Apr. 13th, 2014 02:00 pm
rebeccmeister: (smitten)
There's so much to say about [ profile] annikusrex and W's wonderful wedding yesterday. I took a small handful of photos, but was occupied with other things through the bulk of the festivities, so all I've got is the small handful, which I can't even post just yet because the camera batteries need to recharge.

My mom and dad got up early on Saturday morning to make and eat pancakes before I had to head up to AKW's house for pre-wedding preparations. Delicious breakfast accomplished, I set out to walk up Capitol Hill through Interlaken Park. It was a beautiful, cool, sunny morning for a walk among the tall trees covered in mosses and ferns. Upon arriving, I couldn't stand waiting, so I made AKW and W open up their wedding gift, pictured beneath the sewing machine here:


It's a picnic kit: a tablecloth, five napkins (because "fat quarters" come in five-packs, heh), and two silly, stainless-steel wineglasses. That was the reason for the trip to the fabric store on Thursday. I'm sporadic about gift-giving, but so is AKW, and I think both of us just figure that whenever we think of something that's the right thing, we'll make it happen.

From AKW's house, we went over to a hair salon to have our hair made all fancy for the ceremony. AKW got lovely curls, while I had an elegant French twist. I'm always grateful when a stylist can take a look at me and my hair, ponder for a minute or two, and then come up with and do lovely things with minimal fuss and opinions on my part.

Then, 'twas back to AKW's house to put on pretty dresses and such, and off to Magnuson Park for the festivities.

The wedding itself was a simple, sweet ceremony, followed by delicious Indian food catered by Project Feast, a catering company providing training for immigrant and refugee cooks. Like me, AKW has lived a number of different lives in a number of different places by now, and the same is true of W. So the celebrations afterwards were a good chance to meet and chat with many of the important people that have figured in those walks of life. I was particularly tickled by the opportunity to talk rowing with W's parents, who raised two rower-daughters and got immersed in the sport.

One of the things I appreciated most about the whole wedding was how it reflected a lot of my own aesthetics. This is somewhat unsurprising when you consider that this has factored into my friendship with AKW across our whole lives. We grew up going to art museums and creating things together, and in a church that has always emphasized the importance of community and humility over ostentatious shows of wealth. It gets tricky to navigate these ideals when you discover, as AKW put it, that when it comes to a wedding, suddenly a whole lot of different people have a whole lot of different expectations and demands. There are so many socially-imposed "proper" ways of doing things, particularly when it concerns those accustomed to "East-Coast" weddings. For even one small instance - having everything match or coordinate. I think she and W and I were all tickled by the fact that the bouquets wound up having kale and broccoli flowers incorporated, and relieved that the flowers were mixed bundles of color rather than severe, uniform arrangements of tulips.

Navigating the religious side of the equation is also challenging, but there were inclusions on that front as well: tablecloths and plates from the church, and again, that whole sense of friends and family helping to get everything set up and then put away and cleaned up, with a minimum of fuss.

In the evening, there was a second chance to get to know many of the guests, over dinner at Cafe Presse and drinks at Sun Liquor. By that time, I was wiped out, so it was time to bike down Broadway/10th to Delmar Drive, then up over Montlake Hill and home to bed.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I finally have some time to procrastinate. So, first and foremost, photographs of the most recent bike-touring expedition, plus Bike to Work and School Day behind the cut... )
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All right, here they are, photographs from our crawdadding expedition behind the cut. Warning: there are a lot of them! Hooray for a successful Scrabble Society expedition!

Read more... )
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Well, it was an awesome weekend, just as I'd hoped. Hopefully I'll get everything down. Pictures to follow.

Friday night, we hosted [ profile] trifold_flame's birthday party at our house, and it was one of those parties that had just the right number of people, an abundance of awesome food (ps - I just ate four pieces of the vegan lasagna, [ profile] scrottie, and it's AWESOME. Also, can I have your grandma's sour cream cookie recipe? I think those kept me alive yesterday and today). A good time was had by all, and one of my favorite parts was that the whole thing started out with a gathering of the Scrabble Society. I feel so lucky to have formed such good friendships here.

Anyway. I woke up quite early on Saturday morning, packed up a few things, and hit the road. R, A, [ profile] scrottie and I all made plans to ride our bikes out to cheer on a group of riders completing the MS-150 ride around Florence, AZ. I had failed to convince anyone else to go along with my plan to ride all the way out to Florence, but R, A, and S thought it sounded nice to ride out 50 miles, cheer on the official riders, and then turn around and go home.

