A Story of Natural Consequences

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A little ways to the left of the dock above is a deep channel dug years ago for irrigation purposes.  Whoever was digging it gave up and now it’s just a deep, muddy ditch.  This wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that the program I work for regularly brings students into that marsh.  Which isn’t actually a big deal: typically, our students listen to us when we tell them not to go into the mud because they’ll sink in up to their waists.  Typically they hear these instructions and heed our advice.  Typically.

Last week, the final week of our program for the school year, we had a school from the Boston inner city area.  With urban schools, my main objective is to get the kids out into nature, to try to get them to connect with something, anything, in the outdoors.  Now Boston isn’t New York in terms of nature, but my goal remains the same.  This is mud, those are trees, bug spray goes on you not the insects.

Regardless of where a school is from my rules are simple: we stay together, we have fun and learn something, don’t get hurt.  This last school had a little trouble with the rules.  None of the students got hurt, but half were having trouble with the “have fun and learn something” rule (“it’s so cold!”, “there are so many bugs!”, “I’m gonna get wet!”), while the other half was disregarding the “stay together” rule.

Tuesday, we’re in the marsh, about four girls have informed me they have to pee (these muffins are not prepared to go in the trees), I am attempting to get us as close to an actual bathroom as possible.  This is proving difficult as the kids not into the exploration are dragging their feet, and the kids who are into finding animals in the marsh keep finding really cool crabs and asking questions about the various species, and I’m really pumped to stop and examine and answer their questions.  However, slowly, but surely, we are getting closer and closer to the dock above (which is a short walk to the dining hall and, therefore, toilets) but we are still on the far side of the channel.

And I don’t realize that I’m not going to be able to get up ahead of them to warn them about the mud.

There I am, standing in the marsh, looking around to make sure all students are moving with the group, while staying away from the osprey nest on the point, when I turn back around to see, up ahead, K—-, a small, fifth grade boy in a clear plastic poncho, jump off the marsh, into the channel, and run/crawl up the far bank back onto the marsh.  I yell to them to stay where they are as the rest of the students and I make our way to the channel.  Miraculously all the students come gather around.  Mostly due to other kids yelling “K—- LOST HIS SHOE!  K—- LOST HIS SHOE!  MISS BECKA, K—- LOST HIS SHOE!”

K—- had, indeed, lost one of his shoes.

Very calmly, to the gathered students, I tell them that I am now going to tell them the story of the girl who jumped in the channel.  She didn’t listen to me, got ahead of me, much like K—- did, jumped in the channel and sank up to her waist in the mud.  She was lucky, however, I told my students.  Unlike another student who lost his boot in the mud.  When his teacher reached in to get it out, she pulled out a boot, sure; but not that kid’s boot.  A different boot.  K—-‘s shoe is gone.  K—-‘s shoe is no more.  There is no shoe.  It’s gone, baby; gone.

And I couldn’t be mad at him.  Couldn’t yell at him.  I couldn’t give him a warning or a strike for running ahead.  The boy lost his shoe in the mud.  Forever.  I wasn’t about to jump in there and try to retrieve it, especially after the kid told me he had another pair in the cabin.  I did tell his teacher when we got back, however.  He agreed with me: Natural Consequences.  Now the kid knows if he jumps in the mud again: he might lose his shoes.

This child is destined to lose shoes, though; I’m convinced.  The next day, that same student almost lost his sandal to the ocean.  Another kid fished it out with a crabbing net.

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“Coffee Stains”, an artist’s statement

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My submission for this year’s Sketchbook Project with the Brooklyn Art Library: “Coffee Stains”.

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The following is my Artist’s Statement as written on the Sketchbook Project website:

My lifestyle causes me to move every few months.  Sometimes I’m returning somewhere familiar, sometimes I’m lucky enough to stay with friends and family, sometimes I go somewhere completely new.  Everywhere I go: I drink coffee.  When I chose the “Wanderer” theme I had the idea to chronicle my travels through drawings of cups of coffee in each location.  Then, I couldn’t find my sketchbook.

