RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: March 2007

Turning Off Center

Today, I am ruthlessly killing segments of my novel in this, the final revision of my thesis. Time is closing in on me, and I can no longer fudge around trying to save those precious intellectual lectures that I slipped into the story. They were didactic, preachy and dragged the story down. This does not mean I didn’t work like the devil to fit them in, like a square peg into a round hole. 

I wrote them first, you see, as a free writing exercise in a seminar. I was told the pieces were good, so I used one in the submission that led to acceptance into my master’s program. I included it in the material for my first term critique workshop and was encouraged by the professor and students to expand it into a bigger story. This seduced me into considering dance as the subject for my ongoing thesis project.  The actual story of my novel was invented like filler, an idea wrapping around the essays. This made the novel somewhat contrived, rather than being inspired by a plot which is how I usually write.   

At first, I tried to pass the essays off as mental meanderings – as if my frustrated character was thinking all this philosophical stuff about dance. That didn’t work.
Next, I turned the essays into diary entries – as if my main character was writing formal essays to get her thoughts about her former career off her chest. I even invented a therapist, Marilyn, for her to discuss the entries with, to provide a bigger forum for intellectual debate. That didn’t work either. Had to kill Marilyn after my second term.
My teachers said, “The essays are very well-written. Some are the best writing you’ve done. But nevertheless, No one writes that formally in a diary, and no one cares about dance in this way. Stick to the story. It’s more interesting. “
The problem was, I didn’t believe no one cared. I happened to care about dance in that way, and I found the discussions interesting. Obviously, I had things to say and I wanted to use this book to say them. And people said things like they were “compelling” or “opened my eyes” and this made me think that if I could find a way, I should keep them.

But what I eventually learned was, I should be writing a story about a person and her journey as a retired dancer, thus letting readers come to their own conclusions about dance, but I was writing a story about dance, hitting readers over the head with it’s many issues just in case they didn’t “get it” instead.  And a story about dance (philosophically) lacks the human interest pull that keeps a reader involved.

So, realizing this, I invented a pedicurist – a Vietnamese girl who listens to Dana (my leading character) vent as she fixes her sore feet (a metaphor for how painful dance had become for her), and I tried to change the essays and turn them into less formal conversations. This still didn’t work totally (although this new character, Tu, remained and added a great deal to the story.) Some glimmers of the formal essays made it in, but most had to go.

Each revision, the story got more defined and better. But still, it has a way to go.
So, this week, at long last, I’m killing the essays. It’s time.  Heck, It’s past time. As each one hits the dust, I cringe and mope.
Mark said, “Maybe you need to write another book – some kind of nonfiction social commentary on dance.”
I really have no interest in that. But thanks for giving my heated opinion validation by suggesting it.

One professor told me that my writing the essays was important even though they are not going to be a part of the book, because they solidify my character and help give her more depth. I think he is right. You can’t bemoan the work you do that doesn’t make it into the book, because it is a bit like those scenes that end on the cutting room floor when they edit a movie. What’s lost isn’t as important as what is gained by creating a story that is well paced and organized. You can spend hours on a passage but that doesn’t mean it has intrinsic value.

In the end, I’ve accepted that I wrote these dang things for me. After a lifetime of feeling passionate about the art, I had to give my feelings a voice. That voice doesn’t need to be heard (read) to have served a purpose.

Anyway, no more preaching essays about dance in my book (now entitled “Turning off Center”.)
And just to prove to you how wrong these essays were for a fictional novel (which believe it or not has a great deal of humor and fun in it too) I thought I would share one of the more pompous ones that just cropped up as I hit page 143 of my current revision. I killed the dang thing just now. This one is about how critical dancers are of each other, self righteous about their particular path rather than embracing the art in it’s many fascinating forms.

Here it goes.
Read it and weep. Or snore, as the case may be.  Ha. See how I contrive a way to get someone to read them in the end even when I profess that it isn’t important.

      Dance is more like a religion than a vocation or special interest to those of us involved. Its congregation is made up of devout followers unified by one core ideology. Having joined the order, dancers engage in daily rituals, warm-ups, classes, auditions, choreography, all part of an ongoing quest to manifest purpose and seek validation for our devotion to the craft. The studio is our church, the stage our pulpit.

     Like religion, the basic premise of our ideology is beautiful. Dance can fill your soul with joy. Art teaches us about life and love. It makes our world a better place. But, as with any religion, theory and practice are two different issues.

     Any gathering of like-minded souls feeding each other’s monstrous ideals can become a mob casting stones at everyone who doesn’t share similar artistic values. The average worshiper is a good-natured soul who attends a weekly service and has a healthy connection to their faith. But dancers are more like the religious zealot, obsessing about their art, dismissing all those who dare follow a separate path.

     As dancers, we begin with one core ideology. But swayed by personality, physical traits, upbringing, and the social environment, dancers divide into sects of Ballet, Modern, and contemporary dance styles,(jazz).  Once a dancer is fully embraced in one of these communities, the dancers who chose to walk alternate paths become “others”.  If there is one thing seemingly universal about religion,  it would be that in order for us to be “right”, “others” must be wrong.

    Ballet advocates approach dance with a purist mentality, putting stock in literal translations of what is and is not correct.   With ballet their doctrine, they’re not unlike born again Christians or Catholics, literal in their interpretation of “the word” as they interpret it. Proud of the stringent sacrifices they make to master their art, ballet dancers are righteous in their movement philosophy.  Their saints are Balanchine, Pavlova and Baryshnikov. They worship at the church of Vaganova, Checetti or Royal ballet. Steeped in history and the sacrifices of their past saints, they believe all those who have not chosen “ballet” as the path to heaven are lost souls.

     Meanwhile, modern dancers are a little like Hara Krishna’s or some other cult, a religion just outside of society’s norm. Dancers with bohemian and/or rebellious natures are attracted to this sect, forever striving to cut a new path into movement wilderness. Modern dancers defy the rules of physical grace associated with beauty. They embrace contorted, ugly, halting or awkward movement, claiming life is not always pretty. This, they believe, is moving with truth.

