DP: Being a Grown-up and Eating a Bubble

I’m getting a little more familiar with this WordPress thing, so I thought I’d give today’s Daily Prompt a shot. It’s a topic I’ve thought about recently.

When was the first time you really felt like a grown-up (if ever)?

The response below is a sketch (a memoir-style snippet from my past) I wrote maybe two years ago about the exact moment I realized that being a child was not all it was cracked up to be.

Only a Child: Bursting the Bubble

The street outside my house was like a runway, a shortish, asphalt stretch of about 80 yards that reached up and dead-ended at a little copse of trees. My seven-year-old self was outside with my bubble wand and purple bottle, dancing in the solitude of the street, absorbing the sunlight that sent everyone else indoors but that I seemed to photosynthesize into smiles and pumping arms.

A bubble.

A bubble. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I pulled the wand from the bottle, dripping refracted light, a sheet like a prism’s blink stretched across it eye.

Sometimes I would purse my lips and blow the bubbles myself, but more often I would let the wind do it for me, arm outstretched, whirling and watching bubbles stream from the wand, bursting into existence in sparks and glints of color as the wind gave them life.

I stood and watched, the blood rushing in my ears and the world swirling around me. Magical! Floating spheres of light and reflections. The elixir of life, holding precious a tiny breath of air.

I had the sudden urge to taste it. I ran down the street craning my neck, stretching my tongue to reach it, but the wind tasted it before I did, blowing it out of my reach and eating it up.

So I tried again. And again. I ran up the street, down the sidewalk, across neighbors’ yards, into bushes, everywhere the bubbles went, trying to catch one with my lips.

And all the time I had the little jar of bubble solution clenched in one cautious hand. It never crossed my mind to taste from the source, from the bottle or the wand; those weren’t magical. There’s nothing ethereally enticing about a sticky, purple plastic bottle or a yellow, dripping wand. The magic was in the air around me, in the bubbles that danced circling in the wind.

The magic was there right up until a bubble danced to my lips and burst on my tongue. In the split second between contact and taste I was shocked at having achieved my quest.

The shock was short-lived, however, as the filmy, acrid feel of the bubble filled my mouth. It didn’t taste like I thought magic ought to. I wiped my tongue on my shirt, spat into the grass, glared at the purple bottle in my fist, ran inside to repeatedly flush my mouth out with water.

I felt foolish, like a child. Only a child would run around for long hours in the burning sun, chasing impossible, disgusting bubbles. Only a child wouldn’t realize that the bubbles in the air were no different than the bubbles-to-be in the bottle. Only a child.

Final Commentary: I think that the first time you feel stupid, the first time you feel foolish, you’ve crossed the line into adulthood. You live very near the line for many years after that of course and are always crossing back and forth, but the first time I crossed that line and became, for an hour, a grown-up? That day of the bubble in Virginia.

Museums: Why Looking at Really Old Things Makes Me So Darn Tired!

Does anyone reading this post truly love visiting museums? Art museums especially? Because we should have lunch together and go to a museum and chat. Because in Moscow, I spent a glorius 4 hours at the touted Tretyakov State Gallery, and in Moscow, I spent an exhausting 9 hours over 2 days in the State Hermitage. And I can’t even begin to organize my thoughts on the matter of museums and preserving art (but here goes anyway). Whenever I go to a museum, I’m blown away by the artistry and the oldness and the history all around me. So really, if anyone here fancies a trip to a local museum to broach the subject, I would absolutely love to toss it around for a few hours (or however long you can stand my infuriating philosophical questioning (if it makes it any better, I really do care about whatever answers you come up with)).

Here are the thoughts I’ve scared up and somewhat organized thus far: Museums are weird. They really are if you think about it. I mean, sure, it’s cool to look at a piece of pottery that is several hundred or even thousand years old…but really, it’s just a piece of pottery. What would the people who used that pot say? “Man?! Why are you hanging around looking at our scraps? Look at everything you’ve got now. Who cares about this pot we used to get water?” I’ve always thought that they would feel misrepresented, too. “You know, I’m glad you’re trying to remember us dead folks from a thousand years ago, but is looking at our chipped dishware really the best way to think of us? Does that really represent us at all? What are you learning here?” But perhaps they’d be glad that we’re trying to connect with them. Maybe they’d be proud of our wisdom.

