Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


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Rhythm

view from my writing turret

It takes a while to settle a routine as an artist in residence and its hard to let go.

I miss my family yet they just keep movin’ to their usual beat.

First I want to do it all, and then I don’t know what to do.

But I have so much to do.

I need a rhythm, a rhythm.

Winding Bay

I went to  Winding Bay last July with 28 kids from the Cultural Center but this time I am alone. This time I follow the “public beach access” sign and turn left instead of right to take the sandy road all the way to the end.

At first I am annoyed, I am still annoyed by the pedestrian e-mails that came in from life back in Miami, like a client who’d promised to send a wire last week and now tells me that she sent a check by mail. Bullshit stuff I don’t want to deal with, but it’s the jostling and jousting we all do for our lifestyle, from health insurance to school acceptance letters and 2011 taxes.

I am annoyed that the local public beach is half a mile up a potholed dirt road whereas private vacation homes are conveniently dotted all along the easy access paved road to the right. I know it’s silly but I still feel controlled by the powers-that-be back home. I am so not in the here and now. I am allowing negativity into my life. I’m not feelin’ the island love. I am grumpily thinking that I have no freedom no matter where I go.

After much bumping around I make it to the end of Winding Bay beach. I park the car and get out. The wind swishes through the Casuarinas, they may not be indigenous, they may kill other plant species, but I do love them for their sound, that gentle hush through their long thin needles. A rhythm. I walk across the burning sand to the water’s edge, it’s high tide and perfectly clear. Tiny waves lap back and forth. A rhythm. I notice a small turtle swimming a few feet away. I stay very still and watch her. A tiny head breaks the surface and she glances at me while taking a breath.

That’s when I forget about wires and threatening e-mails from Bank of America. It all dissipates as I stand knee deep in water and watch and listen to the harmony of what happens around me. I hear the chorus of birds in the trees behind me. I see two more, mature, turtles who also check me out. Their perfectly round heads pop in and out, black and glistening against the aqua marine water. A rhythm.

           

I take out my camera and change the lens to macro. This forces me to really look, drawing me into my environment and out of myself. I notice the texture of a bleached branch rather than just a dead tree, the repetitive patterns in the sand, the sharp edges and chiseled surface of the rocks and their shadows. The color of water, sand, wood, rock, shell, seaweed, plastic, all become part of me as I shoot frame after frame.

My rhythm.

  

  

I sit down to draw the patterns of the sand. I am happy. I can stay here forever but a big fat black fly comes at me with persistent rhythm and eventually drives me away.

           

pen and ink:  “sand”   and   “rhythm”

Click on image to see larger

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Columbus Will Come To Check It Out

The MacMillan Castle in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera

I had a restless sleep in my tower. The myth in the village is of course that Gordon MacMillan Hughes’ spirit still haunts his castle. Never mind that he died in Ireland, about 4000 miles from here, a mere practicality the spirit-world does not recognize. I went to bed with my windows open. I needed to hear and feel my first night in the settlement. As soon as the sun went down and darkness settled the town had become quiet. No more children shouting and laughing. No more passing cars. For a while there was the shrill pumped-up engine of one lone motorbike, a rebellious teenager with a new toy I imagined, going back and forth crisscrossing the small streets until he got bored or hungry or his mother finally pulled him inside.

I fell asleep in silence but sudden random noises woke me. First a dog barked, then a woman cried out. I’d drowse off and a lone car passed by or a drunkard sang in the distance. It was too hot, a mosquito had found me, I dreamt that my husband and my teenage daughter were smoking pot together and I shouted is this is what you do as soon as I leave? They laughed at me. Throughout my dreams I wasn’t wearing my contacts so everything was blurry. Only people with very bad eyesight can appreciate this dream, when the powerlessness of our disability becomes full-blown reality.

Just before dawn the dogs started their ferocious chorus. In rural towns all over the world stray dogs herald daybreak before the rooster. Maybe they are the ones who wake the roosters who get all the credit for waking us humans.

