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one more story I don't want to forget

This week just past, the week between the two semesters of my jail job, we visited the Robert E. Barrett fishway again, to show the healing angel the fish elevator, and this year there was a marvelous docent there, Walter, a retired professor who grew up around here and leapt and jumped his way from rock to rock across the shallows below the dam when he was young.

He told the story of fishing for a lemon shark when he was a young man--he had wanted the jaw of the shark as a souvenir. But when he did finally catch a lemon shark, it was so beautiful that he was ashamed of having wanted to display its jaw, and he let it go. Then, some years later, he was snorkeling in the Caribbean, swimming near a pod of dolphins who suddenly took off when he got near. He returned to the boat only to be told that a giant shark had been dogging him--but not attacking him, he felt, because he had let the lemon shark go.

He loves fish, you could tell. It was mainly lampreys and shad being transported in the elevator that day (see murky pictures below), and he had a phone video of a lamprey that attached itself hopefully to the glass wall of the elevator, revealing its terrifying mouth--like the sandworm mouth on some paperback editions of Dune.

I was happy to meet and talk with him.



This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/913836.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

a positive change

Tomorrow the second session of my jail job starts. It's been, so far, highly rewarding and highly stressful. So anyway, from tomorrow I'll be back to pretty much only posting on Fridays and weekends, probably.

But so today I thought I'd share something I'm proud of, a small thing, but maybe by way of encouraging everyone else out there to be proud of similar things that you do. We have to celebrate the small victories--it's our food for keeping on going.

It's this:

I did this

This is a guard rail for a bridge over a small stream. There's a pretty significant drop--like 30 feet maybe? It's hard to tell from the photo, but the sidewalk slopes down toward the guard rail and the drop, presumably so rainwater can drain off. But it also means if you're a little kid on a tricycle or your first two-wheeler and you're doing haphazard little-kid steering, you're going to maybe veer that way.

Now look at the vertical element that supports the guard rail. Do you see how it's in two pieces (not counting that black thing between the vertical element and the actual rail)? A low piece and then a piece that raises it up?

About a year ago, my neighbor and I were walking here. This area is a development, and the road was still under construction (it still is under construction, further up), although the bridge, sidewalk, and guardrail were already in place. The thing was, the guardrail was fastened to the lower vertical element only--there was no upper piece. It only came up to my shins. "This seems really dangerous," my friend said, and I agreed. The road is a gentle incline as you look up it, or a decline coming the other direction--it was too easy to imagine some kid coming down and going over the nonfunctional guardrail.

"We should tell someone," I said. We thought vaguely about the town's highway department--but the road is still under construction. Better, I thought, to talk to the guys *making* it and see if they'd fix it.

So I kept my eyes open, and eventually I happened to be passing by on a day when people were working on the road. First I asked a young guy about the guard rail, explaining my concern. He thought it was probably too late to do anything about it, but he referred me over to an older guy. After I got done talking to the older guy, he sighed a deep sigh and said he'd talk to "the owner" (I guess the developer?)

And I went away thinking, Well, they probably won't do anything, but at least I've mentioned it.

And then some weeks later I was walking through, and I saw they'd added the second bit of metal to the vertical element, raising the height of the guardrail. I felt a HUGE SENSE OF TRIUMPH!

I mean, I still think they could have done it better--like set the guard rail into the concrete **before** the point at which the concrete slopes downward. But raising the guard rail definitely make things safer.

Sometimes when you speak up, things do change, and if you happen to notice this, take joy. There's enough depressing stuff around that we have to cultivate the joy.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/913547.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

green and light

Two pictures from the departing edge of the day.

First, ferns.


And second, a shaft of light--it's kind of exciting just looking at it; it has its own substance, it's like a creature. I feel lucky that it visited.


This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/913174.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

American Born Chinese

In the spirit of posting something whenever you read it (shoutout to [personal profile] rachelmanija), here's something about American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang. I bought it at the Eric Carle Museum after visiting the exhibition on graphic novels.

