Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Rapping

It came at 12:21 AM on Christmas day. We had just had the perfect, cozy Christmas Eve. We decorated the tree. We pooled our mutual creativity to make a tree-topper; one we hope to have for years. Hell, I even had a thimble full of egg nog. The night felt warm and twinkly and silent. We were brushing our teeth.

I thought I heard something. I peered out of the bathroom to listen closer. I heard it again. Someone was knocking at our door. Not once. but twice. then thrice. getting slightly more frantic each time.

Our apartment is small. You can hear all creatures stirring. We shut off the light and I tip-toed away from the door. Whoever it was, we were not answering. Joe got out a sharp implement and put it in arms reach.

We waited. It kept going. Each knock ruined another part of that wonderful evening. I began to fill with dread. I whispered “either someone we know is in trouble, or someone we don’t know, is.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses? Not at this hour. And on Christmas? Our neighbor friend was most likely out of town. My mind raced. Maybe our car was on fire downstairs (which happened on our block to someone one Thanksgiving) and someone was coming to tell us? Who would be so bold as to knock at this hour. And on Christmas? In our neighborhood, I knew it was not carolers.

As I fell asleep, I obsessed over it. My half-awake mind thought it would make a nice story about Santa. But then I doubted Santa would walk up 4 flights. WHAT was I thinking? Lucid dream craziness.

I woke up the next day still thinking about it. This time with a clearer head. And it scared me even more. I am still thinking about it. I am so conclusion-jumpy I know. And its always the worst. The city does that to you. I cant help it. Maybe someone just had the wrong apartment or maybe they needed a cup of confectioners sugar. Maybe we could have helped. But it certainly was not fucking Santa.

Friday, November 2, 2012

raison d’ etre

Honey, you are just a Christmas ornament on the tree of life.

This is not my quote. It was said to a family member of mine. But, it could have been said to me. In fact, I am saying it to me.

In the wake of the storm, I have been thinking a lot about non-essential jobs. Most jobs are just massive whirring machines of distraction. Just a way to keep us busy, thinking, making, getting people together, meetings, initiatives, ideas. Generating a raison d' etre and the pensive, satiated exhale that accompanies it. Its why we wake up. Its why I wake up. Although, non-essentialism is essential. I am not a Gradgrind. I am the furthest thing from it. There are too many people in the world for everyone to be a key member of society working to help save lives. And its a good, virtuous decision for certain people not to save or help anyone in particular.

I feel guilty being useless. But being useless is my best use. I would be a terrible nurse, emergency worker or even waitress. I am just going to try to be the best ornament I can be; shiny, steadfast and sometimes joyful.

So sad about all the loss in the wake of the storm. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones, houses, cars, beautiful old trees, power and light. Stay warm New York.

Monday, September 24, 2012

It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness

“I knew those were the best times” my mother told me once, describing the moment where her four children were in and out of the kitchen, talking, whining, grabbing at the cheese and bread she was slicing and walking in and out of the back door to the sun-filled, overgrown backyard.

I am afraid that my {best of times} might be now. In graduate school, collecting data, in autumn in New York, working at the museum, walking across the park on these exquisite days, stressing about the future, lucky to have something to look forward to, not slogging away at the same old boring job, stressors, surprises, loneliness, i-love-what-i-am-doing days followed by what-am-i-doing days... under 35 not sick or elderly. this may actually be it. trying to enjoy it, difficult to do with my personality, hunting for trouble or ennui that i can relate to.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Elegance, Bounty, Bread and Dead Birds

We recently went to the exhibit at the National Gallery of Art Entitled Elegance and Refinement: The Still-Life Paintings of Willem van Aelst. Oh how I adore 16th-17th Century Dutch still lives. Especially the ones with deep, dark backgrounds and shimmering fruits, oysters, bread and flowers in the foreground. I like the disorderly ones the best of all, with peeled fruit, scattered crumbs, glasses of wine knocked over, and blood running down the mouths of birds and rabbits.

The Larder by Antonio Maria Vassallo, 1650
Still life with Figs and Bread by Luis Meléndez, Spanish, 1760
Breakfast Items by Pierer Claesz, 1646

and some lovely modern renditions, photographs by Justine Reyes:
Still Life with Banana, Purse and Change, 2009
Still Life with Pomegranate and Birds, 2009

Thursday, August 9, 2012

the yahoo years

I have lived two lives. One, an occasionally joyus although sometimes inexplicably melancholy, living, breathing, face to face life. And the other, a life of silent expressions that confess, console, question, quit, explain, swear and repent. My other life is my yahoo email.

