Notes from C: February

I'm blogging from Rochester, Minn. this morning from a cozy table in Dunn Bros Coffee. I am so glad I discovered this place because it is different from all other establishments of this chain, and quite a treat. I talked with the owner the other day, and it turns out she owns both the coffee shop and the neighboring cafe, with one kitchen located in the back of Dunn Bros. This means she offers up many of the breakfast menu items from her cafe in the coffee shop as well, such as omelets, breakfast sandwiches, and creamy oatmeal - from scratch, not what you'll typically find in a coffee shop. Add a blueberry scone? I don't mind if I do!

-As I'm sure you've noticed by now with all of my recent posts about cold weather, skijoring, and luminary making: I am a child of winter. Sure I love those sunny summer days, but I thrive in the colder months when we all turn inward, in our houses, thoughts, and actions. I noted in my little traveling notebook earlier in January how the color of the sky on my way home from work reminds me of this time of intention and introspection. As I drive across the Mendota Bridge with the city scape of both Minneapolis and St. Paul laid before me, and airplanes buzzing to their hive across the river, the sky presses down, heavy with pigment, and wraps around our corner of the universe like a blanket. In the Waldorf School, where I attended from K-8 grade, students are introduced to watercolor painting in the early grades with just one color: blue. My teacher would always demonstrate a painting before we took our turn, and I can still see his paint brush releasing a cloud of blue into his water pail, those inky tendrils exploring the water until they transformed it into an opaque blue. Gradually, as we got older, we incorporated secondary colors, like yellow and red, which yield green and purple. I don't know the guiding principles behind this practice, but I can imagine that we start with blue for many of the same reasons I love the darkening sky in winter: it has a grounding, calming nature. Although winter will always have my heart, now that it's the end of February I am starting to get ready for spring, longer days and a little less excess clothing ... just have to get a few more cross-country runs in first to last me until next year!

Cross-country skiing adventures in Rochester, Minn at Quarry Hill Nature Center.

-The Academy Awards are on tonight, and as I sit in the coffee shop this morning, I've already overheard a few conversations on the topic. Have you seen all of the best picture nominees on your list? As everyone in my book club knows, I like stories that make me think (symbolism and philosophical questions without answers are my jam). When it comes to movies, I realized recently that I especially enjoy flicks that not only make me think but also remind me of my place in the universe. After all, I like to think about the stars and could spend hours watching Planet Earth. Beasts of the Southern Wild is high up on my list for that very reason. Besides the fact that it's a poignant story set in a unique location and told completely from a child's perspective, one of the themes speaks to the fact that everything in life fits together and if we offset it, the universe will break; everything is interconnected. As Hushpuppy (the 6-year-old star of the show - she's up for an Oscar!) says, "I see that I'm a little beast of a big, big universe." If you haven't seen it, rent it now (it's available at Redbox). Life of Pi is another amazing film that gives you that "little beast in a big universe" feel, quite literally. Boy lost at sea in a lifeboat with a tiger. Need I say more? Although it is definitely not a kid's film like the PG rating suggests! Rather slow and thoughtful start and most of it will go over a kid's head, except for the scary parts. The ending will really make you think about religion, truth vs. fiction, and the purpose of stories in our lives (another topic I'm a sucker for) ... but I don't want to spoil it for anyone. Just see it and then we can talk, k?

-Meet my newest indulgence: Trader Joe's Cookie Butter. Found right next to the peanut butter, it's pure gold in a jar. And if you couldn't guess from the name, it tastes like crushed cookies. Perfect on waffles, fruit, ice cream ... of if you're in our house, your finger. Yea, our first jar didn't last too long with regular finger swipes throughout the week.

-Evan and I explored the Terra Cotta Warrior exhibit with some friends at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. If you haven't had a chance to see them, mark it on your to-do list (I think the exhibit tours the country) because looking at the ancient sculptures makes you aware of the "big picture,"and I found it calming, reassuring, yet mentally stimulating. In 210-209 BC the first Emperor of China was buried in a tomb with 7,000 hand-crafted terracotta warriors (and a couple hundred horses, chariots, etc) to ensure his protection in the afterlife. Although the sheer magnitude of this project is mindblowing (and they haven't even uncovered all of the tombs yet!), what really gets me is that every single sculpture is unique. From the detail on the clothing to the hair styles and facial expressions, every one is different. The audio tour pointed out that the artists likely found their inspiration in the faces of their neighbors and family. So in a way, these warriors are more than a fantasy army for the emperor -- they represent real people from the past and their faces tell a true story. Think about it. The fabric of all of these ancient lives are here in the present day. But of course that can be said about any piece of art. Don't all artists incorporate bits of their lives and stories inspired from those around them into their work? Ah yes, here I go again reveling in the interconnectedness of the world and the never-ending "story." Somebody stop me!

-Here's a quick little shot of my work calendar the other day.
This one made me laugh. At least Evan's discarded clothes I so often grumble about aren't of the fruit-peel variety ; )

-One more winter scene coming at ya: Smoke stacks puff clouds into the air like cotton candy as the setting sun sends streaks of pink across the sky.

Sunsets in winter are always more brilliant than during warmer months, and I'm not sure if this is a scientifically proven fact or if it's just the contrast against the stark landscape that makes the sky appear that much more intense. But I like the effect, especially when you throw a smokestack into the mix, because it's "breath" has a more prominent presence in the winter and catches the light from the sunset. Hence my mental image of cotton candy clouds. I like to pretend there are dragons underground who are employed as cotton-candy makers (or cloud makers?) ... or perhaps they are chained down there against their will, forced to pollute the earth until some young hero sets out on a quest to set them free. But I digress ... (I have a fondness for children's literature, if you can't tell)

Now that the Academy Awards are now halfway over (finished this post after returning home tonight) I better hurry up and hit Publish before they announce best picture!

Here's the story behind Notes from C here.

Read past Notes from C here.

Cookie Butter photo from here. Terracotta Warriors photo from here. All other's are my own.

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