I love this man!
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I love this man!
It’s a happy day here, for no particular reason, yet there are so many to celebrate. First, a bounty of kick-ass yoga sessions this week. My body is feeling as strong and beautiful as a wild mustang, caught full-gallop in a still photograph, and I’m not embarrassed to say it. I am very disciplined in my practice and being able to move in ways previously unfathomable is beyond thrilling.
Second, and I cannot think the words without unleashing a torrent of grateful tears about the myriad friends, near and far, who grace my life. I get calls and mail and messages and hugs and the tiniest of remembrances that render my soul into the highest of soaring kites. Squee, I tell you, squee!
Third, the weather has turned, maybe for only a brief period, but I am holding it with all I can muster, wiggling my toes on sun drenched pavement, while my ears fill with birdsong and the humming of bees, and inhale the scent of lilac, earth, and grass and the promise that is Spring.
Fourth, I’ve been grooving and dancing and singing, ever so much, to Radiohead (goes without saying, I suppose), Fleet Foxes, Other Lives, and My Morning Jacket. BIG sounds that awaken ancient stirrings.
Hoping it is lovely wherever you find yourself.
Hugs and love to you from an entirely unapologetic Pollyanna…
Happy Birthday Martha!
It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.
If you’ve been reading for a while then you probably know that I can be pretty quick to tears. There is just so much out in the world that inspires awe in me, so much that is worthy of that kind of emotion: sunsets with a sliver of moon, the sight of the hubster, beautiful cars and buildings, true love, kindness… The world is a truly wondrous place and worthy of deep reverence. I say this with the hope that you will, perhaps, see me as a genuinely sensitive person, not just some nut who cries a lot. Though, if you do, I suppose I’ve given you plenty of ammunition. Anyhoo, the reason for prefacing this post with all this weepy jazz is the extraordinary nature of the two films I saw this week. They are awe inspiring tear-jerkers. Friends, I cried, A LOT.
First is Note by Note. It follows the construction of a single Steinway & Sons Grand Piano, mark L1037, over the course of a year, from the milling of the wood to the final tuning of a single note. It is a meticulous and deeply human process, with the vast majority done lovingly and entirely by hand. In our world of get-it-now-and-super-quick, this film is testament to the value of art, patience, precision, and skill, where millimeters count, and time truly makes a difference.
Equally important to this process is the individual, of which there are surprisingly many doing very specific jobs. They are caring and very passionate about their craft, most working for Steinway longer than they ever imagined (decades!). Much like the people in charge of their creation, these pianos are individuals with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. It was both a surprise and delight to see these exquisite combinations of wood, metal, and wire anthropomorphised into various and sundry personalities: open, bright, shy, cruel, testy, boisterous, giving both their creators and players a bit of a surprise, despite their often identical outward appearances. So fascinating!
Last night, with Note by Note still on his mind, I suggested we watch a movie, and the hubster looked at me and said, “I don’t know how we’re going to top that last one!” Ever confident of my queue selections, I started my search, and when I saw Blindsight, a film that follows the journey of six blind Tibetan teens and their intrepid team of explorers, I got excited. He wasn’t convinced initially, but it didn’t take long before this group cracked both of our hearts wide open.
Dang, where to start with this one! Sabriye Tenberken became blind at the age of twelve, but she’s never let it stop her from doing anything. She decided to set up a school for the blind in Tibet, arrived entirely on her own, and got to work. The school is the only one of its kind in a part of the world where the blind are treated as pariahs, working through some pretty serious karma from a past life. They are seen as burdens, not allowed to attend school (save this one), and often hidden from the rest of society, except to beg for money, their parents embarrassed and ashamed.
Sabriye was inspired by Erik Weihenmeyer, an inspiration in his own right. He’s the first blind man to ascend Mt. Everest (and is part of an elite group of mountaineers to reach the the Seven Summits – the highest peak on every continent). She contacted him, and they devised a plan to take her six strongest students, along with a team of experts, on a trek to neighboring Lhakpa-Ri, which stands at a staggering 23,000 feet.
The journey is far from easy, and they encounter their fair share of obstacles, but they triumph, each in their own way. The most important message, I think, is that they are not less than. They can climb mountains! More importantly, they can create a community of their own choosing and be nourished and uplifted by it. Great for all of us to remember, really.
