field notes:

5.17.2003

I thought summer was upon us. After all, we had some sweet hot days followed by fog, and the Giants lost 5 games in a row which annually means June Swoon. But the Giants got unsteadily back on their injured feet, and the summer heat and fog pattern has given way to a more springlike unpredictability.

The Ospreys that nest just below the Perth trail in Inverness' First Valley have one very small chick. We haven't put a scope on it yet, but I can report that it is gray, small and eating well. The pair that nested just off the trail are bothered more by passerby, but the contents of their nest remain hidden high from view. I wonder if there is an Osprey-webcam anywhere.

We looked at a house in Marshall yesterday. It faces Hog Island and the wind. The neighbor's dock has a subscription wind gauge which pages windsurfers when the wind reaches a certain speed. It probably happens regularly.

The caspian terns are back, raising the bar for competitive fishing.

My soon-to-be sister-in-law asked me how tan I am right now. The bridesmaid's dress I'll be sporting in a couple of weeks is beige and apparently looks ghastly with less-than-tan skin. My southern california family doesn't understand that I live in an icebox of a cabin, that even when the sun is hot the peninsula is windy, and that lying in the sun went out with the ozone layer and doing jello shots. In the week before the wedding I'll have to do lots of surfing. It seems okay to get a bit of a tan while doing something athletic, but lying in the sun just for the sake of a tan is strictly forbidden, or at least a family secret.
posted by Lisa Thompson on 7:58 AM link | comments []

5.14.2003

The Dancer Upstairs

John Malkovich directed, and if you were ever drawn to him before, now you will know why. This film turns slowly like a dancer--measured, mesmerizing, evocative. Although the story is about terrorism, the movie refrains from any kind of polemics, because Malkovich believes that terrorism can't be justified by polemics. The hidden text is that the movie is an homage to Costa Gavras' State of Seige and that the story is vaguely based on Peru and Sendero Luminoso, from a book of the same name by Nicholas Shakespeare.

The main character is a policeman played by Javier Bardem, named Rejas. At one point in the film he and the dancer, Yolanda, sit in a cafe--walls hung with portraits. On each table is a guide to the "identity" of each person. They take turns guessing the identity of each face. That one is a thief, but you think he's a student, that one's an engineer, who you thought was a murderer. The Dancer Upstairs is all about ambiguity and identity. Rejas' wife sells cosmetics, and hangs polaroids of herself all around the bathroom trying to decide which kind of nose she'll order for herself in dreamt-of surgery. She and her friends know that one can do much to the face to mask the identity within. What Rejas learns is that although the identity is masked, it cannot be hidden. The terrorist group in the unnamed country hangs portraits too. From streetlights all over town hang dead dogs with signs claiming "Long Live Ezekiel" and sometimes an Emmanuel Kant quote.

The word violence carries too much weight now so that its meaning is obscured. The word can hardly be used--it means both too much and too little. But that is the word that I want to use to describe the acts of terror. They obliterate what was and replace it with ruin and pain and devestation, all in a moment. Nothing I've seen on film gets that right like this does. Malkovich gets across the idea that to the terrorist, the act of terror is performance art, and the human consequences are irrelevant.

The camera loves Rejas' face. The sorrow and knowledge in that face hold the film. All of life passes in front of those eyes. And what is left there at the end is the ruin. As Malkovich says, "that's what life is, life is corruption."




posted by Lisa Thompson on 7:49 AM link | comments []

5.12.2003

I spent time yesterday in some of the neighborhoods of Berkeley and San Rafael. It was a perfect Bay Area day--sunny and blue-skied. Often I wonder if I ever decide to move "over-the-hill" where I would go, and I played this game. Some time, I tell myself, the solitude of Inverness might turn to isolation. I may want to be more involved with other people, closer to movies, theater, the city. And then I might want to give up the country life for a quiet, charming neighborhood. Would I choose funky Fairfax, convenient and more urban San Rafael, or would I..dare I really give over to the impulse and move to the east bay, where I'd be in the company of folks like me rather than Marin millionaires and Humvie soccer moms?

As I drove with my friends through these towns I played the wonder game. Every neighborhood had its charms, cute porched-houses, beautiful gardens, nearby parks, and everywhere that sunshine. The other Inverness wonder is whether this winter without sun will be the last I can take. Just how many cords of wood will it take, how many damn fires will I have to build?

I was still wondering when I arrived back home. Filled with ideas of book and coffeeshop proximity, of getting to a movie in 15 minutes rather than 45, of friends dropping by. It had been a long day with perhaps a little too much sun, and I was tired. But the dog needed a walk so we headed to the beach.

Pow. The wonder. When my eyes took in the great expanse of blue Tomales Bay I felt something unhook. Visions of sunny neighborhood days drifted away like dreams leaving my morning bed. Palpable relief flooded my wondering mind through the prosperity of sight--healing water. Like a gut punch, with a struggle to the surface for air, I remembered that I was home.
posted by Lisa Thompson on 7:25 AM link | comments []

5.11.2003

Tired of taking Mom to brunch? Why not take her to a peace vigil and celebrate Mother's Day true to the original spirit of the holiday.

Julia Ward Howe first proposed Mother's Day as a day for women to unite around the idea of peace. The popularity of the day came and went and until the early 1900's when Anna Jarvis began a big push for a nationally recognized Mother's Day in honor of her mom, who had tried to establish 'Mother's Friendship Days'--an attempt to heal wounds caused by the Civil War.

Finally, in 1914 the US House and Senate passed a Mother's Day resolution. Originally, women wore a single carnation, white for deceased mothers and colorful carnations for living mothers. By 1923 Ann Jarvis was fighting against the forces of commercialization. She sued one mother's day festival and was arrested for disturbing the peace as some "war mothers" sold carnations at another event. Jarvis was especially disgusted by ready-made greeting cards as substitutes for letters we were too lazy to write ourselves.

"This is not what I intended," Jarvis said. "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit."

Mother's Day deserves to be reclaimed for its original intention. It's a holiday created by activists. Julia Ward Howe clearly saw women as the natural enemies of war, and wanted to mobilize that nurturing spirit to create peace. Anna Jarvis wanted to celebrate the strength and endurance of mothers.

Is Mother's Day lost forever to Hallmark, FTD, and fancy but marginal restaurants overlooking the water? I'm not holding out much hope in my family. My mother flew home from a fun week in New York so my brother wouldn't "miss out" on the opportunity of taking her to brunch. For my part, I sent candles and a hand-written card. So the candles will shine brightly at a dinner party, and not at any vigil, but maybe in my family, that's the best we can do.



Mother's Day Proclamation - 1870
by Julia Ward Howe

Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

posted by Lisa Thompson on 8:06 AM link | comments []

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