Wednesday, January 30, 2008

band meridian

Our son Peter's band Meridian has been lined up for Concert TV for the month of April. Peter (lead guitar), Brian (singer), Mark (drums) and Mike (bass guitar) are polishing up their first album as a full band (one previous album, One Week Epiphany, was released as the duo Westrin & Mowry).

Their influences are Travis, U2, Keane, Crowded House.

You can listen to the track "Listen to Your Breaking Heart":

They've just come out with this t-shirt, which was a hot commodity at Harper's tonight. I was lucky to get one before the co-eds swarmed the stage.

I'll let you know when the album is out!

Sunday, January 27, 2008


We have been given colors so expressive,
that taking them in, we learn a new language.
Have you tasted orange, like this?
Have you felt
courage on your tongue?
And have you spoken that truth?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Listening to presidential hopefuls and starting to write short fiction this week have me thinking about perspective, and perception. Oh, and two posts ago hearing your differing opinions about Zaha Hadid's modern aluminum and glass architectural concept in a row of traditional brick university buildings.

Barack Obama is our savior. Barack Obama is no different from any other politician. He could transform the image of America. He will not change anything.

Eckhart Tolle said that if you were born into precisely the same circumstances as another person, you would make the same choices they have made. Well, you could never prove that one, could you?

What creates our perspective? How much of it is conscious choice? How much is default reaction based on how we were raised? How much is based on educating ourselves, being exposed to someone else's perspective?

If I could zoom in on one little piece of the canvas in this evolving life, I'd like to work on taking myself less seriously while being more open to someone else's perspective.

How can I take myself too seriously when yesterday I:
  • made coffee - water in, grounds in - without putting the pot in its spot: yeah, coffee overflowing onto the floor
  • getting ready to color my own hair last night, instead of mixing the activating cream with the TINT, I mixed it with the CONDITIONER, in other words, a waste of seven bucks and an hour's time

It was a full moon yesterday. Does that change things?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

when the cold winds blow

When it's 15°F, -2°F wind chill (-10°C, -19°C wind chill) like today, we keep the wood stove blazing. We also have a furnace that burns propane, but our goal is to keep the heat turned down in the rest of the house when we're in the family room where the wood stove is.

We were excited to receive a bill for renting the propane tank, because that means we used less than 700 gallons for one year (you have to pay rental for the tank only if you burn less than 700 gallons annually).

The building on the right here is the corncrib, where we store firewood, not corn.

This morning I couldn't get the logs to light in the wood stove. They glowed, but they wouldn't blaze. Don was sleeping, and I was determined to do this myself. Did I have the logs too close together? Too far apart?

See this copper cauldron with logs in it? It's from our days in İstanbul, when Don sold copper to the U.S.

Bishop joined me outside, after she ran out of the garage where she spent the night on her heated bed (she is a barn cat; believe me, she loves her outdoor life. Have I told you she is a marvelous huntress?) She looks fat, but that is all winter coat. Every night when I'm in the hot tub, she comes to my corner and nuzzles and cuddles with me, even though my hand is wet and it gets her fur icy after a few minutes in the frigid air. We love each other.

We went to the woodshed and piled up the old blue plastic sled with our load. I use "we" loosely. I loaded while Bishop squirmed around in the snow.
We load up the sled every two or three days, depending on how much we're home.

When Don was laid up after shoulder surgery, I was the sole firewood gatherer.
Now he's using his arm very well, gathering wood and doing other things that don't require heavy lifting. So we are back to sharing this task.

The fire finally blazed. We're hibernating in our warm house this weekend.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid (photo from this site)

If you scroll down to the bottom three photos in this post, you'll see the exterior and interior of the building where I work, Morrill Hall. It's one of the oldest buildings on our campus, built around the turn of the 19th century. Students and professors either love it or hate it. It's old, decrepit, plain, and well, I love it. It will be torn down one of these days, because they say it's too decrepit to bear repair.

In about two years, just down the block from Morrill Hall along Grand River Ave., in a row of similarly traditional university halls, a world-class 26,000 square foot art museum shown in these renderings will be completed.

Zaha Hadid, world-renowned Iraqi-British architect and winner of the Pritzker Architectural Prize, created the winning design for the museum that will house modern and contemporary art. Hadid is the only woman architect to win the Pritzker, comparable to the Nobel prize in architectural circles. Her work is known for pushing the boundaries of architectural and urban design.

Thanks to Loring who brought this NYTimes Art & Design piece about this to my attention.

Eli and Edythe Broad donated most of the money ($24 million). $34 million was raised before the winning design was even chosen.

Won't it be interesting to see this sleek, floating aluminum and glass structure in a row with buildings like mine?

I am VERY EXCITED to witness this arrival. It will change the face of our old North Campus, which I love as is. But I think when I walk by the new Broad museum, I will be startled by aesthetic pleasure every time.

Morrill Hall

Sunday, January 13, 2008

looking back

You can click on some of these photos to enlarge them. I don't know why they all don't enlarge.

Forgive me, this is a long post. It’s mostly for me, a sort of documentation of some childhood memories, so if you skip around, I won’t feel bad.

Yesterday I drove 40 minutes to the small town (pop. 7,813) where I lived from the day I was born until I left for college, except for 5th grade when we moved up north and lived in a depressed and depressing town.

This first shot is of the Baptist church my father pastored for 13 years. The long low annex wing at the right was built on the spot where the first house I lived in stood before being torn down for the building. Years before it was torn down, we had moved into the tan house at the left, which was white back then. We needed more room for the ten of us, and the church bought the house from the rich attorney’s family who lived there.

