Day 143: Godzilla 2014

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After an emotional week, with the tornado anniversary, I wanted today’s first to be light and fun. My sister Linda and I originally intended to take a line dancing lesson this evening. We showed up, but no one else did! I took that as a very strong sign to redirect. So we checked movie listings and times and headed to the theater with the intention of seeing the new X-Men movie. When we arrived at the theater, and saw the number of cars in the parking lot, we considered the fact that the X-Men movie just released today and since we only had a few minutes before the movie started, and we agreed we didn’t want to sit on the front row in the theater, we opted instead for Godzilla.

It was a good decision for a light hearted, fun first. The movie had great special effects, and a decent story line. We enjoyed it and had a wonderful time discussing it afterwards. The movie stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen and was directed by Garth Edwards. It is rated PG-13 and has a run time of 2 hours and 3 minutes.

Without giving away too much of the movie, Godzilla is more than a film about a mega monster on a rampage. In fact, Godzilla may not be the “bad guy” in this movie at all! It is a movie with several themes running through it including man’s negative effect on nature, the fragility of family relationships and allowing balance in nature to be maintained in the way it is meant to be. There is nothing very deep or powerful here. It is intended as a fun film and a remake of the original Godzilla movie.

And that is why I wanted to see this new version. I grew up watching the old Godzilla movies, with the Japanese actors and the English voice overs that never quite matched up with the lips moving. As a kid, I didn’t care about that. I just enjoyed seeing this massive, if somewhat clumsy, monster scare people. I was most familiar with the 1962 version, but I watched them all, including Mothra vs Godzilla. I’m pretty sure I owned a Godzilla figurine.

This latest remake was reminiscent of the Mothra vs Godzilla movie as it features Mothra type creatures that Godzilla does battle with. The Japanese element is there, although thankfully, there were no voice overs or lips moving without words. Maybe it was just our audience, but the first few times Ken Watanabe’s character said the name “Godzilla”, there were giggles and outright laughter. I confess Linda and I were among those who chuckled.

I’m glad we ended up here. I needed to smile and laugh and remember a childhood favorite. And hanging out for a couple of hours with the world’s most famous monster was like running into a friend that I hadn’t seen since kindergarten. It was fun to catch up, remember a few stories and be amazed at how much time has passed since last we met.

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Godzilla, 1962

Day 142: Butterfly Garden and Overlook Dedication

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May 22, 2011. It is a day Joplin, MO residents will not forget. Cannot forget.  Ask anyone who lived in this city on that day what they were doing at 5:30 on that Sunday afternoon, and they can immediately tell you. I was taking shelter in a closet under the stairs, with Greg. As we stepped inside that cramped space, the first 2X4 board came crashing through a window. The next few minutes were surreal. We first stood, then crouched, as the sounds of breaking glass, splintering wood, crashing debris and that unbelievable roar of fury assailed our ears. Briefly, I calmly considered that these were to be my last moments as the house shook and groaned and then began to lift upwards.

When I stepped out of the battered house, all I saw was ruin and rubble and brokenness. It is a sight seared into my brain. Thankfully, we were unhurt. Our family members were unhurt, although my mother’s house was also hit and my daughter and son-in-law lost their house and vehicles, riding out the storm a block from their home in the car. Joplin was changed. We were changed.

Much progress and healing has taken place since that day. We came together as a community, rolled up our sleeves, literally, and began to rebuild with the help of thousands and thousands of volunteers. We moved through our days, experiencing daily reminders of what had happened, and journeyed onward. On this, our third anniversary, we collectively remembered, and grew thoughtful, emotions rising with surprising strength.

For my first today, as I reflected on my journey and the city’s, I attended a very special dedication for a very special place, the Butterfly Garden and Overlook, located in the northeast corner of Cunningham Park. This park, located at 26th and Maiden Lane, took a direct hit May 22. It was completely destroyed. Work began the next day, clearing debris and cleaning it up. Located across the street from what was St. Johns Hospital, many consider this area ground zero. As the park was restored, it became a memorial park with a children’s reflection pool in honor of the lost children who would never play here again. There is a memorial wall with the names of the 161 victims of the tornado, a memorial fountain, a tribute to the volunteers, new playground areas for the kids, including a Boom Town play area built by Extreme Home Makeover while they were in Joplin, and 161 trees, one for each person lost.

