First ballet class

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One of my 2013 goals is to take a ballet class. My friend Cate is apparently a sharp-eyed blog reader, and she sent me an e-mail a few weeks ago that said there was an adult ballet class at the city parks & rec center in January and that we should take it. “This is one of your 2013 goals, right?” she wrote.

Oh, right. It is.

Frankly, I was kind of dreading fulfilling this goal. Ballet is HARD, y’all. I took ballet for a handful of years, like many little girls, and I think I probably stopped when I was about 11 or 12. I don’t remember why I wanted to stop, but I think it probably had to do with a combination of factors, mainly, that a.) I was not flexible at all, and b.) my bossy personality often conflicted with the bossy personalities of my dance instructors. (Ballet teachers everywhere being famous for being the real-life, studio versions of Miranda Priestly.)

Over the past year, however, my interest in ballet has been reignited. Reignited! I sit around and watch snippets of ballet performances on the sly. I bought the New York City Ballet workout DVD. I am trying not to start a hoarder’s collection of leotards. I think I’d probably blame it mostly on reading Apollo’s Angels, which is just incredible. Also, three of my closest friends (Emily, Catherine, and Rose) were all very serious ballerinas, and I think I have always been a bit jealous of their grace, experience, and fluidity. So. I took up Cate’s challenge and signed up for the class, and then convinced Stephanie to take it with us, too.

Our first class was last night, in the brand-new dance studio in the sparkling, newly renovated rec center. The group is small (10 women, probably all within their early 20s and 30s) and our instructor, Amanda, is young, calm, and clear. We are all plainly nervous, but I think everyone seemed heartened by the fact that none of us looked like we knew what we were doing.

We jumped right into small ballet routines, with hardly any instruction or explanation at all. And it was fun! And confusing! I was relieved. I was worried that the class was going to be a jazzy pilates routine disguised as ballet, but no, this is ballet. We use all the French terms. We have a barre (which Stephanie and I get pushed to the front of, being the class giants). We listen to simpering piano music for an hour. It is the real deal—I mean, as real as you can get from an adult beginner’s class at the parks & rec center. But I am delighted and heartened.

I’d forgotten how physically AND mentally engaging ballet is. It’s not just the utilization of all of these weird muscles you never use; it’s also this intense engagement of the mind, trying to connect the mind with these strange muscles, and then trying to make yourself look like a swan in the process. I am thinking about all sorts of things now: the shape of my spine, the direction of my hips, the turnout of my feet, the flow of my arms, the arrangement of my fingers, sans thumbs…

I’m committed to not looking like a total gangly fool at the end of these six weeks. It will certainly be a challenge, but one that I’m looking forward to. Thanks, Cate, for making me follow up with my goals! More to come.

Our twin couple

The W-Os

Gems, these two!

So delighted to host Rose and Kemp again in Charlottesville, this time in our new, damp farmhouse/shack.

Everyone draped over furniture

We were all kind of falling apart on Saturday, but after we had draped ourselves over various items of furniture, we were still able to walk to the farmers’ market, speed-pick Fuji apples at Carter Mountain Orchard, and go out to dinner at The Local with new/old friends Zella and Keith.

Just that one there

A seductive harvest

Successful harvest

We so loved having them. Our devastation at their departure was assuaged by the fact that we get to see them again this weekend for Kelsey and Alex’s WEDDING! Score!

We are saying thank you

Stairs Photography
Photo by: Flickr user dolfi.

Thanks
W.S. Merwin

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We have been talking about gratitude lately. I read this poem at small group this past week and it made me feel hopeful and sad and focused all at the same time. I think it is a beautiful one. It always hits me right where I am.

I made a list of the 100+ best novels I have ever read. Feel free to voice your objections, opinions, etc.

Rose and Kemp are coming this weekend; we are expecting bouts of busyness and cold weather; apples to be picked, dogs to be walked, farmers markets to be visited. Have a good one, y’all!

