Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Seattle Central Library

My friend Rebecca and her husband Michael decided to go away for a sweet little vacation and their regular cat/housesitter wasn't available. Yay for me that the timing almost perfectly matches Karjam's days off here at the end of the year. Although we'll miss dad and Irene's New Year's Eve party on Lopez, I'm just so happy to get out of our usual routine!

Rebecca and Michael's cats, Bandit and Cleo, are indoor but social and semi-social housecats. They appreciate a good pat and are used to being talked to-- and they're totally gorgeous examples of regal cat-hood. We arrived on the evening of the 27th to get oriented before Rebecca and Michael left, although when we arrived I wasn't feeling well and K had to get most of the instructions by himself.

For our budget Seattle experience on the first day (the 28th) we headed to the Seattle Central Library. All photos below are from the Push Button Dummy Camera, I don't even have the cord for my good camera with me.
Waiting for the Bus
The library is an architectural landmark and prize of the city, plus, of course, full of great book collections. Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus were the architects. Karjam doesn't care much about the names of architects, but he loves taking photos of and checking out cool buildings. We started at the tenth floor (where the best views are) and proceeded down through each floor to the street level. It was really impressive- lots of good spots for reading, desks to sit and compute at, all very inviting. Plus cool views, a feeling of space, and the fun floor where everything is painted red/hot pink.



My Favorite Sci-Fi Author

Outside while I was framing an ultra-wide shot on my good camera I got a sudden surprise. Amanda Hardeman, a good friend from my undergraduate at COA and former roommate back when I lived in Seattle in the early 90s, approached us. She looked exactly the same, although she pointed out some lines, they only accentuated how much time she spends laughing and smiling. I figure I was meant to see her, running into her on the street like that!

Cool Tree

K and I walked to the International District (lots more photos and building ogling on the way). We went to Uwajimaya where I ate lunch, then we looked elsewhere for a restaurant for Karjam that would have real Chinese style beef-noodle soup. But (and I told him this could happen) he got a bowl of noodle soup so disappointing that when we returned to Uwajimaya he had an entire other meal, there. We bought several items to prepare while we're in Seattle, and plan to go back with the truck on our way out of town to really stock up.

Back at the house we relaxed and did some computer work before I made a dinner that K was much in favor of-- perhaps principally because I had brought his favorite condiment from home.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


I was in track in high school and I really loved it. I didn't have much instruction (sorry Mr. Adams, but you had too many of us and were learning as you went), and we only had a 200 meter burned circle in the grass instead of a track to practice on, but I loved it. I ran both high and low hurdles and tried other events with less success. In low hurdles (300 m) I was a serious competitor. But starting with various crashes involving hurdles I started to have intense knee issues. By the time I was 17 and in college I didn't run anymore. By my 30s I would have knee pain sometimes for months at a time that followed me when I was walking, sitting, or doing whatever other activity without fail. It wasn't usually that severe, but I did get frequent acupuncture, always helpful for a week or more, while I was in Korea.

Yet somehow (and I thank in large part Jason Tsou, my amazing Taiji instructor in LA) over the past couple years I've been pain free almost all the time. Jason identified that my issue was with my meniscus, and that fluid from my knee cap has been pooling behind my knees causing my knee pain. Free of pain and bored of riding my bike on the same roads every day, I started running again, at first just a little bit, carefully, sure I would start hurting again at any point. My first seven runs (over the course of about 5 weeks) I stopped at two miles, just to see if I flared up. Now I'm increasing the speed, frequency and distance of my runs. I like the feeling of running. I like knowing I can go for a run and not need to stop to gasp for air.
 Running on a sunny half day (a couple weeks ago)

I went running again yesterday (Christmas Day)-- it was a classic run like Faith and I would have gone on as kids, through the woods, down iffy-trails, skirting quickly past homes of people who may or may not think it was okay for me to be running through their land. It was dusk and magically silent. I was getting closer to home and realized I was not on track to exceed 3 miles (goal for the day) so I ran down a path that connected to Phil Hastin's driveway, past the house he died in, then into the cow pasture beyond. I worried that the large black cows might include a bull who likes chasing strangers out of his field, but ran past anyway, lengthening my stride in crazy jerks to avoid holes full of water (I did end up with one wet foot) as I charged across the field. Hopping a fence I ran up the mucky driveway to Leslie's horse-field before I got back to the road.
Boggy path through woods

Wet driveway

Saw this owl and he sat quietly for my photo

Me with the moon in the background

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Visit to the Post Office

A Visit to the Post Office

I went to the post office today. It wasn't that exciting-- I think the post office on Lopez is most exciting when there is a line and you can chat with everyone (of course that's when a PO off-island is least exciting). There are people I swear I only see at the post office. And yes, we do sometimes have a line, but that's because the workers are also chatting... because we like them. At the post office I got another international stamp to send off a card to Zhijian and mailed CDs to CDBaby to replenish their stock of Karjam's newer CD (why do they ask for more when they're out, why not ask when they have only one left?).

