Taking a Moment.

roof

It is nearly the summer solstice here in this northern city that I call home (again). The tilt of the earth feels just right tonight. Sometimes I think we were meant for certain places and times, months and days where our cells are healthier in our bodies and the air we breathe into our lungs is utilized to its full potential. Seattle, in June feels like that. I know I’ve found my place (again). Things are happening here, on a micro level that manifests itself within the bigger picture. Our lives are fuller here, even if they are momentarily spinning until we land in the right direction. It’s in the cards, it’s lining up. For now, I’m learning to be comfortable existing in the in-between time.

Tonight, I can finally catch a breath. We’ve been here seven weeks, the last of the boxes cleared out just today. He is asleep early, a well-deserved rest, and I watch the last dull light fade in the west, where the mountains are visible under clear skies. It’s been raining all day, but a good, satisfying rain that comes after days of abundant sunshine. Today, everyone is still happy in the rain. “I like this weather,” someone said to me today, and I do too, because it’s a contrast. It makes the stunning sunny days even more like paradise. Feeling the gentle spray on the street today was like slowly awakening from a dream.

I am in love here. With this place, with potential, with him. We know this unique slice of time won’t last. These days and their promise are all at once anxiety-producing and heavenly. “This was fantasy,” he said, “but now it’s reality.” Indeed, it is strange to accept this. For so long, things were much different. Before we dive into the next phase, of which we are teetering on the edge, we are taking a moment to appreciate our present.  We go to the beach often, where the temperature is miraculous. It’s so perfect, that while in its fold one does not even stop to ponder how it could be so. It just is. The sea, the sky, the air: it coexists and mixes here in ways not found elsewhere. Like sunny days after the rain, it’s appreciated.

February Things

Things I’m Learning.

She likes pretty rugs.

She likes pretty rugs.

This past month, I have been getting the hang of cat-parenting. Yes, a lot of people my age are dealing with actual parenting for humans. And I know it sounds silly, but until recently, I don’t think there was ever anything truly dependent on me for their long-term survival. Enter Sophie, the calico cat we inherited from Peter’s father. Since Peter has been busy packing and dealing with paperwork and appointments, I have taken on the main role of kitty caregiver. When we first got Sophie home, she literally hid under the blankets of our bed for more than 48 hours. She did not eat, bathe or use her litter box. There were two terrified bright green eyes staring at me when I would peer in at her, but Kitty wouldn’t budge. But now, I am happy to report that in a few weeks Sophie has made exponential progress, sitting between us on the couch in the evenings, gobbling her food like she’s starving (she’s not), and enjoying laps, playtime and brushing. Also, I guess since I feed her, she kind of thinks I’m the best. She sleeps curled against me at night, follows me around, and sits opposite me on the couch while I’m on the computer, paws tucked in, watching me work with fascination. I feel a little guilty, since just as she is getting settled in here, we have to move her across the country in a month, but Peter is sure she’ll love Seattle. He is already talking about taking her to Pike Place Market in a baby sling and showing her all the fresh seafood. Yeah, uh-oh.

Things I’m Making.

Idle hands, as they say… So, I’m attempting my biggest knitting project yet- a striped throw blanket. There will be seven colors, and I am currently on #2.

From http://www.purlbee.com/. I'm thinking this is what it should look like when i'm done, although I substituted a couple of colors and the wool is probably not quite as luxurious.

From http://www.purlbee.com/. I’m thinking this is what it should look like when i’m done, although I substituted a couple of colors and my wool is probably not quite as luxurious.

In keeping with the surprisingly (for me) DIY theme, I also attempted to make my own Valentine’s Day card for Peter, mostly because the nearby art school gift shop –with the best cards ever, not an exaggeration– has permanently closed (SAD!) I almost went to Walgreens, and then I thought, but wait, I can make a better card than whatever they have at Walgreens, so I got out my art bin, sketchpad, pencils and pastels and illustrated a little card, complete with drawings of us and our cat Sophie. I am actually pretty happy with how it turned out… I even put a bird on it.

