Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Temporary Life

"Don't Look at Me" 
Tony Oursier

Museum of Contemporary Art,
La Jolla

We have been in San Diego for more than a week now. Angus and Tavish have returned home. 
I had heard that port life is mostly about fixing the things that were broken while sailing and so far that seems to be true. We are also getting some things installed for the next leg of our journey. A bimini for shade from sun, a watermaker, an extra autopilot. Kim spends a lot of his time on short visits to various businesses to talk to experts and sales people.
A few days ago we moved from the transient dock and now have a slip in a regular marina—fewer dogs and derelict boats, but not nearly so entertaining. It’s like living in a leafless fiberglass forest. Though nature tries its best to intervene. Every day a flock of itinerant starlings rushes in from the palms along the beachfront and settles on the masts, chattering and happily shitting all over the blinding white boat decks. Every so often a boat owner arrives, curses and hoses down the mess. Along the edge of the breakwater where the tide moves sluggishly in and out its 5 or 6 feet, little flocks of sandpipers and Marbled Godwits with amber-coloured bills probe the mud. An osprey flies over often and once in awhile a pelican drops among the masts, fishing between the dock fingers.
As for the human community on Shelter Island, there are the people who work at the marinas, hotels, and beaches, and the people who use the marinas, hotels, and beaches. At the end of the day many of them leave. At night, other than the snapping shrimp, we feel like the only living things.
Beyond Shelter Island and all its boat businesses though, of course, is a real neighbourhood. The streets wind up a hill planted with palms, hibiscus, jasmine and eucalyptus. The air smells resinous. So far we have found: an excellent wine store, an internet café, a couple of good restaurants, an artisan bread shop, a video store, and a drug store. For our first week here, that was our world. Then we got second hand bikes! Now we ride 15 minutes to shop for groceries. And three days a week I ride straight up the hill to a yoga studio. I was very happy to find La Playa Yoga. It is in a private home, and looks out into a sunny garden and beyond to a sliver of ocean. The teacher is blond and willowy, and the women are very nice and smile and ask me questions about myself and I’m sure none of them are Republicans. Even though I know I will not have time to make good friends here, it was a relief to find a place which feels personal. Usually when Kim and I travel we do not stop for long, which solves most of the question about what to do next. But staying in a place for two months is very different. For the first time in a very long time I find that I have to actively make a life, give it direction and content. I am used to doing this. But I have realized that the infrastructure of my home life: time, materials, my studio, but most importantly, my community, allows me to spend so much time working alone.
Now I have wireless on the boat and can talk to friends and family via email and the blog every day.  Also we have a few friends and family of friends here who have invited us out. Yesterday, Tracy, the sister of our Portland friend Terri, drove us around the area, pointing out spectacular walks, the local library, where to get a good martini, great Mexican food, a pair of running shoes...
A couple of visits to galleries have been wonderful.  Saw “Don’t Look at Me” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla (a beautiful, once private home, perched on cliffs looking over the sea). The face on the figure was a video projection (which gazes at the viewer and says things like “don’t look at me, go away, I’m not here…”). It was mesmerizing, a strange combination of the highly realistic and the obviously formless.
One of my favourite museums here is the Mingei, a craft museum in Balboa Park. I will go back again to see the jewel-like prints (some of which have been made into huge tapestries) of the Hungarian artist Joseph Domjan.
Off to see the San Diego Watercolour Society’s International Show…


brigitte said...

alison, je suis contente de suivre votre voyage de Marseille. Pourquoi restez vous si longtemps a San Diego, pourquoi avez vous choisi cet endroit ? amities a bientot Brigitte

materfamilias said...

I love this post -- makes me think of those first weeks or months after a move, when a new locale offers a wealth of yet-unexplored possibilities for shaping a life. We so quickly fall into daily rhythms that catch us up and, rich and comforting and exciting as they may be, preclude other options. Two months is almost long enough to get a taste for who else you might be somewhere else, plus although I would find it somewhat exhausting, and certainly not without its anxieties, I think it would be reassuring to see that I could do all that re-starting again.
Love the rich colour and wonderful generous curves of that rooster -- you're really filling up your artist's repertoire of images, aren't you?!

Alison Watt said...

the journey to Mexico must be split in two, because we couldn't leave Canada too late as fall storms begin and il faut que nous restions San Diego a cause des ouragans au Mexique. Nous partirons a fin de Novembre. Once we are in Mexico we must stay there, again because of weather, until early March, when we will leave (if all goes well) to cross to the Marquesas.