748. A reminder of the journey

748. A reminder of the journey.jpg

This past week I put back on my finger a ring I bought in Santa Fe during my first MFA residency, 13 years ago next month. I wrote about this ring in a chapter of Finding Livelihood.

I crossed the street to the Palace of the Governors. Blue, green, and burgundy blankets laid side-to-side in a row the length of a city block as if ready for a picnic if the goods don’t sell. On the blankets were pendants, necklaces, earrings, rings, guitar picks, barrettes, and broaches made of silver, copper, turquoise, coral, and lapis. Each Native American artist or artist’s representative presided over his or her wares from the head of the blanket, seated either on a chair, a low stool, or the veranda floor.

Small crowds gather at each blanket, and so patrons often wait for a turn to look down, crouch, pick up, and try on. I saw a ring but couldn’t reach it. The young woman with long black hair, seated on a stool, smiled and reached out with a long narrow stick she kept on the floor next to her. She slid one end of the stick through the ring’s opening, lifted it from its black velvet display box, and glided it dangling from the stick to my hand. I slid the ring on my finger.

“Did you make this?” I asked.

“Yes,” the woman said, and she showed me where the band bore her maker’s mark.

It was a split ring, open in the middle—for design purposes of course, but also conveniently accommodating the changing ring size of women throughout a lifetime or the month, like elastic in a pair of durable pants. On one side of the split is an oval turquoise, more blue than the earrings and with fewer veins. Along the stone’s perimeter, a hefty sterling silver band curves ever so slightly over its surface as if the stone were floating on hidden water and would bounce right up without the metal’s angled hold. The other side of the split is a vertical silver bar. Engraved in the silver bar and around the band is a zigzag design—a mountain range, the woman told me. It means journey.
— Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure

After buying the ring, I wore it daily for years but then took it off awhile back—no reason—and put it in my drawer. Lately, though, I've been needing the reminder again of the journey. Maybe it's the book project I'm working on. Maybe it's the conversations I've recently had. Maybe it's the passage of time. So I'm wearing it again. Maybe someone reading this post needs the reminder as well.

~~~

[Photo: taken of the mountains outside of Santa Fe.]

740. An ordinary day on repeat

740. An Ordinary Day on Repeat.jpg

Over the last couple weeks I read The Turquoise Ledge by poet and Laguna Pueblo writer Leslie Marmon Silko. I may not have finished it had it not been a book group reading. The reason I nearly stopped reading several times in the first 100 or so pages is that while the book is about Silko’s life outside of Tucson, Arizona, it is primarily about her morning walks, during which she often finds pieces of turquoise, and the care of her home and yard, replete with rattlesnakes (so many!) and sometimes scorpions. The book goes on repeat of these daily activities and discoveries. Over and over again. Here’s another piece of turquoise. There’s another rattlesnake. But a curious thing happened at about page 125; I got in the rhythm of her walks and her watering of her plants and her care of her pet parrots and her noticing of rattlers, and my interest in her routine and her observations piqued.

The book reminded me that this is what we do in life: one’s daily stuff, but please oh please do it with eyes open and ready to see the extraordinariness of what is around us. Numerous times Silko describes a walk in which then and there, right in front of her in the center of the path, is a piece of turquoise that wasn’t there when she walked the same path yesterday. Or was it? Had it just unearthed itself or had she missed it the day before?

I wanted to post about this book as an encouragement in getting up each morning and doing whatever it is you do over again tomorrow while keeping your eyes open for what you might see or discover that takes on new shape or meaning when you see it, really see it, for the third or fourth or 340th time. Maybe that’s one of the things I was trying to do in Finding Livelihood, challenging myself and you, dear reader, to see again and again, yet anew, what there is to discover in whatever place each of us calls work.

The book made me think about how it takes attending to something over and over again, closely and with reverence, before hidden beauty emerges, understanding emerges, and appreciation for small things becomes large.

~~~

[Picture: taken during our recent Florida trip of a grand dolphin artfully carved in the sand by an unidentified beach artist; in the top left corner is a pelican.]

731. Thoughts on The Florida Project

Thoughts on The Florida Project.jpg

A couple weeks ago my husband and I went to see the new film, The Florida Project. When I first saw the film’s poster in our local theater months ago, I had made a quick mental note to see it. Being as I grew up in coastal Florida, I imagined that because it was a story of Florida, it would no doubt feature the white sand and beauty of the ocean, which I miss. By the time we went to see the film, though, I knew that it was about something else entirely.

The story follows the lives of small children and their mothers or, in one case, a grandmother, who live in motels along Route 192 near Disney World, all caught in poverty, bad decisions, some form of abandonment, and hopelessness. There's not a single beach scene. But the story line also follows that of Bobby, played by Willem DaFoe, the manager of The Magic Castle, the budget motel where the film’s primary child and mother live on a weekly basis. For all the reasons to see the film based on the story line and the outstanding performance of the 7-year-old Floridian, Brooklynn Prince, whom we will no doubt be seeing more of in years to come, it’s the story of Bobby that most captured my attention.

The film’s director, Sean Baker, had been on Charlie Rose in mid-October talking about his film. He described how he had researched for the film by talking with people in the area where it was shot. In particular, he spoke of a motel manager he met:

"We would go and see who was interested in telling their stories or giving us information about the Route 192, which is where this was shot. And this was—this involved us speaking to residents at the motels, the small business owners, some the motel managers, and some the agencies that actually provided social services to people in need in the area. And there was one—there was actually one man in particular, a motel manager, who really opened up his world to us. In a way, he was our passport in. He wanted—he felt that this was a story that should be told, … and he was actually managing one of these budget motels directly across the street from the Magic Castle Motel where we shot. And he was in a very tough position when he was actually working there. It has since closed. But he had compassion for the families and the kids who were there. He understood the struggles they were going through. And, yet, he, you know, had a job. He had to hold onto. And he knew that perhaps any night he might have to evict one of these families and put them out on the street if they couldn't come up with the nightly rate. So, it was a tough position for him. I could see this obvious—this compassion, but I also saw a distance that he would keep from them. And it was like a reluctant parental figure in many ways. I saw it not only with him but a few of the other motel managers we met. And I think it very much inspired our Bobby character."

DaFoe’s character captures an aspect of work that I tried to describe in Finding Livelihood: that of doing one thing, for which you’re paid, but that may be far from what you most want to do or feel “called” to do, while at the same time also doing something far bigger on another plane, maybe all the time and all along or maybe only for a moment, participating in a for-such-a-time-as-this sort of thing. Parallel realities. Bobby kept the books, he kept the rules, he kept the place clean. Job description met! But he also kept his people safe, he guided and cared, he gave hope, he loved. If you missed the movie trailer, hyperlinked in the first sentence, take a look now and you'll get a hint of what I'm talking about.