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, October 20, 2011

The Magic of the Freedom Trail, a Run and a 10 Year Old Kid

I was recently in Charlestown, MA to visit my brand new nephew. I could write a whole blog post on brand new nephews—the way they smell like something warm and sweet just coming out of the oven, the way they feel like wet paint on a canvas all new and full of possibility, I could go on and on—but I will spare you all.

However, I will state here that it is probably partially because I was in new-nephew la-la-land that Charlestown and, particularly the Freedom Trail, felt so magical to me. Like everything else in this life, it matters who you are with and what state of mind you are in when you do just about anything. This is a great thing. It means we are all connected, it means all of our experiences and actions and reactions are connected, and this means that there is potential for magic and miracle in just about any moment.

But back to Charlestown and my magical run…

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red brick walking trail that leads to sixteen different nationally historic sites, all of which center around the American Revolution. My brother and his family live literally down the block from the Bunker Hill Monument, which is one of the start places for the trail, so when I asked my sister-in-law where I should take my usual weekend run, she suggested walking up the hill and beginning right there, at the monument.

It sounded good to me. So I woke up Sunday morning to the sun streaming into the house and happily got ready for my run. I love exploring new places on foot. Especially on fast foot. I love running in strange and different places. New perspective and all that. I was just about ready to go when my Biggest—my 10 year old son—woke up. So, okay, I already knew something magical was afoot. He never wakes up early on the weekend. He is 10-going-on-teen, after all. But for whatever reason—perhaps it was the sun, perhaps it was the strange and different bed perspective shift—he got up and wanted to join me.

So we climbed the hill and then climbed the steps to the base of the monument and began our run.

It was instantly incredibly fun! I mean, we were following a red brick trail after all! We felt like some New England version of Dorothy and her crew!

We began at… the Bunker Hill Monument—where the Battle at Bunker Hill proved that the Colonial Army could effectively fight the British…

...we ran through Charlestown, over the Charlestown Bridge into the North End, past Copp’s Hill Burying Ground—which is a kind of cemetery for North End artisans, crafts people and merchants. Buried there is Old North Church sexton Robert Newman who supposedly hung the lanterns on the night of Paul Revere’s ride, as well as 1000 free African-Americans who lived in a community on the current Charter Street side of the cemetery…

...past the Old North Church—where Robert Newman climbed the steps to the steeple to hang the two lanterns (as in one if by land, two if by sea…)

...and then finally past Paul Revere’s House.

Running past these places—these places laden with history and story and different versions of that story—made me feel very much alive. And, yes, connected. I am beginning to realize that, for me, connected and alive are very much the same thing.

But even better… not long into the run, my son got all excited. “Mom,” he said—much less out of breath than me, by the way—“I just read about this! I just read about the Freedom Trail!” And he proceeded to tell me all about How I, Nicky Flynn, Got a Life, a middle grade book by Art Corriveau.

So let me amend the previous paragraph.

Running past these places laden with story, while discussing literature with my son—this made me feel deliciously, cozily, magically alive.

My Littlest with the Brand New Nephew
And I had the brand new nephew waiting for me when I got back.

I’m not sure it gets any better than that.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Neighborhood Short Story

If San Francisco were a book, it would be a collection of short stories, with each neighborhood a different story, unique and driven by it's own plot, its own tone and flavor, but connected to the other stories by reoccurring themes and some of the same characters wandering in and out of scenes. I love short stories. I always have. I think Martha Brooks Paradise Cafe and Other Stories was the first collection of linked short stories I read with the awareness of a real theme binding all the stories together. That theme was love—one reoccurring in San Francisco as well, from the summer of love, (hippies, flower power, make love not war) to I Left My Heart in San Francisco to Giant’s fans loving their team, to the love of all things literary in the week-long yearly Litquake Festival going on right now.