I really like the art style, which is simple but expressive. The story is a braided narrative, with the central story being that of Jin, a Chinese American in a town/school with very few Asian Americans. Weaving under and over that story is a Christian-inflected retelling of the story of the Monkey King from Journey to the West and a "comedy" of a seemingly White American boy who's visited by his grotesque racist stereotype Chinese cousin "Chin Kee." Those two strands comment on the main strand, highlighting issues the issues Jin is dealing with.

That structure was clever--but I preferred the Monkey King retelling to the main story. The main story is okay--it's sharply portrayed and has some funny moments (like when the hero uses public bathroom dispenser soap as an emergency substitute for deodorant and ends up depositing bubbles on the shoulder of the girl he's invited to a movie)--but I felt like it walked a familiar path without adding much that was new and without the hero himself gaining much insight. The racist atmosphere in his town/school makes him want to distance himself from his Chinese heritage so he can fit in. As a result he's hurtful to the other Asian American students in his class, and the structure of the story means his change of heart ends up seeming like an externally imposed enlightenment rather than something genuinely earned and learned.

The fact that I liked the Monkey King portion of the story leads me to believe that I'd enjoy Gene Luen Yang's Boxers and Saints, a two-volume story of the Boxer Rebellion, more. I've got it on my to-read list.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/913032.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Ashlin & Olivia

Seeing [personal profile] skygiants's excellent review of Aster Glenn Gray's Ashlin & Olivia reminded me that **I** want to post a review too.

Aster Glenn Gray, you will recall, wrote Briarley, the retelling of Beauty and the Beast in which it's the father who stays with the Beast, not Beauty--in a World War II setting.

This story is nothing like that one. I say that up front because if you go in expecting another retelling or all the m/m feels, you will be disappointed. BUT if you remember how much you appreciated Aster Glenn Gray's understanding of feelings and how people relate to one another, and if you love the conversations her characters have with each other on all kinds of subjects--and if you can bear with people hurting one another and trust in the possibility of reconciliation--then you will love this story.

Ashlin and Olivia become friends in junior high, and it's a super intense friendship. Did you have any super intense friendships in junior high? Did you find a person who had read that book you loved that no one else had read--and who loved it in the same way you did? Or a person whom you could share an idea with, and they would **get it** and expand on it in a way that surprised and delighted you? That person is Ashlin, for Olivia.
I felt another one of those little happy explosions in my chest. “You know,” I said, almost shyly, because I’d never talked to anyone about this – “I’ve always wished I could walk into paintings – certain paintings – to live in the world of that painting, just for a little bit.”

Ashlin turned her rapt gaze from the painting to me. “You too?” she said, and I nodded, too happy to speak.

But in intense friendships, expectations can be very high, and yet people are just people, and kids in particular are still learning how to be in relationships with others. In that space misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and downright cruelty can happen. Super intense friendships can end exceptionally badly.

But sometimes--maybe--the roots of the friendship are still alive, and something can grow anew.

The story follows both Ashlin and Olivia as children and as young adults who meet up by chance in Florence. If you were Ashlin, could you forgive Olivia? If you were Olivia, would you want to reconnect with Ashlin? Give it a read and tell me what you think.

Available as both an ebook and a paperback.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/912711.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Memorial Day

We went to my dad's house this weekend, and today we watched the town's Memorial Day parade. The guy in the blue chair was wearing a cap that said "World War II" on it--he's a veteran of that war. As various people in various uniforms marched by, some would stop and salute him.

He was born in 1922. He was telling the people sitting near him all sorts of stories from his time in service (I didn't hear those, but my dad did).

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/912500.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

weekend beauty

Every year I try to get to lilacland when the lilacs are in bloom. It's private property, but the owner, an artist, opens it up each year at this time for people to wander through, admiring the flowers in shades of light and deep purple, white, and pink. There are also dogwoods and (though not yet in bloom) wisteria.

Lilacland 2019

Lilacland 2019

This year there were tables and chairs set out, so you could sit and commune with the lilacs in the company of friends...

conversation space Lilacland

Or on your own

rest spot Lilacland

I'm doing a unit on philosophy with my students next. Question I'll be asking them: what is needed for happiness? Thoughts?

