Monthly Archives: March 2015

Spring’s Broken

I love the smell of motorboats in canals and of chlorine pools. I love the feel of hot pavement and longleaf pine needles under my feet. I was a little kid in Florida, and it is the place every cell in my body remembers most.

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Yep, that’s me on the right, with my little brother. 1976. Orlando, FL.

I told my friend Kaya the Cake Guru that, in the 70s and early 80s, Florida was the place where my only business was that of being a kid, of learning how to be alive outside and in the world. Botany, zoology, neighborhood cartography, physical fitness (swimming, biking, tree-climbing), neighborliness, resilience, problem-solving, etiquette, curiosity, independence, troublemaking, and consequences were all taken care of by my Florida neighborhoods – the kids I played with there, plus their parents and their cigarette-smoking memaws and the old military guys with tattoos under their hairy forearms whom you always called “sir”, no matter what.

By the time we moved to the midwest, when I was almost 13, it was obvious some things were changing. It was clear that the culture was going to demand, if it hadn’t already begun demanding, different things of its young men and women than the trees we were climbing together or the forts we were building out of magnolia branches and palmetto leaves and Spanish moss in vacant lots. I know the rip tide that was Southern culture at that time was at least part of the reason my mother insisted we leave it. And she wasn’t wrong to want to leave – difficult questions and experiences regarding race, sex, religion, and class started tripping up us junior high schoolers more and more. Corporal punishment (“paddling”) was a much-discussed thing at our school. I was keen to be a cheerleader (the height of cool and acceptable/desirable female athletic accomplishment), but also wanting to play baseball like Zanboomer (still rather unacceptable for a young Southern lady in 1981). There were… interesting interactions with neighbors. Eventually, we left for Minnesota. No one got paddled at school and the coolest girls all played basketball and soccer, but my Southern accent and other quirks in 8th grade were liabilities. I lived in Minnesota for 10 years, and I loved my time there, but I’ve been moving progressively more to the south since 1991.

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We were on the road the day spring 2015 arrived in the northern hemisphere. We started off as soon we could after waking up and getting coffee in foggy & cool Tennessee, and continued south. We ended up in muggy & hot central Florida twelve hours later for a visit with my dad, who lives in a place where the orange groves of my childhood have given way to RV campgrounds and strip malls.  The next day, we were on the road again, cutting directly through west central Florida to Anna Maria Island on the Gulf Coast, where it feels like it is, or at least could be, summer forever. Those three traveling days felt like a week – in the best way – and then we had six days of staying put before having to return north.

People comment on the fact that we’ve returned each year – since 2004 – to the same coastal place in Florida each late winter. Why not try someplace new? Go with what you know is always my answer. Anna Maria Island isn’t where I was a kid – that was central FL and NW Florida – but it is a place where young me would have happily spent most days. Current me can literally unclench my stiff, tight body there because I don’t have to do anything except exist. We don’t plan much beyond eating food, drinking beer, and spending time outside. It’s pretty delicious, if you’re into that kind of thing. No one in my little family grew up there, but they’ve grown accustomed – to a week and change in March, anyway.

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I’m not sure how they’d feel about July. And Southern culture, especially politics, remain a serious conundrum.

We’re back now. We came home yesterday to a busted furnace, cat barf on the bed, and cold windy rain (or windy cold rain, or rainy cold wind – whatever, it sucked). Please send sunny days and 75° (more degrees welcome). Thanks.

Projecting

In a what feels like Herculean effort to finish out this iteration of the Backyard Industry Video Project, I’ve been reviewing a lot of footage.

Phil Orr

For awhile it was chicken coops and the people who build them, like Phil (that’s him above). That video is allllllmost finished, though, so lately I’ve been looking at Shana and Mac from The Great Pumpkin Patch, transcribing their interviews by hand because I know of no other way.

Shana Condill of TGPP

Mac Condill

One thing I’ve discovered about this particular creative situation: I wish it was all I did. I really do love coming up with a story to tell, planning shoots, going on shoots, doing interviews, gathering B-roll, looking at it later and transcribing it, and going through the first part of the process of getting that story told. I love it to the point of feeling guilty and like I don’t deserve to be taking the time to do it. Often I’ll walk away from it for awhile, too overwhelmed by the fact that I’m doing something fun instead of cleaning or something else I “should” be doing. True story!

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The second part of getting that story told is stitching those Post-Its together into a video in editing – re-creating the show open, smoothing transitions between “chapters”, adding graphics, adding music, making cuts, finding that exactly-right bit of footage to cover someone’s voice, etc. While I know this part happens, and it’s definitely fun… I rarely participate – at least, not in person. A lot of it happens over email.

