You Can Be Here.

[this was mostly written on tuesday evening. it took me a while.]

I wouldn’t know how else to write this. To be half-disappointed in myself because I had three drinks with a friend/coworker at our local haunt. But then to know that if I told my friend Dale about my disappointment he would slyly smile and tell me to Ah, fuck off. You’re great. That’s wonderful.

A year ago today, Evan and I were laying on our carpet in our living room, drinking whisky. Trying to sum up the courage to listen to a piece of art. A piece of sound. It was a dedication to our friend Dale. He was on his deathbed. His literal deathbed.

Deathbed. I cannot believe how jovially I used that term before I knew someone—loved someone—who laid their head on a pillow that lived on a deathbed.

We wept. I don’t know if Evan and I said a word to each other that whole night. We just listened. Deeply.

Dale was a friend, mentor, inspiration to both of us. He was a professor of mine. He was one of those people who meant so much to me, but I only filled a small slot in the multi-paged dance card of admirers he had.

We had a few conversations circled around my intense insecurity about being an artist. Or—rather—not being an artist at all. Being a complete imposter. Crying about it as he told me that most people call themselves artists and never make anything. He told me that I was making so much and not calling myself an artist, which wasn’t fair to anyone.

Dale was a huge part of “20/Nothing.” He had mentored us through the project and his hand in everything meant so much to us. We picked him up from his house in the craziest blizzard Missoula had ever seen. We slide all around the roads as we drove to the university. We sat in terrified silence in the studio as we screened “20/Nothing” for him. It finished. We sat in silence. He stared at the blank/finished screen and then said…

– One more time.

We pushed play again.

It finished. He looked at us and said…

– Well, hell. You kids have something here.

All of our insides smiled warmly as they collapsed together in an ecstatic faint.

He was the first person I texted when we won the PBS POV Award.

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In his own way, he got in that positive jab. Did he invent that? Making fun of someone whilst simultaneously complimenting them to the core?

During all our talk about being an artist or not, I told Dale about how much I wanted to do an art installation one day. He encouraged me, telling me he was always—especially—excited to help with those kinds of projects.

The last day I saw Dale, we did not speak. I just saw him briefly and he nodded at me and I knew something was wrong. He did not look well.

I found out that day he was sick. He was going to die.

I couldn’t stop thinking about our last conversation. I had seen him in the hallway and asked if I could talk with him about something I couldn’t shake. I was in the car with a producer, working on a film, and the producer hit a puppy and it was horrible and it was a nightmare and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Dale told me that I couldn’t shake it because I was a caring person and we should never feel bad for caring. He so readily comforted the fact that we were human and stood up for the goodness in all of us and acknowledged the fucked-up-ness in all of it.

We walked together out to the parking lot and the conversation turned to his frustrations with some parts of his job. His last words to me were paired with a very Dale curtsey,

– They don’t even pay for my parking, Rachel.

Those were the last words. And then he was gone.

Then we were laying on the floor, listening to this piece of sound. This piece of art. Dale’s dance card of loved ones saying goodbye.

 

 

 

………

 

A week later, it was time to name my thesis project for my master’s program. I adamantly insisted on an art installation.

It was a crazy idea I pitched and Frontier Space accepted. They accepted it so much that they insisted it be a First Friday opening.

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My idea was to take out the timers in parking meters and change them to music boxes. I also wanted to recreate parking tickets, rewrite them. Change the things they say to be inviting, encouraging, raw, open. Inviting people in. Talking about all the people that I want to be here. And cover a wall with them. Pink tickets. That was the color they had on campus.

It was the craziest time of my life. Learning a new art form, moving to Bozeman [for a new job], commuting to and fro between Missoula and Bozeman [because of aforementioned new job], starting the new job, trying to keep up with a newly-minted fiancé, finishing my master’s work, and ordering a ton of parking meter and music box pieces from eBay and praying to god it all works out.

Evan Smith was a saint and the most clutch team-member you’d ever want on your squad. He was an incredible tinkerer.

I wrote. Evan tinkered. I helped tinker. Evan welded. My advisor gave constant and solid advice. I spent many a nights in a small, cold space, reflecting, installing.