It is very fitting that as we heal, a sacred space for doing so has been included in Cunningham Park. This beautiful addition is a collaborative project between the TKF Foundation, who believes in the restorative power of nature, Drury University, Springfield, MO, Joplin Parks & Recreation, Cornell University, US Forest Service, MO Dept of Conservation, Walmart Foundation, Forest ReLeaf of MO, Great River Assoc. and TILL Design. Sitting in front of this amazing space during the dedication, listening to representatives from the different organizations speak, my eyes filled with tears.

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According to the program provided during the dedication, the Butterfly Garden and Overlook is an open space, sacred place for individuals to work through their grief over what was lost, whether a person or an object such as a home. The garden is set up to flow through four phases. “Accepting the Reality of the Loss” begins as visitors pass through the front door of the lost home. The path winds through the site, allowing for “Processing the Pain of Grief”. Benches are set up as points of reflection, including a bench with a journal beneath it so that visitors can write about their loss and “Adjust to a World Without What Was Lost”.

The steel outlines of the three homes represent all homes erased during the storm and storyboards placed through the first structure educate on the destruction, acts of heroism, survival and the miracle of the human spirit. “We Move On But Do Not Forget” completes the phases. The butterfly attracting flowers create a unifying circle within the garden. The waterwall has 38 segments that represent the minutes the tornado was on the ground. A void at minute 7 marks the moment the park was struck.

I was very moved as I strolled around the beautiful space, crowded with other visitors and yet still peaceful and serene. This quote by David Willard is on one of the fountains in the garden: “The biggest and most disastrous moments in a person’s life can be the most defining of a person’s character and a person’s heart.” I would say that is true of a city also. It is true of Joplin.  I am grateful for the organizations that have brought this idea into existence and for the promise of restoration that it offers. I will return here often to think, to write, and to allow my own memories to heal.

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Day 141: After the Storm: Joplin’s Lost Heritage

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This week being the anniversary of Joplin’s 2011 tornado, there have been several memorial and storm related events offered. Today’s first, After the Storm: Joplin’s Lost Heritage, a presentation offered at the Post Memorial Art Reference Library, highlighted an aspect of loss, as a result of the tornado, that I had not thought about before.

Created and presented by Leslie Simpson, director of the Post Memorial Art Reference Library, this 15 minute overview of the historic losses within the stricken area of Joplin was informative and very well done. I live and work and shop in the tornado zone. I know firsthand how the neighborhoods have changed. What I didn’t realize is that important pieces of Joplin’s heritage are gone, destroyed in 32 minutes on a Sunday afternoon.

Leslie focused on three sections of Joplin that were devastated, beginning with the Blendville area. Originally a mining community, Blendville was established in 1876, and was west of our current Main Street, extending to Maiden Lane. Thomas Cunningham owned the residential section, which he divided into lots and sold at low prices to miners. Hundreds of affordable shotgun style homes were built in this area so that miners could purchase them. Cunningham Park was named after Thomas, who donated the land to the city, and was the first park in Joplin. It was heavily wooded at the time with gardens and walking trails. St. John’s hospital was located in this area of town, built over abandoned mine shafts. The tornado wiped out most of the Blendville area, including the hospital and a large portion of the medical community.

The next section Leslie talked about included Schifferdecker’s First Addition, a residential area that began to be developed in 1900. Craftsman style homes and bungalows lined the streets of this neighborhood. The Joplin Globe referred to the area lying south of 20th Street and including Wall, Joplin, and Main Streets as “a beautiful new addition affording the most desirable building property” to be found anywhere in the city. Most of these homes were destroyed or heavily damaged in the storm. Included in this district, and taken out by the tornado, was Irving Elementary School, which has been rebuilt on Maiden Lane.  St. Mary’s Catholic Church was destroyed as well, except for the exterior cross that remained standing after the storm, becoming an icon of hope. The cross remains still.

