Explosive Activity and Heartspaces

October kind of exploded a whole bunch of happening in my face. First of all, people visited. I mean, I covered the first wave, but then Wonder Woman came to town. She was here for almost an entire week, but most of our adventures occurred over that weekend. On the morning of October 19th, Handsome, Wonder Woman, and I headed to a tiny train station in New Jersey to catch the train to NYC. After grabbing the train by the mere skin of our teeth, we were on our way to the City. Why go to the Big Apple? Well, when one has another fine friend to meet up with (who also happens to have a free place to crash) and one has an incredibly eye-opening piece of theatre to see…one may find oneself in the midst of Penn Station in a drag-queen-silver jacket looking about hopelessly for Emrys in the midst of the throng. We eventually found him and we spent the day traipsing about the city. From Emrys’s cozy apartment, to a nifty little market, I was reminded why I enjoy visiting the city with people who actually know how to navigate the labyrinth of subways and streets. The first highlight of the visit occurred that night.

Wonder Woman, when planning her excursion to our humble dwelling, recommended that we go to the City in order to see the piece Sleep No More. I had heard ridiculously good things about this piece and I found myself overjoyed to be in a financial situation where such an excursion could be possible. For those who don’t know, Sleep No More is an interactive/site specific theatre experience that is loosely based on Macbeth, but utilizes elements of other dark tales in order to fashion an experience that is unlike anything you are likely to have experienced prior to witnessing this work.  When you enter the space, you are told that the evening is meant to be your experience. There is no right or wrong way to go about exploring the world that has been created. There is no speaking. Even the actors do not use speech, but rather physical theatre techniques and intense body imagery to tell their part of the story. I personally chose not to follow a particular actor. I found the herds of spectators chasing after the various performers overwhelming, thus I chose to just explore every nook and cranny of the space, happening on scenes by chance rather than by design. You can open drawers, pick up bottles of various liquids, page through accounts and letters….tis a dark playground for the curious child who just happens to be a little taller than she was some years ago. There were limits to the space and where one could go, but ultimately I was occupied for the three hours that I wandered. I was exhausted and ached in every portion of my legs and hips, but I was most satisfied. I would not recommend this experience to everyone, but if you are willing to traipse through a dark maze dripping with the dregs of human misery and notorious intent, then Sleep No More is completely worth the ticket price.

The second highlight of the trip is a little more subtle and perhaps very specific to me. For the first time in a very long time, I got to spend a full day and a half with Emrys. Emrys and I have been friends for almost 11 years, but the college years did not allow for a great deal of contact. Due to physical distance and both of us having extremely busy lives, I rarely got to see my friend. In truth, he is more family to me, but in the sense that he is the brother of my heart. We have experienced much together and I did not even realize how much I sorely missed spending time with him until we had more than a quick dinner after a year of barely speaking. Such time is precious and there is a chance that we might be at a place in our lives where we can see each other more often. I don’t demand that such a time continue infinitely, but I am inspired to make the most of it, not only with Emrys, but also with all those who are my heart-family that I have scattered along this coast. I would challenge all of us to actively remain in contact with those who share our heartspace, because it’s important. Such people are a gift. Show gratitude by giving to them a hundred-fold.

Busy, busy, busy

I wondered if being settled into an area would make life boring, but the exact opposite is proving true. This month is insanely packed with socializing and adventures. Last weekend, Handsome and I were hosts to my friend Herculine and her boyfriend (who also happens to be one of my college friends) Smiler. Though only a brief time, we made the most of its every second. We brought them to market and then we went on a hike at Buttermilk Falls, which is a most glorious climb. Handsome and the Smiler went ahead while Herculine and I made our way slowly, encountering faeries and many a deep energy in the water-rushing canyon. Sitting on the edge of the water at one point, I was again struck with awe at the depth of nature’s power and how that power is deep song that the Lord sings into my veins with abandon. I felt simultaneously still and running with all my strength so that I might fly. I was with a friend who I muchly love, in the midst of gorgeous rock-water wood, and I could Hear the Song so close to my ribs I could ache. We wound our way through, enjoying all that was around us, discussing faeries in hushed tones and touching all that we could get our hands; be it rock, water, tree or mud, we felt and drifted.  Walking down, we had to stretch our legs out long and stiffly like fancy gentleman, and holding a single hand aloft as though we were carrying parasols of fancier ladies. Twas the only way one could go down the steep stairs with any measure of grace don’t ya know 😉 That evening, we all made cookies and drank until we were pleasantly giggling into our cookie ice-cream sundaes.

