Saturday, July 31, 2010

Something New

I like to mix it up, and try new things. In the city I live near, Bellingham, as in many towns and cities across America, everyone is riding bikes. I yearn to be like everyone else and to be a part of this new-fangled bicycle movement. Of course, for me it's not very practical as I live 2o miles away from the city where I would be seen being a part of this scene. Recently I schemed and planned and bought myself a new snazzy bike that was made in another town near me. Very important this buying local thing, I am down with the movement. I am pretty sure the bike rack attachment I got for my car rack was probably made in China, oh well, can't bat a thousand all the time.

Mostly I ride my bike near my home in the country. It's pleasant as the roads are mostly flat and sparsely traveled. The air smells of hay and wild roses and cow manure. It's peaceful and satisfyingly pastoral. We wave at people we know as we ride the 5 miles to Everson and on the way home we can get soft serve ice cream from the local dairy and eat it as we cut across the middle school field. But somehow this wasn't enough for me. I longed to ride the streets of Bellingham.

A few weeks ago with Pearl enrolled in a summer day camp in Bellingham I brought my bike along to town. I parked the car in what I thought was a strategic location and set out on the bike. In short order I realized I had almost no idea how to get into downtown from where I was. Luckily I ran into a friend who hipped me to a path which took me past the mall near where I had parked and through a funny forgotten neighborhood to a place where I could pass under the freeway which separates downtown from where I began my journey. I rode down into town on fresh pavement and it felt good for a time. It was hot. As I rode along getting closer to town I started to become aware of the difficulties of riding a bike on streets with parked and passing cars. I soldiered on. I felt brave being so close to the street. I realized how comfortable I am passing through space inside my car. Once downtown I needed some lunch and then I needed a place to eat said lunch. I parked myself on the lawn behind the museum and ate my California rolls and thought about how I might look to passersby and museum employees. Did I look homeless? Was I breaking any loitering laws? Was it odd, a woman eating lunch in public with a bike, alone. I ate slowly enjoying the shade, struggling with my chopsticks as I always do. A whole bunch of Asian students appeared suddenly from the hill below my spot and I felt instantly self conscious about my lack of mastery of the tools I was eating with. They didn't care, they were lost in a tour taking pictures of each other and chatting away.

After lunch I continued on with my mission to participate in bicycle society. I came across a sign on the sidewalk that clearly stated no cycling here so I got back onto the street and found myself in the midst of a small drama between an angry motorist and a meter maid, I rode through it invisible to the players, one of whom was dramatically tearing up a yellow parking ticket and throwing it on the street. I stopped into a few shops, one of which I brought my bike right into and the other I locked my bike up to a stand with the other bikes and went in to look at overpriced panniers. They let me use their bike pump, that was nice.

Pretty soon it was time to go and collect Pearl and so I headed back to my starting point the way I would have had I been a car. I did take a small detour through a park trail which was okay until my mind started to wander and I entertained how foolish it might be to be alone on a trail. Would someone jump a person on a bike? Who knows. I called out to squirrel, accusing it of being a rat. It went up a tree. The path let me out onto a very busy north south road and about a block along a woman yelled at me to ride on the sidewalk. This perplexed me and I yelled back to her suggesting she was a redneck. A fine insult I thought. I eventually did get onto the sidewalk, it seemed safer and I passed a nice man holding a sign advertising spicy food. He was well dressed and smiled widely at me and wished me a good day. I returned the sentiment. I marveled quietly at how this generous fellow without knowing it had canceled out the earlier insult. I eventually got myself back to my car and got the bike loaded back up and picked up Pearl on time.

It's good to do things if only to get clear in your own mind whether you like them or not. It was a romantic notion this town riding but I think I am better suited to country rides and trail excursions. On the third day of Pearl's class I took my car downtown and felt okay about it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A little Inspiration

Thought it was Monday but alas that ship has sailed and so it's on to Tuesday and a little inspiration to help you along. One of my favorite books when I am working on logos of a particular nature is the above shown book from Chronicle. It's cheerful and colorful and has lots of great examples of the type of typography that will warm the cockles of your heart.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Two of Me

Self portrait through the main sail

I feel I lead a strange life. I have the tendency to regress on the weekends I spend with my husband Mark at his house. I arrive late afternoon on Friday and have a few drinks, we talk like maniacs because we haven't seen each other and we drink a little more. I keep my laptop on my lap the whole time, looking at Facebook, reading a little, surfing for crap I don't need and can't afford like mini well designed module house pods that I fancy for the back of my property. mark does the cooking and has to demand I close my laptop and come to the table to eat. I do, but I eat fast and then dive back onto the couch before he gets a chance to occupy it. Occasionally I whine at him that we never go out and do anything before I pass out.

