23 December 2012

all we ever wanted was everything

(except to sleep cheap at El Centro Motel in Glendive, Montana)

I was in Bozeman, Montana, this morning, the first touch of blue mountain horizons in months. We were on our way to our regular Christmas haunts in Utah and spent the morning at a sacrament meeting. After I'd changed back into my favorite lumberjack apparel I walked around outside in the beautiful sunshine and I smelled pine trees.

It is not as though there aren't pine trees in North Dakota but I never get that crisp alpine smell. As I was remembering being up in the mountains in conifer heaven, more memories of junipers, sage, and desert air came back and I thought how much I missed them.

On Design*Sponge sometime recently I saw a picture of a print hanging up on a wall that said, "All we ever wanted was everything." It's me to a T. I want my summer nights in cool desert air; my uncomfortable melancholy mixed with excitement as I spent a 4th of July on a Florida beach; I want to live near my sister; I want to live near Jbottoms; I want to live where I initially know no one; I want to keep working strange blue collar jobs; I want five doctorates; I want big cities and millions of peoples and museums; I want my small town, funny historical museum and farmer's market and bluegrass music.

I really love the people I work with. Last week at the winter farmer's market one of my custodian's was there. He's the jolly fellow with a beard and glasses and stickers from all over covering his old van. He introduced me to his wife and we chatted about Peter, Paul and Mary, The Moody Blues, and NPR, then I bought her homemade bread and picked my mom up at the library. There's also a husband and wife we have on staff--he's lived all over, once in a tipi in Montana in the winter, and he likes to tell me stories and tell me what books I should read. I wish I knew the wife better but she's on the other side of campus working evenings. Someday I may visit them at their farm. And then there's another custodian who loves to play practical jokes and she's always laughing about something.

I am delighted with them all. We have about 30 people in our department and I wanted to hand make them all Christmas cards but I am a human being so I didn't. Maybe I'll start now and have cards for them by the time May Day rolls around.

I want to go to Laus, Belgium, Englad, Wales, and Shovel Point, Minnesota. Some of that will be accomplished in 2013. Namely Minnesota. I want to live in a cabin in the woods and a studio apartment in a vast metropolis.

Bit by bit I can--maybe not all at once, but I'll have it all.

You know, something else happened on our 1,100 mile drive. I've been making a hand-drawn woolly mammoth tapestry and somehow in the last two days he developed a fifth leg. This may be the most stable woolly mammoth ever. Pictures to come later.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, stay close to good things. (Like me.)

09 December 2012

potatoes and Danny Kaye!

Last Thursday was the best. I was looking forward to it ever since we received a Christmas gift bag full of Idaho potatoes two nights before. We could finally––Ma, Pa, and I––be together at home, in the evening, long enough to eat baked potatoes and watch a new (to us) Danny Kaye movie that arrived two weeks ago from Netflix.

Virgina Mayo

In A Song is Born (1948), Danny Kaye, a real square, and his six squirrely cherub friends fall head over heals for Virginia Mayo (and who wouldn't) who happens to be the moll of a murdering gangster. And don't forget Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman and a really inaccurate but fun explanation of the history of jazz. My dad was ironing and laughing, I was laughing with untouched crotcheting at my feet, and my mom was falling asleep. It was a typical family movie night all around.

A lot has been going on around here. (1) I'm the official owner of BUSINESS CARDS and I now stop by the Chamber of Commerce after lunch and drop one off and introduce myself like a fancy lady. (2) Sean and I recorded a podcast Friday night in which, despite our tendency to have the most scattered conversations ever, we covered the made-up origins of East Enders, some of the worst things we've ever said to people, our obsession with David Tennant, what our friend Charlie does for fun, and that one time we shot guns. We're editing it this week so stay tuned because YOU MUST LISTEN TO US. (3) Yesterday I had the kind of day that makes small towns seem like the most magical of places. I went around to the all the little shops buying new sheets, a fisherman's sweater (for $1.50!), some fabric (which I found at the pharmacy and which was cut ever so gently by the man on staff), and some funny, fancy plates. And the pièce de resistance was a farmer's market and blue grass jam session at the county historical museum.