“You Can Be Here” was born.

I reached out to Dale’s wife to seek her input/approval. She said she could only come by late the night before the show opened. I was terrified.

It was all set up, ready to go, but the meters weren’t placed in their final positions yet.

She walked in the small space at 10:15pm and I held my breath. She looked around and made frank observations and gave honest critiques and advice.

– The meters need to be all in one line, close to the tickets.

And then on…

– You need to get the title of the show and your name printed in vinyl and put up on the wall.

She kept saying things like…

– Dale must’ve warned you about me, right? How I don’t hold anything back with my critiques.

I assured her I loved every turn, twist, and scenic overlook of this feedback.

We talked about art. About installations. We talked about how art is such an important part of the grieving process. We talked about Dale.

Then she said…

– This is really good. Dale would’ve approved. This needs to travel.

And then my insides smiled warmly as they collapsed together in an ecstatic faint.

That moment. That late night approval. That love. That was one of my favorite moments ever. It was connected in all the ways you want to exist.

“You Can Be Here” existed.

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The next evening was also up there. So many loved ones, so many strangers, gathered in an alley. They picked up coins. They discovered the meters. They listened to music. They read the tickets. They laughed. They cried.

I was a buzzing part of it all. Dale was a gentle part of it all. It all shined. It all pulsated. It was everything.

It was one of the best times of my life in the saddest and the most joyous and the most connected way.

Thank you.

You can be here.

Please.

 

let’s make up dances.

I’m into defining my years. Naming them. Calling them out.

I’ve had the bad year: circa 2009.

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sad sketches of me from a friend. and the appropriate end to 2009.

Then there were fours years in between that escaped official titling. I was feverishly tornado-ing through life and the west, looking for purpose, creativity, love, adventures, paychecks, and more purpose. I picked Evan up on the way and we kept on spinning.

Then there was the year of survival: 2013.

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so much scar maintenance.

Then the year of thriving: 2014.

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lots of smiling. lots of winning.

And then there was 2015. Well, January 21, 2015 through January 20, 2016. [I go by my accident anniversary to ring in the new year.] So we’re coming up on the time to call it.

Evan and I recently came home from our honeymoon in Maui. It was so many wonderful things, but—maybe mostly—it was a gentle, invigorating, beautiful time for reflection.

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a quick snap when I went back to the van to get the camera. it’s not the best photo, but I love so much about this moment. love.

Relaxingly sitting on the beach or in this van was the best place for some 2015 reflection, because even thinking about the last year is exhausting.

So much happened. We made so much happen. I’ve figured out, it wasn’t the worst year, it wasn’t the best year [though some incredibly good things happened].

It was the year of change. Things changed.

And a lot of that change began on January 13, 2015. Today—a year ago today—I was offered a job at MERCURYcsc. We had made many a sneaky trip to Bozeman to interview and expand on the opportunity and on January 13th, the conversation of picking up and moving ended with an exclamation point… and then a question mark… and then a period.

This job is—hands down—the best thing I’ve done for my head in a long-ass time. The people, the work, the laughs, the opportunities, the learning. But we had to leave Missoula. We had to leave so many of the amazing friendships we had made. It sucked. It sucks.

The move wasn’t all good, it wasn’t all bad. Change.

And things were so crazy [exciting! devastating. surreal.] changing in the last year, that I didn’t even look hard at a lot of them. So that’s what I’m doing now.

In an effort to jump-start some of my resolutions [drink less! write more!], I will recount some of those changes, these things, for better or worse, on this here blahg.

Here we go. Let’s look at this change. Reflect. Write some things. Connect some ways. Look 2016 in the eyes and dance with it… no matter what song it sings… there’s a dance for every note…

[thank you, ashely, for the heads-up on the kanye song. on the pulse, as always.]

[let’s make up dances.]

 

 

to be counted present.

I was obsessed with #ALLMYMOVIES. In exactly the way you’d expect of me, I was obsessed—thought it was beautiful/brilliant.