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Schifferdecker’s Second Addition, which lies south of 20th Street and includes Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky Avenues, was in the second section as well. As the city progressed eastward, in the early 1900’s through the 1930’s, the houses became a mix of Victorians, Colonial Revivals, Tudors and the ever present bungalows. Further east, in the third area shown in the presentation, development progressed from the 1940’s – 70’s. This section covered Grand Avenue to Range Line, and encompassed the Eastmoreland area. The dominant housing style was the ranch house. Churches sprang up in this area in the 60’s, and early commercial development began with the Bel-Aire Shopping Center on the corner of 20th and Range Line.

Several large homes existed in this area, including James Campbell’s estate, which included riding stables and a lake. Dillion’s Grocery Store stood on the spot the lake once occupied. The store is gone, now, along with this section with its eclectic mix of homes. The churches have been rebuilt. Bel-Aire, which was completely destroyed, just recently completed construction on a new center.

Leslie showed a before picture of Kentucky Avenue, lined with trees and houses. All those trees were obliterated as well. This is my neighborhood. These are the streets my children rode their bikes on. I walked my dog past those houses that no longer exist. Rebuilding has flourished in all three of these sections, with new houses and businesses continuing to appear. What I had not considered before today was that with the destruction of these homes and business buildings, historical structures were lost, and will not be recovered. The recently constructed houses look great. Yet they are new. The charm, the character, the architecture are gone, reduced with the structures to rubble, and hauled away.

Thankfully, even as new stories are being told, the old stories remain. And Leslie Simpson had the compassion and ability to capture for us this flow of history that was once evident as one traveled from west Joplin, eastward. I am grateful.

Day 140: Go With the Flow Day

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I had several ideas this morning about what I would do today for a first. As it happened, my first found me, or more accurately, it unfolded for me as the day progressed. I shared during the Keller Williams sales meeting this morning about how doing my year of firsts is teaching me to live more in the flow. When an intended new experience doesn’t quite work out, I’ve learned to keep going and seek another first, and always, another appears for me.

The short talks I share at Keller Williams are lessons that come directly out of my life. The benefit for me is that my own words also remind me of what is true. Speaking about being in the flow created a heightened awareness for me today of how easy it is to balk against what is going on in my life, creating resistance. Thinking about releasing, allowing, moving, letting go of the past, not projecting into the future, being very present in the moment and finding joy there, immediately shifted my day and it became all about flowing. Go With the Flow Day was birthed.

What a beautiful day it was. Clients and requests for information flowed in and connection and information flowed back. Not one, not two, but three unplanned trips to three different garden centers appeared as I flowed, and I found a wonderful selection of plants and flowers. As the day flowed on, there was time for a lunch meeting, house searches online for a new buyer, space to co-create a class via a conference call, and a lovely late afternoon session in the garden planting ornamental grasses.  Never during the day was there a sense of needing to do more than I was doing at that exact moment, or of needing to hurry, fret or multitask.

Life is like a river, and I am paddling in my little boat merrily down the stream, until I encounter the rapids of things not going the way I want them to. Then I have choices: I can resist flow and begin paddling upstream in defiance, expending huge amounts of energy while I go nowhere or make very little progress. That wears me out, quickly. Or, I can struggle to shore and camp out there. I’m not exerting the energy but I’ve removed myself from flow and I’m allowing life to move on past me while I live in denial. Being disengaged and watching from the sidelines allows loneliness and bitterness to set up camp with me. Or, I can ride out the rapids and go with the flow. I am moving with the river, my energy in sync with life, open to where the experience will take me. One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that any situation the flow takes me to is temporary. The flow will take me beyond that as well, if I will allow it to.

And Beyond is where I am headed this year. No expectations, no disappointments, no fear. Instead, there is movement, adventure, joy. There is flow.

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Day 139: Dayan’s 15th Birthday

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What a fun first for today, celebrating my oldest grandchild as he turned 15. While celebrating birthdays in my family is not new, during this year of firsts, I acknowledge each milestone birthday and the specialness of each of my family members. Dayan’s birthday, which actually is today, is a big one for him as he is now old enough to get his driver’s permit, a first for him and a first for me….a grandson old enough to begin driving.