I got up and closed my windows, turned on the AC, took a Claritin for the mosquito bites and slept till 8am when the sounds of the settlement grinding into action drifted past the humming air conditioner. A group of girls in crisp white shirts with little bow ties that matched their tartan skirts walked by on their way to the elementary school that lies a few hundred yards from the castle. They played loudly in the schoolyard until exactly nine when all went quiet again. Next I heard the teachers starting class, their voices drifting up the hill and from the roof terrace I could see right through their open classroom doors to the bright turquoise water of the Caribbean.

view from the roof, the settlement, the elementary school and the Caribbean

I made my morning cup of PG tips tea and turned on my shower. It sputtered and a grinding noise came from the pipes but nothing happened. I was not surprised. To expect perfect plumbing at a castle would be unreasonable. I called Metta, MacMillan Hughes’ daughter and the castle’s keeper.

“Columbus will come over to check it out,” she said.

He was short, wiry and ageless. His once-white skin had weathered into almost black and was deeply grooved yet his dark brown hair didn’t have a strand of grey. His  legs were short and bandy, and his back was bent but appeared strong under his dirty white tee that advertised the name of a marine supply store. When Columbus and I crossed the roof to my turret chamber (and shower) he lamented the fact that he couldn’t see both oceans from this highest  vantage point in Tarpum Bay.

“Only you would care,” I said and Columbus laughed like we were both in on some cosmic joke.

Yes I am here and voila, I am Barbi scissorhands.

I arrived at the MacMillan castle yesterday afternoon for my tenure as the Tarpum Bay artist in residence.

I’ve never been an artist in residence before.

I’ve not been a princess in a turret either.

I’ve been a model and a designer and a wife and a mother but never a damsel in a tower in the Bahamas (beats London). Can I handle it? Alone for the first time in god knows how long (sure I’ve been away from my family but somehow it doesn’t count when I have to show up for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a client.)

OK. So.

I just figured out that if I stand on of one of the towers facing the tiny library on the next corner I can get a good enough signal to upload my pictures and first daily blog….


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ROUTINE

I am woken up at 6.30 by my fifteen year old daughter. Depending on her teenage mood she either wiggles my toe or mumbles a sullen “wake up Mom”. Sometimes I’m already awake and, waiting for her to open the door, I’ll call “I’m up” before she enters the room. Occasionally she has to search and finds me on the sofa because there are times when a queen is just not big enough for her fretful viking parents.

After sliding my contacts sideways into sleepy eyes I pull an outfit from the closet that could attract the attention of  roadside assistance on the Alice Tuttle Parkway. I  don’t brush my teeth until after my first cup of tea, two bags of English PG Tips, super strong, lots of sugar and milk, and sipped as I make the next three lunch boxes out of the 4982 lunch boxes made thus far and the 2400 or so left to go. I like making lunch boxes. I refuse to iron, I hate washing pots, I’m not strong at patiently explaining home work but I do get into assembling lunch boxes. First the sandwich and its variations: white bread, whole wheat bread, cesar rolls, ciabatta rolls, bagels and wraps, turkey and cheese, ham and cheese, tuna, cream cheese, egg salad, hummus tomato lettuce, and occasionally for the unexpected and I’m out of everything, peanut butter. An apple or satsuma or grapes or melon. A large chocolate chip cookie from the Fresh Market and finally the salty element; chips or pretzels, crackers or Pirate Booty. Iced tea in the three canteens. Its the first creative act of my day.