Do you see how our life even visually was dominated by church?

These are pictures of that second house, where I lived from age 4, I believe, until I was 10.

These steps are the same as in this old photo of me and my siblings (c. 1960?), below. The little one in front is me - yes, the one with the bad perm. But despite the sorry hair, I’d like to bring your attention to the stylin’ matching dress and sweater ensemble. And oh yes, those were velvet shoes. I don’t recall if these are the ones I cut the straps off to make them more stylin as “slip-ons.” Behind me are my three brothers, John, Jim and Bennett, then my three sisters Nancy, Ginnie and Susan, then the oldest bro Nelson. Nelson is 14 years older than I. He left for college when I was 4.

This porch was the center of many family memories. I remember the thrill of watching and listening to many thunderstorms sitting on this porch.

Ours wasn’t the only church within a stone’s throw. Across the street was the Methodist church where they had all the fun. They had dances in the basement. I couldn’t dance. I was a Baptist. Oh, I think they drank alcohol too.

When we moved back to Grand Ledge from the depressing town up north just before my 12th birthday, we moved into the house across the street, photo below. Yes, almost my whole life from age 0-18 I lived in three houses within one small town’s block.

I had spent age 6-10 playing with the boy who lived in this house, Jimmy, who was two years older than me. We used to peer through the French doors into the beautiful living room that had flowered carpet where we couldn’t play. We watched TV in his den, mostly I remember Mighty Mouse, The Lone Ranger and The Three Stooges. When my father bought the house, it was the best day of my life. Did I say it was my 12th birthday? I painted a paint-by-number birthday gift on the floor of my father’s study before any furniture was moved in. Later, in high school, I lived on the 3rd floor with my Thai sister DeeDee. Oh, and besides the eight of us kids, we had a couple dozen foreign students live with us over the years.

These next photos are the landmarks of my little circuit growing up. All these landmarks were within 5 blocks of my house.

1. Fortino’s Party Store (for candy); oh, and see the SUN Theater? We Baptists couldn’t go to movies either. I never stepped foot ONCE in this theater, within one and a half blocks of my house.

2. The dime store (for candy and Barbie doll clothes, the latter looking mostly); it’s now a flower shop.

3. The ice cream store across the bridge (Lickety Split now, used to be Tastee Freez). (There’s a story about this picture, hold on.)

4. The Public Library; I adored sitting here with books, and also checking them out.

5. The US Post Office; my parents were always asking me to mail letters and bills. I never minded the errands that took me to the appealing, cool lobby of the Post Office where the old letter boxes still line the wall, and the 1940 painting by James Calder graces one end.

Ok, the story about the ice cream store and that bridge railing:

My mom sent me to the Post Office to mail two letters she’d spent hours writing. You know, back before computers. She had beautiful, consistent handwriting, it could have been its own font. Anyway, she sent me on this errand to mail her important letters, and I decided to take a detour to the ice cream store first. Now I don’t remember if it was before or after I had my ice cream cone, but I set those important letters down on the bridge railing there (it used to be cement) for some unremembered reason. Please imagine a lovely little breath of wind kissing those letters and tipping them, in slow motion, over the edge, and I, horrified, watching them float down the wind current into the Grand River below, then drift away.

Yes, I told her. And I didn’t die.

Two more stops. Are you still with me?

This is my elementary school. I was a good student and a good girl, a little too good if you ask me. (Like, why did I tell my mother about the letters?) But my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Smith did slap my mouth once for mouthing off. I guess I learned after that. Oh, I saw her yesterday in the café where I ate lunch, my camera around my neck. I decided not to say “hi” again, since I’ve talked with her several times as an adult seeing her around town. I don’t want to keep making her feel bad that she’s old enough to have a student talking to her that she had 46 years ago (I don't know if she'd remember the slap). She looks pretty good, I’ll tell you. She must be at least 70 but she looks 60.

One last stop, the cemetery, everyone’s last stop I guess.

My parents are buried under this stone. And, another short circuit, see our family doctor who delivered me, Fred Garlock is buried just behind them. He was a chain smoker. My dad drew the original pen and ink “hart” (another name for a deer; our name was Hart) for his personal book plate, and then the drawing was used for the headstone design. Dad died in 1995, Mom in 1997.

Oh, and that sweet third brother standing on the steps, Bennett? He died suddenly of arterosclerosis in 1996, the year between their deaths, the day we were all cleaning out our mom's house (she was living in an Alzheimer's home). His high school graduating class of 1968 planted this ornamental tree in his memory by the Opera House over by the river. We planted his ashes under some pine trees at our family cottage.

Thanks if you read this whole thing. It was the first time I’ve done this, gone back and retraced my childhood steps intentionally, probably because I live so close now and take it for granted.

A native of my home town is featured in the new hit movie “Juno” (review at Rotten Tomatoes here ). Paul Baribeau’s name is mentioned, he inspired a verse in Kimya Dawson’s song “Tire Swing” and he even sings a line in the song, which plays after the movie’s beginning credits.

Say “good-bye” to Grand Ledge, looking south across the bridge.

Friday, January 11, 2008

snags & curls

When I wander around the farm, I'm most interested in the small curiosities of nature.

This wild grapevine ensnared a pine twig last year:

This year the same natural ornament was embellished by falling pine needles, and you can also see that the bottom arm of the twig has broken off, both elements causing it to strike a different balance:

Like pumpkins (I won't show you those, it's the wrong season), grapevines send out tendrils to steady themselves.
In the process they capture things. Imagine the actual process of wind (or what?) it took to get this blade of grass all wound up in a tendril like this: