Christina Rosalie

Posts from the “Creative Process” Category

Happy August!

Posted on August 2, 2014

How is August? How? How do I have a nearly fourth grader who wakes up every morning and sits cross-legged on the couch, shirtless, tan, his hair a bed-head tousle, and reads. How is my baby an almost kindergartener, his body suddenly that of a little boy’s, lean-muscled and strong. How is it possible that I live here in this glorious city, in this snug little bungalow. How are these streets that I’ve begun to love dearly the place I now call home?

Yes, summer is a time of incredulity for me. Almost every year it catches me by surprise. The wonder of summer. Its extroversion. The way the days blur into evenings. The way we disregard bedtimes, and loll about on Saturday mornings kissing. The golden afternoons that find us one after the next like a dream. The air-conditioned days indoors spent working on projects with some of the smartest, coolest people I know. The blue skies. The muddy knees of my boys at the end of the day. The late nights on the back porch with wine as the walnut leaves rustle. All of it happens in such a full-saturation blur, that each day I wake wide-eyed and feel more in love with my life than the day before.
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I know I’ve been quiet here. Summer seems to make this so. We’re so busy being out in the sun-drenched world that there’s less time for retrospection and recording. I’m enjoying every minute of it, and also looking forward to the simple routines and rhythms of fall.

Heads up: I’ll be doing a summer songbird studio sale at the end of August–featuring the newest set of hand-painted + collaged postcards I’m working on–in response to your demand from the last sale! Do sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t, to get first dibs when the sale goes live. I’ll be doing this one a little differently than the last one, so stay tuned.


Finally: Some of you still seem to subscribe to my blog via my old My Topography url, which I made the terrible mistake of forgetting to renew. It’s now been taken over by spammers and some of you have emailed me that you’re getting unexpected content in your feed readers. Please update your RSS feed to christinarosalie.com!


Happy August friends!

What I remember + what I know

Posted on July 1, 2014

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I didn’t mean to stop, only, there it is. Life has a way of finding you, amidst your best intentions. I love what this small challenge inspired. A rash of brilliant posts by my friend Amanda; photos to take your breath away my other dear friend Hilary, who always needs to be nudged to document; and a handful of other daily glimpses from friends and readers I don’t know, but feel like I know just the same.

I intended to keep on, but then the weekend came. Weekends have a way of filling up to the gills lately, and after the weekend, a work trip to Texas, planned to be short, but made longer by a cancelled flight and extra night on the way home in Phoenix, Arizona. So there it is, back to back days without a single chance to gather the moments here. To upload the images, or record the observations as they happened, though there are many notes scrawled in my notebook or jotted in the notes app on my phone. A chronology of circumstance. A record of the small things, and the big. Sentences that happened only in fits and starts, but never here.

What I remember is the heat in Texas and the rain that turned the sky to black. The century plants and cactuses that reminded me of my earliest years in Los Angeles. The heat of a blue sky filling with thunderheads, while down below we ate ate eggplant fries, and truffle oil reveled eggs, and catfish tacos.

Then non-time of the airport, reading Inc. cover to cover, and Elle, and also Fast Company, and feeling the ways something shifts in my brain when I have long stretches just to read and think. Ideas have a way of magnetizing then, like finding like; fragments converging.

What I remember is coming back so tired in the morning that after a cup of hot tea and checking email I took a nap, wakening hours later and not knowing immediately where the edges of dream ended and reality began. There, in bed with the dog curled by my hip, I let myself float in a way I rarely get to: between sleep and dreaming where thoughts are buoyant and things have wings.

There, and also in every waking instant, I’ve been thinking now about my new book. There are two actually. The ideas bookend each other. The narratives make a dialog, an equation, an equilibrium. I’m curious if I can pull it off.

What I remember is the sweetness of my boy’s when they came home from camp. Their hailstorm of yells and shouts finding me there at the doorway at the end of the day. Their arms around my neck, their kisses on my sounders, cheeks. Their fingers in my hair, and even still with them under foot, a different kind of kiss. Stirring, sweeter, finding T’s heat mirroring my own.

Then the weekend, dawning with rain. Making a raspberry crumble to share at dinner with friends. The biggest rainbow we’ve seen. The boys shouts. The first firecrackers for the Fourth echoing down the street. Twilight. Then Sunday morning bacon and good coffee. Painting the guest bedroom a fresh white. Baked chicken and mashed potatoes on the new walnut outdoor table T made by hand. White wine in handblown glasses. Watching the walnut leaves blow in the wind.

What I remember is this: to show up and to try is all it takes. To show up with the intention always is the start. I begin. I keep going. I go until I find my way. That, in the end, is all I know.

