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, April 25, 2013

Light as Sculpture

There’s something happening out on the San Francisco Bay—a landscape of mesmerizing, rippling LED lights that cover 300 vertical cables on the western span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge between the Embarcadero and Yerba Buena Island.

I can see it from several vantage points near my house, including my roof and back porch window. Each time I catch a glimpse, I’m thrilled. It’s dazzeling, magical the way it dances across the water.

Designed by renowned artist Leo Villaral as a public arts project, The Bay Lights is a light sculpture inspired by the Bay Bridge’s 75th anniversary. It opened on March 5th and will continue for two years (or hopefully longer the funding can be raised) It consists of 25,000 white LED lights each computer programed by Villaral to create a never repeating pattern of light from dusk to dawn. It covers 1.8 miles and leaps up the cables 500 feet. It’s the largest light sculpture in the world.

Light is a wonderful medium. I’m a devotee of another San Francisco based artist, Jim Campbell, and his numerous light sculpture installations. His Exploded Views brought me back to SFMOMA again and again to be enchanted by the chandelier-like sculpture that hung over the front doors with the ever changing shadow figures fleeting across the ethereal matrix, with four different programs; a collaboration with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, a flock of birds, the candid movements of San Francisco pedestrians and a choreographed boxing match

Last week, I had the privilege of seeing Miwa Matreyek present a work in progress and then her spell binding Myth And Infrastructure in an outdoor performance at the new gorgeous Exploratorium at Pier 15. (more on that next time!) Miwa uses light, video, animation and performance to create a stunning vision, where the line between what is real and what is fantasy/illusion blurs, creating a world of its own that viewers fall into. The experience is part cinema, part live theater, with light as the medium of magic.

As we left the Exploratorium around 10:30 at night, we were treated to a spectacular lazer light show, projected onto the front of the Pier.  

Light can also be a transportive element in writing—it can play many roles from simple atmosphere to the objective correlative, showing character emotion—how the character perceives his or her surroundings or what the character choses to focus on can speak volumes about their emotional landscape.

It was well over a century ago that Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “Moonlight is sculpture”

And then there’s this: “In the beginning there was nothing.  God said, "Let there be light!"  And there was light.  There was still nothing, but you could see it a whole lot better.”  Thank you, Ellen DeGeneres!

Here are links to videos showing some work by the artists mentioned above:

Myth And Infrastructure:

Take Good Care,


Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Landscape of Good-Bye

My running buddy, Cody, is gone. He was Kara's dog and we all ran together, with my dog Winn-Dixie, three times a week. On the river trail. At Mud Pond. In the cornfield at the end of our road. We've done it---consistently, religiously, rhythmically---for the last few years or so.

Kara is always the leader. She sets the pace.
Cody is always second in command. His steady gait focuses me, and on dark, winter mornings the white tip of his tail is like a light.
I take up the rear.
(And Winn-Dixie? He runs here and there, and way over there, and then comes on back and does it all again.)

It is this way.
It was this way.
But Cody died.
And so the landscape of my runs has changed.

Cody was this enormous black and white dog. Part border collie and (if you asked Adam, Kara's husband, he would say:) part holstein cow. Smart and sharp, he would stare into my eyes and I felt like he was telling me things--secret dog things, like how it felt to chase Winn-Dixie at top speed in the field by the river on a windy autumn day (the best feeling in the world!), and I felt like he heard me too. There were plenty of nights I lay on the floor by his side and sought his advice on how to handle life (stay present, love a lot, let the rest go.) He also taught my son to laugh. Luc was not even half a year old when he belly laughed for the first time...that deep in the gut, pure joy kind of laugh...and it was Cody, simply Cody's presence, that caused that reaction. Created that joy. Cody had sleep-overs at our house, and he came to my parents' farm in the summers where he waded in the pond to fish for salamanders. He was kind and tolerant. He was wise and thoughtful. He was full up with love.

