Monday, March 23, 2009

The Spiral Jetty.

I am having such a good time in Utah! Lots of wonderful people, beautiful scenery, and adventures. Mostly adventures of the rock climbing/bouldering kind, but yesterday, Matt and I had a crazy journey to see the Spiral Jetty.

Ever since my ephemeral media class a few years ago, I have been interested in some of the earlier artworks that kind of revived the Earth works movement. One of them is definitely the Spiral Jetty, made by Robert Smithson in April 1970. The spiral is probably the oldest, most wide-spread symbol on Earth. The image of the spiral has been found in most ancient cultures around the world. It can represent an inward journey to find oneself, an outward journey to find a greater power, the daily birth and death of the sun, the change of the seasons, and the continual flow of life in general.

How Robert Smithson ever decided on this incredibly out-of-the-way stretch of the Great Salt Lake for his art, though, is beyond me. It was at least two hours from Salt Lake City, on one of the farthest-north stretches of the Lake. It was about 16 miles down a dirt road past the Golden Spike, where the last railroad nail connecting the First Transcontinental Railroad across the U.S. was driven. We drove through the swamps surrounding the Great Salt Lake, which I didn't even know existed, and they were eerily like the scenery of Resident Evil 5, which Cody has been playing religiously. We passed by unfenced cows and drove over whole families of tumbleweed. We were at least an hour's drive from any form of civilization.

Finally, we encountered about three other cars as we approached the final mile stretch before the Spiral Jetty.

Unfortunately, our trip did not end with us jumping out of the car and having a care-free afternoon. You see, Matt was going to back up instead of continue along this especially bumpy part of the dirt road. We decided to walk the rest of the way. However, when he backed up, he swung the car a little too wide and it ended up off the road, high-centered--stuck in the middle on a rock with the tires virtually useless. If we had been in a car with 4WD instead of the hybrid, I'm sure it wouldn't have been a big deal. However, as it was, the bumper snapped partially off and there was nothing we could do but find someone to pull us out.

We walked out onto the Spiral Jetty to find an SUV which had passed us earlier, and the guys were very nice and helpful. They pulled us out and the bumper popped right back into place. Once the car was back on even ground, the gas gauges stopped reading empty (which was freaking us out, as the nearest gas station was at least an hour away, and we had no cellphone signal to call for help) and all was well.

Anyway, the Spiral Jetty was very cool. Sometimes it is covered by the Lake, but the waters had receded far into the distance today, where they were pink from the bacteria and algae that are able to survive in the very high salt content of the lake. The rocks were black and porous, and the sand was hard from being packed with salt.

Matt said, "I've never seen so much salt in my life!"

After the cold, raining walk on the Spiral Jetty (of which I will post personal photos when I return home) and harrowing experience of being out in the middle of nowhere, we were very ready to get warm and eat some dinner. We went to the Citris Grill in Salt Lake City, where we had yummy sweet potato fries and warm brownies, and then we went to REI, only to have them close five minutes after we walked in.

We came back to Matt's house to watch "To Catch a Thief." Alfred Hitchcock movies always make me laugh.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rivers and Tides.

I love everything about Andy Goldsworthy--his adorable red-headed family, his humble personality, his love of nature--but most especially, his art. It is absolutely gorgeous. I don't know how many times I've watched the documentary about his art, entitled "Rivers and Tides," but I know it's probably a lot. And it always makes me cry.

Andy Goldsworthy is an ephemeral artist. He is frequently commissioned to do work all around the world, and he creates with what he finds in any particular place. He comes to a new site with only a few tools--sometimes scissors, sometimes a little bowl of hot water. His work is so vibrant and beautiful. He makes you look twice at nature, and be really taken by how gorgeous and interesting it truly is. I love art that wakes you up and makes you realize how much you take for granted.

Someone on Youtube made some lovely montages of his best works from "Rivers and Tides." I wouldn't post them if they were anything but breath-taking.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"In the time of trees."

There is a lovely series on Time's website about trees, complete with quotes. More...

For the ephemeral media class I took at Naropa, we experimented with materials that were going to decay or change over time. There was one student in the class, Parker Sprout (the driving force behind Velvet Davenport), who made a kind of cobweb of red and white yarn between several bare trees. It was so beautiful to walk underneath because through the shapes made by the yarn, you could look at the sky in such an interesting new way. It was likely my favourite project from that class.

Every time I watch this great fan-made video for the Postal Service's "Sleeping In," I think about that project.

"no place too small to grow a garden."

I love this photograph by Resurrection Fern on Etsy.