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I watched it constantly and stared at Shia LaBeouf in a way I have never stared at him… or any celebrity… or maybe any human…

I stared at him like the emotional project that it was. I cried once when he cried. I laughed so hard when he laughed with the whole audience whilst watching The Even Stevens Movie. I took screenshots. [like the whole internet wouldn’t.] I kept one of my computer screens at work constantly streaming Shia. [sorry work internet.]

Imagining being there for the whole process—as Shia—was something I desperately dove into. How must he have been feeling? Was this just the most narcissistic thing ever? Is he okay? Is he not okay?

And then a friend sent this article about it all: http://www.ew.com/article/2015/11/16/shia-labeouf-all-my-movies-interview

“You just don’t want anyone to hate you. I walked out loving myself. Not in some grandiose, you’re f—ing awesome way, but in like, you’re a part of a community. You’re part of this human thing. You’re in this human thing.”

I loved these things he said about life, art, work. And the joy of being a part of a community. And the hilarity of looking back and feeling those times. And the darkness of life and shitty work and shitty art…

“When the movies started getting sh– and they knew that I felt it too, it was the shared secret that we all had… not just because I’m in it… I’m in the same boat as you, I’m a viewer in this and this is hard for me to watch too,” he said. “In fact, I’m gonna go take a nap cause I hate myself, not cause I’m tired, but because I’m dying right now. And nobody had a problem with that.”

How painful. How honest. It makes me look at my life and wonder how much of my work is for the Michael Bay’s of Montana. Not much, I believe. I could sit down and watch it all in a row and be proud of it… most of it.

And—honestly—most of it would have so much of me in it, as the star. Me or my better half. And I would watch on in the narcissistic way I do and [hopefully] love it. Find myself liked.

In looking for some kind of visual for all of this and found a comical outtake of a video that never [hasn’t yet?] happened. I set up a shot in our van [one you’ve seen many times before] and then proceeded to look at myself in the display, checking for how I looked. Evan caught me and started mocking me and I died. I love this. Because without Evan, I’d just be staring at myself in screens… and it wouldn’t be half as funny/joyful.

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And in it all, with it all, making it all, sometimes my scars of damage show more than not. Sometimes it’s all commercial. Sometimes it’s ridiculous. Sometimes it’s from the heart. Sometimes it’s not. Sometime’s it’s exhausting. Sometime’s it’s exhausted.

But I want it to be there. I want to be able to sit in a room of people and watch my work, my life, and laugh/cry/pain-sleep/be embarrassed/be joyful/reflect. Because that means there is enough work, enough life, to be held accountable. To be counted present. You’re in this human thing.

And with that, an all-time favorite music video:

Strong work, Shia. I like you.

[this human thing.]

 

a moment determined.

We live very close to a locals-favorite hiking hill.

Last night, I walked home by aforementioned hill and could not help but giggle at the sounds of two men [boys? unclear.] having way too much fun sledding down the hill. On tubes. It was one of those clear, cold nights where sounds were louder and moments were clearer. I heard them oh, shit, oh no, oh oh, no, no, yeah!, wooooohoooo! all the way down the hill and then pant up. I heard them so clear, I felt like I was there with them. I was instantly transported back to times on Snow King in Jackson. Sledding with friends, laughing and drinking and hurting from fun. And as my smile widened, I was brought back to reality when a deer with a sizable rack crosses the street right in front of me. It is not the most uncommon sight, but all the sudden the scene was surreal.

This morning, Evan and I woke up insanely early to go out and shoot a bit of film for a project for my company. As we drove by the local hill, I told him about my walk the night before and how a deer passed right in front of me. He asked me how big its antlers were and I told him,

– Well, a little bit bigger than mine…

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my halloween costume from this year.

He laughed and told me I had a great rack. [husband points.]

We drove out to another local trail system and set up for shooting. Four of my co-workers came and we drank coffee and ate cinnamon rolls and laughed and shot takes and high-fived and asked questions and trudged through snow and marked out cues and lost the feeling in our hands and smiled. It was what we needed.

dream team
We meaning husband and wife creative team. We meaning the team at work. We meaning beings.We meaning him. We meaning me.

