Friday, December 30, 2011

Kindred Spirits

“Our lives at times seem a study in contrast... love & hate, birth & death, right & wrong... everything seen in absolutes of black & white. Too often we are not aware that it is the shades of grey that add depth & meaning to the starkness of those extremes.”
-Ansel Adams (whose photos these are)

There's so much I could say about today, but what sums it up for me is that I really feel like I visited with a kindred spirit more than just a source of inspiration when I went out to the museum to see Ansel Adams' works today.  I've always felt inspired by his images, well before photography became something I absolutely loved doing. 

In my somewhat limited exploration of America and its national parks, I've so often found myself standing there alone, trying to process it all.  Standing up in the mountains looking down over Colorado Springs or watching a storm roll in across the Rio Grande at sunset in Los Alamos at the overlook, or being  in the middle of an expanse of prairie grasses and forest in the fall when the entire world takes on the look of a stained glass cathedral.  Those things, to me, are the only true meaning of awesome.   And as someone interested in photography, I've always wanted to be able to somehow capture that, bring it back and share it. I feel like you're really letting people in to who you are when you can show them the things that take your breath away.  There's a certain intimacy to that, and I think that's something Adams did in a way that few others have.
"Some photographers take reality... and impose the domination of their own thought and spirit. Others come before reality more tenderly and a photograph to them is an instrument of love and revelation. "
Ansel Adams 

His photos have made me want to stand where he stood and remember all the amazing places I'd been, alone or with people.  It makes me remember how it feels and smells in the desert after it rains, or when the sun would spill up over the mountains each morning on my break from bread baking.   It reminds me of the Quebradas, so close to my home in Socorro at the time,  but it took someone visiting from IL for me to make the trek.  And I got to have that first person moment where you're standing in the desert in a windswept canyon wanting to climb until you can't climb any longer.  Where you feel small in the best way, turning a corner and being face to face with ancient stone and sun, and being able to have that moment with someone you care very much for.  Knowing they're feeling that same amazing sense of awe.

His photos make me want to keep having those adventures, keep sharing those moments. Keep writing, keep climbing...

“No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied - it speaks in silence to the very core of your being”

And the more I dug into his words and thought about the things that I've felt, the more personal it became to me, and I found myself being even more glad that I wasn't there alone.  I think we all really want is to share the things we love with the people we love.  And today walking around that place, I kept finding out more about the man AND his work, the more I related.  And the more I fell in love with the detail and depth and the clarity of the work I'd never seen that clearly before, the happier I was that I could share that feeling all over again.

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

Words have been unclear lately...and in absence of any more words to really say how I felt about sharing this experience with someone close to me and digging deeper afterwards, I'm just going to leave it to silence.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

All I can say...

Christmas is over, and while there's a lot I want to say about it, and even more pictures, and while I'm definitely trying to kick things off here again...
I'm completely without words today.
And most of yesterday.

Sometimes all you can do is stand in the silence and hope what you're not saying is getting through somehow. 
Sometimes all you can wish is that someone will know that you might be standing still and silent but you're holding back every impulse to run straight to them, because you know that's not always what's right in the moment.  But you're still there, and there's nowhere else you'd go, even if it feels really confusing.
And that's all I can say.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Night at the Mansion

Yesterday afternoon, I was in the midst of a pile of clean laundry, old papers and things that needed to be tossed out.  Not terribly glamorous, with my hair piled up in a messy bun, no makeup and yoga pants.  It was around this time I got a phone call with an invitation to go to the Cuneo Mansion for a cocktail party that evening. I knew about the party beforehand but had to be added to the list and hadn't heard about it, and had therefore figured that while it sounded fun, it wasn't meant to be.  The call came 2 hours before the party was going to start, roughly. I was on the list!

It was exciting at the same time it was a bit alarming (something I've been experiencing far too often lately, I might add).  Any female reading this knows why this  kind of news could fling a messy-haired hausfrau into a bit of a panic.  What was I going to WEAR? How was the hair going to go? Can I actually put all of this together in 2 hours? I ran to the closet and did some serious closet shopping while on the phone confirming I'd be there at the same time my head was going "You are not nearly fancy enough for this kind of event." Kind of a blur. I doubted whether I should go or not a few times, but at 6:30 sharp my glittery heels and little black dress were setting foot on the mansion grounds, trekking over to the main building.