The only hitch in this whole plan, as far as I could see, was that I was riding fully loaded for bike touring, and everybody else was carrying minimal supplies. That meant that my top speed was 18 mph drafting, and 16 mph by myself, not nearly as fast as everyone else was wont to go. So eventually R and A went on ahead, while S hung out to keep me company.

We met up with the MS-150 riders at a rest stop at the top of a big hill, and then I followed the pack on to the next stop, which was both stop 5 and stop 7 for the riders. I hung out there, and over the course of a few hours, I got to see almost all of the gang (members of

While I sat around, a dust devil came along and attacked my bike, ripping free my copy of Friday's New York Times and the motivational poster I had made, and carrying them skyward across a field. I decided it wasn't worth it to chase everything across the field.

Subsequently, I went and checked out the Casa Grande National Monument, which was a nice opportunity to think about ancient life in the desert (the ruins date from the 1300s), and then met up with everyone in Florence.

Florence was fun: a small, forgotten Western town featuring an abundance of interesting historic buildings and an abandoned Main Street. I would never have gone to Florence to visit it if it weren't for this ride, so I'm glad I had the excuse. The evening was mellow--we mostly hung out in the beer garden and rode around in a four-seater Surrey that somebody happened to bring.

Sunday got more interesting. I got up early, packed up my things, and ate breakfast quickly so I could set out ahead of the actual riders and meet up with them at the first rest stop. The roads were absolutely empty in advance of the "real" riders, and with a few clouds in the sky, the conditions couldn't have been more pleasant.

When I pulled in to the first stop, however, to my dismay, I discovered the source of an odd "whumphing" sensation I had started to experience Saturday evening. My rear tire, which was badly balding, was beginning to suffer from some severe side-wall damage. I had plenty of time to strategize as I waited for the riders to arrive, so I decided to swap my front and rear tires and put a "boot" over the section that was breaking. The "boot" is basically some form of internal reinforcement for the tire, in this case, a dollar bill.

Swap completed, I arranged for vehicular back-up and made plans to stop at a Wal-Mart in Coolidge, 10 miles down the road, to look for a replacement tire.

The tire swap resulted in an immediate improvement in my bike's feel, but I decided it was foolish to get over-confident, so I stuck with my plan to stop. Unfortunately, I discovered that the Wal-Mart of choice carried every single other tire size and shape, but had no 26-inch mountain bike tires in stock. The good news is, the lack of replacements meant I didn't have to patronize Wal-Mart and thus compromise my stance against big-box stores.

So I cautiously traversed onward.

About 15 miles further down the road, in the middle of the Gila River Indian Reservation, I heard the dramatic and unmistakable popping noise of a flat tire. Surprisingly, it was my REAR tube, not the front one. It looked like the tube had suffered mightily at the hands of the failing tire (I had swapped tires but not tubes, for a complex reason*) and had finally given up the ghost.

Fortunately, I have learned to be prepared for such incidents. I pulled out my spare tube, popped it in, and carried on my way. At this point, though, I'd used up any and all options for the event of further catastrophes, so I decided to travel at a slightly easier pace until I got to a bike shop at the edge of town.

But I made it, bought a nice replacement tire at the shop, popped it on, and made it the rest of the way home.

Altogether, I went 75 miles on Saturday, and 60 miles today, making this the longest touring trip I've done so far. I also learned that I'm pretty capable in the event of the unexpected, and that if I go on any longer trips, I'd best either carry more spare stuff, or keep my bike in better overall shape.

*Short explanation: My front wheel has a Schrader valve, my rear wheel has a Presta valve, and that makes their tubes semi-incompatible because Prestas fit in Schrader holes (sort of), but Schraders don't fit in Presta holes.
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Well, Ms [ profile] annikusrex is off to the airport this morning and on her way to Austin for week 2 of her spring break adventures, and I'm sad to see her go because it has been a fun (if busy) week. [aside to AKW: after what I said about my desire to have a substantive blog, I'm going to immediately violate that by writing all about the adventuresome week]

Before I forget, you can view photographs of her adventures here. I gave her my camera and instructions to take pictures, and it worked!

On Monday, she toured around the campus and had a grand time holding our lab's pet tarantula, Murphy, and watching me poke the hissing cockroaches that belong to a neighboring lab. I'd like to think that she admired the cuteness of my ants, too, but I'll let her speak for herself on that matter.

On Tuesday, I had to teach alllllll day, so I sent her off to downtown Phoenix on the light rail, and she visited the Burton Barr Public Library and Phoenix Art Museum, and noted the strange emptiness of downtown Phoenix, where vacant lots neighbor skyscrapers. I have a feeling things will stay that way for some time to come. Tuesday night, we CRAPped and had a grand old time at the Orange Table. It's always fun when I get to hang out, and so hard to choose between staying to hang out and going home so I can go rowing the next morning.