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On my travels went, though, and I found myself outside Portland, OR for two months, wherein I inadvertently found myself making what I called the “coffeehouse tour of Portland”.  I visited a different coffeehouse nearly every visit into the city, I sat there with my drink and wrote, or drew, and soaked in the culture of the coffeehouse.  At each establishment I took pictures and posted them to Facebook.

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I believe in “coffeehouse culture”, that it is good for a community.  It doesn’t have to be a coffeehouse, it could be a tea-house, or a bar, or a bookstore.  I believe every community ought to have a place where people can visit, and pass the time, preferably with caffeine.  The places I have enjoyed living the most have all had something like this.  In Cazenovia, NY it was a coffeeshop, in Canterbury, England it was a pub, in Andover, CT it was a Chinese restaurant, and in Wakefield, RI it is a bar.  In each of these places I would feel as comfortable reading a book as I would talking to a stranger.

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When I returned to New England and found my sketchbook, I was glad I took so many hipsterish pictures.  I was able to draw some of my favorite Portland coffeehouses.  The idea to actually use coffee to paint stemmed from meeting a man in Seattle who uses a coffee/bleach solution to make tee shirts, and a blog about a woman who uses coffee in lieu of watercolors.  Using actual coffee to paint drawings of coffee was too meta to pass up.  I also used tea and hot cocoa mix, don’t be alarmed if the book smells like chocolate.  

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So much of my life can be counted in cups of coffee, as can, I think, many other’s; it is so ubiquitous that we rarely think about the coffee itself, where it comes from, how it’s made, which method we prefer.  How a region feels about their coffee or tea and how they make it is an interesting reflection of both the culture and the individual.  Is it a quick Dunkins drive-thru, or are the beans ground with each cupful?  What time of day is it drunk?  Cream?  Sugar?  Black?

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I am fascinated by coffee.  I love learning about new ways to make it.  I love watching experts make coffee.  I love talking with a friend over a steaming cup.  I believe coffee, and tea, have the power to bring people together if we let it.  So if we ever meet, show me how you make yours and I’ll tell you how I make mine.  <3 <3 <3

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Boston Comic Con: Hot Mess

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What a crazy time we had at Boston Comic Con on Saturday.  There were people for miles.

Seriously.

I’m convinced if you lined up everyone who was at the World Trade Center in Boston yesterday we would stretch from the docks all the way to Newton.  So many vendors, professionals, and fans.  Costumed people everywhere, one and a half thousand Doctors Who, and about fifty Deadpools, and an assortment of comic book and science fiction characters roamed, corralled, and squeezed their way around the ballroom.  Artists selling their wares, actors selling their signatures and faces, vendors selling knickknacks, clothing and jewelry were jammed into their allotted spaces.

Overall, for me, Boston Comic Con was a fun experiences, despite feeling simultaneously as though I was there forever, and as though I didn’t see a damn thing.  More often than not my friends and I seemed to be caught up in the flow of traffic going everywhere and nowhere.  But not having any specific vendors in mind when we arrived at the convention, it wasn’t really a big deal that we were swept right past the majority of the tables.  We’d admire the artwork as we were whisked past by the crowd.  Occasionally making eye contact with the artists and vendors, we’d exchange pleasantries that included compliments on my Kaylee Frye costume attempt (it’s actually pretty good).

However, for me, not for many people, the funniest part happened upstairs in a small, hot, sticky room where we were directed to pick up our pictures from our photo ops with the celebrity actors in attendance.  There we discovered the Hot Mess.

**Hot Mess**

The Hot Mess occurred sometime around four p.m. when my friends and I went to pick up the photo we had taken earlier that afternoon with Jewel Staite, the actress who played the character I was dressed as.  While that was a very quick, very sweet experience (Jewel was lovely), collecting the photo was proving to be a very long, very sour experience.

We entered the tiny, people filled room by passing through a wall of humid body heat generated by the dozens of people sitting and standing around the tiny room.  On tables set up around the rooms perimeter, were laid eight by ten photos of costumed and non-costumed fans with their celebrity-of-joy.  Behind the smiling and starry-eyed were white backgrounds with “Boston Comic Con” in either red or blue.  We saw people with Sean Astin, James Marsters, Jason Momoa, and others (no John Barrowman).  We even saw people “cuddled up”, as she put it, next to Jewel Staite.

