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, May 30, 2013

The Landscape of Recology

Traveling is always edifying and often begins at the airport. On our way from San Francisco to New York to attend our beautiful daughter Zoe's graduation from Sarah Lawrence last week, we pulled our roller bags through SFO Museum’s Terminal Three gallery, stopping every few steps to smile, ponder and be delighted by the whimsical and thought-provoking pieces created by The Art Of Recology’s Artists in Residence program at San Francisco’s Recology Center between 1990 and 2013.

It all began with artist and activist Jo Hanson (1918--2007) when she moved to the Haight Ashbury in 2007. Her artist's statement says it all:

“All of my work takes shape with love and care and takes issue with waste and disregard. I feel the work as a metaphor for transformation and transcendence. It insists that we change our ways and our thinking and become guardians of the resources of the earth which supports our life and is more fragile and endangered than we used to believe possible.”
You can read more about Jo and the program at: SFO Museum The Art of Recology

Here is a small sampling of some of my favorite pieces from the show:

 Remi Rubel

Nemo Gould

Daphne Ruff, Sarah Barness and Hector Dionicio Mendoza

                                                                   Linda Raynsford

Looking at Gaza Bowen's books made of recycled, corroded metal, I couldn’t help but think about the idea that there are no new stories, just endless variations on the old ones and how even Shakespeare took the words of writers and dramatists before him to use in his own plays. We all borrow and steal our ideas from the wealth of material that has come before us. Perhaps we too are recyclers? If so, we’re certainly in good company.

Take Good Care,


Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Landscape of a Car Trip

I know what bleary-eyed means. Oh yes.  I know we all do, and we all probably have for a long time.

Think long hours up at night with a crying baby.
Think long nights studying for a mid-term.
Think long conversations that brought the sunrise.

For the last two days, though, my eyes have been--well--bleary. And I am experiencing that very visceral, terribly twilight zone-y kind of feeling. I got up at 3AM yesterday morning and drove, with my friend Kara, twelve hours to Michigan for the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals competition that my son Luc's and Kara's daughter Claudia's team is competing at.  It's pretty crazy here.  Thousands of kids from all over the United States, as well as from Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, China, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, Canada, and Germany. Pretty crazy and pretty cool.

But I was talking about bleary eyes.  And a long car ride.  And the way traveling for hours upon hours on the highway makes you feel like you have popped through the wardrobe, or down the rabbit hole, or  into the forest.

Time elongates. Every minute counts. (And you count every minute.)  Yesterday felt like five days.

About three hours into the trip we ended up behind a truck. A truck filled with crates.  Crates filled with chickens.  And one chicken had escaped and was sitting on top of the truck.

No, I don't mean like this.

Chicken Truck by Krystal Allen

                  I mean more like this.

Except the truck was on a highway, going 60 miles an hour, and the chicken was white, hanging on for her dear life.

It was an incredible sight.
It was an incredible metaphor.
And it was incredibly funny.

Luc and Claudia made up a song about it, it was so funny.

Chicken on a truck
Chicken on a truck
Ch-ch-ch-ch chicken on a truck...

Pretty hilarious when you sing this into I-pod app that adds dance music, mixes, and plays back your fully accompanied song. Pretty hilarious when you have been up since 3AM and went down the rabbit hole.

Chicken on a truck.  It's my new anthem.  And it's my go-to reminder of middle grade humor.

With gratitude,

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Landscape of Elision

I spent this Mother’s Day weekend in Seattle with my lovely daughter, Ceinwen. We flew up to visit my mom and to see a show at the Francine Seders Gallery—a stunning series of drawings by my dear artist friend, Fred Birchman. (Please check out his show at We also spent some time exploring Seattle.

One of the standards I use to measure an urban landscape by is the amount of public art—to me it says so much about the soul of a city. Seattle has a lot. Especially impressive is SAM’s (Seattle Art Museum’s) Olympic Sculpture Park, an open and living green, nine-acre transformed industrial site on the Seattle waterfront overlooking the Olympic Mountains and the Puget Sound.

It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny afternoon as we wandered through the sculpted space of this urban park. We strolled past Mark di Suvero’s Bunyon’s Chess—wood pilings suspended between steel to interact with the wind.

We peeked over the wall at Claes Oldenburg’s Typewriter Eraser—a humorous piece inspired by an object antiquated to anyone under forty.

We moved through, moved around, undulated between Richard Serra’s Wake, a landscape of steel forms reminiscent of both waves and of ships’ hulls; it’s the viewer’s own movement that gives the mammoth sculpture motion.

