I have to be mindful of which wolf I’m feeding all the time.
Thank you Jeff Govoni for the wolf drawing.
I have to be mindful of which wolf I’m feeding all the time.
Thank you Jeff Govoni for the wolf drawing.
This week I was sent a cryptic message from someone named, Andrew Silva, alerting me that he left two photographs inside the front door of my home.
When I studied them I immediately thought of two things:
1. I really love my $5 yellow, thrift shop, 1980s jacket.
2. These images look like I’m a spy in a 1980s movie. I was rather certain I had other images to round out my spy thriller storyboard fantasy.
The film opens with an urgent call being made from a phone booth in Florence, Italy by the spy in the yellow jacket.
She’s investigating a missing American student studying abroad in Amsterdam. The student disappeared in Florence on holiday. The photo was taken by her roommate and potential femme fatale in their shared Florence hotel room.
Male characters (suspects #1 & #2) are photographed in Florence. They are being exceedingly careful with their public conversations. The younger of the two is an American architectural college student. He was seen seated next to the missing student at a cafe the day she disappeared.
An older man (suspect #3) is waiting for the bus in Florence. He’s under surveillance by the spy in the fabulous, yellow, 1980s, five dollar, thrift shop jacket. No one is quite sure why though, and neither is he. The spy’s sneaky photographs are really annoying him. He’s constantly swearing at her in Italian. This provides the levity in the film.
The American student’s roommate (suspect #4) was spotted walking toward the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam two days after her roommate’s disappearance in Florence with male (suspect #5). They clearly both know more than they’re telling investigators, casually seen shopping at Albert Heijn, the grocery store near the museum to give the appearance that it was just a normal day.
Male (suspect #2) is unknowingly photographed enjoying dinner out in Florence the night of the student’s disappearance. He’s the father of the American architectural student and there’s obviously something quite shifty about him. The angle of the photograph was carefully composed because the spy in the yellow jacket really wanted to remember the brand of balsamic vinegar from Modena on the table.
images by Andrew Silva, April 2018
I discovered this image of my husband Jeff’s legs this morning. The photo had cool shadows and movement to work with. After a bit of goofing off and layering—this series is what emerged.
Jeff is off exploring his world right now in a very BIG way. The first image on the road reminds me of the South Dakota Monster stories my Dad told all seven of his grandchildren. I don’t see my husband as a monster though—much more like a gentle giant.
We’ve always told our children that they are part prairie & part sea. When I started choosing photos to layer with Jeff’s legs I was naturally drawn to images of the prairie and the sea.
Here’s to your big adventures this weekend, wherever your feet take you.
Humans are an intricate system of bones, nerves, blood and memories. We all have a unique internal map that shaped us. Interior geography is the exploration of our inner world and the hardwired routes from our childhoods that guide our dispositions and chosen paths. Exploring our interior geography honors the wisdom we possess from our journey and provides an opportunity to discover new territories we want to explore, but haven’t quite found a path toward yet.
Hillbilly Elegy is all about J. D. Vance’s interior geography. In this brave memoir about growing up in a poor American Appalachian town, Vance shares the heartbreak of constant childhood disruption and the deep love of the people who were rooting for his success. He tries to write without judgement and this allows him some generosity (and a little distance) to try to understand the people and the landscaped that shaped him. To me this book was an invitation to look back at my childhood and take a look at my interior geography—both the chosen paths I’m proud of and the well worn paths I now need to block access to going forward.
My husband, Jeff and I listened to “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance over Christmas. The author is the reader which lends a certain intimacy to the audible version. Here are a few thoughts that surfaced for me.
1. I think a lot of us can recognize “Hillbilly” qualities in our upbringing regardless of our social class. Even though I was raised relatively affluent in a small, South Dakota farm town I can easily relate to many of the themes J. D. Vance references in this memoir. As we listened to the book, Jeff observed that it could’ve been titled: Reactive or Judgemental Household Elegy—I would guess that most of us grew up with some judgement in our homes. “Hillbilly” in the title might make you think it will be hard to relate to. It’s not. J. D.’s honesty about his childhood—poverty, abuse, clan loyalty, secrets, addiction and his family’s response to all of it are profound.
I was also struck by the way we tend to identify poverty only in financial terms. I believe a poverty of the mind can manifest in ways that deeply affect our lives too. J. D. Vance describes this as well as he does financial poverty. When social, cultural, political or religious views challenge our ability to see the bigger picture of things around us—outside influences are perceived as threatening and we’re left with even less understanding of our differences. I’m optimistic that if we focus more on our similarities we will be more unified.
Like the author, I’m trying to not be judgemental here and look through a more sociological lens. I know I’m guilty at times of not seeking more understanding of the world around me. For heaven’s sake, I’m a liberal and I live in Vermont. I get it. If you’re familiar with the Hunger Games series, I’ve been joking that Vermont is like living in District 12. I’m willing to admit that I’m living in a bubble and Hillbilly Elegy helped burst it a little bit.
By examining our childhoods, we can gain some insight and are given an opportunity for self-correction if necessary. This brings me to the second reason this book was so important to me and well-timed.
2. The shadow side of our personality traits. I’ve always been really proud of my independent spirit. It’s my nature and was well-honed during my childhood. I had a lot of freedom growing up in a small town in South Dakota and it allowed me to exist “under the radar” in a sense. My whole adult life I thought it served me quite well. However, while listening to this book, as my tears flowed, I realized that my fierce independence has not always been an asset to my parenting or my marriage. Any perceived threat (big or small) to my independence or sovereign self can set me off—my own reactivity or judgement. That’s the shadow side of my independence and it ain’t pretty. Here’s the upside; now that I’ve recognized this in myself, well shit, I can’t unsee it now.
Thank you J. D. Vance, oh and Jeff too.
This insight gives me an opportunity to take a moment and see if what’s being asked of me is truly a threat to my independent, sovereign self (probably not) and I can try to respond like a grown-up and not be reactive. I’m writing this for me, for accountability regarding something I’ve learned and cannot unlearn now. J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy gave me a little more courage to write about my life and for that I’m grateful.
FROM GOODREADS “From a former Marine and Yale Law School Graduate, a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town, that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class. Part memoir, part historical and social analysis, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is a fascinating consideration of class, culture, and the American dream.
Vance’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love.” They got married and moved north from Kentucky to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. Their grandchild (the author) graduated from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving upward mobility for their family. But Vance cautions that is only the short version. The slightly longer version is that his grandparents, aunt, uncle, and mother struggled to varying degrees with the demands of their new middle class life and they, and Vance himself, still carry around the demons of their chaotic family history.”
This morning over coffee I asked my husband, Jeff what needed his attention the most today? “slowing down” he said. Then we sang John Prine’s “Sound of the Speed of Loneliness” which has some great lyrics and a theme kept emerging for my day.
You’ve broken the speed of the sound of loneliness
You’re out there running just to be on the run
Later, I went to a dance class at the South End Studio and as we cooled down and stretched, our instructor, Linda said, “surrender to gravity”. I’m not usually a big fan of gravity, but it felt really great—quiet, surrendering to gravity and stretching my spine.
When I am smart enough slow down and accept some quiet (which isn’t quite often enough): I work smarter. I’m more creative and deliberate. I’m less reactive. I see my options. I’m more productive. This got me wondering what Confucius, Whitman and others had to say about this quiet. Turns out quite a bit actually. Of course they did.
Walt Whitman/Give me the Splendid, Silent Sun “GIVE me the splendid silent sun, with all his beams full-dazzling;…Give me nights perfectly quiet, as on high plateaus west of the Mississippi, and I looking up at the stars;…”
It isn’t easy to find time for quiet other than sleep in our days. However, it might be necessary when the world is just too loud all the time. Here’s to quiet. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
and I feel like it needs to be acknowledged. I actually had a moment where I told my husband, Jeff “this is one of my favorite days of my life”. They don’t roll around all the time and they deserve to be savored.
I have to tell you about mine—July 22nd, 2015.
We got up early (6am) and went to the Sandwich, Massachusetts Flea Market to hunt for treasures. After a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee with our friend, Christie we began our quest for the odd and collectable. I found a gorgeous bowl and this tablecloth that I may use as part of a piece for the STRUT fashion show in Burlington, VT in September. Both cost me 9 bucks.
Then we lathered on sunscreen and took our kayaks to Bourne, Massachusetts. We wanted a light lunch before we peddled (we have peddle kayaks, not a typo) so we stopped at one of our favorite places; The Lobster Trap for a stuffed quahog and a beer. I ordered a Leinenkugel Summer Shanty (low alcohol, lemony & refreshing) and the rep. for Leinenkugel was seated next to us so our beers were on him. A nice surprise.
If you don’t know what a stuffed quahog is I have to share with you. This seafood item is one of the reasons I married my husband. That was about 25 years ago. It’s a clam, cooked, chopped and mixed with stuffing, chorizo (a spicy Portuguese sausage that goes beautifully with seafood), celery, onion, garlic and then put back into the shell and baked. You then cover them with butter, a squeeze of lemon (and for me TABASCO sauce) and enjoy.
Jeff wrote this story about them…funny how a stuffed clam can loom so large in our lives.
http://www.sturgisboatworks.com/ (Where we got these boats.)
Next we took our Hobie peddle kayaks to Monument Beach and unloaded them. They are fast so you can cover a lot of territory. I personally couldn’t paddle as far as I can peddle. We’ve never been boaters and we never have the right gear for anything we do, but I have to admit that these boats have been a blast. I love seeing the world from the vantage point of the water.
We watched young osprey about to take their first flight (the parents were encouraging them in a tone not unlike mine when I’m trying to get my teenagers to do something). Sorry kids. It wasn’t a pretty birdsong, but watching them was fascinating.
We heard people laughing on the beach, zig zagged between moored sailboats, saw amazing houses and got to the rough seas at the start of the Cape Cod Canal channel near Mashnee Island…we quickly turned around though to explore calmer waters. I like a little danger in my kayaking, but I’m not stupid. We went into the Eel River which was stunning. We saw cranes, oyster beds and homes right on the water that gave it that swampy feeling and with the canopy of the trees it was really cool.
The beauty of this day—alone with my husband on an adventure, free beer, a stuffed quahog, seeing wildlife, getting exercise, fresh air and learning how to read the sea was pretty wonderful.
After a swim to cool off and loading up the kayaks we headed home to shower and take off for a Neil Young concert at the Xfinity Center. It was a great show—amazing people watching. Neil Young is probably the musician that informed my young life the most during my freshman year of college in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (University of Sioux Falls, formerly Sioux Falls College—back in the day). Oh, and we didn’t know they were coming but Jeff’s brother, Joe and his wife Gretchen were there too…another fun surprise of the day.
I’m not writing this to tell you how awesome my life is. I’m writing this to encourage everyone to really take notice of those special days and moments in our lives. We need them to call upon during our darker times. Honor those days. It makes life sweet.
I often find myself at the end of a week wondering what I have to show for it all. Since I live a creative life with a constantly emerging curriculum it’s a challenge to not beat myself up over what else I would’ve accomplished. This week I decided to see things differently. Instead of looking at my list of what I didn’t accomplish, I made my list of what I DID and it was pretty interesting. I sometimes long for a narrower focus as I written about before, but the variety of stuff I do is interesting and puts me in contact with a lot of people who really fuel my creativity.
I spent time with my former studio mate, Chicago Artist—Adam DeVarney and we had an amazing conversation that if it had been all I did this week—it would’ve been enough. Check out Adam’s funky work. LINKS BELOW
Jane Frank is a Burlington Master Goldsmith and jewelery class instructor who I am doing the branding and marketing for. We had a reporter come this week to do an article on Tuesday and the photographer came on Thursday to talk about her new WERKSTATT/workshop. I can’t wait to see how the story turns out in next weeks SevenDays (Burlington, Vermont’s alternative weekly paper). She has a great story and does beautiful work and it has been a pleasure to be on her team. We’re doing a trade and I am getting a pair of her chandelier earrings for my design/branding efforts. A great deal for both of us. LINKS BELOW
I also am trying to source the right tote bag for my kids summer business The Town Neck Company. It is a business trying to bring awareness to a barrier beach in Cape Cod where my husband grew up and we spend out summers. Oh, and I had the pleasure of getting upstairs at Champlain Leather in Burlington, Vermont and seeing the workshop. LINKS BELOW
It was my daughters 14th birthday on Saturday so there were some festivities over the weekend. I’ve spent time with friends, cleaned things out, taken loads of things to Goodwill, worked in the garden and taken 3 NIA dance classes at The South End Studio in Burlington (to keep my back from going out which renders me unable to do my work on the computer). LINK BELOW
I had a big group of people over for brunch on Sunday and it was great to hang out at such a mellow time of the week. It’s always pretty fun to have a glass of Prosecco and a bagel in the morning. I cleaned out cars and ran all of the regular household stuff we all have to do. My husband, Jeff Govoni was gone on a leadership camping trip in the rafting down the Colorado with an incredible group of people. He was so remote there was only a satellite phone so it was just me and my kiddos this last week. He’s a leadership coach and this was quite a journey with interesting business leaders from around the globe. LINK BELOW to his site too.
So, the next time you’re temped to be hard on yourself for things undone on your list. Make a DONE LIST for the week and pat yourself on the back. There is always next week. Happy Weekend!