Cooking: There’s been a lot of take-out lately (with mixed results) due to the craziness of this past month. But after awhile, the body starts to crave something healthy- something you make yourself so you can rest assured you haven’t just consumed your allotted saturated fat for the month in one sitting. Here’s a cliche, probably three years late, but did you know how awesome and versatile quinoa is? Of course you do. So I’ve been making quinoa for breakfast (brown sugar, cinnamon, almonds, berries), AND quinoa for lunch (with shredded chicken, apples, chickpeas, corn, almonds, green onions, feta cheese, and a homemade dressing of apple cider, vinegar, olive oil, honey, and salt.) Thanks, Pinterest.

Places I’m Going.

Once the initial sheen of San Antonio wore off, I really stopped doing stereotypical “touristy” things. At first I was all, “Ooh, let’s walk down to the Riverwalk for dinner!” Now I’m like, “Ugh, I hate all those tourists with their strollers and the overpriced Olive Garden-esque Italian food.” But when I have visitors, I do things I wouldn’t normally do, and actually really find myself enjoying some of the events and destinations of this city. My mom visited this past week, so we ventured out with like tourists, and a major surprise for me was how amazing the San Antonio Botanical Gardens are. Nope, I had never visited, despite loving gardens and living here for a year and a half. No excuses, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. But I’m so glad I had the chance to see this place before moving. Despite being technically winter, and a dry winter at that, the foliage and flowers and succulents were gorgeous. I especially liked the zen-state-inducing Japanese garden and the Texas Native Trail. I know this is Texas, so I shouldn’t be surprised by the size of things (HUGE, always huge), but seriously. This place had its own lake with a log cabin for the East Texas Pineywoods area, and a whole street showing traditional Texas lawns, complete with little houses. So, so cool. I loved that it was educational and scientific, with detailed labeling- it would be a killer field trip for Landscape Architecture students- but it was something kids could enjoy, too. Who doesn’t love a whole street of miniature houses?

One of the houses and lawns- Spanish-style. Adorable.

One of the houses and lawns- Spanish-style. Adorable.

Music to Which I am Listening.

(I know, that dangling “to” bothered me as well.)

I have really been enjoying the classic stylings of Sam Cooke lately.

As for newer artists, these two songs- dreamy and mysterious- by Grizzly Bear and The Dirty Projectors- have somehow captured my mood lately.

P.S. Just listen- don’t watch- the Grizzly Bear video if you’re at all squeamish.

Born with Nomad Blood.

Bantry Bay, Ireland, on a trip with my mom in 2007. This is very near the area that my great-grandparents were born.

Bantry Bay, Ireland, on a trip with my mom in 2007. This is very near the area where my great-grandparents were born.

Most Americans have roots elsewhere. The people that led to us lived in faraway places, either hundreds of years ago, or for some, maybe only weeks ago. We are adventurers by nature, seekers of the new. Our blood is tinged with the melancholy of the generations before us, the troubles that brought them here, but also with the hope that better things were ahead for them, and for us.

Many, many Americans have stories like these: My Irish great-grandparents passed through Ellis Island in the 1890s. They were born in County Cork, married there, but bore all seven of their children on American soil. My grandmother, born in 1914, was their youngest child. She met and married my grandfather in Wisconsin in the 1930s. They had three daughters, my mother the youngest. In 1949, they moved to Evanston, Illinois from a small farming town in Wisconsin. My grandfather’s family had a farm there, where his mother, father, brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews lived and worked. Their family, of Scottish descent, had lived there for generations. But my grandfather did not want to be a farmer. He took his family and moved, symbolically, as far away as one can get from that lifestyle. He worked in downtown Chicago, as the vice-president of a gas company. As a very small child, my mother recalls playing at her friend’s penthouse apartment in the early 1950s. There was a sunken living room, and all the walls were windows, where she pressed her nose against the glass and watched the dizzying city lights that seemed hundreds of stories below.

My mom, with her Scottish grandfather on his Wisconsin farm, c. 1953.

My grandparents’ intersecting lives were both touched by the decision to move and explore other options. My grandmother grew up very, very far away from her parents’ homeland in a quick generation. My grandfather exemplified the American dream. He didn’t live in Europe, so he didn’t have to be a farmer just because his parents were. In America, you really can be anything you want.