Thinking, breathing

The Hill and Wood Funeral Home

Thoughts, on this first day of October:

  • What a lovely, lovely wedding, Chris and Sallie. We are so happy for you two and delighted that you will remain in our lives in town. Don’t ever leave!
  • I tried to be brave like Maddy, but I’m apparently not over my stink-bug phobia. I looked like a foolish, fretful 3-year-old while Maddy calmly and competently plucked stink bugs off my back and chair and plate all night long. She is a gem.
  • These days, when I look at Pyrrha for a moment, these words well up in me: Thank you thank you thank you.
  • Reading The Second Sex and Rebecca simultaneously is very jarring.
  • Rose and Kemp are coming to visit this weekend! On the agenda: Hiking, apple picking, solving the American political system, and in Rose’s words, “intimate woman-time.” While the boys are presumably doing man stuff, like talking about beer and comparing muscles or whatever it is that boys do when they are alone…
  • Speaking of intimate woman-time, on this day in 2008, this is where I was. Missing it (and them) now.
  • I try to be calm when I look at the calendar. I fail.

Monday Snax

All bears. All blood. All the time. We enjoyed a wonderful weekend visit with the Watson-Ormonds!

We had the perfect, fresh, spring weekend with Rose and Kemp. Rose and I spent our time on Saturday walking all around town and talking about Life and Other Issues while the boys brewed. We ate tons of good food together and just generally lazed around, too. It was just ideal and we hated to see them go.

Snax on a bed of eggs benedict, whatever that is:

Nettles to Play March 28 with The Welcome Wagon! Yes, that’s right, kids: my brilliant husband and his band will be opening for The Welcome Wagon on March 28 at The Haven in Charlottesville. If you’re around, do come; it’s going to be an awesome show. (Nettles)

In Which These Are the Hundred Greatest Novels. The folks at This Recording have made their definitive list of the 100 all-time greatest novels. This list contains dozens of books I’ve never even heard of, much less read. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t derive deep satisfaction that they ranked To the Lighthouse as the #8 best novel and Lolita, wow, as the #1 best novel of all time. That’s saying something. (And Ulysses was #12! How Woolf must be laughing in her grave right now.) At the very least, the list has certainly given me lots of great titles to add to my ever-growing reading list.  (This Recording)

Zooming Out: How Writers Create Our Visual Grammar. This analysis by Rob Goodman claims that great authors–he cites examples from Milton and Dickens, and closes with a few lines from Psalm 8–are responsible for the first true “cinematic jump-cuts.” The article is very well-written and fascinating. I like the notion of a “visual grammar,” of the keen and yet oft-unnoticed importance that grammar and syntax possess over our visual understanding of a narrative.  (The Millions)

A Ravishing Knockout of a Book. Novelist Gary Shteyngart talks about his favorite novel, Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, in this 2006 review from NPR. I love Shteyngart AND Turgenev, so I was naturally delighted to find this piece, which I stumbled upon while doing some preliminary research on the novel for book club. If you haven’t read it yet, let Shteyngart convince you that you need to. (NPR, All Things Considered)

Real-Life House from Up. I loved that movie; first animated film to make me sob since Bambi, and this is just great. Well done, people at National Geographic. I wonder where the house came from and who was brave enough to actually take a ride in it? Enjoy, even though this has already been around the Interwebs a few times now. This should brighten anyone’s day. (Vulture via National Geographic)

Best Rare Bird Pictures of 2010. In my experience, birds make somewhat terrible pets, but they are such beautiful creatures to watch. National Geographic has released its awards for the best photographs of rare birds from last year. The whooping crane in the air? Amazing. And the tail feathers of the last bird? Gimme a break! That’s crazy. (National Geographic)

Van Gogh Paintings as Pie Charts. I’m all about your color palette, Vincent. (WXTCHOU)

See You Never Again In My Life. One of the best notes from a runaway I’ve ever read. (Passive-Aggressive Notes)

Newt Gingrich Cheated On His Wives for America. The most hilariously absurd explanation for infidelity, maybe ever. No one takes this man seriously, right? (Daily Intel)