The next day dawned absolutely gorgeous. I chose to go to church while Handsome took our guests to Green Lake Park. I am glad that I went because I am enamored of the sermons and the energy of the place. Though it is a tiny little church with narry another person my age, I find a deep peace when I am there. Plus, as I said, the sermons are instructive, simply delivered, and beautifully crafted. In my faith, I find that I am drawn to places that are more concerned with the intricacies of the God that we serve rather than evangelistic tactics. As far as I am concerned, if I am taking time to go to church, then I don’t want to spend that time listening to why I need to keep taking that time out. I have already made that decision, thus I would rather learn more about how to deepen my relationship with God. Unsolicited tangent, but tis just my personal feeling on the matter. I arrived home before the rest of my party and I took the time to enjoy the sun and the glorious weather. Later that day, Herculine, Smiler, and I went to see a show at the Stage. This is the first show of the season and Herculine’s cousin is in the cast. I was familiar with the script and I was curious to see the show (plus, it is the first show in which I had direct painterly involvement here). Although the piece was three hours long, I was delighted to discover that the actors are brilliant. They did not miss a beat and they managed to keep the energy of the dialogue constant. The set and technical effects were wonderful, and the costumes were absolutely drool-worthy. It is rare to see a production so cohesive and I feel humbled that I had a hand in realizing that cohesion.

As for what is to come, right now I am in the midst of visiting my dear sibling. She has possession of the rest of my artwork, and I had to deliver her an original work from my own hand. Thus, here I am, alone for the moment while she works. The view out her window is dappled with autumn, sun, and tree branches. I must admit, it’s nice to have a day fully to myself. Next week, Handsome’s mother comes to visit, then the next week brings WonderWoman and a trip into the City to see Sleep No More. Busy? Just how I like it :).

Doing Well Here

Tis strange to think that I have been here for almost a month. Summer has always moved strangely for me. Every day seems long and labor intensive, only to suddenly find myself at the end of a week wondering how it snuck past me. In this month, I have painted an entire set (and not a simple color and a wash so please you), explored glorious places, and made connections with people whom I can only call it  blessing to know. Helena (formerly known as Lady Twin, but Helena suits her much better) and I were down by the waterfront this evening, chatting about books as the wind blew incessantly across the water. I knitted away happily as we talked and I could only languish in how happy I truly am right now. Not the happiness that is characteristic of  the circumstances of the moment, but rather truly well. True wellness is a strong desire of mine, something that comes from a well of joy that lives in the heart regardless of what life offers. There is a hymn called “It is Well With my Soul.” A song penned in the 1800’s by someone who had been hit with immense tragedy, the piece still captures the core of what I strive to achieve in the pursuit of this life. Particularly, the first verse:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,a
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

*a Often this lyric is “say” rather than “know,” but I rather appreciate this version.

Whether I be at peace as I was this evening, or frazzled by the various tasks thrown at me in a given day, or truly aching from pain that attacks me from past loss, I fight to maintain the wellness of my soul. It is days such as I have been having, surrounded by glorious natural beauty, engaging work, and genuine people that remind me why I have such joy. Such things I am blessed with, and I can never thank Him enough for those things. It is, indeed, well with my soul.

Outakes (Camp Tour)

The following are merely a collection of images that capture things that I find beautiful about my current location. I didn’t take any shots of the shop I work in, or the dining hall where I have been taking my meals. Still, I think you’ll get the idea.