On Wednesday, we rode bikes over to the Desert Botanical Gardens to check out the blooming wildflowers and cacti, which were spectacular. Oh, and there was still that Chihuly stuff up. It was a trifle bit warm, but AKW held up admirably well, and the flowers were great. I think one of my new favorite things is the fact that there are other cacti growing inside of a couple of the huge saguaro cacti.

Wednesday evening, the Scrabble Society came over for dinner (delicious homemade red lentil curry soup and buttermilk rolls) and a travel slideshow of [ profile] trifold_flame's trip to Amsterdam, accompanied by hilarious narration and scrumptious desserts. We then played Scrabble in teams of 2, and AKW and I (but mostly AKW) slaughtered the competition, thanks to a lucky first play (DUSTILY) and subsequent good tiles. Everyone else blamed the soup for their inability to keep up. Heh heh heh.

On Thursday, I had more morning commitments, so AKW went back to downtown Phoenix to check out the Heard Museum, and we eventually met up at Lux to hang out and chat for a while. In the evening, we picked up CSA veggies and some groceries, and made pad thai and went to bed early. After my usual rowing practice with K, AKW met up with us on the beach and we went out for a brief spin. Then it was home for some mesquite pancakes, and then time for AKW to head out.

Right after she left, I went outside to water the plants and discovered that Zeke the Zucchini Plant is already putting out blossoms! Man that thing is enthusiastic. So we might have zucchini sooner rather than later. The kale plants are also almost to an edible size, but meanwhile the birds keep on digging in the lettuce. Jerks.

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And now I bring you various photographs from the Scrabble Society and from pizza-making with K. All of the pictures of food are making me hungry! Last night, we got to try out some miracle fruits, courtesy of D. Those are fruits that make sour foods no longer taste sour. The most remarkable flavor changes for me included white wine and tomatoes. Suddenly, perfectly decent tomatoes tasted..strange...

After the miracle fruit-fest, we finished decorating some Lemon Poppyseed Butterfly Cupcakes, and ate those as well. The lemon curd whipped cream filling was excellent, though the entire process might have been slightly more of a pain in the ass than it was worth.

delicious foods and friends )
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At last, some photographs from Sunday's expedition. One of my friends who really wanted to go with us was in Europe, so in her place I brought along the Jolly Gnome Ornament, turned into an effigy of her.
cut for your bandwidth's pleasure... )

The Bees

Mar. 9th, 2008 04:58 pm
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I think that during the ride I managed to get out most of my need to be self-congratulatory about organizing today's Bike&Hike event, so I'll keep that to a minimum now and just tell you about the craziest part. If I get my act together, I might have a few pictures from the expedition.

Instead, here's the gist of things: we rode our bicycles from downtown Tempe to the trailhead of Cholla Trail (there were even bike racks available, despite the absence of parking!), and then hiked/clambered about 1.5 miles up to the top of Camelback Mountain, where we were treated to a panoramic view of PHX, Scottsdale, and surroundings (suburbia almost as far as the eye could see! Glittering automobiles and swimming pools everywhere!). I think my dad would have enjoyed this urban style of hiking, even though the sound of cars traveling around below didn't diminish as we reached the summit.

At the top, we luncheoned on an incredibly delicious picnic: hummus and carrots, ants on a log, empanadas, beets, tortilla chips, oranges, strawberries, two kinds of cookies, and two kinds of cake. We eat well. There were no other picnickers among our fellow hikers, but we had no shortage of company at the summit--lots of over-fit young adults and a couple of families with kids. D brought along her insect net to try and catch Dipterans (flies) for her entomology class, which inspired remarks that at the summit we should be able to find a lot of hilltopping insects, as well as hilltopping humans (hilltopping is a behavior whereby animals gather at high points to meet up and mate).

Just as we were finishing up our lunch, a large cloud of insects suddenly started to grow on one side of the hill, and someone screamed, "BEES!" It took a moment for us to even realize what was happening: a swarm of Africanized honey bees had appeared on one side of the mountain, then sped up and across the top of the hill, on their way to somewhere. Our gang, nestled underneath a small tree with stuff strewn everywhere slightly off to one side, wasn't quite sure how to react as our fellow hikers all scrambled away from the top of the hill in a state of panic.