Sometimes I wonder what things from our age would end up in a museum. Suppose that the apocalypse happens and every human dies, and a benevolent, curious alien race comes to our planet to record some things five hundred years later. What would they take for their museums? Would we actually find them important artifacts or would they just be random objects? And what if we, as a human race, keep making museums for another million years? What will happen when there are more museums than houses and so much of the past that there’s no room for the present anymore?!? Now. I realize that, logically, that will never happen. But just imagine for a moment that it could. I mean, couldn’t our dedication to the past hinder the future?

In Moscow, I saw a piece of paper signed by Napoleon. Yes, THE Napoleon. His signature was like my own actually, in that it started with an N and was entirely too perfectly legible to be very cool at all. But while I was there I started to wonder why this is the sort of thing that I would go home and tell my friends about. “No guys, like, Napoleon actually touched a pen that touched this paper. He probably touched the actual paper, too.” What does that matter? Why is that story material? Am I somehow more cultured because of this vague connection to some legendary giant of a man (pun intended)? Was I awed by it? Did I absorb a shred of his his greatness?  Yet we hear things like this all the time. “I shook his hand.” “This is the bed he slept in.” “I got her autograph.” “I touched the hem of his robe.” Do inanimate objects somehow absorb and house the notoriety of those they touch? It would seem so, since autographs are sold nowadays for thousands of dollars. And can we leech some of that notoriety or fame or greatness from them? Or do we merely hang around these objects hoping to hear of the stories they would tell of the people they’ve met, if only they had words and memories and souls?

I think that listening is really it, why museums amuse, astound, and silence me: the immense poetry of things having souls. We like this idea of things remembering things. Being nostalgic. Being proud of their celebrity contact. Or being lonely in a museum. Being gazed upon but ultimately useless.  Being traumatized.

This is as good a time as any to show you guys a song that I was ecstatic to come across. I was thrilled that I’m not the only person who is perplexed by (or at least thinks about) museums. Regina Spektor does, too!

But if souls would tell stories of the amazing, wouldn’t the also speak of the mundane, no? Which leads me to my second main point: we love the simplicity of that soulful piece of paper with Napoleon’s signature on it. We know, just by looking at it, exactly why it’s special. What it’s defining moment was. That paper is a life whittled down to one moment of excitement, one witnessing of importance, one event that defines.

At museums, I want to ask the objects what they’ve learned. What they think of their past. What was it like? What do they think of their current lives? Is it better to let them die? Or continue bearing silent witness? An eternal life. Forever marked for their imagined history, mistaken or not. No escaping it. Stuck behind a glass case for years and decades and wars, watching faces pass by so close and yet so far, as millions imagine them as people in an effort to create a more tangible connection to the past, clinging to whatever bears witness against the erosion of time. Because we, as mortals, cherish things that defy decay, elude entropy, hoping against hope that we might one day do the same.

And all of that is why I have an art saturation point. I can museum my life away quite happily and ponderously for maybe two hours, after which I become exhausted by some deep-seated drive to witness every piece of art or pottery in the museum even if I am so full of inspiration and old thoughts that I can house no more. My mind has run itself in exhausting circles, and I give up trying to understand and attempt to merely see. Because doesn’t every artist deserve to be witnessed? Don’t the objects of art themselves? They’ve all lived stunning, full lives; shouldn’t I make it my simple role to witness?

But those are questions for another day. Hopefully my thoughts have made some of you think; they’re still bothering me because I feel like I’m missing something. Anyone have any additional thoughts or ideas?

Painting Furniture: the One Dresser to Rule Them All

So, the next victim on my rampage of craftiness was my bedroom dresser. First was this shoebox, second was a magnet board frame (that is almost but not quite done), and third was this dresser. I think it pretty much crafted me out for the rest of the summer.

We found this dresser on Craigslist a year ago. It was perfectly functional, only $20, but not very pretty to look at (especially up close).

So I decided I was going to be all crafty, paint it white, and decorate the top with all the coolest pages from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The book I used was actually James’s first Christmas present to me from when we were dating. He wrote “For Nichole: To Be Cultured” on the wrapping paper because I haven’t ever read the series, and it’s his favorite series in the world. A few pages were falling out anyway, so I decided to immortalize the book in this dresser, which is basically now a family heirloom. It turned out really awesome, if I do say so myself.