But the cool thing about the post office today is that it's displaying my mom's art right now. My mom has many creative and artistic outlets, but the one she's most passionate about these days is quilting. She makes mind-blowingly amazing quilts. And quilted wall hangings. And table runners. And place mats. And ... you get the idea. Everyone covets my mom's actual bed quilts as being about the best thing ever. When I went off to college I took my quilt (this quilt is now lovingly semi-retired). I remember once, in the middle of the night a guest of mine entered the kitchen where I was chatting with my roommate wrapped in my quilt. I almost lost my marbles. A quilt made by my mother was -way- to good to be dragging down the hall wrapped around the likes of him (yes, I am now embarrassed at how callously I treated the poor dear, but he could have pulled on his own clothes).

Anyway, I've been trying to get her onto Etsy, because she has a pretty astounding output and deserves a larger audience than she gets by selling them at Lo-Co (a gallery here) and the Farmer's Market (in the summer). What do you think? Pretty cool?

 Unfortunately this is NOT currently my bedroom. Don't you love the combination of the wall hanging and the quilt? A couple more detailed photos of the quilt, just for fun... (or because I'm showing off).

Although these are only snapshots, here's the post office: 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winter Solstice Long Dance

Winter Solstice, 2012

Our family/community on L. celebrates winter solstice with a ritual called the Long Dance. We come together for a planning meeting a month in advance, then two work parties to gather wood (to burn all night) and to prepare the site. This involves the various temporary structures (we erect a teepee for the kids to sleep in, a teepee for the altars for the four directions, a tea tent to serve hot tea all night and a ritual-preparation tent for people to change their clothing, don masks, etc.each tent needs a stove, except the ritual tent, too) as well as determining where the fire circle will be and preparing the wood (much of it needs to be split). These work parties involve a "usual suspects" group of people-- I am proud to say that when I am on Lopez I am always part of such work parties. It takes a lot of work to make community happen! My dad, despite being 71 this year, is one of the key workers/organizers of work parties and never misses a single one. Paul is another of those who never fails to organize and use his practical skills for community.

Starting from the organizing meeting people also start to prepare "dances" to share with the community. There is always a presentation by the men, by the women, and almost always by the kids. In the morning there is a sun dance to bring the sun up, this dance also requires four participants to organize and practice in advance. There is also a mourning/death dance in the middle of the night-- this does not usually need pre-planning. Other smaller presentations also happen-- dancing a new mask, for example. I was part of the women's dance this year and the number of meetings and rehearsals was sort of out of control-- although the final result made it all worth it. I should clarify that "dances" may mean "theatrical presentation" with no dance involved.

Here are Karjam and I in our first outfits of the evening ready to depart. Note that half of our truck is full of things for the night- clothing changes, ritual items, etc.

The winter solstice has a very specific start time-- sundown. No one is supposed to arrive after sundown, which is at 4:00 pm, but every single time someone decides that even though they couldn't get their ducks in a row on time, they still must attend. The grandparent heartbeat drum begins at sundown, and continues all night until sunrise-- only adults can drum this drum-- and they pass it from one to the next, quietly beating a heartbeat.

The people circled together, and after clarifying some guidelines (I spoke up to explain why we ask people who don't plan to stay all night to wait until 11 to leave, when we open the circle for that purpose-- my brother-in-law Jaime explained the purposes of the various tents, and several people spoke up to thank the people whose land we were on), we came close to the fire starters who use a fire drill to start the ritual fire. Using a drill is a bit difficult-- you need to draw a bow at a fairly regular and quick speed, keeping it horizontal to the ground, with even pressure on the top of the drill pushing down to the bottom (where there is a cedar plank that produces the coal to start the fire). This year there were two people responsible for the fire (usually it's one and an assistant), T and L. T (a man) used the drill first. His strokes were strong and fast, but despite several attempts (and lots of smoke) he could not produce a coal. I whispered to Summer Moon (my sister) that the fire spirits must want L to try, and finally she did. Her strokes were horrible! Jerky and awkward, and slow. But on her first try she produced a sizable coal that lit the fire.

Next, as the fire grew larger and we had to stand back, we circled again. This time the four directions were ritually called out, and the candle on each altar was lit. East is the altar of the young, and J, who is still in high school, spoke for this altar. South, the altar of young adulthood was lit by M, who had exquisitely prepared what to say. I spoke for West, the altar of the time of career and family, and P spoke for North-- the altar of old age (although he is only in his early 60s and I don't think of him as particularly old!). Finally the drumming and dancing started.