Since the bees looked like a swarm, I figured they were probably not as harmful as our fellow hikers imagined, and shouted at people to stay calm as they tried to get out of the way (admittedly, they were still quite terrifying). Then, as quickly as it had appeared, the swarm crested over the top of the hill and was gone, racing onward to some unknown destination. We were left still sitting there, somewhat dumbfounded by the whole event, but managed to recover our appetites, finished our lunch, hiked back down, and rode our bicycles home again.

We are most definitely going to go on more Bike&Hike expeditions in the future, though I hope to never have the same sort of encounter with bees ever again.

Pen Pals

Feb. 1st, 2008 08:55 am
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Through a mentoring program called Futures for Children, I am pen pals with a middle-school-aged Hopi girl. This is the sort of thing I don't talk or write about that much because the most important part of it is our conversations with each other, not with you. But I keep returning to the subject we've discussed in our most recent letters, the difficulty we often have in convincing ourselves to sit down and write to each other. She put it quite simply: usually, after she's finished with her homework, she just doesn't feel like sitting down to write out a letter. I can certainly relate--it's a quiet activity, and I like to be in the right mindset. It's hard to do after a long day of teaching and e-mailing and finagling things at school, so I usually end up writing on weekends when my mind is clear. [This could be an entry about paper journaling as well, though some aspects of the conversation would differ]

So I was left wondering, how do I reply? My role as a mentor is to provide encouragement to this person as she works on her education, but we both see our letter-writing as one more thing on top of so many other things. It also makes me think of my other attempts at letter-writing, some successful, some not. [How do I gauge success? Sustainability? Honest, open communication? A feeling of joy in response to both sending and receiving? Acting not out of guilt but out of intention?]. When I was in grade school, one teacher encouraged us to become pen pals with students in Lithuania, for instance. I think I wrote two or three letters, and then the project basically came to a halt. Lithuania seemed so exotic and far away, and I didn't know what to talk about and lost interest. But I probably still have those letters somewhere. In contrast, my friend C and I exchange letters when we feel like it--I think it helps that she is able to write quite freely and that inspires me to do the same.

I tried to explain at least some of this in my letter to my young friend (it will help if we are ever able to meet, for we aren't really all that far apart, geographically, and then we will have a fuller grasp of each others' personalities). Hopefully my letter will be encouraging for both of us as we learn to be patient with each other. This is the sort of mentoring relationship where I am not interested in producing any particular tangible result--I am most interested in how we learn to tell stories to each other, and learning how to do this telling is pretty important.
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I am composing blog entries in my head, which is never a good way to blog because then what actually comes out when I have a chance to sit in front of a keyboard never even remotely resembles the long, rambling train of thought that passed through my mind and I set myself up for disappointment.

Oh well. On the other hand, that means there's plenty to write about, which may or may not be read by anyone (on NPR they have been talking about how many blogs now exist, and how the vast majority are read only by the writer's mother--though at least in my case we think it's my father more than my mother and I have a vague idea that the rest of you are out there as well). But I jest and thus digress.

I'll ruin punchlining opportunities by starting at the end of yesterday, coming home on the bus at midnight after a wonderful evening with two of my lifelong best friends, CD and AKW. As [ profile] annikusrex knows, when I'm away, I often get to fretting about the meaning of our friendship because it cannot be about day-to-day contact (or sometimes even month-to-month contact). [hell's bells--I overanalyze most things anyway] It's just a part of my nature, but at least I know of it. The beauty of the thing is that this worry becomes inconsequential in the light of a moment standing in the cold at a bus stop, slightly tipsy, saying what comes to mind without fear of judgment or self-censoring and yet managing to have a meaningful conversation as well, about those things that seem to matter in the long run, about our easy and difficult relationships with others.
Ah, my soul says, this is the thing I crave.

But you might also know my yesterday through action; the day prior I pulled out my mother's baby-blue bicycle (I refer to it as the Blue Devil), filled the tires with air, and rode down Boyer and Eastlake to South Lake Union (where I witnessed a SLUT-car--South Lake Union Transit--we have no idea how the acronym became public for it was briskly changed to Seattle Streetcar). Then yesterday I rode over to Fremont (ah, the freedom of a bicycle!), at the north end of Lake Union (ah, geography in orientation to lakes!), to visit a few shops.

The first shop, a rowing clothing store (such a place exists!), was closed for the New Year, so I pressed onwards to Theo Chocolates, where some chocolate sampling occurred (as mentioned yesterday). Now I know perhaps too much about the subtle differences of different chocolates. From there, I rode the Devil up Fremont Avenue and discovered at the top that I was on the wrong side of Aurora for the purposes of heading east, so I circled around and decided to head back down to find a different route.