With our current setup, Tim and I have pretty much been siloed in our work – we work together on the BYI project, but separately, mostly, on the creative side. We also end up doing things backwards or sideways sometimes because of a) my ignorance, b) time issues, and c) “real job” constraints/ups and downs/curveballs. In a perfect world, our partnership would be more like a Venn diagram than two separate circles, but it’s what we’ve got for now. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done and are doing, but I’m always like, this could have been so much better. I wish we had asked/gotten _____ or _____. It kind of goes back to my recent entry about planning, though I would also add process. I can plan all I want, but if I don’t have a process, I’m hosed – “hosed” meaning, in this case, submitting (and settling for) work that could have been SO MUCH BETTER.

Words like planning and process still give me hives, you guys. I’ve somehow always had the subconscious notion that you’re not truly creative if you rely on structure to create a finished product. Like, since I was a kid, I’ve had this idea. Where did this come from? Watching other people make it look easy or something? Like they didn’t have a process or a plan? NEVER have I found out the opposite to be more true than working in audio/video production. I know both Tim and I have learned plenty from this experience, not just about process and planning, but also about partnership and trust.

I know that most of the other stuff I want to work on (including one official work project) will benefit from these things I’ve learned re: planning and process:

The BYI podcast, which I swear to god is coming by June at the latest
The writing Troy asked me to do for Innocent Words (I’ll link when the first one is ready)
The project I still want to work on with Alisa from Prairie Fruits Farm

RELATED: I was thinking about Cody and his work (as I often do) and have marveled at the way he seems to be harnessing together, at age 22, all the things thatI believe must go into transforming ideas into something tangible:

Talent/ability/knowledge
A network
Vision

Lilly, for her part, is masterful at time management and is truly gifted in many ways, including seeing things – literal and figurative angles and connections – that others cannot see. The more they grow up, the more I learn from them, that’s for damn sure.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

I was sad reading about the Target layoffs

I loved this video of an elephant joining an elephant sanctuary

I tried a YouTube yoga class

On Being A Badass

What does Indiana men’s basketball coach Tom Crean look like?

Mixtape of Arabic songs from the 60s/70s

Really long long read about David Foster Wallace that I ended up not finishing (haha)

10 Women Paving the Way in Digital Journalism and Tech

Road Trip Needed

Florida, Austin, Asheville, Athens G-A, Little Rock, wherever. I feel a need to hit the road and find an outside environment that doesn’t look like Hoth. This landscape is preferable:

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We must road trip this summer – Madison, MPLS-STP, even a couple quick jaunts up to CHGO would count – to fill two purposes: To scratch this nagging travel itch I seem to have going on, and to get Lilly to visit a few schools. Schools as in, colleges and universities. Yes, we’ve arrived at that point. I can’t believe it either, but some very good friends of ours (and they’re our age) have one offspring finishing college and another offspring who, with his partner, just made them grandparents, so clearly that sands through the hourglass thing applies universally. Lesson here is positively BuellerianLife moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. He’s right.

Speaking of stopping and looking around, here’s something I witnessed this past Monday as I was walking the two blocks from where I park my car to my office.

[Sidebar: I enjoy this walk very much, even on the coldest/hottest of days; it’s a buffer between worlds. For those two blocks, I’m preparing to enter a different headspace, and even though it’s just two average residential/campus blocks, it’s still outside, still the natural world. There are lots of trees and squirrels and birds on this block – late last spring, a pair of house finches sang me to work most mornings. There they were, pretty much every day without fail, perched in the same tree, just chirping away. I’m sure they annoyed the living shit out of anyone on the block trying to sleep in, but I was delighted.]

Anyway. I was walking those two blocks to my office. It was cold, but not unreasonably so. It had snowed quite a bit over the weekend, but the sun was out and the sky was cloudless. I lifted my head to take in as much as I could before crossing the street and heading into my office, and when I did, I noticed… bits of snow? Bark? Leaves? Ash? Gray things, with a touch of red, floating down and resting on top of the new snow… down feathers, I suddenly realized, and there were lots of them.

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I looked up. A mid-sized hawk was on the branch just above, poor dead male cardinal in its talons. He/she regarded me, pulled out one last, long, bright red feather, and then decided to eat is meal in peace elsewhere. I probably stood there for 10 seconds before I stooped down, took that last feather, and walked the rest of the block to work.

I love birds. Hawks fascinate me. Cardinals are so gorgeous, especially against new snow – but the snow that throws them into such brilliant, beautiful relief is also what makes them more visible to hawks and other predators. That cardinal’s luck had run out… because the hawk was hungry. I’ve watched (hawk-like) the hawk that lives in our neighborhood and have marveled at its patience. I don’t enjoy seeing it rip a smaller bird apart, but I reckon it’s entitled to enjoy its food after waiting so long, strategizing the entire time.

Hmmmm.