Although I don't live in one, I do very much enjoy all the cabins scattered about the campus.

Although I don’t live in one, I do very much enjoy all the cabins scattered about the campus.

I have a thing for all the trees around here, sue me.

A shot of one of the auditoriums. I will not be painting anything that goes in here, but the space looked so stunning from this angle.

A shot of one of the auditoriums. I will not be painting anything that goes in here, but the space looked so stunning from this angle.

Yes, of course I found the geese (and their fluffy little adolescent goslings).

Yes, of course I found the geese (and their fluffy little adolescent goslings).

Felt like I was flying just by looking at this.

Felt like I was flying just by looking at this.

I could definitely get used to this :)

I could definitely get used to this 🙂

Outakes ( A Most Magical Garden Indeed)

I went to an incredible place today. On South Street in Philadelphia, there is a garden where a single artist decided to turn a small plot into the interior of his of his mind. Welcome to the Glass Garden.

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Wandering through this maze of recycled wonder, I felt so strongly a child that I almost skipped. Tis the same feeling I get when I am immersed in a really good book. I become so consumed by the artist’s world, I quite forget there is any other.

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This place is not that big, but I felt absolutely bite- size in the midst of so much raw love. Imagine someone happily allowing you to wander inside his mind for however long you liked. Absolutely overwhelming as it is glorious.

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A garden unlike anything I could have dreamed, and yet had the air of being peeled right from my own imagination. An exquisite place to pause in wonder at what one human can accomplish. If this is not on your bucket list, it should be. I leave you now with the artist’s words…

I use art as a spider web, to trap people and change how they look, feel, dream.” Isaiah Zagar

Slices of Perfection

The last few days have been perfect in a way that I have missed. Perfection in totality is not something I ever expect, but hiding in various places is not too much to ask.

The first place where I am gifted a slice of perfection is that I am working this week. My sister was kind enough to get me a brief gig as a sound board operator/sound technician for a show which she is the music directing. It’s been so long since I actually have been a part of the actual run of a production, let alone running sound. Last time I did that kind of tech work consistently was in high school. Yet, I had forgotten how much I actually enjoy running a show in this venue. Sound production, at least the very simplistic type that I am capable of operating, is one of things where I feel a full competency and rhythm that even painting doesn’t always afford me. You have your mics, a schedule, and many little knobs before you that can manipulate the voices in such a way that they sound as if the person/people is/are singing in the seat next to you rather than from a faraway stage. As I said, I’ve only operated shows where I only had to worry about a few body mics, some stationary fixtures, and possibly an effect or two. The show here is incredibly simple, but it has offered a chance to enjoy myself and get paid while doing so. Tis and excellent reminder of why I seek to consistently have a job where joy has a place.

 

Second slice of perfection is being with my sister. I will not pretend that we are those 50’s-TV siblings who get along so swimmingly it would inspire a live-audience to an “Awwwww.” However, we are unusually close for being so completely different. I have not spent such a long period of time with her since I went to college, and it is a special brand of lovely to actually stay with her for more than a couple days. Again, we definitely have our points of disagreement, but those points are eclipsed by the fact that we do love and like each other more often than we argue.

 

The third slice is simple. Alone time. While my parents have been awesome about leaving me to my own devices, the fact is that they spend a great deal of time in the house (I know, the nerve of them spending time in their own home!). Anyhow, I pray this does not sound whiny, but going from my own apartment to a shared house where I am never really alone is a difficult adjustment. I am an introvert, and I am used to spending large chunks of time completely by myself. Not a matter of  being anti-social, just a simple matter of needing not to be in anyone else’s energy space for a time. While my rents, as I’ve said, are excellent about leaving me to myself, just the sharing of space is hard for me. While staying with my sister, I have been granted the unexpected treat of being left alone in her place for large chunks of time. Between her various jobs, and the fact that she is an extreme extrovert who abundantly enjoys going out, my sister is not always here. Thus, I have blocks of time where I can just languish in solitude with only her wonderful cats for company. Right now, I stare out the front window of her place (totally awesome window, huge with a view full of trees and sky), just savoring the rain outside. What more luxury could be desired than sitting cuddled in a blanket, cup of tea in hand, as a dreary day melts the world around you into a monochromatic wash that so nicely contrasts your own circle of light?

