brightness. back with me.

The weeks have been bright. There was pulling off the surprise for the best party for my best friend with her best friends:

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Then there was a perfect Missoula trip for work:

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One of the nights in Missoula, I ended a wine/inspiration/gossip-fueled dinner at one of my favorite restaurants with a colleague and decided I should probably go to the Death Cab for Cutie show that was happening at the university. I didn’t exactly want to, since I had to be up early for a sunrise hike up the M. And also, I didn’t want to be that old lady sitting in the back of a stadium by herself at a concert, maybe falling asleep and definitely hating every person on their phone. I asked if we should get more wine, trying to give myself an out on skipping the concert. We decided enough on the wine.

I asked my friend to drop me off [she was not interested in the concert], telling her I would just walk to the hotel afterwards. I handed a nice man my ticket as I heard the drowned out version of “Crooked Teeth” and I was immediately brought back to one of my favorite college apartments and so excited.

I loved that song. I love that song. I loved every one of Death Cab for Cutie’s songs. Turns out, I love every one of Death Cab for Cutie’s songs.

I sat by myself, in the dark, singing along, crying a little bit, which was to be expected. I’m a crier. But then I cried more and a bit more. I cried, because love. Because college. Because life. Because of relationships—broken and bright alike.

Because of who I was and who I am. I cried because of how these songs shoved me hard in the chest, knocking the wind out of me, waking me up, back in my late teens and early twenties. And I cried because here they were waking me up again, leaving me gasping for air again. Remember it all.

And as I let these damn songs creep back into the open cracks in my chest and find their meaning in my life today. I had had the pleasure of not associating any of these angsty songs with my relationship with Evan. And then as this song came on and I remembered our recent promise to one another, I just lost it. Dammit, Ben Gibbard.

And then I realized just how much I love the new[est] album. I really had no idea. The concert ended, I clapped as hard as I cried, and I walked over the bridge in the dark in Missoula, thanking all the stars for aligning and encouraging.

Lately, back in Bozeman, we’ve been peering excitedly into the future as Evan started nursing school today. He has—mostly unrelatedly—been listening to the new[est] Death Cab for Cutie album on repeat the past week. I’ve been coming home to a husband at home [which is a treat in itself] listening to this song.

Last night, we listened to the album before and after seeing David Sedaris speak… again. He made us laugh so hard and then afterwards, while signing our book, he talked to us about doctor’s seeing his ass. We loved it. We treasured our time. Bright times.

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So to celebrate these bright times and Evan’s first day of nursing school—complete with a freak blizzard and a town-wide blackout and a photo that I just cannot stop looking at—I decided to walk over to our local record store to buy Kintsugi on vinyl for him… for us.

I came home and excitedly kissed my husband, gave him the record, and poured us both a glass of wine. He loved the album and I was eager to play it, but I also just really had to/wanted to have a one-song dance party. A one-song dance party to my new favorite pop song that I can’t stop moving to. The one I have played at work probably 38 times since Friday morning.

Evan and I played it and laughed at each other and danced and laughed more and pushed play again.

And took a million photos. With—yes—my grainy, mirrored, computer camera:

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Then we caught our breaths and dished up dinner and put on our new album and played rummy with our new bird-themed deck of cards. We ended the night with more wine, a third listen to the album, and me insisting I look at all of the bird cards and organize them by favorite.

birds_by_favorites

It feels like such a new time. Such a great time. A bright time. [no matter what Ben is singing about.]

[brightness. back with me.]

 

 

 

uh-oh.

I read (heard?) somewhere recently that couples who don’t post gushing stories/photos of their significant others are way more successful in love… actually a lot happier.

Well… we’re screwed.

Last night, I put up a new profile picture on Facebook. The fact that I wrote that last sentence down kind of hurts my heart in a weird way. I’m not even exactly sure why.

But the photo—the photo—makes my heart so happy.