An insanely talented co-worker/friend—Seth—took photos from this morning and I adore them. Looking through them, I saw one from me scouting out where we wanted to start one of the scenes. I’m freezing, excited, strong, ready. I look almost angry, but I like it.

scouting.
A moment working. A moment inspired. A moment thinking. A moment freezing. A moment determined.

Moments worth remembering and craving.

The coldness is here and bringing welcome surprises.

Here’s to more of all that.

[let’s do this.]

I know there’s gonna be good times.

If this here blahg is good for one thing, it’s to look back. And looking back is usually a bit embarrassing and demoralizing. Half of these links are broken! Why the hell can’t I listen to this playlist anymore?!

You had to be there. When we were there, things were unbroken in so many ways.

Life seems to find four year cycles with me. It’s easy to find similarities in where I am now to four years ago. Semi-new to a job I am over the moon over. A new mountain town that taps into a favorite part of myself. Finding friends all over again and missing the incredible ones only 3-4 hours away. Finding me again. Finding new step in my relationship with Evan. [we’re married now.] It’s all so familiar in such different ways.

I do still take photos of myself with computer cameras. Less, now. It used to be taking dozens upon dozens and posting them on this here blahg on the regular…

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From this post. Which was nothing! But something. Something that was acceptable for four years ago. Those posts were—honestly—grasps at something much lesser than relevance. Existence. It’s like I had to look into that Photobooth camera to make sure I was there. I exist. I’m here.

Now I take photos one at a time. Just one-offs. At my desk. Mainly to send text messages to Evan when I’m drinking at work…

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Tonight, after driving to and fro Helena for a presentation and then many [many!] more hours in the office, I found myself texting Evan another photo taken from my computer. To describe where I was at. To show I was tired. To show I found work wine.

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And I could not get over how sad my eyes look! I sent it and immediately looked myself in the eyes. And as I was figuring out that I am not sad… I am tired… happy and tired… Evan texted me back…

– Your office is like a Highlights “Find These Objects” Illustration.

It made everything light. Happy and tired and smiling. Yes and yes. And then I put on so many Jimmy Fallon Lip Sync Battles and cranked out the rest of the work.

Playing this song on repeat helped as well:

Here we are. Four years later. Graduated from that time. Just in time for this time. These dance moves. These ridiculous computer-selfies.

Here we are.

[so there they were.]

fall, y’all.

I totally got called out by a friend at work the other day. After biking to work, I bounced in the door wearing my buffalo plaid jacket and my scarf and my boots, smiling and excited for coffee. My friend looked at me and said,

– You love fall, don’t you? Look at you! You say, “Ugh. I hate the cold” but you love fall so much. I bet you already had two pumpkin spice lattes today!

I have not had any pumpkin spice lattes this season… yet. But — crap — I think I love fall, y’all.

Especially when exercise = leisurely strolls with friends and sneaky wine and beautiful sunsets.

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crunching leaves. actually having time to read. or watch a documentary or appreciate some rad art-vertising. [those are basically the same as reading, right?] espresso galore. new [lovely] music.

walks for the hell of it. podcasts on podcasts on podcasts on podcasts. dates with my husband where the couple at the next table shares their ah-mazing bottle of wine with us.

dammit, I’m a cliché. I love it all.

one month.

After a crazy/awesome weekend of adventuring in the Montana mountains [evan actually adventuring. me working with film crews and being so excited about it.], we jumped in our car and drove to our most recent home — Missoula — to see Ira Glass and dine and drink and brunch and laugh with friends we don’t get to see often enough. It was a wonderful weekend.

Ran ragged, I came home from a long day working today to notes of “Happy One Month” and it hit me — one month! I have been married to my yes for a month!

A month ago today, we married. I almost forgot.

Ahh, love!

And in the mail, a card from my mother-in-law containing the medicine cards for Blue Herons and Bears — both of which made an appearance at our wedding ceremony. It is so lovely to reflect. To be thankful. To read up on our beautiful visitors. To remember…

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Amidst rain and VW vans and laughs and whisky and bears and swimming and friends and family and a blue heron, we tied our lives to each others. And I can’t help but think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. At last.

happiest one month.

photo by sidney morgan.