Tuesday, June 30, 2009

different stars & hummingbirds

I’ve had two weekends in a row that involved escaping Portland and luxuriating in nature with friends. First up: my time with the fabulous Tara Beckham. I headed out to the coast – she lives in the Newport/Toledo area – and we spent a healing couple of days talking about everything from God to men to writing to Lost to health. We ran the gamut, that’s for sure, with no family, friend, or lover stone unturned. Friday night involved us sharing a couple beers on her back patio while talking about the first draft of my novel. On Saturday we headed to a yoga class (love that instructor Beth! She had a wonderful mix CD playing that included Massive Attack, Enigma, Dido, many more Nathan staples), and then grabbed some coffees and a cinnamon roll for our stroll along the beach. The waves crashed, and the wind was fierce, and we balanced on a log and looked out over the vastness of it all. After our time there, she took me to this old (as in about 200 years old) cemetery she’d always wanted to explore. The grass was overgrown in the older parts, a bit shorter in the newer parts, and this fascinated us, how time lets go of certain things. So many of the statues, toys, flowers were overturned or moldy or decaying, but it was so beautiful in the way that wisdom is beautiful: it comes at a price, but a worthwhile one. These two deer hovered near us, grazing on grass, for most of our stay there. They were utterly unafraid of us, and so comforting, almost magical. Back at her home, we finished the newest season of Lost (Juliet: that last scene of yours brought tears to my eyes, and made my heart race), and we topped off the evening with a dip in the hot tub under the stars, talking about spirits and muses. We cooked every meal for the whole weekend, and drank lots of coffee.

And now for Julie Berman: how I love thee! Julie had asked me a while back if she could whisk me away for a romantic weekend. You know, the friend kind of romantic weekend that straight gals and gay guys seem to be made for with each other. She told me about this place called Picaflores (http://www.picaflores.org/), a sanctuary/retreat for those needing a jumpstart to their spiritual juices. And whoa! Those jumper cables are strong! Again, we cooked all our own meals, a nice mix of healthy and not-so-healthy (who can resist peanut M&M’s? If you can – and you’re not a vegan – I’m going to question your sanity). What was the greatest part for me was all the quality time just talking with Julie. We covered many of the topics Tara and I had the weekend before, but naturally with a Nathan-Julie bent, and thus new cracks and openings of revelation and shared experience. Really, the weekend was all about how to relax next, in what area of the getaway: “Shall we have another bonfire or fire in the fireplace? Lounge on the screened porch some more and share wine and stories? Take a nap in the loft? Wait, let’s head out to the sauna again, then bathe in the outdoor showers that looked out over Horse Creek and crackling trees in the forests.” We took Aggy -- her pup -- on a hike at Echo Lake, and also spent together and alone time in Picaflores' yurt, which has been turned into a temple with Buddhist and Hindu and Inca influences. ("Picaflores" is Quecha for hummingbird; the Quecha are ancestors of the Inca.) I had a good cry while alone in there, a cleansing and refreshing one, and on our last night I turned on the white lights at about 10:00pm and lit candles and meditated while looking at all the ornate statues. Truly one of the best weekends of my life -- thank you, Julie.

p.s. Different Stars is one of my favorite albums. It's by Trespassers William (a band named after Piglet's grandfather), and I've long loved the album title, how we all look up into the night sky differently and apply various meanings and interpretations to infinity. Over both weekends, it struck me I can add another two alternate meanings to the title: in the cemetery with Tara I found a shredded plastic American flag that had lost its footing in the earth, and one of the torn pieces was the blue, with all the stars; then in the yurt at night, the candles reflected up onto the night sky through the clear plastic dome, looking like hovering fireflies to join the burning silver stars that were creeping out one by one.

quote of the day

"Aren't we privileged to live in a time when everything is at stake, and
when our efforts make a difference in the eternal contest between the
forces of light and shadow, between togetherness and division, between
justice and exploitation? Oh, be joyful that you are a warrior in this great

"Will we rise to this battle? If so, we cannot lose, for rising up to it is our
victory . . . If we represent love in the world, you see, we have already

- Doris "Granny D" Haddock from her 93rd birthday speech

Thursday, June 25, 2009

temp of the day: HOT (see below)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

quote of the day

"Dream of the sun dreaming its worlds. Sing till the song throws out root,
trunk, branches, birds, stars. Sing until the dream engenders the spring at
which you may drink and recognize yourself and recover."