First Lady Michelle Obama. I really, really hope this story is true. Go Michelle! (Got a Girl Crush On)

Where Are All the Daring Women’s Heroines? The Guardian’s book blog attempts to address the discrepancy between a plethora of heroines in children’s fiction and a positive dearth of them by the time one gets to adult literature. (The Guardian Book Blog)

Trend Watch: Houses with Slides. I assume these are the homes of multi-millionaires with young children, but, hey, I kind of want a slide in my house. (Flavorwire)

Blue Eyes Are Not Actually Blue. Well. I learned something new today. I can’t tell if I feel downcast because my irises are just an optical illusion or extra cool. (Broken Secrets)

Friday thoughts

Our street at dusk
Our street at dusk, back when it was warm outside. My Flickr pro account expired. Boo.

Little things I am thinking about today:

  • My side business of calligraphy. I ordered my first set of business cards this afternoon and I feel very grown up about it. Thanks to the encouragement of Natalie, I’m going to drop by the downtown stationer, Rock Paper Scissors, and give them some samples.
  • Why my right hand is always freezing at work.
  • Kemp and Rose coming to visit next weekend and then our long-awaited trip to our old stomping grounds (a la Durham and Chapel Hill) the following weekend.
  • Lent, which is coming soon and which means that my consumption of sugar will have to end. Contemplating the desire to gorge myself on chocolate before it arrives. But I had a bowl of real oatmeal this morning with only raisins in it–no sugar at all!–and I felt very proud of myself. I think I can do it. I feel like my taste buds have been subtly prompted by my brain to reject overly sweet things lately, in preparation for this sugar fast. I thought the yogurt was going to kill me today it was so sweet. And that’s never happened before.
  • Getting a nice* camera. I wish the bank made it easier to create little folders in your savings account so I could start designating small chunks of money toward a camera fund. (*Canon DSLR)
  • Will I be the kind of old woman who hoards kitschy knickknacks? Is that a generational thing? Is it only indicative of women who grew up in the Great Depression? Or does that mean I’ll eventually fall into that category, having grown up in the Greatest Recession?
  • Grace, who is adjusting to her new life in Nepal now. She’s working with a documentary filmmaker for a month and then she’s off to the ashram/orphanage. Such a crazy girl. I miss her.
  • Throwing away even more clothes. I need to stop wearing things that are too small for me.
  • A weekend with Guion! He’s been busy with school stuff all week and I feel like I haven’t seen him much. I miss him. We’re going to go on dates around town and watch “Annie Hall,” maybe even finish “Lost” (at last!).

Happy Friday! Post for you on Sunday about my lifelong, tortured love affair with the Japanese language.

Tuesday Snax, again

Whoops. Totally forgot about Monday Snax. Yesterday was a super-busy day around here. My apologies! I was still recovering from our crazy and fun weekend at Topsail Beach for Rose and Kemp’s wedding. (A few photos on Flickr, to your right or here.) Really, really thrilled for both of them.

Continuing my total binge on BBC miniseries based on classic novels (thanks, Hylton sisters!), I’ve been watching “Our Mutual Friend,” Dickens’ final novel. Observations: Bella is very unusual for a Dickens heroine, in the fact that she seems to possess a brain! Also, all of the men are totally crazy stalkers, and it does not seem to be a big deal to anyone. And, finally, Dickens just can’t get over unbelievable coincidence, spontaneous resurrection, and rich people with insane wills.

Most of this week’s links are not very serious. I seem to have gravitated toward the absurd and hilarious this week, for whatever reason. Enjoy!

Basil, the Australian Shepherd. DIES A LITTLE INSIDE. MUST. HAVE. (Yeah, I subscribe to The Daily Puppy. So?) (The Daily Puppy)

The 10 Most Overpaid Jobs. Some of these were surprising. Some of them were not, i.e., there’s a reason why there’s a glut of law school students. (Len Penzo)

The 11 Worst Memoir Covers. Of course, Hasselhoff made it on here twice. Even more surprising: The guy’s written two memoirs?? And people have published them? (The Huffington Post)

A Week of Hair. I’m proud of Grace for carrying on our tradition of weekly/monthly challenges. This past week, she chronicled her hairstyles every day. Fun! I miss her. (Como Say What?)

