Saturday, October 31, 2009


Since I have been living in Anchorage, Alaska, I often have wondered about the concept of kindness. Is kindness real or do people put on a mask; try to be cheery, try to be optimistic and is it sincerely genuine? To some extent, at times, I think it is true charity that I encounter. Kindness is something that is ultimately magnanimous. Kindness is everywhere in Alaska. I think it is a wonder land where I live and because of the beauty of nature, you are filled with a underlining happiness or disbelief of the fantastic surroundings. Most of the time the beauty is so powerful that you cannot take it all in. This past summer I was so taken back by the green large mountains that loomed so close to my presence. I became instantly scared; it overwhelmed me and felt small and insignificant. It is a very polite environment, even though Alaskans can be tough spirited, there is another side to their persona that involves an all inclusiveness, like someone reaching out their hand to you to tell you that everything is okay and fine.

I need this kindness because it soothes my anxiety at times. In the early pitch black mornings or on the snowy highways and vacant corridors of the city I need this comfort. Just entering a gas station to exchange silly pleasantries surprises me time and time again on the good nature of folks. I use to think it was terribly corny and provincial but now I see it as a mode of survival. It works and even when I don't need it, it is there, this approachable silly stuff, this gooey good that I sometimes scoff at and on the other hand I embrace it, walking away feeling fortunate that it is there as I choke back this sentiment, I reconsider my cynic being.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

the native in me

This past Saturday, I spent the morning at the Alaska Federation of Natives Conference and got to see a group of natives work on resolutions, amendments and adjusting the records. The process was very professional and dignified. Of course, since I have lived here, the native culture has been a part of my residency in Alaska and I have been absorbing it ever since.

Two years ago I observed a totem raising ceremony at the Alaska Heritage Center and spent the day hearing dedications; listened to speeches, prayers, singing and chanting, saw the young and old gather and talk in native tongues. Spending the day was not enough at this gathering to understand and feel the native pride. I wish I was part native, part tribal, an eighth or a fraction of color. When I was in middle school I use to tell my friends that I was part Apache and French. My mother is Swiss born; coming from Huguenots ancestry while my father from second generation German and Dutch roots makes me an official European offspring. The other evening though, I was telling an acquaintance that I am more interested in other cultures than my own.

Presently, I am taking a class at UAA called Alaskan Native Politics. It can be a bit dry some of the time, but integral learning about the foundations of the native people, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, the establishment of their corporations, their ongoing fight for their land, recognition and rights as people and their stories of the ongoing hardships and present trials in rural Alaska. It is like listening to another language; enjoying this challenge and new dialog I try to suck it up like a sponge. We live insular and comfy existences in our homes surrounded with all too familiar people. We think we know the lives of others, how they live and their struggles, but we know so little. The Alaskan Native is a rich culture and hopefully one day I can participate to a greater level of understanding.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

one part color

I became an artist because I love color and culture. Lydia Mendoza was my first Mexican girlfriend; we worked together in the garment industry, a job that I despised but was forced to find work and eight years afterwards, I developed a business mind learning great lessons from master marketeers. Downtown Los Angeles was a sprawling large setting; concrete and homeless, vacant store fronts peppered with markets, discount outlets and eateries. Later on, I lived in the loft district, called Little Tokyo, and immersed myself in this community. I loved that part of the city because it exuded a romantic industry; it was there that I grew up, spirtually and mentally as a fine artist surrounding myself with serious thinkers, poets, composers, designers, performance artists and the like.

There was chili, salsa, hot sauce and burritos. I met Lydia's family and I remember her father was warm and sun browned. It was a different neighborhood called East Los Angeles. This was a new place to add to my existence and after twenty years of living there, this Mexicana/Hispanic culture crept into my soul. I felt their taken land, the dry desert, looming catus and vast reservoir of space. Today, I miss it - the heat, their passion and deep humanity coupled with humility.