         These modern dancers divide into defined orders too, becoming disciples of the masters they admire, Graham, Limon, Cunningham, or Parsons. For them, contact improvisation is taking communion. For lent, they give up pointing their feet.  The modern dancer’s confessional is the stage, a place they display dances about the human condition. There’s nothing entertaining about grief, mental stress, or personal torment, yet they tackle these themes in performance vigorously, venting their truths with impassioned fire and brimstone sermons.

    Meanwhile the outside dance world looks on, amused, hiding expressions of chagrin over the modern dancer’s adolescent and agnst. Yet, at the same time, the, modern dancers cannot resist making fun of those involved in other disciplines. They insist ballerina’s are just stiff “bun heads” who continue to reinvent the wheel. Jazz dancers have sold out to commercial enterprise.

     At least ballet and modern dancers share a common intellectual understanding of movement and their training processes are similar enough that they offer each other a degree of respect. These classical dancers, on occasion, even cross over from one discipline to the other. The ballet dancer trains in modern to add depth to his or her movement. The modern dancer takes ballet class to find his or her center. Privately, they dish one another, but publicly, they behave with respect and professional curtsy for their sister art. They do have one thing in common. Neither holds much regard for the jazz or theater dance advocate.     

     Jazz dance is defined as “dance of the people, movement that changes and evolves in response to influences of our culture.” In other words, its “common”, and dance sophisticates have little patience for what they perceive as a simplistic parody of the art. Jazz dancers, intimidated by how the profession discredits their core knowledge, avoid delving into areas that make them feel inadequate. So they learn just enough classical technique to serve as a foundation for movement, dwelling in popular cultural styles and trendy movement instead.

     Jazz has subdivisions within its ranks too; hip-hop, lyrical, vintage jazz, and theater dance just to name a few. If Jazz was a faith, it would be a Unitarian parish, liberal by nature. Jazz dancers don’t feel as if they’re guilty sinners, because they don’t adapt the idea that severe sacrifice is required to get into dance heaven. Their faith is somewhat dependant upon instant gratification. Jazz is the dance religion of the masses, thanks to exposure on MTV, Broadway, movie musicals. There is strength (validation) in numbers.   

     With a fair claim on the majority of employed dancers in the world, jazz dancers can’t help but poke fun at the other, more stringent dance forms. For all the snobbery the classical dancers cling to, they receive a poor return for their training investment. Jazz dancers are streetwise, smug in their commercial success. . . and their higher paychecks.

     Thus fuels the ongoing dance religion wars. 

     What is my place in this trilogy of animosity?  I’ve spent time in each of the dance denominations. I’ve studied ballet, modern and theater dance, and worked a bit in each.  Perhaps I’m too much the idealist, for I never found satisfaction in any form alone. I never felt I belonged to one church of movement. In the end, I think I lost faith all together. 

     So now, I guess I’m a dance atheist.

    No, an agnostic.

     It’s not that I don’t believe in pure spirituality in dance. It’s just that I’m still looking for proof that it exists.

Now, you may ask, what did I write instead? Well, I invented a short scene, which I will share – even though out of context it may not have much impact. At this stage of the book, my heroine has taken a group of downs syndrome students to a dance competition and she has strong negative feelings about the event (although the students were treated well and won a nice trophy). A chapter describing the event and all that happens, showing dance in a different light, has just occured. This is the end (taking the place of the above essay.)  

Driving home, her mind circled the competition dance arena and how young people today were being taught to view her beloved art. It seemed nowadays, dance was all about immediate satisfaction and showing off for instant rewards. Perhaps she was just getting old, resistant to a new way of thinking, like those grumbling old men who claim they walked ten miles to school in the snow. Uphill both ways. But honestly, she still believed dancers worked harder, for less tangible rewards, in her day.
     She couldn’t stop thinking about Max and the influence he’d have on his gifted son. As far as she was concerned, the boy represented tomorrow’s dancers. The idea that such a nice kid was being brainwashed to approach the art with arrogant superiority and a forgone assumption about what forms of dance are good and what aren’t, caused her stomach to churn. How could something as simple as dance become such a complex war of emotional and egotistical importance? And why hadn’t she ever noticed this before? More importantly, why did she care, considering she was stepping out the back door, leaving the party for good?
         She looked in the rearview mirror at the cheep plastic trophy in the backseat. 1st place overall. What did  that monstrosity symbolize. 
     That she was joining the ranks of dancers today who embrace lower standards for the art?
     That those involved in dance are, deep down, good souls who care more about people than craft? 
    Or was this “win” proof that all the effort to pursue perfection is, in reality, fruitless, because what defines great dance has nothing to do with formal technique?
    Then again, maybe it just means a hundred bucks today can buy anybody, even blundering retarded kids, a trophy that says they can dance.

*    *    *
   “The man was a real snob. He had this attitude that ballet is the kind of dance that deserves respect, and jazz doesn’t count,” she said to Shelly on her cell phone while driving home. She’d promised to call her mother first to report the results, but for some reason, she wanted to talk to her best friend instead.
     “That’s no surprise. All dancers are grossly critical of others.”
    “I beg your pardon. Not me.”
    Shelly chuckled, but didn’t say anything more.
    “Oh God. Am I like that?”
    “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re far worse.”
    “But I know what I’m talking about when the subject is dance. I’m right.”
    “My guru says we all have our own version of truth. Nothing is true, and everything is true.”
     “That’s true,” Dana said.
     “I just didn’t know there was a right and wrong in art. I thought it was like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. Isn’t that what you mean when you profess that your downs syndrome kids are good dancers? If they were being judged only on skill, well, technically, they have some problems, right? I’m glad they won, but I bet there were some dancers in the room that thought their being recognized just because they were handicapped was, while lovely on one level, not exactly fair. The fact is, other dancers have worked for years on perfecting their skills and they came to that competition paying fees just to be recognized for it.”     
      Dana was quiet.  “No doubt.”
      “Point made.”
     “Point taken. Still, I think I’m right about dance. Not that guy.”
     “Of course you do.”

