Fred and I just got back from a quick trip to London where I got to meet a woman I consider a true genius, Viviane Schwarz. We have been "virtual studio colleagues"- a term she coined for ummm.....at least 10 years. Anyhow- we got to hang out for whole day. We went to the Tate modern and went from hot drink to hot drink- which is what she said Londoners do. It was freezing, so I totally get the tea thing now.
I think that this is a record- I haven't blogged in over a month. It's not that i haven't been thinking about it- it's that I have been a bit busy. Mostly I have been on the road. I flew from Mauritius to California. Then in California I made a ver trips: attending the Planetary Society's 35th Anniversary in Pasadena, heading up to the Bay Area to meet with my amazing agent, Abigail Samoun, and then over to Pebble Beach to visit my dear friend Dina. In between all of that I got to attend my critique group's meeting and learned that one of our members is being published for the first time. Her name in Cindy Rankin and she comes up with some of the most original and engaging material in the group. Her book about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake had a character in it that has been living with most of us who have been fortunate enough to get to know her for the last few years. We have been begging Cindy to send her book out into the world. She has. And someone in the publishing world fell in love with her as we did. I also got to see my dear friend, Sharon Lovejoy on three different occasions. I first made contact with Sharon when I was still in college. She wrote a book called Sunflower Houses that I was absolutely in love with . I wrote to her all of those years ago and then in 2000 or 2001, I was invited to join a critique group and there was Sharon! We have been great friends ever since- kindred spirits. When I was in town I don't let many people know that I was there. The days were filled with work and meetings and I have a hard time no to people I care about. Fred and I will both be back in California for the holidays and hope to catch up with our dear ones then. In the meantime- elephants.
I've done it a bunch of times now: fly across the globe. It takes 29 hours to go from the airport here in Mauritius until arrival in Los Angeles. It's a long haul. I'm getting a bit better at it. I watch lots of movies and try to sleep as much as possible. One thing that I have learned is that that is too dang long of a flight to get into a car afterwards and drive another 3 or so hours home and feel safe about my driving. So now, I get a hotel room in L.A. before the final leg (which does not include the 29 hours). I used to feel that it was a crazy travel time, but I've read since about the times when making that journey took months by ship. Very unpleasant and precarious months. So, ship of the air- not bad- and it's Emirates- which is just about as nice as an airline gets. Los Angeles International has become my favorite airport to arrive at in California because of this:
It's got a sense of humor and place. Plus, the traffic has gotten SO bad coming back from San Francisco or San Jose that I am not bothered by the traffic in L.A. anymore.
But when I get home- the miles melt away. The smell of the Pacific (which smells different than the Indian Ocean), the pelicans and our home. I wish that Fred was coming with, of that trip I'll have to wait for awhile. In the meantime I have dear friends to see and some kids to tell about Carl Sagan. I LOVE that there is now a sort of "my first Carl Sagan book" out there.
A good friend of ours here bestowed a really sweet honor onto Fred. She asked him to be her "uncle" at her wedding. The uncle presents trays of offerings to the groom's family (the groom also has an "uncle" who does the same for the bride's family). The wedding took place over 3 days. Here are some highlights.
Jess heading to the wedding. She had to change saris 5 times during the ceremony. This is sari number one. Gorgeous, right?
The trays being prepared with sweets, fruits, perfume and a sari.
Me and "Uncle" Fred before the ceremony. That sari took two friends about 40 minutes to put on me. It's one big long piece of cloth, wrapped, pleated, tucked and draped- and held in place by a lot of safety pins.
After a 3 hour ceremony, the couple walking 7 times around the center alter - and then , they were married!
One of the after parties. The final dance was a sega dance (the traditional music/dance style of Mauritius).