By the way, I think I would like to change the URL of my blog to better suit what I'm actually writing about...suggestions would be wonderful!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I love plants!

When I was young, I remember going over to my friend's house. We would wander through the woods to her aunt's house next door. Her aunt was really cool, with a greenhouse built onto her farmhouse and a bamboo forest in her side yard. We would go on chicken egg hunts or turn over the compost pile with hay rakes. We also loved to explore the pine forests around her house, and we frequently found, tucked under and into trees, little pointed 1920's style boots--the kind with the little fringe element over the toe. These were always sprouting succulents, and I think it's such a clever idea. When you live in a relatively humid place like Ohio, you don't have to worry about watering your outdoor plants so much, and you just need to tuck a little soil/sand mix and a few seeds or mini-plants in your shoes to begin.

Another idea that I've just loved has been from a certain Etsy user, Lady Farrah. Moss terrariums are really easy to make--you just need a glass container with a lid, sand, soil, and moss. Place a thin layer of sand in the bottom (to absorb excess moisture), then some soil, then your moss on top (you can salvage moss from most shady, moist places). Moss tends to grow on slanted ground, so you could make your terrarium straight across or angled downward for better drainage. Or, you could make little hills and landscapes like Made by Mavis has. Etsy sellers have gotten really creative, using rocks, branches, and other found objects. You need to be careful with that, though, because you don't want to introduce all sorts of outside creatures into your home. You can "quarantine" rocks, branches, etc. in a sealed container like a plastic bag for a few weeks to observe if anything undesirable happens (such as eggs hatching and whatnot). When you keep your moss in indirect sunlight, it will need minimal watering. I'm really excited to try this for myself.

Lastly, your spent coffee grounds are excellent for raising mushrooms--in particular, oyster mushrooms. I love this idea because it keeps coffee grounds out of landfills (food waste in landfills contributes to methane gas, a greenhouse gas) and puts them to good use. It also allows you to grow food in your home year-round. Some sources suggest that grounds from caf├ęs are more sanitary because they are more thoroughly steamed, but you can use grounds from your home.

You can pick up oyster mushroom seeds from many gardening places, and there are lots of stores online. You can use virtually any container for growing mushrooms, which makes me very happy--from tin cans to several-layered shopping bags (with holes cut in the sides for outward growth). You just need to keep the grounds very moist, and you will likely see growth after a few days.

Plants are great for your home because the air inside of your house is actually worse than the air outside. In our haste to seal off our homes in order to use air conditioning and the like, we are really kind of poisoning ourselves. Plants act as filters to keep our air friendly, and are great in bathrooms and other humid rooms because they absorb moisture and thereby deter mold growth. Plants also help to balance out the positive energy (in this case we're not talking about good versus bad energy, but just positive versus negative) that is created by electronics, making for a more relaxing home.

On a completely different note--I have been listening to MGMT a lot lately. I love their album "Oracular Spectacular." My favourite song currently is probably "Kids." I love its message because I'm trying to live a more moderate, happy life, and "Control yourself--take only from you need from it" are lyrics that I find kind of inspiring. You can listen to "Kids" right here. If you love it as much as I do, you should buy MGMT's album!

P.S. It seems as if the Etsy user I mentioned is out of town for the time being. You can browse through other moss terrariums here.

Blue Ginger.

Mmm, the Blue Ginger is one of Cody and my favourite places to eat around mid-Ohio. A great ambiance, traditional Japanese sushi bar touches like warm towels, awesome food, and great lunch specials, such as three hand rolls plus soup for $10.99.

Today, Cody's dad, who is also enthralled with this place, took us out before my trip to Utah. Really, I think he just needed an excuse to eat there again. I got my favourite, the hot and sour soup with tempura sweet potato rolls, and I tried the vegetable rolls. I also shared some of the unagi (freshwater eel) with avocado rolls with Cody. I try not to think about what eels look like, or I get a little ill; they're very delicious, though.

It has been important to Cody and I to get more fish in our diet. I haven't eaten red meat or poultry in about eight years, and so fish is a great way to get things I need like omega-3 fatty acids. I take the gel cap form each day, and Cody has started taking them as well, but fish is so good for you! Omega-3 fatty acids are great, especially if you have depression frequently (like I do) or are trying to quit smoking (like Cody). It has been proven that eating omega-3 fatty acids significantly improves mental sharpness.