    

By 7.15 Iona and I are in the car. By 7.30 I drop her off at the railroad tracks that run along DASH – her high school. We talk along the way. We catch up. There’s always something. A teacher. A test. A pesky text from an ex-boyfriend demanding back some gift bestowed in the early days of his mad passion. I curse and scream at the Miami drivers, justified in my agro by a recent report that Miami drivers  REALLY are the worst in the country. Its not me. It’s been proven and  I attest: They  don’t move at a green light, they slow down for orange so they can check messages, but do run every red light, they change lanes randomly, pull out of parking spots without looking, never use a blinker, speed in a slow zone and do 25 miles in the outer lane of the highway. They drive around speed humps as if that’s actually an option and mothers make u-turns on the school crossing almost running over the carpool of kids they just unloaded, all while texting.

Once I’ve dropped off Iona I have 12 minutes to make it back home. 7.42. The school bus for the twins arrives around 7.50. They are never ready and always in a wardrobe-induced flap. Amber hops impatiently through the hall, hyper at the knowledge that she’s next on my roster. The three of us run to the light, press the may-pedestrians-cross-soon button, ensure we don’t get run over by a red-light jumper and wait on the opposite corner.  Alton Road rush-hour traffic zooms by. The same thousand cars every morning. The same yellow Fiat with the redhead, the same black mini Cooper with the fat woman, the same tan man on his bicycle, the same white Range Rover turning onto Allison Island. I wait with my girls until they get on. Ever since a black Cherokee almost slammed into the back of their school bus I make sure they do not enter until all cars behind have stopped. I wave at the driver, a friendly grey haired woman, the girls hiss back at me “she only speaks Spanish, Mom!” as if I waved in English.

I press the pedestrian light again, check the traffic exiting from our community gates for the black Porsche Cayenne that came so close to hitting me a month ago that I actually screamed FUCK and saw my life flashing while the driver, her face a few feet from mine, remained unimpressed and did not even mouth “sorry”, something I would definitely have done had I almost run her over, just in case I’d meet her by the pool later.

By eight I’m home. I thank God for sparing me and my family yet again, clip the leash on Amber, grab a poopie bag and am dragged around Aqua for the next ten minutes, fresh on the trail of  the Airedale terrier – Zoe from Zoe Way (coincidental or intentional one wonders.) Amber, who ignores all dogs, has decided Zoe is da meanest bitch of Miami Beach and needs to be taken out. We pee, we shit, we pick up the shit because cameras are trained everywhere (in the last condo meeting there was even talk of D & A testing un-bagged left-behind turds in order for appropriate fines to be imposed.) Not I.  I am proud of my own goodness every time I pick up, and when the security guard passes in his golf cart moments after a shit has been taken I hold up my baggie and call out “I got it” as if he’s driving by just to check on me, which is not altogether unlikely.

studio aka garage

I return a disappointed Amber home and grab my swimsuit that hangs from the doorknob in my studio, also known as the garage. I change, wrap the mandatory Aqua towel around my waist and ride my bike  along Indian Creek to our pool. It’s invariably a gorgeous morning. We’ve been in Miami two years and four months and I still notice the luxury of the weather. It is sunny, warm and the air has a hint of salt from the ocean two blocks away. I look for dolphins or manatee in the creek. A heron flies close to me, checking for fish. I admire the tall palm trees on the other side of the water and the mansions with their tropical gardens and jetties with million dollar yachts. There is no one at the pool except for the Aqua grounds keeper preening for the day ahead. I wade into the Olympic sized body of turquoise water and start my  thirty laps.  The water is warm. Too warm. A ridiculous waste I think every morning as I pull a bunch of  bougainvilla flowers from the filter. I start to think as I swim through more  fuchsia bougainvilla. The sun is just coming around the tall apartment blocks of  Millionaire Row along Collins, the avenue that separates the creek from the beach. I think of the day ahead. I lay it out like the lane I’m lapping up, with each stroke I run my list: Finish taxes, call Blue Cross Blue Shield, balance my check book, mark up the next BHS folder, send e-mail to John about the wine sponsorship, order 200 tee shirts, did the Botanical gardens respond yet? And why not?  I think of the BIG list. The list of things to do with the rest of my life. My ambition list. I think of how I felt those first few months I was doing laps here. How I was unsure, insecure and off-kilter. How in the second year so much turned around, how doors opened and how I passed through them. I imagine I am exactly in the middle of my entire life. Its been eventful so far and I look forward to what’s coming. I think of the 120 or so pieces I have to make for my new collection. I anticipate what it will be like when my routine goes upside down and inside out when I’m leaving all this behind for three whole weeks.

