Tuesday, May 11, 2010

a spring something to look forward to...

Here is an event that we, at Peabody have been working on recently. Mostly, I just wanted to share this SWEET poster made by a fella at CMU featuring art by some of my loverly, talented Peabody students. MAY 21. Be there or be square.

Go to www.pghbeatmakers.com for more info if you like.

Sorry for being irresponsible with this, here blog. I really have no excuses.

Monday, November 16, 2009

blue and other things.

The first few weeks of November in Pittsburgh have been surprisingly warm. These are the kinds of surprises I welcome. Instead of knit hats and mittens, I have been donning simple sweaters and, at times, bare toes. While the trees are slowly but surely shedding their leaves completely, providing twisted, barren glimpses of winter, the sunshine and warm air continually bring me back to a summery kind of ease.

This past Saturday, the warmth and sunshine pulled me outside. I spent about three hours at Highland Park, reading, enjoying the blue sky (as the photos below prove) and loving on the sunshine while it's still around.

(This first photo diverges from the others just a bit. It's me on my first day of work per Nancy's request. Here ya go, Mom!)

Here's two of the few photos I took from Halloween. I was a bumble bee complete with tiny wings and a stinger, Lydia was a rooster complete with yellow rubber gloves for feet, Jordan was Thomas the Tank Engine complete with built-in beer can holder in the form of a tiny smoke stack, Dave was the classic mummy complete with constantly dropping chunks-o-toilet paper and Jenna was a bubble bath complete with shower cap, as you can well see. It was fun.

This photo was taken at the farm in Louisville when Elisabeth, Jenna and I drove down in September to visit the ladies plus Bradley and celebrate Lydia's 22nd birthday. The farm house is charming and has endearing qualities in some respects but, I know Lydia and Jamie are generally sick of unwelcome critters joining them as housemates and the ghosts that make themselves known in the middle of the night--they say the place is haunted. Yup.

More photos and words coming soon.
Love and all good things.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

pittsburgh, PA!

Hello friends and family.

This space for writing and sharing has been profoundly neglected for the past year of my life. So, in an attempt to keep everyone updated and to continue reflecting on the changes in my life since entering the scary world of post-college graduation, here I am again, typing and posting photographs from my experiences and life here, in Pittsburgh.

Here are some photos from my time in Pittsburgh so far, taken by miss Jenna Sue (for those of you who read the "Since You've Been Gone" blog, sorry for the repeats!).

My new home! 508 N. Sheridan

Jenna, Elisabeth and I decided to go for a walk up to Highland Park on one beautiful fall afternoon. Highland Park is a park that sits high above the city skyline. The park is a wonderful place for walks and picnics with its rolling hills and giant, ancient trees.

Jordan, along with Jenna's pro-painter mom Susan, helped me paint my room a lovely butterscotch color. It is nice and cozy.

For Americorps, Jenna, Elisabeth and I have trainings every-other Friday in the supervising office downtown. This is a photo of our stroll back over the bridge to our car after the long day of meetings was over.

Backyard silliness with a monocle. This picture is obviously a bit old--notice the bare shoulders and extra-short hair. Lately, fall has provided us with chilly temperatures and my hair looks much shaggier.

Pittsburgh still feels a bit strange to me at times but, it's starting (slowly, but surely) to feel more and more homey. I have started taking yoga classes on Wednesday nights at the Union Project where Jenna is working and it has been nice to venture into parts of the city that I have never explored before. Work has been a blessing and a challenge all rolled into one giant ball of frustration, confusion and joy (much more on this to come). Home always feels like a retreat--a warm place to come together and cook delicious meals together, watch good movies, read solo and have good conversation.

Now, it's time for a pot-luck dinner with friends who live a few blocks away. We're already about 5 minutes late.

Thanks for reading and looking.
Sending peace, love and all good things your way,

I will do my very best to post as often as I can.

Friday, November 21, 2008

szentendre salad

A few weeks ago, the four of us pals jumped on a commuter train and traveled the 40 minute distance to Szentendre. A small, riverside town nestled in Hungary's rolling hills, Szentendre was bursting with beautiful fall colors. We arrived around lunch time and stopped for a long, leisurely, delicious meal complete with fanta orange to drink and chocolaty treats for dessert. The rest of our time in this tiny, picturesque place was spent wandering through the store-lined, cobble stoned streets and sitting on the banks of the river. We stumbled upon a tiny gallery and found brightly colored leaves and bought wonderfully touristy Hungarian treasures. The day was lovely. Maybe one of my favorite days in Hungary.