Happy Birthday, Jess

Happy Birthday, Jessica Smith!
I should have called you today, but Cory only told me tonight at 1 am. He was withholding information.
I thought of you today. I hung a picture in my workout room with you in it. Made me smile. Must have sensed it was your day.
A lot of good things came out of my years at FLEX, but my friendship with students like you – so much more meaningful as you all evolve into admirable adults, has to top the list. What a kick it is to see the directions you all take as you find your niches in the world.

Hope it was a great day and your fondest wishes came true. And I hope your gift came with a ribbon tied around him – oops, I mean it.

With Love,
Your pen pal forever.

Don’t Bee Procrasting when you have work to do.

Two bees ran into each other. One asked the other how things were going.
“Really bad,” said the second bee. “The weather has been really wet and damp. There aren’t any flowers or pollen, so I can’t make any honey.”
“No problem,” said the first bee. “Just fly down five blocks and turn left and keep going until you see all the cars. There’s a Bar Mitzvah going on. There are all kinds of fresh flowers and fresh fruit.”
“Thanks for the tip,” said the second bee and flew away.

A few hours later the two bees ran into each other again and the first bee asked, “How’d it go?”
“Fine,” said the second bee, “It was everything you said it would be.”
“Uh, what’s that thing on your head?” asked the first bee.
“That’s my yarmulke,” said the second bee. “I didn’t want them to think I was a wasp.”

That’s a beekeeper joke, don’t ya know.

Today, I spent the morning avoiding my homework by browsing the internet. I shouldn’t, but some days, I just need a warm-up before I can focus. I was thinking of my upcoming beekeeping class in May. Yesterday, I purchased a big jar of locally produced honey at the supermarket and had a nice conversation with the elderly checkout man about it. He said he’d been to the farm where this honey was made, and recommended I visit.  I told him I thought this would be the last jar of honey I’d be buying, because I was going to grow my own. I also shared that my family wasn’t too keen on the entire idea, but since I had 50 acres I thought I could stick my hives off somewhere where they wouldn’t be intrusive.

The fellow said, “You may want those hives close to the house. Around here, beehives get torn apart by bears. Happened to my neighbor just last year.”

Now, that isn’t something I considered. We did have a bear tear apart my rabbit cage last spring. However, that bear was captured and released in Tennessee, or so we believe. I guess the bear threat will be something I have to prepare for. Frankly, I like bears as much as I like bees (or more) and I would kinda find it cool to think one was pigging out on my honey. Of course, I might feel very differently after I invest in equipment and spend a few months nurturing a hive.

I got my confirmation for the class in the mail this week. They say that if you think you really will want to raise bees after the class, you should consider investing in a beginner hive so they can help you set it up. They sell for around 125.00, but of course when I went shopping on the internet, I found a more modern, high tech version that produces more eggs from the queen (and sustains the bees better through the winter) made of a new, duraplastic (less cumbersome yearly maintenance than wood) for 210.00. This doesn’t count the bees, of course. Wonder what your standard queen bee goes for nowadays?
Ee-gad, living simply is expensive (at least the set up).
So, here I go. I have to do the justification calculation.

Honey sells for about 7 bucks a jar, and we go through a jar every two months (put it in tea, don’t ya know, and I often cook with it too). On that principal, it would take 30 months to break even on my investment. Dang – that’s no good.
Too long. Let’s see – I go to the movies for entertainment and spend about 20 dollars a pop. Keeping Bees is entertainment in a way, so perhaps I can consider savings in that format. Then there is the wax and the fact that I can make candles and soap from it – which I think would be fun to try.  I will reap 100 pounds of honey a year. More than I will use for sure. So, I’ll give some away as gifts to teachers and such, and maybe sell some in my coffee shop when I get around to opening one someday. Yep – it’ a stretch, but I can contrive an explanation that will eek by as reason why beekeeping is a good financial investment for the family. Over ten years, we’ll have come out way ahead ….

I have a better idea.  I’ll just write an article or story about bees and sell it, and that will justify the entire investment in one fell swoop! Yep, you can’t put a price on life experience and all it can lead to. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Considering I have spent money on a spinning wheel, chickens, a donkey ,llama, fruit trees, and the garden we are putting in – not to mention that I am looking at wine making equipment now –   I may have to consider my set up hive as a Birthday present to myself. The rest of the year is filled with guilt when I dare ask for something no one else values. April is my one month for selfish indulgences. Thankfully, it falls just before the beekeeping month. Lucky timing.

I bought a lovely, classy shirt on the internet today to wear to my class. It says, “Beekeepers like to eat their honey.” Ha. People will know I’m enthusiastic. I also subscribed to Beekeeper magazine. There is no turning back now. Not like I can go around wearing that bee shirt and reading that bee magazine and NOT have a single bee to call my own. That would be false advertising.

The other day, we were talking about my keeping bees and Denver said, “I don’t know how you can stand the thought of working with bees.”

I said, “You might think this is odd, but I have this image of myself, standing naked, like Eve, in the middle of the bees, just stretching my arms out, throwing my head back, and allowing them to swarm all over me, like light or energy from heaven. I know it won’t happen, but that is the romanticized ideal for me. I’m not afraid of bees. I think of them as nature’s soldiers, and I feel connected to them. They are just another animal. Only smaller.”

She narrowed her eyes and said, “That isn’t normal, Mom. Bee’s swarming all over you?  Sometimes, you worry me.”

Mark said, “Don’t worry. The first time she gets stung, she’ll snap out of it. She’ll change her tune quick, and probably kick over the hive, cursing up a storm. Then, I wouldn’t put it past her to drown the varmints forevermore.”

