October 2011

I first saw a version of this chart on the fridge door of my complexity theory teacher, Alder Fuller, about eight years ago. I have only been able to find this version, which is associated with the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (“May we live long and die out”). Maybe the meme made its rounds and died out or maybe it never caught on. I found it thought provoking: And I don’t know how much these Google ngrams can really tell you about the coming and going of memes, but here are a couple:

Use of "ecology" and "deep ecology" in English print since 1880

Deep ecology, anthropocentrism, ecofeminism, environmental ethics, 1980-2008

I am moving away from Eugene after more than ten years, and that means saying a lot of goodbyes to close friends and family. Last night I had dinner with my experiential support group from my couples & family therapy grad school cohort, Ryan and Debra. In family therapy, “experiential” means very generally that you take a humanistic stance in your therapy and believe that emotions are as important as behavior and thinking. (I wrote a piece on it here if you want more details.) We called ourselves “Experiential Lunch” because we met every week for lunch for a year and a half, to discuss how our understanding and application of family theory was evolving throughout the program. It was super helpful and we came to feel quite close and supported each other through some difficult times. I am going to miss them.

Nathen, Ryan, Debra: Experiential Lunch, 10/27/2011

Debra is a Zen meditation teacher and a farmer as well as now a therapist in private practice, and I can highly recommend her in all capacities. If you need a therapist for individual, couple, or family work, you can reach her at (541) 844-4917.

Ryan is working with at-risk children and families at the Oregon Social Learning Center. When he starts a private practice, I will recommend him to you as well.

The NBTSC staff knows how to have fun, and finally here is photographic proof: a no-hands tetherball tournament, just before NH sessions this year.

And Spectators

One thing my massage therapist (Joe Wattles, Eugene, OR) does is gait analysis. This summer, he put me on a treadmill and watched my walk. He said that the way I was walking was probably undoing a lot of the work we’d been doing with massage and exercises. I had suspected as much.

Here are the instructions he gave me for walking. Keep in mind that these instructions correct my walk, not necessarily yours:

1) I need to bend forward at the hips more. My butt needs to be back far enough that I can see my feet from the ankles forward, when standing and looking down.

2) I need to land with less weight on my heels, transferring my weight very quickly to my whole foot.

3) My knees need to bend considerably more with each footfall, absorbing the shock of impact. This, along with #2, means that my stride needs to be shorter.

4) While my belly button stays facing forward, my ribcage needs to twist more, so that my sternum points from 10 to 2 o’clock with each stride.

5) My arms need to swing less, and my shoulders (which I am holding a bit up and back from their habitual position, as assigned by my PT and described here) more. My ribcage/shoulder motion should be what is swinging my arms, while in my normal walk my arm swing is doing all of the counterbalancing of my stride.

6) My head needs to pull back so that my ears are above my shoulder joints.

This all felt pretty weird for a couple weeks. It felt like I was sticking my butt out, sneaking, bouncing up and down, and walking with a flamboyant twist. It still feels a little funny after a couple months, in that I only do it when I remember to do it consciously, but it feels much less awkward. In fact, it feels more confident and energetic than my old walk–more like prowling. My old walk feels stiff and jolting. I imagine that my new walk is more like I walked as a kid, before I stopped wanting to draw attention to myself.

I biked around the University of Oregon campus yesterday for the first time in months, getting some stuff done in preparation for my upcoming move to Joshua Tree. I was thinking about how familiar the ride was, how many hundreds of times I had done it in the last several years. I know each building, each stop sign, each crack in the pavement on my commute.

Suddenly it hit me: I am not biking to class! All the signs pointed to school. The leaves are turning, the college kids are out in force, there is no parking within a half mile of campus, but I am done with all that.

I loved school. I loved the two years finishing my Bachelor’s degree in psychology, I loved my couples and family therapy Master’s program, I loved my classes and most of my professors, I loved the community of learners, I loved all the reading and writing, I loved the density and the pace of the learning. There is just no chance that I would have learned all that I did in the last four years without all the school, deadlines, tests, and papers.

My academically-minded friends all say that I have to do a Ph.D, that I should do a Ph.D, that I would love to do a Ph.D. And maybe they are right–I probably would love to do a Ph.D. But right now, I am glad to be done. I am excited about having a more relaxed lifestyle, moving to my small town, spending time with my family, starting my own family, starting my own practice, writing some books, writing some music. That sounds great.

I first saw Sumi Ink Club art at my brother Ely and Christina’s wedding reception. The party was on the roof of the Pasadena Museum of California Art, and there was a whole room of Sumi Ink Club downstairs. It was striking–densely packed, collaborative, black drawings covering white walls from floor to ceiling. I have to admit I was primarily overwhelmed by it, and that it was Reanna who stayed interested, setting up a Sumi Ink Club party for an issue of her magazine. That’s how I had the idea to do Sumi Ink Club during my advisee group at the first New Hampshire session of Not Back to School Camp.