Super-Fun Process That Took Longer than it Really Should have Because I’m A Craft Rookie:

1) I took the drawers out and unscrewed the knobs from the drawers and washed everything really well. It was scarily dusty.

2) I sanded everything because that apparently makes the paint stick better. The Home Depot Lady said a 220 grit sandpaper (or finer) would be best.

3) I did one coat of oil-base primer because of the veneer varnish originally on the dresser (a sort of glossy finish…I think that’s what the Home Depot Lady called it when I brought a drawer in to the store (I’ve never done any serious painting before in my life.)) It ended up all opaque and splotchy looking:

This was the worst part of the process. I was ready to paint after priming everything, but I realized that I had no way to clean my only brush, which was covered in water-resistant, oil-based primer. And the dresser looked generally terrible and streaky, and I was worried that the finished dresser would end up looking like that too. I moped around for a bit because I didn’t have a way to get to the store to by paint primer to clean the brush, then I started mod-podging the pages onto the top (more on this in a minute). My lovely neighbor came by and asked what I was doing and if I needed help, and I asked if she wouldn’t mind terribly taking me to the store. And she did! (Well, she didn’t mind, she did take me to the store…you get it.) She drove me to Home Depot for paint thinner and then to JoAnn’s fabrics for another bottle of mod-podge. She even helped me mod-podge more pages onto the dresser in the hot sun for a while.

4) I cleaned my brush as well as I could with the paint thinner and did a coat of paint that made everything look much better. I waited the recommended two hours for the paint to dry and then did a second coat.

5) I poured some mod podge onto the top of the dresser and plastered book pages to the top of the dresser. I was sure to tear out the maps and pages with poems or cool runes or signs. I made sure nothing really cool was covered up but pretty much stuck the pages whichever way I felt like. I used a hard rubber roller over the pages to make them as flat as possible. I’m planning on really using this dresser, and I didn’t want stiff page corners getting caught on things. After papering the whole top (which took a lot longer than I thought it would–at least two hours), I covered it all with a final coating of mod-podge.

For one side of the dresser, I let the pages fall a little onto the side. I could have tried to cut the pages so they ended with the top of the dresser, but then I worried that the pages wouldn’t stay down as easily. And I’m not that precise with a rotary cutter. So I made it intentionally shabby and crooked because it will look better and last longer.

For the other side, I used a great idea that my husband had: to put pages down the side like they were falling off the dresser. I did the same uneven border as I had done on the other side, but added the two pages partway down the side, one of them folded so it would look like it was falling through the air.

6) Finally, I put three coats of a water-based varnish over the whole thing, the drawers, dresser, and papered top (two hours between coats, just like with the paint). Well, technically, my super helpful sister put one coat on, but the end result was three coats. This stuff was great and really smoothed out a lot of the unevenness of the page mod-podging. James helped me bring everything back inside and upstairs, I put the knobs back on the drawers (couldn’t find good replacement ones), and we both admired it and took a million pictures. See?

I did the whole project over two days while James was at work; it took probably 15 hours altogether. It was really sunny out too, so I got a bad sunburn on my right knee and upper calf (weird, I know). Totally worth it though. James and I love the way that it turned out.

My next project is already half done, but it’s much smaller than this. And it will probably be my last project for a long while. Crafts are never as easy in real life as they seem on Pinterest.


Bein’ All Crafty: Mod-Podging a Shoebox with a Dictionary

So, in my wonderful, summer off-time of no school and no work, I’ve decided to actually try some of the projects I’ve been drooling over on Pinterest. I started an account on Pinterest for a Digital Culture class (best homework ever!), and I’ve become slightly addicted. I thought about starting one of those “365 Days of Pinterest!” blogs to make myself do something productive, but this project has made it very clear that forcing myself to be super crafty every day would make me crazy in a week and might end with the whole of southern Utah drowning in mod-podge. So this “crafty” thing will become a third-tier hobby once school starts again. It will stay second tier right now due largely to boredom (but still behind things like reading awesome books, cleaning, writing my book/essays, and wasting hours on the internet).

But here’s my first, successful Pinterest mod-podge project. This is the shoebox that my new tennis shoes from this post came in.