Now there is a reckless, rag tag folder now of drafts in Scrivner. It’s raw and new, but no matter. The beginning is here.

This is how it happens, friends. A book, or anything else. Any body of work, any essay, or dream, or plan begins with showing up; with training the mind to bow at the simple task of arrival, noticing the world.
 
#the5x5xchallenge

The things that waken me

Posted on June 19, 2014

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What I like about this place where I now live is that the lines are never familiar, and because they are never familiar, I’m always in a state of wonder, always stoping with my camera, recording glimpses, taking note.

Wherever I look there is texture. Stubbled grass. Lawns rife with clover. Murals. Graffiti. Billboards. Tattoos that flirt. Laughter that lifts off cement walls. The almost unbearable beauty of blossoms. A harsh geometry of windows. Ice cream spilled on the sidewalk, and the dog that licks it up. The lengthening shadows of the blue hour. The sky after dusk, indigo and saffron. The scent of lavender and roses. Cherries dimpling the sidewalks. The next door neighbor’s lilting Spanish. The staccato of a basketball being dribbled. The grapes along the gate. The green walnuts dropping to the back deck. The people at the bus stop, yelling. The boys on skateboards. The guy with the fresh haircut. The lovers sitting, knees touching at the cafe.

All of it.

I can’t explain quite, the effect it has on me to be living in a city as beautiful as this one, other than to say it wakens me. It whets my senses. It calls me to attention, each small moment going any place is an opportunity for close noticing.

Creative rhythm + some time at the coast

Posted on June 16, 2014

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The past two weekends, though I’ve committed to the #5x5challenge, I’ve been off the grid. Though I’ve taken many photos, and shared some on Instagram, I’ve had no chances to slip away, get some internet connectivity and post.

There’s something that feels right about letting there be a rhythm to these posts. I like the regularity, and the commitment during the week, and also the exhale on the weekends.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about rhythm lately, and how we’ve created a culture that doesn’t allow us to exhale much. Since dealing with adrenal fatigue last fall and winter, I’ve forced myself to do that more: to step back, let go, forget whatever definitions I have of perfect.

I’m curious about how you experience rhythm in your creative lives, and in your work lives. When do you give yourself permission to leave gaps, let things go unfinished, fall to pieces, give way to entropy–and when do you persist?


Here are a few of my favorite glimpse from the weekend, getting some soul medicine on the beach with messy hair and sandy feet and the people I love.


Back to the #5x5challenge tomorrow. In the meantime here are a few of my favorites from #5x5challenge contributors this past week:

Food as art

Birthday Party

Expiration Dates

Coffee with cream

Late Afternoon

Seemingly Perfect

Small noticings

Posted on June 13, 2014

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Today this practice is about really sinking into the moments as they come, with full sensory awareness. Riding my bike to work and arriving early to pour a cup of hot coffee and pull together disparate notes into cohesive sentences. Yes, my desk is strewn with paper.

Today it is about noticing small. It’s about the sun on my neck at 11 a.m. slanting sideways through the window above my head, and about walking out for lunch at 2, just in time to smell the scent of rain on dry earth as it begins to fall; ozone torn from the sky. Petrichor. How I love that word.

Today it’s about noticing the markings of this city: half worn away billboards, unexpected stencils, the tattooed arm bands on the guy that holds the door for me, the sweet tangle of wild roses along a walk and stopping to plunge my face in. Breathing, until the sweetness is inside my lungs.

Happening in between

Posted on June 11, 2014

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In between the time we come in through the front door and I drop my bag and the little one’s backpack on the couch, settle the heft of a grocery sack on the counter, and drink a glass of water, the tempo of story is sounding out a quiet staccato in my head.

In between the time I cut up the purple onion and sauté it with thyme, adding the other vegetables, sweet Italian sausage and hot pepper flakes; and the time I slip out the front door away from the sound of the vacuum and the banter of the boys (Sprout constructing Lego structures, Bean making origami ninja throwing stars) words begin to scatter like raindrops at the beginning of a storm. No plot line, no finished sentences, just the ideas arrowing down in quick succession.


In between the time I sit down on the front stoop, noticing the way the light filters through the big-leafed tree above me, and turning my lens to find its flirtation with shadow, the orchestra is tuning at the back of my mind. Discordant, but persistent. The timpani, the saxophone, the violins striking out, querying, querulous. Nothing makes sense yet but this much I know: a book is in the offing, as inevitable now as the predicted rain. Here it is, happening in between, even as the ordinary moments continue.

The challenge, of course, is to pin the ideas down. The challenge is finding the steadfastness to listen hard, and then to show up at the page.

The 5×5 Creative Challenge

Posted on June 4, 2014

I’ve decided to do a simple creative challenge for June—to get back in the habit of noticing closely and taking note of what I see.