I have had my yahoo email address for 15 years. Its getting to the point that the address gives me an air of unprofessionalism, immaturity and overall un-tech-savvyness. None of which are ok for me to have. I am going to be 34 this year. I might be a professor one day. I live in New York. I just got an iPhone. I desperately need to move on. These days the '' makes even the most dignified names, tacky: or

I have a gmail account and a school address. I never use them. Every day, several obsessive times a day, for 15 years I have signed in and signed out. I check. I check again. I write messages with tears streaming down my face. I write messages in love and in haste. I re-read. I feel powerful and honest. I pour over words and how they sound against one another. I press send. I regret. I wait. I regret. I check.

I don’t like to talk on the phone. So many of my professional contacts and dearest friends are only reached via this email address. If I had to call them, I would be absolutely nowhere. I explain myself far better when I don’t have to speak. I know this can be accomplished on any email server. And this glorious digital age is laden with opportunities to sit at a computer and spill your uncensored guts to an abstract someone (i.e. this blog).

But my whole life is there, on yahoo. Its a dense and unpoetic chronicle. I keep every message. I say too much.

MANGER from Médoc

There is a new blog on my blogroll: MANGER by Mimi Thorisson who chronicles her magnificent life of food, kids, dogs and friends in Médoc, France.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

late blooms

a new painting. this one felt like memories and the night. more details here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Oh Paris.

“Your father wants you to go, but I don’t”. She does not mince words, my dear mother. This was the “talk” we had before we went to Paris together. And as a result of her sentiment—coupled with my own residual teen angst at age 23—we had a remarkably terrible trip.

It was the spring of 2002. September 11th had happened. We lost dear friends. And we lost the arrogant, ignorant certainty that everything was going to be generally, ok. The feeling was that it now, wasnt. I was too old to be traveling with my parents and their cronies. But I went anyway. We were not of the jet-setting set, so this trip was big for us and I knew it.

I was working as an intern at Milton Glaser’s studio, growing increasingly smug and haughty for no good reason. Milton made you feel that way, that to be in his midst you were somehow superior to the average schlub. The truth was that I was a particularly pathetic schlub, getting paid peanuts, wearing Aerosoles and living at home with my parents, and now 50% of them didn’t want me in Paris.

I get terrible jet lag. I slept like a french rock in my hotel room. The room had white shutters inside the windows and a sage green comforter on the bed. In the morning, my Dad would pound on the door trying to wake me up to go sightseeing. I hated almost all of it. I dragged my feet at the Louvre. I remember feeling particularly lethargic and “over it” at the Musée d’Orsay. This polar bear sculpture was the only thing that moved me. I felt the food was heavy and like I was being choked by a butter monster until I could no longer breathe. Looking back, my degree of ennui was criminal. Although maybe its just a cliché that everyone should have a lovely time in Paris. I should have gone with friends and we should have stayed out all night at clubs and smoked cigarettes and flirted with some sleazy guys.

I was disgusted with my parents by the end of the trip, as they were with me, no doubt. It was too bad. They both speak French and my Dad even wrote my Mom little missives in French when they were first dating, which she still has in a private stash in the back of her closet. It should have been romantic for them. Instead I was there, the ultimate bratty buzzkill.

I brought back some cookies from Maxim’s to the studio in New York. I handed them to Milton and told him that I liked Paris but that it was particularly nice to go to Monet’s Giverny, you know, to get out the city for the day, I said. Even Milton laughed at me with a downward gaze. Who did I think I was wanting to get out of Paris for the day? I was young.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

other moon

My latest painting called {other moon}.

When I paint I begin with no plan, it is glorious. I just see what emerges from layering the materials on one another. In the end, this one seemed otherworldly to me.

click here for more details.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

I have a terrible memory. I sometimes realize things that I already knew. Its getting worse with age, which is making for a bizarre and unpredictable intellectual and emotional narrative. I probably need help, but instead I just keep trying to make my own version of sense of things.

I am in my 5th year in a PhD program, yet I am still not convinced that this is indeed, it. for. me. I always, always do this. I wont fully subscribe to anything. To be wholly engulfed by a singular ethos is to be blind. I am on my way to becoming a scientist. But I still sometimes choose to see the world in a typeface-loving, Adobe Illustrator-knowing, color-theory touting graphic designer way. This vision is my safety net. Well, the net is made of air and tiny rainbow-colored bubbles and illusory polka-dot guinea feathers. And it sure as hell won’t catch me if I fall.