In the morning I wake early and try to get mark to wake up too. I tell him we should go and play tennis while it's still cool. Pearl is with her dad and we could just slip off to the courts for an hour but we don't. We stay in bed and do bed things and watch Looney Toons and I fall back asleep and forget all about the list of things I wanted to do at 5:30am when I first became conscious. We're up by 10 and back on our computers, searching for everything and nothing. Sometimes I write or walk the dog.

Last weekend we sailed. We took Mark's little boat from Jericho Beach all the way across English Bay to Lighthouse Park. I made sandwiches and we shared a bottle of cider. It was a picture perfect day. the wind was unusual coming out of the southwest which is why we took the course we did. We sit side by side on the boat leaning in or out, depending on the force of the wind, it's like dancing. Mark mans the tiller and the main sail while I am in charge of the jib, centerboard and cooler. A clear division of labor. We chat away as we go, about the other boats we encounter or the seabirds. Sometimes we sail very close to the enormous freighters at anchor in the Bay. We read the place names and marvel at a life at sea. We are quiet and enjoy our time in the salt air.

By Sunday night I am getting itchy and irritable. Pearl is not with us and despite how easily I drift into that state of non-responsibility I am hardwired to be a mother now. If she has been away for more than three nights I begin to have dreams about her that are filled with perilous situations. On Monday I say good-bye to Mark and it's sad, I hate leaving. Once back at home with Pearl I feel better again. We get caught up on our weekend events and make a plan for the week. Last Monday I surprised myself by cooking up a storm on her behalf. I made pizza dough from scratch, fresh pesto and the special little muffins she likes. Watching her eat a big piece of whole wheat bread slathered in pesto makes me happy and my nerve endings relax. I know my job and I am at my best when I am doing it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Fish Story

The one that got away

The process of branding is fraught with difficulty. Often times, in addition to creating the brand image we are also called upon to educate the client being branded. Sometimes the client is a willing pupil. In the best case scenario, the client is visually neutral but has an understanding of the importance of a strong brand and realizes that hiring a team of professionals is the best means to that end. Of course this only happens in my dreams.

Generally the process begins with conceptual discussions, we get to know the subject of the branding on paper. We make lists about what it is, what it should be and eventually what it could be. We consider similar brands, we take the pulse of the clients visual savvy. As concepts begin to appear and float past me I attach form, color, and typography to otherwise shapeless ideas. I create visual parameters based on our findings. We do this in a timely fashion, it's possible to spend a lot of time thinking about things, discussing concepts and possibilities but eventually you have to put mouse to mouse-pad and make something concrete. Logos are by far the most challenging thing I do in large part because of the public perception about them. The most simple logos that are out there in circulation took hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours on the part of trained designers, illustrators and creative directors. Often this simplicity of form is misinterpreted as simple and easily achievable. To hone an idea down to it's very essence takes time and experience. The saddest and most frustrating thing about brand development is that there is no accounting for personal taste and sometimes the perception of a client can derail the creative process to the point of unavoidable crash. I have heard careless words spoken in a meeting throw a project irretrievably off course. I never claim to have all the answers in these situations but I have my process and I have instinct which has developed over 2 plus decades creating things that communicate ideas. Like I said it's never easy and it can often be very frustrating for both sides of the equation.

The most surprising element of the whole process is the fear that often grips a client. I have seen clients, rather than choose a brand and put it out into the world to see what comes of it, retract their mission completely and do nothing. I am an adventurer and branding is a journey. We make determinations about our audiences needs and we trim our sails and set our ideas free to be received by the larger world. Shots across the bow are to be expected and learned from. The key thing being, it is more valuable to be on the branding journey than left without a voice or visual identity, tied tightly to the dock. If the idea sinks you go back to the drawing board and plot a new course. For the most part though, once a brand lives out in the world and is seen and understood by it's audience, over time the message overtakes mere graphic structure, the language of the brand develops and word spreads.

