25 September 2015

The Great Escape: Tyler and Corey in North Carolina!!

I asked Ben's son Tyler to join me in North Carolina this past August. We've had a bit of a rough year, so I thought we both needed a break. We stayed in a family home for a week and had the most amazing time. I also asked my friend--and one of my favorite musicians--Corey to tag along. Here's a visual wrap-up of the fun we had! (Except I left out the dancing images, for obvious reasons. But I'm holding them close for future blackmail opportunities . . . Haha!) Enjoy!

24 September 2015

Rube Goldberg . . . And That Time I Almost Died. #drama

“The only way we will survive is by being kind. The only way we can get by in this world is through the help we receive from others. No one can do it alone, no matter how great the machines are.”

I just finished reading the most thoughtful and inspiring book. Amy Poehler’s Yes Please was completely engrossing. She is so generous and informative, and she makes you want to get up and change the world. She’s humorous and caring. She talks about her family a lot and the in’s and out’s of “the business” a lot. And she writes about things that happened to her throughout her career, without holding back. It’s such an amazing book. I put off finishing it for as long as I could so that I could drag it out. But yesterday was the day! 

And now I am feeling all sorts of reflective.

In January of this year, my friends came to town to work with my students on a Rube Goldberg project. 

The Grade 3 teachers had approached me about collaborating with their students on their science unit featuring force and motion utilizing simple machines. I instantly agreed. For years, I had been wanting to build a Rube Goldberg machine with my students and this unit was the perfect opportunity!

So, I invited San Francisco-based artists Erik Richard Parra and Jessica Laurent to be guest artists during this unit. Erik is a painter and installation artist. His work centers around creating spaces (drawn, painted, or sculptural) where people can engage in productive, democratic experiences with the art. Relationships of line, volume, weight, time, space and other variables affect the success and progress of these spaces. Jessica is a science-based graduate student. Together, their experience helped bring our Rube Goldberg to life.  

Rube Goldberg (1883 - 1970) was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor, and author. He created intricate illustrations of machines that would complete a simple task in the most extraordinary way. Elaborate sets of arms, wheels, gears, handles, cups and rods, put in motion by balls, canary cages, pails, boots, bathtubs, paddles and live animals seemingly made these drawings come to life.

To get the students excited about what they were going to be building, I asked Erik to introduce his art making and studio practice. He showed lots of images of his work and a video where he built a piece from start to finish. The students asked lots and lots of questions, establishing a great relationship with Erik from the start. 

Our next class together was filled with a great deal of excitement as we showed the students a variety of real life Rube Goldberg machines: The Page Turner, OK Go’s This Too Shall Pass, and collaborative artists, Fischli and Weiss. Then we broke the students into three groups. Each group was tasked with sorting through found and recycled materials to build a simple machine that would work over and over and over again, completing the same task. Perhaps it was a car rolling down a ramp and crashing into a stack of cardboard tubes, or maybe it was a ball dropping into a yogurt container tied to a string that then knocks something off of a table. Whatever it was, the students had to be able to prove that it would do the same action over and over again. They had lots of ideas, and loved this process of play and experimentation!

We kept adding to the items the students could choose from, so that they could really experiment with repeated actions. The first week was all recyclables. The second week was toys (cars, heavy magnets, balls, tracks) mixed with recyclables. The second to last class involved the students finalizing their simple machines. Once they could prove to us that they could repeat their machine’s action numerous times, we carefully kept whatever machine they built to be used in the final Rube Goldberg.

When it came time to build the full Rube Goldberg, the visiting artists set up a space in one of the empty classrooms. They aligned the desks in an “L” shape close to the walls, so that the main space was open. We brought in ladders, umbrellas, and fans as additional set pieces. These items added height and movement, which helped visually tie the full work together. Through lots and lots of experimentation, the visiting artists connected each of the student’s simple machines to create the finished work. And then each of us (both of the visiting artists and me, the teacher/facilitator) added our own elements to the work (balloons falling from the ceiling/colorful bits of paper tied to the fan that would playfully blow when it was turned on). 

We invited the students and their teachers into the space and presented the final work. The students, in turns, photographed various parts of the work for their portfolios and then we put together a final video of the piece.

What was so unique about this process was the way that it worked collaboratively. Each student was able to bring something to the work. The Grade 3 teachers (by teaching their students about simple machines, and force and motion) and we, the artists and teachers (through creative building and problem solving), were all able to contribute to the final piece. It was a truly collaborative work from start to finish.

What the students learned about simple machines and interactive, collaborative art was immeasurable. The students realized that working together to create a large artwork was far more successful then a project where they had to work alone. They also valued this type of working atmosphere: collaborating with their peers and utilizing what they learned in other classes to fulfill an artwork’s potential.

During their three week visit to Singapore, Erik, Jessica, and I took a quick weekend jaunt to the place in Borneo that I raved about here. We had the most beautiful time. But it was also the weekend I almost died.

The weekend started off with my friend, Mr. Abel, picking us up from the airport in Kota Kinabalu. We went by the grocery store and stocked up. Then we drove onward to the private beach that I love so much . . . 

Friday night, we stayed up talking outside of our cabins. A few of the locals who were there for the night, came up and chatted with us. We all had beers, and exchanged pleasantries.

Our cabin was a duplex. Jessica and Erik stayed on one side, I stayed on the other. We shared a porch with a nice table and chairs. Each side of the duplex had two twin beds with mosquito nets. We could hear the ocean water. It was wonderful! Cabins on the beach are it! Absolutely the best!

