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  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    This year I’m
    doing something
    different than my
    usual tradition of
    pithy punch list of
    lessons learned to
    wrap this series of
    entries up.
    I’m writing
    this last entry
    exactly two weeks
    after we got home
    from the burn, b ...
    Readmore...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Monday morning I
    woke up early and
    decided that I
    wanted to do one
    more personal ritual
    before we had to
    break down and pack
    up our yurt and load
    the truck and leave.
    So I took my handpan
    and one of our
    little chairs and
    walked ou ...
    Readmore...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Sunday is always a
    tough day at the
    burn because we have
    to strike
    camp—it’s
    tough physically of
    course but
    it’s also
    tough emotionally
    because it feels
    like the setting and
    the vibe we worked
    so hard to put toge ...
    Readmore...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Saturday was my only
    day with nothing
    pre-planned and
    nothing I had
    committed to do. The
    burn was almost over
    and I was starting
    to feel nibbles of
    FOMO (Fear Of
    Missing Out) so I
    was determined to go
    see some more art
    (especially ...
    Readmore...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Because I had
    actually gotten
    enough sleep, I woke
    up reasonably early
    on Friday morning.
    Josh was still
    asleep, but I wanted
    to take advantage of
    the relative
    coolness of the
    morning and go do
    something. So I
    decided to take my h ...
    Readmore...

Parentheticals

A blog in which Our Heroine records, reflects and wrestles with meaning. With lots of asides.
Tags >> life

Ok, even though it’s not quite technically Fall yet, the Parentheticals summer hiatus is now officially over! (What, you didn’t know there was going to be a summer hiatus? Well, neither did I. Sometimes things come as a surprise even to the creator.) After spending a summer full of travel and family time and “filling-the-well” activities, I’m ready to get back into the rhythm of experience-reflect-share-repeat.

Nu, so what kinds of activities and epiphanies have I been blessed with over the last few months? Well, lots and lots. But let me start with the most recent and most affecting experience, because it’s gonna be a doozy of a writeup: my first trip to Burning Man. (Warning: since it’s been so long and there’s so much to share about this experience, I’m going to break this up into several blog entries. If you really only want highlights, you can look at the selected pictures throughout and/or skip to the “Top Ten Takeaways From Burning Man” section at the very end, or you can view the full set of pictures on my Flickr page .)

So: Burning Man. Maybe you’ve heard of it: that crazy amazing alternate universe of participatory radical self-expression where everything is a gift and a party, in which a temporary city of 50,000 people is built up in the empty desert for a week and then disappears literally without a trace. Well, after years of hearing about it in my peripheral friend circle, and thinking “hmm that would be cool to go check out some day, maybe when the kids are older”, I was gifted the perfect opportunity to go experience Burning Man for myself. I had always imagined that Josh and I would go together, but this opportunity was just for me: I was able to accompany my friend Isis (yep, that’s her “playa name”, I’ll get to that in a minute), a Burning Man veteran whose recent health issues had made her uncertain as to whether or not she’d be able to go, and whose original traveling partner(s) hadn’t been able to go either. She’d floated the “let’s go to Burning Man together” idea somewhere back in May or June, but given all the travel and activity that I’d already packed into my summer, and the distractions they created, I didn’t make up my mind to go until July. But there was finally a point (after a few key conversations) where I realized that this event could serve as an excellent catalyst for all the personal transformation I’ve been working towards for a couple of years now, and that the only things preventing me from going were my own fears (of the unknown, of logistical hassles, of what might happen if I really did put my own needs first, of true transformation).


Ok, I realize that I’m extremely late to the party on this one, but I feel like I have to talk a little bit about the Maker Faire, which we finally went to for the first time this year. Although I’d heard of it for years from various friends, and was told that I’d enjoy it, I apparently wasn’t listening hard enough, because we never made the effort to go before this. I have to say, I’m so glad we went—I was tremendously inspired, even despite having to wrangle several hyper and curious kids at the same time. I will definitely be going back every year now, and hopefully even figuring out how to participate next time.