Today, we are all born into stories like these, families who made their way because of brave choices. But these are different times. Possibilities are even more endless for most of us, leaving us with a feeling of discontent and an unnamed restlessness. Our nomad blood surfaces in us if the gene is turned on. When we have this desire, stasis makes us nervous. Change is how we mark the passage of time. For me? I have always had constant desire to travel, to move, to experience new things. It’s the same drive of past generations, but maybe for more contrived reasons.

At Volunteer Park, Seattle, 2012.

At Volunteer Park, Seattle, 2012.

Yet, even when you feel like a modern nomad, sometimes there comes a point when you just know it’s okay to stay somewhere. Peter and I have both moved around a fair amount during our adult lives, and we are quite sure that the next move, to Seattle, will be the last one for awhile. Getting settled into a city I love with someone I love definitely sounds like a better plan than continuing to be a nomad, especially now that I’m in my thirties. I like to think that each of our moves, and the life changes that led to those moves, were necessary to bring us to this unique nexus of time and place. We know we’re ready to make a real home. And of course, that doesn’t mean we give up exploring. If anything, having a solid home base will lend itself even more to continuing travels and adventures.

January Things.

Here, a joint post in which we discuss what has been recently occupying our minds.

ALISON

hottoddy

Things I Like.

There’s a bite in the air even in San Antonio this winter, so these days I enjoy the feel of cozy, loose sweaters (worn with fitted jeans or black leggings, so I don’t look like a bag lady), the inner warmth of crock pot dinners, chai tea in the morning, chamomile tea at night, and maybe a hot toddy in between.

And positivity. I like that. Thus, I will not have a Things I Do Not Like. At least…not this month.

Things I’m Reading.

no-one-belongs-here-more-than-youI am currently halfway through a collection of short stories by Miranda July, called “No One Belongs Here More Than You.” The stories are bizarre, funny, deeply sad but hopeful, and…resonate with me more than I’d like to admit. I have a feeling, although I have no evidence for it, that one has to be at least slightly damaged, even in some undefined way, to enjoy July’s work. One thing I noticed right away about this collection is that the voice (always first-person) is basically unchanging throughout the stories, despite the wildly different situations the various protagonists find themselves in. That singular voice could be a considered a criticism, but to me it created an impact and a sense of cohesiveness and made me appreciate July’s style more fully. This book is certainly not for everyone, but it is perfect for me, especially at this time in my life. I think Ms. July has even inspired me to tap into the short story well that lies somewhere inside of me.

Things I’m Thinking About.

These last few days, as I need a distraction from Real Life Shit, I have been daydreaming about What It Means To Be An Artist, (in my case, a writer), and what I need to work on. One thing I have trouble with when I sit down to write is that I have a deep need to Represent It All. I want to scoop up each morsel of life, hold it all at once, and spray it over the canvas, so to speak. I am the dog with a ball in its mouth that also wants the ball in his master’s hand. But no one can Show It All through art. Well, maybe the James Joyces of the world can come close, but I know my limits. Disciplined artists? They choose the little truths. They start with an idea, a truth, and the trick is, they don’t add to it, they subtract from it until they have reached its essentials. Those who practice this method realize they can’t impact It All, but instead they seek to create little waves that might ripple. My goal, as a writer, is to learn and master the art of truth by strategic subtraction. Knowing this might be half the battle.

Things I’m Listening To.

m_ward-hold_time-art

I usually love discovering new music, but I’ve been in a rut lately, listening to familiar favorites like M. Ward, Jeff Buckley, Wilco, and soothing but stimulating classical music like Debussy. (Oh, and I share a birthday with him… nerd alert.)

AMY

Thing I’m Listening To.

(To which I am listening… ahem, grammar nerd here)

So it’s been around a while, but this video has everything I need to cheer myself up so I’ve been pulling it up almost daily to bask in the cheek of it. Seattle sights, Seattle inside jokes, Seattle faces. The weather is bitterly cold in Saint Paul and I keep dreaming of my old haunts (and cursing my instagram feed for all the photos from people I know who live places that aren’t sub-zero!). Plus, man, I miss that awesome Goodwill off Dearborn!

Things I’m Reading.

A peek at my Goodreads account shows me just how much of a homebody I’ve been the past month. Lots. Of. Books. Here’s just a sampling.

