A few of my favorite things at the moment. The petals on the right are hibiscus loose leaf tea; the ones on the left are Osmia Organics' "tea bath," a bath soak made from Epsom salts, oats, and botanicals commonly found in tisanes (chamomile, rose petals, spearmint, etc.). So you can drink tea while bathing in it, which makes me feel just slightly Marie Antoinette-esque (okay, maybe not quite!). Follow with barely-there blush & lip balm, a spritz of something sweet, salted almond milk chocolate, and a book where you can retreat for a while.
September is one of my favorite months of the year. I love the transformation of colors, the anticipation of shorter, cozier nights, and that fresh, back-to-school feeling I still associate with unsharpened pencils and new boots. During the rest of this month, I want to write more and explore new places with a camera in hand. I'm determined to impose a bit more order on the chaos that is my inbox (current status: 11,935 emails, 1 unread from Yelp re. "Seattle's food truck frenzy"). And I'm going to spend some time sweating it out in the hot yoga studio because I bought a Groupon for one month of unlimited classes, and thanks to my excellent procrastination skills, I have one week left to use it.
So far in September: I celebrated the harvest moon (aka Chuseok, aka Korean Thanksgiving) by feasting on mochi, kimbap, moon cakes, and Malbec. I've spent many an evening reading the archives of McSweeney's and watching Dexter. I decided to focus on fewer things but step outside of my comfort zone more often. And yesterday, I had this conversation with one of my students, who is four years old:
Me: "Do you like cake?"
Me: "What kind of cake do you like?"
Her: "Rapunzel cake!"
Me: "What's Rapunzel cake?"
Her: "She has hair all the way down to the floor!"
I hope your September going well!
This month, documentary films have been a huge source of inspiration for me. These five told astounding stories and challenged me to think from different perspectives. I'm already going through this list in search of more documentaries to watch... what are your favorites?
This documentary tells the story of Tilikum, an orca at SeaWorld who has killed several humans while in captivity. In exposing SeaWorld's often cruel and dangerous practices of capturing and training orca whales, this film examines the fatal outcomes of trying to "tame" such intelligent creatures for entertainment purposes.
Into the Abyss
In this sorrowful and complex documentary, Werner Herzog visits a small town in Texas where a brutal murder occurred several years before. Herzog interviews the killers -- one sentenced to life in prison, the other sentenced to death -- as well as members of the victims' families and community. While approaching difficult questions about the motivations behind violent crimes, the possibility of repentance, and the death penalty, Herzog suggests that the boundaries between good and evil are often difficult to draw.
This uplifting documentary follows several young ballet students as they train for the prestigious Youth America Gran Prix competition. You'll find yourself rooting for the dancers, who come from very different backgrounds but all share a passion for dance.
This documentary, which takes a close look at Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining, is probably one you'll either love or hate. The interviewees (film buffs and obsessive devotees) present varying analyses of The Shining: some are less than convincing, but others made me want to re-watch the film in search of hidden meanings. The discussion is engrossing for anyone interested in interpretive theory or film studies, if you can get past some of the strange video montages (which feature Tom Cruise...).
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Werner Herzog is quickly becoming one of my favorite filmmakers ever... you can read more about him here. In this documentary, he takes us to the Chauvet Cave in southern France to examine the earliest cave paintings known to mankind. The paintings, dating to around 30,000 years ago, are far more sophisticated than I imagined, and the scientific archaeology used to map the caves is equally incredible.
PS: All of these documentaries were available for instant streaming on Netflix!
A few photos from last weekend's hike at Wallace Falls State Park. The main attraction is a series of waterfalls, labeled Lower, Middle, and Upper, which thread through a mountain dense with evergreens and mossy canopies. Though the park is just an hour's drive from Seattle, it feels much further away; as soon as you enter, all you can see is forest and river for miles. At the trailhead is a sign that quotes Wordsworth: "Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher."
After a couple hours of hiking, we stopped at a lookout over the Skykomish River valley, where we snacked on trail mix and listened to the roar of the waterfalls below. Just breathing the air at the top of our climb felt so refreshing. I found it impossible to capture the vastness of everything with my 50mm lens: the longest waterfall is 265 feet, and you can only stand back so much on a narrow, crowded trail. Okay, the truth is that I almost never take landscape photos, so I need practice. Here's to more adventures and the start of a learning curve!
How often do you re-read books? Re-reading is a guilty pleasure for me: despite my growing list of books to read for a first time, I re-read partly for the nostalgia factor, and partly because I think about a book differently the second time around. This week I had the chance to revisit Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which I read for the first time when it was published in 2006.
The Road is an anti-sentimental love story against a terrifying backdrop, an existential thought experiment, and (possibly) a modern tragedy. A nameless father and his son struggle to survive in a nightmarish future world. For reasons unexplained (apocalypse? holocaust?), the United States has been reduced to an incinerated wasteland of ruins and corpses. The father and son belong to the "good guys," keeping alive a human integrity that the cannibalistic "bad guys" have forsaken. The most horrific scene in the book involves an encounter with the victims of this human-versus-human desolation. Memories resurface throughout the chapterless narrative: of highways, running water, Coca-Cola, libraries; but also of idioms, mythologies, and moral codes that seem irrelevant, and even dangerous, in a post-apocalyptic world. Religion, too, is lost and found, though even after a second read, I'm not sure I grasp the significance of the biblical allusions.
“He thought each memory recalled must do some violence to its origins. As in a party game. Say the words and pass it on. So be sparing. What you alter in the remembering has yet a reality, known or not.”
The Road is a quick read, but one worth lingering upon, even just for the poetic prose. It's also a good book for finding words you might not use but will relish in knowing, like "siwash" and "discalced." Have you read it? What's on your re-reading list?