How to Watch a Sunrise

owly

I have a tradition of waking up super early on the first day of the year and watching the sun rise. It sounds poetic, but the things is, I’m not a morning person. Most years I roll out of bed, stumble to the window and squint at the orange glow in the distance. Then I crawl back into bed.

Perhaps it’s because I see them so seldom that sunrises feel so magical to me. I knew that I would need a little bit of that magic today, so I wrote out some instructions, mostly to keep myself from pressing the snooze button indefinitely.

Step 1: Set an alarm for 5:00 AM. Do not press snooze.

The Weather Channel says the sun will rise at 6:47, but around 5:00 is when the sky starts getting just a little bit lighter and the first bird starts  to sing. Note: It’s easier to do this in the winter. The sun rises later in the winter.

Step 2: Go outside.

Going in your pajamas is totally okay. It’s too early to make decisions like what to wear, and not may people are likely to see you anyway. Coffee or tea are a good idea.

Step 3: Observe.

As I tracked the gradually changing color of the sky, I heard (but didn’t see) an owl this morning. I stayed until the streetlights finally went out, watching the birds and then my neighbors, start their day.

3 AM Charcoal Smudges

charcoal

I couldn’t sleep last night. I stared at the wall, waiting and growing more and more anxious. Usually when this happens, I start to read Spinoza’s Ethics. I either fall asleep within half an hour, just as I always did in freshman Philosophy, or I figure out a little bit of what it was about… four years too late to save my grade.

Last night I couldn’t find my copy. Instead, I found a piece of charcoal. As messy as it is, pushing charcoal dust around on a piece of paper until your hands are black and it’s impossible to get out from under your fingernails is incredibly relaxing. I have no idea where this place is, but I am sure that somewhere there is a lake  fringed with tall grass and shadowy hills in the distance. This is a still place where even the wind rustling the grass sounds muted and ripples in the water fade faster than they should. I’m not sure if this is the setting for a nightmare or for quiet meditation.

Landscape for Coral

 

Landscape for Coral

I spent most of the day listening to the rain fall. I wonder what it is about that sound that’s so magical, especially when you’re sitting inside with a hot cup of tea or a good book; it is as toasty and warm inside as it is gray and cloudy outside. I live in the dry, flat land of the Southwest where the grass is a crispy light brown most of the year (although that’s partly because we forget to water the lawn). Whenever it rains here, it becomes the subject of everyone’s Facebook post.

I made this assemblage for a friend who recently moved to the rainy Northwest US in search of adventure. It’s inspired by the color of the pages of old books and the sun-baked earth of the dessert. I hope that rain is as magical and comforting there as it is here, even if it’s not as scarce.

Textures

wax

It turns out picking up where you left off eight months later isn’t so simple. Trains of thought get lost and you’re not the same person anymore.

I’m trying to find my way back through texture.

water

The stiffness of paper

the softness of wax

the lightness of air

the airiness of light.

light

 

Patterns in the earth and patterns in the sky, their differences reconciled. Everything looks perfect from far away.

air

‘Meow’ is how I say ‘I love you’

3

I have my doubts about stylized hearts and pink teddy bears and hate that there’s so much pressure associated with Valentine’s day, and yet… here I am with a stack of handmade Valentine’s day postcards (which will all arrive sometime next week, probably).   I’m not very good at saying ‘I love you,’ but if I’ve ever woken you up by pretending to be a cat outside your door, well, ‘meow’ is how I say ‘thank you for being in my life.’ Though there are also stylized hearts with postage stamps on the back, and chocolate too, sometimes.

1

 

 

Carrot Doodle Pea

grapefruitBack in November, I had a rush of inspiration brought on by the combination of NaNoWriMo-related sleep deprivation, watching The Yellow Ticket  (with Pola Negri hiding her identity in order to fulfill her dream of attending medical school), and drinking coffee late at night. The best (and admittedly sometimes the worst) ideas come after 2 a.m. when your poor, addled brain starts spewing nonsense. Coffee just helps you get there while adding to that ‘addled’ feeling.

At that moment, I wanted to make everything. I even wrote a blog post about it.

One of the things on my list was to draw everything I eat. I forgot about it for a while because it just seemed impractical. Snapping a picture is one thing, but drawing takes longer, and if there is a steaming slice of quiche in front of me, I want to stuff it in my face now. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve burned the roof of my mouth. Then there are those rushed meals, when I race home for lunch, drink a bowl of soup and race out again to run errands before going back to work. Breakfast is sometimes just as bad, and it’s my favorite meal of the day. The more I thought about it, slowing down started to feel like a good idea.

