Friday, September 20, 2013

What do you know about "stuff"?

     One thing's for sure in Bozeman, people embrace sustainability. That's a big word for not adding or taking from the earth, just borrowing what's replaceable. Or another way to describe it is nurturing plants because they give us oxygen, or living off the grid, or solar energy panels to heat water.  So often lately I see more and more projects being tested out. People drive around in a corn oil powered bus and d eliver vegetables from their garden. Or bike a load of compost somewhere. Even this week, I had to giggle when suddenly a guy dropped out of a tree by the road with an armload of apples. I even see the students at school picking crab apples. 
     So, what motivates them? What would make you climb a tree to get a apple by the road you are biking on rather than drive your car to the store, put one in a plastic bag, and have that bag put into a shopping bag for you to take back to your car?? It's movies like this one. I've been wanting to share it for awhile. In October there will be another one called The Story of Solutions.  It's such a relief to know we can think about solutions and not just the problem.

Will you think of this video next time you are shopping?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

BritLit - Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

 Although not British, this one is still part of our BritLit trip. For me - this one caused a reading revolution! Revolution is actually written by an American author about the French Revolution - get ready for fireworks!
     Jennifer Donnelly has captured the essence of the struggles of the "citizen" of the French Revolution and intertwined it with a modern angsty-teenage musical prodigy from Brooklyn to the point that two characters become one soul. Andi and Alex (Alexandrine), two strong-willed teenage girls whose hearts ache for a young child whose lives they wish to save meet through Alex's 200 year-old journal. Andi becomes obsessed with Alex's personal account of the revolution and how it affected the innocent. Both Andi and Alex find that they must complete a monumental task to mark the importance of just one life.

     The thing about reading Revolution is that Jennifer Donnelly makes you feel like you are there. You don't just read the scenes. You smell the stinking city of Paris - devoid of all sanitation and personal hygiene, you feel the hunger that the citizens endured and the fear, pain and anger they endured trying to bring "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" to France. Through Andi, you journey through Alex's journal and relate to her quest to let little Louis-Charles know she still cares, that he is not forgotten.  
     Revolution is not just about the past, but about the present revolution going on inside Andi and Alex. Both girls are struggling to know their inner-selves. What do they stand for? What are their lives really about? Andi continually struggles with finding her self-worth and teeters on the brink of suicide. Several times I felt genuine fear for Andi. Would she do it? Would she take that "one step" and give herself the punishment she thinks she deserves? And Alex - she's so mixed up trying to do what everyone demands of her, will she find the strength to do what she needs to? Will she be true to her own heart - even if she's killed for it?

No other book has gripped my heart like this one. Sure, books have made me emotional - why else would I read them? But this one, these characters, have grabbed my heart. I claim Andi and Alex for my own - my literary sisters and BFF's. I want to ride mopeds in Paris with Andi and watch Alex perform at the Palais-Royale at night when she's only performing for herself, without an audience. I want to be there for them when they reach rock-bottom and tell them to hang on just one more day. When we asked Jennifer on Skype which character was her favorite, she said it was like being asked which one of her children she loved more. I agree, they cannot be weighed against each other -without Alex, there wouldn't be an Andi and without Andi, we wouldn't know what Alex wanted us to know!

Revolutionary Paintings-J.David
The beautiful streets of Par-ee!

 The triple-bonus of Revolution is that you are taken all over Paris - up, under, across in both centuries. If you want to know what it's like there, this one will take you there. I stood in all the same places as Alex and Andi, visited the Eiffel Tower, stood at the door to the catacombs, watched a horse-drawn carriage as I ate at an outdoor cafe, ate baguettes with meat and cheese, rode the Metro with crowds of people and pick-pockets, climbed the steps to Sacre Coeur, and walked behind the chapel to watched the artists paint in Montmatre.
The Catacombes
Walked through the gates of Versailles
Sacre Coer

225+ steps
The sunset at the Sacre Coure

     A first for me, I read this book in three formats - started with the digital download, but it expired, so I switched to the audio version which was killer! Alex and Andi were read by two different readers and Alex was read with a strong French accent! Then I re-read it in print. So protective of how I use my limited, precious reading time, until this one, I've never re-read a book in the same season. 

