Sunday, February 5, 2017

Treasures and Trash

My mom had 3 prized possessions when I was a kid:

1. Her sewing scissors. There were a few pairs of gray-handled scissors around the house somewhere that we could use for paper, but the orange-handled sewing scissors were an utterly sacred object consecrated for use on fabric only. To this day, I have lingering suspicions that any failure to respect the ordained purpose of those scissors was punishable by death.

2. Her Pyrex glass measuring cup. Based on the way my mom revered this object, and the way that she always referred to it by its full name ("Kids, have you seen my Pyrex glass measuring cup?"..."I'm going to make cookies. Get out the Pyrex glass measuring cup."), I honestly believed that Pyrex glass measuring cups were incredibly rare and mind-blowingly expensive. Imagine my surprise when I later realized you could buy them at the grocery store for about $3 bucks each.

Once, while washing dishes, the treasured Pyrex glass measuring cup slipped out of my hand. I watched it as it fell, in slow motion, on a crash-course with the countertop. Panicked for my life, I used my catlike reflexes in even-slower-motion, lunging my hand down to catch it. Sadly, the glass shattered first and my hand arrived second, so instead of heroically catching the measuring cup I gave a high-speed karate chop to the broken glass shards instead. This left me with a nasty bloody cut at the base of my finger that became a pretty gnarly scar. To this day, I have lingering suspicions that mom thought my near-dismemberment was barely-adequate punishment for breaking her Pyrex glass measuring cup.
This 2-inch scar near the base of my pinky
is a testament to my failure. Forever.
3. Her Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. You know the one: Hefty, three-ring bound, with the red-checkered gingham pattern on the hardcover. Much like the measuring cup, we were trained to believe that this cookbook was dang near priceless; likely costing several years' salary to purchase.
The owner of this bookshelf is clearly a billionaire.
When using the cookbook, it had to be kept in a clean zone on a separate table, all the way across the room from the countertop/ingredients/mixing bowls. You had to wash your hands before you could make a pilgrimage over to consult the book. You had to put the book away in its dedicated place in a clean dry cabinet when you were done. You dreamed of growing up and being blessed enough to have a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook of your very own someday.

Fast forward to today, when I saw this as I walked past the dumpster on my way from the apartment parking lot to the building entrance:

It was just laying there on the ground.
In the rain.
Next to the trash.
Right then, I had one of those moments of profound respect for my mother -- the many many things she's lived without, the emphasis she's always placed on taking care of her treasures, and the fact that her worldly treasures are such simple practical things.
I stopped what I was doing and brought this book inside. Warmed it up, dried it out, and gave it a dedicated place in a nice clean cabinet.

...Maybe that act of kindness will karmically make up for the time I secretly used her sewing scissors on a paper mâché art project. (Don't tell my mom about that, okay?) 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Highest Highs and Deepest Depths of Getting Married

Omar and I met in 2013 and hit it off right away as friends. By about a year later, we were dating; tackling all the obstacles of work and long distance and whatever else life threw at us.

He proposed in June 2016 in Denali National Park at the base of Polychrome Glacier after a rainstorm that threatened to strand us on an isolated mountainside.

Both of us felt strongly about keeping the wedding small, having it somewhere brimming with natural beauty, and making it more about love and life's big adventures rather than having an expensive, stressful, commercialized, standard gigantic wedding.
We decided to get married at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Arizona is my home state, plus Omar had never even seen it, and ultimately it seemed like a good chance to make some big memories.

On 9/21/16, we hiked into the canyon with 8 of our closest friends. It's about 7 miles down the South Kaiabab Trail. Thanks to the inland remnants of Tropical Storm Paine, we got to enjoy a rare atmospheric inversion that put a blue sky overhead but a dense layer of fog and clouds down into the canyon. Not exactly the view you imagine when you imagine the Grand Canyon!

Over the course of the hike, the clouds cleared but the weather stayed nice and cool.

We set up camp that night along Bright Angel Creek.

On 9/22/16, we hiked through sun and clouds and pouring rain, 12 miles round-trip, over bridges and more bridges and boulders and one last extremely sketchy bridge to reach Ribbon Falls. 

There's a path to hike up behind the waterfall itself.

One of Omar's oldest and best friends, Jamin Greenbaum, officiated our wedding ceremony there on the red rocks next to the splashing falls.


For us, it was perfect.


That night, we camped at Bright Angel again.
On 9/23/16, we split into groups for fast hikers, relaxed hikers, and oh-my-whole-body-hurts-why-am-I-doing-this hikers, and took on the 9.3 mile hike (4,500ft elevation gain) back up to the rim.


