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Friday, July 28, 2006


Picture from "Physics Around Us"

I wear the same blue flip flops to the beach every time. They are perpetually sandy. This is something that would have agitated me when we first moved to El Segundo.

Coming from a sandless state, I would have been happy to enjoy the sand and the waves at the beach, but then when it was time to go home, I would want to be clean. I would engage in a hopeless dance, trying to wash the sand from my body in the ocean, but then avoid flipping it up on my self as I walked back to the parking lot. This is an impossible task. There is no leaving the sand behind when you go to the beach.

First of all, the salt water makes you sticky. Secondly, the sand sticks to you no matter how dry you are. When you walk, it doesn't just fall off. Even when you wipe yourself down, there are still patches that cling to your calves, hands, and heels.

After a couple of summers at the beach, I have begun to make peace with the sand. There is no better feeling then swimming in the ocean, running back to your towel, and feeling the sand cover you from head to toe.

You pick up your towel, which has managed to have sand kicked on it from running children, or from your own carelessness. You towel off and feel the small crystals course over your skin. Then, you walk home, carrying clumps of the stuff on your feet. It flips up behind you, gets stuck in your shorts, and plasters your legs. The further you walk the more the sand works between the friction of your feet and your flip flops, leaving your heels dry and smooth. Eventually, the sand turns to dust between your toes.

At home you peel off your bathing suit to find streaks of sand plastered to your skin in henna-like patterns. When you step into the shower, sand shakes off onto the bathroom floor. Under the water, it runs down your legs and forms a gritty pool at your feet.

Last night, Dwayne and I took a quiet walk down to the beach. I felt the sand grinding between my toes and a sentence popped inot my head: if life is like a beach, I'd rather be sand-y then sand-less.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Seasoned Innocence

Photo from Urban Review

From my study in our apartment, I hear many things. Usually it's the sound of planes flying overhead, or cars rushing down Imperial Highway. I can hear the laundry turning in the machines, or the ice cream truck blasting down the block.

During the World Cup, when Mexico scored against Arengtina in the first few minutes, I heard roars and yelps from across our complex in surround sound.

But there is another kind of sound I hear - the sound of children playing. They holler, squeal, and screech up and down the alley. They have found their playground in the narrow spaces between our buildings. I hear them kicking the gravel, dropping sticks, and clanking toys.

I have learned to move their voices into a foggy background while I'm working, but this morning, as I sat blinking at my computer screen, one boy's voice rose from the blur and cut through my concentration.

"Are you going to smoke when we grow up?"

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Once there was a girl who complained about all of her writing rejections. This morning, that girl woke up to find her very first writing acceptance. It sat waiting in her inbox like a gift from the electronic tooth fairy.

Woohoo! What a joyous feeling!

Her piece "Broken Bodies: A Collection of People," will be published in the God section of She does not know yet when exactly this will happen. But for now you can go to Relevant and check out the online magazine!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Death of The Conclusion

I have a bone to pick with movie-makers. Somehow, in the last 10 years, it's become vogue to lob off the conclusions to your movies. It's not uncommon to find whole character threads unresolved.

For example, in "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" we follow the breakdown of Mike Norton, whose own wife describes as "beyond redemption." But by the climax, Norton is kneeling, crying, and begging for forgiveness.

Norton's conclusion is delivered in one line of dialogue. "Are you going to be okay?" This is fine. I can see by this question that Norton has learned to care about other people. BUT we're never allowed to see what happens to the other characters that have been introduced. What about his wife, or the woman at the diner, or the sheriff? These characters are cut loose without a conclusion of their own.

Take the movie "Les Miserables" for example. They do the same thing. The climax happens when Javier throws himself into the river and Valjean is set free. Valjean's conclusion is simply an exultant smile on his face. But we never see what happens to his daughter, or her lover. We never see how the other characters in this movie are impacted by the climax. The book and the play are NOT this way. So why do movie-makers feel they can introduce supporting characters and subplots, yet never conclude them?

What I'm trying to say is that it simply isn't enough sometimes to show only the protagonist's conclusion!

The Lord of the Rings is a good example of a fully developed conclusion. How would you have felt if the movie ended with Frodo and Sam on the rocks at Mount Doom and the eagles carrying them away? What if the credits rolled just at that point? That would be enough of a conclusion, right? I mean you can intuit from there that they go home, they get better and they reunite with their friends, right?

But the movie would be so much less fulfilling if we hadn't seen what happened ot Aragorn, or Sam, or the Elves. Now that, my friends, is a conclusion. It allows the story to unwind. If movie-makers develop characters that win the hearts of the viewers, then take some time to wrap things up!

And that is my conclusion.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The "R" Word

Writers collect rejections.

When I was in school, my fellow students talked about it like a hobby, like some kind of sport. Who can get the most before giving up? Who can suffer the longest for that single moment of glory wrapped in serif font? "Decorate your rejection boxes!" Kent said at one of our residencies. We laughed. "I'm serious. Make an altar for it!" he retorted with one eyebrow up.

When writer's talk about their rejections, they lower their voices, and sort of grin. Not a cocky grin, not an "I've-got-a-secret-grin," but a quiet grin, a world-weary grin, a grin that says "I still haven't quit."

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Trees, trees, trees

We went to the Los Angeles Arboretum today. Dwayne walked around the trees like a housewife at a clearance rack. The way he kept trailing off the path every ten paces, magnetically drawn by some variety of oak reminded me of the way a woman drifts out of the aisles every three steps, magnetically drawn by a pair of shorts on sale.

There was sweltering heat. The kind that makes your limbs feel ten pounds heavier and turns your face beat red, but this didn't stop my husband from scurrying off the path to explore between the trees, taking pictures of name plates, leaves, and bark. We'd walk through Australia or Africa, and suddenly Dwayne would scamper up to a tree and call, "Christin, bring the list!"

My husband is studying for the Arborist Certification test. In order to pass the test he has to know the common and Latin names of 138 trees, as well as recognize them by sight. This is why we were at the arboretum today.

While my husband collected pictures of trees for his flash cards, I learned a thing or two myself. For example, did you know that there is a variety of Eucalyptus that smells like lemon? It's called the Eucalyptus citriodora or the "lemon scented gum," and it actually does smell like lemon. I sat on a bench nearby, trying to escape the heat and gently the scent of sweet lemon caught me off guard.

Did you know there is another variety of Eucalyptus that smells like mint? It's true! When you crush it's leaves the smell of fresh mint tickles the back of your throat. And to make things even more interesting the common name for this tree is not "peppermint eucalyptus" as you might expect but "peppermint willow."

And did you know that not all trees are green and brown? There is a variety of cedar called Cedrus atlantica or "blue atlas," and it is, in fact, blue!

As I walked through the arboretum, chasing shadows in order to stay out of the sun, I couldn't help but think of the authors who have anthropomorphized trees - Tolkein and Lewis among them. It is easy to understand why. These strange, magical plants are as varied as the humans that populate this planet. They have bodies, arms, and distinct characteristics that are easy to turn into personalities.

We take trees for granted everyday. We step over their massive roots that break up our pavement, carve our names into their bark, and cut off their tops so they don't grow into our roofs and power lines. But they add so much to our lives. They cool us with their shade, increase the value of our property, and lightly scent out neighborhoods with their perfume.

As I stood in the shadow of a silky oak, I couldn't help but feel a spark of reverence. These quiet giants out strip us in size and out live us by hundreds of years. What lovely things these trees! Somehow, standing among them made me feel as though I were standing among guardians.