Alone.

I’ll be alone for the first time in 16 years. Alone in a house. No actually, a castle. I shall make dinners just for me and 45 less lunch boxes in the big scheme of things on my to do list.

beginning of a new collection


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Finding the Future on Lighthouse Beach…

The windmill at the Island School

“My career is really taking off here” was not something I expected to say seven years after I first walked the beaches off Eleuthera . When I first noticed the colored plastic bits in the  surf line and was strangely attracted to their paradoxical existence, the color they added to the natural elements, the way many plastic shapes seemed to find organic companions and together created still-lives in the sand. Like the green flip flop perfectly aligned with matching green beach grass, a white bottle top buried in black seaweed paired with a round shell of the same color and texture, two golden seeds cozied up against the edge of nylon string as if they had agreed to meet there.

synergy

Seven years later I notice it still and still crawl the beaches hungry for more, for pieces I have neither found nor captured before.

I sat with my friend Maureen on her most perfect porch overlooking the long curve of Wyckee Beach.  The sand and sea tinted vibrant pink by the early sunset.

Career and Eleuthera in one sentence, how’s that possible? I asked.

I had just returned from the Island School down in south Eleuthera, beyond Green Castle near the settlement of Deep Creek. The school takes juniors and gives them a mind, body, and spirit journey that takes them away from their traditional high school curriculum wherever they live.

Nadine, the art teacher, had invited me to teach a beach plastic workshop to 48 kids  in the Fall semester.

But on the first day I taught a workshop at the Deep Creek Middle School which is affiliated with the Island School.

We started the day with a beach sweep at the Cotton Bay Club (Juan Tripp’s Eleuthera dream  of more than half a century ago.)  Its ruins hide just beyond the dune amongst the Casuarinas, gaping and crumbling fifties bungelows some with indestructible nylon drapes ghostly in the wind. Here we collected beach plastic that had been swept into the dune grass and beyond by hurricane Irene last August. Stories of the eye passing over the island twice still fresh on everybody’s lips.

It was a good time for harvesting beach plastic…

That evening Nadine showed the One Beach film to faculty and staff of the school, projected on a white wall in her apartment. The film, which is 24 minutes long, took about an hour. Five minutes of  loading, five minutes of watching, everyone was used to slow connection, laid back, on island time.

I answered questions while waiting for buffering.

The next morning we had our first Island School workshop.

I love the intensity in the class room, everyone scavenging the piles and looking for ways to make beautiful from beach plastic, tentative at first, picking up a piece, feeling it, studying its color and shape, teaming it with another, then picking up the tools and shaping it, insisting that NO it’s not trash, it’s not orphaned, it is material.

Insisting that “Away” is right there, in their hands… claiming ownership.

(We did stop for 11.11.11.11, standing in a large circle counting down while one girls kept trying to peek out of the window to see if the end of the world was reaching the Bahamas.)

By the end of this workshop Nadine and I felt we were out of good beach plastic which was a perfect excuse to take my first trip to the famous Lighthouse Beach, where beyond the dune amongst  Casuarina pine needles we found enough for many more earrings, bracelets, neck and other art pieces.

harvesting on Lighthouse Beach

The next morning was workshop #2, a second group of 24 students.

Afterwards a 16 year old girl wrote about her solo overnight camping experience and beach plastic on the school’s blog:

(It made me weep for it captures past, present, future and the possibility of change…)

by Cacique Claire

Sitting in my solo spot on one of the most beautiful beaches in existence it seemed that the world was perfect. That was until I turned around and saw the pile of trash behind me that had washed up on the beach from Hurricane Irene. In my time in this spot, I had picked up a tiny fraction of the trash and put it into a pile. But, what good was it in a pile? It was organized, and parts of my spot looked neater, but I had done nothing more than transfer the trash to another spot. For the next forty-eight hours I continued to try to pile the trash. I found funny little things including many bottles and a strange little dog toy in the shape of a bear. As I walked away on day three I looked back. Now my spot looked clean of trash, only I knew that behind the bushes was a large pile of garbage I had hidden, but it was there.

I have been thinking of this a lot lately, this whole idea of where our waste goes. The reality of it is that when we throw away our garbage and it disappears into a truck it still sticks around, forever. Our guest artist today Barbara de Vries talked about how when you buy a drink in a bottle we have this idea of just owning the liquid, but we need to own the plastic bottle as well and realize that it will never really go away. When I walked into Barbara’s workshop Saturday, I was astounded. Lining the walls were beautiful pieces of art, it wasn’t until Barbara began to explain her materials that I realized the earrings, necklaces, bracelets, shirts, rings and decorations were all made up completely of trash. Then Barbara explained that we would be working with the same plastics today to create art. She said that she had found all of the materials for today’s workshop from Lighthouse Beach, the same area where we had our solos. My mind flashed back to my pile of trash in my spot, and I had this strange feeling of relief. Finally, the junk would be put to use and be safe from washing back into the ocean. I went out to look at our options, and staring back at me was a blue and white dog toy, resembling a bear. She had discovered my pile of trash, and saved it. I watched, amazed as the trash was transformed into art. At the end of the day one of my friends had created a pair of earrings made from the handles of the dog toy. I realize now, this trash may never go away. But we can save it. We can transform it into something beautiful, and continue to educate about keeping our beaches clean. This experience forever changed the way I look at plastic and ‘garbage’. Instead of feeling guilty about the trash at my solo spot, I am wearing a little silver ring, with a piece of blue plastic set into it, that came from a funny little dog toy.

Did she know that the face of the little dog toy is in my toolbox? I had nabbed it off her table to incorporate as the clasp of a yellow necklace.

But now I am keeping it with me, just as it is, to remind me of Cacique Claire, Nadine and everyone else at the ground breaking, paradigm changing, most awesome Island School.


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Steve Jobs, TED and thinking different…

Beach plastic necklace. Crosses made from crate embellished with seed pearls

Today the ether is atwitter with quotes from Steve Jobs to “think different”.

Everyone is encouraging everyone to think different.

(A paradox I think)

The TED movement is based on this Steve concept, in fact TED has branded thinking different with “Ideas Worth Sharing” and encourages people from all over to share their ideas, their ways of different thinking, around the globe.

Many people are asking about my TED talk, “How did you get in? How did you do it?”

To be honest it had not occurred to me until I was invited by TED to share my recent work at their next event in Miami.

The evolution of my relationship to what I find on the beach and what I do with it has been organic and compared to the speed of my previous life on 7th Avenue where a new collection was due every six weeks, it was slow.

Very slow.

Slow is good. Slow gave me more time to think . But, because the thoughts happened over an extended period of time, they no longer feel different. They have become part of who I am.

So when I talk about my passion for beach plastic it does not feel like I think different.

Different may well be in the eye of the beholder and it’s in constant flux.

For instance.

Sixty years ago plastic was a “different” material. It was introduced as the material that would give nature a break because we were depleting wood, bone, ivory etc. Now there is not a moment in our life when we do not interact with it. The entire planet is awash with plastic. Oceans carry plastic particles around like cells in a bloodstream. Plastic has been found in tens of thousands of living species, including us. Single use plastic is no longer giving nature a break, it is suffocating life.

In the past I put my creative work out there, but not the thought behind it. I have always been more interested in the outcome rather than the explanation of the creative process and believe that authenticity resonates on its rightful frequency.  But because my work now has an element of activism I succumbed.

Still

I’d hate to preach. I am not here to make any individual feel guilty. I can inspire but I cannot tell you what to do.

(Corporations, hell yes, I’ll make them  guilty all day long, as well as government and policy makers).

But as individuals we have free will. We are in charge of our own destiny. We can inform ourselves and choose to act. We can decide to  bring our own bags to the supermarket instead of using 20 plastic bags instead. We  can recycle, reuse, repurpose and refuse. We have the choice to take responsibility.

in between the lines

My personal transformation started  in Eleuthera 8 years ago.

On my first beach walk  I noticed,  in between the lines in the sand,  bright flecks of color. My initial thought was how pretty but then I realized these specks of plastic were  not supposed to be there.

By the end of that first walk I had encountered everything that mankind had ever made in plastic.

Crates, chairs, brushes, lids, containers, barrettes, flip flops and sneaker and endless lengths of nylon rope.

Even on this remote “pristine” beach I realized that we live in a man made world.

Being a designer I look at almost everything as shape, color, texture and inspiration and what I saw that day I’d never seen before.

The beach plastic had been tumbled in sand, salt and coral. and was bleached by the sun. It had been in nature for so long that it had taken on a natural patina. Some pieces looked like stone, like little colored gems.

I started picking them up.

My love hate relationship with plastic started in that moment .

Back  home I tried to find out more.

I learned that we each consume roughly 300 pounds of plastic a year of which a mere 7% is recycled and 8 million pieces of plastic find their way into the ocean every day.

What could I do?

I had an ever increasing “collection” of beach plastic in my studio and I started making earrings.

Eventually I had an awakening to the possibilities of this material that was never really owned but had been thrown to the mythical place called away.

To make jewelry was a transformation, not just for me, but also for the material.

Think of a water-bottle top. Does anyone ever feel that they own a plastic bottle top? It just keeps the liquid inside the bottle, right? Which you don’t feel you own either. Does the manufacturer of your water feel he owns that bottle?

Nobody owns single-use plastic.

I like finding weathered bottle tops. They make great earrings, and I love selling single use plastic, beach plastic, into ownership.

If plastic is made to last forever then maybe, like diamonds, it can be loved forever.

I got this comment yesterday:

“Keep cleaning up the beaches lady.. but what are you gonna do with all those balloons with the plastic string ties and can you make something with all the garbage those people in Miami leave on the beaches while you’re at it???”

He does NOT think different!

I am not cleaning up the beaches for him or anyone. I do it for me. Creating beauty with beach plastic makes me happy and by getting your attention I implicate you in the tragedy of our single-use throw-away culture.

I hope I make you think.

Not just different.

Different is fleeting.

But think.

All the time

About everything.

website:

http://www.plasticisforever.net/


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How to prepare for a TED talk with the Seinfeld method….

Almost four weeks later and my TED talk is not online.

I practice my ZEN patience and wonder if:

When one does a TED talk and nobody can see it,  is it still is a TED talk?

As I write this I have not seen myself TED talking.

Still.

I am glad it is over.

Was it fun?

Did I do good?

I did terrible in the dress rehearsal. Like really awful, like I wondered if they could fire me.

It was the clock. Right in the middle of the audience, at perfect eye level, is a monitor. It shows the slides or video that is projected behind the speakers so we don’t have to keep turning around to address our images. Its about 3ft by 18″. But I could not really see  because over my pictures there was a giant fluorescent 13 that took up the entire screen. 13 minutes for my talk. Seconds and minutes passing backwards, like the proverbial bomb in James Bond movies and I was James, responsible for saving the world in 13 minutes.

photo: Ilmar Saar

So.

At 8 minutes I thought.

As I was talking my dress rehearsal TED.

I thought. 8? 13 minus 8? Thats is 5 minutes done. Is that all?

Seriously, I did math while I was still speaking. Isn’t it amazing? The gymnastics of which the mind is capable.

Then I worried. Could I fill those 8 minutes?

I lost my train, my momentum and I blanked.

Bluh.

Mouth and head full of cotton wool.

Bluh.

Nothing came to mind. Nothing came out.

Nada.

Was I stupid?

I had felt really stupid late August when I had written my entire talk and started practicing. Almost 2000 words. I did not really memorize, which, as I was told by both husband and Gina from TED, was a bad idea, but I did have an order and a rhythm for what and how I would TED talk.

Besides I had a 13 minute multi-media show which played behind me.

Not that I would talk to slides.

Like manually click them.

I hate that format.

“Oh, and here we have me, at the beach, finding my beach plastic…”

Too much like those family vacation slide shows of our neighbors that my parents sneered at as ever-so bourgeois.

Anyway I was stupid when I started working my TED.

Unable to memorize anything more than one paragraph.

I got advice from everyone.

Do it in the mirror. In the car. Film yourself and play it back. You will be fine, wing it, you  know your stuff , just make it up as you go along…

Right.

I felt so dumb that I bought Gingko.

I almost overdosed on Gingko.

I still felt stupid. I am too old I thought.

I have an old brain.

Then I worried about what to wear and I felt shallow.

I had my roots done, but did hair dye kill more brain cells?

I told husband who was still in Milford.

I had not seen him in weeks but he was coming to Miami for my talk.

He sounded sharp, bright and cheery.

“Not to worry, you’ll remember when you’re up there.”

Hmm.

Then I remembered.

(Yes, at least I did remember this!)

The Seinfeld Theory.

Do you remember?

Put to the test and proven in episode 143.

My problem?

Husband was away. But husband was coming to Miami three days before my talk.

That would give me enough time to clear my mind.

And he would love it.

As soon as he arrived I started clearing my mind.

Wow, he said. This is great. I should stay away more often.

The next morning I practiced my TED and could remember four minute spans. I had two days left to dress rehearsal, three to actual night. That was four to five mind-clearing sessions.

It so happened to be our 21st anniversary.

An excellent excuse for siestas. Back rubs. Jacuzzi’s and what may ensue…

By Monday morning, driving back from Iona’s school, I remembered my entire TED in exactly 13 minutes. What had been the big deal? I could do it backwards…

But then.

There was the clock.

The unknown factor.

That screwed me up.

“Its why we have dress rehearsals,” Gina said. “Now go home and forget about it. Do not look at your speech again. Relax. You’ll be fine tomorrow.”

I did relax on Tuesday the 13th of September. I had a pedicure and told husband I was having a nap at 2pm.

Afternoon delight, he hummed rather absent mindedly.

But happy.

Afterwards I confessed that I had been using him.

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“You know, the Seinfeld Theory?” I hinted.

Wha’? he said.

You know that episode where George thinks lack of sex makes his mind sharper and he feels smart, then Elaine  uses this abstinence method  but she becomes more stupid. So she begs Jerry to have sex with her  just so she can clear her mind.

You know? No? You don’t  remember?

Nah. I don’t think so. What day is it again? shall we go and see a movie tonight or something…?

Yeah, something!

 


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The making and premiere of One Beach, the movie…

Q and A at the premiere of One Beach

Last Spring I got  that  e-mail

That uber message we look for in our otherwise boring Inbox.

The one that says:

We have been following your work with beach plastic pollution, we love it, would you be interested in being featured in a movie we are planning?

Delete?

Not me!

Looking for a hidden sales message? Like the next line would say: If you take part in this short questionnaire  you too can be captured on film.

You bet! I did not trust it. I proceeded with caution.

It was not until I had spoken with all the makers of the film, the creative director Sean, the producer Michael, the director Jason and had signed a non-disclosure with Barefoot Wine (to keep it all hush until the premiere, hence no previous mention here at BDM) that I became excited.

