the local perspective…

rio, carnaval 2010

with bryan’s brother erin, getting the local perspective at the sambadromo…

our samba school started parading at 4am and we were one of the last of the alas to perform…so this is at about 5:30 in the morning. the stadium seats more than 70,000 people and every single one of them was singing our samba song for nearly 2 hours. hypnotic…

& thankfully i am traveling with three professional photographers who document my every move. :)

sunday in rio…

ipanema beach, in a seaside café between the mountains, sea and sky…lunch just doesn’t get much better. tonite…the sambadromo which promises to have more feathers and glitter than i’ve ever seen in my lifetime.

did i mention it’s hot here? hot in every way imaginable…

the great blogger mashup…

For those of you just stopping by to say Hi…

Hi!

and happy birthday, my beautiful, beautiful friend Elizabeth!!

Let me fill you in on what’s going on here. I am part of The Great Blogger Mashup of 2010. A fun, crazy, romp through the interweb dreamed up and organized by an eye candy dealer by the name of Victoria…aka Sfgirlbybay.

{Details on her website here & the schedule is here. Or you can click on the “Blog It Forward” button on the right there…}

Design for Mankind started us off yesterday with a fun (& organized!) post, has passed the torch to me and…

wait. is it my turn? now? (Yes.)

Oh, ok…So, anyway, our mission? To answer the question “What inspires you?”

Easy right?

Well…yes. And no. It’s kind of a big question to answer.

As you read this I will be boarding a plane bound for Rio de Janeiro. Carnaval. My thoughts, as you can well imagine, have turned to feathers and samba and blistering heat and loads and loads of color and beauty. THIS is inspiring, but it’s 10pm, I haven’t packed. I still have work to do to feel comfortable leaving…and…I’m stalling here because, see, what inspires me…is you. And I’m nervous that it will sound lame, or like a copout. But let me explain why…I’ve prepared an essay. Would you like to hear it?

{clears throat}

“What Inspires Me”

by Michelle Smith

Women.

Cottage Industry.

Creating something from nothing.

Taking this vast endless space called the internet and making it warm and colorful. A place where you can find your tribe among the millions…and all of us are blogging and putting ourselves out there bearing our souls to countless strangers, risking, showing our tender spaces and bumbling bits…and saying “see me! find me! play with me!”…and we are being found and seen and loved.

Because this is what we do. We women. We create community. We share our heartache and our laughter. Our blogs are like smoke signals to each other reaching across the miles.

In my past life, I wrote copy for a very conscious catalog that sold cultural, fair-trade (and better than fair-trade) hand-made goods. In copy we talked a lot about the cottage industries around the world. The word “traditional” was flung about constantly. Traditional skills, traditional designs, traditional process. Much of our product was truly hand-made, hand-sewn, hand-embroidered by women. These women also made jewelry, and hand-tooled leather bags, clothing, pillowcases, bedding. They painted and knit and wove. It was gorgeous. The days we would get samples in were like Christmas, and you could imagine them packing up their wares and sprinkling some hope and blessings in the boxes. Often we were working with collectives and I imagined them sitting together chatting about the local news and gossip, babies running around, older children taking care of the younger. I knew that our orders were often a windfall for those communities, and imagined the celebration when they’d get the news.

One unsavory part of my job was to argue with our legal department about what was considered “on-mission.” An easy sell, quite honestly, but in the back of my mind I always thought about the women here in the US or “western” cultures, with etsy shops and online stores, who were doing the exact same thing. Using their considerable skills and talents to support their families. But we couldn’t support them too by picking their product for the catalog because they/you were just not considered cultural enough in the eyes of our legal department. Sorry, but you’re just not traditional enough.

But what I saw then and see even more clearly now, is that you are very traditional combined with a tremendous amount of innovation and entrepreneurship. Women making money sewing isn’t a new idea…but taking the need to survive financially, doing it in a way that is lovely, personal, and meaningful while turning the internet and our natural feminine connectivity into the vehicle – that part is just pure brilliance to me.

I certainly appreciate that the challenges we face as western women are unimaginably different from those faced by a collective in India or hill tribes in Vietnam. The challenge may not be as pure as clean drinking water or having enough food, but the psychological weight of being whole and present and fulfilled in a culture that says you need to be all things is its own unique burden. We are blessed in many ways, but our lives are complicated.