RachelEvan_profile_pic

Somehow we don’t look tired from everything. Somehow I look shorter. Somehow our love shines through, purely. You don’t see the stress of finances. You don’t see the clothes all over the floor. You don’t see the ships-passing-in-the-night schedules. You don’t see the actual ugly arguments over card games. You see the kitchen dance moves. You see the late night laughs. You see the morning walks. You see the genuine gratitude for this love.

Because we find that gratitude constantly. It is hiding sometimes. It hides under piles of clothes, usually. They’re not in the hamper, because they’re not actually dirty.

So let me gush a little more. Because I’m in a sunbeam of this lovely gratitude for my husband and if I’m not usually one to half-ass something, so if social media says we’re already in trouble, let’s go balls to the wall.

———

The last year has been comically packed. And within it all, I convinced Evan to participate in something crazy:

And he did it. And I thought he might drown. But then he didn’t. And he somehow still loves me. And he wrote this story about it all: http://www.visitmt.com/picnic/evan.html

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I love it.

———

Through all of this craziness and all of this moving and movement, one of the brightest moments of happiness and love came right before August.

We moved to Bozeman. I convinced Evan we needed to move to Bozeman for this amazing job opportunity for me. He was pursing a nursing degree and getting into the Bozeman program was close to impossible. Only 16 applicants get in. We knew that we would probably have to part again, but we tried not to think about it. We moved to Bozeman. We forged on through uncertainty.

Evan was working late this night. I was screening a film of a friend’s. Watching. Taking notes.

Evan came home. We tiredly greeted each other as he made some food and sat at the table, tuning into his phone while I continued watching my computer. All of the sudden Evan stood up…

– Turn that movie off. Pause it.

– But this is the really good part!

– Pause it. You have to read this.

I begrudgingly got off the couch and stumbled over to Ev to grab his phone. My eyes scanned an email from Montana State University School of Nursing:

“Dear Evan,

It is our distinct pleasure to inform you that you have been selected…”

I screamed. I screamed and jumped on Evan the way the adorable women do in movies. Running. Jumping. Hugging. Wrapping their legs around the receiver of the hug. As a six-foot-tall woman, I do not usually get to running-jump on people and wrap my legs around them. It seems like I would have to give someone much notice before I did that, to avoid disaster. But somehow, this night, it was okay. It was amazing. We hugged and kissed and laughed and screamed more and celebrated.

Evan said…

– I want some whisky!

I grabbed our nicest bottle of whisky and poured us a couple glasses. Then I excitedly played this song louder than I should’ve at midnight…

[minus that weird minute-long record scratch of a skit.]

And we danced. And smiled. And celebrated. It was a lot like this…

…except Evan’s a man. And we were celebrating being able to live in the same town.

We finally let ourselves think of what would’ve happened if he hadn’t got in. We would’ve had to have lived apart. Again. And then we let ourselves think about how hard this program is. ONE OUT OF SIXTEEN SPOTS… out of over 400 applicants.

So proud. The best feeling. It was a moment up there with the moment Evan proposed. Just perfect.

———

Filled with gratitude for things you didn’t know you’d always had been asking for. Always.

Gushing.

Uh-oh.

[always.]

 

 

some much needed alicia keys.

It’s been a weird few weeks. That is being generous to the last month. A lot of it came to the saddest apex yesterday with layoffs at my job. I survived this first round. Some of my closest Bozeman friends did not survive the layoffs.

The tone today at work was sad/confused/dazed/sad/overwhelmed/dazed/sad.

I saw this video and immediately felt SO MUCH YES. I know that blahg posts like these are incredible irrelevant these days, because most of you will say, “yeah, I saw that on Facebook hours ago, wtf, this is useless.”

But I don’t care. THIS. This is exactly how I feel. About going forward. About the last month. About life. About dancing. About my friends. About love.

I watched it five times today.

I sent it to a friend who was laid-off yesterday and told her I was going to come to her house and do this. All of this. Now.

I sent it to my best friend in the world and she told me he reminded her of Evan and me dancing at our Wyoming wedding celebration. I smiled so big.

wedding_dancing_evanrachdroppinit_2 copy

I loved it. I love it.

[that is all.]

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.

shia_allmymovies

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.

fixing_our_work

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.]