Well, thanks for the vote of confidence and your belief that I am Mother Nature’s sidekick, Honey.

One day we saw a commercial for a TV show that featured beekeeping as a test of the businessperson’s mettle. (The Associate?)  It was portrayed as some scary, awful thing these poor, inexperienced people had to try if they wanted to stay in the game with Donald Trump. I blew a big raspberry at the clip.
Mark laughed and said, “THAT  is what beekeeping is really like. See their bee suits? You’ll have to wear one of those. Hard to look sexy in that.”

Humm…. just because you can resist my charms . . . .
Nevertheless, I still like to imagine myself walking up to the hive, sans the suit, bees swarming all about me, all of us together at peace. However, I’ll be buying one of those dumb masks and a pair of gloves because the material list calls for it, and I’m always practical in the end. Frankly, for all my bravado, honestly, I don’t want to be stung if I can help it. I know  that might interfere with my love affair with these new creatures. 
 I’ll be quite a fashion statement – me in my classy, “eat your honey” shirt, a mask and gloves … and a pretty clay necklace, of course.
OK warm-up over. I have to work on my thesis. Gotta buz.


Lookie what I found today!

Chosterole aside, you MUST admit, this is very, very cool.
Made ’em myself . . . well, with the help of a chicken, of course.
Worth all the work and study!

Admit it. You’re jealous!

The little garnishes that mean so much

The other day, I was standing in my closet naked, except I was wearing one of my handmade, clay and glass bead necklaces.
Mark walks by the door, pauses and says, “That’s a good look for you.”
Very funny.
I said, “This is where I start nowadays. I begin with the jewelry and pick clothes that match.”
He said, “You’re odd. But I’ll keep ya.”
Later, he made fun of me for this system of dressing. He said some people put their socks on one at a time, and others put both socks on before their shoes.  Most people put their pants on before their shirts. He doesn’t know many women who begin with jewelry and move on to the outfit as an afterthought.
What does he know? He’s a man.
(Perhaps I should mention here that you know you’ve been married a long time when your husband walks by you naked, in nothing more than a glistening necklace, and his reaction is to make fun of you. Sigh.)

The thing is, I have about forty, original handmade necklaces made with these fabulous intricate clay beads (example above) that we design as a family on “craft nights” for fun. You begin with lumps of solid colored clay, then layer rolls of it, cutting and relayering it to make the tiny designs in canes that you next cut and reessemble to make a more detailed design. Finally you shape different beads. Remarkably facinating how each design turns out. It’s something we can all do (even Neva) that keeps us away from the television, and the beads look dynamite on Mark’s baskets or in my jewelry, so it is practical too.  These beads involve a variety of contrasting colors, which I match with crystal or glass beads for varied texture, to make all kinds of different pieces. With this jewelry as inspiration, I can always pull shirts and pants or skirts together to make it look as if I have a perfectly coordinated, “artistic” outfit. It would be impossible to achieve this effect if you started with an outfit and tried to find jewelry with the exact colors. It also allows me to put together clothing in ways I might not otherwise choose. I find my wardrobe has infinite possibilities now. Dang frustrating that I never go anywhere now that I’m looking so smart. However, the donkey thinks I’m stylish as all get-out.

Denver and Dianne keep making fun of me because I have made so many necklaces. It is some kind of sickness. I have necklace-itis or something. I make matching watchbands and earrings too, or course. I have a full wall of this pretty jewelry hanging on display in my closet. When I wear them (which is often), people always stop me to comment and ask where I get such remarkable pieces. Women find the jewelry different.
I always say, “I make them, it is sort of a fun project I do with my girls. Like playdough, only different.”
They say, “Professionally? Do you sell them?”
“You should. I’ll buy one.”
Well, then I wouldn’t be original now, would I.
However, I’ve agreed to make them as gifts for friends who really gush. For example, my hairdresser goes crazy every time she sees me in a new necklace, so I agreed to make her one. It will be my special tip next time I visit her. Others will ask her where she got it, and might want one too. This is how it begins…should you allow the ball to roll.
Denver insists that I will have to start selling my jewelry soon, because no one woman can wear this many necklaces. They would sell for 50 or so bucks at the craft fairs – maybe more with earrings.  But, I’m not inspired. Once I start making things to sell, creating jewelry will become a job. Yuck.
Dianne has been making earrings, which she sells at the flea market. She is always trying to find the right thing to sell at a booth she runs on weekends. (she is currently selling handbags). I kept telling her beaded earrings would be a hit, but she wasn’t convinced. Then, one day I showed her how to make simple earrings, and she made about a dozen pair with me in an hour. She sold half of them at 5-6 dollars a piece the next day at her booth. She was hooked. She doesn’t want to bother with the intricate designs of necklaces though, because it takes so much time. Personally, that is what I like, because each necklace is different and the uniqueness makes it more fun. And I know I wouldn’t have occasion to wear two thousand earrings, which is how many I would have if I only made them.

Anyway, Dianne finds the earrings with the original clay beads most popular, because they are artsy. So, last night we scheduled another family craft night to make beads so she could stock up. Mark is always the teacher, and he guides us through the layering and design process to make intricate canes, then he demonstrated how to get different shapes. He always gives me his beads after the evening, which is the best part, because his are so much better than mine are. I tend to like making necklaces out of his beads, or Neva’s or Kent’s, the best anyway – I guess it makes me feel as if the piece has meaning that is more personal.