The next day, we had a home-cooked breakfast. Turns out Mr. Abel is not only a hospitable friend, he’s also one heck of a chef! Then we spent the entire day on the beach. We went swimming and snorkeling. We collected lots and lots of seashells. We chased crabs. We ate lunch. Then we did all of those things again. We were getting sunburned as the day continued, but we did not care. It was so relaxing. 

Dinner was another amazing feast. After dinner, we ran around on the beach. Even more crabs came out after dark. And they were bigger. Some of them were completely translucent. Around 9:30pm, we decided to go set some crab traps off shore a bit, in the ocean.

This is when things changed . . . 

We hopped in a tiny wooden boat with our captain, Stanley. He spoke very little English, but he was all smiles. We took the boat out about 1.5 - 2 miles from shore and set the traps. Crab traps are sort of big metal crates that sink. They are marked with floats tied to ropes, so you can retrieve them again the next morning.

Before we took the boat out on the water, I remember noticing 4 perfectly drilled holes about an inch in diameter along the righthand side of the floor of the boat. And for a brief second, I thought, Are holes supposed to be on the bottom of something that is supposed to float in the water? 

Once the traps were set, Stanley swiftly turned the boat around to come back to shore, and the tip of the boat dipped down in the water. And that’s all it took. Erik went in the water first, with a look of horror on his face. Once he went in, I thought, Okay, I learned about this in Girl Scouts. Flip the boat over, and we’ll hold onto it until they can get another boat out to us.

But the boat went straight down to the bottom of the ocean. There was no floating happening. 

That’s when I lost it.

I started shaking and screaming at the top of my lungs. Turns out, my fear of the ocean is very, very real. And I do not swim well under duress. 

Stanley was waving his hands in the air. I kept hearing Erik yelling over to him to see if he could swim. He could not. He was still smiling, but not able to stay above water. At this moment, I took off the sweater I was wearing and let it float to the bottom, never to be seen again. It was weighing me down and I was freaking out, big time.

Erik put Stanley on his back and began to swim to shore. Surprise, surprise! Erik had been a lifeguard in high school and college. So, he went into safety mode. As he swam past Jessica and me, he told us he would get another boat and bring it out to us. We just had to begin swimming and he’d meet us halfway.

Nope. I was flailing at this point. I remember thinking what I must have looked like, and it looked like a drowning person. I’d completely gone into panic mode.

Jessica—on the other hand—was seemingly calm. I’m not sure how she managed this. But she looked over at me and said, “Float on your back and look at the stars. That’s all you have to do.”

So, I got on my back and started swimming backwards looking up at the stars. I remember thinking how big the moon looked and how bright the stars looked. I kept thinking, Well, if this is the way I am meant to go, this is a pretty beautiful sight. 

I kept going. I was swimming backwards, screaming bloody murder, and crying. I was frustrated that my boobs were not keeping me afloat. I know that probably sounds crazy, and vaguely inappropriate. But these are the things that were going through my mind. What’s the purpose of these things being so giant, if not to keep me afloat in times of near-death, watery experiences???!!!!

Then I felt someone grab my arm. Jessica placed my arms around a buoy. She continued swimming on.

Then my fear turned from drowning fear to what-if-something-bites-my-legs-off fear. Holy crap, will this night ever end??!! It was so dark outside and I couldn’t see in the water. I couldn’t see anything!!! Let me just die and be done with it!! 

That’s where my memory of being out in the water ends. The next thing I remember, is being flung over the side of a boat. I was face down on the floor of the boat, repeatedly saying, “Get me out of here!” When we made it to shore, I got out of the boat, fell to my knees and began throwing up. I threw up for about 30 minutes straight. Apparently swallowing salt water cleans out your system. All orifices purge. It’s disgusting and cleansing, all at once.

Mr. Able wrapped me in a towel and I walked by myself, with Jessica and Erik trailing me, up to our cabin. When Jessica got there, she gave me two pills to help with my panic attack. Very, very rarely do I take medicine. But that night, I took the pills without questioning anything. I was still crying and thanking her profusely for saving my life. Then I fell asleep.

The next morning, we woke up to another beautifully cooked breakfast. And it was like nothing had happened. After breakfast, we walked down to the beach. And there was Stanley, pulling the boat out of the water. He had rescued our boat from the bottom of the ocean. After watching him pull it onto shore, we found Mr. Abel. He took us to the airport. Upon paying, I asked for a near-death discount . . . Which we got. ;) 

My heart still stops briefly when I think about this happening. The worst possible way I can think of dying is by losing breath (suffocation), or not being able to breathe (being trapped in water). 

The moral of this story is this: wear life jackets. Always wear life jackets. When you are riding a bike on the street, wear a life jacket. When you are riding in a car, wear a life jacket. When you are walking around in a mall, wear a life jacket. I can not stress the life jacket-ness enough! 

And when you are having a pleasant evening on the shore chasing crabs, just continue doing that. There is no reason to stop having fun on the beach to take a boat out on the water in the pitch dark. Always stay on the shore chasing crabs! Just do it while wearing a life jacket!!!! Do everything in your life while wearing a life jacket!!

Just so you know, I am not a scared person. I have done a lot of things in my life that I probably should have been scared of, but was not. This was the first time in my life that I was truly frightened. I really thought this was it! Adios, world! 

“Lindsey Bailey dies at sea, off the coast of Borneo. She was 40.”

But I’m still here. And I’ve since been in the ocean and taken boat trips. But this experience was definitely an eye opener and made me think about my life differently.

Now I live in the desert, but I’m still surrounded by water. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens!

“To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness. But life without meaning is the torture of restlessness and vague desire: it is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.”