I have been back in Mauritius for over a month now and am settled in again. Summer is coming on this side of the planet. It's getting warmer, there is more birdsong and I am awoken by sunlight coming in the window because the angle is now just right. I haven't written for awhile- I haven't really felt like it until now. Not sure really why. Maybe because I have so much writing to do for books and spend so much time in my studio at the computer...anyhow, today I feel like it. So, "hello". This morning I saw a needle fish darting across the surface of the water. Such and odd looking creature. close to the shore, brown jelly fish sat and tried to push themselves back into the Indian Ocean. A man picked one up- I gasped, wouldn't he be stung?? Not that kind of jelly fish. These had ridden the north winds onto to shore and they were harmless. They are moon jellyfish. It's just 10 days to go and I am off to the U.S. again- this time to speak at the 35th Anniversary of the Planetary Society- of which Carl Sagan was a founding member. I couldn't pass that up, could I? (No.) It will be the first book event that I attend for STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos. I was here when the book came out and then for most of the year. It's going to be a whirlwind trip. I arrive home in California on the 13th, speak and sign books in Pasadena on the 24th and fly out South Africa for 10 days on the 25th, then back to Mauritius. I'm glad I'm doing all of this traveling now while I can. It is exhausting and I can see losing my appetite for going to far flung places in a few years. Then I think I will content myself with my garden, my work and family. In the meantime, here are some photos of Mauritius.
A village weaver.
More bananas than we know what to do with from a tree in the backyard. The bummer is that they go ripe almost all at once!
The folks at Noodle.com, who specialize in all things educational put STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos into an infographic! How cool is that? What an honor to be in the company of those books.
This blog has been so very quiet. Here's what's been going on. I went home.
A soft welcoming blanket of fog. People who knew how to drive safely in lanes, and not stop for NO reason- (because in the U.S. you would get a ticket arrested for being a danger on the road to others and you have a freaking CLUE). Driving was stressless and fun- especially in Fred's car- Sasha. I relished it. There were California brown Pelicans gently drifting overhead in clean smokeless air - they look like creatures that belong to another time. Glorious.
And sunsets of the awe inspiring kind.
I hung out with our neighbors who have been keeping watch over the casa. And I was grateful for having such kind, generous and caring people in our lives. All of them inspiring- we are the youngens on the street and the folks around us are farther on down the road, but totally awesome.
I took a quick trip to see loved ones in Minnesota. I was happy to see that my parents are looking great and getting better and better- you would never believe their age if you saw them. I admire that they are heading off on new adventures and this next year are venturing over here to visit and we are heading out on safari with them in Botswana. I also popped down to Rochester to visit my sister and her family. She and her hubby have 3 teenagers now- all doing fabulous. Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon quote tag line , " Minnesota where the women are strong, the men are good looking and all the children are above average. "
Can you tell I loved being home? But I missed this guy
he's good reason to cross a globe...but I had some more adventures in between...
This weekend was the last group performance of the Grateful Dead. My sweet husband offered to get me tickets and fly me out to see it. I said was happy just to drink a toast from home and listen to some tunes and reminisce and something had occurred to me- that time with the Dead as the soundtrack to our lives, that came with a cast of characters- all of whom are strewn across the country/world and some lost.
That time for us began in the 80's and went through until Jerry Garcia's death and reappeared from time to time with Phil and Friends or other shows, but it was never the same again. That time was a formative one for me. It was all about Joseph Campbell and finding my way- or general direction as it turned out. Without the Dead I don't know if I would have attempted half of the things I have, gone very many places- I don't know if I would have thought it possible to craft this life. Grateful Stephanie.
We did an impromptu visit to Capre Town in April- just 4 days, but it was wonderful!!!
The above picture is pretty representative of most of the pictures of me there- always in mid sentence or in the middle of something.
For 4 days we ate delicious food- not the sort on cuisine we get here (although at home we cook some lovely meals). We dined on fresh organic vegetable and salads, fresh oysters , non-overcooked and over-salted foods- it was glorious. We went to a jazz club and heard a live band (not a guitarist playing "Hotel California"- which is the usual here), we took a hot yoga class, went to actually book stores (bliss!) and walked- yes, walked! They have sidewalks there-
I look forward to our next visit. We came back from that one feeling recharged and ready to get to business again.
The floor of my Indian Ocean Studio are covered with projects. The walls too. Just one month and one of the three will be done and then just one more beyond that and 2 of the 3 will be done ...and the third on is extra special- a work that I have put a few years into - one on the scale of STAR STUFF:Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos.
A lizard on out Hot Dodo Studio fence - our little version of the Bikram studio we love so much.
This has been a busy month. Lots of book projects rolling.
6 months seems to be an interval that that has me feeling like I want a change of pace. And soon- it will happen. Fred and I are heading out to explore Cape Town as well as Namibia and then I'm heading home for a few weeks to check in with friends family and out lovely case in California. Yesterday I found out that STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos is a finalist in the California Book Awards! The next few weeks promise to be a whirl wind of activity- deadlines, events among many other things. Life is never dull it seems.