I really want to take banjo lessons. 

05 December 2012

04 December 2012

03 December 2012

old shoe

02 December 2012


01 December 2012

cottage factories

I've been trying to create more often and, like usual, I started my New Years Resolution a couple of months ago:


I will finish projects I start!

To understand what happened this week we first need to travel back twenty years or so ago. As a kid I must have heard of cottage industries which seemed like the best idea ever because I loved cottages and small things and drawing industrious worlds. I was always drawing ant farms that looked like people farms; elaborate tree houses that had liberal amounts of pulleys and trap doors; and cozy underground dens where animals or ants (I don't know what was with all the ants) were busy and safe from winter. All of these things also included hammocks because hammocks also seemed exceptionally cool. 

Cottage industries were translated to cottage factories which liked to imagine ran all the functions of the human body. There were little elfish beings who carried the saliva up to your mouth in tiny wheel barrows, tweaked all the right valves in your voice box, and then they had the supporting industries like the shops where shoes and clothing were made for all those cottage factory workers.

a recent drawing of cottage factories
I'd forgotten these factories until this past week. One sleepless night, I finally began imagining that as I was snuggled into my covers, if I breathed really deeply I could breathe in sleep. I just knew that as I was inhaling the sleep there were cottage factory workers to distribute it to my whole body.

And then I feel to sleep. 
Because I'm still essentially five and there are still cottage factories and ants are still cool.
But not as cool as worms.

Mixed media: cereal box, crayons, old library card catalog and check-out cards, Elmer's glue (it's acid free!), and a Toms catalog.
For some reason since I've moved home I've been getting Toms catalogs and I've found they're really great for making things. The paper is thick and matte with pictures of nicely textured and colored things. Last year they were incorporated into this (along with my BYU alumni magazine):

That silky, orangey thing you see hanging up is my mumu

(Isn't it so nice all these institutions are sending me free fodder for crafting?)

27 November 2012


You should watch out for people who have iphones. Particularly when they're the IT people who work at a small university. Because when they come back to work after lunch and see you parked all skiwampus they take a picture and immediately send it to me. Then I get to make a special trip out to the parking lots to lay the law down.


24 November 2012

dancing moths like sugar cane

After attaching the rusty bicycle wheels she had found, Pince pushed the tank out of the lake. She was taking Able to a concert in a park. 

The sun was already setting as she tried to maneuver them through the woods. The path was a narrow trail of matted leaves, the wheels squeaked over their green, yellow, and brown carpet; catching on small branches. Pince would have to stop from time to time, working out their bark fingers as Able sat in awe of everything around him. He had never seen a sunset or trees from this vantage point before. Once he swam through a petrified forest in a glacial lake but everything looked so different covered in air and pushed about by the wind. Under the water he had felt the trees pushing back at him. Now they arched to the sky; a distant, private chorus of quaking leaves and long shadows.

There were clarinets, pianos, violins, and horns playing all night long on the makeshift stage. A troop of moths flew choreographed dances to the music and the trees weaped their helicopter seeds. Pince was worried about the seeds collecting in Able's tank, becoming a gross soggy mess, so she climbed in and held an umbrella over them.

PS. This is a mess of illustration but Pince's afterlife is not fit for my regular sketchy methods and I'm not sure what I want it to look like yet.

23 November 2012

8 bit

Frequently choral directors tell you to sing with a lilt like you're dancing. On Tuesday practice our director asked us to rate ourselves personally on a scale of 1 to 10 how well we were doing. I imagined waltzing robots while we sang and then scored myself a 10.

20 November 2012

18 November 2012

prairie 2.0

17 November 2012

16 November 2012

15 November 2012

gut spillage or don't make me

I am constantly finding forks in my purse. I have to fish around for a minute to find anything else but forks? Forks are easy to find.

This is the state of my life: forkpurse. I get forkpurse because I can't wake up ever with enough time to eat breakfast at home and you don't even care because that part of the story is boring. Even though at work they think it's funny. They peak over my counter and say, "She's got her breakfast again!" "Have any to share with me?" etc. etc. etc. I'm the only one who finds forkpurse funny but it's also the first time I've tried that joke out.