As I waited at the light at the top of the hill, a car behind me honked and the driver gestured frantically. I couldn't understand his gestures, so I waved flippantly and headed down the hill. Halfway down or so, I discovered why: I had taken off my super-nice biking gloves as I went up because I got overheated so I put them in the basket on the rear rack. Apparently this was disagreeable to the gloves and they were in the midst of hopping out and committing glove suicide when the driver tried and failed to alert me to the situation. So then I had to head all the way back up the hill and retrace my most roundabout route in search of the glove that got away. Fortunately I found it again, and so then I was able to make my way over to check out Trophy Cupcakes in Wallingford (CD says she prefers it to Cupcake Royale and so of course I had to make my own comparison).

What I realized was this: after a certain point, there's no point in deciding who makes the better cupcake--the one at Trophy was perfectly acceptable and delicious, as are the ones at Cupcake Royale (though both shops had run out of cupcakes by the end of the day yesterday). I have other words for the differences in interior decorating (Trophy=too much baby blue, whereas CR=pleasantly brown with pink accents), but it's nice to know that it isn't necessary to distinguish the one and only best of the best.

And as one of my favorite storytellers would say (Johnny Moses), and that is all.
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Clearly, the trip over the weekend was wonderful, and yet it was one of those times when I really wanted to be enrapt but just wasn't. The landscape was beautiful, the company entertaining, and I love to ride my bike, but I didn't feel subsumed in the experience or the place. I talked to D about this deadened feeling a bit yesterday and the fact that she could relate to this experience was comforting--she has such a good emotional perspective (you do, D, you do).

Beyond that, I could recite for you a narrative of events, or a list of facts and figures, but reading text on the internet isn't the same thing as stepping outside, strapping stuff on a bike, and going, going, going.

The other thing that really stuck in my mind was conversations with one of my traveling companions, P. I should back up for a moment and mention my connections to the entirety of the group, because it was not a gang of the usual suspects. Well, one suspect was kind of usual, a grad student with a professed love of bikes and interest in touring. The other three are people who I have gotten to know through biking in various formats (the co-op, bike rides, biking-related events, bike shops)--it seems that K is right that like-minded people end up eventually finding each other here, whether through usual or unusual channels.

Anyway, one of the other riders is a "ships in the night" sort of person for me--even when we are in the same space, we can't quite talk to each other in a straightforward way, but look past each other and see mostly ourselves. I wouldn't ever expect to be able to really talk and don't necessarily want to be able to, but this slippery quality makes me think of other people with whom I've had transient connections but who have nonetheless had a disproportionate impact on me. In the present case, our infrequent contact and conversations give us interesting perspectives on each other. The previous time I had talked to him he said he was quite pleased with how his life was going, what with a switch to a new, stable job, and that he wasn't really looking to date anyone or make any drastic changes to his life--things were good. Subsequently, of course, he proceeded to start dating another biker, which is another great thing for him, and on the present trip he could not contain his joy about having a job that lets him do what he loves, a great girlfriend, and opportunities to do incredible things like go bike touring for a weekend through beautiful country.

As a transient outsider, I couldn't help but agree--his life does sound like it's going well. Yet something about the conversation bothered me, but not in any way I could articulate to him or myself (I don't really have to articulate the bother to him, but to myself, I must always articulate). I thought of my own life, which is also going well by many such standards--I do like the emotional rollercoaster of my academic profession, I have the opportunity to do the many things I love (rowing, biking, Scrabble, etc.), and I am surrounded by loved ones.

And yet--it is the "and yet" in my brain that makes me wonder and that reminded me of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (read the entry for both definitions and criticisms--even if incorrect, the concept has utility). All of the things that he has described and that I have described for myself fill our basic human needs for a sense of security and even more "advanced" needs like a feeling of participating in a larger context and making a positive contribution to society. At least for me, though, there's no way for me to stop striving and seeking out more, more, more, and I don't mean the material more or the social more or the artistic more. I just mean the beyond. I could tell you that I accept this truth of myself, but I don't, always. Right now I think the "more" lies in a need for a connection to the land (is this "more" merely the restlessness described by Berry?), but I don't know for sure until I try the thing out.

Last night I went on another bike ride with a larger group of people--since it's a week before a major Christian holiday, we decked ourselves out in festive colors and played Christmas carols as we rode through the neighborhoods. I attached dangly snowflakes to my handlebars, where they twirled in the wind, and hung a Jolly Gnome Ornament from my saddle. In the darkness, riding my bike felt safely dangerous and fast, and as always the lights on the sleeping lake drew me in as we rode alongside.
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I am sure I am far from alone in spending time considering how I am connected with those around me, especially as I continue to think about how blogging and inter"networking" tools and other efforts fit in to the picture (Do I call? Do I write?). The most recent XKCD is appropriate for considering this subject:

A brief passage from The Gift of Good Land has also been floating around in my mind. I'll put it here, with halfhearted apologies to those who might have preferred to encounter it on their own (though I find it equally interesting that I cannot read this book without feeling compelled to talk about it straightaway--I'm reminded of Breaking the Spell).

