One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Yesterday evening, as the sun dropped low in the January sky, my canine companion and I headed off on one of our favorite walks out on the municipal pier that curls into the San Francisco Bay at the end of Van Ness Avenue. Emma, a Shetland Sheepdog without a flock, especially loves this walk; she stalks and herds every gull who dares to rest on the pier wall. Her sincere efforts to launch herself into the sky (both comic and a little pathetic) always make the fisherfolk checking their crab pots laugh.

As we walked out on the dilapidated pier, shaped like a French curve drafting tool, warm coppery light poured through the Golden Gate. Literally hundreds of seagulls criss-crossed the bay, skimming the water in hopes of supper. A sea lion poked its head above the water, orienting itself before a smoothly undulated dive back under. A constellation of star fish clung tenaciously to the breakwall just above the tide line.

A lone swimmer from the Dolphin Club braved the inlet waters—53 degrees at the most. You couldn’t pay me to get in that cold water, but some people I know do it every single day.

Just off the pier, a class of grade school children sang sea shanties from the deck of the Balclutha—a retired, three-masted, 300 foot, clipper ship built in 1886. This ship once carried goods around the tip of South America but is now maintained by the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Museum and used for monthly overnight field trips for local schools.

After walking the length of the pier and back, we started climbing the hill toward our car, parked at the upper Fort Mason Green, but stopped to peer inside the House of Days. The small cement building, once the Searchlight building, was adapted by The Exploratorium; a tiny window allows viewers to glimpse a photographic display chronicling changing weather conditions at regular intervals. This is one of my favorite parts of our walk; for me, the pattern and rhythm of this progression is somehow validating, reassuring and holds the promise of many more glorious days to come.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow Mandala

Man, it has been windy around here lately! Cold gusts sneak attacking from the side, slapping an icy palm across one ear. Ooooh! Wakes me up in the morning, that’s for sure…

…and I would be a little frustrated with the wind, and just a little tired of my one frozen ear (and frozen toes and fingers to go along with it) if it weren’t for my cross country skis, the field past my house and Tibetan Healing Mandalas.


I have been cross country skiing for the last few weeks in this incredible field past the farm on my dead-end street. It is adjacent to the cow field on one side, and borders the river on another. It is huge and open and covered in snow. The first time I went skiing, the field was smooth and sparkling. No tracks had been laid, and I trudged through shin-deep snow to lay the first ones down. I was psyched. And I knew that the next time I went out I would have a track to follow. It is much easier to ski in an already-made track! But the next time? No track. None. The wind had swept it away. So I rolled up my sleeves (not really though, or I would have had frozen elbows along with my frozen ear, toes and fingers) and I made another track. But the next time I went out…

You get the picture. It was gone. Evaporated. Wind-swept.

As I said, at that point I would have been a little frustrated. Except that the image of a Tibetan Healing Mandala crept into my mind. Those breath-taking balanced and geometric creations constructed from millions of grains of sand by Tibetan monks. These mandalas are believed to effect purification and healing, and their healing powers are supposed to extend to the whole world, which is then symbolized in the final act of sweeping them up and dispersing them into flowing water.

(A little like the purifying baptism of Zachary Beaver in Kimberly Willis Holt’s When Zachary Beaver Came to Town…not Buddhism, but truly the whole town seems to be healed in the process…)

Anyway, as I took a deep breath and began my journey around the field for a third time the cows wandered over to see what I was doing, and the river crackled as its layers of ice shifted and broke and its cold water flowed. The image of the mandala had trekked to my feet. I was making my own balanced and healing creation—right in the field past my house.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Artistic Collaborations

Take a children’s book author, add a contemporary composer, a team of inventive puppeteers, a film maker, a famous stage director, a visionary stage designer and a world class clown and what do you get? A brilliant artistic collaboration where the sum is even greater than the combined talent of the accomplished individuals.

Last Wednesday my husband David, our daughter Zoe, and I headed across the Bay to the Berkeley Rep Theater to see Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead. Originally commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony as a collaboration between author Lemony Snicket, and composer Nathaniel Stookey, it was first presented at Davies Symphony Hall with Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) narrating, and then later published as a picture book with recorded music.

Not content to leave it at a live symphonic performance and then a book, Snicket and Stookey approached Phantom Limb, the extraordinarily innovative puppeteers, to design life-sized humanoid/instrumental characters to play the members of a symphonic orchestra, and then collaborated with Tony Taccone of Berkeley Rep to help stage an adaptation for theater that would include interactive film and the brilliant theatrical clowning of Geoff Hoyle.

The result was a hilarious and stunning theater experience with Hoyle interacting both with puppet characters in the film background and then with the actual puppets in a full sized orchestra pit against a lush and layered Victorian-style set. Hoyle twists his inspector’s mustache and constantly reminds the audience in a comic trill that they are experiencing “the magic of living, breathing theater.” Meant to be a joke on pretentiousness, the full comic effect is that it is also the undeniable truth. Gathering all of these talents and elements on one stage is truly magical and makes me hope to see many more artistic collaborations to come. It’s an exciting time to be an artist, whatever your medium might be, whether it’s words, notes, resin, paint, concepts or the human body. Perhaps we all should try a little collaboration this year and see what kinds of magic we can unleash.

Sharry Wright

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Song for the New Year

I was away from home for the holiday vacation, and it felt like a long time gone. Long enough that when I got up the morning after we returned, put on my running shoes, and headed out the door—well, it all felt a little unfamiliar to me, actually.

There were a lot of reasons for that feeling. I ran alone—no dogs, no Kara—which is highly unusual for me. I ran out my door and down my street, and did the entire run on pavement, through my town—also highly unusual for me. And I listened to music. I never listen to music when I run.

But it turned out to be the perfect way to start the New Year. A fresh look at where I live—with theme music. Like one of those montage sequences in a movie, when the filmmaker takes you on a highlights tour of the journey leading up to the climax. It sounds hokey, but those movie moments do pull on my emotions, and what can I say? This run did the same thing: The bakery at the end of my block filling the air with baking-bread smells. The sledding hill sparkling white with snow, across the bridge at our famous Round Church. The bright, moveable chicken coop at the farm on the corner. Down the road, peace flags gently swaying on a neighbor’s front porch. A wave out the window of familiar car. A cyclist wishing me a happy new year as he passed by.

All to the rhythms of Paula Cole, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and Ne-Yo. I fell in love with home all over again.

Cath Crowley wrote a gorgeous book called A Little Wanting Song, and Charlie, one of the main characters in it, experiences her life through the filter of music. “Everything in the world’s got a voice,” she says. “Most people don’t hear hard enough is all.”

Yes. I agree. Soon I’ll go back to running in the woods and listening to whatever songs the trees have to sing to me. My soundtracked run was a good reminder of this.

Happy New Year to you all.