I searched through Care2 and found a few other good ways to boost serotonin levels, helpful again for depression, anxiety, quitting smoking, etc. The fruits and vegetables which are best are bananas, kiwi, pineapple, plantains, plums, and tomatoes. Others that are quite good include avocado, black olives, broccoli, cantaloupe, cauliflower, dates, eggplant, figs, grapefruit, honeydew melon, and spinach. Eating foods that are less refined is also thought to help with depression. A lot of people swear by St. John's Wort, but I have yet to try it out.

One thing I love about my yoga practice is that it always enhances my mood. Exercise and meditation are believed to substantially lift mood levels, and yoga combines both of them in a way that makes it seem like you're not doing too much of either (good for a person like me that struggles against exercise and meditation!).

Lastly, I did a presentation in my yoga theory class last week about laughter yoga. A doctor in India, Dr. Madan Kataria, began research in the 1990s about whether laughter really helps people to recover from, or at least cope with, chronic illnesses. He found that it indeed, does. Laughter instantly cuts down on all of the cortisol and adrenaline that is associated with stress, and increases serotonin levels instead. Serotonin can actually act as a natural pain-killer. And, even more importantly, laughter unlocks emotions. We frequently think of physical or mental stress, but rarely do we consider emotional stress--all of the feelings we bottle up regularly because they are socially unacceptable or we have no outlet for them. A few years ago, Newsweek printed a report that explained that many people in high-stress jobs, particularly men, are able to find an emotional release by flying in airplanes. For some reason, the high altitude just allows them to tap into unresolved emotions. Flight attendants told Newsweek that there was probably someone crying on every flight. Wouldn't it be much nicer if that emotional release was in a group of supporting, accepting people, such as in laughter yoga groups?

For a great source on laughter yoga, check out this site.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Beginning knitting.

I've decided to perhaps start updating this again. I'm not particularly keeping a journal anywhere else, and my writing is starting to get embarrassingly bad.

Anyway, I've recently been on this Etsy kick. I have been so impressed by the creativity and talent of the artists on that site! It has inspired me to pick up this book, Super Stitches Knitting by Karen Hemingway. I poured over books at Barnes and Noble for about an hour last evening before deciding that this was the one I couldn't live without.

I've taken knitting classes in the past, but unfortunately they never amounted to much. I'm really excited about this book because it has tons and tons of beautiful knitting patterns, but not in the regular style of other knitting books, where you're supposed to make this god-awful sweater...instead, it gives you lots of ideas for personal creativity. I am in love with the beautiful lace patterns! Hopefully this will take my knitting up a notch from the stockinette (which is knit one row, purl the next, cont.) I usually do, haha.

After Barnes and Noble, Cody and I went to Carrabba's (my treat) because it is delicious, mmm. I can't stray from the margherita pizza--it's everything I love in life--bread, tomatoes, really good cheese, and basil, mmm.

Anyway, back to my Etsy obsession. Umm. So, my favourite designers tend to be people who upcycle (i.e. using old materials in new ways, like reusing, but basically improving on the would-be-discarded item) materials, or incorporate really sustainable practices in their stores.

For example, one of my favourite Etsy users has to be Iron&Fire. She uses really old tribal pieces, like from Ethiopia and whatnot, salvaged leather scraps, and feathers that are gathered either while the birds molt or from birds that are hunted by tribes in the rain forest. I think her pieces are just beautiful, and very unique. It's been interesting finding her shop, too, because I've been sketching out similar things for a few months now, and it's cool that someone is already doing what I've been imagining.

Another designer I've been very interested in and inspired by is Joodito. She has made some pretty fantastic scarves from salvaged materials. I don't know, it just feels nice knowing that there's a future for all of those old Brooks and Dunn t-shirts we have floating around mid-Ohio thrift stores (oh please let those never come back in style any more than they already have).

Ever since I finished The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (who also wrote The Secret Life of Bees, which I LOVE), I have dreamt of the ocean and how much I miss it. Even going to Lake Erie as a kid was great. I loved the drift wood and the seagulls and finding little bits of "sea" glass. But mostly the waves.

Anyway, my point is, another designer on Etsy that I adore is West Coat Sea Glass. Fantastic. I love the pairing of sea glass with freshwater pearls (my favourite!) and sometimes leather.

And, the last designer I'm going to rave about from Etsy is Vanity Case. I am in love with her suitcase-turned-vanity-cabinet. Awesome.

Anyway, this week I am finishing up my tests and papers for the end of the quarter, and then I'm heading to Utah to see Matt, Cassie, and Mojo! I'm looking forward to visiting them and finding out if all of this yoga will help with my rock climbing/bouldering at all. And maybe I'll learn how to ski a little. Scary, but exciting.