There is ONE bad point about dancing all night around a large raging fire-- sparks. My vest (I intentionally wore an older vest that is already more of an at-home or rough-work outfit) was one casualty. I also have a dime sized burn on my forearm where a large ember landed and have lost a bit of hair.

In fact the fire is not raging all night. It gets higher and lower, with coordination between the fire keepers T and L and Ala who is the ritual coordinator for all the rituals of the evening. There are periods of time with high energy drumming, and a lot of dancing, and periods with people playing mbira and rattles, and other periods when we sing circle songs (do not confuse these with campfire songs, they are not). Many of these songs have been in our community for a long time, and a fair number of our circle songs were composed by Joules (who often lives here). Here's an example of a simple song:
Under the pale moonlight, we dance
Spirits dance, we dance
Joining hands, we dance
Joining hearts, rejoice

and another longer one:

Spirit of the Wind, carry me
Spirit of the Wind, carry me home
Spirit of the Wind, carry me home to myself

Spirit of the Ocean
Blessed emotion
Spirit of the Sea
Set my soul free

Spirit of the Wind, carry me
Spirit of the Wind, carry me home
Spirit of the Wind, carry me home to myself

Spirit of the Earth
Help me with my birth
Spirit of the Sky
Spread my wings and fly

Spirit of the Wind, carry me
Spirit of the Wind, carry me home
Spirit of the Wind, carry me home to myself

Spirit of the River
Blessed giver
Spirit of the Land
Hold me in your hand

Spirit of the Wind, carry me
Spirit of the Wind, carry me home
Spirit of the Wind, carry me home to myself

Spirit of the Mountain
Flowing rock fountain
Spirit of the Rock
Help me with my talk

Spirit of the Wind, carry me
Spirit of the Wind, carry me home
Spirit of the Wind, carry me home to myself

Spirit of the Moon
Hold my heart in tune
Spirit of the Light
Keep my soul in sight

Spirit of the Wind, carry me
Spirit of the Wind, carry me home
Spirit of the Wind, carry me home to myself

We song that song last night, but a new verse honoring G.E. who recently passed on was added speaking to the Spirit of the Bear (G.E. had a lifelong connection to bears). G.E.'s button blanket was danced around the fire and then set in the altar teepee for the night, and many people shared their love for him at the fire. Other people were remembered during the dying time after midnight when the shaman, death, and mourning mask danced around the fire.

The rehearsed dances I mentioned earlier were also presented. The men's dance was before 11, so that the children were still awake and those who couldn't stay the night were still there. The men's dance was a comedy theatre sort of presentation-- there was a dream sequence in it, and in the dream sequence various people went through an airport security check. These people included my brother Zack who was carrying a small battle ax and a sword (yes, they're real, yes, he was wearing a kilt), and death (with a real scythe of course). Zack's water bottle was confiscated.

After 11 there were still so many people! No one appeared to have been scared away by weather reports of rain and wind. In fact, the weather was remarkably and surprisingly benign. By so many people I mean that I think close to 100 people stayed up all night! This could be totally wrong as I didn't count, but last time I was able to go to the long dance it snowed on us and we had around 35 who stayed up all night. The large numbers are partially because some clarification of who can come is needed. We have a rule that new attendees and children must be sponsored by an adult from our island who has attended before (with the idea that the sponsor clues them in to how/when/what is going on and how they can participate. A lot of people with only a tenuous connection showed up. As my dad said, "suddenly we're popular!"

The women's dance was amazing. I can't tell you more than that, because you'd have to see it to believe it. But it was amazing, fantabulous, sure-to-be-remembered-for-years. Later in the night I helped my friend Faith dance my moon mask. I have this full-moon mask that my dad made-- it's gorgeous. Faith, V. and I danced it once around the fire, very slowly, at the edge of the darkness behind the people. V. and I had a silver star in each hand-- I hear it looked great.

For me a big highlight was when Faith honored me early in the morning next to the fire. Ahhh, that's hard to explain. Around 6 a.m. or so Faith threw cedar on the fire and talked about our friendship and what sort of person I am. I just cried. What is really funny, and I haven't even told Faith yet, is that just before she started to talk I had had this feeling of how I wanted to honor Faith! I didn't because it would have seemed like a response, not something coming from my own heart. But it was so affirming of our deep friendship to have her do that.

I asked people later their favorite moment. I never got to say mine. But it was the look on the faces of the enthusiastic dancers when there was actually room for dance (often it was a bit crowded), and they were moving fast, dancing with the fire, the wind, the drum beats, perhaps in a trance. M's face as he danced-- his big beaming smile, comes to mind.