-Octavio Paz

Friday, June 05, 2009

quote of the day

"What was it about darkness? Was it the cover it gave, protecting him from those who mocked by day? Or was it the night's intensity, the way the moon and the stars and the blackened world vivified his dreams?"

--Secret Heart, David Almond

Sarah Fimm: White Birds

Sarah Fimm is another artist I love -- much like, say, Charlotte Martin -- who keeps creating beautiful music just under pop culture's "breakout radar." I hope this changes soon, as Fimm just gets better and better with each release. (And who can't love someone named after the highest order of angels -- seraphim?)

Fimm's latest release, White Birds, is a nice mix of piano, violins, electronica, and heartrending melodies that loop and spiral much like the (metaphorical) birds she sings about. "Counting Waves" and "White Birds" are nice "songends" (versus "bookends", mind you) to this EP, and "Afraid" crescendos like waves crashing against cliffs, sure to leave shivers tingling up and down your spine long after the song is over. I think "Tamara Song", the third track, might be my favorite. It's a love song, though I don't know if Tamara is a lover, mother, friend, muse....in the end, it doesn't matter, because Tamara becomes that someone we all ache to honor in a song or poem or letter -- someone who has helped heal us and shown us slivers of Beauty and Spirit on this crazy earth. I spent this last weekend at a friend's house in rural Oregon, surrounded mostly by forests and rivers and logging terrain, and I loudly played "Tamara Song" on my car stereo with the windows down, the sun coasting through onto my arms and face, the wind in my hair as I drove up and down hills on the winding roads. This song has brought me much peace.

If you want to give Sarah Fimm a try, I'd say give Nexus -- her previous album -- and White Birds a try, so you can tap into Fimm's current mix of synth, voice, lush lyrics, and sad, diamond-like longing. (*cdbaby.com carries all of her music)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Nathan: June 2009

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a juicy personal post, or at least it feels that way, so I thought I’d dive in with what’s been going on with me.

First and foremost: I finished the book I’m writing! Granted, this is Draft #1, but after four years of writing six days a week (with only the occasional break here and there) it feels refreshing and wonderful to have reached this point. I have a couple friends who have agreed to read and edit it for me this summer so I can get cracking on Draft #2. Writing is a solitary and bizarre experience: I get up before the sun rises, drink my coffee to get the brain juices flowing, and then – WHAM! – I enter into the worlds of my characters. It will be….hmm….sad to say goodbye to these characters, though I do know it’s more of a see-you-soon. More like we’ll be moving to different cities where we just get to visit on vacations when we get time off of work. But they’re also ready to move on out back into the ether, and I can only hope I’m doing them justice with their tale. Folks from the next novel are patiently waiting on the ether-bench, gently nudging me with scene-snippets, visuals, a flash of a sentence here and here. They’re quite patient; they know I owe my time and loyalty to the others, to finish things up with finesse so I don’t stumble across the finish line; thus, I’ll be able to give my undivided attention to the newcomers when their story gets the royal treatment. As for you, my friends and readers, and especially to my family (who keeps asking: “Why don’t WE get to read it?”) I can just say this: I look forward to the day when you all hold a copy, and hopefully find a phrase or moment or character that you relish. Mom, Jordan, and Aaron: this book is FOR you….of course you don’t get to read it until it’s done and printed and bound up! That moment above all others, when you three get your copy, is the one I’m looking forward to most.

I am reading lots, as always. I think my “new” favorite author of the last few years has become Ray Bradbury. I just finished reading Something Wicked This Way Comes, and – for those of you with Carnival Souls, Cotton Candy veins – you’ll love the creepy, magical, nostalgic quality to this novel. You’ll also love the bonds that don’t break in the story: the family ties, the commitments to friendship. I’d say my favorite Ray Bradbury book I’ve read is Dandelion Wine, a coming-of-age tale from the ’50s. It centers around a couple 12-year-old boys who are experiencing that magical summer between childhood and adolescence. There’s magic, mystery, and melancholy aplenty: three very important M’s.