I’ve been using it to store the random assortment of cords and headphones and memory cards and electronics I find around the house. (You know, maybe I should make photography a second-tier hobby as well; these pictures could use some help.) I wanted to decorate it so it didn’t look so…shoe-boxy. And lime green. So I bought a dictionary at DI and ripped it up and did this:

Now it looks all vintagy and stuff! It took waaaay longer than I thought it would (almost 2 hours to do the whole thing), but I had nothing else scheduled, so I guess it wasn’t a big deal. It’s a little more wrinkly than I wanted it, but I like how it turned out.

As you can see below, there is a beaver on it! And a bagpiper. And a bassoonist on the side. And a suit of mail and an intestine that I accidentally ripped in two but pasted both pieces on.

I rather like how it turned out.

I plan to do the same sort of thing to the top of my really old looking dresser I got on Craigslist. I’m going to use the copy of Lord of the Rings that James got me for our first Christmas together; it’s falling apart anyway. And now that I’ve practiced on this, the technique will hopefully turn out better on the important project: the one dresser to rule them all…DUH DUH DUH!! Coming soon…(relatively…)

All My Rage – Laura Marling

This post has nothing to do with Russia; it’s just an interesting song that I recently re-found in my youtube “like” list. I have no idea where I first heard of it, and it’s pretty different, but I like it. Sort of folksy. Still have no idea what it means…

Apologies in advance; just ignore the creepy dolls in the video.

(Music starts at about 0:16.)

Laura Marling – All My Rage

Tea Time in America

My electric tea kettle finally came in the mail! Look, isn’t it adorable?

It can boil 1.2 liters of water in 2-3 minutes and just generally makes me feel very sophisticated. I expect that it will get a lot of use in the near and far future.

Anyone remember that post where I claimed I was bringing back the Russian tea tradition to America? Well, I did. I said I would bring home “between 50 and 500 individual tea bags” because they’re so much cheaper in Russia (and they have really good brands there). I lost track of how many boxes I actually bought, but I have probably 400 tea bags. And I bought 6 or so types of loose leaf tea at this dear little tea shop I found in St. Petersburg. I walked in looking for Greenfield’s Rich Camomile, but they only sold loose leaf. The lady behind the counter asked me what I wanted and then started pulling out all of their herbal and fruit teas for me to smell. Absolutely divine, really. We made Russian small talk and she sold me 50 grams of the kinds that I liked and some disposable tea bags to steep the leaves in. There was a guy working behind the counter, too, but the only thing he asked me was if I was Swiss. Apparently my backpack (a hand-me-down from Kaye) had the Swiss flag on it. So I mostly talked with the girl. Oh, and the tea shop had really cute bags. Shopping/grocery bags in Russia are generally a notch above American ones, in my humble opinion. They don’t break nearly as easily, so people will keep reusing them. These ones were black with fairy-like purple flowers and swirls on the front. Wait! No, the purple ones belonged to the candy store down the street. These were just black ones with gold writing. Pretty thin for a Russian bag, too…

Anyway, I would love to find an herbal/fruit tea shop in Provo. We’ve got a hookah shop, I’m sure we’ve got a tea shop around here somewhere. Something else to look for on my runs. I really want to try and replicate this tea that I tried my last day in Nizhny. It was at an Uzbek restaurant (the kind with cushions and low tables instead of chairs). The tea was called Peaceful Day, I think. I wrote down most of the ingredients in a notebook I had with me: apple slice, mint, fennel (I actually have no idea what this one is), lemon, melissa, hibiscus, and heather (and I just had to translate this one from Russian because I didn’t know it). I don’t think I’ve tried a heather tea yet, so that might be the key. If I ever go back to Nizhny, I’m going to ask them where they get it or how they make it.

Anyone reading have any favorite herbal or fruit teas to recommend? I’m always game for trying new ones. And if anyone’s in Provo right and wants to sample my tea collection, I’m pretty free for the rest of the summer. Just call me up or leave a comment or something.

Posted in Tea

First Salon Haircut

I got my hair cut yesterday! And it was my first time getting it cut at a salon; usually my wonderful aunt just cuts it for me.

Before:

After:

I cut off a whopping 10 inches for donation and then got some shorter “face framing” layers in the front (whatever that term really means). You can barely see them (partly because the lady curled my hair afterwards for fun), but they do make me feel more fashionable. And it’s super nice to have shorter hair for the summer. Like, incredibly, really nice. Hair down to my waist was quickly becoming more of a burden than anything. And now that it’s shorter maybe I’ll feel up to curling it occasionally. Who knows?