Wiped-Out Wednesday

I rarely reflect on particular days as being good or bad or long or short, but today was such a doozy that listing its main phases will have to stand in for a real blog post. Julia and I had a very nice breakfast around 6:45, but when Vivi woke up around 7:15, she went apeshit, screaming so loudly over everything (her wet diaper, going downstairs for breakfast, the content of breakfast, the fact that Julia had eaten, the fact that she couldn’t go wait for the school bus with Julia, etc.) that she killed one of my hearing-aid batteries. I disengaged from that mess in time to rush to a dentist appointment, which started late and lasted 90 minutes. That of course meant that the whole workday proper was going to be screwed up, which it was. I answered so many email messages in such a short period of time that my fingertips ached, then headed to a blood-donation appointment. It went smoothly, but left me feeling a bit queasy, which has never happened before and which didn’t help me get through the back-to-back meetings that followed. But I didn’t pass out and seemed to speak as coherently as needed. I ducked out of the second meeting to race home to finalize our newly-refinanced mortgage with our financial advisor, who left just in time for us to start the usual (and unusually smooth) dinner-bath-bed routine for the girls. Once the kids were asleep, I went back up to campus to first finish some work that I didn’t get done during the day and then to spend 90 minutes drawing at the open modeling session that’s sponsored by the Art department. After the session ended, I returned home to check the online class I’m teaching and respond to the inevitable questions about the research paper that’s due by midnight. From there it was a slippery slope to Facebook and this blog post.

Life is grand.

Table Service

On Sunday, Julia and Genevieve’s maternal grandfather, whom they call “Boppa,” was taking a long time to come downstairs for breakfast, partly because he likes to move slowly and partly because he can’t move quickly. Shannon had the brilliant idea that Julia should write up a menu for him to consult when he finally made his way downstairs. Here’s the result:
Julia's Menu

Note the drawings of Kix and Kashi and the little drawing of Boppa in the lower right, apparently overjoyed by his choices.

“Winter” Walk

The girls wanted to take a walk this morning, when the air temp was about 20° but a stiff westerly breeze was sending the windchills down near zero. So we bundled up as if it were January and headed out. On the way to the front door, though, Julia grabbed a new umbrella that Nonna had brought yesterday, leading to scenes like this:

Do I even need to add that there was absolutely no precipitation during our walk? The skies were mostly blue, with a few patches of white cumulus clouds. The girls’ cheeks were a lovely shade of pink, though.

Three Tanka for an Evening Run

Thirty minutes long
Spanning all the day’s phases:
Starting in bright light
Passing through gathering dusk
Ending in shimmery black

All the leaves prefer
The path and reject the trees
Every step crunches
And you can see deep into
The gray brown black of the woods

Running in the dark
The trail seems to run downhill
Through sharper corners
And pass dim bushes which hide
Many small fearful creatures

(More on tanka)

Carleton Art Weekend: Connole and Lefkowitz

Any weekend which includes seeing two great art exhibits is a great weekend. Friday, I hit the Carleton Art Gallery for “In Between,” a small and beautiful show by Kelly Connole, the College’s ceramicist, and Beth Lo, who works in mixed media. Lo’s works – especially a charming book on her family’s tradition of mah-jongg – were very nice, but the show is dominated – overrun? by Connole’s ceramic rabbits, which were aw-shucks adorable until I started looking at the details that set them apart from one another: patterns cut into their backs, their eyes and faces, and especially their human hands:

Kelly Connole, Hanna and Hazel (2008)
Kelly Connole, "Hanna and Hazel" (2008)

The rabbits didn’t get less cute, exactly, but their cuteness receded behind considerable intelligence and quite a bit of mystery. The same thing happened, from another direction, with the black birds – crows? ravens? magpies? – that also figure prominently in the exhibit: at first they were worrisome presences, if not slightly threatening ones, but when I looked at them more closely, they revealed their variety and personalities. It was a pleasure to take another few passes around the gallery, looking again and again at the bunnies and birds – and also noticing some other startling works, such as the life-sized “birds” made from stainless steel formed to look like bolts with legs. In short: highly recommended. (The show closes on Saturday, October 17.)

Sunday, the family took a lovely road trip to Rochester to see friends and to take in David Lefkowitz’s sprawling “Other Positioning Systems” show at the Rochester Art Center. The show includes all kinds of Lefkotwitz’s excellent work: sculptures, installations, and many paintings. There were too many jaw-dropping pieces to comment on all of them, but I especially liked the massive styrofoam city, mounted vertically:

David Lefkowitz, Plan 2
David Lefkowitz, "Plan 2"

and the cardboard-and-plywood “Stump #1.” Though my girls didn’t come along to the show, they would have liked the tiny “Detritus” paintings, especially the one of three stacked Cheerios. To me, though, the best piece in the show was a massive “sketch” of a pile of garbage, but actually made not from ink, paint, or even the actual garbage itself, but from sticks and twigs hotglued to the wall. It looked a lot like this, which is to say, stop-in-your-tracks striking. Again, I highly recommend the Lefkowitz show (which runs until January 10, 2010) – and the drive through the autumn prairies and woods to Rochester doesn’t stink, either.

(As someone who works with words and not images or things, I must include an aside: both David’s and Kelly’s artists statements and other texts were perfectly lucid, engaging, and interesting. I’ve “read” – or at least passed my eyes over – plenty of horrible artists’ statements, but these were the utter opposite. Every word helped me understand the art better – even the whimsical names for Kelly’s rabbits!)

Alpaca 2009

Having had a darn good time at National Alpaca Day last year, the family headed out to the Fossum alpaca farm north of town on Sunday to visit again with the bizarre camelids (and the miniature Mediterranean donkeys, and the two adorable goats). Vicki had organized the event differently this year, making it quite a bit easier for the girls to get up close to the alpacas, which made the girls (seen here with a friend) pretty happy. The alpacas were less happy, but pretty docile and very, very soft.
Alpaca Farm!

Tractor Auction!

On my way back from a bike ride the other day, I saw something surprising and impressive: hundreds of pieces of farm equipment lined up in a field on the farm of Palmer Fossum, a well-known Northfield farmer who died in 2007The whole lot of them will be auctioned off next month, and could pull in as much as a half-million dollars, with some of the tractors being plain cool

Fossum Tractor
Fossum Tractor

and others being pretty rare:

A 1949 Ford 8N equipped with a flathead V-8, for example, originally sold for about $1,500… The tractor, one of three known originals in the world, could fetch upwards of $15,000.

The auctioneer’s website has close-up shots of many of the machines, but it’s amazing to see the whole field full of tractors, implements, combines, trucks, parts, and god knows what else… (Click here and here for the fuller-size images.)

Tractor Auction

Tractor Auction

Valley Grove Ride

Though a morning outing with the girls on their bikes went quite badly, with innumerable stops and even more fussing about the act of physical exertion, I decided to risk the pay obeisance to the cycling gods by venturing to the locally-famous hills on Valley Grove Road, southeast of town. I found a nice little route that was about two-thirds gravel roads (my favorite surface) and one-third paved roads. The the toughest climbs (none longer than a mile) were on pavement, and just before I reached them, I had good look at the Valley Grove churches, two century-old Norwegian churches that overlook a swath of beautiful prairie). It was a fun hour’s ride, and wonderfully scenic, too.

September 26 Ride

(The road in the right background is the road from which I took the second photo.)

September 26 Ride

The red barn is visible from at least a couple miles away.