For fun, I made a few simpler (and shorter) necklaces for a few of our former dance students this Christmas. I thought they would appreciate something to remember us by, so I specifically made the necklaces out of Mark’s beads with my design. That way they could wear a bit of us both. I don’t know if those necklaces are anything they will really want to wear (kids have style issues I could never presume to guess), but it was a token sent with love. I miss those kids. Worry about them. And I hate leaving and their not having something concrete to remind them we cared. I still plan to make a few more gifts for several other dancers. I just have to wait until I turn in my thesis, because time is heavily prioritized right now.  
Anyway, Denver has been making jewelry, has created her own logo, and is setting up a small business on the side. She is more into detailed bead weaving, which takes time and patience. She’s made some gorgeous stuff. She recently made a wristband that is the face of the Mona Lisa. I kid you not. It is in sepia tones – remarkable. She took it into a local jewelry store and said, “What could I sell this for?” She’d like to get 50 bucks because it took her a long time. The woman at the store said, “You should take this to an art gallery. They could sell it for 300 dollars! I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Denver was all jazzed about that, but she only has one piece, and this pattern is not original, (she got it out of a book) so she felt she needed more original pieces to make a name in the jewelry art biz. So she is making original patterns of famous paintings. She is working on “Starry night” now. I think it’s amazing, and I’m impressed. I keep trying to talk her into going to a craftsman school for jewelry design – they have these six-month schools that teach metal design, welding, stone setting etc. that would really suit her, I think. And I could help her turn her talent into a strong business. That is my specialty.  I don’t know why she is dragging her feet. She left school, and hasn’t picked a profession or direction for her life. At an impasse like this, when you are young and unencumbered by a spouse or mortgage or career, you should throw practical caution to the winds and follow your heart. Maybe she still will. Time will tell.

Anyway, with this entire jewelry making going on, we girls decided we would have to do a booth at one of the big craft festivals this fall. That is when the tourists are visiting the mountains and the festivals are booming. Denver and Dianne want (and need) to do this for income. I will participate to be sure they have a wealth of stuff on display and to participate in what will be a novel experience for me. At last, they have cornered me into selling some of my work. I’m thinking it will be fun to sit around in a booth behind our work and take turns selling or walking around the festival to scope out the other art. We can eat caramel apples and talk about people as they walk by. We will (good-naturedly) have a silent competition to see whose stuff sells best. Don’t need it to be mine.

One day, when talking to Denver about her Mona Lisa, I said, “I can’t imagine your being able to give up something so wonderful. How can you stand putting all that effort into creating something and then allow it to be worn by a stranger who simply writes a check.”

She said, “When I put so much time into something, I can’t justify keeping it for me. I have to sell it. My time is too valuable to waste on myself.” (She doesn’t have a single piece she has kept for herself).

I said, “When I put so much time into something, I can’t justify selling it. My time is worth more than what anyone would pay for jewelry. It has to be for me, or a gift.”

That is the difference in attitude when you are at different stages of life. When you are young and broke, you know you can always create more later for yourself, but what you need now is income. When you are old, you see the significance in original creation, the meaning behind it, and you know that real income is easier had from other sources. And you long to preserve what you love, which demands not putting a price tag on it.

But I hope she sells her original masterpiece art-bracelets for a fortune and has a ball making them. Mostly, I hope I get one eventually. For my birthday or Christmas. Heck, I offered to buy the Mona Lisa, but she wants to keep it as a sample for dealers. Bummer. I suppose if I made a play for it, she’d relent and give it to me for my birthday, but I don’t want to take her most remarkable piece (yet.) There will be time later for me to get one of these coveted bracelets so I can carry a piece of my daughter with me throughout the day.

So, the Hendry girls are going to begin a jewelry empire. Well, it will be more like a little hot dog stand than an empire. But we are going to have fun doing it. It’s gonna kill me to have to give up any of my fun pieces. I guess I’m selfish.

In the meantime, I will continue dressing from the necklace down, barely acknowledged by my husband when I am in my skivvies. Ah well, at least I am well coordinated and have a style all my own. That counts for something.
 We made these beads last night. I just threw them on a towel, so they don’t show so well. And my camera flash kills the vibrant colors and detail, but it gives you the general idea. You have to imagine them with accompaning earrings, and assorted bangles and extra’s to bring out the colors. But trust me, they look might good on a naked middle-aged gal, if I say so myself. Alas, I can’t show you proof in a picture because this is a PG rated blog. Pity.

A few simple necklace designs. I make some more intricate, but they get heavy and too much “stuff” takes away from the beads. I’ve discovered the more “wearable” jewlery is on the simple side. But occationaly, I overdo just because I like to mess with possibilty.


Found at Sea

I was raised in a boating family, taught to love the water at a young age.When I was small, our family had various small speedboats, the kind designed for young families and outdoor play. I remember well our metal canoe, painted a distressed white to look like Birchwood. My dad loved that thing. One summer, they sent me to a camp that featured archery, sailing, horseback riding and other outdoor adventures. I really took to the sailing.  I have memories of dozens of canoe trips with my dad, riding the rapids, being reprimanded for splashing when I got lazy with the paddle, learning about birds and fish as he pointed out the splendor around us. My dad loved playing tricks on us when we were out on the water, giving us a fright by pretending a log was an alligator, forcing our boat into a rocky area to see how we would handle the dilemma, tipping us over when we were smart alecky, or hanging a coke on an overhead branch because we were trailing ten minutes behind and he wanted to tease us about it.  


I’ve logged countless hours with a fishing pole. One of our best family trips was to a fishing camp in Canada. You could only get there by seaplane. It was freezing in the morning, but everyday we battled sunburn and chapped lips from the blazing northern sun after spending the entire day out on a boat with the Indian guides.  At night, we played cards, drank, gambled, and told fish stories (literally).    


When my father was older and more established, he bought big cruisers, 35-foot powerboats. By then, I had left home and was living in New York, but whenever I visited Sarasota, we took daylong trips out on the water. He would anchor in a bay to barbeque off the side with a nifty boat barbeque, while we swam in the saltwater. Afterwards, he always offered me a chance to drive, but I preferred sitting up front with the wind in my hair, watching him drive in his white captain’s hat, a beer in one hand and a cigar hanging out of his mouth. This was his typical “I’m relaxed and feeling fine” sportsman persona. I always marveled at the space on his bigger boats with their small cabins and stately captain’s chairs.  I liked how the gear tucked neatly into special compartments and the way each end of the boat offered a different motion experience. I was good at hoping onto docks to tie up lines, but lord, don’t ask me to steer an expensive vehicle like that. I was always intimidated – I couldn’t second-guess how the movement of the tide affected aim.  I’m the sort to feel most at home in the smaller, self-propelled (quiet) boats. Those I could maneuver with some semblance of skill. Perhaps if the boat was mine, I wouldn’t feel so nervous.


