Saturday, September 20, 2008

attending an Obama silk-screening happy hour

Colored T's against the sun...
silk-screened Obama prints drying on the line.
Friendly people interested in meeting other people. United by a common purpose for being here, 6-8 friday evening at my friend Theresa's house. Theresa introduced me to some of her friends. She herself was kept busy taking the shirts, pillowcases, cute baby t's, towels, even car sun visor things (clever), and applying image.

I met a wife from Quebec and her husband from Minnesota. Both have lived in Austin for 20 years and one of their sons attends UT. Maria still has a thick French-Canadian accent. (Reminds me of my dad's family - also french-canadian.) I met their friend, Audrey, whose daughter goes to UT. We sat at one of the picnic tables in the back yard. The yard was filled with people of all ages and cultures by 7. Talking, listening, exchanging trust. 

Audrey wanted to know when I figured out what I wanted to do. Assuming I knew because of where I am or what I've done. "Even though I've always been pretty focused, the focus changes," I said, then explained how I started out at a liberal arts college majoring in equine science. We end up talking about horses for a little bit. Turns out her daughter rides at a local stable and maybe I would like to go with her sometime? 

Now I was curious. When did she figure out what she wanted to do? "I still don't know what I'm interested in. That's why I was asking you. I was jealous because you seem like you know," Audrey said. She went on to tell about a friend who knew he wanted to be an ornothologist since age ten, how he became one and has stayed on that track, how he is one of the happiest people she knows. His advice during an interview was to do whatever makes you happy. Audrey says this is a wonderful ideal, but what if what makes you happy doesn't pay the bills? "If you aren't financially secure, you're not going to be all that happy. Mother Theresa was not that happy," Audrey contemplated. I find out that she and her husband own a software company. They are financially secure. But Audrey has never done what she interests her and she wants to find out now. 

Looking back at this thoughtful, candid conversation with a stranger, I recall a quote by Indian philosopher and former UT teacher, Raja Rao, that, "Peace is sustained happiness." 

Yesterday before the Obama silk-screening, I stopped by the graduate student assembly happy hour at Hole in the Wall. I never knew these events existed. I almost did not go, but then I thought I should just make myself talk to new people. Mostly, there were communications masters students there. Also, mostly, there were first year grad students. Mostly surface conversations, no real connections. About to leave. And then I learn that the guy across from me grew up in Israel. He is here studying engineering. He seems like he really needs to talk about a recent feud with his brother, who is back in Israel. Daren openly admits his intense dislike for his brother. Then, he starts talking about his interests in sustainable building and civil engineering and philosophy. I tell him he should read "Cradle to Cradle" and he writes the title down. The topic of money comes up in this conversation too...maybe he would be a philosopher if he could make a living from it, he says. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Where do they lead?

I only noticed the house because I saw some stone steps coming out to meet the street and I wondered where they went. 

Leafy trees, vines, unkempt underbrush camouflage a structure hiding back there. Vines intertwine along unassuming stones. Multiple glass windows mirror branches and hide the inside from my eyes. The place seems even more magical because I found it on a quiet, less-traveled road, a street that runs behind, and parallel to, Pease Park. 

The steps look undisturbed, so where is the driveway? Are there residents in this home? I walk back the way I came, spotting the driveway then. Wandering up a little, I can see the house from a new angle. The American flag juts out from the side and I register disappointment at its placement, or, rather, out of placement with the cottage, that a moment ago, could have existed quite well in England. At least a pirate's flag would have stirred my curiosity and matched the quirkiness. And a green Brazilian flag would have complimented the scenery. Not only did the American flag's colors clash, but, more than that, the symbol the flag...Not freedom anymore, exactly. sadly. The way the flag is used and by whom...
Not always of course, but more than enough.
Still an interesting discovery that made me stop.

thoughts on play dough and beyond

No more thoughts that cause tension in my back. I have the power to shut them off like the flick of a light switch. Remembering to flick the switch is the challenge, but I am more aware of these thoughts now. Negative thoughts are sneaky and harmful. Any worry, anxiety, annoyance of mind shows up in a sore lower back. At first I used to think back stiffness came from sitting at the computer too long, and soreness can definitely be agitated by that. However, I sat most of my eight hour workdays mon-thurs in Santa Fe sans back ache because positive thoughts came easy in that place and so did kindness to myself. 