I wasn’t totally sure what specifically to expect from the Maker Faire, although I knew in general that it was a place for all kinds of DIY “maker” people (engineers, scientists, tinkerers, architects, geeks, artists, gardeners, crafters, etc.) and their projects. And it was that, but I think I didn’t quite expect the sheer volume of creative/fun/interesting/intelligent/kooky people, performances and hands-on activities that we found there (and we totally did not even get the chance to see it all—maybe only half of what was there, if that). It was like the Exploratorium and Burning Man and Cirque du Soleil and the Whole Earth Festival all got together and had a polyamorous love child. I found myself most drawn to the crafty/artistic/performance stuff (as opposed to the more “hard science” or green/organic type stuff), but all of it was interesting and presented in such a way that I wanted to try everything.

What I really “got” after having been there was that for everything we saw, from the young guys who had mashed up Minecraft with Kinect to the firebreathing steampunk dragonmobile, from to the motorized giant cupcakes to the Mentos-and-Diet-Coke guys’ performance, from the life-sized poseable articulated stick people that anyone could rearrange to the enormous inflatable color-changing nylon asparagus sculptures that anyone could hug (or punch), the point and the purpose seemed to be to infect other people with a sense of curiosity or wonder or playfulness. It was like thousands of people all asked themselves “what kind of cool stuff could I make that other people would like?” and then they all got together and brought their inventions and let other people play with them and taught anyone who was interested how they worked and encouraged others to try making them too. It was a magnificent collection of cultural creatives all flying their freak flags high and proud.


I have been thinking a lot about memory lately. I’ve been doing some personal archeology in my own past, both as a form of research for the new novel, and as a part of the ongoing inquiry into issues of personal identity and self-(re)construction. I’m constantly amazed at how little I remember of my own life (let alone what was going on around me on a community, national or global level). I feel like the memories I do have are the equivalent of a small shoebox full of faded, oddly-colored photos, snapshots from this moment or that, not necessarily connected to each other and often unlabeled. Sometimes the snapshots are moving, like the Harry Potter kind, but they only capture a small moment, never an entire story. I’ll remember, say, contentedly walking across the UCSC campus on a macadam path under the redwood trees, listening to a Cat Stevens’ Greatest Hits tape on my Walkman. (Oy, did I just massively date myself or what? No matter. Onward.) But I don’t remember what I was wearing, where I was going, what the weather was, what the smells were, or why that moment was important. I just remember it.

Some moments are more important, and they are seared in my memory, yet still only snapshots: sitting in the stall of the school’s bathroom in 7th grade, fearing that the stain in my underwear meant I’d had some sort of incontinence but then in a thunderclap of understanding realizing that I’d just gotten my first period. Climbing up the dusty, switchback dirt path up Masada in Israel at dawn (and twisting my ankle and getting to ride the tram back down). My first “real” (albeit casual) kiss under the mistletoe hanging in the doorway of our Drama classroom in high school. The moment the ground heaved like the ocean and trees bowed like dancers while I was standing in the doorway of a classroom on the Kresge campus, during the Loma Prieta earthquake. Losing my virginity in the back of a Volvo station wagon, in the cast parking lot/campground of the Renaissance Faire. Sitting in the doctor’s office on my 23rd birthday, being told that the bad news was, it was cancer; the good news was, if there was any kind of cancer to get, this was the best one (and my response: “well happy fucking birthday”). Sitting at my desk in the house I shared with a friend in Santa Barbara, pouring intense emotion into typing back and forth on computer chat with Josh and finally coming out with “I love you” and feeling drunk on exhilaration and fear as I hit send. Our wedding day. The loss of three potential children. The birthing of my two sons. The morning of 9/11. The moment when a secret was revealed that changed my marriage.

It’s not that I have *no* memories, it’s just that they’re, well, snapshots. They’re brief. They’re incomplete. I question whether I’m remembering the events themselves or just the stories I have been told/told myself over the years *about* those events. Some things I feel I should remember are completely gone. World events, cultural milestones, family experiences. Everyday details, places, people. What kind of time did my brother and I spend together in middle school? What did I eat for lunch in high school? What did the outside of my last apartment in Santa Cruz look like? What was the first date like with the boyfriend I met through a personal ad? I feel like there is so much that is just irrevocably gone. Friends often play the game of “do you remember so-and-so?” with me, and almost always, the answer is no. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate or connect with the people around me at the time, it’s just that if they’re not still around, and they aren’t associated with one of the snapshots from the shoebox (or one of the stories I’ve told about the snapshots in the shoebox), well, they vanish. It’s a good thing I still keep family and friends around me from all the stages of my life, or I’d be constantly adrift, wondering where I’d been (and who with).


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