My team and I had the pleasure of working on a branding project earlier this year. Sadly, due to circumstances beyond our control and despite our years of informed experience the branding was stopped. I was quite pleased with the logo we produced for the budget that was available. We gave a lot of thought to what this logo would stand for and the message it would relay to a waiting community. I was happy that we were able to keep the form of the logo out of the hackneyed realm of pictorials involving salmon and coastal mountains. We asserted the brand was about making the concept of urban development feel acceptable to a suspicious public. It was about process and collaboration and the environment. It was a map, a streetscene, a neighborhood quilt, a community forming itself for the public good.

It's easy to come away from these experiences bruised. With this project though I feel that we listened well and we did our homework. We understand the process of branding very well and we were all disappointed when we were not able to see the project to fruition. Our loss was not monetary but philosophical in many ways. We take what we do seriously and we know the power of our work. It's too bad this one got away.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Around the fire

Not writing much lately. Summer has paid us a visit and so I have exited my head and am inhabiting my body more fully. Work has been a little slow and I have been taking advantage of that as well instead of worrying about it. I have set up my summer living room on the porch and am happily living outside. We have sailed, gone to the public pool near Mark's, and floated in the Nooksack River in a secret location. We've been entertaining our friends. I'm thinking a bit about writing but nothing is coming to me. I am reading, but only a little. I am focused more on getting little chores taken care of each day, picking berries, feeding the chickens. It's amazing how easy it is to fill ones time with the simple tasks of life, I can barely remember how I found the time work. Today I will pick raspberries, buy 3 sacks of chicken feed and give blood. I may even do a little graphic design while the sprinkler waves back and forth, back and forth.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Our childhood friend has died. My sister was there with her and her family and witnessed this most sad passing. I got the news on the way home from Eugene via Facebook of all things. I got a message that said You may like In Memory Of C___ W___. How could I like that? Four days later I visited the page and read the posts and wept. My sister told me about the service and the ladies in the church, they let her ring the bell when it was time. There was tea and tiny sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Our dead friend was cremated 126 miles from where she lived, carried there in a box built by her friends and husband. I wish that my mothers preparation had been this hands on. We have no idea how to care for the dead, it has been stripped away from us like the thin nightgown that separates life from death, here from not here. C's ashes were to be spread in the river, we did this for my mom too. A third went to Scotland, a third into the Bulkley River. I kept the final third, I wasn't ready to let all of her go. I will never forget this friend who, at almost 50 was ravaged by cancer, she will live on in that space with my mother and friends from high school who drove drunk and John Lennon. They are all out there somewhere and we must stay firmly here until it's our turn to go.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Roadtripping 2010

Enjoying Austin Powers in the Super 8 in Creswell OR.

We are back safely from our annual summer roadtrip to Oregon to visit Pearl's birthfamily. We have been 3 years running and I see no end in sight, every time we go we have more fun. This year was extra special because Becky and Tom, Pearl's birthmom and her partner of many years got married. Mere puny words can't describe how I feel about being a part of this equation. This year we met a few new cousins and reconnected with several members of Pearl's extended family. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the relationships we have with all these people but being at the wedding was different. The connection was more public. Here is this child who so clearly is Becky's flesh and blood and then there is us, her parents and guardians. At a wedding, everyone wants to know where you fit in the family. I found myself saying I am the mother of the brides oldest daughter. A mouthful, but accurate. The best reaction we got was from the weddings officiant who is also the brides, sister in law's father. He actually hugged us and shook our hands for our role there. It is inevitable that we talk about adoption in terms of early loss and eventual redemption and open adoption is not exempt from that. Becky lost a lot in the early days of this adoption but nowadays it all feels pretty good and happy. I can honestly say that I love and revere the people that Pearl came from, I honor her birthfamily and her origins.

In the process we take these very special roadtrips. We make the journey fun which I see as a metaphor for the whole process of raising Pearl. We get in the car and make a few stops along the way, we sleep in funny hotels and we are getting to know the attractions along the way. It is no longer a long uncomfortable drive through unfamiliar territory.

This year, in addition to the usual fare of hotel swimming pools, mini fridges, watching late night movies in bed, and complimentary breakfasts we stopped in for a visit at Mt St. Helen's Ape Caves which was spectacular. We toured some of the 12,000ft of underground caves formed by lava flows 2000 years ago. We stopped a lot on the way home as our driver was quite fatigued but we all remained cheerfully in holiday mode and felt happy about we had just taken part in.
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