The Calgary Folk Festival

Today I am thinking about all kinds of things. I’m thinking about the random things I really love, like podcasts and movie trailers and bar-noculars.

Dan and I were gifted our own pair of bar-noculars on our recent trip to Ontario by Nate and Dana, (who are basically the best people in the world.) Dana found them while going through her grandmother’s estate. 

We took the bar-noculars on their virgin run this weekend to the Calgary Folk Festival.

We sat next to what turned out to be a really great couple and (I hope) new friends. Their names are Cindy and Roger, and they are rad. We saw The Barr Brothers, Charles Bradley (the Screaming Eagle of Soul) and his Extraordinaires, Beruit and Chris Isaak.

Chris Isaak wore a bright red suit with sequins and sang Wicked Game. Charles Bradley actually flapped his arms like eagle wings at the end of every song, then got down in the crowd delivering hugs all around. And I heard that The Barr Brothers and Beruit dropped acid later that night and rode a mechanical bull. (Can’t confirm it. But I heard it.)

Anyway. This is a really neat festival. At the smaller stages, you can catch “workshops” where musicians are paired up with each other, and they all kind of riff and jam off of each other. One of our favorites was Shad, Mercedes Peon, Rae Spoon and Shooglenifty (does a band name get any better than Shooglenifty?  Shooooooglenifty.) These were radically different artists (from hip top to Scottish fiddle music, to indie rock-ish) so you can imagine how surprising and awesome it was. That was the fun. Just stumbling upon things…. like these chaps:

(we danced a lot)

I also saw Gillian Welch perform White Rabbit. Which kind of blew me away.

I walked home alone (Dan didn’t come that night), thinking about all the things I’ve seen in this life. On Friday night a new acquaintance asked me what the best live show I’ve seen was. My immediate answer was Sigur Ros. And then I had ten more answers on top of that. And then there’s all the non-musical wonders. Those stories are for another day.  I was just all filled up with it. How our world is full of things to see. Things that will lift you, astound you, inspire you. They’re all around you, there for the taking, if you just step out and look around…

Steal Like An Artist

Hello Sweet Friends. 
Today I want to share a little book with you. I love this little book.  One of my best friends sent it to me, and I’ve been curling up in my office with it every morning after Dan goes to work. It’s a book you could read in an hour. But I’ve been savoring it one cup of coffee at a time. 
This is the book. See how cute she is?
Here’s something I’ve been thinking about almost every day for the past 10 years.
Here’s something I needed to hear. 
You might be scared to start. That’s natural. There’s this very real thing that runs rampant in educated people. It’s called “imposter syndrome”….It means that you feel like a phony, like you’re just winging it, that you really don’t have any idea what you’re doing.
Guess what: None of us do.
Here’s a new idea I think is kind of genius: 
There’s been a side project I’ve been thinking about for ages and ages. But I keep leaving it there–on the side–because I think all free/creative time should be saved for writing. After reading this, I closed the book, picked up my computer, and got started. It felt so liberating. Who cares if it’s for no one but me? 
Here’s something I couldn’t agree with more: 
Step away from the screen. 
And here’s something that made me laugh. Dark night of the soul indeed. 

I hope these little pages and ideas inspire you/speak to you/spark something in you. I hope you are dreaming something up. I hope you make it/write it/do it, whatever it is, so the rest of us can see it/listen to it/read it/wonder away at your imagination. 
Happy weekend Friends. I hope it’s a lovely one.
Love, Sky

Adaptation/The Orchid Thief

Last night, Dan and I watched Adaptation. I’ve wanted to see the film ever since I read its source material, The Orchid Thief, for one of my MFA classes a few years ago. Plus, I love Charlie Kaufman
It’s funny how you wait years to read/see/do something you’ve always wanted to read/see/do, but then you when you read/watch/do it at the moment you do, you’re glad you waited. Timing can be everything when it comes to encountering a book, a movie, a song, an adventure.
You see, I’ve been bumping up against myself lately. Or rather the evil, self-doubting, you’re-destined-to-fail-you-talentless-wannabe-writer voice in my head. I know in my heart she’s just a voice, but she sure can be a noisy one.
Rather than tackling the bitch, I often give in to her. I let blank pages remain blank pages. I let a week go by, and then another. And the more distance between me and my computer, the harder it is to return to it. (Just look at the dearth of entries here.)
When I’m not writing, I feel less dug into the world. More apathetic.
So what does this have to do with The Orchid Thief/Adaptation? Well, Adaptation is about a writer struggling to write his film. But more than that, these two works are about passion: about loving something so much you’d do anything for it. You’d give up a piece of yourself for it.
Susan Orlean envies her subject John Laroche because he loves the orchids so. He’ll wade through alligator/snake-ridden swamps to find them; he’ll break laws to bring them home. 
The real Susan Orlean

 In one passage, she drives with him along the swamp:
I passed so many vacant acres and looked past them to so many more vacant acres and looked ahead and behind at the empty road and up at the empty sky; the sheer bigness of the world made me feel lonely to the bone. The world is so huge that people are always getting lost in it. There are too many ideas and things and people, too many directions to go. I was starting to believe that the reason it matters to care passionately about something is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size. It makes the world seem not huge and empty, but full of possibility. If I had been an orchid hunter I wouldn’t have seen this space as sad-making and vacant—I think I would have seen it as acres of opportunity where the things I loved were waiting to be found.
The idea of an author as talented and successful as Susan Orlean envying a person as odd (and toothless) as Laroche startled me, but I completely understood. 
Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean
 I wish I came to writing with the determination that Laroche went after the orchids. I wish I would do anything for it…that my desire outweighed my fear and doubt.
There is a rare orchid called a Ghost Orchid that Orlean wishes to see throughout The Orchid Thief. She follows Laroche into the swamp searching for it.
It’s almost a too-perfect metaphor for passion, life, art. Wading a mucky swamp, swarmed by mosquitoes in stifling heat, sharing the space with unsavory reptiles and who-knows-what-else in search of one tiny perfect white piece of beauty—a ghost.
Chris Cooper as The Orchid Thief, wading in the swamp.
 That’s art. The process is not always pretty. Sometimes, it’s downright miserable.
At times, I feel like I really am doing this in life. Trying, straining, waiting to stumble onto that piece of beauty and suddenly feel at want for nothing. I love how the book and the film address this flawed idea.
In the book, Orlean never sees the orchid. “I realized it was just as well that that I never saw a ghost orchid, so that it could never disappoint me, and so it would remain forever something I wanted to see.”
In the movie, she does find the ghost. She looks over the tiny white orchid for a long moment. “It’s just a flower,” she says.