One of the stories in the San Francisco Book of Stories (not a real book, mind you, but as I write this post, I am thinking this might be a fun future project) is Hayes Valley, where the themes of revival and reappropriation have created a vital, incredibly stylish neighborhood of small, locally owned shops, cafes and a stretch of green—Hayes Green—with public art that fills a corridor once monopolized by a freeway on-ramp. Here, “Esctasy”, a thirty foot maiden made from found objects, structural steel scrap, and old machine and car parts, reaches for the sky.  Created at Burning Man by artists Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito, this six ton sculpture exemplifies its’ environmental message of resourcefulness as part of the creative process. I like that. Writing fiction is all about resourcefulness. A combination of finding, inventing and recycling.
Mounted around the Amazonian, stand twelve shiny kaleidoscope sculptures, a permanent installation by Wang Po Shu, available for those who would like a more naturally psychedelic view. It sometimes helps to looks at old things in newly distributed and/or fractured ways. From a different point of view—perhaps the view point of a fly. Or a dog. Or a kaleidoscope.

On a recent visit to Hayes Valley, I discovered a delightful addition in the parking lot right next to the green; a pop-up museum, The Museum of Craft and Design, complete with a storage container reappropriated into a museum store selling lovely hand- crafts. Looming above is Ben Eine’s huge painted mural reading BRIGHTERFASTER. (Yes, it’s a commentary on our misplaced values, but I can’t help wondering if anyone really wants duller, slower? Maybe less bright and less fast is a better way to think about it.)

A delicious added bonus next to the pop-up museum comes in two more back-to-back storage containers; one houses Ritual Coffee, where every cup is individually made to order. The other is home to Smitten Ice Cream where your order is churned and frozen on demand in a liquid nitrogen machine in 60 seconds flat. 

And just in case anyone was wondering about that orange grid view of the sky in last week's post; that’s designers Jason Kelly Johnson and Nataly Gattegno’s Trilux Woven Luminance Pavilion—the museum’s temporary installation of three large woven cones, that you can enter to contemplate the sky. Or eat your ice cream. Or think about looking at things from a different point of view.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Happy Blog-o-versary Present! Now You Can Receive Posts Via Email!

Yes!  We have finally figured out how to do it! 

(Which says more about us than about Blogger, mind you.  Perhaps we spend way too much time out exploring our neighborhoods...)

But check it out!  To the right, just above followers, now you can sign up to receive our posts via your email!  Please sign on up!  But also add yourself as a follower if you don't mind.  We like that too!

Thank you,
Tam and Sharry

Happy Blog-o-versary to Us!

Kissing the Earth is one year old!

We just celebrated our one year blog-o-versary and were blessed to be able to spend it together at a writing retreat in central Oregon with Cindy Faughnan and Sarah Tomp (who are two of our Vermont College of Fine Arts classmates), along with the chair of the VCFA Writing For Children and Young Adults program, the unparalleled Margaret Bechard. We were also fortunate to be joined by the lovely and talented Ellen Howard. We spent five days talking about the craft of writing, taking long walks through the pine forest, eating chocolate, talking about books and, well, eating more chocolate.

The retreat was incredible. (The chocolate was too—how can you go wrong with Vermont and California-made chocolates and Oregon ice cream?!)

The central Oregon landscape was a big change for both of us—high desert with miles of flat prairie grass surrounded by aspen trees, lodgepole and Ponderosa pines. On chilly morning walks, we saw families of mule deer whose enormous ears hint at their name, horses running through the prairie, and blue heron standing tall at the edge of the river. One day we took a trip to a historic lava flow and stood high above a vast valley of black volcanic rock. The valley was surrounded by mountains, some so tall they were lost in the clouds.

This new and strange landscape was the perfect setting to study character, plot, point of view and obstacle/conflict in both middle grade and young adult literature. In specific, we studied those elements in our own works-in-progress. A landscape that offers surprises because it is so new to you is the kind of place that can open you up. Your senses are wide-eyed and fully awake, taking in amazing and unfamiliar sounds and sights and smells—and this carries over into your ms, so you see it from a different perspective, with freshly stimulated senses.

In honor of our blog-o-versary, we ask that you go to a place you have never been before. Feel what it is like to walk in a new landscape, to smell new smells, to hear new sounds. Or go out into your favorite place and find something brand new.

Sharry and Tam