My newest musical obsession of the last couple years is Bat for Lashes. She has a way of tapping into your spiritual pulse with her voice and lyrics, her pop music that transcends and mends various cultures together. I just read an interview with Natasha Khan (aka Bat for Lashes), and she talked about going out into the forests at night, singing through branches of trees, holding the microphone up so the wind would get looped with her melodies. How cool is that, right? Her debut album is Fur and Gold, and her second album is Two Suns. I’m a huge fan of both, and would say I love them equally. Highlighted songs: “Prescilla”, “Daniel”, and “Pearl’s Dream”. If you haven’t watched the “Daniel” video (make youtube your friend), you’re really missing out.

My TV watching keeps dwindling, which is such a good thing. During periods in my life, I’ve been a huge TV addict, and – while I’m all for a really, really good show – I know it’s easy for me to get lost in all the crap, too. It helps that we haven’t had cable in a year, and that – because of the way our neighborhood is situated or whatnot – we don’t get any basic channels, either. But I do love the Multnomah County library system, and often get shows on DVD. My favorite discoveries in the past year have been Friday Night Lights and Brothers & Sisters. The former is, yes, about a high school football team in Texas. I’m not a football fan, nor a Texas fan really, but I am a huge fan of quality writing, with flawed, believable characters that you want to hug through the TV screen (it’s the part of me channeling Carol Anne from Poltergeist who says that!). As for Brothers & Sisters, I wrote a post about it a couple weeks back, so I’ll leave it at that.

My family is doing well, which is wonderful to say after a couple really tough years for the Bucks. Mom’s enjoying her zany experiences at Hippo Hardware, where she works part-time, and our cohorts – Ollie and Luna, our dogs – are as whacked out as the rest of us. Jordan landed seasonal work at Alaska’s Denali National Park, and Mom and I (and hopefully Aaron and Stephenie too) are flying out in August to be with Jordan and celebrate this 30th birthday. I’m looking forward to unwinding amongst all the “bloody red leaves” (Jordan’s choice of words to describe the autumnal weather and landscapes of Denali in August), and to being witness to the way the wildlife – caribou, eagles, bears, wolves – are just an everyday part of life. I anticipate lots of hikes and tours (and for those stolen moments, lots of reading and sleeping….and drinking, as the rock star in me does like to live it up on vacations). Aaron has been so frustrated since September, when he got back from grad school in Glasgow, and I’m thankful things are looking up for him with his two new jobs: one as a freelancing textile designer for a neckwear company and the other as an assistant to an interior designer. He and Stephenie are loving living together in Park Slope in Brooklyn, with their “child” Oscar the dog (whom I call “Buddha” for his Zen, go-with-the-flow nature).

I’ve been single for quite a long time now, and have been thinking it might be nice to get out there and go on a date. I don’t need to meet Mr. Forever or anything, but I’m thinking, “Yes, Nathan, you’ve done enough cocooning. Get the heck out there, Mister!” All in all, this long period of singlehood has been healing, rewarding, and necessary – but I’m over it! When I did get out there and date a bit about a year ago, I was blessed with a beautiful friendship that I hope continues for the long haul: Glenn’s. Imagine the love child of Crispin Glover and Tim Burton, and that’s sorta kinda what Glenn is like, a little bit. Speaking of friendships, isn’t it fascinating to watch them morph and change and grow and drift and strengthen and flounder and take root? A couple important friendships have, well, basically disintegrated at my fingertips, and others – some of them unexpected – have sprouted up like huge sunflowers. My friends mean the world to me, and you all know this: I have the best ones on the planet. Growing up awkward and lonely and confused, most of the folks in my life were imaginary ones, and to have real flesh-and-blood friends that I can hug, value, appreciate…..nothing gets better than that. What’s funny is my friends are all so incredibly different. Getting them in a room together has great entertainment value!

I think I’ll stop there for now. Lots more to say (isn’t there always?), but I’ll whip up another post soon enough. I love this time of year here in Portland, the start of summer, the long days, the beautiful weather. I’m looking forward to the many mini-adventures I have lined up over the next few months. I’ll end by saying I’ve been experiencing fascinating dreams, seeing spirits and sprites in the woods, communing with owls (and spiders too). No one said Life wasn’t interesting!