Wednesday, January 25, 2017


My absolute worst childhood memory is a ritual on the school bus in elementary school. Our first stops were through my rural neighborhood followed by a pickup at a trailer park before we reached the school. I remember sitting there, wide-eyed and silent, as a group of the rural kids carried out their daily tradition of yelling the derogatory 90s slang “scrubs” at the trailer park students as the bus stood at the stop sign where kids embarked. I don’t even recall them fighting back, they just took the insults and sat down. The faces of these screaming, laughing white boys from nice families stay with me. This was 20 years ago and wasn’t about race, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. It was homeowners vs trailer park. It’s this memory that pops up whenever I hear about bullying in the news.

This month, I attended the opening reception for the “I’m Tired” project at the Center for Creative Education in Beacon. The photography exhibit is a platform for the voices of students at Rombout Middle School about bullying and the impact of our everyday assumptions. Each of the over 600 students were invited to share what they were “tired of” in an anonymous statement written on the palm of their hands. I found this simple opportunity for expression an effective outlet for sharing, while at the same time bringing us face to face with our own assumptions we may not even realize are hurtful.

Center for Creative Education:

Periods, winter, and cleaning the pool

“If we are to be a people of balance, then we must have the ability use periods just as we love to use commas and exclamation points and semicolons. What is a period if not a circle—a vital symbol of many of our experiences. Yes, it is a circle that is completely filled with darkness, and sometimes that is not comfortable—but it is still necessary."

I’ve had this mystery quote inked down for awhile and the idea comes up in relationships with people. A period marks the death of a sentence, but the story continues. The sentence doesn’t disappear. A period doesn’t erode or erase. The sentence has reached its peak.

The season and the political climate of the past year have prompted me to evaluate relationships. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis used a stagnant winter to represent oppression and hopelessness of beings in his fantasy land of Narnia. Innocent child Edmund happens upon the evil White Witch along the road and she tempts him with candy and the prospect of having power over his siblings. Long story short, Edmund is saved by the siblings he initially sought to throw under the bus.

An enduring relationship is comforting. It feels right, even if the relationship has reached its end. I’m no longer grasping onto connections for the sole reason of longevity. I know I’m supposed to be seek to understand why you think the way you do and respect your opinion. I’m supposed to be open-minded. I’m sorry, but there’s a difference between “I think chocolate covered Swedish fish are wrong” and “I think interracial children are wrong.” I only live once and prefer to spend my energy with people who inspire and support me and want the same changes in the world.  

When I was young my neighbors would let us swim in their pool. It was beautiful, like something out of Architectural Digest. We entered the gates and ran for the traps along the edge to see what was collected overnight, and we would grab the skimmer and graze off the leaves and seeds and bugs that floated on the surface. Sometimes there would be a dark blob in the bottom of the deep end, maybe leaves after a storm or a drowned chipmunk. Skimmer handling teaches you that the rippling water and sunlight make the long pole appear bent and you have to compensate with your aim. Also, the big blob might not be solid, but instead be a pile of powdery debris that if disturbed too much, can make a mess that’s hard to control.

Some people can help you get the water-logged debris and dead animals from the depths, and some can skim the top. Both functions are vital for a radiant pool, but they’re different operations. Refracting light and the pattern of the pool liner makes the blobs look in indistinguishable. Like when there’s a smudge on the screen and you can’t tell if that mark is a period or a comma. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Eagle hunting in rosendale


Do an image search for Mongolia and you’ll find women in colorful fur hats, camel races in the barren plains, and giant golden eagles perched on the arms of their trainers. When I learned The Eagle Huntress was showing at the Rosendale Theatre this month, I knew I wasn’t going to miss the beautifully-shot documentary that's been sweeping up awards worldwide. The film follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl from Mongolia who follows her family’s tradition of eagle hunting, a form of falconry. She is the first female in her country take the challenge and the film follows Aisholpan and her father as they capture an eaglet from a cliffside nest and train it to catch game like rabbit and fox. Golden eagles have a lifespan of 30 years and after their time with humans, Mongolians typically them back into the wild after about 7 years.

About a third of the Mongolian population, including Aisholpan’s family, remains nomadic. The film followed her family as they pack their house into a truck and take off for their seasonal home. She and her siblings live at school during the week and she returns home on weekends to train her eagle.

Aisholpan and her father travel on horseback to the annual Altai Eagle Festival in Bayan Olgii. The contest measures participants’ skills in appearance, horseback riding, and control of their birds. Aisholpan and her father next ventured on a hunting trek for fox in the snow covered mountains to test her skills. Temperatures during these hunts can plunge to -30, and scenes of Aisholpan chipping a hole in an iced-over lake so her horse can drink made the 30 degrees we’ve seen this month in New York feel more bearable.

Rosendale Theatre: