Thursday, January 31, 2008

oh yeah... art

I almost forgot, this was going to be a blog about art, too.

With seven weeks left to go in this pregnancy, I'm trying to make as much of it as possible, since I'll probably have my hands full for a little while.

All of my paintings from last year had been in storage, and it was curious to see them again. Most of them are unfinished, and I am now in the tricky position of trying to remember where I was going with them when I left off... not unlike trying to go back to sleep and keep dreaming the same dream after the alarm goes off. It's amazing to me what even six months away from a piece will do -- it's great to get the perspective, and to see the painting a little more objectively, but I inevitably think, What was I thinking?

I wanted this blog to be a way for me to post images of my work in progress, because I believe that is the vitality, the life, of a painting. Ordinarily we don't get to see what goes into visual art -- all the layers, all the color choices, all the little flaws reconciled -- and those are precisely the things that I'm most curious about.

So here I am working on a piece whose working title is "San Di Flor," short for San Diego Florist, a big forboding brick building with no windows in my old neighborhood of North Park:

I wanted it to look like a photo that was cropped oddly, so that you just see the design of the letters and don't necessarily think about the words themselves. The side of the building itself was an unlikely mural of different colored paint patches -- you know when the owners try to paint over grafitti and the color is just a slightly different shade of the original gray or yellow or green of the building? I love that, especially if it's happened three or four times and you get all these lovely nuanced color blocks overlapping eachother.

When I started this piece last spring, I was really into that. Being the control freak that I am, though, I jumped right in to the lettering of San Di Flor, and didn't build up a lot of layers first. The result was that the piece was just too tidy and neat -- it didn't look at all like the rough and reckless "art" I was seeing on sides of buildings. So that's what I saw when I hauled it out of storage, and I thought, I need to mess this up. That's always a good feeling.

Here's another piece I'd started last spring, and this one I did lots of layers first thing. Layering with oil paint is a time consuming process, and I think from now on I'm going to start with acrylic to give myself a good ground in half the time. I like to smear paint on with my palatte knife or scumble with a dry brush to get lots of texture in there.

So now it's taken this turn. I was originally going to collage in some paper from an old piano reel, but I decided I liked the paint just by itself. Where will it go from here? Who knows!

I have this quote from painter William Baziotes above my work table: "Each painting has its own way of evolving; when the painting is finished, the subject reveals itself."


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

unchi gumi: the diaper free gospel

I've been dying to post a picture of the unchi gumi since we were in Japan, alas I am only getting around to it now.

Knowing about my amusement over the golden poop stickers, some friends gave us these poop gummies at our baby shower in Kyoto. Poop candy! Will wonders never cease?

Also, these dear friends explained the mystery behind the poop stickers (skip ahead if you'd prefer to stay in quizzical pondering bliss): apparently the kanji for the "un" in unko is also used in the word for good luck. So it's punny as well as utterly bizarre!

So. While we're on the subject of poop, I have to go on a little bit about a book that my friend B just sent, "Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene." (I should note that B has graciously furnished at least half of my pregnancy library -- thanks B!) I had heard about the diaper-free method years ago, when a friend-of-a-friend was practicing it with her daughter. In the continuum of hippies, she was much more radical than I (she was using scraps of cloth instead of toilet paper for the adults in the household), so I only half-way considered it a feasible option. I remember joking with J on the way home from her place, actually -- we were on the bus and we wondered what we'd do in that situation, hold our kid out the window?

But I am so grateful to be reading this book now, before the baby is born, and before we have stocked up on all diaper supplies and paraphernalia. "Diaper Free" is well written, patient and thorough, and supported throughout by testimonies of success from lots of parents. The gist is that babies can communicate about their elimination needs from the very beginning, the same way they can communicate about their hunger needs and attention needs and sleep needs. Parents can learn to read their baby's signs and babies can learn from parents' cues how and when to eliminate without diapers. Not surprisingly, this is practiced by a majority of women in countries like India, China, and Africa, where disposable diapers are not only unaffordable but considered dirty and absurd -- who would prefer to sit in their own waste?

I'm not going to get up on my high horse until we've actually tried it, so stay tuned!


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rhogam revisited

I have a confession... er... update to make.

Remember how I had such conviction about refusing the Rhogam shot? How it represented my stand against the status quo of medical intervention into pregnancy? Yeah. Well.

At my 31 week prenatal visit at the birth center, the midwife recommended that I get the shot. Again I heard about the accidents that can happen and how it's best just to be safe. I admit that because it was a midwife telling me this, it felt far less like a conspiracy against the free will of pregnant ladies everywhere. That, and she promised there was no mercury in the shot and no side effects to either me or baby. So, I relented and let them stick me.