Not seeing ourselves with Jewel Staite displayed anywhere, we decided to leave that hot mess of a room, go find the TARDIS, return later.  Because, surely, our picture would be printed by then.  The picture had been taken around 1:30, and it was later than the two hours they’d told us it would take for our picture to be ready.  So we found the TARDIS, my friends took a number of pictures of both us and costumed strangers who gave their consent, and we, inexplicably, saw John Barrowman hop out of the TARDIS while we were lingering nearby.  Then we returned upstairs to see if our photo had made it to one of the tables yet.

No photo; only restless people.

And I mean: restless.

Irritated others stood stone still waiting squinty-eyed, claws at the ready, to receive their photos.  They watched the door where convention employees appeared and disappeared to where the printers must be set up.  The room was just as hot, if not hotter, than it had been half an hour earlier.  After determining our photo still wasn’t available (this is assuming someone else didn’t swipe it while we were absent), we found one another and were contemplating what to do when a representative from the convention loudly made his way through the crowd calling for attention.

This poor bastard.

He assured us we they were printing as quickly as they could, if he could print them faster, he would, he’s so sorry for the delay.  Then he begins giving us options.  We can come back later, enjoy the convention, come back later.  They’ll keep printing, our pictures will be printed today, they won’t stop when the convention stops, they’ll keep printing.  But the nerds are Not Happy about any of this.  Some people have been waiting for hours having taken their photo at noon and it’s now past four.  Some people have a long drive ahead of them and can’t wait that long, nor can they return tomorrow to pick up their photo.  Other’s are pissed because they’d assumed they’d be able to get their photo signed afterward by the actor.

The Con Man in the “You’re killing me, Smalls” tee shirt tried his hardest to calmly separate possible from probable and offer up acceptable alternatives.  For those who could return the next day, he’d give passes to.  For those who could not — ah, yes, the best possible option – they would make the photos available on the website.  It will take a while to get them all uploaded, but the best possible option.  My friends and I found this completely acceptable.  We were ready to leave.  But not so all the nerds in the room.  This poor Con Man had to field many more questions and listen to those Who Must Be Heard before he could escape the room.

I’m sure he was not, but I was entertained by the ire in that sticky, gross room.  People demanding they receive a photo of themselves with someone they watch on TV and spent thirty seconds with — I mean, honestly, it’s not like we sat down for a cup of tea with these people!  We shook hands, introduced ourselves and stood on a mark.  As sweet as she was and as nice as it was to meet an actress I admire, meeting her was not the highlight of the convention for me.

Here’s what I liked best about the convention: the people.  Not the famous people, I liked the other people.  I liked the people who put effort and time and love into creating costumes and personas.  I liked the people who committed to exposing themselves to heat exhaustion by covering themselves head to toe dressed as Spiderman, Spirited Away spirits, or some sort of furry.  I liked this insane crush of thousands of people sharing and celebrating a common interest, that primarily seemed to be Dr. Who.  I liked watching people scour boxes of comic books, chat with artists, and peruse merchandise.  Every person my friend asked if he could photograph immediately said “Yes” and struck a pose.  Even the lady there as the Weeping Angel agreed to take a series of pictures where she was first stone, benign, behind my friend, then attacking her as she turned away.  I liked greeting every other Kaylee Frye with a smile and a nod, like bikers waving to each other on the road.  This is what made the convention for me.

If I have to wait a week or so to get my photo with Jewel from the website, so be it.  I had fun with the people who also enjoy comic books and science fiction.

But that photo thing was certainly one Hot Mess.

Boston, December 29, 2013, 11:55 pm

Pulling into South Station –

The platforms are empty of people,
only barren trains sleep beneath
lamps that look like paper lanterns
illuminating the concrete rows.
I imagine dozens of couples,
women in long gowns, men in tails,
dancing under the paper lanterns that
aren’t lanterns at all.

They secretly waltz where hundreds of
people trod earlier
thinking only of making it to their destinations,
getting window seats, losing luggage,
giving no thought to dance.

The couples glide majestically,
unconcerned they were not
considered by their predecessors.
They move in the silence:
Step, step, slide.
Step, step, slide.
No music is as lovely as that heard, collectively,
in their minds.
The only sound, a monkey
tapping time
against a piling,
echoes across the
empty space.