From the entertaining and imaginative but really not challenging category comes the Scott Westerfeld Leviathan series. Really, it is a perfect series to read in the middle of winter when the darkness and snow makes me want to stay inside and pretend I’m somewhere else. It’s a young adult science fiction steampunk alternative history novel, so there is something for every part of my imagination. One of the main characters is a teenaged girl and she’s quite well written. Sensitive, strong, smart but still a little dense at the right moments to make her feel real. Oh, and the artwork is fantastic.

westerfeld

Staying with the young adult theme, I finally read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. How it missed me when I was in middle school (or high school, or college, or well, until the ripe old age of 30) is beyond me. I could only barely relate to Charlie, he’s just too, well to use his teacher’s terms, gifted and special. But the whole mood of the book, the whole feeling of being a lost teenager, not understanding how to navigate life, wanting to opt out of difficult situations and just live in one’s head – I could have used that when I was a teenager. And, least of all, I’m glad I didn’t see the movie because I can’t imagine such a tender, real and beautiful yet raw EPISTOLARY NOVEL be a live action film. Just can’t imagine it. Don’t want to. It’s so much better just living in Charlie’s head and seeing the world through his somewhat foggy filter.

Currently I’m reading Sacre Bleu – which is a mix that should really appeal to me – historical fiction/mystery/satire set in France and featuring Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Vincent van Gogh. But I haven’t really dug into it yet. Plus… the text is printed in blue, and this makes my eyes hurt and also is a bit too CUTE for my liking. I will report back later on that.

I Like.

VINE!  The videos people are uploading range from strange to terrible to very creative. The sound aspect annoys me so far, since you can’t edit that — it can get loud and a lot of weird ambient noise gets chopped up and run together. BUT! I think it would be really interesting if used in a directed way. My museum brain is thinking of ways museums and educators could use the platform – such as asking for submissions on a theme, or asking people to respond to a question or prompt.

295393_10102792381317390_1078173999_n

I’m Working On.

Many things. Being more patient. A new sewing project (gunmetal washed silk crepe de chine – wish me luck!). Motivating myself to start playing my violin again. Learning Dreamweaver. Thinking about data privacy and copyright, because I find it fascinating.

Bittersweet 2012.

This pretty painting was in the office at work.

.

Note: I did not intend to write (another) novella-length post. One of my New Year’s resolutions should be better editing control. But it’s not the new year yet, so..

It’s a cool, rainy New Year’s Eve in San Antonio. Because it stays green here, winter days like this remind me a bit of Seattle in the spring.

I am in a reflective mood these days for a lot of reasons. I know we won’t be in San Antonio much longer, and I already find myself getting a little pre-nostalgic. Having said that, we are so, so ready to move on. This past year has been one of the most challenging of my life, and one I’m sure I’ll look back on someday and remember with a mix of positive and negative emotions. 2012 was the first full year of my living here, and living with Peter. Over the years before we met, both of us had grown quite accustomed to doing everything on our own, so I guess it’s a testament to how much we love each other that we’ve been able to transition into this new domestic life pretty easily. Having a sense of humor, being each other’s best friend, knowing when to give space, but remembering that we are a team, I think, are the ingredients that helped get us through this most unusual time. As Peter said one day, in a poetic mood, that because of external circumstances, our relationship so far has been like “learning to drive in Wisconsin in the winter. It can only get easier from here.”

I share a lot on this blog, but I want to respect the fact that Peter is a private person. What he’s been dealing with, in a nutshell, is taking on the role as a full-time caregiver for his father here in San Antonio for more than two years. We recently learned that his dad does not have much time left, maybe only weeks. Someday, perhaps,  I can write about what a privilege it has been to spend this year getting to know his father, whose mind is sharper than just about anyone’s I know, but whose body is failing him in every possible way. For now, I just can’t. But to be able to support Peter during this time, and assist this family that’s been so good to me feels like it has been my calling, my role to play over the past 15 months. Even with the stress, and living here in a city that’s far from ideal for me, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Besides the situation with Peter’s father, the last few months have presented some other challenges, one after another, to the point where I was convinced the universe was trying to tell me something. For most of this year, my parents have been vacillating between staying together and not, between moving and not. As their only child, this indecision is particularly difficult to live with. Then recently, our Seattle condo rental fell through at the last minute, for bizarre reasons I won’t get into here. However, this is probably for the best, since we are unsure of our exact moving timeline. At this point, we are looking more at March than February.