Like my dad, I love a simple float down a quiet river. In Florida, we occasionally rented canoes and I would join him in overnight journeys down the river, where crocodiles and herrings filed the landscape. We’d camp overnight and recount memories of being outdoors together in younger days. Each time, Mark would stay home. He had to. Someone needed to “hold down the FLEX fort” if one of us wanted to take a day.


When my Mom and Dad had property up here in Georgia, they bought a used pontoon, a perfect boat for a retired couple who likes to float when entertaining family and friends. We enjoyed that a few times when we were visiting too. Pontoons are like floating docks. Mellow.


I was always disappointed that Mark and I never spent time on the water in Florida (unless it was the rare occasion when we went out with my dad). My sister had a terrific 23-foot speedboat (a party boat) with a small cabin. She graciously extended a “use it any time you want” offer. Did we use it? Not once. We were simply too busy running the dance empire to ever take any time for leisure. Even our vacations were built around dance events.


I was forever trying to carve out a small niche in our life where we could fit non-dance related living in. I craved nature. Quiet.  I bought a used two man kayak, thinking it would be wonderful if some afternoon, Mark and I could sneak away to explore any of the huge bodies of water around our home. We had oceans, rivers and inland waterways in every direction, a mere fifteen minutes away. I imagined going kayaking with my teenage daughter or my sporty son, teaching them to love the outdoors the way my dad taught me. However, our family only took the kayak out once on a camping trip. Had a ball, but that didn’t inspire us to start using it. The fact is, when you work weekends, nights and a part of every holiday, and you find yourself packing costume-ordering catalogues in your suitcase when you go on a family trip, there simply isn’t room for boating pleasure in your life. When you do get a day for family, you find yourself working on the house or doing practical chores, or you plan something mundane like going to the movies because you are just too tired to play strenuously.  


I suppose we could have just thought “heck with FLEX” and gone kayaking on occasion, but we didn’t. That mindset was difficult to embrace, because we had such a strong commitment to building that business that once it was established keeping it fiscally stable (and appeasing the insatiable demands of dance parents) required endless attention. And money was always tight. Our school was successful, but we always channeled the profits back into the business. We never paid ourselves enough to maintain even a small boat – or to take a vacation for that matter. I don’t think we would have ever had anything in our life had we not sold the school. We’d die channeling everything we had back into better programs and bigger facilities. We had so many things we wanted for the dancers and the school that it was so easy to justify our family sacrifices for “the greater good”. We could never justify a boat just for us. We always had a someday we’ll have “time”, or “money”, or “privacy” attitude. “Someday” never came, and we eventually recognized that it never would . . . until we left that world to create a new one.


When we sold the school, one of my “demands” was that we use some of our money for family toys. I was insistent that our life not be revised to be all about working on our home and (God forbid) building a new business. These are admirable things and I certainly am willing to make sacrifices to live in a beautiful home, but I didn’t want that to be all we have to show for a lifetime of effort. Experiences are so much more valuable than things. At least that is how I feel at my current stage in life.


Which is why, long before we moved to the land or were ready, I went out and bought horses. I had this uncomfortable feeling that if I waited, all our disposable money would be channeled into the new house and we would be right back in the drudgery cycle of sustaining a lovely lifestyle (without “fun” as a priority) again. Like marrying a second abusive spouse after you finally get brave enough to escape the first one.  I pushed for the four wheelers for the same reason. We also looked at a pontoon boat last season and came close to purchasing it. But with our energies so wrapped up in building the house, and with funds reliant on things out of our control (Flex’s adjustment period was nerve-wracking on that level) we decided to wait. Instead, we rented kayaks last season and explored the Ocoee River a few times. And we spent a few afternoons doing the inner tube float trip thing. Fun.


Now, our house is finished. We are settling into routine at long last. It’s spring. I’ve begun thinking about how much I long for leisure to be a part of our world again. I am thinking of boats.


We live five minutes from the <ST1Ocoee River, where they had the whitewater Olympics a few years ago. We live ten minutes from <ST1Blue Ridge Lake, a huge sprawling lake that winds through the mountains and is the attraction for so much tourism in the area. There are dozens of other rivers a short drive in our state parks, and other lakes as well. We could spend years going out every weekend and hardly make a dent in exploring these areas.


We have the double kayak and I am cleaning it up, getting it ready. It is time we finally use this poor thing, dragged along for years like some kind of albatross symbol of the kind of living we didn’t have time for. The problem is, a single boat limits us, because we are a family of four. Five when you are counting Denver. Six when you count Dianne (and we usually do). So, for my upcoming birthday I made a request. While I would love a female llama. Or a pig. Or a trip somewhere (anywhere) I think what I really want this year is two single man, easily transportable kayaks, the light kind you see on the roof of cars all summer around here. I am always jealous when I see them speed by and I never fail to make a comment.   I figure with two singles and a double kayak, we have many options. Kent and a friend can take out the singles alone, or we can all go and Neva can sit in the middle of the double kayak, and we can take turns in the different boats. We can even pull one of our huge inner tubes along and take turns with who is paddling and who is floating. Or maybe if we actually use the damn things, we’ll later buy another canoe to go with it so everyone fits in one big expedition. With different size boats you have the mix and match option to fit all kinds of groups.


I’ve wanted these easy to manage kayaks for years, so I think Mark will comply.
I even said, “If we can’t afford them now, I’ll take an IOU. I just want to know we will get them eventually when we can swing it.”

