Monday, September 29, 2008

the right to sell my self

I put in a solid six hours of nonstop work on my practicum project today. I created real deadlines by lining up meetings with my practicum supervisior instead of waiting until I finished the project to talk. Sometimes I just think I really need that. Its pressure but its a real deadline. I do worry that its taking time from my other classes, but I'm on '2nd extension' so it should be a priority. I have until Thanksgiving technically, but I want it done by mid October at the latest. My classes will only be getting busier and more important each week, and I don't want to urn in mediocre work just because I'm overwhelmed. 

I have to say, I'm really proud of the quality of work I've put into this project. Even if only one person ever sees it, I know I've put my all into it. Tomorrow I will spend half my day in a car chasing a fall internship. I have a quiet confidence that I will be a perfect fit for what they need. Its a small nature center, a small hodgepodge of exhibits with a long history and tight budget. But that's real life. You don't always get to play with the billion dollar exhibits.

I have a natural ability to foresee problems, critique, connect and analyze media. I don't know where I got it but I am very good at knowing what to look for, what to tweak, what might be a problem, what won't/will work. Its hard to articulate though. Until you put me in exhibit design over the summer and I start bring up questions and design considerations that didn't even cross the instructor's mind...

I am still uncomfortable talking about those skills I have, too, because to say I'm natural at that and I have a thorough viewpoint is to me, arrogant. But when I graduate, won't I be selling my skills to employers? Does holding a master's degree give me some kind of bragging rights of does my ability speak for itself?

Having to work to show what I've done is important, too. Showing by really doing in the world. Not as an assignment but in something the public sees, does, learns. I always wanted to be a textbook writer for the same reasons I'm now interested in exhibit design. I truly believe that I can do it better than it exists right now. Am I brilliant? No. Do I know everything about everything? No, of course not. But I'm beginning to realize that i have my own specific point of view and skills, and it feels pretty damn good sometimes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

cobblestone memories

Decided to try a new venue today for work that's a little closer to home and hopefully not nearly as cold as the UNH Library. I saddled up on my bike and headed out of my apartment in a different direction entirely, towards Dover itself. Despite some crossings that demand some extra vigilance, the trip in is short and delightful. About two miles into town, under huge beech trees beginning to turn, the asphalt sidewalk changes into antique brickwork. NOt the type of modern bricks with every gap filled smooth and sharply geometric, no, these were rounded red semi-rectangular cobbles with gaps in between each that bounced my bike tires enough to make me giggle. The pattern of the wiggling, too, changed with the brick's orientation. I wonder how old they are. The houses in the neighborhood are up to 200 years old and by the degree of wear on the bricks I wouldn't be surprised if they had seen a lot more years in Dover than I have. 

As I start wondering about what Dover used to look like, I turn the corner towards the library where the sidewalk remains bricks but resembles a waterslide where it has twisted and been lifted or sunk from roots, erosion and frost heaving. This creates a delightful undulation under my wheels that I might never have noticed if not on a bike. I'm really beginning to love using my bike , though arguably I picked the wrong season to start to like it. 

Another class has an assignment that requires adopting a behavior that I don't do regularly to try and make it permanent. I was originally planning to eliminate plastic bags completely, but I really think that may be too easy. Maybe I should challenge myself to using my bike, walking or taking the bus if the trip is 5ish miles or less. This seems really easy but i think if I were to draw out a 5 mile radius line around my apartment, it would include more than I think it does.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Big bad hill

I feel so much more alive and normal today. I took my bike out this morning and pedaled to the UNH library to get some work done. It was a bit cooler than I expected and my hands turned pink for want of gloves. As I biked I noticed that all the side of the road weeds were swelling with seeds and berries. I must have fun over hundreds at a time on the sidewalk. The wind blew gently but just enough to rattle the drying gasses and accentuate the rustling of a few animals I surprised along the way. 

The ride to UNH passes a great swooping field, abandoned greenhouses, railroad tracks, a power cut, and a field of now dead sunflowers. The way to UNH is also marked by a steep downhill slope which makes me almost fear breaking the speed limit on my bike if I don't touch the brakes. Needless to say I don't usually go back on the bike but allow the bus to do the work of that uphill for me. 

Today, after 6 hours of really doing good work, I packed up to try and catch the 6:10 bus home. As I left the library the bells ran for 6:00 and the sun's golden glow spread out on the campus lawn. I unchained my bike and suddenly got the urge to just keep riding right past the bus stop. I didn't feel like keeping still. So I pedaled my original route in reverse towards home, wondering if the killer hill would clam me as a gasping, sweaty victim. 