It's not a joke.

Should we be honest here? (No.) I may be a moody person. For all that I'm a happy person I'm equally always falling into despondency and feeling blue (there must needs be opposites--never were truer words twain met. What?). This is probably normal. I mean, I assume this happens in a normal range of emotion. However, I've learned over time that if I don't do certain things even if I find them hard (particularly: talking about my feelings) I do actually become the real dictionary definition of depressed. Several years ago was one of those times. All those questions on the screening questionare could have been checked off if I'd done anything like that. I didn't. Instead I tried to join an eating disorder support group which refused me because it was March and they only take people at the beginning of a semester. I can see the reasoning but I was past my wits end. I finally talked with sweet Jbottoms who is ever and always there for me.

To be perfectly clear, I was not anorexic or bulimic or EDNOS or any of those other things at that time. I hadn't exhibited any of those behaviors in five years but all of those feelings and stuggles that led to those behaviors were still there. Why? Why after so many years of trying and working and learning about myself and even becoming a bit less shy, why were these feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness still there?

This is not where I meant to go with this. But I was thinking the other day that someday my epitaph could read "She never expected any of this."

List of things I wasn't expecting to be part of my life and yet: 
moving back home
learning about insurance things like "named party vs. interested party" for work 
(I would like to go to an interesting party where I can name some people.) 

teaching myself architectural design software
the weather to be jaw-ache brisk this morning
finding a steak knife in my forkpurse


A year after working through that bout of depression I was not expecting that from time to time I would find myself feeling deeply hard-to-move-or-think sad for no reason. Still?! I raged at myself. Still?! Really?!! Yesterday I was so happy, why can't I just pull it together? There is no reason to feel this way! Why does this happen? What's wrong with me?

Did you know that that's no way to talk to yourself? Yourself doesn't really like it, it's not healthy. It's also really hard for me to not have these conversations sometimes. Particularly the part where I ask myself "Why?" I currently have a strict ban against "why" coming up in inner-dialogues. The first party to bring it up is muted and must spend the next half hour reading science blogs or calling friends on the phone. In which case she's not technically muted. Because I generally don't call people and give them the silent treatment.

The thing is, sometimes I can't help suddenly being sad for no reason––nay, not even à cause de the ill-reputed PMS––and sometimes sad is very heavy. But it's less heavy when I accept it as a state of being that is here now and will pass. And it's even less heavy when I try to learn what I can do with sad. If that makes sense. This possibly becomes too esoteric for my communication skills but mostly I try to make some special time while sad to work out my thoughts or burn a candle or rediscover my music collection. Wait, duh, you do that too, but... I can only find peace in these things if I accept being temporarily sad. There is no peace in doing them to make myself happy.   

things i love about the prairie 1.0

14 November 2012

13 November 2012


This is me celebrating Carl Sagan day

12 November 2012

11 November 2012

last year on this day

As I spend 8 hours a day/5 days a week at a computer, I generally hate coming home to one now. Hence I never say anything much here or chat with you on-line or respond to your emails. I just love to skype with people. The end. So you get some pictures just because I still need your attention but I don't want my eyes to rot from my head. 

09 November 2012

daydreams of various sorts

Somedays, like today, I decide to celebrate Carl Sagan day by making a Carl Sagan pin and wearing it on my sweater and nobody at work notices so I begin to wonder what I could get away with wearing without anyone saying anything. It's good to have a challenge. I've been thinking I'll make some pins of a few of the characters in Twin Peaks, and there has to be one of a flying whale. My life would be complete if whales could fly.

Otherdays, like not today but yesterday, I decide a zombie apocalypse would be the surest cure for a headache.

Oh yeah, and a pin of Aung Sun Lee. She's kind of cool.

Let's go to Italy tomorrow.

06 November 2012

02 November 2012

01 November 2012

snippets and picketsures

Remember when I was attacked by yarn/bought a fancy twist of alpaca wool and silk yarn and just ended up making a mess? My mom sorted it out! 

Perk # 553 of moving home.

Which meant that last week during my life reflection and rest time I could crotchet more slippers and play maracas for my nephew while we skyped.

Tonight we had Old Ladies Choir where we were supposed to imagine there were cathedrals inside our mouths while we sang songs about drowning in love's diadems.

The arm thing is part of Cathedral Mouth exercise not some new twitch I've picked up.

30 October 2012

and in the end a scary announcement

"Where were you on Thursday and Friday? We missed you! There was a hole in this place, I mean, it was really taking a nose dive without you," says one of our campus handymen to me yesterday.

"I was...taking some time to reflect on my life and to rest."

"Oh! Time to reflect," he laughs, "that's heavy stuff."

 Later, as I'm out on a ticketing round he stops on his way to check on some steam lines down the road. "Now, Emma," he says, "it's not this part of your job that's causing you to reflect on your life is it?"

No, I tell him, this part is refreshing. He's funny, and likes to tell me stories from his life like how he, a college grad from New York City planning on going to law school, ended up in Oregon working on a ranch and about his girlfriend he had once who encouraged him to take up meditation with her but she broke his heart when she got a part as an extra in Animal House (1978) and was paid to kiss somebody.

Today he told me I should teach classes on "Life's Options."

The people I work with are pretty great. They tell me about their lives, their second jobs, their daughter's wedding plans, things their ancestors did in small towns that have disappeared. They tease me when I tell them about my trips to natural history museums and suggest that I'm really drinking moonshine out of the Mason jar I use for a water bottle at work. They put up with my nagging and sending them on errands about campus and making them fill out paper work.

But I'm learning I really don't do well starting work at 7:30 am. And keeping regular office hours is not my favorite. I'm trying to come up with ways to brain wash myself so I wake up excited, mostly so that I don't wake up at 4:30 and lay awake with dread at the thought of hearing an alarm clock soon. I'm already planning the next quilt I want to make with a bit more planning and with a sewing machine (!!!?!!?!) and wondering if I could really just pull myself together to make a living with the things I make. That will take some time and practice and mistakes I expect. Good thing that's what I'm already doing, taking time, practicing and making mistakes.

My eyes ache but I just really want to let you know some scary news in honor of halloween: guys, I think I may really like Taylor Swift.

23 October 2012

there was a leaf that seemed more like snake skin

Late this afternoon I took a walk to a park a few blocks from my home. It's tucked in a bend in the river––well, everything in this town is in a river bend––where there's good geese watching, some days. Not today, this grey and misty day.

I had the idea to walk to a park because last week I went to my friend's artist lecture at the local historical museum and he talked about rediscovering parks now that he has young kids. I walked past my old elementary school, past the track I did cool down laps on for cross country, past the sledding hill, and to the park I went to as a child and which was covered in water when I moved home.

google had no dome-shaped swing set and it's surprisingly hard to draw....

The only part of the playground equipment that's still the same are the swings. The swing set is dome shaped, which is great because you know how you're always kicking people when you want to twist up in your swing or go from side to side rather than front to back? Not so with the circular/dome shaped swing set! You can have your pals at your side and flail around as much as you want. I swung for a while watching the fog creep around in the bushes at the base of the railroad bridge and the cold, dark water running past.

No, the river is actually rather slow. Make that the cold, dark water walking past.

I notice some things keenly moving back here as an adult. Many of the higher traffic roads are in poor condition. They're repaired by patches so that in the end you have piecemeal sections of tar and concrete dissolving into gravel and stubbly grass. With today's cool, grey cloak of mist it seems that if I could cut out a square of road and hang it on the wall I'd have some fine art. But then it'd be stuck as is, not subject to further weathering and development of pot holes and I like it better that way.

I'm making my town seem like seedy industrial or rural decay. Really, it's nice, it's clean, we make do.

Another thing I notice keenly is that most swings are not designed for my adult lady hips.

22 October 2012

get that weight of your shoulders

There have been a series of secret closed-door meetings in my office today which may have nothing to do with me but may also be about the details of a new position they'd like me to take at work. This would be added on to what I do now, minus the parking tickets, but with a significant raise and a commitment to stay several months longer than I'd originally planned.

I will seriously consider it.