From the moment of his birth, Dayan Aaris Reynolds has been creating firsts for me: first grandchild, first grandson, first to call me Yaya, first school programs and band concerts and art competitions, and many first opportunities to see the world afresh through a child’s eyes. When he was a small boy, we began a tradition called “The Adventures of Dayan and Yaya” where we created stories together, each of us contributing a few sentences at a time to the story as we took turns narrating it. We’ve been happily creating adventures ever since.

Dayan was a joyful, loving , bright child who was always quick to laugh or dance or sing. He was a friendly boy who never knew a stranger and was gifted with the ability to see the best in people, in all people, and compliment them in the most sincere way. I have learned so much about life from this amazing child, who is now a young man.

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Dayan, age 1, experiencing bubbles for the first time. He’s been laughing ever since.

A few years ago, when he was about 8 years old, the trolley system came to Joplin. Wanting to experience a trolley ride, Dayan and I stood with a group of people outside the Joplin Public Library, waiting for our turn . As we watched for the trolley, a man moved slowly down the sidewalk, in a wheelchair, toward our group. He was a double amputee, missing both legs from the thighs down. The adults all carefully averted our eyes, out of pity or discomfort. I glanced at Dayan. He was watching the man intently. I thought, “Oh Dayan, don’t say anything…” and tried to distract him, fearful he might ask embarrassing questions. As the man stopped near the edge of the group, Dayan stepped toward him, bowed at the waist, and said in a bright, cheerful voice, “Good day, good sir, how are you?” The man’s face lit up. As he and Dayan had an animated conversation the adults looked at each other sheepishly. While we tried to pretend we didn’t see the man, Dayan not only saw him, he engaged him. When the trolley pulled away, that man energetically wheeled away in his chair, waving to Dayan. I learned a huge lesson that day, one of many from this kid, about really seeing people and recognizing their shining souls.

I continue to watch this young man study people and find the perfect words to draw them out or light up their faces. He doesn’t engage in flattery, he engages hearts and encourages others by pointing out what’s true. I once thought he had encountered a person who could not be encouraged. She was frazzled by a day of running the register at a busy store and her words, demeanor and appearance all suggested she had had a bad day. I didn’t think even Dayan could find anything good to say. How shallow of me! He studied her, while I studied him, hoping he would just let this one pass. I had heard her sharp words to the customer in front of us and I didn’t want her to snap at my grandson. Suddenly Dayan said softly to her, “You have beautiful eyes.” She melted….and her eyes, which were indeed beautiful, once I really looked at her, filled with tears. This dear woman transformed before me, chatting easily with Dayan as he loaded our purchases into the cart. As we left, she told me what an amazing boy he was. I agreed.

And I believe that still. I am proud of him for all his accomplishments, in school and beyond. But even more so, I am grateful for Dayan and for his perspective on life and his compassion toward others and his fearless way of speaking up. I am grateful that I am his Yaya. And I am grateful for the way my heart and life have opened and expanded because of him.

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Birthday dinner at Red, Hot & Blue

Day 138: Goad’s Antique Mall

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My sister Debbie and her daughter Ashley, both from Broken Arrow, OK, spent the weekend in Joplin. Along with my other sister, Linda, and my mom, we had a great time chatting and laughing, sharing meals, dropping in on my daughter Adriel at work, sitting around my fire pit last night, and today, visiting flea markets. Wanting to check out a new store this afternoon, for my first, the five of us headed to Carthage, MO.

Carthage is a beautiful, historic town, and the ideal place for shopping in vintage shops and flea markets. Except, apparently, on Sundays! After our group enjoyed a fun lunch with my son, Nate, who was on patrol today, we drove around the beautiful town square. I had a destination in mind. But as we pulled up in front of the store, we spotted a large sign in the window stating, “No longer open on Sunday”. Not to be deterred from a first, we flowed, we rolled, literally on around the square. We found Goad’s Antique Mall open on the north side of the square.

Located at 111 E. 3rd Street, Goad’s is packed with antiques, collectibles, primitives, furniture and fun junk. I love browsing through a flea market or antique store. You never know what you will find. And there are so many treasures to sort through, pick over and examine. Each of us had specific items on our wish list: Linda was looking for a dresser or a small table and chairs set, my mom likes unique jewelry and garden finds, my sister Debbie and niece Ashley, who host an incredible Halloween party each year, were searching for items that could be transformed into decorations. And I was looking for metal containers and an old chair to use in the garden.