...my family flies into Budapest tomorrow afternoon. I can't believe it's almost Thanksgiving. Amazing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

ukraine, weeks ago.

Hello my dear friends and family.

A few weeks ago, I travelled with the rest of the Calvin group to the Ukraine for a weekend of new sights, flavors, traditions and peoples. Although just across Hungary's north-eastern border, our time spent in Ukraine was a world away from life in Budapest. Once again, we spent most of our time travelling from town to town in our trusty and ever-so-rickety VW vans. It was wonderful to spend time away from the city and take in the views of the countryside. Small gardens behind white-washed homes speckled the dewy, green landscape. During the weekend, we spent time hiking through the countryside, tasting delicious local wines, visiting numerous ancient churches, and goofing around with beautiful Roma children in a small gypsy ghetto.

Like every day in Ghana, as we strolled through the muddy street of the Roma ghetto, I was struck by the immense poverty in action all around me. Giant piles of burning trash, bare-footed, smudged-faced children and toothless women and men create a world that seems like an alternate universe. No matter how many times I have seen these sights or smelled these smells, I am always struck by the incredible disparity between the privileged and the underprivileged. I was blessed to be born into a middle-class American family--a family who has supported my dreams and goals in life both emotionally and financially. No matter how frustrated I become with political issues or unnecessary wars, as an American, I am constantly blessed with immense liberty, freedom and affluence.

It is hard to walk away from raw poverty without becoming angry with the very reality of social injustice in the world today. The Roma are a people with a vibrant culture--filled with music and song and artistry. We were lucky enough to spend a short time in a worship service at the local Reformed church in this particular ghetto and had the privilege to hear the joyful praise and unabashed voices raised in song. Women sang in high-pitched, loud, piercing phrases as a young Romani man strummed a worn guitar. Small children peeked over church benches, stifling giggles. These men, women and children, like so many others all around the globe, deserve the same healthcare, the same educational opportunities and the same freedoms as you or me.

Beyond witnessing the world's immense inequalities once again, I was struck by Ukraine’s beauty. We were lucky enough to be in Ukraine over the Catholic holiday, All Saints Day. Traditionally, on this day, family members of the deceased visit graveyards with arms full of flowers in full bloom and colorful glass jars filled with tiny candles. Families spend hours decorating long, cement and stone graves--breaking off tiny buds and creating beautiful flower mosaics throughout the cemetery. In recent years, Catholics are not the only observers of this day. Instead, All Saints Day has become a cultural tradition in which all members of society participate. In fact, it has become so popular that Robbie, our Johnny-Depp look-alike guide, told me that decorating the graves has turned into a competition between families. And, even beyond the competition, families are expected to decorate these giant graves. Either way, because of all this cultural expectation and competition, not one grave is left untouched. Even the smaller, more humble graves marked by a single metal cross are given some sort of adornment. A simple bouquet or a few small candles, pushed into the earth.

In the day time, cemeteries all over the Eastern European landscape are bursting with color. The grey stonework laid out across acres of land is transformed by human hands into a meadow in the spring time—flowers bursting from every corner. At night, the sight is even more spectacular. Small votive candles illuminate the cemetery with glowing red, green and white light. It feels like Christmas time, everything bursting with color.

Here are a few photos to help explain these wonderful sights. Thanks for reading.

Peace and Love.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I am not resigned.

Almost a month ago, the entire Calvin group travelled to Poland for four cold and rainy days filled with history. We spent several days in Krakow, touring the city with a local guide and learning just a small fragment of Poland's complex history over the past centuries and most recent decades. It was incredible to learn about the realities of life in Poland during the Nazi occupation in WWII. As we walked through Krakow's misty and dripping streets, we came upon a giant red-brick building where over 180 university professors and academics were arrested and later sent to concentration camps. Walking down those cobblestoned streets made history come alive and become concrete. It was incredible to learn the raw statistics of the age. Before the war began, hundreds of thousands of Jews called Krakow home. Today, decades after the ravages of the Nazis, only 100 Jews remain in Krakow.