I was surprised that I managed to get halfway up the hill with no problems at all. Then, the fatigue and less-than-substantial food court food gave up on me. My legs started to burn, my breath became warmer on my chin. But I just kept pedaling and pedaling and pedaling. My front tire wobbled like a six year old's with the training wheels freshly off, but I just kept pedaling. All of a sudden, the pedaling got easier. The hill had flattened out to a piece-of-cake incline and I breathed several rapid sighs of relief. That wasn't nearly as bad as it could be or as I thought. It as suddenly just any old hill, just a part of my trip home from UNH. I never once stopped the while way home, and I smiled proudly as the bus passed me only a half mile away from my stop. Not bad for someone formerly afraid of the big bad hill.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Every state line...

Took the scenic route home tonight on purpose. Had a lot of my mind that was best ruminated in the mountains with Nick Drake in the stereo. Funny how the same road can look so different in the opposite direction. The rolling purple hills accented by the setting sun's orange glow, a silhouette of wind turbines, a corn maze and an obelisk all greeted me as I headed back east through VT. Chill enough, too, for woodstoves to add that delicious wood smoke scent to my journey. I cracked my windows for most of the trip back in an attempt to absorb the experience. 

Drives like this make me yearn for a simpler life, with the dawn waking me and the moonrise completing my day. To be connected to a place like this - to the workings of the seasons and the timings of life's little sequences - sounds so right. This was in stark contrast to earlier in the day when I sat in a greek restaurant located on a busy highway, which instead of windows, they had an artist paint tromp l'oeil versions of Mediterranean vistas. Why should a state line, an arbitrary and unnatural boundary, have such an obvious effect on culture? 

When I left my home state of NY though Troy and crossed into Vermont, I knew I was in the state before I even saw the first VT sign. The culture is different. Peoples children were outside in Vermont. Fields were bountiful with crops, farms were old yet cared for. There's something in the air, even. When I crossed into NY on Friday I started sneezing any nose ran for no reason. But don't VT and NY share the same air? The same soil? why has this difference evolved? 

A friend suggested that the pollution might be causing my sniffles in Albany as she handed me a glass of filtered water. Where do you start when all of the population's knowledge about the environment starts with "Don't drink the water, the PCBs are all over the Hudson." Yes, it has basis in fact, but seems to state such despair, or worse, fear. The best solutions aren't universal and approaching one culture, whether it be a country, religion, political affiliation or state line can be a challenge. 

I often get overwhelmed and want to fix everything. My only hope is that I can find something that will make difference to people. Moving to Vermont to live a simpler life is tempting, but is there more work to be done on the other side of "the line"?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sunshine & pumpkins

Why can't humans look directly into the sun? I guess I mean why can't my delicate retinas tolerate the most sunning mountain sunset in Vermont as I attempt to drive west to Albany? Maybe its so I could be forced to stop at a farm stand to stroll around the signs of autumn and really notice the depths of orange sunlight on an orange pumpkin skin. Or to see shafts of dusty air illuminated through rows of hanging flowers. Or to force me to stop and appreciate the taste of the air today, the calling of my sweater in my backseat.

I find myself fascinated with sunsets and rises because of the fleeting alternative views on the world. Suddenly, and only for a moment the shadows and glow draw your attention to the most mundane and ignorable things, the rays transforming them into radiant beautiful objects. The dirty windshield of an old truck. A dead sunflower. A piece of wood, a row of grass. 

I feel like its a secret because only I am standing in front of these objects at the right minute as they are elevated to beauty and elegance. I frequently photograph scenes like this because I may never see the same combination of angle and timing of the earth's tilt as I am sure that if I returned tomorrow it wouldn't be the same. 

So stopping in exasperation as the setting sun overwhelmed my rods and cones afforded me a unique opportunity to see something no one will ever see again in quite the same way. I'm glad.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Environmental Writing Freewrite

Morning mist rises off the water's surface and swirls around the whiteness and greyness of the standing wood. The water, giving rise to this spooky show seems solid and still. There is no line between this smoke and sky, a hazy outline of wings only briefly stays to remind us of the world above. I crouch, motionless gazing at the tiny picket row of green between my mind and the cauldron's edge. The stalks stand askew as if mimicking the rows of trees without branches, and the color of the reeds feels more comfortable to me than the vast grey. 

Interrupting these teetering rows is a touch not of green, not of grey, but a translucent light brown. I nudge my toes to the squishy edge to identify this strange figure among the blades, and too soon I realize it isn't moving, but was surely once alive. Tiny armadillo like plates and gussets find their way to create what seems to be an alien armor - but hollow within. 

The emptiness, perhaps, reminds us of something that has escaped to a new world, a new form. Crawled out of the too-still mirror water, this creature pushed and escaped its shell with new wings to explore the unknown world of sky and grey. Like clothes discarded in haste or eagerness, this small brown skin calls back to a life under the surface, a life unknown to us no matter how hard we try to seek it.