We started with two picnic tables of almost blank white paper and 14 sharpies. (Sumi Ink Club uses sumi ink and brushes, of course, but sharpies work. I’ll paste in the official rules at the bottom of this post.) We just started drawing and rotated to a new spot every couple of minutes. It was really fun and we were excited about the final product, which we figured took about 26 person-hours to complete:

Full Composition, 5×8′, Paper & Sharpie (Occasional Crayon, Marker & Paint by Anonymous Artists)

Section 1

Section 2

Section 3

Section 4

Section 5

Section 6

Sharpie Artists, in Front of Our Meeting Place, the Charles H. Watts Craft House, Camp Huckins, NH, September 2011: McKinley Corbley, Liam Woodworth-Cook, Signe Constable, Justus Joy, Joel Malkoff, Maddie Pryor, Jacob Adams, Rio Nelson, Eve Blane, Hannah Conrad-Reingold, Kiera McNicholas, Nathen Lester, Sophia Kramer, and LarkinHeintzmann in front.

Here are the guidelines for doing Sumi Ink Club, from the website sumiinkclub.com:

sumi ink club rules*:

– anyone can join in (all ages, all humans, all styles)

– everyone adds to the same drawing

– keep moving around, don’t spend too long in one area

– add to what other people have started

– keep the ink pure, don’t dilute with water

– no words allowed, but things that look like words are ok!

* you can experiment with making your own rules and using new materials, of course you can!

My father took the train down from Vancouver to visit me last week. We spent a few days in Portland and a few days here in Eugene, including a spectacular trip to Honeyman State Park on the last balmy day in September.

We walked across the dunes to the ocean and back, talked a lot and swam in a perfect, sandy-bottomed blue lake. What an amazing day. I can’t believe I’ve been living so close to the dunes all summer and hadn’t been! Thanks for visiting, Papa.

At the end of this month, Nathen and I will be packing up, renting a trailer and moving down to Joshua Tree to live near our new nephew and the Lesters. Here’s some of the things I’m excited about:

• Making our first home together and figuring out what our lives are going to be like
• Fixing up a 70s Kenskill travel trailer to live in
• Spending lots of time with the baby
• Being a mere two hours drive from the textile stores in the LA garment district (!!!)
• Finding a place to have our wedding and starting to plan
• Outdoor movie nights with the projector
• Rock climbing in the park
• Fresh goats milk
• Sunshine

While Nathen is away at Not Back to School Camp in New Hampshire, I, his lonely fiancé, am trying to keep myself busy and in good company. To that end, I moved in with some friends of ours, Nick and Tilke, for a few days.

While I was staying there, Tilke and I talked a lot about colour (or “color,” as I might start spelling it after I get my green card). Colour is a lifelong passion of Tilke’s, and she is in the midst of revising a book she wrote and illustrated on the topic as well as writing the syllabus for a workshop called Experiencing Color.

Tilke's backyard studio

While talking to her about her workshop, I started to describe my own challenges with colour: Since I started making quilts a couple years ago, I’ve struggled with figuring out how I want to put colours together and have realized how little confidence I have about colour. When I do hit on something I like, I mostly don’t know why it works. I described how a few days earlier I’d been in a fabric store trying to choose a few solid colours to buy: when I went for my favourites, the ones that caught my eye –fuchsia, emerald green and bright blue– they looked terrible together. When I tried to narrow my choice down to two colours that I thought of as complementary, the connotations seemed all wrong. I ended up leaving without buying anything.

Plant-dyed fabrics, books about colour.

So here she was, someone trying to figure out how to teach people about colour, and here I was, a real, live colour novice with a hunger to learn. We went to look at her fabric stash and talk it out.

Tilke has a very distinctive colour palette that anyone who knows her would recognize, a family of colours she uses in her work and surrounds herself with. She described the way that certain colours in her family support or “bridge” other colours. I noticed as she moved fabric around that she mostly grouped her colours in sets of three or more. She agreed and showed me how adding a third colour can add a subtlety and depth that you can’t get with two colours.

I started to get a feel for what she was saying. I tried putting together my own set, choosing first a turquoise I liked and then adding another blue, a mushroom, a brown and an orange until – magic! – I had a group of colours that looked great together.

“What if you couldn’t have this one?” Tilke asked, and took out the orange. So I shuffled things around and brought in new colours until I had another set I liked. We talked about the importance of arrangement (which colours are beside each other) and proportion, looking at paintings and photos around her house for examples. Later we played a game with her new “colour library” of fabric samples, where we challenged each other to take the worst colours (eg: neon peach or drab burgundy) and make them beautiful by combining them with good supporting colours. Very fun!

I was so inspired that I started “editing” some patchwork pieces I’d sewn together a year ago that weren’t doing it for me: it suddenly seemed obvious which colours weren’t working, and taking them out made a big difference.

My quilt project, before and after colour editing.

We also had great talks and I got to try out throwing around medicine balls with them in the park (Ooof. My hands were too shaky to keyboard afterwards). It’s so fascinating to peer into – and join in on – other peoples’ lives like that. I’d like to do it again some time.