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/911990.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

extras from the Eric Carle Museum

In the room next to the Out of the Box exhibit was an exhibit on the golden anniversary of William Steig's picturebook Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, which really does have lovely illustrations. One thing that caught my eye, though, was in the middle of the room, a sort of random plot generator you could play with:

Write what it is like to live with ... a backpack ... that is very lonely
flip each section for a diff. story prompt

Write what it is like to live with ... a mall ... that is very lonely
flip each section for a diff. story prompt

Write what it is like to live with ... a mall ... that can fly
flip each section for a diff. story prompt

Create a postcard written by ... a mall ... that can fly

flip each section for a diff. story prompt

Go on then! I challenge you to try one!

Meanwhile, hugs all round, courtesy of William Steig and Sylvester:

original art from Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/911820.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

out of the box

On a drizzly Sunday, Wakanomori and I went to the Eric Carle Museum to see "Out of the Box," a truly excellent exhibit on the contemporary graphic novel... or I should say, the contemporary US graphic novel for young people. (The topic is big, and the exhibit can be forgiven for not tackling graphic novels the world over, but I always wish that limitations were acknowledged a bit more directly up front--but I apologize for beginning with a grumble, because I really did enjoy it.)

The Museum: Rainy Day with Apple Blossoms
May 12, 2019 at Eric Carle Museum

Out of the Box--Graphic Novel exhibit at Eric Carle Museum

They had several featured artists, all of whom had write-ups like this, and many of whose works, including this guy's, are on my to-read list:

writeup on Jarrett J. Krosoczka

This set of three photos shows the progression from rough mockup to final art for a page from Hope Larson's graphic novelization of Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time

sketch for a page in graphic novel version of Madeleine L'Englie's Wrinkle in Time

further development of the page from graphic novelization of A Wrinkle in Time

Final page, ready for reproduction

Catia Chien's experience with self publishing will be very familiar for many aspiring artists and writers. Her collaboration with her husband is beautiful.

write up on Catia Chien

page from Catia Chien's WIP (text by husband Michael Belcher)

Her husband's words there... When something in the stillness / took on a movement other than the wind ...

100 percent tangentially, I really loved Sara Varon's personal photo album of time spent in Guyana, which she used as references for her graphic novel New Shoes

fruit-laden boat
Sara Varon personal photo on display

(It was fun to see images from the photos appear in the art)

Wakanomori and I didn't contribute, but there was a place where exhibition viewers could contribute to an ongoing storyboard, and pages were on display:

created by visitors to the "Out of the Box" exhibit on Graphic Novels at Eric Carle Museum

I did get Waka to snap a picture of me in the "boom" panel, though:


I have other photos from the exhibit here. For those who can make it out to the Eric Carle Museum, the exhibit runs through May 26, and I highly recommend it.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/911432.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

a visit to Hawley Bog

a_soft_world came to visit, and she and I and the healing angel made a trip to the Hawley Bog, a place A Soft World had visited as a child.

It was drizzly and misty, full of birdsong and a strange, distant, vibrating noise that may have been someone trying, at regular intervals, to start an engine and failing, or that may have been the bog itself, shifting and thumping, somehow. When you get out into the bog proper, signs direct you to walk no more than two to a section of boardwalk, so as not to risk breaking the bog mat--30 feet of peat floating on a glacial pond.

It's still early spring there--pickerelweed just beginning to send out leaves, tightly curled fiddleheads rising from cinnamon-colored paisley curls of old fronds, and the sphagnum moss more pink-peach-red than green. But so, so soft, so soft and bouncy--if the water didn't well up when you pressed, you'd be tempted to press your cheek to it.

I didn't have a camera, but a_soft_world gave me permission to post hers.

Here's what it looked like overall:

And here is a circle of pitcher plants, communing with each other:

Here's just one, rising from last year's fern fronds:

Here two of us are on the boardwalk:

And here's a shrub, not yet in leaf, that seems to have the Witches Broom infection (lots of this shrub had this):

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/911336.html. Comments are welcome at either location.



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