Wednesday, February 28, 2007

my first blizzard: underwhelming. my first iron & wine concert: beyond all expectations.

well, the blizzard of 2007 certainly fell short of what i was anticipating. while we got the second biggest snowstorm total on record, it was much less devastating that i expected. growing up in Kansas, i always heard tales of horrible blizzards, stories like "i couldn't see my hand in front of my face!" and "we had to tie a string from our house to the barn (or garage) so we wouldn't get lost!" this was nothing like that, it was just a heavy snow. maybe i slept through the white-out conditions. maybe i wasn't awakened by the howling winds. but by mid-day the main roads were almost completely melted and the snow was only rat-terrier deep (i measure snow by the size of dog that gets hidden in the sidewalk shovel paths). i am disappointed.

but my life isn't full of dissatisfaction. a few weeks ago, tony and i journeyed to windy milwaukee on a frigid thursday night to see a rare solo show by sam bean of iron & wine at the pabst theater. if you haven't heard iron & wine, i can't recommend them (him) enough. (although you may not know you have; their cover of the postal service's "such great heights" was recently on an M&Ms commercial.) all the music and lyrics are written by one guy, sam beam, but he records and tours with a backing band. his songs are quiet and powerful, which capture you with their breathy beauty and deceptive simplicity.

i had never been to the pabst theater, but now i'm completely hooked. well worth the two hour drive, it's an old playhouse with amazing acoustics; tony and i were in the third row from the top in the second balcony, but it felt like we were on the orchestra floor. it was a very intimate performance - just sam, his acoustic guitar and a glass of wine. the crowd was amazing as well; they were almost silent throughout every song. here are a few partial songs that some folks recorded, and you'll notice how quiet the crowd was.

sodom south georgia
upward over the mountain
trapeze singer

i wish i could tell you how wonderful, how moving this show was. i think that his music almost more beautiful live and solo than it is recorded, which i've often craved.

i'll leave you with this quote that has stuck in my mind since i saw the show, from a new song called 'pagan angel and a stolen car'...

"and the pagan angel said, my love is meant to break every bended knee"

Saturday, February 24, 2007


i'm particularly excited tonight... it's my first blizzard warning. we got 7" of new snow last night, and we're supposed to get another 8" to 12" tonight (along with crazy heavy winds) and another 4" to 6" of snow on sunday. apparently madison hasn't gotten this much snow in one snowfall since 1990, and they're all really excited about it. me, i'm not so sure. in every other city that i've lived in, 25" of snow would be crippling, so you'll have to excuse my apprehension.

and, as an added bonus, it's currently thundersnowing. this is my third thundersnow since i've lived here. it's really the strangest thing... everything is all quiet from the snow, and there's a flash of light and a rumble of thunder. then it's all quiet again, leaving you to wonder if you imagined it. amazing. i used to think that thundersnow was one of those movie inventions that never really happened, but now i know better. and i'm not alone in my amazement; folks here say that thundersnows have only started happening in the past few years.

as i look out my living room window one last time before bed, the wind has slowed and the snow is falling in a fine mist. but there's at least an inch of new snow on the patio, so i know that the lull is only temporary. i wonder what the world will look like when i wake up tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

2006 redux

many are you are probably wondering "what's been going on with jen"? and i'm here to answer that, in convenient bullet form. (can i just profess how much i love bullets? so much better than making a list with numbers or letters.)

(warning - this is my first attempt at uploading images, and they're quite small. i'll see what i can do about that.)

+ i'm still working at the U.S. Geological Survey as a geographer. i got a promotion a few months ago, and i've now worked there long enough to earn 6 hours of vacation every pay period, which isn't bad. the people are great, but i'm bored stiff.

+ the last 5 months of 2006 were consumed by a huge report (the MMSD report) which i got roped into helping with when the lead author transferred to another district. i spent nights, holidays and weekends working on it, along with my good friend michelle. it literally consumed our lives. the small good news is that the report finally got submitted for approval a week ago, and i'll get my first official scientific authoring credit (i'll be third author when all is said and done). but the bad news is that i gave up so much of my life (again). it was worse that when i was working at Falk in St. Louis, and those of you who knew me then know what that means.

+ i'm still planning on going, and i've somewhat narrowed my focus.

+ because i didn't start my research early enough, i didn't realize that most programs would have december and january deadlines. by the time i realized this, MMSD was in full force, and i had to delay another year. see my upcoming post on 2007 plans for more information about this.