On Saturday morning, we travelled an hour and a half ouside of Krakow to Auschwitz/Birkeneau. Our experience at Auschwitz is indescribable. When we initially arrived, I was struck by the "touristyness" of the whole thing. Giant groups of high school students and tour buses and crowds of picture-takers lined the entry-way of the museum, speaking loudly and laughing. I longed for perfect silence and sombre attention.

As I walked in the rain and cold across Birkenau’s barren landscape, I could not help but feel anger, frustration, heartache and sorrow for all those lives lost, all those freedoms shattered. I’ve known about the realities of the Holocaust since I was very small. And yet, even with all the information, the statistics and various details of the time shoved into my brain, standing before the ruins of the crematoria shattered my world. I can’t get those images out of my mind. I can’t go one day without thinking about the long, straight tracks which run down the center of Birkenau, their only purpose to glide innocent men, women and children to towards death. The most inconceivable human cruelties have become history’s reality. That day, Jordan and I discussed how the word "unbelievable" has taken on a completely new meaning since walking along the gravel-lined lanes of Auschwitz.

In Italy, several weeks later, I purchased a book of selected poems. One of them cries out as gruesomely appropriate after my experience in Poland.

Dirge Without Music
-Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in
     the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, -- but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter,
     the love, -
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant
     and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do
     not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses
     in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gracie, Ciao! Ciao!

This past week, after very little planning and even less mental preparation, I journeyed to Italy and experienced one of the most incredible trips of my life. The decision to go to Venice and Florence for the week was a quick one. The few of us that went on the trip together packed our things Saturday afternoon and headed to Venice that night, filled with expectation and excitement and immense curiosity. After the 13 hour train trip overnight, complete with several early-morning border control stops through Slovenia and Croatia, we arrived to beautiful morning quiet and serenity of the Venice canals.

Our first morning in Venice was like a dream. The early morning mist and fog hung over the canals as an orange sun peeked behind tall, terra-cotta buildings with arched windows and split wooden docks afloat before them. Before the ever-present tourist bustle began, we wound our way through the maze-like streets and over tiny, picturesque bridges, past closed shop windows full of sparkling, vibrant Murano glass. In our short time spend in Venice, our first morning sticks out in my memory. I reveled in the quiet of the streets as shop-keepers unlocked their doors and wiped down café tables in preparation for the crowds to come. The grey coolness of Venice's empty streets and canals is a gorgeous sight.

After that one quiet morning, however, our time in Italy was filled with crowds and countless cameras, tour-groups and over-priced tickets. Don’t get me wrong, the trip was amazing as a whole. And yet, there were certain days when I felt like a cow in a herd of cattle—swept one way or another by those fellow tourists around me, gawking at the scenes and taking unnecessary pictures. The “touristy-ness” of Venice and Florence was a definite turn-off, an unfair remark to make as I, myself, added to those giant crowds and picture-takers.

Beyond my slight annoyance with the swarms of tourists, the trip was filled with mind-blowing art. On a day spent in Padua, a small city just a short train ride away from Venice, we had the amazing opportunity to see the Scrovegni Chapel. The simply-decorated exterior of this tiny church is deceiving. The plain red brick exterior gives no clue to the revolutionary art inside—frescoes by Giotto. The chapel is filled from top to bottom with Giotto’s masterpiece, chronicling the life, teachings, suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. Before Giotto’s work in this chapel, figures were painted as flat and one-dimensional, lacking movement or natural shape. The walls of Scrovegni, on the other hand, are filled with the work of Giotto’s masterful brush and revolutionary ideas. The figures are painted with correct perspective and beautifully textured clothing and hair, their faces wrought with all varieties of emotion. The chapel was vibrant and beautifully preserved—a true masterpiece.

Along with Giotto’s chapel in Padua, we had the incredible opportunity to see Michelangelo’s David on our last day in Italy. That giant, graceful, beautifully-crafted figure is an amazing accomplishment and a feast for the eyes. Never before have I seen such perfect grace in a statue, such smooth beauty and wonderfully complex emotion. The David was the perfect conclusion to this once-in-a-lifetime trip. A trip filled with intrigue, beauty, sunshine, history, laughter and joy.

...and, let's be perfectly honest-- a whole lot of gelato. Twice a day isn't a crime.

Here are just a few photos from the many (ahem...700) that I snapped on the trip: