Thursday, June 30, 2011

Preston Castle

I've spent the last couple days trying to arrange a photoshoot at Preston Castle. If you call ahead with enough time to spare, and flatter the tour consultant, pay the right amount, and say just the right things, you can reserve the entire castle to yourself for a couple hours....which is exactly what I am trying to do. This would be *incredible*. If it works.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I love the name Reykjavik. I love the way it sounds, I love the way it looks, I love how it feels on your tongue when you say it. Reykjavik.

I've said for years that if I ever have a son, his middle name would be Reykjavik. I could call him Reggie for short. Who wouldn't love an Icelandic middle name?

Well, tonight a friend introduced me to Bjork, an Icelandic singer who I quickly grew to love. She only further solidified my admiration of all things Icelandic and legitimized my son's name. Here's a sampling:


This is where I'll be living for the next two years. I'm trying not to melt into incoherent happiness. Or maybe it's too late. :D

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Song of the Day

I find it intriguing that various songs can capture my mood perfectly. Some days it's melancholy piano, some days my heart beats in time to French techno, yesterday it was Jack Johnson, and today my world is rocked by Gypsy punk. Music is so fundamental to who we are, though oftentimes it's a subconscious realization. We don't do well with silence - it's the complex harmonies and intricate musical textures that can create intense emotion and soothe troubled minds. Or just make you happy.

I've been exploring music this summer resulting in some delightful discoveries. In Santa Cruz last week, I found a hole-in-the wall (almost literally) record store and spent almost an hour cruising down aisle after aisle learning new names, new sounds, new voices. Yesterday, I made a mix CD for a awesome friend at work with all my indie-folk favorites, a couple swahili tunes, and a sprinkling of 80s rock. He's promised to make me one too with his "undiscovered favorites"; I can't wait to hear it.

Music is fascinating. I can throw out the technical descriptions, how distinct ostinatos beneath the intertwining harmonic patterns create pleasurable sound waves to our delicately balanced ears....but music is more than that. It's an outpouring of someone's soul. It's a collective bond we share with humanity. It's language without words. It's passion and power and emotion and freedom, all tied up into a string of beautiful notes.

If I could be a song today, this would be the one.

Monday, June 27, 2011


a rootbeer float. Like. Seriously needs.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sunshine and iced-coffee

With temperatures in the triple digits, it's a gross understatement to say it's been "hot" in Sacramento. Everything seems to move in slow motion as the heat ripples up from the asphalt. People slowly turn, the breeze is a faint whisper, the air is heavy, and the cicadas buzz lazily in the trees.

I'm sitting in the kitchen listening to Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi (if you're curious, listen to his "A Fuoco" - it's wonderful) and working on my newest project. I've spent the last couple days dissecting ties and sewing them into a beautifully random, patterned skirt. A tie skirt! I'm stitching all by hand which is time consuming, but my needlework would make great-grandma proud. I really hope it turns out as pretty as it looks it my mind...I'm aiming to have it done by Sunday.

Which, speaking of, Sunday could be a really perfect day. My friend and I are going to a special screening at the Sacramento French Film Festival and staying for the champagne reception afterwards. He's a talented film student and I adore foreign films, so we're both quite excited to go. I took that chance and now I really can't wait. :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Latino Jazz

I'm pattering about the Mathews' kitchen in my baggy jammies listening to latin jazz and cooking up some dinner. They're off vacationing this week and I get to housesit - I love the feeling of having my "own" house.

As I boil the water and watch the steam curl and rise, feeling it play with my hair, I'm pensive. There's an opportunity I have in the next couple days, I'm just not sure if I should take it. It's risky and outside my comfort zone, but it'd be really wonderful.

How do you know if you should go for it? Take a chance? Or is it better to wait and see what the tide brings in?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Growing up... an intriguing phenomenon.

Today I seriously meal-planned and grocery shopped for the first time. We are now officially set to go for three weeks and I only spent $127. I am ridiculously pleased with myself even though grocery shopping is nothing extraordinary.

And now, my 13-year old brother and I are choosing to be hermits. After spending all day at school, work, VBS practice, grocery shopping, and cleaning the house - we mutually decided we needed personal space. He's grieving his Jr. High friends who will be attending different high schools next year and I'm exhausted after a 42-hour work week. He gave me a long hug, made sure I was okay, and then said, "I need some me time....". I smiled, "me too."

So I'm cleaning in my room being serenaded by Josh Groban and loving the situation. We have an amazingly strong relationship, Mark and I, and we know each other so well we can *tell* when we need our own space. I love that kid. So very, very much.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reflections on October Sky

I believe everyone's life is partially defined by certain, significant experiences they encounter. I know many of my values, tendencies, and passions originate in very particular memorable moments - though there are but few of them.

I watched October Sky for the first time when I was about eleven years old. I was mesmerized by Homer's dedication to rocketry and his determination to escape his environment by immersing himself in trigonometry, calculus, and chemistry. I watched, wide-eyed, as his rockets failed and misfired and grew to respect the boy in the screen when he spent entire nights puzzling over complex mathematical concepts trying to find an answer. For years, Homer Hickam was my hero and I wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut and explore the boundaries of space. But none of this is my defining moment.

The day remains unnamed in my memory. I don't remember the particulars of what was happening or how it came to be, but I was twelve, bored, and alone. Our dear friends were down to visit with their small, young family and I felt out of place; too young to be with the grown-ups, but feeling too old to play with the kids. And so I sat, quietly perched on our tall rickety green chair and played some mindless computer game - PutPut Goes to the Moon I think it was. I'd played it dozens of times before and there was no challenge whatsoever, in fact, I was probably more bored playing it, but lacked better ideas on how to fill my time.