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Parked right beside the front door was a round metal washtub on a stand. Perfect! I love the first washtub I found and have it in my garden already, filled with plants. I was hoping to find another and here it was. I also found a slightly battered metal bucket and another tall metal container to use as planters. And there hanging on a wall in the marvelously crowded back room was an old wooden chair with a metal panel screwed to the seat. This wonderful find was only $10. I have a couple of enamelware basins that I want to use in the garden. Filling the basins with dirt and flowers, they will then be perched on the seats of old chairs and placed in the backyard. This was my first chair and I had found it at a bargain price. There were actually several $10 chairs. I selected this one because I liked that the woven seat had been replaced with a square of metal.

My niece, Ashley, provided much amusement as she searched for wicked looking objects to use as Halloween props. She began to remind me of the quirky character Wednesday, from the Addams Family movies , as she expressed glee over such finds as hay hooks, saws, tongs, and chains. I look forward to seeing how she uses these items at her party!

We left Carthage very satisfied with our purchases. Once again, I was directed onto a slightly different path and obviously ended up exactly where I was supposed to be. These seemingly insignificant experiences are teaching me so much about how life flows and how I can resist the flow and create discomfort and disappointment for myself, or I can be receptive, accepting the changes, and open myself to delightful surprises. I see how going with the flow brings joy. May I allow these experiences to continue opening me to the larger truths about life and walking the path of non-resistance.

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Day 137: Jasper County Sheriff’s Office Community Safety Day

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Today’s first was special, and actually a double first, as my mom, sister and I took Aubrey, Oliver and Joey on a first family outing! We attended a fun event sponsored by the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department. Located just off the square in Carthage, MO, Community Safety Day was geared toward children but had plenty of fun and interesting activities for the whole family.

I often do things with my grandchildren and always enjoy being with them. It is fresh and magical, seeing the world through a child’s eyes. For the first time today, I enjoyed taking not only Aubrey out for some fun, but also got to include the boys of my son’s fiancé. It was great having my mom and sister with us as well. With the crowd and lots of booths to visit, we each paired up with a child and could give the kids the freedom to participate in the activity that they wanted to, without trying to keep everyone together.

Immediately after we arrived, we watched a demonstration by the county’s attack and drug sniffing dog. Later we watched the bomb detecting dog do her thing, alerting her trainer to the presence of an explosive. The kids got to get up close and pet the bomb detection dog, although the attack dog was strictly off limits. Each child also tossed a ball for the bomb dog to fetch. Even working dogs need to have some downtime!

There was also a demo by the county’s swat team and a booth set up with all their gear on display. Aubrey headed a different direction, with me in tow, but Joey and Oliver were fascinated with all the equipment and asked the officers great question. They got to stand behind a protective shield and each one tried on a safety vest, which weighed a hefty 40 pounds.

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The kids visited the face painting booth and left with painted characters on their faces or hands. The balloon animal man created two monkeys and a sword for our little group and we munched on popcorn, hotdogs and shaved ice! The big hit at the event was the bounce house that looked like a giant police car. The kids were quick to shed their shoes and crawl inside. Fortunately for us, there was a tent nearby with chairs and tables so we could unload our arms of balloons, bags and food and rest for a little bit.

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Sheriff Randee Kaiser and his deputies did a great job creating a fun and educational event. They were on site to mingle and visit and answer questions. I think it is important to be very visible, in a positive way, in the community in which they serve. The kids just knew they had fun playing and eating and learning about safety and being protected. And that made our day, knowing they had a great time. On the way back to their house, we also stopped for ice cream cones at Braum’s. That finished off a perfect outing!

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Day 136: Deep Relaxation

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My planned first for the day was a line dancing lesson. As I wrapped up the day close to 7:00 pm, finishing up a showing with a delightful young couple, I knew that wasn’t going to happen! Deciding to save line dancing for another time, I now had to come up with a first, relatively late in the day. At home, browsing through possibilities, I realized my body was drawn toward deep rest. One thing I’ve learned during my journey these past few years is to listen to what my body is telling me. For my first today, I practiced intentional deep relaxation.

