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:

troop_beverlisa_hills

Then there was a perfect Missoula trip for work:

lisa_andrew_M_trail_new_crop_2hipster_van

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.

david_sedaris_ass

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:

dance_dance_dance

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.]

 

 

 

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.

1521350_833666460401_3393928698246531280_n

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.

You_Can_Be_Here_for_web_double

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.

you_can_be_here_rachelyou_can_be_here_rachel_night

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.

bad_year

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.

surviving_year

so much scar maintenance.

Then the year of thriving: 2014.

thriving_year

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.

van_window_ev_2

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.]

 

oh, so randomly. there you are.

In a new place, a disarming week(end) hits twice as hard.

You look to so many things to find a bit of yourself again. And then you find yourself on the floor.

Sitting in front of the speakers.

Watching/listening to this again:

http://www.npr.org/templates/event/embeddedVideo.php?storyId=396379992&mediaId=396382139

And there you are.

I love love her voice. I love love the way she dances. The two of them make me want to be a bit more of me.

Then [oh, so randomly. oh, so beautifully.] I’m unwrapping music boxes — ten of them — and putting the keys in them. Turning them ever so carefully. Listening to the ting of their music throughout the night. An hour after it was turned, it will still randomly ping.

music_boxes_bw

Stopping half-way through to FaceTime the bearded fiancé and open the next five with him. Smiling. Listening. Laughing.

And there you are.

[Thank you, Ashely, for sending me the wondrous Tiny Desk. xxo.]

merry + bright.

I’m up to my ears in final projects and films for the semester and I’ve lost my manfriend to his new mistress — the library/studying for finals.

but somehow we found time to find a tree and find each other.

christmas_tree_love
I love this time of year… maybe more than ever before.
being in the mountains and making art and being in love and laughing with friends is all I’ve ever wanted.
it’s home.
and that home has a semi-decorated christmas tree in it.
yay!
xxo!

[merry + bright.]

A Love Letter. Re: 20/Nothing.

Dear All,

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about 20/Nothing on this here blahg.

The whole International Documentary Challenge was an insane, amazing experience.

workingon20nothing
Through one of Missoula’s craziest blizzards, Sarah Meismer, Caitlin Hofmeister, Josef “Tuna” Metesh, and myself spent five days making a film we love about a guy we love: Evan Smith. We had 20/Nothing.

Then our film was named a finalist. We were beyond ecstatic. Sarah, Tuna, and I were lucky enough* to be able to go to Toronto to watch 20/Nothing on the big screen at the Hot Docs International Film Festival.

After watching all of the amazing films, we stood up on stage, aside so many other incredible filmmakers as they announced awards for this whole competition. We won “Best Experimental Film.” And then we won PBS P.O.V. Award.

I was shocked.

10012770_824297047600329_4766137471563233147_o

We were excited.

winningintoronto

We came back to Missoula. We were on cloud nine. But we still couldn’t show anyone this film we love.

Now we can. Now it’s in a competition on The Audience Awards website.

Before the competition started, I was not excited about this film I love going head-to-head in basically a who-has-more-friends-on-Facebook-contest.

But now? I want to win. Why? Two reasons:

• I want to win this competition in the same vein that I want to win scholarships, Scrabble, soccer, and that one cheesecake eating contest I entered. I work hard. I care hard. I put my all into a lot of things. And I want to win. It’s not the reason I play, enter, make, or eat… but it’s there.

• I am insanely proud of 20/Nothing. I want to put another laurel under this film’s belt.

1487428_807302909299743_7853354768635393646_n

So I’m asking you to vote for 20/Nothing. There is only one day left to do so. Today. Sunday.

But more importantly than that, I’m asking you to watch 20/Nothing.

And Maikaru.

And Nobody Loves Joel Romeo.

And Bruise Ballet.

And Hoofer.

I want you to see these films. (They’re short! They won’t be online for much longer!)

I want you to be inspired by them. I want you to know these subjects. These films.

I was beyond inspired by these films/filmmakers. We all celebrated in Toronto after the premieres and I got to meet and toast to a lot of the amazing directors and filmmakers. I met Amanda Harryman (the director of Maikaru… our toughest competition) and forced my business card upon her.

– Please contact me. I love your work. I want to ask you all kinds of questions.

When she emailed me a couple weeks later, asking me what questions I had, I kind of went blank. How do you ask someone, “How do I be like you?” ?

I admire her so and would be absolutely excited for her and the Maikaru crew if they win this competition.

I win sometimes, but a lot of times I don’t. People think I’m on a winning streak, but I don’t think people realize how much I put myself out there and how many times I really, really do not succeed.

I was rejected from five graduate programs before getting into the University of Montana.

I have had projects/films completely flop. I have been insanely embarrassed by my ambition.

I didn’t even win that cheesecake eating competition. And that one hurt.

But I have learned so much and have lived so much through this whole process. And that’s the winning. That’s why we all do things like this. The experience. The people.

I am so excited to have met Amanda and many of the other filmmakers. I have become like family with my crew and love them so.

1559285_847734111923289_1386824048647064089_o

And YOU. ALL OF YOU. My friends and family who have been so patient with all of this craziness. One of my dearest friends told me the other day, “I have to be honest… I’m a little sick of 20/Nothing.”

I know! Gosh. Seriously. I haven’t had a real conversation with many of you in years and then I’m bombarding you with “VOTE FOR MY FILM” nonsense… and then you do it. Wow.

My family has rallied. My friends have gone above and beyond. My professors have supported me beyond belief. You all have been incredible.

*There is no way we could’ve gotten to Toronto without the love and support from you all. We did a campaign to raise money and so many lovely people were so generous. THANK YOU.

I wouldn’t have known this kind of support without making 20/Nothing. I’m almost in tears. Struggling at every step to do something you love is one thing. Doing something you love and then having your community, your tribe, support you at every step is another. Having both of those things hand-in-hand throughout this whole process has been a whirlwind of a dream come true.

THANK YOU ALL.

Thank you, family: Mom, Dad, Ry, and Sarah.

Thank you, team: Tuna, Sarah, Caitlin, and Evan.

Thank you, Evan’s family… so many people I haven’t even met! All supporting!

Thank you, Evan’s friends.

(Sidenote: I was so afraid of the reception that 20/Nothing would have with Evan’s friends and family. You love a person so much and you want to do his story justice, but what if his family hates it? What if his closest friends think it’s dumb? Thank you so much for all of your kind words. It has meant the world to me that so many of you love it. Each time I look at a vote and have to ask, “Evan, who’s this person?” and he answers, “Oh, that’s my friend from childhood.” or “Oh, that’s my cousin’s wife.” or something along those lines, my heart bursts with joy. Thank you so much.)

Thank you, amazing friends at Adventure Cycling.

Thank you, University of Montana Media Arts lovelies.

Thank you, friends back in Texas.

Thank you, Missoula community.

Thank you, Jackson community.

Thank you, dear friends who I love so damn much.

Thank you, people I’ve met once, but know I want to have in my life more because they are so inspiring.

Thank you, Doc Challenge.

Thank you, Audience Awards.

Thank you, Hot Docs.

Thank you Amanda. Good luck!

Thank you thank you thank you thank you all.

I adore all of you.

All the Love,
Rachel.