 This is the terrace and reception area that we came in to. Pardon the grainy nature of some of these pictures, I was carrying a teeny tiny clutch and therefore could not put my big ol' camera in that bag.  I wasn't sure if it was the kind of event that'd appreciate big ol' cameras in the first place, so this is all brought to you by the iPhone.
 This was the main room for the event, which was sponsored by Yelp. Everyone was dressed impeccably and almost all the ladies were in black, so I felt like I did well there. (I'd go on to get lots of compliments on choice of dress and sparkly shoes, which were nice!) There were lots of high end party vendors, and when we first walked in we got pulled in to do a blind 12 yr. Scotch taste test, wherein I discovered I cannot tolerate Johnny Walker Black. There were high end cupcakes, appetizers, plenty of bartenders and a wine tasting that we took part in with Lulu wine.  This ballroom itself was awesome, with amazing tall centerpieces, a beautiful dance floor and amazing chandeliers.
 You know, like that. I can't help it if I'm a magpie.  These were just gorgeous.  There was a raffle for a big New Year's Eve event at the Hotel Inter-Continental downtown which sadly, I did not win.  They made a few announcements and gave some background on the property, which apparently was donated to Loyola University a year ago, and then?  They told us to go explore the mansion!  I was excited about this part just in general because the peek I'd taken earlier had promised good things to come.  We sat and finished our wine and talked a little and then headed out to explore.
 The mansion is full of big stone archways and amazing Italian Renaissance style decor.  The lighting is amazing, and it was decked out for Christmas with garland and white lights.

They had a DJ in the main atrium and a palm reader in the Ships room, which smelled like antique books. It had a concealed telephone booth and bathroom and was just full of dark wood, actually taken from ships.

I always love giant libraries, and the wood detail in this one and all the old books from floor to ceiling made me want to cozy up and stay.  But there was more mansion to explore, of course...
 It's honestly amazing, and the pictures, especially phone pictures, don't really do it justice. It felt surreal to be all dressed up and have the run of a beautiful mansion like this one.

We got to explore all the bedrooms which were full of beautiful gowns and bedclothes, fainting couches and ornate hairbrushes.

Naturally this got us in the mood for a few glamour shots ourselves, so we indulged.

Here's me and Juli, who got me the invite...
And here's our equally glamorous elite, who was the one who had the invites to put both of us on the list.

The whole night was pretty incredible, I must say. It just felt like you were in a movie. It's not all that often you get to shine up your best sparkly shoes, put on your little black dress and attend a holiday cocktail party at a beautiful mansion.  The whole night seemed magical.  Great conversations in the candlelight glow of an old stone mansion.  It's something I certainly couldn't picture I'd get the chance to do...and something I'm so glad I did. 

This year for me has been for getting out of what's comfortable and trying new things.  And I was *so* nervous before this party...what if I did or said something wrong, wasn't dressed nicely enough, was too dressed up...

And in the end, I got to be *here*. I met someone new, laughed, drank wine, told stories, and explored, and every moment was more than worth it. I guess that's just another Wednesday at the mansion, eh? ;)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The First Snow

(Parenthetical Opening Statement: Kick my butt for not just posting when I have the desire to write. Because...someone needs to.  If only me when I read this)

So here I am in Illinois. Another year older, and sometimes when I look at things, it seems that nothing's really turned out. For all I thought it would get me to be here, it's the holiday season and I am yet again looking for work. It's a rough time of year for a lot of people, and at the same time we all want to feel warm and cozy and loved.  I was curled up on the couch last night watching a Muppet special BEGGING for it to snow and attempting not to tear up when the little girl in the special just wanted the people she loved to be with her for Christmas.  Some of the people I love are here, but some....I would give anything to have them around to spend the holidays with.  People who can change my entire day with a few words, and who turn my world upside down in good ways when they're around.

There's something about the first snow.  The way the air smells...the different sort of chill in the air...
I look forward to it so much.  I thought I smelled it in the air early this morning on my walk to a friend's house.

I watched the clouds gather some this afternoon while I was eating dinner with a friend and kept hoping.  It's December 1st, and in my book, it's past due.  My heart is in the desert, of course, but the Midwesterner in me demands that if we have to endure the harsh winters and negative temperatures, we should at least get consistent blankets of snow.  It just changes things.  Where I live it gives all the old buildings the look of Christmas villages, and the forests that insane pristine white sparkle. 

I had a dress rehearsal tonight for our holiday concert with the Wind Ensemble, and now, post-Thanksgiving, I was ready for full on Christmas.  Dress rehearsals are always hard work, always longer hours, but fun. They're also usually right in the midst of a storm.  I don't know why, but it's happened for years now. For 2 hours I played things like Sleigh Ride, Greensleeves, and the like and hoped soon it would look a bit like things were sounding.

And when I stepped outside? It did.  I know it doesn't make all that much sense, but it really felt like a gift to me. My mood always improves when I'm playing music, so I had a good start, but getting outside and being greeted by a good steady-falling snow?   It transformed my mood.  The real deal. Snow on my eyelashes, my hair, on my coat...suddenly everything just felt better. I felt like a kid, and nothing else mattered. Not plowing, not the roads on the way home, not anything.  Just the feeling of witnessing the first snow.  A few of the ensemble members actually cheered, and I joined in. There's something that feels almost sacred about it, maybe just the arrival of a new season, maybe the way the world seems a bit quieter when the snow starts falling.

But in a month when a lot of things can get you down...distance, money, loss...
It's the little things that aren't so little anymore.

My "dad" told me that tonight.  That even if it doesn't make sense, and even if it seems silly...the people that love you, if they had the power, would make it snow just for you, just to see you smile.
And no matter what you believe or who you are...
I hope one of these nights you feel like it's snowing just because you hoped it would. And when it happens, I hope you feel a little loved, whether it's silly or not.