My littlest daughter, Tavia, said to me this weekend, "Cody is in the ground but his energy is out in the world."

I said yes.

Then she asked, "Will the energy float down to our house? Onto the field? Into the river? Into a new puppy?"

I said yes again. Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

And I realized that not only had the landscape of my runs changed, but the landscape of my house, the field, the river...the landscape of all of us...had changed.

(And maybe, just maybe, there is a new and tiny black and white puppy out there somewhere too.)

Gratefully yours,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Landscape In Between

I am in that straddling place.

That place that is one part rocky and one part sand. One part windy and one part heat. The place that is the water between two islands, that long stretch when you can't see land but you know it is behind you and you know it is in front of you and so you contemplate your options, tread water or swim, baby, swim...

I choose to swim, but I am tired. Man, am I tired.

It's an age old place, and an age old murmur in the brain. I know that the straddling place should have its own name. It shouldn't be nameless, those that are nameless don't turn their heads to familiar voices because no one calls to them, no one can call to them. And so they grow more and more aloof, and protective. They grow vines with thorns.

I also know that, truly, the straddling place does have many names. My friend, Kara, who teaches yoga calls it being in the moment. And my son, Luc, who is a cross country runner, calls it the zone.  There are other names too: the process, patience and faith.  Even I have given it names before. My favorite is it is what it is. Kind of catchy, right? Chameleon-like. When I call it that I feel bold and brave. I feel like an explorer who is in it simply for the rocks and the sand and the wind and the sun.

But that name escapes my brain now, and I can't find my compass or my map, and I forgot to bring enough water and nuts. I'm tired. I'm hungry. And I feel like I'm on uneven ground.

Oh my gosh. Pathetic.  I don't mean to be pathetic. I mean to be honest and I mean to put these three questions out to you all:

What do you call this place? What is its landscape?  And how do you find a sense of home here?

*    *    *    *    *    *

Last night I sat on the couch and finished a book. A great book.  One that inspired me as a person and as a writer. The pellet stove was chugging. The room was warm. I had a glass of seltzer on the window sill behind me with just the right amount of fizz because yesterday was pay-day and I went to the store to finally buy a new CO2 canister. The chickens were tucked into their coop, but my middle daughter, Zory, tread down the stairs, too late for her to be awake.

You should be in bed I said.

I can't sleep she said.  She looked at the book face down on my lap.  What book is that?

A really good one I said. Actually I read it to see if you might like it. And I think you will.

She stretched out her hand. I put the book carefully in it. She read a page. She looked at the cover. Is this Maureen or Debbie?* she asked, pointing to the girl riding over a bridge on her bike.

Debbie I said. You need to go to bed. You have school tomorrow. 

But I can't sleep. Don't you ever feel that way?

For some reason the question brought tears to my eyes. I nodded my head in agreement.

So can I read a little more? she asked. Just until the end of the chapter. Please?  I like the book so far.

I nodded again.

Zory leaned back on the other side of the couch. Her knees were bent and the book rested on her thighs. I looked out the window. It was black outside. I felt the glass on the window. And cold. It was cold out there too. The last remnants of winter skulking around in the night. I looked back at Zory. Her brow was furrowed. Her mouth was slightly open. She was unaware of me in that ten-year-old way that she usually was. When had it happened? When had she become the kind of reader that walked inside a book and sat down with girls like Maureen and Debbie and didn't walk out until she was done?  When had she become the kind of reader that I had dreamed I would give birth to, who would sit on the couch with me, warmed by the stove and warmed by the words?

Twice in one night Zory brought tears to my eyes.

I thought about the Zory of before, I thought about where she was going.  And, last night, I felt like I could sit on that couch forever in that place in between, in that straddling place. In that place I call home.

*    *    *    *    *    *

It is what it is.  The zone.  Being in the moment.  The process, patience and faith.

What do you call this place? What is its landscape?  And how do you find a sense of home here?

Gratefully yours,


*Can you guess what book Zory was reading??