Then, my aunt passed away in November, and two weeks later, so did a co-worker, of the exact same type of cancer. Both of them had been diagnosed only the month before. Life seemed more fragile to me than it ever had. But there are bright spots to focus on, lessons to take away. I think of this co-worker often: not her death, but her life. She radiated an inner peace and spirituality that I envied. She laughed a lot. She talked to everyone with a smile. She often seemed carefree, without being frivolous. Yes. Filed under “Things to Remember.” “Ways to Be.” And when attending my aunt’s funeral last month, I was reminded of this amazing extended family I have. People I should talk to more, cousins leading amazing lives all over the country. I was proud to introduce Peter to all of them, all of these fascinating people I am lucky enough to call my family.

And now, the year’s good things:

Visits!

On the State Capitol grounds in Madison, June.

On the State Capitol grounds in Madison.

Visits are the best, especially when they are to or from my mom. Sometimes it’s really hard to be away from her so much. In the future, we plan on making living closer a priority. She visited me in February and September, and I went back home to Madison in June and October. I love my hometown so much more when I’m there visiting. It’s a great place to be from, but I am quite sure I am done living there. The best parts? The people. Seeing my mom and dad, best friends from college, other relatives, and extreme happy hours with my beloved old co-workers.

Madison.

Madison in June.

Trips!

Peter surveying our land outside the Round Top B&B.

Peter surveying our land outside the Round Top B&B.

1. Texas road trips: Austin in April. Round Top in August. Both trips were pretty amazing. I find that once we get outside of San Antonio, I actually kind of like a lot of Texas.

Austin does good slush.

Austin does good slush.

1a.) Peter, his dad and I spent a weekend in Round Top for a classical piano concert and the art galleries. It is a truly amazing little place. And I mean LITTLE. Population 80. The sense of tranquility there was indescribable, like going back in time. I’ve never been a country girl, but I can see why people like it. When you get away from just about everything, you remember who you are, and you pay attention to what’s directly in front of you, even if it’s just a quiet breeze rustling through a 100-year-old oak tree. Texas, you have really, really nice trees.

Canoeing in Austin

Canoeing in Austin.

1b.) Austin, I have a not-so-secret crush on you. It’s not hard to see why: Austin reminds me of all of my favorite familiarities of my hometown: huge university, state capitol, tons to do outdoors, and oh, did I mention The Onion is available here? But it’s also different: things are huge in a proud Texas way: roads, shops, even the bars. The live music choices are endless, an Austin stereotype, but a well-founded one. We randomly ended up at the Continental Club one night, and we were treated to some of the best live (country-ish) music I’ve ever heard. Peter and I had a magical three-night stay at a guesthouse tucked away in the rolling hills just outside of downtown. The owner was a music producer/filmmaker with a big, gentle dog who visited us in our house quite often. We canoed in the serenely beautiful Lady Bird Lake (more of a river), disturbing about 500 snapping turtles sunning themselves on logs along the banks. We mini-golfed. (I won both the easy and hard courses. Hidden talent.) We ate at a pizza parlor. We enjoyed delicious, hipster-made slushies from a food cart. It was a real vacation. We probably would have visited more if it wasn’t for the horrendous traffic between San Antonio and Austin.

Feeling quite at home in Austin.

Feeling quite at home in Austin.

1c.) We swam in the ocean this year, two times, over the 4th of July weekend and in September, on Padre Island near Corpus Christi. Whenever I am in the ocean feeling childlike euphoria and buoyancy, and the perfect Gulf temperature, and salty wind, and Peter holding my hand as we jump through waves, I think, “why don’t we swim in the ocean more?” We, the collective we, as humans, should swim in the ocean more than we do. It is very, very good for the soul.

At the beach in Corpus Christi at the end of June.

At the beach in Corpus Christi at the end of June.

THESE PEOPLE.

THESE PEOPLE.