After the Sun Dance in the morning (which I must say was fabulous), the grandparent heartbeat drum ended and we shared a big potluck breakfast. I had made gluten free, dairy free, honey-sweetened pumpkin ginger pinenut pie (out of local pumpkin). Hmmmm, glad I made two so I could have more this morning!

Back home we had a sauna and I packed up my new ginger-sauerkraut made from purple and white cabbage. I felt transformed, more than usual, by the experience of the Long Dance-- perhaps I had a deeper level of spiritual connection to what was going on than before. Yet FB was just the standard stuff, and no important emails had come in. I'm glad we honored the earth and the changing seasons and our community in this way. I feel renewed. This blog post is just a small gesture towards that.

The sun through the trees as I was leaving my mom's house and the sauerkraut. Yay, a new year begins! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Blogging Again

It has been a long time since I blogged. I've thought about it-- thought about things I might want to say, even new blog themes. But I haven't done anything.

Today I'm actually writing.

First of all, it's the end of the year. There are all these opportunities for introspection. Writing emails to friends asking for addresses so I can send a holiday card we exchange updates on major life changes. Here on the island our winter solstice long dance ritual/celebration is right around the corner. When that happens introspection is encouraged. And of course there are New Year's resolutions to make.

Yes, I'm back living in my hometown. I love it here, most of the time. It's a place I feel very comfortable in, and yet uncomfortable in. There are more assumptions about who I am and what I think-- people can base these assumptions on shared history, on knowing my family members, even on their idea of what my life has been like-- how I must feel having a Ph.D., or how I must feel to be back home, or how I surely must be itching to have a baby since I'm past 40 now.

Yet I hate it here, too. I feel trapped (physically and geographically by the ferry, by being in the corner of the entire country and financially by being mostly unemployed). Everyone here that I know (and many that I love) is busy. I'm not part of their daily life, their weekly life, their life of this decade. It's hard to break back in. And if there is one thing they know it is that I don't intend to stay. That in a few months or so I'll be gone, again. And K and I live in a tiny room, 13x17 feet. It has no running water. It has no table. It has minimal storage receptacles. My clothes are in my large suitcase plus a box for my outer garments. It's always a mess, no matter what I do.

Am I whining? When I first got back here I worried that I wouldn't be able to answer the well-intentioned questions about "what's next." I had people say really stupid things to me-- I know they didn't mean it badly, it's just that academia doesn't work the way they expect the world to work. For example someone told me to "volunteer at the UW-- once you've got your foot in the door, they'll be sure to hire you." Uhhh, you mean once I volunteer they'll know I'm a sucker and never hire me as long as I work for free... What do they think I'm going to do, volunteer to grade people's papers? Sweep the classroom? Make photocopies? Do they think that the UW would have me teach Korean Studies on a volunteer basis?  But of course they are just applying their experience of the world to my reality, and don't know that in academia such a thing cannot work out.

I --do-- volunteer in academia. It's called being an assistant editor for one journal, on the advisory board for another, writing anonymous reviews of articles, being the newsletter editor for an academic association, and so on. If I was at a school right now I'd probably be volunteering to sit on some board or other. I self-nominated for an academic leadership position in a professional academic society (too soon to know how that will turn out). That's academic volunteering.

So, yes. My life is also about the JOB HUNT. I hate the job hunt, but so does everyone, nothing new there. I have sent out around 20 applications so far this year and have another 8 or so that will be done soon. Wow. That's a lot. Yet many of these write back that they had "700 highly qualified applicants" and "regret to inform me..." So 28 seems like nothing. Because the odds are not in my favor. 700 applicants for a postdoc on Asia. 300 or so applicants for a tenure track position teaching about Korea. Don't ask me where I'd like to go, because I'm not in a position to be choosy. Perhaps -after- the first position I can be choosy. I hope so. But even then, it all depends on what positions are even available. The job hunt is depressing. I'd rather do anything else. Let me illustrate. This is what I did today:

1) worked on the job hunt for an hour
2) ran 3.3 miles (it was SUNNY!!!! for a couple hours)
3) rehearsed the women's dance for the solstice long dance
4) did the laundry
5) made a batch of sauerkraut (actually, technically I started the batch-- making takes weeks)
6) drank coffee and chatted with my dad
7) wasted time on FB
8) went to mom's to do dishes (not all of them, too many to carry at once)
9) flipped through a professional journal that just arrived
10) resurrected this blog
11) cooked dinner and made K's lunch for tomorrow
12) did the shopping
13) answered various emails

You see? I'd rather wash dishes than work on the job hunt.

That's all for now.