30 October 2009

Frightful Friday

In honor of Halloween, here's a pic of your fearful hostess, attempting to face her mortal fear of tarantulas at the Natural History Museum's Spider Pavilion.

I had hoped to actually handle one of these bad boys - in my hands - but my arachnaphobia won out.

Hope your Halloween tomorrow brings more treats than tricks.

23 October 2009

Introducing: Photo Finish Friday

Starting today, I'll be digging through the Sybarite photo archives each week to bring you a fun photo on Friday. Because doesn't everyone need a little bit of visual joy to celebrate the end of the week?

Here's the first installment.

Orange Bug and tree
Portland, November 2007

(I admit, I am cheating by giving you two photos today. But I'll justify it by saying my photography skills were not so hot then, so you sort of need two images to accomplish what I would now be able to say with just one.)

I've been searching for any faint hint of impending fall lately. I did notice a few Liquid Amber trees in my neighborhood starting to turn to a golden syrupy color. But apart from that, the sun beats down on us just like it did in July, August, and September. So desperate am I for a change of climate that the entire Sybarite clan will travel northwards for a few weeks. Stay tuned for updates.

21 October 2009

AND..... we're back.

After two weeks of dead air, I have returned.

Last week was not fun. I got a cold (Funny!) Niamh cuaght it from me (Not Funny!) Meanwhile, Mr. Sybarite had a full week of work, which meant this full-time caretaker missed astonishing amounts of sleep due to her little one waking every two hours from a blocked nose. (Really not funny!)

Typical, garden-variety baby-raising stuff, really. Nothing special. Millions of moms and dads do it everyday, are doing it as we speak, in fact (courage, all of you!! I feel your pain.)But until you've experienced it, you can't quite understand the tiredness. I spent the two years I worked at a major publishing venture in a state of extreme sleep deprivation, where I woke up every morning with the very first thought "I SWEAR to you, poor beleagured body, I will nap today during lunch AND go to bed FIRST THING when I get home". That kind of tired. But that had nothing on this.

In short, I started each day feeling like a 16-wheeler swerved off Interstate 5, onto our bed, where it proceeded to do a three point turn on my sickly, prone body.

On a good day of momming, its hard enough to entertain the baby, keep the house from being condemned, feed one's self (once, maybe twice) and then throw a blog up onto the interweb. But when you don't feel good? You go from swimming upstream to a very stremuous dead man's float.

All of which is the longest way ever to say: Yikes! So sorry for my absence. Thanks for tuning in again. Now go and wash your hands. There's nasty viruses? virii? going around.

03 October 2009

(Wo)Man versus Nature

According to a recent study, exposure to nature actually makes us better people. (Which could serve as reason number 342 to move to Seattle, a cosmopolitan city offering all the urban comforts I've come to consider crucial, but ringed with majestic mountains and glittering water on nearly all sides: I'll be a better person for living there!)

The study posits that thinking about things wrought by humans makes us hungrier for self-betterment, while thinking about things wrought by Nature makes us community- and relationship-minded, more focused on how to better society.

Makes sense. Is it any wonder that when we're forced to contemplate human-made structures, we tend to value fame and wealth? Probably as a means to either dominate or escape such structures. Pass a skyscraper and thoughts meander to how much you'd have to earn to have a corner office. Stare at a dump of an inadvertently Brutalist apartment block (tell me, at what point did the world's developers feel ok adopting a Modus Operendi of "As Cheap and as Ugly as Possible?) long enough and you either want to tear it down or have the funds to move to the fancy side of town/penthouse apartment/ocean view rooms.

Maybe this explains why my mom gets so stressed out every time she leaves her small Midwestern hometown to visit us in The Big City. Instead of contemplating how much rain her neighbors will need for the corn to grow tall this summer,

she's left thinking about concrete and steel and the millions of cars clogging the roads with their faceless drivers trudging off to boring jobs kept for the sole purpose of paying the bills that allow them to live in their massive McMansions. Which is pretty alienating when you stop to think about it.

No wonder she's never in a huge hurry to get here.

Maybe nature ignites what Freud called the "oceanic" feeling, that feeling of being a tiny speck in an immense universe. When we're small and at the mercy of the weather and the waves and the winds and all those other forces we can't control, we appreciate the help of other people. Instead of wishing they'd just collect their trash already and disappear.

Now I better understand what my father means when he describes a landscape as "decadent". I always associated this word solely with self-indulgence, but the word's other definition - Being in a state of decline or decay - tells another story. When the elements (heat, humidity, cold, etc.) are left unchecked, nature takes over. You can fight the good fight with the lawnmower and the sealant and the like, but the moment you turn your back on the battle, it wins. Paint chips and fades. Rust corrodes metal. Weeds choke open spaces. What we wrought begins to be rubbed out and our creations soften, blur, become Impressionistic.

Which is sometimes more beautiful, if you ask me.