Archive for September, 2017


Stormy Weather

A Ramble Thought, Directed at “No One” in Particular

It’s hard to think what to say a lot of the time lately. There are so many big issues, that I feel angry or sad about, and so many little things that I’ve been dismissing as irrelevant or not worth sharing. But I’m hearing voices from my past saying that I think too much and that I should share more of it.

One of the big issue type things is all of the flooding and earthquakes and storms that are affecting people all around and driving them out of their lives entirely. They’re dangerous powerful forces, that we can’t do anything about. Even my sense of grumpy helplessness which gripes about things like “maybe we should think more carefully about where we live – this is why I’M in the mountains” is out of place beside the guilt of not being able to help people who are in extreme duress. The flood we had up here four years ago is still impacting the city and the surroundings, and it is frightening even from up my mountain to see how much destruction is being caused. I was frightened during our flood, but the rains and storms didn’t last nearly so long. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to try and flee something like that, even with money, and for the people who are unable to move, unable to leave and find somewhere safer it is even more heartbreaking because what can you do when the systems of nature and man both are plied against you?

I’m not even sure how to help. Does it do the most good to send money and then otherwise carry on with my day to day? It feels like not enough. But I know that I also am not in a position where I can uproot and try to go find a way to physically help rebuild what has been lost. And the storms are still flying.

I hear about this maelstrom, and then my ears are filled with the roar of the closing of DACA, the insistence on a wall, the pushing of people who are “not like us, not like us” away and closing the door with curtains drawn. I hear about the fear and uncertainty, the long-drawn-out stresses of not knowing what will happen to you. The exhaustion.

We have created a hurricane of our own lack of compassion and our own fears and engulfed other people in it while we stay indoors. And I do not want to be indoors any longer, if this is what that means. I would rather be in the storm, or better yet, I would like to invite the people outside into that space and send anyone who wants to be separate out to face those fears and understand what has been made.

It’s so wrong, to be denying education and opportunity in a country which has the space to handle it, the dreaming available, the potential.

I heard a woman on the radio explain a new German right whose idea is that “we’re not racist, but-” and that’s when you know that you are, I think, “you care more for the neighbor next door than you do the one down the street.”

How stupid. How petty, how stupid, how shortsighted.

Privilege does not even begin to touch on this idea. Privilege is a right, an advantage, an immunity, given to those who are in a position of power and can have the choice of closing out the world; but in this, privilege is poison. We drink the arsenic words and paint our skin with them so that our eyes appear wide, and then complain that we are being killed by an outside force.

Of course, this is true; the outside force is the hate which is being festered inside. The deadly words that are pointed outwardly like spears protrude from hearts which are too pained to understand that this has been a creation of their own doing.

Of course the monster in the closet is real, if you torment it and repeatedly shut it in the dark. Not even because of what it has done, or not done, but because the story says that it is a monster.

And all monsters are evil, right? Moral high ground. Except you never even gave it a chance. You forced the Othering outwards and isolated yourself. You are the Other on the inside of a cycle that has no use for you because you have made yourself useless.

Why can’t we see that?

I don’t understand why we keep creating these storms. We all pity those caught in a natural disaster, but our society is about as natural if less visually tangible. What does a high-stress environment look like? A flooded street where sharks swim over the sidewalk and trees lie on top of downed power lines that kill like assassins? The world where you are seen as a threat no matter what you say or do, and everything you do must be perfectly choreographed to prevent a misunderstanding that can kill you?

I don’t know how to change closed hearts any more than I know how to repair a state or a country who has been buffeted around. But I would like to know.

And I would genuinely like to understand- what scares you? What scares a person so badly that they can look at another person and see a threat? For me, my past experiences have taught me that certain smells, a certain tightness of the jaw, a certain calculation of the eyes, a stance that towers over me and says “I will overwhelm you because then I can control you”, those things read as a threat. Do not come that close into my space, I think, but at the same time, I read fear from the other side now. “I can control you” means “I need control”. And as soon as I know that, the threat is turned into something I can engage with. It doesn’t make it less, but it does make it conversational. You threaten, and I look to turn you aside until your threat is less and you are willing to meet on a solid ground.

When the flood waters rise, I am glad for any higher ground at all.

But, if you know, please tell me. I do not want to judge you; I want to understand. What makes your life fearful? and if you know how, How can it be lessened so you can be at peace with yourself and the world?

Why does skin temper your views? What price is it to be a different shade of paint in the mixing swirling morass? What does it mean to be someone else? Why is the level of complexity that seems to come forth from one person thinking of another only to think ‘enemy’ or ‘good guy’ or ‘hero’ or ‘demonic’?