I regularly practice meditation and frequently include relaxation as a part of that practice. It is very easy to allow stress to build up in the body and settle into the muscles, creating tension and pain. When I’ve been overly busy, or have had too many long days and short nights, stress and tension accumulate in my neck and shoulder muscles. A painful stiff neck or shoulder is my signal to relax and meditate. Taking 15 to 20 minutes to consciously relax the muscles and allow stress to drain away restores and refreshes me physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Tonight I tried a deep relaxation technique suggested by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who writes and teaches about mindful living. He says that deep relaxation is an opportunity for our bodies to rest, heal and be restored. As we relax, we send love and care to each part of our bodies, holding that part in our awareness as we breathe in and out.

I wanted to be very intentional about relaxing, so I created an environment to support and encourage it. Candles were lit throughout my darkened bedroom. I combined dried lavender, white sage, sweet grass and a bay leaf to create a soothing and cleansing potpourri to burn on a small piece of charcoal. And I had 40 minutes of soft, meditative music playing on my phone. I was ready to relax!

I don’t normally lie down to meditate, as I will too easily slip beyond relaxation and into sleep. I decided this evening to get comfortable lying down and that if deep relaxation took me into slumber it was because my body needed that rest. Lying on my bed, snuggled beneath a heavy blanket, candlelight flickering and music playing, I closed my eyes and focused on taking long slow deep breaths. Beginning with my toes, I held them in my awareness and said, as breathed in and out:

Breathing in, I am aware of my toes

Breathing out, I smile to my toes

This is mindfulness. This is bringing my attention to myself and willing myself to relax my muscles. I moved my awareness up my body, mentally cradling each part, repeating the above statement about my knees, my liver, my arms, my heart, my shoulders, all the way to the top of my head. Sending love and care and gratitude to each part of me, smiling, spending a little extra time being mindful of any sore spot, I relaxed so deeply. Muscles unknotted, my breathing grew deeper and I felt myself sinking into sleep. I let go.

I didn’t sleep long, and waking slowly, I felt wonderful. I could have rolled over and slept until morning and will return to pick up where I left off shortly. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “When you direct the energy of your mindfulness to the part of your body that you are embracing with love and tenderness, you are doing exactly what your body needs.” This was exactly what I needed tonight and I’m grateful that I listened to my body. This was self care at a high level.

Day 135: Origin of Painting for Jose

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My first for today was so interesting and moving. Artist Marianne Evans-Lombe, currently from Tulsa, OK, brought her unique performance art to Joplin, in connection with Third Thursday. I had read about this upcoming event, which has a special connection to Joplin, and made sure I was there to witness it. Linda accompanied me, and we not only enjoyed watching the performance, we participated.

Marianne creates drawings called body drawings. Light and shadow are important elements of her art and she uses these elements to tell a story. Origin of Painting is the tale of the Greek Maiden, Dibutade, who traces her lover’s shadow, cast upon the wall before he departs,  thus creating the first drawing. During the performance, members of the audience participate by having their shadows traced as well, contributing to the story being told. Marianne has performed this show many times, including a 2009 production in Pittsburg, KS, in which Jose Alvarez, of Joplin, participated.

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After the May 22, 2011 tornado struck Joplin, Marianne learned that Jose, who was a professor at Missouri Southern State University, had died during the storm. She realized she had a photo of Jose and his shadow drawing. Using that image, she created a life sized silhouette of Jose.

This evening, as dusk approached, a fire was lit in a portable fire pit, and Jose’s silhouette was attached to a large brick wall near Main and 3rd Streets. As Marianne traced around his paper silhouette with chalk, the story of Dibutade was read by another woman. The artist then handed the chalk to another person and posed in front of the wall, her hand stretching out to touch Jose’s paper hand. As her outline was finished, Marianne stepped away and the man who traced around her shadow then struck a pose and another member of the audience stepped forward to trace around him. As each person completed the tracing, he or she then posed quietly, hand reaching out to touch the outlined hand of the previous person. Down the wall, the silhouettes progressed, person after person stepping forward to first trace another’s shadow and then be traced as well.