Maybe this is not about conviction, exactly (at least I'd like to think that, to save a little face after having been on my soapbox about it...). Maybe it's more about making the best choice you can with the information you have, and being lenient with yourself when the information and the choice evolves.

I met another pregnant lady the other day who was 37 weeks with her first, a boy. We covered the basics: "Are you going to circumcise?" she asked.

"No. You?" I responded.

"Arrrghhhh.... we're 50-50!" she said, feigning anguish but genuinely conflicted. "This is the hardest choice we've had to make," she said, "has anything felt that way to you?"
I thought of the Rhogam shot -- oh mothers! entrusted with the care of your infants' delicate bodies from even before they enter the world! -- but spared her the story.

I gave her my reasons for letting our boy keep all his parts, and she said she was envious of my conviction. Ha! Well, we are standing firm on that point.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

third trimester

This ultrasound is over a month old, but I'm still beaming.

His profile:

and here's his wee foot:

No doubt he's already much bigger than this -- at 32 weeks, I feel like I'm running out of room for his big movements, not to mention my own organs. This third trimester (can I call this the home stretch?) is living up to its reputation of diminishing comfort. It's heartburn and hemorrhoids and hard to breathe. I've even started to waddle!

In my first and second trimesters, I was somehow blissfully excluded from the maladies that seem to plague other pregnant ladies -- hardly any morning sickness, no food aversions, no funny smells, no pains. I was sure it had to do with my positive outlook. In Japan you'd say, ki no mochi yo, "it depends on your attitude."

Well, it's not like I haven't eaten my words before.

If nothing else, I just have more time on my hands to really think about what's coming up: the labor, the moment of birth, the explosion of baby! into our lives. J even had his first dream about the peanut a few nights ago. I'm dreaming about him constantly, and thinking about him when I'm awake most of the time, too... Consequently this time feels more like waiting than any other.

Now, me and my heartburn are going to take a walk.


Monday, January 21, 2008

seven circles of limbo

In my version of the divine comedy, there'd be seven circles, all of them limbo.

When J and I packed all our belongings into storage last June, I knew we'd be in for a half a year of living out of our suitcases: of moving from place to place, house to house, state to state. It was the kind of romantic adventure we both love to suffer through.

We took a week-long road trip to Michigan from California, spent two months in a summer limbo with family and friends in the Midwest, then spent three enchanted months of limbo in Kyoto. We returned for another month of holiday limbo with family in December, then re-packed the car a few days after Christmas and drove back out to California in yet another week of interstate limbo. Ribbons of sunset unfurled over Kentucky, blustery winds swept us through Oklahoma, spaceship clouds followed us to Roswell, New Mexico, prickly saguaros greeted us in Arizona, and we descended into San Diego from a harrowing drive in mountains shrouded in fog and rain.

Next we spent five days in limbo in Solana Beach, at the house of a gracious fellow graduate student who put us up while we waited for our spot in student housing to open up. The wide, bright sky, and ever-busy freeways of southern California are about as far from the quiet mossy beauty of Kyoto as I can imagine, but that all seems like a distant dream now.

We are moved in to our new digs at last; all our furniture finds a new configuration, the smell of new carpet lingers.

La Jolla feels like its own kind of limbo -- different from the rest of San Diego, and the rest of the country. We're in a little graduate student village, surrounded by grassy lawns and eucalyptus trees, the sun shines dependably and everyone wears flip-flops year-round. I feel like I'm on another planet, while my pals back in the Midwest are expecting highs of zero...

It is finally time to take a deep breath and relax into this act of settling -- which came none too soon, me in my third trimester. We found a lovely birth center called Best Start, and I'm so relieved that we have a good place to deliver this baby that I want to hug everyone who works there.

While I tend to come undone after too long of neither-here-nor-there-ness, I'm beginning to see that I've got to learn to find the fortuities in those spaces.

We visited with my Grams in Michigan on the day we left, chatting with her about this and that, describing the arc of our past and future travels. I must have said something about how I don't like leaving, because she said, "Life is just a series of arrivals and departures." I didn't really hear it at the time, but J reminded me later and I was struck by its truth, its folksy elegance.

It feels like that's all I've been doing lately, is arriving or departing, but it's only difficult when I fancy that I should be staying.

My friend A, who is a true gypsy, has "home" tattooed on her wrist, to remind herself that she's always there.