2. THREE trips to Seattle: one on the train from Los Angeles in January (highly recommended), one in July for Lindsae and Steve’s wedding (and seeing Amy! and Stephanie!), and one in October to start getting our move in order. To be continued…

In L.A. at Olvera Street.

In L.A. at Olvera Street.

Malibu from the train. The only problem is you can't get out and go play.

Malibu from the train. The only problem is you can’t get out and go play.

Arty Things!

For most of this year, I worked at a small contemporary art museum in San Antonio. I’ll be honest, this city intimidates me because it is just so different than what I’m used to, and so much about it is outside my comfort zone. So being able to creep into the arts scene here, even in a small way, was a big step for me. When I started, I didn’t think I’d be working in arts education, let alone developing programs (this is what happens when you have about five full-time staff members and one of them leaves), but it turned out that I kind of loved it. Another note to self, for future reference: “Just try it.”

At Mission San Jose in February.

At Mission San Jose in February.

Other arty things? Helping out Peter in his art studio. Going to galleries, museums, and missions. Outdoor festivals. Buying art. Taking photos. Pinning pretty Pinterest pictures. In some form, I like to keep art a daily part of my life.

Unexpected art in S.A.

Unexpected art in S.A.

Resolutions for 2013: I’m not stating any specific resolutions. The lists in my life do plenty to remind me of everything that should be done. But in 2013, this is what I will try to be mindful of: do more, think less, be less anxious, don’t plan excessively. You’d think after all this time and all these surprises you should know that over-preparing is a sometimes useless venture.

Pike Place deliciousness.

Pike Place deliciousness.

Once we get through this tough patch, there’s a lot of things I’m excited about that are coming up: a couple big trips in the works, hopefully starting a new job, and, of course, moving across the country (again). Seattle, see you soon (again).

Happy, happy New Year.

Paradiiiiise.

Paradiiiiise.

Instagram: the best part of my day (and a museum’s best friend).

You know that oft-quoted line from John Lennon, about how life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans? These are wise words. I need to keep them in mind a lot more, or possibly even have a poster made of it (like, with a picture of cat playing with a ball of yarn and a thought bubble above his head showing a scratching post). You see, I have been planning for the future, pretty much daily, the entire time that I have been living in San Antonio. Some of this planning is necessary; especially in light of our upcoming move to Seattle. I like to think of this obsessive planning as doing my future self a favor. But what about my current self? I focus on everything but the present. I might even say I am uncomfortable with the present. I don’t know if it’s being born into a time and place with literally limitless options and endless distractions, but lately I tend to feel like there is always something more, or something different than whatever it is I am doing at that moment. First-world problems, right?  Why am I incapable of giving myself a break and letting myself enjoy this singular time and place? Being present, meditating, living in the moment: these are things I’ve never been good at. I want to change: to overcome the anxiety that comes with being comfortable with me, as I am today, whenever today is. 

As I said, I’m no good at meditation (restless, lack discipline, etc.), but there are other ways to achieve the same mindfulness of “now.” While I’m busy with any of these tasks, it is my goal to just focus on the one thing I am doing, and do it well.

1. Knitting. Getting off of the computer, and making something tangible, even if it’s just a bunch of scarves. The mind is still active, but pleasantly distracted. The hands are busy, so there’s not much else I feel like I could be doing. Who wants a scarf? I recently mastered stripes.

2. Walking, now that it’s not 100 degrees, is another good mind-clearing activity/exercise. But. I find myself feeling more and more like a local when I’m on the riverwalk: annoyed with slow-moving tourists and their strollers. Perhaps it’s a good exercise in patience, another virtue in which I lack.

3. Art projects are another way to focus my jumbled energies. I have been asking my boyfriend Peter to teach me some techniques. He pretty much says I can discover my own “visual language” through just making marks on the paper. I’ve never been drawn to the sketchpad like he has been, though. My right brain creativity is more connected with the verbal left brain. Which is why he and I have had, for years, the idea to do be a writer-illustrator team. We did try it a few times in the past, although I guess others have had the motivation to follow through before we did.