The second chapter is begun with a visit to Gary Nabhan in the Southwest, where Berry attends a Hunger Conference (o his commentary on academics hits a sensitive mark) and learns about the agricultural methods of the Papago Indians:

Like other traditional regional cultures, wherever they have come into confrontation with industrial economies, the ancient culture of the Papago is on the wane. It has been on the wane through most of this century. Whatever one may think of the opinion of the expert at the Hunger Conference, there is a conflict between the operations of a cash economy and traditional, local systems of agriculture. It is easier to buy your food than to grow it. It is hard to persuade a community to grow its own food once it has become available for purchase--provided that money is somehow available. It is easier to drink soft drinks and throw the containers out the window than to practice the difficult disciplines of health and frugality.*

And so the society of abundance becomes dependent on a society of scarcity, consuming exhaustible resources as rapidly as possible in the conventional American Way, and leaning on the fragile props of inflated cash and government programs. And so the intricate, delicate culture so responsive to the needs of desert life is gradually replaced in the mind by modern restlessness and the desire to shop. And so the body loses its resilience and strength as its purchased diet is converted to fat.

* In a healthy culture, of course, personal health and frugality would not be difficult--they would not be perceived as "disciplines." They become difficult when disease and waste become normal.


Yesterday was an exercise in place and community: I rode my bicycle to the croissant shop with [ profile] faisdodo and [ profile] trywhy (it has existed for 22 years!), and then ventured onward to South Mountain to meet up with R and J and company--newish biking friends. We luncheoned on bread and wine and cheese at Dobbins Point, which overlooks Phoenix and the surrounding areas. Even after Friday and Saturday's rains, a low brown cloud lingered over the vast spread of suburb. I couldn't help but think of how much this place is awash in sprawled loneliness. Then we whooshed down the mountain and homeward.

In the afternoon, I visited the Tempe Festival of the Arts. So did a lot of other people who might have attended on Friday or Saturday instead if it weren't for the rain. I saw several rowing (/biking) friends who I do not ordinarily encounter, which was good in small ways. The "art" ranged from good to bad to hideously tacky, yet it was generally good to see people who have poured their livelihoods into such things, be it metalworking or finding water-polished glass or painstakingly painting in every detail on coins (so silly). There is an earnestness to such endeavors, even if we're left wondering to what end.

In the evening, I attended a neighborhood association meeting to discuss traffic calming plans for my neighborhood. I was easily the youngest person in a room full of my grey-haired neighbors. I'm tempted to always project my sense of impermanence about living in this place, but my actions belie this sensation, especially as I learn more about this place and remember to be grateful for things like the ability to ride my bicycle and row the entire year-round. (I am drawn northward--am I drawn northward?)

Then I dined with school friends and felt the familiar awkwardness of socializing without saying anything meaningful. At last, I slept.
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Last night the Executive Committee of the Tempe Bicycle Action Group met to discuss plans for the future. I'm not a member of the committee, but they have kindly asked me to provide input for some reason (heh). As a result, I've got bicycles on the brain again--I'm planning to lead a laid-back ride to a cupcake shop in about a week, for those interested in biking and who want to learn more about area biking resources and how to ride in groups. On top of that, I'm trying to plant the seed to get a Bicycle Master Plan started in Tempe. All the cool towns have one, but if Tempe has one, nobody knows about it (see, for instance, the results of this search). It's going to be interesting to try to develop this thing because it could be a pretty massive undertaking. At the same time, if this city keeps trying to sell itself as a Bicycle-Friendly City, a Master Plan's kind of necessary, don't you think?

I've also continued to talk to a few interested parties about ideas for my biker's guide to Phoenix. The mapping situation is still a bit vexing because of software issues (my copy of Illustrator doesn't seem to like the fonts used for the map). I may have to find other computers to work on to complete the project the right way. But altogether I think it might actually come together relatively quickly, which is exciting. I might make a few extra copies at cost if anyone is interested.

Yesterday I also began to read a new book, this time not about food. I'm returning to the writings of Simone de Beauvoir, and in particular the novel She Came to Stay. Starting this book reminds me of when I first began to read Virginia Woolf's novels and was utterly captivated by her writing style. All of a sudden the internal universe took on new meaning and strength. I must admit there's some relief in balancing out the mundane and factual with narrative. I need reflection to counterbalance action.