Rather than a 5-star rating, I give Revolution 
This one's for the Green Man!


Friday, September 6, 2013

Brit-Lit: Out to the coast of France

He took all eight of his kids here and was so engrossed
in painting before the light faded, he was knocked
over by a wave and lost his art for the day!

 There's more to France.....

      Not to say that Paris is lacking, but there's even more to France than the city. After getting a taste for interacting with the people in remote areas like Vernon and Giverny, we were  excited to check out the coast. We visited Etretat where Monet painted The Manneporte 

Monet's manneporte
    We dove into some great children's books Monet Paints a Day and Linnea in Monet's Garden. One thing about children's books is they do a good job of explaining the obvious that, in our typical rush to snap that picture, may to take the time to think about.


 Mont. St. Michel

         .....   And Mont. St Michel - the monastery on the beach.This place is so huge, you have to look at the tiny dot of black at the bottom to compare it to people. It was cold and windy there. I don't know how the monks live there with no real heat.  This landmark dates back so far in France's history that it's on the Bayeaux Tapestry showing William the Duke of Normandy defeating King Harold.   While we were there, they were building the boardwalks for the Tour de France that was just about to start.

 Of course there's always a gift shop and the bottom of the island is a town wrapping around the monastery. Crepes and trinkets everywhere!  

     In relation to this place, we read A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux about a refugee suffering from civil war in the Republic of Georgia. His guardian always told him that his real mother lived at Mont. St. Michel. It just added to the mystic feeling of refuge - especially in the garden at the top of the monastery.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Paris at last!!
     Paris!! It was even more amazing than I expected it to be. The lifestyle is more relaxed - even the landscaping runs wild without borders. On the first day, we had a bus tour and saw all the standards - The Arc du Triumph (whoa - no traffic laws there!), Notre Dame, and of course the Eiffel Tower. It is HUGE! In this picture, I am standing on a raised marble platform about a city block away. 
     We also saw things from high up like above-ground graveyards  and crossed the tunnel where sadly, Princess Diana's accident happened. My favorite things in the city were the street side vendors selling used books out of these little huts. Oh I wanted to buy some alright, but I can't read in French! I already had way too many books in my backpack by that point, too.
Most people know this one...
 My favorite museum was the Musee d'Orsay - all the works from the Impressionist Era are in there. You walk into a room and BOOM! There it is jumping off the wall - Van Gough's Starry Night. Not the Starry Night on all the laptop covers you see, but another version of it. All by itself. Worthy of an entire wall.
The other Starry Night
(the real one, not my postcard!)
      This piece is hypnotic. The bright yellows contrasting with the black and blues and then those stars....You can see the reflection of light off the thick paint strokes. This one proved the case that seeing a painting in person is a much richer experience than looking at a digital copy. Since no pictures were allowed, I painted my own rough image on a postcard - it made me look more closely at the original and how he makes your eye go around the entire painting.

Another dream realized - biking in France
Next, out to the country. We rode a train out to Vernon for a biking tour to Monet's garden in Giverny. The countryside is so beautiful, it reminds me of Napa Valley in California.
meat, cheese, cider
This is how you have lunch in the country. You go to the bakery, the meat shop, and the cheese shop and spread it all out at the park and relax for an hour or so.... No 30 min lunch-breaks!

     This was an incredible experience - painting Monet's garden. He built this garden just so he could paint it and obsessed over the light and water lillies. Over and over he painted it. You can see his final product at Musee de l'Orangerie and take in a larger than life 360 panorama of the lillies.
      Instead of taking pictures the whole time, I used water colors. It was so funny, here I was using Crayola water paints and people were taking my picture like I was some real artist or something! It happened a couple times - people see what they want to see.....I see my work as globs and splotches, but to me, it flips that switch in my mind reminding me of what it really was like to look closely at each plant and arrangement of trees.....
I'd say at least my kindergarten teacher would appreciate it!
Here's just a sample of the goes on and on!

Back to the train....

Have you ever tried putting down your camera and sketching or painting???