Because of that, what inspires me in particular now are the Mama artists, Mama writers, Mama designers. I so admire how you’ve figured out a way to stay home with your babies, nursing and playing and being present and still somehow finding the time to paint or write or photograph or design or sew creations of your own heart and soul. Powerful, beautiful work that feels clear and true…

I admire how you try to tease out the balance of being mom, partner, individual and creative life force. I admire that you do it with grace and pride and humility. I am thankful that you stumble and tell us about it. I am thankful that you share the journey and that your voices light a path for us to follow. I hope that when my day comes to be a mom, and do what needs to be done to help support my family that I’ll do it with the same integrity and with the same eye on sharing the beauty of the world.

One other thing…I believe, no, I feel and I know that right now women are being called upon in a big way, a big cosmic, woo-woo kind of way. The world needs our creativity and with every brush stroke and key stroke, every knit and purl, we are adding to the strength of that calling. This is our time. And the incredible bloom of artists and recovering artists is a testament to that. Everywhere I turn people are saying…”I am feeling this upwelling, I feel like I need to create something, but I don’t know what it is.” This is the calling…

Listen to it.

The world needs us…

~~~~~~~~

& for tomorrow Feb 12 – go see all that is earthy and magical at Bliss in a Teacup

for the love of a cat…

simone…

she usually prefers the high terrain of the perimeter of the living room. but last night she actually snuggled with me here on the sofa (allergies be damned). i guess she liked it enough to try again this morning…

i am surprised by how honored i am that simone has chosen to spend part of her time with us (we share her with my father-in-love, david, who lives two doors down). a wild thing, she’s a stray that wandered up on the porch one day this july and decided we were the right fit. she transitions between our homes easily…following me like a dog when i walk down to his place to bring her back here when he travels. she’s crepuscular – mostly awake at dawn and dusk and sleeping most of the day and night. she reminds me daily to live life out loud and to ask for what i need without hesitation. she is fearless, climbing trees, and up onto steep rooftops, walking along railings two stories up, and always looking up to figure out how she can get higher. i love to watch her in her element, hiding in the bushes stalking lizards or birds and bringing them home to remind us what terrible hunters we are.

for me she embodies magic and wildness, mystery and femininity…and i am ridiculously obsessed with taking her picture.

happy birthday bryan!

bryan isn’t going to like this…

he’s not going to like it because some of the pictures aren’t good quality. {he’s on a shoot and i. can’t. find. them!}

but more so because he doesn’t like being the center of attention. though those of us who know and love him put him there…

he doesn’t like birthdays, and makes me promise not to throw him a birthday party. he says he’s shy…


and he is…

he is also remarkably, freakishly fast. seriously. he’s the fastest person i’ve ever met. it is not humanly possible to move as fast as he does sometimes. and i’m not talking about running. i mean from sitting on the sofa to being in the kitchen. it’s like he teleports himself.

he is extremely innovative and creative…we designed our home together and he drew the plans, and built our house (with a crew), he created these amazing bookshelves for my obsessive, and ever-growing amazon-fueled (um, literally) book collection, he’s into art, and music. and is a highly regarded and talented filmmaker and photographer.

he loves cereal. especially cheerios. especially right before bed. preferably with bananas…

i recently realized after 8+ years of living together that every morning he wakes up with a different song in his head and sometime over the course of our morning ritual, i get to hear what it is.

and clearly, he likes to make funny faces. usually in the mirror while he’s brushing his teeth.

we have this game. the “why do you like me” game and it goes one way. i say “why do you like me?” and he says “because you’re sweet.” and i get frustrated. i learned early on that his shyness had made him really efficient with the words he chooses to use. when he’s called on to speak, he wants to get it done fast. i also know how hard it is to put into actual language all those little things that make up a life together…the why and what and how, the moments, the habits, the ongoing conversation. and maybe that’s why he’s found such expression in filmmaking…because maybe a picture, for him, really does it better?

so…

why do i like you bryan? because of all of that…

and this…

i hope you have the best birthday…

i miss you and i love you.

*m