Another long absence from the blog. I think about posting this and that and then the day gets busy. My day starts at 5:30 and goes non-stop until 10. It's filled with a workout of some kind (a must), my work (writing, illustrating, researching etc. ), housework (we don't have maids or gardeners or any of that like other expats - can't stand the loss of privacy with a staff and it's uncomfortable having people around when you are trying to get things done, and then there is being taxi mom taking T to various activities and then the day to day of grocery shopping etc. Wow- long sentence.
Above is one of the projects I have going. It's a quick little magazine piece. The main focus is the next book I'm writing and illustrating. It's taken awhile for the story to show itself. My method seems to be to research the hell out of something until I know my topic so well that I can approach it from any angle on the fly and have enough material to have many threads running through to play with. I have finally gotten to that place with this next book and it's a relief and a joy now. Then I have 2 other books that I am illustrating. So, I'm pretty busy there, but happy.
A covered surface in my studio. Fred bought me shelves, but we haven't put them together yet- soon things will be very zen in here without the piles. Piles stress me out.
This is Jolly. When we moved in here he was a puppy. Jolly is one of thousands (I'm guessing) of wild dogs here on the island. Jolly has a good life for a wild dog. The residents of our housing complex have all adopted him. He gets fed and played with, has a flea collar and gets his belly rubbed and his ears scratched. It's not all good though. He has been beaten by some of the locals. Fred was petting him one day when a very mild mannered Indian man on a bicycle peddles by smiling and Jolly hid behind Fred's truck and growled and shook. The thing is, you can't approach someone like that because they will take it out on Jolly. Many of the locals here feel that beating animals is fine. We are the outsiders here- and we can't behave as we would back home. We did give thought to adopting Jolly, but we are renting this house and the furniture in it.
This is a sweet little bird that flew into the window downstairs and died. This little bird is tiny, tiny- no idea what it is. It was a beautiful little creature though. We had this happen again this morning with a zebra dove, so no I am keeping the shades drawn on the big window.
Then this little guy was just spotted downstairs. I carried him and the chair outside and he scurried off. Isn't he amazing? The color, the scales-
Mauritius is really out there. There are times when I feel that reality more than other. When I'm flying the leg of the trip from Dubai and the map on the screen in front of my seat that shows the route to Mauritius basically shows the Indian Ocean and the flight is 7 hour long- and then you can see by the on board cameras that there is a bit of land appearing (after the 7 hours)- and you think, "Wow- they found it in all of that vast ocean- the speck". Another time the remoteness of our current location hits me is when I'm driving. The width of the island on the northern end is around 5 miles- the size of the entire island is 788 square miles- drive takes about 20 minutes.
Still, it's good thing to change the scenery and everything else and live here for a bit (no idea how many years we will be here, but we're calling it home for now). It's good to have to find a new way to do everything- to make a brain that has gotten used to doing things in a certain way and going certain places and experiencing different things. One thing that I love here is talking to people- like this young woman I met named Jessica. Jessica has this total island attitude and out look and is so happy and light- there is a wonderful uncomplicatedness here. In the west we have so many more complications- and really, why? Well- maybe the transitional nature of where the west is right now- a lot of in-between-ness a lot of undefined things...but maybe it was never really any different ?
Okay- the picture portion of this post. Above is a gecko walking around outside at night on the illuminated surface of a frosted bathroom window. Forget TV, Fred and I spent an evening watching this little creature fill its belly with wiggling, moving bugs- they moved in its belly too! It had a feast with the light attracting the bugs.
Here is my Fred. He's carefully placing the shells that our kid arranged on a restaurant table. I marvel that the guy- he is the one that got us all to come out here. A couple of year ago I had only heard of Mauritius as where the dodo bird met its fate when people showed up and messed up what millions of years of evolution took to create. Fred is one of these people who has these visions of what is possible and then he goes out and creates. I suppose that I do that too, but I do it on paper- or digitally these days- in the art/literature realm. The expression of out ideas and the distribution is different. My distribution is bigger, and my travel is usually within- his travel is farther (but I suppose I'm here too, huh...) but few people experience that direct idea (for now).