Last night, I had a most beautiful dream about two of the people who mean the most to me, my sister [ profile] sytharin and [ profile] annikusrex. I haven't seen or spoken to either of them in months and in my blacker moods I frequently doubt the strength of our connection, except that we're family and the connection undulates through decades of our lives. Besides, the importance of a relationship doesn't necessarily relate to how frequently one interacts at a single point in time. I hesitate to draw much meaning from dreams, except to think they're my mind's way of finding comfort for me when the day's work seems to be a struggle. I'm looking forward to seeing friends and family soon--ahh, but two months isn't soon.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I tell ya, when I'm feeling ho-hum about life, nothing is quite as cheering as getting to spend my Wednesday evening playing Scrabble with some of the most amazing people I know (and getting to pet their doggies). I really appreciate the moments when I remember to look around and realize that it's a privilege to have such great friends. My cat, on the other hand, is still a little bit suspicious of the dogs, which is pretty much hilarious--I just got carefully sniffed-over to check for dog cooties, and the angle of her tail indicates mild annoyance at the inconvenience of such guests.


Sep. 21st, 2007 07:26 am
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I love when moments of indecision pass and I find I've made the right choices. For instance, I had to decide whether or not to go rowing this morning. I was feeling a bit worn out by the middle of yesterday afternoon, so I wasn't sure if I could make it, so K and I decided to check in in the morning before heading over to the boathouse. Of course, she accidentally set her clock an hour ahead, so she called me at 3:15 instead of 4:15, but I felt like I could risk it and row.

And I'm so glad we did--we had made some adjustments to the boat on Wednesday (for those interested in the technicalities, she was rowing a lot shorter than I was--her oar angle at the catch wasn't as great as mine, so we ended up moving her rigger towards the bow one notch). So we needed to test things out this morning. The adjustments made a big difference, and by the end of the row we were able to take a few power strokes that felt strong, connected, and relaxed. I have greatly missed these mornings, and I'm so glad I have many more of them to look forward to. It was one of those, "Oh yeah, THAT's why we row!" mornings.

Similarly, I finally got to hang out with [ profile] crume at Plaid Eatery yesterday--I'd had to cancel plans earlier because of The Mono, but yet again I was reminded of how refreshing it can be to spend time with friends who are outside of the small sphere at school.

Anyway. Time to teach. Hopefully my energy will hold out.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Already this has been an unexpected, eventful weekend.

lengthy, but a recounting worthy of remembrance )
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
I have been thinking about my heritage quite a bit recently, inspired by conversations with both [ profile] figment80 and J, both of whom seem to be struggling to come to terms with the ideals and lifestyles they have inherited from their parents. [ profile] figment80 pointed out that we are all very lucky to be in situations where we have the time and space to reflect on our upbringings, because we are in school and aren't trying to reflect and reinvent on top of having kids and raising families, activities that leave little space for thinking.

Probably the most interesting piece of this has do to with figuring out what we each appreciate from how we were raised, versus what things we seek to do differently. My impression from my parents is that my father is a very different person from his parents, and that when he was around my age he had a series of revelatory experiences that strongly shaped his lifestyle to be distinctly different from the lifestyle he grew up with. Oh, there are still many hints of his upbringing, but I think he, too, had to sit down and consider what things to hold on to, and what things to change. I believe that [ profile] figment80 is also going through a sorting, an inventory, and one that is made quite challenging by the pace of her family's interactions and situations. Likewise, J talks a lot about how his family interacts (or fails to interact), and how he is thus trying to deal with his relationship with his family. Half of the time, the small, simple things that I do are novel revelations to him--gardening, for example.

Really, the most amazing aspect of all of this is that as I get older, I've come to appreciate so many more of the aspects of the way I was raised by my parents, and rather than trying to change many of those aspects, I instead get to learn to celebrate them. As a simple example, I grew up in a household without (much) television (we did have a TV with the bunny-ears broken off that got 1 or 2 channels, but we were discouraged from watching it). As a kid, it was one of the worst possible forms of deprivation--oh how we suffered! We had to read books instead, or go outside and play in the yard. The horrors! Whenever acquaintances would have conversations about the lives of popular TV characters (which is way more often than you think, and very boring for the uninformed), I would be completely and unhappily left out of the loop--I never knew that line from the Simpsons or that episode of Friends. But now that I live by myself again, without a TV, I don't miss it a single bit. There are so many other things to see and do, and I'd rather read a book or pet my cat or have a conversation than sit in front of a glowing box and have my life hijacked by its flashing lights and sounds.