What is your own soul worth? Is it worth the fear and hate that drag you down and down and down? Or would you rather have it filled with beauty? I cannot imagine that you would not, even if you don’t agree that you have a soul. I cannot imagine you can’t want to see possibility stretch before you like a million million stars in the galaxy, for you and for those close to you.

Tell me your fears, please. Help me understand, so that even if you can’t reach out, I can do it for you. Or at least, we can sit with them together and help them quiet.

Sending love and hope that recovery for those in the storm, and solid footing, will come about soon and be stable and fruitful.

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The Process Continues!

As you know, O Reader, I am continuing to make my wedding dress from pages of books. I have made some progress since the last time that I posted, and I thought I would update you!

The front of my dress is largely made; the three panels will be attached together and form a sheet of fabric, essentially. The end result of the overlapping flowers I used for this part is a very tough textile that has a lot of movement and flexibility. It’s about as sturdy as a heavy canvas, and both heavier and lighter than I anticipated. I think it will work nicely. You can also see in the pictures above that the panels have a really nice texture of shadow and light with the petals. I put a 24-inch ruler down for a size estimate since I didn’t have a yardstick, just so you can have an idea of how long the panels are. I used all of Dante’s Inferno and most of a Native American Legends and Myths book, interchanged for a subtle pattern by the darker flowers. It’s interesting because if you read both of the texts (I’ve read them in full before, and read snippets of them again) they both include focuses on transformation, the journey, and finding appropriate guides.

So that’s cool.

 

The pictures of the bodice are a little blurry but on the left are pictures of the bodice before I started adding the extra outside ‘fabric’. I’ve used Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for this piece.

I took some pictures of my process. The little, rounded pieces of paper have slits on their fold lines, and I took those little wibbly bits and interwove them, creating the heart shape. I have no idea how many of these I made since I forgot to check page numbers, but it was a fairly complete copy of the “Canterbury Tales” so the answer probably is “a lot’.  It’s rather soothing folding these. Cutting them was a bit harder since I wanted to cut the pages in batches instead of individually (because perfection takes too much time?)  and the paper would slip and move as the scissors went through the layers.

The hearts are based on a pattern my mother showed me when I was younger. The hearts are great for Valentine’s Day, because when you weave them they form a little pocket, and you can tuck candy or cards inside and give them away. Not to shamelessly promote candy giving. I just really like candy and want other people to have as much as they like too!

I originally thought about gluing the hearts into the scale pattern that’s sort of happening, but when it came down to it glue was going to make the papers much too stiff and crackly. So instead, I’ve sewed the hearts together and I am sewing those strands onto the bodice itself. The layers are very thick and support themselves, and the thread holds them very steadily to the framework I have. The strands are also flexible, which makes me have hope for the more curved parts of the bodice. I will let you know how the negotiations with that particular challenge later.

As you can see, I still have a long way to go, but it’s really coming along nicely and is much stronger than I had hoped for.

So, that’s the update! I hope you have enjoyed it, O Reader, and I will let you know as soon as I make more noticeable progress!

Simply A-Maze-ing!

Take two! I had something all written up for this, but I apparently did not save often enough. So, once more into the fray.

Yesterday, I watched a fabulous movie called “Dave Made A Maze”. Here is the Trailer:

It’s a story that uses a simple design to tell a really compelling story. The set design is largely beautifully creative cardboard, tissue paper, and paper confections of imagination; everything from tubes to corrugated cardboard, to long streamers of sheer fabric with delicate lights brightening the room through a gentle mist that permeates the maze. I felt like the trailer didn’t spoiler the film either; the best moments were definitely not mentioned, but it still gives a really good feel of the wonder in the movie.

There are elements of almost cartoon horror; as the labyrinth begins to attack through multiple booby traps, red confetti and streamers are used in place of blood in all but the earliest instance (a paper cut). It was a surprise, but it brings forth the questions as soon as it happens; are injuries and fatalities permanent? If you die in a dream, do you die in real life also? How afraid should we be? There’s a sense of consequence, but ambiguity as to how heavy it is, at first.

Mazes and Labyrinths in mythology often have elements of concealing and revealing. Dave’s maze is no different.

Dave is an artist who has difficulty finishing any of his pieces. Left alone to his own devices, he builds from torn up bits of cardboard and origami. He becomes trapped in his own creation, unable to get out. It separates him from Annie, who returns and is, perhaps understandably irritated that another incomplete project is between her seeing him. Annie humors him until she also steps inside and realizes the depths that she has come into.