This is looking north on the northern end of the island- not far from where we live. The clouds always fascinate me- they move so quickly and it's always a show. Last night I was in the pool looking up at a moon lit composition of billowy clouds moving overhead. I'm so grateful to be having these experiences- and sharing them with my Pookie.
Where does the time go? I just popped over to my blog to see if I should post- and YES- wow, it has been too long. So, just what has been going on over here? Well...overall, Fred and I have been searching for the ever elusive "balance" between family, home, work and recharge time. And just as a side note- I'm looking for a new word for work. "Work" sounds so blah- it has synonyms like "drudge","grind", "slog" and "chore"- to name a few. For myself and Fred, "work" isn't that at all- it's fun, it gives meaning and purpose to our lives- it enriches and supports us as people and it is how we give back to community/society. We need a new word - a new way of languaging that concept. Anyhow...At present, we have a bit more of a balance going than we have in recent weeks. The hardest part of the equation is our child. Marla Frazee once wrote me the loveliest note about balancing occupation and children. I am paraphrasing, but she basically said that your kids will be fine and they will respect you if you pursue your passion- it will teach them how to pursue theirs. Anyhow, our kid is needing a lot of remedial help with his schoolwork and it is difficult to keep an 11 year old who has such a cushy life motivated. I think that this is the challenge with every generation- you want to make life better for your kid, but when you do you create an artificial norm. I have been working (insert positive connotation here) on new books- 2 of my own and 2 written by other authors. For my own projects I have been learning new programs like Illustrator to help me craft the images. The software is getting so good and so much more intuitive, but require so much time to learn and become fluent in. I am grateful for it though because working in conventional media half way around the world from my publishers creates all kinds of issues- if I did work in traditional media and sent finished art to NYC it runs a high risk of being lost or damaged, and working in traditional media in an extremely humid environment invites wrinkling and other moisture issues. If you have read Elizabeth Gilbert's book The Signature of All Things, there are perfect descriptions of what happens with paper and tropical climates.
As we approach the fall here in Mauritius I am trying to get out into the water more often before it turns cold. Last week I went out snorkeling on the reef. The experience is one that I experience in 2 distinctive ways- one is the wonder of it- a 3-d rainbow colored spectacular of fishes and corals or all colors and shapes, the second is this realization that this is a world that has a timer on it- the edges of some of the corals are white- a sign that they are dying from the acidification of the ocean, the fish are fewer and less diverse according to friends that have been snorkeling and diving here for years...I wonder sometimes as float in the warm salty water if the creatures I see will become part of the list of extinct creatures in my short lifetime...
I'm listening to an enthralling audio book The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey. It's a zombie story, but not the typical zombie story- weirdly enough, I am listening to it while working on the next Princess Posey book.
And then last week while walking around I found this village weaver nest on the ground- empty (thankfully). The male village weavers make multiple nests in hopes of attracting females to nest in them. There is a tree just down the road decorated with them. They sway and bob in the breeze. The nests are so intricate- the inside features a a weave of soft grasses.
I am happily floored at the new that Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos is one of only FIVE books given the honor. Here is the link to the National Council of Teachers of English. Feeling proud- thank you NCTE!
About two weeks ago, our very kind and generous neighbors invited us to go out with them on their boat to go dolphin watching. Inge and Michele are delightful neighbors. They retired here last year from Paris. Inge is originally from Germany, and Michele is French. I speak German with Inge and Fred speaks French with Michele and somehow, we manage to communicate and enjoy on another's company. Anyhow, one of their children and her husband and their kids were here on holiday and one morning, they popped by to see if we wanted to come with to look for dolphins. YES please! They have a local skipper who took the whole group of us to the south of the island neat Tamerin. There we stopped and had some sandwiches that Inge had made and hung out around this tiny little island that appears on a lot of post cards around here. I'm not sure what it is called, but here it is.
We spent most of the day spotting one or two dolphins...and then headed back to the north. On the way back there was a crazy rain shower and some choppy seas and then, at the end of the day, when we had given up the idea of really seeing dolphins, the sun came out and there they were. A lot of them. Everyone got snorkels, masks and flippers on and dove into the water. Tristam saw a dolphin and they looked at each other- who was the more curious about the other? Tristam had a experience of looking in to another being's eyes and seeing there a real intelligence - a real being. I think we will all remember that day of for the rest of our lives. Thank you Michele and Inge!