This is the greatest gift of all that my parents have given to me--a heritage that feels right and that I want to celebrate and share with others. My friends' struggles reveal to me all the more strongly what an incredible gift this is. I just hope that with the strength of living a life that feels authentic and right I can also continue to support them in finding the life that is right for them as well.


May. 29th, 2007 08:32 am
rebeccmeister: (Default)
There's a book review in today's Christian Science Monitor of a book entitled Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, by Bill McKibben (full review here). From the review, I would guess that this book falls in line with a fair amount of my thinking, although I don't know how McKibben's authority to speak on the matter compares to my own. One excerpt from the book that is quoted in the review stands out: "The key questions will change from whether the economy produces more or less to whether it builds or undermines community - for community, it turns out, is the key to physical survival in our environmental predicament and also to human satisfaction."

Sometimes I feel like community-building is one of the most important things I can do with my life, whether that community consists of getting a group of friends together to play Scrabble or ride bikes or what-have-you. The last time I had friends over for tea, one of my friends noticed that I re-use plastic bags and said she does the same thing. Re-using plastic bags has not seemed to be a typical behavior around here, and in the past when I've had housemates I have been hesitant to do so. So it was nice to be able to talk about it and feel encouraged to keep it up (my father may recall that I used to *hate* washing plastic bags when I was younger because when I hang them up to dry, dishwater rolls down to my elbows irritatingly). The funniest part was that once J said something, another one of my friends piped up and said she also re-uses plastic bags. No wonder they're my friends!

It is also a hundred times easier to change one's behavior in any respect if one has the support of one's community. Sure, I know that I should eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, but it's so much easier to start eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies when my friends and I talk about good foods and where to get good produce. Also, as it turns out, I think I'll be joining a community-supported agriculture group very soon, so once again my community will be an important part of a positive lifestyle change. My friend K said she has found that her CSA has made life here seem so much more bearable--the woman who runs it has the lucky job of giving other people good food and a sense of community.


May. 20th, 2007 09:22 pm
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
I cannot fully describe to you how wonderful it is to have a group of friends where we can tell incoherent, rambling stories, or stories of embarrassing things we have done in the past, and then we all collectively feel better about ourselves because we are awesome. I actually think this process has to do with the idea of personal narratives that I have talked about before. It's very nice to write out such stories in the dark chasm of the blogosphere, but it's even nicer to tell them in person (even if in the process I get really mixed up about people and declare that certain persons are more interesting than they claim to be).

Oh, and to have friends whose idea of a great time is going out in the back yard to scrounge around on all fours looking for jumping spiders. I cannot think of a more splendid way to spend Sunday afternoon.

[ profile] trifold_flame and I also tried out the cupcake stencils for the second time and had decent success. Unfortunately, my camera is in the lab for taking pictures of leafcutter ants, so I cannot post any new cupcake photos until tomorrow at the earliest. So sad.

And that is all.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Instead of going on a long bike ride this morning, I decided to do some chores and run errands. I'm not finished yet, so I don't have a final mileage tally, but already there has been much excitement and intrigue. I stopped off at REI first, to drop off an entry packet for a local regatta. While I was there, I bumped into M, with whom I used to tutor. He and a friend are biking across the state of Arizona next week. I'm just a touch jealous. But ah well.

Then I tried to visit the fabric store that I have resigned myself to patronizing, but it had gone out of business. Now I'm at a complete and utter loss as to where to buy fabric. So I headed onward to my third destination, the grocery store. At the grocery store I ran into a friend-of-a-friend from Seattle, E, who had moved to Idaho and who I figured I'd never ever see again. Talk about a strange place to bump into someone! It was a happy coincidence, because she and her girlfriend were stopping over quite briefly after spending time rafting down the Grand Canyon. She, too, misses the northwest (by northwest, we mean the rainy part of the state), but has plans to go on a world tour before deciding if she'll relocate back home. She didn't know I lived in Arizona and I think she was surprised to learn that I've lived here for four years by now. Incredible. Her eyes kind of goggled out of her head when I told her I was studying ants. Quite funny.

It was just so unexpected, but at the same time fantastic to see her. She's the kind of person who can never hide in a crowd because she's really really tall and is one of the most creative, funky dressers I know. She's definitely at the top of my list of the coolest people on the planet.

Well, now it's time to head over to the hardware store. It's getting hot--over 100 degrees--so it'll be an interesting expedition. My brains are partially baked already, so I'm drinking as much water as I can stand to drink.


rebeccmeister: (Default)

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