Have you ever received a very fine gift, one that you really like and appreciate, yet aren’t quite sure what to do with it? This describes the fancy paper the hubster bought for me some six (!) years ago. It’s so beautiful that I felt it required a special occasion to write on it. And I did, a time or two, but, in the back of my mind, I thought it had an even higher purpose, so it stayed in a drawer.
This makes me laugh! You, Madame Paper, are so special that you get to stay in a dark drawer for six years. How about them apples? I am such a purger, if you didn’t know already. I like to give things away. If I’m not using it, I don’t want it in the house. Yet some items get a pass, and then, often times, years later, are used, and quite well, I might add. We made a stand for our second mason bee house with a metal pole that languished in the basement for who knows how long. It’s now buzzing with life and testament that it can be okay to not let go.
Back to that fancy paper. I have always liked telling people that I like (or love) them, their work, think they are smart, funny, have good skin, cute toes, great style, awesome glasses, whatever quality I happen to admire or appreciate. Sometimes people seem frightened by this (wondering if I have an ulterior motive?), as the recipients are often strangers, and I’m this smiling crazy person bearing down on them at the supermarket (slightly hyperbolic), but mostly they like it, or at least smile and say, “Thank you.”
Then I heard about a man (John Kralik) who was going through a very difficult time in his life and decided to write a Thank You note to someone every day for a year to better appreciate what he had. It changed his life in the most extraordinary way (365 Thank Yous). Then I stumbled upon the Pema Chodron book at the library (that’s it in the photo, too) and the words, “Give away what you most want,” struck the deepest chord.
What do I want? How about love, kindness, validation, sincere compliments, and being appreciated? Pretty awesome, right? Why not give it away? So I’m starting my own Lettre Royale Campaign (after the paper). I’ll write one letter a week until the pretty paper runs out. There are about fifty sheets. I’ll write to friends and strangers, near and far, and see what happens. Besides, it will give me yet another reason to buy cool stamps. I like those, too.
Well friends, I have what is surely the last of the peony photos this year and a broken record alert! Aren’t they pretty? Aren’t they pretty? Well they are, and these two smell quite lovely, too. Yes, yes they do. We also managed to get two dry days in a row to enjoy them, but the clouds are rolling in, and I’m pretty sure that means Mr. Rain will be up to his old tricks in no time, which is okay. The little break of sun was enough to tide me over until next time.
I have no clever segue way to what comes next. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is that I want and how to get it. I came to a conclusion that probably should have been obvious, but wasn’t, but now that I’ve made it, I feel as though I’ve been hit over the head with a hammer in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Yet, instead of stars, I am seeing what I do with greater clarity than ever before.
I have never called myself a writer. I have always said, “I’ve written a book,” or “I’ write a blog.” In some ways, I didn’t want to pigeon-hole myself in the “I am not what I do” way because I feel I am so much more than a single word. I also didn’t think I deserved the title of Writer without being published. Yet, in this way, I believe I have been selling myself short, for who will believe I am a writer, especially one who is worthy of publication, if I don’t? It also diminished my work, made it less important. Well, dang it, it IS important, even if only to me.
So, a change. A “this is it” moment: I, Colleen Sohn, am a writer. Gosh, I got weepy typing that last sentence. I am a writer. I wrote a novel that I hope to get published one day. I write a blog. I write poems. I dream up worlds. Words dance in my mind and through my finger tips. They are alive, just like me and you.
That felt good. Thanks for reading. I love sharing my writing with you!
As my cutie pie neighbor Keirnan (age five) might say, “She’s up to her old tricks.” He’d be right, too. I am up to my old tricks, loving the offbeat films where the actors are decidedly not up to theirs. It is so refreshing!
The hubster and I saw Greenberg this past weekend. Finally, finally something I was interested in seeing at the Academy. I have been waiting for ages. Seriously, I cannot remember when I was there last, and it totally bums me out. I love movies. I love sitting in movie theaters. I love watching people file in and search for the perfect seat. I love the moment the lights dim and the action starts, all the while munching on buttery popcorn and Reese’s Pieces, despite their absence of nutrition. For the film is the sustenance, the essence of life, moments in darkness that ultimately illuminate.