Maybe with all that added moolah I could do one of those unpaid internships I've been eyeing; travel to Rochester, NY, to check out the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation (and visit friends in NYC, duh); visit Kara in Hawaii; and/or move to Seattle like I've been wanting to do FOREVER.

Or I could say no.

Move a few months sooner--how many months, I don't know. It could be two, it could be seven. I'm not entirely certain on what they'd require me to commit to.

This past week I lay down to sleep exhausted and then a niggling little thought, will I take the job?, creeps in and frets me into total wakefulness. Hate those nigglers. Without the aid of sleeping pills I end up tossing and turning, pacing, and reading until the wee hours of the morning. Last night I took a melatonin right away and settled down to science blogs for some insta-happiness and relaxation. This is how I discovered the below-posted MinutePhysics about the darkness of space.

So, yes, last night I may have fallen asleep imagining the Doctor (Who) picked me up and asked me where I'd like to go and I asked him to take me a few billion years into the future to where the universe has expanded so much all the stars are too far away to see and the sky is just dark. Utterly dark. I'd simultaneously be exceedingly excited and sad to see such a sight.

Wouldn't it just be breath taking and mind blowing?

And I've been wondering, if the universe is expanding, is our solar system expanding? I haven't heard anything about us getting further from the sun. I don't think we are but why? I definitely need to understand this dark matter/expansion thing much more.

And since humans--particularly those of industrialized/first world nations--have gotten larger (I don't mean obese), significantly larger over the last hundred years, that means our organs have grown proportionally as well, right?

Everything is expanding.

Friendships are expanding. Can I say that? The strange and great thing that's happened since I've been off in the northern plains is that friendships that were disappearing or only small potentialities have grown. Currently I'm the worst snail mail pen pal ever, but via phone and email people I never expected to know better have reached out and become my regular correspondants. Please appreciate the awkward nerd-language there. Naw, let's say charming. Also, Grace is now coaching me on what pop music I should like via email. Now if only A.G. and I can skype sometime, we can get some good dancing in.

In conclusion, if you get the chance, could you mail me a couple of mountains? I'd really like to take a hike.

21 October 2012

this blows my mind

"A few billion years after that, you'll be standing on a hill looking up on a clear night, and the sky will be close to pitch black, no Milky Way, no constellations, just blackness, because the stars we see today are speeding away from us, leaving a faint, infrared light. It will be very lonely. (Unless you're a telescope-wielding butterfly. Butterflies can see infrared. Distant retreating stars will be visible to them. To us, those stars will be invisible.)"

-Robert Krulwich

hand wash only, with any color

I have an idea, let's take this brain of mine––

No, let's take all of me.

Let's take this all of me and slit right down the middle, head to toe.

Let's run some water, cool and refreshing. A gentle pool of water, not just sloshing between my toes, let's get that gall bladder, my fibula and phalanges, my brain stem.

Use some lavender castille soap to clean everything out, then rince me off. Find a sunny mountainside and hang me out to dry. Clip my intestines and pancreas to the line, watch them flutter in the breeze.

Then take me down.

Put me back together.

And lay me down to sleep for a good long sleep.

And I'll wake up tomorrow, give you a nice smile, and make some breakfast.

18 October 2012

Ridiculously academic papers about how someday we'll have cyborg eyes and won't be bothered by the crisp lines CG is capable of make much more sense than all of the instruction manuals and software literature I have to read for work.

Being in limbo is really weird. All of the time.

more map!

click to enlarge

Again? Would You  mind taking a peak? I have one specific question for you:
1. Does the dotted line that goes from parking lot 1, across the river and between lots 3 and 4 seem like a road to drive on? I don't know a less leading way to put this. Do I need to do more so people aren't surprised when it turns out to be a foot bridge?

I'm also concerned this will end up being used for ten years, during which time the aesthetics will become completely dated, like neon multi-colored shag carpet from the 1970s, rendering the map quite unprofessional looking. Valid?

(sigh) most likely.


17 October 2012



build a ladder to the stars and climb on every one

16 October 2012

lately this is what i do at work: design a campus map

click to enlarge
Care to give me some feedback?

this is for my little dragon boy

I hope you have your kazoo in hand

15 October 2012

last fall, found now