirs. The toilet, a real water closet, we share though. The room is two inches wider than the narrow door and has room for a toilet, a standing human, and toilet bowl cleaner. I'm the only one who makes use of the toilet bowl cleaner. Incidentally, since being in France, I've been in elevators as small as this W.C. we share.

One afternoon I walked into the toilet (in Europe that is the name of the room not just the receptical) and saw the gecko skittle behind the cleaner. I shut the door and started the chase. I pounced (short distances, of course) from corner to corner yelling, "I'M TRYING TO HELP YOU!" Which is true because nobody should have to share a toilet with teenage boys. 

I was trying hard not to catch it by the tail, knowing it would rip off and serve no one, then I caught it by the tail and the rest of him scuddled away. The tail wiggled in my fingers, I decided I should keep holding it while I tried to to catch the rest of him, which I eventually did no thanks to the squirming tail. The poor little thing tried to bight me, but couldn't. He's free in the yard somewhere with his newly regenerated tail. I also put the tail in the yard enjoying imagining a lizard growing from the tail. He doesn't know it, but I saved him.

Today was my last day of work. Last of lots of things, not the least of which is doing the kids ironing. I was just delighting in this fact while ironing the young daughter's dress when I was overwhelmed by a sneeze and had to put the dress back in the dirty clothes. And I won't have to wash it. No, no, it won't be me who washes it! This makes me exceedingly happy. See, below is a happy face that happens to be my own:


Oh they don't warn you. They don't warn you when you're little and reading every book you can get your hands on and dreaming of your own adventures and world travels that once you step out the door, away from your home, millions of tiny holes will be ripped in your heart, first, for your home and then for every place you go, person you meet, and goodbye you say. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014


I had a really great idea! Flying hippos! Wouldn't that be the best?

In other news, I think my New Year's Resolution for 2015 will be to draw a hippo every day because I could sure use some practice.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


This is my last week living in Paris so I'm getting in all of the last of my 'must do's.' I made a pilgrimage yesterday to see a graffiti memorial outside the former studio of my film idol. Though I've barely dipped a toe in the long list of films Chris Marker has made and worked on, it was watching his film Sans Soleil (1983) in my History of Documentary class that knocked me off my feet and brought me dreaming and gasping to a hopeful place. Here was proof that whatever is going on my my head and heart, the way I see: it has a place in the world. I drank that film desperately. I'm sure there are places where Marker and I diverge on visions and philosophies; I'll never be, never make things like him; but there are moments in his films that light little bursting fires of awe and delight and longing in my soul. Guys, instead of agreeing to the label "cinéma verité"––which is the name of a movement and style in documentary filmmaking which features an observational approach and lets the subjects of the film speak for themselves, the theory of the movement being that this would be a more truthful cinema (hence the name) than earlier documentaries with narrators who told you what was happening therefore controlling the message of the film. He liked "ciné, ma verité" or, in other words, cinema, my truth. Aren't you in love already and fainting in a 19th century swoon? OK, so you may be fainting because of my punctuation but whatever.

My Mom taught us an acre of lullabies and folk songs. When we're all together––Mom, sister, and I––we sing all the folk songs picking out harmonies, the lullabies are pulled out less often. I'd forgotten for a long time about one in particular...Bobby Shafto.

Bobby Shafto's fat and fair,
combing down his yellow hair.
You'll find him most anywhere,
pretty Bobby Shafto.

Bobby Shafto's gone to sea,
silver buckles on his knee.
He'll come back and marry me,
pretty Bobby Shafto.

I always imagined Bobby Shafto was the moon, you'll find him most anywhere. Which is possibly the first dream I ever fell in love with. That sketch doesn't do any justice to my dear Shafto, I need to extend my colored pencil collection or experiment some with water colors.

I was telling someone today they could extrapolate my family from me. Then I was talking about how my nephew, when he was two-ish, would sit amongst us, his family, and looking up at us as we sat around talking, he would circle his eyes with his hands so that he could see the world through frames as well. This was probably around the same time as when he would give us lectures from the giant paperback anthologies he kept carrying around. Sometimes he'd read to us from Washington Irvine, sometimes he'd pull up a cardboard box to act as his podium. Once he got a hold of Shakespeare and we played a game guessing what plays he was telling us about.

It's not as though we're a family of geniuses, hyper-intellectuals, nor do we pressure each other into ambitious pursuits. We're just odd.

My friend asked me if we were frequently giving each other lectures that little Nephew would learn this schtick. This is several years past my high school days when I had the affectation of only liking very large, long books, so can't be that. We possibly give each other some semblance of animated lecture when we've found a great book, YouTube video, or some delicious dish. This last week my Mom was passing along the tip to look up Lisa Stoll playing the alphorn.