Annie, in many ways, is Dave’s strength. She pushes him to want more than what he knows he can do, and at the same time is the support structure that he needs to grow. Annie is also the furthest thing from a damsel in distress. She takes matters in hand, and is completely uninterested in playing to the camera, even when the enormity of what Dave has accomplished strikes her. Even when she accepts help from other characters, it is in the same way as any of them might need and not based on her gender. She isn’t superwoman, either. She has her limits and she is powerful within them. She knows Dave is capable of wonderful things, and the two clearly have a long and complex relationship which is presented in few words, the making of a sandwich, the unspoken communication that happens physically between the actors. Meera Rohit Kumbhani and Nick Thune do a remarkable job in contextualizing the couple’s dynamic in the way they behave around each other, with simple gestures such as holding hands or eye contact.

The story between these two is not just a revelation of what is being hidden in Dave’s life, his fears and worries overwhelming him artistically, and preventing him from completing anything. It’s a question of whether or not the couple can survive the stresses. Dave’s decision to finish the maze, despite all odds, creates possibility and changes the dynamic. It’s a really well developed and familiar storyline in the sense that it feels like a real relationship, not only one you see in the theaters.

Dave’s friend Gordon is also wonderful; a mix of supportive and smart, brave and also humorous, he clearly cares about both of them and is one of the first people to realize how dangerous the maze might actually be. He and Dave also have a great patter back and forth which I really think serves Dave as a point of restfulness; they play off words and silly rhymes which sometimes make you groan with the dad-jokeness of it all.

The trio of the documentary crew are great comedic relief, but the way that they continue to try to document the storyline raises questions about what we’re seeing as well. The director, Harry, is a friend, but he also is so single-mindedly focused on scripting reactions and creating scenes that it begins to make me question what we’re seeing as the film outside the film. What is scripted and what is a genuine reaction?

The cameraman is so devoted to capturing everything on film; he shares Harry’s determination to record and preserve that he sometimes misses what’s right in front of him. There were moments where my Fiance and I were shouting at the screen because he wouldn’t interact with the world he was in. He creates a dilemma because although there are moments he takes the camera away from his eye he constantly focuses on the narrow vision of the camera view and not on anything else around him. I began to think about how in the same way as the film Harry will present is different than the one we see, more constrained in many ways, there are also sections that we are not party to, that we don’t get to see, and that maybe add more layers to the entire labyrinth. You can only really take one path at a time, even when you’re watching a movie.

The sound guy actually turned out to be one of my favorite characters. He’s very understated, and at first it seems like he’s just going to follow the cameraman around and listen to what’s going on without engaging. But he is in an interesting place because he can hear what’s happening as opposed to just seeing it. He begins to change what’s happening around him and becomes as invested as anyone else in completing the labyrinth.

There is a great cast of other characters, but the core group was powerful enough to drive the film even with the focus shifting from one view to the next, with comedic relief and setting placement driven by the ability to expand what the audience sees in the labyrinth.

Slight spoilers follow.

All labyrinths have at least one beast lurking, and the classic minotaur makes an appearance here as well.

This has got to be one of my favorite depictions of a minotaur. It’s classic in design, and the combination of flesh and cardboard (You’ll have to watch the film to get the full effect!) is delightful and whimsical, as well as terrifying. He looms in the shadows and drives the characters to press the limits of what they can or are willing to do. He provides a perfect example of how your fears can overwhelm and destroy you. And on top of that, the artistry of the bull head in cardboard is fantastic! The texture is just amazing, and I love the details that go into it.

Dave also begins to meld with his maze, and again, the interplay between flesh and art really got me. Where is the division between art and artist? and what does it mean when they overlap? What does it mean when the beast of your fears becomes more real to you than your success? Seeing how your art and hopes and desires can divide you from the people around you is terrifying.

But I digress.

Thank you to the crew who made such a fabulous movie, and for Solar City’s generosity in having their back; this film’s cardboard was from recycling dumpsters and scrap cardboard, and Solar City offered them their leftover when they ran out of their first source. Part of what makes this cool is that all of the cardboard in this shoot was free. I love the recycled elements, which is such a cool eco-friendly way to make a movie!

I cannot recommend “Dave Made a Maze” highly enough. I don’t think it’s something I would recommend for kids, but it’s definitely a movie I will watch again and again.

And I want to make a maze now, too! I think I’ll try and make a kid-rated one for Halloween. Better start collecting cardboard!