He said, “We’ll see what we can do”.
Like I said yesterday, I don’t have to have everything I want. I just like knowing I can have it, without guilt, when and if circumstances make it feasible.


But it looks as if Kayaks are not going to be the highlight of our future boating journeys. Because I think we’ve just bought a big boat! My sister called to tell me she is selling her 23 foot party boat. Do I want it? She will find out what it is worth, and sell it to us for half. This way, the family can use it when they visit us up here. It is a few years old, but in perfect condition. She has no kids and only uses it occasionally for casual boating with Dad. She keeps it in a covered lift at the marina. She had the benches recovered last year. The motor is older but is working perfectly. This boat is perfect for cruising, skiing, fishing, and it will pull an inner tube at death-defying speeds. It would be just the thing for our family on the <ST1Blue Ridge Lake.


It didn’t take two seconds to consider the offer.

Yes, we want it, but can you wait for us to sell the cabin before we pay? Yes? Yipee!

Unfortunately, the dang thing has no trailer, so we will have to buy one. But in a few weeks, we will go to Florida to visit family, handle some business, and we will pick up the boat. I wish I could keep it in the water in the marina here, because that makes using it so easy. It is easy to make excuses not to spend your weekends boating if you see setting up and returning home as some huge chore. But they have a huge waiting list for slips here, so we will probably have to store it at home and put it in and out of the water ourselves. Nevertheless, we’ll do what we must, until a slip opens up. Or maybe we’ll discover we don’t really need that kind of luxery. Just having the boat represents something very special – it’s proof that life is no longer on hold – That it can be filled with rich, inspirational moments today.


Slowly but surely, I feel like we are living again. It’s a bit like when your foot falls asleep. You know that numb feeling? We had that all over – and leaving FLEX was like standing up. Sitting so long in one position, you don’t realize what’s happening. Only when you move do you notice you lost all sensation in your leg. At first, you almost fall over, because you can’t even support yourself with this numb limb where once you had a foot. Then, you experience pain, a tingling sensation that seems weird and unnatural. Scary. Just when you are wondering if you are paralyzed for life, slowly, the blood returns, and normalcy eases back, and you can walk. Then run. And the awkward, unnatural sensation of being numb all over fades away as you think, “Gee, I hope I don’t sit that way again so my foot falls asleep anytime soon. That sucked.”


It is good to be awake.

It will be even better to be awake and floating.

eggs and wine

I often serve eggs in the morning and when I do, someone inevitably asks, “This one of your eggs?”

You see, I’ve been getting a few random, small brown eggs from one very dear chicken. I usually cook them the day they are laid. They are organic, fresh, and cook up fluffy and perfect. I’ve been finding about three a week. With spring here, it looks as if more eggs will be coming (in a more steady way) soon. That and the fact that I am feeding my chickens special “crumble” that forces egg laying means it’s only a matter of time until no one will have to ask if they are eating one of “my” eggs. It will be a given.

Each time I find an egg in the nest, I squeal with delight and pick it up. Then I have to carefully carry it around with me for a half hour as I finish taking care of the animals. I show it off to anyone who comes by, as if I found a nugget of gold or something. No one ever reacts with the excitement or wonder that I expect. Obviously, people take small miracles for granted.


I have four almost-fully-grown Rhode Island Reds that will be laying soon. They are in a new pen Neva and I made this weekend out of a big iron frame that was protecting our monster chandelier when it came packaged a few months ago. When I saw that big, indestructible rectangle, I said to Mark, “Don’t you dare throw this away – I can use this.”

“He said, “What on earth do you want that rusty thing for?”

“A cage.”

“A cage for what?”

I didn’t know at the time, but I knew I would always need another cage, considering my animal husbandry explorations. When it was time to move my bigger chicks into a “holding area” near the pen, I knew the iron frame would be just the thing. Mark dragged it from the workshop to the chicken area and bought me some supplies. Neva and I wrapped chicken wire all about the thing and wired it together. No door – that would have been too complicated. We just tilt the contraption and shove the birds in.  Now I have a spiffy new chicken run.


 I’ve always admired people with the “use it up and wear it out” mentality. It takes innovation to use resources wisely, which is good for the planet, good for the mind, and involves creativity and skill. It may be easier to write a check for something you need. Nice new, sparkly things do look nice, new and sparkly. However, I am rather turned off by the glut of consumerism and waste in our world, so I associate good feelings to making a cage out of a packing crate. People who do not see the value (and accomplishment) in reusing resources are missing something wonderful. Anyway, more and more, I’m trying to be someone who lives in more environmentally responsible ways. Gotta do my part to save the world (global warming is real, friends). Saves money too, and there are things I want far more than shiny new (unnecessary) everyday stuff – like a trip to Egypt to see the sphinx.(But first, we are discussing going to hike Glacier Park, because in twelve years, all glaciers will be gone. You haven’t seen “An Inconvenient Truth” yet if you don’t understand that decision.)


Where was I? – Oh, I was bragging about my up and coming chickens. I also have five Americanas (blue eggs). These birds are young teenagers (4 weeks old) but they will be laying in three months. I have seven baby chicks of assorted breeds peeping in my basement too, which will start laying some time in June. I am totally egg-a-fide now. It is just a matter of time until the windfall begins.


I am going to buy myself three tiny turkey chicks next week. I’m shooting for a boy and two girls, although they are not pre-sexed so you have to guess. Linda (the feed storeowner) taught me how to best determine what these babies are by their behavior. I’m told turkeys get as big as Neva (bigger! 80 pounds), and that if you handle them a lot, they are terrific pets. They will run around with the chickens, gobble and add ambiance and flavor to my ever-growing poultry collection. I even have the names picked out for my turkeys, but I won’t share them. Certain people would be offended – though anyone who knows me well also knows my humor and understands how I like to amuse myself in stupid ways, so perhaps you can guess.


I also plan to buy some game hens later that I intend to let run wild in my chicken area. Why not? They lay eggs you can eat, and they make some funky raw sounds that are fun too.