Friday, October 16, 2009

the witching month

It is the season of magic, of ancient harvest moons, smoke, bonfires and dancing to the drums. It is a time to celebrate El Dia de los Muertos - a festival of the ancestors. My personal experience with October sends many memories; a dark Los Angeles night and a feeling of my solitariness in a tremendous city, with background noise of traffic, sirens and the scurry of city life.

I was recently divorced and was renting a house in mid Wilshire, Los Angeles. If you went a block east, you were in questionable territory and going two blocks west, you landed in Hancock Park; mansions and wondrous homes that often one asked, who lived there or if anyone lived there at all. My new digs was a creaky, funky, run down space but it had a huge working studio and a courtyard that was filled with warm sunshine during the day. I had taken the bars off the windows because they obstructed the beautiful light that was needed to do my painting. I lived in the center of a Korean neighborhood. Sundays, I could hear a nearby apartment of worshippers singing hymns. Homeless would stroll by with their shopping carts while cars whizzed and helicopters hovering over the cityscape would jangle my nerves late at night. One October, my mother had come to visit me from the east coast. I had had a biopsy on my right beast and was waiting for the results to see if the growth was cancerous. My mother accompanied me to the doctor's; seated in the waiting room, I anticipated the call for the consultation. I remember so vividly how cool and confident my mother was, not doubting for a second that the results were okay and she was right. That evening, we returned to my eccentric pad, but it looked different. I put on my running shoes, skipped through the neighborhood, happily and freely, running with abandon. Every October I think of this incident; the in between darkness and light that I felt; that past, the comfort of others and my fortunate place that I inhabit today.

Monday, October 5, 2009

C'est la vie

Waking up to the dark and rain was not a good way to start a Monday. The weather visibly turned to pitch black; caused my brain to tumble toward insecurity and anxiousness. However, by the end of the day, it turned out to be quite beautiful; our fall has lasted golden and plush.

Last Friday, I was looking at a map of France. I traced the places I hitchhiked; my starting points were at the Sorbonne in Paris for a few months doing some preparatory work and then I went on to study at the Universite of Tours, France for ten months. It was an art epiphany of Van Gogh in Amsterdam, the Rodin Museum which floored me, The Louvre, The Jeu de Paume in Paris. Paris, Paris, Paris. Most of it was emotionally striking and I remember those times clearly. As students we were housed in these very small rooms; quite stark and placed in a wooded area (aren't most dorm rooms?) Socially, I spoke French very well but my grammar was very spotty. It wasn't until I taught French back in the states that my learning came together and I had arrived at speaking it fluently.

I especially remember my Marxist boyfriend who took me around to all the political rallies; we visited his sister on a farm in Limoges, smoked Gauloises and Gitanes and it was there that I really learned how to taste food. His name was Jean Claude Jandin and he wrote me love letters after I returned to the US, asking me to marry him. Helas, I was too young and fickle and I blew him off; still think fondly of him to this day and often wonder how my life would have evolved. Quite differently I suppose. It was from Jean Claude that I truly learned the psychology of Voltaire - on peut cultive notre jardin de l'amour.

So, as I looked at the map of France, my relationship with my past became surreal; as if I had never been there, never traveled through this wonderful country, never felt a foreign place, learned another language, tripped through the neighboring lands by trains, ferries, hitching by trucks. I became sad because it was if that part of me was gone forever. It is extinct I suppose; you carry it buried in the present, deep and distant but it can be recovered in a heartbeat.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

something like happiness

Just finished viewing a wonderful Czech film titled Something like Happiness. I fought a dull headache all day long; not sure how it happened, the air, too much school, fretting over a research paper, etc and after arriving home from a long bike ride through the golden forest paths still did not squelch the light throb that laid above my brow. However, after resting and watching this film, I fell into a state of abandon, letting go and living in this landscape. The characters in this film were just ordinary working folk; I loved each and every one of them, their warmth and appeal won my heart over. It was a down to earth film with a stark industrial background making their lives just bearable while the beauty of the film rested on each other. They treated each other with such humanness, dignity and charity. It is no small wonder how these films without all the bells and whistles appeal to my senses; are close to life and possess a reality far away from Hollywood norm.