As I sat, I became aware that my Tio David had come into the room and was sitting beside me; observing my game with a subtle air of disappointment. Feeling rather silly, I stopped. He looked straight into my eyes and asked me, "Risa, who do you admire most?" When I instantly responded Homer Hickam, he stated, "Then why don't you write to him?" The question surprised, and I'll be honest, slightly upset me. I had never thought of writing the esteemed Mr. Hickam. I had nothing to say to him! Didn't Tio David know what an incredible man Mr. Hickam was? Didn't he know he was someone important who didn't want to be annoyed by twelve year old girls? Why was Tio David making me think? Can't I just be bored for a while, please?

We wrote a letter to Homer Hickam that afternoon. No less than three weeks later I received a personally addressed reply from Mrs. Homer Hickam, acting as his secretary and I was completely flabbergasted when I saw his signature at the bottom. Homer Hickam's very own wife wrote specifically to me and Homer signed it! I would spend long periods of time just holding that beautiful letter, reading it over and over and over again.

Nine years later, I realize I learned a couple incredibly defining things:
* First of all, time is precious and should not be squandered, especially on mindless pursuits. I remember feeling ashamed of just sitting there, wasting the afternoon on a stupid game. Life is so short, and there is so much to learn, and we will die hungering for how can we let ourselves lose time on superficial nothingness?
* Secondly, take the initiative; even when it's scary and you have no idea what you're doing. Tell people about your goals and aspirations, seek out professionals and get to know them personally if you can, actively search for new opportunities, and don't be afraid to ask the "dumb" questions.
* And finally, don't minimize your own abilities and knowledge; it's okay to be ignorant if you're pursuing knowledge. I felt like an insignificant nobody just thinking about Homer Hickam, and the thought of actually writing to him terrified me. I was a 12-year old nobody! Yet, Tio David proved to me that I did have something to say. That I was important enough to reach out and talk to my academic idols. That I was worth it and that people would care enough to write back.

To say October Sky is inspiring is an understatement. But the very real, personal connection I have with this great story is underlined by the lessons forced upon me by an innocently profound question:

"Risa, who do you admire?"

Tio David, thank you.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pinot vs. Cabernet

The cultivators of Pinot Noir would believe beauty is found in the challenge; the inherent difficulty in the task at hand. Once completed, the effortless endeavors rarely bring the level of satisfaction the intricate, complicated ones do. Their worldview would ascribe to finding fulfillment in doing what is hard.

This may often be the case. In fact, I do believe we grow immensely when hard-pressed with difficulties or challenges. Helen Keller once wrote that, "character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." There is great value in maintaining constant challenge; be it academic, physical, psychological or really any other endeavor. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

However, while this may be true, I believe it is not holistic. There is a beautiful quote I keep in my wallet by Edith Wharton: "In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways." Challenges are good, vital even, yet beauty is also found in the minute details. The monotony of daily life. The way the breeze rustles the grass. The way a butterfly lilts through the air. The way a child laughs, the way a tear falls, the way the sun's warmth brings freckles to your shoulders.

Pinot is a very rich wine; full of texture, depth, and strength not unlike a life filled with challenges. Yet, is is the small, quiet details - the weeks of sunshine, the cool Pacific fog, the gardener's tender touch - that truly bring the flavor to life.

Life is often hard, in fact, the challenges will come unsolicited to you. Take time to notice the small, little joys in life. They add the beauty.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Brain Grooves

I was always the slightly odd girl. I was the awkward one who would rather study organisms under the microscope than window-shop at the mall with the other girls. I spent my 8th grade summer studying forensic investigation and fingerprint analysis. I carried gloves and plastic bags in an ice-chest in my car's trunk just in case I found good roadkill to dissect on the way to school in the morning. I've emailed photos of anatomical anomalies I've found in animals to professors and doctors and spent hours gloved-up in anatomy labs. I've seen the inside of a belly-button. I know what your brain feels like.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

For the first time in my life, I feel utterly disconnected with myself. I've lost every sense of the word.

I've spent the last four days medicating myself with the TV episode Bones. Socially awkward yet astonishingly brilliant Dr. Brennan is a world-reknown forensic anthropologist who solves gruesome murders and "unsolvable" crimes. In the past four days I've watched almost two years worth of episodes. I'm addicted. Yet, as I lay here now in my bed thinking (I can never sleep when I think at night), I start to see her idiosyncrasies. Her god is logic and she rules her life according to professionalism and fact, making her an incredible scientist, but a cold and rather unapproachable person. I realize that Dr. Brennan is frightened; she's terrified of recognizing her difficult personal past and refuses to allow others into her secret realm of emotions and feelings. She's created an invisible, protective wall around herself and she guards the key with her life.

Though it's not a new realization, I'm realizing more and more that I've done the same. While I can certainly smile and talk of happy things to others, there is a deep sadness and anger than simmers not so far beneath my surface. And yet, I continue to refuse to allow myself to truly recognize that. I won't even allow myself into that protected realm of emotions and feelings. School is out for the summer and I can't handle nothingness. I have promptly buried myself in a tall stack of challenging books; a study of international ideologies, a glimpse into the psychology of the pre-WWII Germany, an analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, sociology textbooks from classes I never got to take. They're all fascinating, yes....but really, honestly, if I let myself be completely sincere, they're a distraction. From myself.

And so, I'm continuing to voraciously watch Bones and read through my stack. The time of physical stillness is therapeutic and I can feel my body start to heal - I'm actually back on a regular sleep and eating schedule (this semester threw my routines out the window), but my mind is still on a treadmill. A treadmill with no stop button.