Text by me, Bex; photos taken from Daniel Lampariello at Boston to a T until I can go back and get my own photographs which will never be as pretty as his.

Reading Life

I haven’t really been reading lately — it’s just so hard sometimes when you work at a camp — but I’ve been wanting to.  I did read a pretty generic murder mystery a few weeks ago that had more to do with race relations in the south in the 50s and 80s than it did crime solving.  But I’ve been wanting some solid reading time.  I figured I’d have plenty of time to read on my 6 hour flight to Portland last week, so I picked up A Game of Thrones.  Figured I’d find out what all the fuss has been about.

I can’t seem to get into it.

I’ve read the Prologue; and I know your supposed to give a book twenty pages before you give up on it, but I’m just not there yet.  I’m going to keep reading, but it’s just so hard.  It’s so much easier, and, so far, more enjoyable to watch episodes of Dead Like Me instead.

I’ll go back to it.  I’ve got some hardcore reading withdrawals going on.  But I don’t know yet how I feel about this book.

Travel

There are a few things that I truly love and one of them is traveling.  I love traveling.  I absolutely love it.  I love getting on trains and buses and airplanes and going somewhere, anywhere; it doesn’t much matter where I am going, I love going there.  The time I took a bus to Worcester (ok, that trip sort of sucked, however it was still) was as exciting as the time I took an airplane to London.  Traveling is such a bizarre and wonderful reminder of how diverse and interesting people are.

Sure, humans are assholes.  I just read an article about how humans’ production of chemical pesticides are leading to the decline of the honeybee which is leading to the decline of the pollination of certain (many) plants that humans and other animals eat on a regular basis (and make money by producing) — we’re masochistic twerps.  But we’re infinitely interesting.

I was sitting in Dewey Square in the heart of Boston’s Financial District, where a Farmer’s Market sets up on Thursdays.  There I saw a variety (not a wide variety, but still) of people.  There were people who, like me, were coming from or going to South Station and other destinations, there were young and old professionals, white collar and working class, babies with their moms and nannies, dogs and children, and, my personal favorites, dirty, pierced, dreadlocked hippie musicians (hot) just trying to get to New Hampshire playing for tips next to the hipster with the skinny tie hawking caffeine from his Coffee Trike (The Coffee Trike, that’s right, and I’m on my way to Portland – don’t get me wrong, it’s equally hot, for oddly not that different reasons).  People never cease to amaze me (and bore me, but that’s a different topic).  And that’s why I love places like city parks and train stations and airplanes: it’s a great way to watch people in a vacuum.  They can’t escape your observation, and, let’s be honest, your scrutiny.  And, as mysterious as people try to be, they are never more so themselves as when they are in transit.

This morning I took a commuter train into Boston full of professionals on their way to their places of business and a handful of other travelers with further destinations.  Next I am going to take a bus to the airport where nearly everyone is departing the city for places not here.  That will be interesting and exciting to see what people choose to do while they await their next destination.

(And I now sound like I’ve been watching a little too much “Dead Like Me” — except I get to go too.)

I NEVER go out.

But yesterday I actually had plans to go up to my oldest friend’s place and watch James Bond movies and drink martinis.  Then, my very pregnant sister decided she was having Real Contractions.  I’m living with them at the moment and am “on call” to do stuff for her and watch their kid while they focus on birthing the new one.  I cancelled my plans and stuck around their place and made soup for dinner (I am not a soup person unless it’s chowder or chicken noodle or pureed — ok, maybe I do like soup, just not tomato-based soups).  And our older sister came over, ready to take care of the nephew with me and have a slumber party, but then it became very obvious that she wasn’t going to be birthing the baby that night.

She still hasn’t.  And I can’t help but be amused that I could have gotten sloppy drunk on martinis last night while viewing a Bond Marathon, but instead I made minestrone and danced around in my sister’s kitchen.

Haven’t gotten any writing done either, but that’s slightly neither here nor there.  What is prevalent is that it’s fucking cold in Boston at the moment and I actually sort of miss Tucson (no one should miss Tucson… unless, like me, there’s someone there worth missing or if you, also like me, prefer hot sun to clouds and freezing rain).