The next morning, we greeted the beautiful pink dawn at Horseshoe Bend.

Later that day, we braved an open-air caravan ride out to Antelope Canyon

for a walk through the most awe-inspiring quarter mile slot canyon I ever could have imagined.


We wrapped up that evening having dinner with my parents and oldest sister, Beth, who drove to Flagstaff to meet up with us. Per usual quirky family custom, Mom gave us a quilt and Dad gave us a firearm.
It's like a work of art. I call it "El Suegro Barbudo y Escopeta."
I'm so grateful for the twists and turns and challenging trails that led our lives to this point, and for the family and friends who support the next amazing chapter of our lives together. Literally and figuratively, it's been a long hard hike.

Here's to happily ever after!


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Classy art: Everyone's a critic

I live less than a block away from a sweet little art museum that houses a grand gallery of classic and contemporary art in their permanent collection, plus two theaters for multi-media installations, and a gallery that features collections on loan.
Currently, the Frye Art Museum is showing paintings by a Danish artist from the early 1900's named Vilhelm Hammershøi. His claim to fame was that he painted fairly stark interiors of his own house, using a very limited and muted color palate, while focusing on light and lines.
I took a veeeerrry slow walk through the exhibit, and a veeeeeeerrrrrry long look at each painting, because that's what I've inferred you're supposed to do when appreciating fine art. I didn't want to accidentally not appreciate something, and thereby be exposed as a fraud in front of all the legitimately classy gallery patrons. (Also, I think I really do like his work.)
It was that very slow walk and that very long look that led me to realize this painting may as well have been precisely designed to drive me crazy:

Do you see it?
It has been gnawing at me ever since I noticed it. 
Did he do that out of inattention?
Or did he do it on purpose as some sort of quietly sadistic artist joke?
Why, Hammershøi? Why?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Strangers on a Plane

On the very same flight that I nearly missed but somehow caught, I sat next to a middle-aged man named Jim from Huntsville, AL.
I'm an introvert, and my usual airplane etiquette is to board the plane, sleep or read quietly, get off the plane when it lands. At all costs, avoid setting off a chatterbox seatmate. But for whatever reason (probably my profound relief at having caught the plane), I said 'hi' to Jim when I sat down next to him. Thus ensued an extremely good conversation with a total stranger, which I'm a better person for having been a part of.

Jim grew up on a hundred acres in rural Ohio. His best early memory is laying on the grass next to a farm pond, his head resting on the side of his trusty dog like a pillow, one hand cradling a bucket of turtles he had caught, staring up at the clouds in the sky and realizing that life is pretty great.

He has hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim three times. He has made a point of traveling before he's too old to really enjoy it. He remembers getting his first pair of glasses when he was in 2nd grade, and suddenly realizing the beauty of seeing blades of grass, veins within the leaves on trees, sunlight glinting off of a single strand of hair, flecks of color in another person's eyes; realizing the importance of not just looking at the world but really seeing it. Realizing the importance of not just being alive, but really living it.

But the best thing I brought away from the conversation with him was a story on perspective and maturity:
Jim lives in a neighborhood toward the north end of town. Every day, he'd approach an intersection from the southwest, reach the light, then turn right onto a winding street to reach his house. He'd never come at that light from the northeast end of the intersection.

One night, he reached the intersection, stopped at the red light, then proceeded to make a legal right turn on the red light. At the very same time, a car from the other direction cruised through the intersection making a left turn and nearly ran into him. Jim hit the brakes, let the left-turner go ahead of him, but then (with what he described as "the passive-aggressive quasi-road-rage of a self-righteous 30-year-old testosterone-fueled caveman") he pulled right behind the other car and flashed his headlights and flipped the guy his middle finger.

The other car pulled to the side of the road and waved Jim to pass. As Jim pulled past, he rolled down his window and chewed out the other driver for running a red light, making an illegal left turn, and nearly getting them both into an accident. The other driver just listened, politely apologized "You're right. I'm sorry. You go ahead."  Jim drove on, feeling pretty dang good about his righteous indignation and traffic smarts.

A few weeks later, he had to run an errand on the outskirts of town. On the way back, he found himself coming up to that same intersection, this time from the northeast side of it. Just as he pulled up to the intersection, he saw that the oncoming traffic (the side he'd normally be coming from) was stopped for a red light. But his light on this side was a green arrow to allow left turns.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in knowing we're right, we don't realize that someone else from another perspective might also be right, or that we could be frankly wrong without realizing it.

Sometimes, even when we know we're correct, maturity means letting the battle go un-fought. Listening, staying polite, and letting the angry irrational person drive on by.  Not every time, since certain things are absolutely worth standing up for, but sometimes.