We stopped and gazed at Alexander Calder’s The Eagle, 6 tons of painted steel, and talked about how the negative space—the shapes of sky and grass and buildings seen between the limbs of orange steel, are just as important, just as evocative as the sculpture itself and how the positive actually sculpts the negative space around it.

Which got me thinking about negative space. Sculptors, painters, printmakers, draftsmen, (draftspersons?), even dancers, understand the vital importance of negative space. We writers don’t always think of it in those terms, but I think it is essential to remember that what isn’t there can be just as important as what is there. Think about dialogue and how tension is created by what is not said. (It’s a good tool to keep handy in your writer’s tool box!)

But beyond technique, we need to leave space for readers to move through, room for readers to make a story their own. Too many details can take up this space and actually deprive the reader the pleasure of filling in what has meaning for them. Elision in a piece of writing is the shared space between writer and reader, where the reader brings his or her own experience to the page.

Another way to think about it: whether we paint, sculpt, dance, write or sing, the space between the form is where we breathe. So take a deep breath...

Take Good Care,


Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Landscape of the Bed of Longing

I feel on-my-knees grateful for the people in my life. I don't know how to articulate the depth of that gratitude... I mean, I can barely scratch the surface of the meaning my family, friends and community make of my life. I feel the same way about my home, the landscape around my home, the dogs, cats and chickens in and out of my home. And I most definitely feel the same way about being a writer.

by Thiemo Muller
 But--or maybe And is a more appropriate conjunction--And, at the same time, this sense of longing has taken up residence inside me...somewhere near my heart, lodged against the curve in my ribs. I feel it in my heartbeat, I feel it when I breathe. I know the reasons for it. There are a few. For now, and for here, I will say that some of it is about wanting to sell a book, wanting to work with an editor, wanting to feel that collaboration and build a story in that way, and wanting to finally see my book in print and share it share it share it with the world.

My longing for this experience is intense. So intense that sometimes, for short bursts of time, it blocks my view, and blocks my other sensory capacities, of other details in my life. Do you know what I mean?

I've been contemplating this longing for the last few weeks.  I have noticed that there is a tendency to do one of two things with longing.  One is to try to push it away. And I think the most common way to accomplish that is to transform maybe, let's say, you turn it into jealousy (she got that and I was supposed to get that and I'm probably entitled to that more than she is, damn it...) or into denial (I never wanted that, and even if I did, which I didn't by the way, but even if I did, I certainly don't want it now...) The other is to allow it to consume you (I feel this longing so badly and so deeply that I think I, in fact, AM this longing...where are my hands and feet and heart and mind?...they have been taken over by the body-snatching longing monster...)

But what about just letting

When my sister, Callie*, was diagnosed with cancer she had, not surprisingly, a deep and loud fear. I remember sitting by her bedside during a few of her chemotherapy sessions and listening to her talk about it. She told me she knew she couldn't push her fear away. She told me she knew, also, that she couldn't let it become her either. And so, she said, she was learning to sit with it...pull up a chair, invite that ole' deep and loud fear to sit, not on her but next to her.

A chair for her fear.

I mentioned this idea to two of my friends** while I was contemplating my longing one morning (and by contemplating it I mean, on this particular day, having a total crying breakdown about it...sigh...what can you do?!) and one of them said, You need a bed for your longing...a place to tuck it in, let it be, while you get on with being you... The other one came over later that day and gave me this:

An actual bed for my longing! Isn't it awesome?  A beautiful purple bed with cozy white feathers to rest upon...

So here's the other part of my contemplations: longing is not a bad thing. It might not be the most comfortable feeling in the world (think a slightly-too-sharp object stuck under your rib), but if it is given a place to call home, longing kind of smooths itself out, and is even kind of sweet-looking as it rests there... Longing is not a bad thing at all.  It lets us know what matters in our lives. It indicates our dreams. It reminds us that we have hearts and minds and that they are beating and buzzing all the time.

The trick, for me, is to let longing hang out while I sit at my computer revising my picture book for the 12th time, or writing a new chapter for my middle-grade novel, or or or...

And now that it has its own happy home, I can do just that.

One more contemplation: It feels good to talk about longing. I have a hunch that if we writers, especially, talked about it more we would feel better.  Pure longing, no more, no less. What a cool topic for an SCBWI conference, perhaps?  Or for a conversation between blogs? My amazing friend Sarah posted this worth the read...

What do you all think?

With gratitude,

*Callie, by the way, kicked cancer's butt, as she likes to say. I think it's been four years now that she has been cancer about on-my-knees gratitude...

**Thank you Alice and Stef...