4. Photography. Not the “real” kind, that actual photographers do. Not the kind I used to do when I worked as a museum collections photographer in Madison. No, just me and my iPhone, out in the world. This device, that is always with me, has become the mode of documenting my life over the last year here in San Antonio. More than any activity, taking photos, by definition, puts me in the moment. I never really thought about what taking these photos means to me, until I read this last week on an inspiring blog I follow:

And then a man of forty or so, with a French accent, asked, “How do you achieve the presence of mind to initiate the writing of a poem?” And something cracked open in me, and I finally stopped hoarding and told them my most useful secret. The only secret that has helped me consistently over all the years that I’ve written. I said, “Well, I’ll tell you how. I ask a simple question. I ask myself: What was the very best moment of your day?” The wonder of it was, I told them that this one question could lift out from my life exactly what I will want to write a poem about. Something I hadn’t known was important will leap out and hover there in front of me, saying I am— I am the best moment of the day. I noticed two people were writing down what I was saying. Often, I went on, it’s a moment when you’re waiting for someone, or you’re driving somewhere, or maybe you’re just walking across a parking lot and admiring the oil stains and the dribbled tar patterns. One time it was when I was driving past a certain house that was screaming with sunlitness on its white clapboards, and then I plunged through tree shadows that splashed and splayed across the windshield. I thought, Ah, of course— I’d forgotten. You, windshield shadows, you are the best moment of the day. “And that’s my secret, such as it is,” I said.

Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist

This is from August, when we stayed at a farmhouse built in 1881. Being in the middle of nowhere was exactly what I needed. At this moment, the light in our room was cast from prisms, and that, combined with the quiet outside made me extremely happy.

Even though this excerpt is about poetry, it can really be about any creative pursuit: making art out of the inspiration that is received from an ordinary day. This makes sense to me: I do use these photos to capture something fleeting from my day; maybe what I choose to capture even is the best part of my day. Having a camera with me all the time now does allow for the creation of a legitimate photographic journal. But more than the journal, the poetry, whatever, the thing that holds me in the moment is the act of capturing the scene. What am I drawn to photograph? It could be a pretty vista, or someone who is with me, but often it is just something I see that I like and can’t explain it anymore than that. It’s the way the evening light hits an industrial building. The way a flowering plant looks extra beautiful against a gray wall. It’s the small things that often make up the best moment of the day; we all know this. As I sit here, always making plans for the future, this is what is happening is right now, whatever that happens to be.

And, the best part of having a documentary device always with me? Because the iPhone is actually a tiny computer, these photos can be shared through the magic of Instagram. The act of taking a photo, formalizing it as a portrait through the filters, and then sharing it: it’s a form of sharing visual poetry, isn’t it? We’re social. We want to share. I like Twitter, but sometimes the endless links and hashtags and words become too much to process. Instagram is the visual Twitter, a way to say “I was here” or to express a visual ideal.

Which brings me to this, because my brain is always jumping around: I have worked in several museums, and I can’t think of a better use of social media than Instagram for cultural institutions. First off, there are suddenly a LOT of people using it. The potential audience is huge. As museums become more and more social entities, there should be more of them on Instagram. And the museums who already use it could be using it even more creatively.

Museums are visual institutions and Instagram is a visual social resource: they are a natural fit. Using the app should be a main component of a good social media and marketing plan. Of course we know the photographic quality is not archival. That’s what museum photographers and archives are for. This is about social engagement and a moment in time. It should be a fun and irreverent way to engage visitors and followers and to start discussions.

The best ways for museums to use Instagram? Show off the collections. Give us behind-the-scenes shots. Use it to promote exhibits and events. Ask questions, start an artistic dialogue. Keep a consistent visual language, to use Peter’s phrase. Use it once or twice every day.

I took this photo during the first few minutes into the first education program I coordinated, back in June. I was nervous. I wanted it to be successful. These young teens were filling out a contemporary art guide I wrote, and just seeing young people engaging with art was a good feeling that morning.

Here’s a list of some creative arts organizations and artists to follow. Some of my personal favorite photographers that I follow? Yvette Inufio, Jasmine Fitzwilliam, Andy Spade, and Marie, in addition to lots of others. And, if you want to see some of my favorite daily moments, follow me. When we move from San Antonio, I am going to be really glad I have a visual record of this past year.