When I bring new animals into our world, Mark just takes a nonchalant look and makes a few comments about whatever seems interesting to him about them. He never discourages me or seems put out. In fact, he is rather supportive of my interests. I guess he thinks it could be worse. Not like I’m interested in buying a racecar or having surgery done to change my body or anything else that might contradict our concept of the perfect life. His generous attitude is partially because it doesn’t really cost anything to add a few bird mouths to feed and it keeps me happy. Most importantly, I do all the drudgery pet care. He also finds the animals interesting, educational, good for a laugh, and he is very into eating organic. Nevertheless, he has put his foot down about a pig. You see, I want a mini pot bellied pig. I think they are too cute. He thinks pigs are dirty and nasty. He says I can only get a pig if I will eat it, and since I won’t, we are at a pig-stalemate. He is determined to be the only pig in my world. I’m not ready to give up my pig fantasy however. It is just a matter of finding the right negotiation tool. The question is, what’s the ticket to get a guy to give in to a girl’s pig desires? Hummm….. I’ll have to ponder that one.


I bought about six grape plants last week. Every time I see one I’m like “gotta have one of those.”  I have muscadine, concord, suffolk and lakemont varieties. As it turns out I won’t be using any of them for making wine. No-siree. I did my homework and learned I will need a vineyard with specific breeds of grape for that. So today, I’ll stick these grape plants along the fence somewhere and hope they will grow and bear fruit. These particular grapes will be for eating or making jelly.


I said, “Honey, will you let me have a vineyard, please?”

Mark sighs. “A whole vineyard? Can’t you just work with a nice arbor filled with grape vines? How much wine can one girl make and drink?”

(The man obviously underestimates my potential for wine consumption now that I don’t need to be a constant “good example” for dancing children).

“I need a vineyard. I read a book.”    

“A book. Of course. Aren’t you supposed to be so busy with your MFA that you have no time (thank god) to read books? Why do you need a vineyard to make wine? I doubt every person who makes wine has an entire vineyard.”

“According to my book, lots of people do. Tending to a vineyard gives you the whole experience.”

“You need the whole experience? You haven’t made a single bottle of wine yet. We can buy grapes, ya know. We don’t know if we even like homemade wine.”

“If I buy the grapes it won’t be the same.”

“How do you know?”

Since I had no answer for that, I told him all about the information I’m learning about making wine. Each plant yields 8-11 pounds of fruit. You need 10 pounds to make a gallon of wine, which is five bottles. Each vine must be 6 feet from another, staked with wire to make rows of fruit bearing vines. I want to make 40 gallons a year. That takes one tenth of an acre, hardly a drop in the bucket of our 50 acres . Grapes like acidic, sandy, rocky soil. We can add sand to our clay to get good results. Grapes like being near water, which is why commercial vineyards are on coastal areas, like California, Italy or the other end of our state. They don’t like being near forests, because they need to stay dry and you don’t want deer eating them – but I will work around that. My wine will be for home consumption (or gifts) so it is not like everything has to be perfect. Grapes grow best on hillsides. We have hillsides! I figure we can clear a section of our land and plant a vineyard (you till the soil in fall and leave it unbothered, don’t even walk on it, then in spring plant about 40 vines and tend to them for three years.) Voila, we have a vineyard. It’s that easy.


Mark sighs. He is thinking about the eight apple trees still in the back of the trailer that he has yet to plant. (He got too tired to finish all our planting after putting in our pear and peach trees this weekend). In three years I’ll have apples. Will I have time for grapes too? He is probably wondering if it would be easier to say “You want a vineyard? Sure. Whatever,” because it is possible I will give up the idea by fall. But then again, I’ll have taken my wine making course by then, and I might be hotter for a vineyard than ever, so he dare not make promises he may not want to be bother with later. He has his own passions you know. He has benches to make. Tables and turned bowls.


But then again, he is also probably thinking a vineyard would be kind of fun – another new experience that might lead us into new territory. He loves gardening. Loves eating healthy, natural, homegrown things. Loves my cooking. Loves giving me busy work that keeps me out of trouble. If a vineyard isn’t too much trouble, it might be cool . . . .

I tell him that people with vineyards also plant roses, as if this might influence him somehow.

He says that is because of the pollination issues. Roses attract bees, which will cross-pollinate, which results in more fruit. He points out that he has never really been into roses.

Bees? You need those? I’ll have bees by then. Plenty!
He groans. He still hasn’t warmed up to the bee issue.
“Moreover, even if you can live without them, I love roses. Gee wiz, I am so meant to have a vineyard.” 


He is smart. He says, “We’ll discuss it later, in the fall. Let’s see where we stand with work and money and our time then.”

That is fair. That isn’t a “no”. It isn’t a “yes”. It is one of those famous “we’ll see”‘s that kids hate so much. In the end, I figure having a thing isn’t always necessary anyway. The fact that you can have it if you want it badly enough is what counts, and he has given me that.

I’m appeased. I’ll keep reading about wine and vineyards and put the idea of my own vineyard on the backburner of my mind. If I don’t plant a vineyard of my own, I’ll write a book about a heroine who makes wine and has a backyard vineyard. Yea, there is no such thing as information that goes to waste.


In the meantime, I think I will drag Mark to the other coast next month for a weekend getaway. There is a Georgia vineyard route there with small commercial growers that welcome tourist. We can do the wine country drive, learn what varieties work in our region of the country. We can sip samples, buy some bottles for home – maybe even see how much work it all is and find out if they sell plants for when (if) the time comes.


Anyway, That is my farm report for today.  I’d love to write more, but I gotta go. I have homework. Bear with me. I may be MIA for a few weeks as I finish this MFA. I have to turn in my thesis April 9th and I’m ready to knock it out and put it to bed.  My best birthday present ever will be tying a bow around that puppy and not bothering with it for a while.


Sigh. To work.