30 August 2010

a sight so bright it makes your eyes ache

on a night like this, when it is calm and clear and not too chilly, i like to make myself a cup of hot tea and take it outside with a blanket, turning out all the lights in my trailer, to watch the stars. they play tricks as my eyes adjust. the stars seem to flicker and i think i can make out colors among the planets. the milky way just hangs over me heavily, suspended like so much dust, and i think i couldn't be anywhere better.

costa rica inspired me. the colors spoke to me and i wish i could do all of my shopping at such boisterous markets, where transactions are personal interactions and people shake hands. anyway, i am back in california with only souvenirs, ticket stubs, and a bundle of images to prove that i did go anywhere at all.

here are some pictures that make me smile.

the lettering on milk!

buenos dias indeed!

bananas growing!

swordfish and religious propaganda, a great combination

i want one of these lamps in my home.

attention to detail

brilliant flora!


a snooty, silly coati

and an army of leafcutter ants. where are they going?

the toughest rooster

the brightest building


and a quality fruit stand.

24 August 2010

pura vida

after bopping about between jungle, mountains, and coast for ten days, it is something of a relief to end up somewhere where i have reliable internet access. i am back in san jose - a city charming in its colonial grandeur. we are staying in an 'old' neighborhood. there are leafy trees on the streets and a park full of animals just a few minutes' walk away. thunder, replaced by civilization, is a distant mountaintop dream.

being here in centroamerica has made me miss denmark far more than i did at home. it is the shift in extremes, i think. in california everything is normal to me. i don't particularly notice the way i am served - or not served but rather dispensed - a cup of tea in california. here, though, it arrives at my table effortlessly: a cup full of hot water accompanied by unopened teabag on a saucer, followed by a pitcher of milk in miniature. i fantasize, briefly, about soymilk. i ignore the sugar, focusing, instead, on the tablecloth. i let it steep. i drink.

i always had a hard time picking a spot in cafes in copenhagen. the cafes were always crowded and i, klutz that i am, felt awkward barging through the narrow rooms to seat myself. here, though, it is something of an ordeal just to find the cafes. i wish i drank coffee with more regularity. i so enjoy the hunt for the perfect place to sit down.

the beach was nice. it was surreal to lie steaming on the sand in the august heat, feeling like a baking clam (yet not getting any tanner). there were some good waves when the tide was 'right'. the jungle takes over; it claims the land from shore to shore. one day, i saw two monkeys. the fruit is cheap; i spend more money on water. the volcano at arenal impressed me with its profound exhalations; poas remained elusive in yet another storm.

so we have circled back. i have seen some things (and slept through others) and am listening closely in an effort to ingratiate myself in the face of daily life. my favorite word in spanish might be cotidiana - everyday. it has a ring to it. 'pura vida' i have heard now outside of the context of surf & beach. i am relieved that people use it outside of the tourist industry.

23 August 2010

equatorial radiation

the days are consistent here in the tropics. when we arrived in san jose it was already long dark, past ten p.m.; i woke up the following morning to the bright light that doesn't indicate the time of day. i walked three parks in a row, picking up various flowers. i didn't bring my cell phone here and don't ever have a clock on me so i've spent the last several days unaware of time. the sun is always either vaguely obscured by cloud cover or else at some ambiguous high point over the horizon so it's virtually impossible to tell time - or location - by the sun. i am a little bit disoriented but absolutely on vacation. i like costa rica. i like the giant jungle leaves and dripping flowers and industrious hummingbirds and warm saltwater and the easy rhythm of being a tourist. i can't imagine living here though. i wonder how the structures made of wood in this country don't simply disintegrate in the humidity. there is so much beautiful wood here, and so many furniture factories and stores. things are close to the earth. it seems much more than reasonable to use trees as fenceposts, especially, i guess, when they grow so fast (and given the amount of light and water they get, you know they do). before last week i'd never seen cows and horses grazing the same field before.

despite my unpredictable travel rhythm, my days are uniform. the sun sets around five forty-five and by six thirty it is totally dark. the sky doesn't seem to let in any celestial light; the heavy-hanging nocturnal clouds blanket you, effectively shutting out the stars. so the darkness is complete. but then around ten to six in the morning it is light again, almost fully bright. this is when i keep waking up. it's hard to say when (or where) the sun rises but it gets bright fast. by nine it feels like noon. by eleven a.m. yesterday i'd already taken a walk, observed coffee and banana trees, and watched a mountain - a volcano, rather - puffing smoke. for me, being close to the equator means being close to earth. but i couldn't get a grip on 'reality' here if i tried.

13 August 2010

even sunlight is finite

my friend brandy came and took some photos out on the ranch the other day. catherine and i got to play dress up and find the light and the results, i think, are nothing less than stunning.

she shot these on infrared film, which creates the dreamy, ethereal look. i can't believe my normal evening turned into these images - if only every day could be so glamorous. it was fun to be on the other side of the camera (for once) and see the photographer's process.