+ in general, sharing my life (and my living space) with tony has been incredibly easy. but the past few months have been difficult, since i had so little free time during MMSD's reign of terror. when i was home, my mind was distracted and exhausted, and most of the time we just shared the same space but didn't really connect. i'll also admit that my general dissatisfaction with my life as of late has made me grumpy and a bit irritable, but i'm hopeful that as i reclaim myself, i'll calm down and be easier to live with and to love.

+ we celebrated our two year anniversary in august by visiting the small northern Wisconsin town of Bayfield and the Apostle Islands, including an amazing dinner at the Old Rittenhouse Inn. Bayfield is a quaint little town nestled into the bluffs overlooking Lake Superior:

+ as many of you know, i celebrated my 30th birthday with a long, relaxing vacation in the Outer Banks last march. while there wasn't a lot open there, it was great to do nothing but read by the sea, eat great seafood and spend time with good friends.

we rented a house, and here's a view from our back porch:

we took an afternoon to visit Corolla, where houses come before paved roads (you HAVE to have 4-wheel drive) and wild horses eat your vegetation. the beach serves as the highway for jeeps, trucks and construction vehicles. (i didn't take a picture of it, but at the entrance to the beach highway a tow truck had gotten stuck in the sand.)

+ i also made a pilgrimage to St. Louis in late September to see the new Busch Stadium and cheer the Cardinals on into their championship postseason. i also shared the joy of the City Museum with tony, michelle and tim; if you're ever in St. Louis, it is really not to be missed (where else can you climb in an airplane and a castle, slide down an 5-story airshaft, crawl through dinosaur-infested caves, see the world's largest pair of underwear, pet a stingray and have a beer?).

i'm always surprised at how much i miss and love St. Louis; if it had a coastline, i would make it my home in a heartbeat.

+ i reawakened my love of photography (especially traditional film photography) during my trip to the Outer Banks and with the gift of a Holga camera from my used-to-be boss Michelle Greenwood (not to be confused with my good friend Michelle Lutz, whom some of you have met). i took a five-session darkroom class at the university, and i hope to dedicate more time to printing photos again this spring. there's just something about the quality of the blacks and grays, and controlling the entire physical process is so much more rewarding than using photoshop.

+ i've also started reading books again and i've joined a very informal book club. while their literary interests are pretty different than mine, it's nice to spend time with a group of interesting women.

+ tony and i are still very into indie music, and madison is a frequent tour stop for a lot of great bands. we'll occasionally travel to milwaukee and chicago to see a show, but it has to be really worth it.


i'm sure i've forgotten some things, and if there's anything of note i'll put it in a new post. all in all, 2006 was a really a slow progression towards upcoming change, so look for my next post involving my hopes and expectations for 2007.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

a hand-scrawled dedication

as i enter the world of blogging, i realize that i am not a writer. the same thought that kept me away from painting or sculpture in art school now haunts me again: who will want to see what i have to say?

but i'm reminded of the reason that inspired me to begin this blog: those who love me will want to know.

which leads me to dedicate this blog to a long-lost friend, erin. while she doesn't know it, i've been reading her blog ever since i left D.C., and it's allowed me to be a part of her life from very far away. what i didn't realize until recently is that it's been a one-sided relationship. i've smiled and laughed and been touched by her words, i've fed our friendship in my head and heart, but i've never given her anything of myself. i don't think that i've called or emailed her in the past few years, yet i feel like i still know her. but she no longer knows me.

and here i make a confession. i'm horrible with keeping up with people, which is tragic since most of my favourite people live far away from me. every january, i make a resolution to call one of these friends every weekend, and around february it changes to one every month, and i end up never calling anyone. such a disappointment. and i've realized that blogs are making it easier for me to keep silent; i can read about my friends' lives (because that's the really interesting part) without having to talk about myself. what could be better?

so, in an effort to share my life with those i love and miss, i'm going to try to blog. i'll apologize in advance for boring posts, for all my spelling errors, for the initially ugly design (the graphic designer in me is cringing right now), and of course, for the completely self-centric posts. but that IS the point, right? my thoughts, my struggles, my life.

finally, dearest erin, please know that all this time you've had another friend out here in the ether, supporting you during your struggles, cheering your successes and smiling at all the other randomness you've been posting. i'm sorry that i've been absent from your life even though you were a daily part of mine. maybe you'll let me be a part of yours again.

maybe you all will.