A Place to Make One Believe in God

 

I am one who feels the presence of the Lord most strongly when I am tromping about in His raw creation. In other words, natural places with lots of trees and few people about. Handsome and I decided to take a trip to such a place. For the last 5 and some days, we have been exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park via the gateway through Bryson City North Carolina. Handsome found us a most beauteous cabin for our base of operations, and while I will certainly post pictures of its fabulousness, I am far more excited to share some shots of the wonders we found on our various adventures.

A shot from the first trail we followed. Easy walk, nothing rough.

A shot from the first trail we followed. Easy walk, nothing rough.

Handsome kindly posing on a rock bed we made our way on to during our walk.

Handsome kindly posing on a rock bed we made our way on to during our walk.

Handsome spotted these two floating along, and thanks to my new lens I could actually capture them properly.

Handsome spotted these two floating along, and thanks to my new lens I could actually capture them properly.

From that simple trail, we were pointed in the direction of Mingo Falls. Please be aware that in order to reach these falls, you have to climb about 170 steps of varying size with an unyielding, steep incline. However, the sight is definitely worth the climb.

Glorious

Glorious

Frozen Teeth

Frozen Teeth

Closeup

Closeup

As long as I live, 
I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. 
I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, 
storm, and the avalanche. 
I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, 
and get as near the heart of the world as I can.  John Muir
From the falls, we decided to take a drive along The Road to Nowhere. No, this is not just an unofficial title created by a Shel Silverstein enthusiast, that is actually the name of this stretch of highway. Despite its lack of intelligent stopping point, the road was full of wonderful overlooks, and a tunnel that hid an incredible treasure. (NOTE: Some of the following pictures may include some profanity and inappropriate images. I tried to pick the least offensive shots, but just in case, my posterior end is covered.)
Did not expect to find this in the Smokies

Did not expect to find this in the Smokies

One of the (many) sections of wall

One of the (many) sections of wall

Another closeup

Another closeup

Yup, yards and yards of graffiti and street art. The tunnel was probably around a quarter mile, and every inch from front to back and six feet up was crawling with layers of paint. I could not have been more overjoyed because such a plethora of this type of art is often difficult to find, let alone photograph. The credit goes to Handsome who prodded me to go with him into the tunnel. The above pictures are just a pittance of what I photographed.

A shot from one of the pull offs on the RTN

A shot from one of the pull offs on the RTN

And another

And another

Our final hike proved to be the most difficult hike that either Handsome or myself have previously encountered. The trail is called the Smokemont Loop, which is 6.5 miles round trip. The distance does not seem so terrible, but here is the breakdown. The first 2.5 miles is consistently uphill. Not just a minor incline, I am talking a steep, unending uphill battle that does not have any breaks to its name. Then, the next two miles are a sharp downhill where keeping your feet is glorious fun. Finally, you then have two more miles of flat terrain, crossing over the river on occasion. Please also note we had done a 3/4 mile nature trail prior to this hike, so all things told we hiked 7 miles that day with about 3 miles (the nature trail was also mostly uphill) of it being uphill. I did not get pictures of the first four miles because I was a little preoccupied with actually accomplishing it, but later in the hike I remembered to enjoy pretty scenery.

A more calm part of the river

A more calm part of the river

Handsome and I enjoyed these little bridges immensely

Handsome and I enjoyed these little bridges immensely

I just really like this shot

I just really like this shot

I chatter, chatter, as I flow,
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever. Alfred Lord Tennyson

The sights I have seen only more strongly instill in me the Presence of that Whom I love most dearly. I hope to return to here, as well as go on to find more such places in this wide world.