Friday, January 27, 2012

Instead of clubbing...

My housemate's father is visiting this week, and managed to time his visit to another streak of forty below weather.  I'm sure he's pleased as punch about that (not).

We were all gathered around the woodstove last night, me and darlin' man, my breda, her father, and her partner (also a homesteading dreamer).  We were drinking Sleepytime, yarrow, and green teas respectively.  It was a lovely gathering of the hearts, enjoying the warmth of tea and fire and laughing at the antics of two huskies, winding down from the day to go to bed.  We showed her father the particularities of our woodstove as we are all off at work today, leaving him with the house.  And conversation, inevitably turned to talking of spruce vs birch, and relative time for seasoning wood, and how and where it is stacked.  We got some bone dry spruce this season, that isn't as good as birch - birch burns much hotter and longer (no maple or oak up here!).  So we weren't burning alot of it, but its stacked exactly where I want the garden come spring/summer time; so we're making a concerted effort to burn it all rather than having to restack.  The leftover birch will benefit from another year of seasoning...

We were engaged in our discussion, when into a brief lull, my breda laughs and comments "look at us!  Anyone else our age would be out clubbing!"  Because there we were, four young folk ranging in age from 26 to 32, perfectly happy having an age old discussion as fitting of 60 year olds as ourselves.  We all have plenty of friends who were probably at a bar, or at a club....  Funny how life changes you.  Lets you grow.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Imbolc approaches and the light returns

Yesterday we hit over six hours of official daylight.

And today, the sun rose before 10 am.

Monday, January 23, 2012

2012: Goals and Resolutions

My birthday falls just shortly after the new year, and every year I write letters to my variously older self, and read the letters of previous years.  It makes for a very reflective beginning of the year that has little to do with toasts of champagne and resolutions that are made while in one's heart one knows they will be broken before the snow melts. 

My resolutions this year are to be kinder to myself and try to release the pursuit of perfection.
To commit to my yoga practice.
To embrace seasonality.

But there is a vast difference between resolutions and goals, and with the approach of Imbolc, when the roots of the rest of the year begin to stir, I have been thinking about my goals for the coming year.
Firstly - to drink more water.  I believe I may even make this a belated resolution : to drink water everyday.  I subsit on coffee too frequently, and while I have taken to drinking tea in the afternoon sometimes, it is also good to just hydrate.  Without the caffeine.

Over at Weeding for Godot, she has a sidebar list of goals, which she crosses out.  I may have to steal the idea!  But for now, I'm still contemplating, weighting the reality of work to be accomplished with my grandiose long term plans.
A few things I'm fairly certain will make the list:
Dig in the garden and prep for next year's planting
Grow tomatoes and basil on the deck
Plant kitchen garden of herbs and flowers
Dig in rhubarb and asparagus beds, or at least figure out where these will be.
Weed raspberry patches, and run wire strings between rows for orderliness and support
build coop
get chickens
Start (and hopefully finish) greenhouse.

Plan and plot as to eventual location of barn, pasture, garden, orchard, bramble, sauna, greenhouse, windmill, yard, tree house, woodstacks,  etc.

Friday, January 20, 2012

We're in the paper!

We were featured in the Latitude 65!  Which is the Arts and Entertainment/Events section of the local newspaper. 
I realized the other day that I have a very skewed perception of the newspaper.  Skewed away from how I think most people probably percieve it.  As a performer I have been featured - my photograph - on the cover of the Latitude section or the UAF newspaper, I think four times?  And (almost) everytime I do a show, there's a picture or a quote or a reference to me in the paper. 
This particular publicity, though, is really exciting.  And touching.  And heartening!  The last two shows that Revive the Red Tent produced were not mentioned in the paper.  If I recall, they wouldn't even put us in the listing of community events calendar for the week.  Those two shows were Eve Ensler's "A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer," and "Coming Out: A Work in Progress" which was a collection of shorts, some locally written and some professional.  Those two shows deal with, in the first - the experience of women in the world and in our culture, and in the second - the experience of LGBTQ.  In the second case, it became pretty clear, if it was never stated outright, in the course of trying to contact the newspaper that they weren't covering our show BECAUSE it was an LGBTQ show.  That experience both angered and saddened me.
BUT! Our newspaper has a new journalist/editor lady who is covering the arts, and she is a very lovely person.  And is personable and engaging when she interviews, and writes lovely peieces about art in our community.
‘Gruesome Playground Injuries’ addresses the physical and figurative
by Suzanna Caldwell /
FAIRBANKS - Relationships are complicated and often not easy. Sometimes their scars might not be physical, but they exist.

“Gruesome Playground Injuries” explores those literal and figurative scars. The twoperson, one-act, no-intermission play follows the lives of Kayleen and Doug, played by Anna Gagne-Hawes and Kevin Zayas, two friends who are “exquisitely selfish,” according to director Jasmine Johnson-Kennedy.

“It’s a very intense relationship,” Johnson-Kennedy said.

“One or the other is severely hurting, and they need the other to help them heal. (Their relationship) is an intense lack of compassion.”

Playwright Rajiv Joseph wrote the play before his Pulitzer Prize nomination for “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” in 2010. In “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” the two characters age from 8 to 38 in a series on non-linear vignettes.

Along the way, the characters deal with various physical maladies — missing eyes and limbs — or still physical but less maiming injuries — mental illness, alcoholism.

In dealing with their injuries, the two form a relationship that’s based in love but is not romantic, Johnson-Kennedy said.

“(Romance) is not the basis of the relationship,” she said.

“It’s a friendship that is outside of conventional relationships.”

“Real relationships are not simple — they’re all complicated,” Gagne-Hawes said. “This takes it to the extreme.”

Gagne-Hawes is a co-founder (along with Johnson-Kennedy) of Revive the Red Tent, a production company dedicated to creating art that gives a voice to those who would otherwise not have one. She was drawn to the play because of the resonance she saw between it and Fairbanks.

“I saw dark, I saw substance abuse, I saw being trapped in certain circumstances, and complicated relationships that don’t make sense, and I thought it would resonate with Fairbanks,” she said.

Gagne-Hawes was at a conference last week where she heard filmmaker Andrew MacLean speak about reaction to “On The Ice,” his feature film that deals with controversial cultural issues in Barrow. One thing he said stood out to her.

“He said, ‘If it’s truthful, it helps. If it resonates, it helps,’” Gagne-Hawes said. “We all have pain, we all have moments of desperation. People will see themselves with these struggles.”

“Gruesome Playground Injuries” is recommended for ages 16 and older. There is coarse language, adult themes, smoking of herbal cigarettes and partial nudity.

Contact features editor Suzanna Caldwell at 459-7504.

What: Revive the Red Tent presents “Gruesome Playground Injuries”

When: 8 p.m. tonight, Saturday, Jan. 27 and 28; 2 p.m. Jan. 29

Where: Empress Theatre

Tickets: $20, $10 students

Information: Revive the Red Tent Productions on Facebook

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"An old-timer who operated a weather station north of the Brooks Range once told me that there's a digit somewhere between 40 and 50 below zero that marks the frontier where civilized life begins to shred. Dip even a little ways below that, and generators and combustion engines tend to bust. Belts grow brittle. Tires flatten. People stop bathing, or making small talk. Sanity fades with the light, and the air goes liquid and bitter on the tongue. Below that line, one blunder with bare hands can lead to frostbite or worse. Below that line, you can die due to mishaps. Better pay attention to small things."

So true, and so well put. 

It is difficult to describe the extreme cold.  What it does, how it feels.  I hear over and over that people's main impression is walking out the door and immediately having all moisture in the nose and eyes evaporate or freeze.  The river does odd things in the winter until it is thoroughly frozen over.  It steams in the cold.  If you have a complete grasp of physics, this has something to do about temperature transmuting water from form to form.  I prefer to see it as magical.

I always describe winter air as crystalline.  Focus and distance and dimensionality shift. 
 My mother, who lived through the 60's, says its like the atmosphere is on hallucinogens.

The snow covered branches of trees seem to stand out from the air that surrounds them, like they are both solid.  or are equally permeable.  When you breathe, the air sears your throat.

It means being minutely conscious, focused on the tasks of living.  The fire in the woodstove has never been so important.  Wood must be brought in to thaw before it is burnt.  You start the car twenty minutes before you go anywhere to let it warm up.  We set the generator to a maximum run time of one hour, so that it never fully charges the batteries, so the house pulls the draw down to the level the generator kicks on more often, so the generator runs more frequently and keeps itself warm so it doesn't freeze. 
Darlin' man doesn't let me out the door to drive the 26 miles into town in the morning until he's assured I have my fur hat, down coat, snow pants, and bunny boots (the last two I keep in the car for emergencies and don't generally wear). 

The above quote is by Doug O'Harra from Anchorage and can be found in the article here:,0

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Finally Finished

This, my first rug, has been on my loom for far too long.  But it is finished now, and sitting on my altar table.  Eventually it will live on the wall, but for now the simple warmth of a wool rug on a wood table under a glass oil lamp speaks to me of the coziness of the cold season.

I spent a few hours today before rehearsal finishing the last half inch or so.  Because a traditional Navajo rug has four selvedges, it means that the last rows must be painstakingly needle woven in, under and over each individual warp thread, until enough are packed in that the end is no less dense than the beginning.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Revive the Red Tent Productions Presents...

This is where I have been the last month.  Rehearsing. 

You may have wondered about the mention of the non-profit theatre company in the "about me" section... or,  you may not have even noticed.  But it is real.  We are not a 501c3, but we are recognized as a non profit organization by the state of Alaska. 

My breda and I started this theatre company our first year of college when neither of us were cast in the theatre department's productions and both of us wanted to do a show.  So we made it happen.  And now, 6 years later, both with full time jobs, we're continuing to make it happen.  We both double majored: English and Theatre for me, and History and Theatre for her.  Much of my creative energy has been moving more towards crafting and weaving and putting work into the homestead, but she continues to act in and direct shows at the local theatres, as well as investing all kinds of time and energy into RTRT.  Our Board of Directors just got a fourth member, so now I am only the Treasurer, not both the secretary and the treasurer.  I feel really good right now, for myself, just doing our taxes and keeping track of the bank account. 

Oh, and directing the occasional show.
This is the fourth show I've directed, and its been - is being - a wonderful experience.  It is a one act, two person production. 

"Gruesome Playground Injuries"  Director's notes.

I was drawn to this play because of its evocative treatment of the trauma we undergo as humans in relationships.  It is the story of two people who are so alone and yet who share an intense and visceral bond.  Though it is the story of a 30 year relationship between a man and a woman, it is not the story of a romance.  It is neither a failed romance nor does it have a happily ever after.  It is something different.  Doug says to Kayleen "I am you."  This is somehow more intensely true than it would be if these two characters shared a strictly romantic bond.  As we each go through our lives, we form relationships with ourselves and with the people in our lives.  This play asks us to examine what these relationships mean to us, and how they affect us through out our lives.  Those that are closest to us, with whom we are most intimate -whether sexually, romanitcally, platonically, intellectually, or spiritually - have the greatest ability to hurt us.  And with whom are we more intimate than with ourselves?

Both of these characters are injured in the play, internally and externally.  They hurt themselves and they hurt each other, each of them. And they search for healing, for themselves and for eachother.  While you may see cuts and blood and emotional pain, I encourage you to look deeper into the injuries and deeper into yourselves.  I see the injuries as metaphors for the deeper pain we experience and the pain we inflict on those around us.  I see the injuries as metaphors for the profound experience of living life in this joyful, hurting, messed up, beautiful world.  For as long as Kayleen and Dougie can feel pain, as long as they can hurt, they are experiencing themselves in the world.  They can feel, they are not numb.  And isn't that the glory of life?  That we can experience it?