11 August 2010

california flora

eucalyptus leaves
monkey's paw & indian paintbrush
california poppy, the state flower
blackberries ripening
prickly pear cactus
century plant
some kind of cactus

06 August 2010

this land was made for you and me

When I love America,
America loves me back
and I am not a tramp
wandering homeless and heartless
but a woman
with a camp.

when i was small, summer was my favorite time of year. not only did it mean freedom from school, but it meant my birthday, too. i've always loved the sun. when i began to grow up i thought i loved autumn, and i do. but as far as i'm concerned, there will never be anything that compares to summer.

before living abroad i thought 'america' was shameful. the politically-correct term is the united states, or the USA, or just the states. then i met a bunch of people not from the states who called my homeland america, and that just about blew my mind. it was good to come 'home' and be able to call it whatever i wanted. it was better to leave again, and even better to return indefinitely.

04 August 2010

star light, sea bright

catherine and i went to santa cruz. we spent the better part of the two days lying on the beach and came back tan, not yet peeling. i love santa cruz. i love the last little bit of the drive up the one, coming around the hook to be welcomed by the pungent redwoods.

the weather up there was nicer than i expected. it was warmer than it's been here and i didn't have to wear a sweater at all on monday. the day was devoted to mexican food, sandy seabright, and getting cozy in my trailer.

it was a perfect beach day.

my trailer - where i will be living for the next year of school - is a cozy nest and i can't wait to move into it for good and make my own home among the redwoods.

monday's dinner was a lovely affair, shared on a picnic table beneath the trees. in the forest the sun sets slowly and evening lingers long. i hadn't realized what smells had i missed: morning mist, pine needles, mulch and salty sand.

it is a very different world from my danish one. welcome!

the kids are all right

i was impressed by lisa cholodenko’s the kids are all right. the film forces us to confront the pretenses under which we address and live with one another on a day-to-day basis as well as on deeper levels, raising questions of the roll of free will, chance, and personal choice. relationships are a vehicle through which to explore these timeless questions, and the relationships in the kids are all right are, like the era in which we live, nothing if not complicated.

the film blatantly exposes the difficulty and power of love through the frame of a solid, los angeles-based family headed by two beautiful, strong lesbians when it is shaken by the introduction of paul, the man who made their family possible by donating his sperm to both women. as paul enters—and becomes a larger and larger part of—the picture, relationships among the family members (mothers, daughter, and son) quickly become skewed, forcing the characters—and audience—to redefine their concepts of family. anyone who has ever experienced love, lust, family, or all three, will identify with these characters and their experiences, from shell-shocked heartache to first-time drunknness to the most potent of orgasms.

the film captivates everyday life and relationships in a post-postmodern world with exacting dialogue and allusions; in one striking scene, the exhausted mom nic launches into a tirade about how she just “can’t do it” (composting, hemp milk, organic heirloom tomatoes) anymore. in another, eighteen-year-old daughter joni admits to her biological dad her wish for him to be “better”—as she shuts her front door in his face. the film is perfectly current; its soundtrack fully supports nic's theory that alternative is the modern mainstream. meanwhile, the action that transpires suggests that maybe shutting doors in peoples’ faces doesn’t solve any problems and life, after all, goes on. best of all, though, is the way the characters' emotions transcend the screen, leading the audience to cringe, giggle, snicker, and maybe even cry a little. the timing of the scenes lends a depth to the characters that makes me believe in them - and us.

01 August 2010


there hasn't been much surf this summer.

june and july usually aren't so good for surfing anyway. winter is biggest but fall is best: the indian summer means warm winds and waves. by late august, september, the water has finally warmed up. one sign of warm water - which means barely pushing 15 degrees (60 fahrenheit) - in our parts is these deep orange jellies. they come from the north with the current, i guess.

throughout summer proper the mornings are most often foggy (we don't mind that); by the afternoon when the fog has cleared up, the surf's blown out. this summer it's just been flat. a few swells have come through and then quickly disappeared.

but i don't need big waves. although i've been surfing for longer than not - two-thirds of my life - i'm not particularly good at it. i have fun though. so much fun! yesterday i was out with a couple of lady friends. it makes me so happy to be with other women in the water in such a male-dominated sport. even though they're all affable men, indeed, stand-up citizens, i feel more at home in the water when i'm out with other ladies. and the water is my other home. we just share it with seals, otters, dolphins, and the occasional jelly.

i love being in the water on my longboard even when it's so grey you can't even discern the horizon. it's a timeless state of being. nothing else i know compares to sitting on the outside, seeing your wave swell up into a peak behind you, paddling - stroke stroke stroke - hard, popping up, and cutting into the soft line of a wave.

plus, saltwater cures everything from hangnails to scabby knees to a broken heart. on that note, i leave you with this song by my friends port o'brien.