Negative thinking doesn't need much encouragement to grow. I find that all this construction around or people having a long, noisy conversation in the lab on their cell phone can switch my mood if I don't make a conscious effort to just stop resisting and start accepting. Some where I read, (maybe in "A New Earth,") that it helps to think of annoyances as passing through yourself and moving on rather than getting damned up and hitting a wall of resistance.

It is a gift to be an environment in which positive thinking seems effortless. On the other hand, an environment is just an extension of my state of mind about it.

1) The grass was cushy comfortable on my sandals, as I walked across to library.
2) I noticed a couple lying on the grass, eyes closed, heads supported in hands, enjoying sunshine together.
3) Vegan coconut macaroon cookies made by the alternative baking company are yummy and, as their package states, "wonderfully addictive"
4) A children's book illustrator I met in Santa Fe told me about "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" and I found the book in the library!
5) Students were talking excitedly about upcoming shows...many great options.
6) Riding home in the dark was fast and refreshing
7) When I walked out of the art building at 9pm, boys were taking turns jumping off the wall beside the increasingly higher heights. A girl was taking pictures of their falls with amusement.
8) Play dough smells good. Reminds me of squeezing spagetti as a kid.
9) I like Wei's sculpture made from play dough that does not look like play dough anymore.
10) The house is quiet and cool.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

sometimes burnt out lightbulbs help you see better

I like our downstairs bathroom. I happened to notice the loo more today since our kitchen bulb burnt out and I had to use the bathroom light to find my way. I've grown accustomed to the house so I guess I don't notice the details on a daily basis. Our whole house in general has that vintage, old charm. Floral wall paper and wood panel covering circa 1930's. The house was built in 1937. Susan's lived here 30 years! I recently showed a friend the interior and she said she felt she was stepping back in time. She asked me if there were any ghosts. As if I would know that. I don't feel any, I told her. The house has a good vibe in my opinion. 

Anyway, back to the bathroom and what I like about it. The tiled, robyn-egg blue walls rise twelve feet to the ceiling. The height serves to create a space more vertical than horizontal. The floor area contains just enough room for toilet and porcelain sink. Metalic silver embelishes where wall corner meets corner. I twist an antique silver door handle to close the space. Everything is worn and could use some tlc. Nothing new, polished, or at all modern. Yet classic. And I have to say, full of stories. I would love to time travel and see it brand new.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lucy and Conner at Freddie's

Went to Freddie's last night for the first time with a few friends I hadn't seen in 4 months time. We decided on Freddie's partly because you can bring your dogs and sit outside. Lots of stimulation for the dogs, maybe too much. Kids on trees, every table full, a band on stage.

So, Meredith brought her dog Conner and I learned a new breed. Conner is a Belgian Turveran, sometimes called a Belgian Shepherd. Had I not known he was a purebred something or other, I would have guessed collie/shepherd. He also looks a bit fox. Collie shaped head, long nose and fur.  Fox-like tale and soft little ears. A statuesque shepherd body and the ability to bark deeply and threatenly even when he doesn't mean any harm.

I miss my family's dogs, so I always enjoy hanging out with other people's pets. Lindsey brought her black, short haired dachshund, Lucy. Conner and Lucy are best friends despite their size difference.

A long-haired dachshund walks by on a leash. Lucy goes over to say hi, but abruptly runs a way scared, causing laughter from both owners. Conner barks, prompting Meredith to say, "Its like having a child that screams at other children."