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Linda and I each took our turn in the production, tracing and being traced. Darkness fell and a man graciously continued to hold a flood light so that the shadows were cast starkly against the brick wall. Some of the younger participants were very creative in their poses. One young man did a handstand. Another wore a jaunty hat. Still another balanced a ball on his palm. Live music provided a soft and gentle background for the performance being carried out before us.

As the last silhouette was traced onto the wall, we all picked up pieces of colored chalk and drew in and around our outlines. I drew a large green heart within my silhouette and added symbols from my last three years: a butterfly, a dragonfly and a bird. Linda also drew a heart and wrote the word JOPLIN within her silhouette. We were both so glad we attended this very special performance and stepped forward to participate as well.

I will return tomorrow, in daylight, to take a picture of the long line of silhouettes moving down the wall. Jose’s white paper figure stands at the head of the line, a beautiful silent reminder of a life loved and lived here in Joplin.

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Day 134: Her

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Today’s first, watching Her, is also a last. The DVD released yesterday and the timing was perfect. I have really enjoyed this extended experience, for the first time ever watching all the Best Picture nominated films. In fact, I enjoyed watching them so much that I intend to do this every year. Amazingly, six of the nine movies were based on true stories that depicted courage, perseverance, hope, addiction, and sorrow. All the films touched me in some way, making me think, making me feel a range of emotions from sadness to great joy, disgust to delight.

Her stars Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlet Johansson, Chris Pratt and Rooney Mara. It was written, produced and directed by Spike Jonze. Her was nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Design, Best Original Song “The Moon Song”, Best Original Score, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture. It won for Best Original Screenplay. The film is rated R, for language, brief nudity and sexuality, and has a run time of 2 hours and 6 minutes.

All I knew about this movie was that Joaquin’s character, Theodore, falls in love with his computer’s operating system. I learned from watching Gravity that none of these nominated films were light weights so I didn’t expect Her to be froth either. It certainly was not.

Set slightly in the future, in the year 2025, the movie focuses on Theodore, a lonely man going through the recent breakup of his marriage. While he writes beautiful letters at work for others, capturing in ink emotion, affection and love, he falters when it comes to expressing emotion in his own relationships. Theodore sees an ad about OS1, the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system that’s “not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness” and purchases it. His OS takes on a female persona, going by the name of Samantha, voiced by Scarlet Johansson, and suddenly, Theodore’s whole life shifts and opens up.

Telling Samantha about his failed marriage, Theodore says, “I think I hid myself from her, left her alone in the relationship.” With Samantha, there is no reason to hide, or be alone. She is smart, funny, adaptable, present when he needs her to be, and has no expectations. She is evolving, thinking, feeling. Theodore and Samantha bond during their talks about life and relationships and fall in love.

While that sounds like the basis for a quirky movie, part sci-fi and part romantic comedy, Her is so much more than that. This is a story about balancing an evolving relationship with personal growth and shifts. It’s about recognizing, as Theodore’s friend Amy, played by Amy Adams, does that we are only here briefly and in this moment, we need to allow ourselves joy. It is a love story about a man and an operating system. Yet this sweet, soulful film made me smile as I watched Theodore awaken to himself and life and joy and it stirred something deeper in me as Samantha learned and expanded and leapt forward in her consciousness, experiencing emotions, writing music,  and connecting with others like herself.

As with most relationships, as each person grows and shifts, the relationship must grow and shift as well or come to an end. For Samantha and Theodore, the time comes when Samantha evolves so much that she must live and continue to grow elsewhere. The relationship, though, has prepared them both to continue on down new, albeit separate, paths. Theodore helped her realize that she could want and ultimately go after what she wants. And Samantha disproved Theodore’s fear that he has felt everything he is ever going to feel and that he will never feel anything new.

Her is beautifully done, hauntingly so, with an amazing performance by Joaquin Phoenix, whose eyes often tell as much of his story as his words. I rented the DVD for watching today.  But this movie is a keeper for me and I’ll be purchasing it so that I can watch it again and again and delve deeply into it, or perhaps, allow it to delve deeply into me.