I digress. Greenberg, save two, um, cold(?) sex scenes, yes, cold, is one of those train wreck type films. I could not look away, yet my heart kind of ached to. It is the story of Roger Greenberg: broken man, letter writer, vest wearer. He’s come to Los Angeles to house sit for his brother’s family after suffering a mental breakdown. He’s meant to build a dog house, take care of its future occupant, Mahler, and, as he states rather explicitly, do nothing else. It doesn’t quite work out as planned, as he immediately has feelings for his brother’s assistant Florence (a pitch perfect performance from Greta Gerwig), the dog gets sick, and he generally makes an ass of himself, though he puts the blame squarely on others. It’s a great story about loss, starting off on the wrong foot, and the way we cobble our lives back together. Perfect in its imperfection.
Will Farrel is Harold Crick, a boring and friendless IRS agent who suddenly starts hearing a voice. A voice that knows him well, is never wrong, and clearly states that he is going to die. What ensues is a beautiful transformation – from a numbers man ticking away the hours to a human being truly living and loving life. So very, very good. It makes me want to be a better writer.
This is Paul Thomas Anderson’s fantastic and exhilarating art house version of Adam Sandler. As much as I like movies like 50 First Dates and Mr. Deeds (Are you surprised? Do you underestimate my sneakiness? They’re funny!), I sure wish he would make more movies like this. Sandler plays Barry Egan, intense, lonely, incessantly badgered by his annoying and domineering sisters, he is constantly on the verge of rage and violence, and utterly powerless to stop it. When a woman unexpectedly enters his life, there is instant chemistry and mystery. What will he do? Will this end badly? What about that awful guy at the phone sex place? Finding out is a great and scary ride.
This last one could actually be tied with Vampire’s Kiss. Have you seen that one? Nicholas Cage (circa 1988) plays a guy who thinks he’s been bitten by a vampire and acts accordingly, sporting fake teeth and all. Which only makes me think of Chris Cooper’s teeth in this movie, oy vay, creepy. This movie is strange, smart, and beautiful. Nicholas Cage plays the Kaufman brothers, so unlike any character I have ever seen. Fearful, weird, out of shape, paranoid, balding, and obsessed, yet likable. The kind of underdog fellas you root for. Besides that, there’s Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper. Who could ask for anything more?
I am spelling out the following number for emphasis: Four thousand seven hundred eighty-two. This set of digits is hardly impressive when one considers population, drops of rain on my red roof, or annual salaries in America. However, when one ponders the fact that it is in relation to how many works of art were amassed by Herb and Dorothy Vogel in their tiny New York apartment over the course of forty years, then it expands into something nearly unfathomable. Holy smokes – 4,782!
The absolutely adorable couple (they still hold hands and find each other cute), a now retired librarian at the Brooklyn Library and a postal worker, began collecting in order to follow what was, at least initially, Herb’s passion. He worked nights at the post office, would sleep a few hours, and then go to the library and read everything he could about art, as well as take a painting class or two. Dorothy, wanting to share in her husband’s interest, decided she would paint, too. Soon, the walls of their apartment were covered in their work, but then, in 1962, after realizing they could live humbly off of Dorothy’s salary and purchase art with Herb’s, they marched forth with gusto, visiting galleries and studios all over the city and purchasing inexpensive works by unknown artists.
Their criteria were simple – they must like the piece, be able to afford it, and it had to be carried via foot, bus, or taxi to fit in their apartment. They weren’t looking to collect anything just for the sake of it; they had to love it as well, and love they did. They covered every possible surface with art: walls, ceiling, floor, amassing piles and rows, squeezing it in among their fish, cats, and turtles, a wonder of physics if the truth be told. Dorothy remarked, “Not even a toothpick could be squeezed into the apartment.” She was right.
In a bold and quite generous move, the couple decided to donate their entire collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the site where it all began, the first museum they visited together as husband and wife. Of all the museums clamoring for their collection, all of them willing to pay princely sums, I might add, the Vogel’s chose the National Gallery because quite simply, as Americans, it belongs to everyone. The works will never be sold and anyone can visit, for free, furthering their belief that wonderful art can be both affordable and accessible, just as it was to them.
It is a marvelous portrait of love – for each other and modern art. It made me weep at how having a benevolent spirit and following our passion is rarely about how much money we have but what we choose to do with it.