I recently tried to design a logo and I remembered how difficult it is. Not only is it difficult to dream up the concept and execute the design, but its difficult to convey to your client that your visual idea is good. Everyone who can see has an opinion on design. Its the most subjective thing in the world. Every color reminds someone of something; grandma’s blanket, the couch from goodwill, toothpaste. And even the very same color is very literally perceived differently by different people. My client kept saying the blues I chose looked grey. They were not at all grey in my eyes. Also, sometimes people who do not identify with being “creative” have a hard time understanding all the work that goes into designing a logo. They think you can whip it up in a few hours. They are wrong.

My old boss, who designed “I heart NY”, had some very wise words for keeping clients in check, “You can’t have it fast, cheap and good, you can have two of those things, but never all three. If its fast and cheap, it wont be good, if its good and fast it wont be cheap, and if its cheap and good it wont be fast”. He is, most of all, a superb businessman-as-designer. One has to be an advocate for the art. And you have to find a vernacular to describe those intangibles that the designer captures. You have to tell an aesthetic story that makes clients feel good. Through that, you can teach them to see what you see.

These recent difficulties made me relieved that I am not a full time designer anymore. I can’t tell you what to see. I don’t want to tell you what to see. In fact, I don’t even want to tell you what I see, because my vision is certifiably littered with personal artifacts, secret references and illusions of illusions.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

sans café

Today is the fourth day. It began, by coincidence, on Holy Wednesday. I unceremoniously stopped and I already feel different. I have been tapering off as I age. Because although it was my lifesblood—and an integral part of my New Yorkey/overworked-ish identity—it is never good to overindulge. It dehydrates, it creates a buzz that ultimately gives way to a slump and to be addicted is to be weak.

I imagine that this is what it feels like to be on anti-anxiety medication. The mornings feel tranquil and promising. I am sure spring-time has something to do with it. I am sleeping better. I am drinking more water. I don’t know where this is going because I am not entirely clear why it began.

My body is rejecting coffee and I don’t even know who I am anymore. My brain no longer craves it. I am scared of what will happen to me. Will I be healthy and self-actualized and calm soon? Will I start putting up posters of kittens all over my bedroom? Will I start juicing kale? My life is virtually unrecognizable without some form of anxiety and darkness. Could it really be the coffee?

Maybe this is how most habits naturally conclude. Not with a hard lined vow, instead, they just fall away. I can already literally feel strange “happenings” slashing across my brain, maybe its portions of my brain recovering or maybe they are atrophying. I am craving sugar more, so I may have to put a stop to this, for the good of my dentition.

Although, on this lovely Saturday morning, I awoke before 7:00 and I drank a cup of earl grey instead. and I liked it.

To give you an idea of how addicted I was: read this and this #11.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

a handful of words

{For surely it is a magical thing for a handful of words, artfully arranged, to stop time. To conjure a place, a person, a situation, in all its specificity and dimensions. To affect us and alter us, as profoundly as real people and things do.}—Jhumpa Lahiri, New York Times, “My Life’s Sentences”.

This little opinion piece in the Sunday Times by Jhumpa Lahiri, resonated with me, and reminded me of these two old posts:

1) The Sentence in the Soil

Editing your own writing is hard. When I am writing I often become attached to sentences, even if there are too many commas or too few periods.

And I have learned that good writing comes from wanting to say something, not just from wanting to write anything.

But I find that one often knows when things are not quite right yet in writing, that more adjustments have to be made, even if it is a difficult truth to face.

It is easy to think that the soil of words is tilled perfectly and you are ready to plant your seed which will grow roots in this very spot. But sometimes you have to go and get a sturdy shovel and be honest with yourself and plunge it into the ground and turn the soil over a few more times until you see the nutrient rich sentences rise to the top.

And sometimes it will turn up. The sentence to end all sentences. The one that can only exist after several failed attempts have gone, the one that splits your heart into two with its razorlike clarity and then melts the two halves with the warm hearth of humility.

The kind of sentence that when someone else reads it they will think to themselves, “Wow, that is really great I wish I had written that.” And you will know that they could
not have and not only because they didnt, but because you did.

2) Slow Wri-ter.

I wrote something truly terrible today. So astoundingly bad, that I had to write about it. Because I have a thing, with words. I have a little superficial stylistic, aesthetic respect for them and their placement and sound and interaction and oh yes, meaning. I want each sentence to be a tiny whirring machine that stirs. However, this is not always possible, or necessary.

I have a student who always stays after class to catch up. She has talked to me at length about how her lecture professor goes too fast with the powerpoint slides, and she is unable to keep up. I let her see my slides and we talk about the material. The other day, I noticed that her handwriting was insanely neat. She is probably 40 and looks like she may have another job, and a child, or two, or something. I watched her painstakingly copy the information from my slides into her notebook. Each letter was perfectly spaced from the next and unbelievably rounded. Her penmanship showed the kind of meticulous detail that is abandoned shortly after you learn to write in script, on thinly lined paper, with a pen. Its the kind of conscientiousness that is just not conducive to well, writing. I wondered if this was actually her problem. But then I wondered about the connection between speed of comprehension and speed of handwriting. Is there one? I dont know, but I wondered.