I don’t have the desire to document every single thing I eat, but food is special, and it should be honored in some way. So I started this project, Carrot Doodle Pea, to slow down and savor more of the meals I make and eat. Most of them will be simple foods, like this grapefruit which is my first post, but that’s what makes them special. Enjoy!

On a side note, I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater (although I’m also vegetarian, which rules out most of the scarier dishes), and if you have any food recommendations/favorite recipes, I’d love to hear them.

Coping

computer

It’s been over a month since my laptop started showing signs of its imminent demise. One morning, it just didn’t turn on. The tiny light by the keyboard blinked, and I could hear the fan working, but the screen just didn’t light up. I couldn’t deal with it, not that early in the morning, so I went back to sleep. An hour later, I got dressed and went out for a donut. Maybe that’s what did the trick and turned my luck around. Pumpkin donuts are magic.

When I came back home and turned it on, it worked, just like that. I spent the rest of the day sifting through everything I’d collected on it, saving everything to dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive, and good old-fashioned USB sticks. It was like writing a will after a narrow brush with death.

For the next few days, I approached my laptop with a “Hey there, buddy. Want to hang out?” Followed by either “No? Okay then,” or “Yes? Yay! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!”

Finally, a week and a half ago, it stopped working completely. I took out the battery, held down the power button, reinserted the battery, and nothing. I played doctor and took a tiny screwdriver to the back. I dusted the insides and took a look, but honestly, I’m not very tech-savvy, and there was nothing steaming or hissing or bubbling, so I just closed it back up. Now that I’ve graduated, and I can’t run to my school’s IT desk whenever something goes wrong, I feel that it’s time to pick up some Real Life Skills. I know a lot of people would have gone out to get a new one by now, but as a recent graduate living on an intern stipend, that’s not really an option for me right now. I also don’t want to run to my parents for money, because even if I still watch as much Phineas and Ferb as a six-year-old, I want to try to be independent. So instead, I’ve just learned to live without it. I’ve said goodbye to buzzfeed, hulu, and my food blog addiction. I only log in to Facebook every few days.

It’s not easy. When I don’t check my e-mail in more than a day, I start to feel anxious. I can’t shake off the feeling that there’s a Very Important Message waiting for me, even though when I do finally log in, there’s nothing but newsletters and rejection letters.

Now that I don’t stay up late catching up on or rewatching my favorite TV shows, I have more hours in my day. I feel that I should fill these productively, by finishing my NaNoWriMo novel, for instance, or working through the creative rut that I’m in, but often I just go to sleep early. When I say early, I mean the time that elementary schoolchildren go to sleep: 9 o’clock.

The novel I started last month is still growing word by word, but slowly, partly because I’m now writing it with a pen. There is a romantic quality to using the same technology that writers such as Tolstoy did (though I doubt he wrote on yellow legal pads with a cheap ballpoint pen). It’s slower, more meditative and I love the smell of fresh ink.

I don’t get distracted by the same things when I write this way. There is no Facebook to check obsessively, to start with, but really, I can get distracted by pretty much anything. Right now, for instance, I’m hungry and keep wanting to go to the kitchen in search of snacks. I also want to put away the clothes that are piled on the dresser. They make the room look messy, but somehow when the room is really messy and there are clothes all over the floor and on the unmade bed as well, I feel no such inclination.

My routine has changed in other ways as well. I go into work an hour early every day so that I can check my e-mail and type up what I wrote the day before. When my co-workers come in and hear me already typing away, they just assume that I’m really hardworking. A few weeks ago, getting up early enough to do this would have been difficult, but as I mentioned earlier, that is no longer a problem.

I also spend a lot more time at the library. It’s not as convenient as I would like, since their business hours match the hours I’m at the office for the most part. When I go in, I reserve one of the computers for an hour and type away, then I browse the shelves and pick out books to read so that it doesn’t look like I only go for the computers.

I’d say I’ve adjusted rather well to living without a laptop. It just requires a lot of planning ahead. Last night, however, there was a party at the apartment I share with a few fellow interns. I went to bed around 11, because I really can’t stay up past that time anymore. As I was falling asleep I rememberd that I left my phone on the table. I had nightmares of beer spilling all over it, and having to learn to cope with having no cell phone as well.