John Muir, the Brontes, and Frida Kahlo. Depiction of Teddy Roosevelt probably totally accurate. (Hark, a Vagrant!)

What Other Everyday Relationship Issues Should Be Romantic Comedies? Haha. Making fun of the film “Going the Distance,” which I have not seen and have no real desire to. I love their movie pitches, with actor choices and everything. The sad thing is that Hollywood may indeed find these ideas feasible one day… (NY Mag)

They’re All Going to Laugh at Me. I feel like this happened a lot in our own family. Sorry, Sam. We do still love you! (Awkward Family Photos)

Man to Divorce Bride for Not Actually Dying. Seriously! How long did she think she was going to be able to pull this off? (Daily Intel)

The Devolution from Hipster to Hippie in Six Steps. I think I’ve seen this happen to people. (Flavorwire)

Anticipate me

We’re setting our 2011 goals for ourselves at work. For some reason, all I can think of is Tracy Jordan, screaming at his attendants: “You need to anticipate me! Where are the French fries I did not ask for??”

Last night, we went to the weekly MFA reading series that’s started up at The Bridge (the hipster arts cooperative a block from our house). It was really fantastic, even though I had to leave before the slam poet read. We listened to a funny, sad, thoroughly postmodern short story by one of the fiction writers, Joe. He was great and the story was great and we hung on his every word. I admired this little community of writers, who have been so welcoming to me even though I am not one of their own. I felt like we were in a Bible study or something, the way everyone leaned on each other and sought vulnerability. A Bible study with gleeful obscenities and 40-ounce PBRs.

We are jetting off for the beach this weekend for the long-awaited nuptials of Rose and Kemp! We’re staying in a house with a bunch of friends and I’m really looking forward to the escape. Let’s hope the hurricanes will hold off for the weekend… Talk with you again soon.

Two years ago

Chuzenjiko

Two years ago today, I was here: Chuzenjiko, a beautiful lake in the mountains of southern Japan. Diane and I stayed just across the street from here in a hostel run by an Indian/Japanese family. One of these days, I will get back here.

UPDATE: Unrelated note… I have updated AFP Calligraphy to include a page for my “portfolio.” I added Rose & Kemp’s invitations, which finally made it to Topsail!

Small things

Keisei Makuhari station, where I caught the train home every day. Tokyo, June 2009

1. Betsy Dunlap is one of my favorite calligraphers. Her work is so distinctive and beautiful in a funky way. You can scroll around her blog to get some ideas of what she does. She’s kind of like a superstar in the wedding blogosphere.

2. We had a minor flood in the kitchen last night. Guion went to answer his phone and forgot that he left the sink running. I was talking to Emily on the phone (which was unbelievably lovely; I miss her so much) and wasn’t paying attention. Our neighbor Hannah comes upstairs and is all, “Um, do you have water running? Because our ceiling is leaking.” Yeah. Not fun. But we got it under control. I’m glad we have a mop and at least four towels we don’t care about.

3. I can’t wait for my new Japanese pens to get here so I can start on Rose and Kemp‘s wedding invitations! I’m hoping they will come today.

4. I also can’t wait for Cristina and Eric’s wedding! And even though we can’t be there, Megan and Charles’s! Just a few more weeks!

5. I suppose I forgot how utterly dark and depraved Mishima’s fiction can be. “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion” is certainly interesting, but it’s hard to handle sometimes. Mishima, likely drawing from experience, preferred to focus on society’s rejects. But instead of giving them touching qualities (so as to creep into your latent store of compassion), he makes them extra-sad and dark. Still, reading this novel rushes me back to Tokyo in an instant. I read 12 novels by Japanese authors that summer, mostly in transit. Sometimes, when I get absorbed in this book, I feel like I’m back on the train, reading intently as I sway back and forth and listen to the announcer’s high voice calling out the stations…