Which brings me to today. I was writing an exam myself. Because I am still at the hypocrisy inducing stage of graduate school where I teach, enforce rules on others, tell them how to improve, wonder what is holding them back, think like a professor, play dress up and then turn around and screw up royally in my own classes wearing sneakers with holes in them. Its almost ridiculous and certainly humbling. I began writing my exam very neatly today, although I was very nervous, so little, uncharacteristic flourishes emerged from my freshly shaky hand. I was not writing particularly physically slow. but. I. kept. stopping. to go back and read what I had written. I did not only want to convey uninspired lists of information about these astounding creatures. I wanted to convey how much I respect and understand the concepts and words that encircle them. This, incidentally, was not possible. I left out one whole question because I ran out of time. Twenty points, gone. And I had planned on using the word gestalt in my essay somewhere, but that never happened either.

And I must admit on this blog I go back incessantly and edit and re-edit and re-re-edit. It would be too embarrassing for you to know how often I actually do that. Because its also narcissism in this case, but thats kind of a good word too.

P.S. This was also an interesting piece in today’s Times on what parts of your brain light up from reading particular words, or handfuls of words: Your Brain on Fiction.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

bioluminescence: to behold and not held

{His scientific compositions had, indeed, much in common with artistic creations which do not imitate actuality but transcend it and illuminate reality} excerpt from The Great Influenza by J.M. Barry about Oswald Avery of the Rockefeller Institute.

I named this blog bioluminescence not because I know anything about the biological mechanisms of luminescence. To me, bioluminescence implied shedding light on matters biological. The truth is, I hardly ever write about biology here, so the name conjures up fireflies instead. Recently, I posted a picture of synchronous fireflies lighting miraculously in unison. My blog has gotten more hits via that picture than any word I have ever written.

I want to tell you two stories now. One about fireflies and the other about seeing the light. First the fireflies. Like millions of little girls, I collected fireflies in jars at dusk. My best friend had a sprawling back lawn that led into an enchanted deciduous woods. I still remember those dreamy blue dusks and seeing the first fly introduce the evening with its fleeting signal. “Oh, did you see that?” We were freshly excited each time. Its a cliche to call it magical, but it was. They were the only bugs we weren’t disgusted by. One night as we inspected our jar of riches, we held a few individuals on our fingertips. Then my friend realized that they pooped on her fingers. We promptly let them all go, shaking the open jar in a grossed out fury. We never collected fireflies again much after that. But I went on worshipping them for their transcendental gift. My childhood best friend, who I met when I was 3 or 4 years old, is still my dear friend. The other day she sent me a link to the image above, which was taken by Japanese photographer Tsuneaki Hiramatsu using time-lapse photography to show fields full of firefly light on hazy summer nights in Okayama Prefecture, Japan.

The other story is less lovely. I am having some problems lately with my science. Its dying. I can feel it slipping away. Its too painful to explain in more detail. You see, I will always write about the light and not about the luciferase. I don’t think I care how a firefly lights. I just want to enjoy its tiny beam for a moment. In this particular case, ignorance is truly harmless. This is not to say that I don’t love biology and understand that knowledge can enhance appreciation. It’s that I respect the practice of science enough not to litter it with my unscientific mind. My mind is somewhere else, its in the woods sitting on fallen leaves, waiting desperately for the night.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ceci n’est pas blog post

I love that you hated it, that means it was good.

There are too many people in the world, some have to be losers.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

almost glory


the sun is in my eyes
my down coat is silly
and fabric vestibules unnecessary

the park is a mellow brown-grey
the pond is almost frozen
mallards swim at its still liquid edges

i am not suffocated by the night
or by my three scarf sandwich

the end of my nose is almost warm
and i am enjoying this month
in all of its almost glory.


Saturday, January 21, 2012


This is my painting

or maybe it’s a collage.

It was painted in September.

I think of it as a floating world.


36" x 48"

acrylic and pages from an old botany book, on wood


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 you’re alright

So many good things happened today: new beginnings, opportunities out of the blue, in the rare zone of peaceful focus during my work, finally hearing back after months of waiting, laughing at a joke I made in the wee hours of the morning which I forgot and then remembered later in the day to intense merriment and...most of all, he was here when I came home and he was cooking a creative and delicious meal. He also did the dishes. The only consistent reminder that I was not in a dream was the fact that I had slight gas all day.