If you’d like to join, I’d love to see what you take note of daily! Share your name in the comments here, and then come back daily + share a link to what you’ve posted in the comments each and I’ll be sure to stop by and take a peak.

The Rules:

1. 5 SNAPSHOTS WITH YOUR CAMERA.
Point your lens. Pull out your iPhone. Notice the little things. The way the light slants. The way their faces look. Whatever moments stand out: The small ones, the important ones, the ones that are fleeting. Quick snaps are good. Careful focus is good too. Pick your favorite 5 + post daily.
 
2. ONE 5-MINUTE SNAPSHOT WITH WORDS.
Take a break from whatever it is you’re doing, sometime each day this month. Set a timer and take notice of the world around you. Then write. What do you see, hear, smell, feel, know? Who is around you, where are you? Create a 5-minute snapshot with words daily.

How about trying this for 25 days in a row? 5×5.

Try it rest of June. Ready, set, go!

{The official hashtag for Twitter + Instagram is: #the5x5challenge }

To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing

Posted on June 3, 2014

“It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing…. A door like this has cracked open five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It’s the best possible time of being alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.”
— Tom Stoppard (from Arcadia)

It’s taken me a while to write because every street, every ritual, every instance of who I am, and who we are as a family has been made new with this move. We arrived one month ago, chasing the sun across this wide country, and settled gradually into a wee bungalow with an arched doorway that’s just up the street from the original Stumptown .

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First impressions:

There are flowers everywhere. Bamboo grows like a weed, but I like it so. Whenever I go running, I find new paths and neighborhoods past enormous, ancient trees, bigger than any I’ve ever seen except for the Sequoias growing up. I run uphill, up an old volcano cone until I have a view of the city from above. On one side, Mount Hood lifts above the blue like a dream. On the other, bridges, so many of them, and a skyline I’m falling in love with.

It’s taken days, many of them, for my internal sense of direction to kick in strongly. I’ve oriented now, and there are more days than not (finally) that I can find my way around without help from my iPhone. Thankfully, someone thought to plan most of the city in a grid, with numbered streets running one way and named streets the other.

Our little home is the littlest yet, but I love it harder every day. The angled archway going into the breakfast nook. The gorgeous morning light in the bedroom, and the evening light that floods the living room when we come home. Upstairs, the boys have the “master bedroom”: a long rectangular room that was once the attic, refinished with lovely cabinets for all their things, and plenty of space to play. It’s made so much sense for them to be up there, where they can sprawl out and leave legos and shells and dress-up things about. And in turn, our bedroom downstairs is dreamy. I’ve always wanted a room just like this–with windows across two walls, and white floaty curtains that lift and flutter in the breeze.

In the backyard the boys spend a great deal of time in the hammock strung between a plum tree and apple tree. They tilt each other out and scream; they have tickle fights; they drag up quilts and snacks; the read books; they argue. They’ve both adjusted to their new school and routine with grace and resilience, but there are still there moments when so much change adds up. When things feel scary and big to them. When they fall apart. When they ball their fists. When they cry.

Bean, especially is growing into himself in new ways, and new moods and wonderments overtake him. Sometimes he is the sweetest, and other times morose. His long legs, coltish as ever, his eyes flashing with a new defiant light. Sprout, full of eagerness, tender-hearted, hot-headed. Last night, when things didn’t go his way, he stomped his feet and wailed, “I wish the world hadn’t been made this way at all.” Oh, to be small.

We live near the ocean now. Near food trucks and book stores and swanky restaurants and cafes. My creative mind is drinking it up, like someone thirsty after a long drought. How I love to be at the edges of things watching; or at the center, unnoticed, curious, smitten with beauty. I love the thousand faces I pass every day. The bikes, the blooming roses, the bumble bees, the baristas. I love the jumping rope that happens every morning, rain or shine outdoors at the boy’s school. I love the tiny studio T built for me, with just enough space for creating, floors made for spilling paint, and walls for thumb tacks.


And… I am still finding the tempo of life here. When writing happens; when work does; and also running, and painting, and kissing and friends and dinner too. One of the things I’ve missed the most, that this blog has always been for me, is a daily record. A few moments pause. A handful of moments of intentional observation. Sometimes the most effective way of reclaiming creative habits is to start with exactly where you are, and with the smallest actions, which build to their own momentum and greatness in time.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what that might look like, and I’ve settled on this simple routine for June: 5 photos + 5 minutes.
5 photos documenting moments throughout the day, and a 5 minute writing exercise: simply recording the immediate, the present, the now.

I’d love for you to join, if you’d like! (I’ll be posting more about this little challenge. Keep an eye out.)