They wanted to shoot in Eleuthera, where I find all my beach plastic, and so I sent them the  limited  list of places in Governor’s Harbour. Three low-key hotels, Cigatoo, Pineapple Fields and Coco Di Mama, and a handful of rentals that have 5+ bedrooms.

They chose Squires Estate.

Squires Estate, Toad Hall in foreground, Main Russell House beyond...

I had always wanted to stay there, ever since it had been restored two years ago. Alastair and I even looked at the main house when it was on the market. Its a dream property, on the hill, a 120 year old Victorian House, overlooking Cupid’s Key, walking distance to Club Med Beach – the most beautiful beach I know.

They booked me for four days early June. Two travel and two shooting.

“Bring your tools and your favorite designs, we’ll do the rest.”

If the camera added ten pounds then it was the time for a diet.

I did a two-day fast, a nine-day shake/powder regimen and swam a million lengths of the pool.

I departed, lithe and pre-tanned.

First to arrive, I chose the ground floor bedroom of the main house because it was the most private, like a mini wing, overlooking the pool and the Caribbean sea to the west. Everything was new, done by an Italian designer with exquisite taste, who’d mixed old with high-tech, quirky with traditional.

I got my old red truck from the garage.

I was already happy.

A few hours later the crew arrived. Curt, Sean, Jason, Michael, Scotty and Tyler.

Six surfers from California.

Had I died and gone to heaven?

OK. Yes! I am happily married. I’m a mother of three. I’m not young as such.

But hey, I’m still a woman!

lunch at the Beach House

I had an eery feeling –  after  years of being a service-driven mother, feeding, cleaning, chauffeuring, organizing and wondering  (within the safety of my own head):

What about me?

A dawning sense that maybe someone (who can hear beyond the safety of my own head), had been listening, that somehow I had been good enough, that getting attention was actually allowed when you try your hardest to be a good wife and mother and employee and world citizen…

And I let go.

Snap.

This was  going to be about me (and my obsession with beach plastic) and it was OK.

Those six guys were awesome, I don’t know much about them beyond those four days, but they were easy going, considerate, creative, charming, talented, professional and funny, so funny…

They made it possible for me to be me. To do my work, make my stuff, tell my message without ever making me feel self-conscious or insecure. At least three cameras captured me at work for at least 24  hours. It felt natural. It felt great. I felt beautiful. They helped me believe that what I was doing was worthwhile.

I wanted it to last a bit longer.

Last shot, left to right, Tyler, Jason, Barbi, Curt, Sean, Michael and Scotty

Still, we dispersed. They went on to do the next “innovator”, Tim in Australia, and I was just a tad jealous.

But I mainly felt empowered. Things were falling into place. back home I was asked to apply for the Miami TED talk. I went on my teaching trip around Eleuthera.

*

Last night I saw I Don’t Know How She Does It with my three daughters. I had read the book at a time when I identified with the author, when I was the overcommitted mother of three little girls who felt she had to do it all, or else…

Leila wanted to know if I had ever felt like Kate did in the film.

You mean, like, I Don’t Know How I Did It?

Kiki and Leila @ 2 years, by barred stairs in Milford.

My daughters are now eleven and fifteen. I asked if they remembered when I was the Mother with a Career in NYC.

They don’t!

They don’t remember that I went to Hong Kong for two weeks over Christmas when they were six months old, nor being in day care at age two because the latest nanny had disappeared without trace while I worked on 7th Avenue three days a week (living in Milford,PA). They don’t remember my equivalent of  Kate Reddy’s bake-sale angst amongst the zealous fundraising stay-at-home mothers of the Homestead School.

Its great to find out that it it did not matter. That they are fine. More than fine. That I can forgive myself for those perceived shortcomings, that getting off the fashion merry-go-round to have more time at home with them was a good choice too. That feeling out of it and disconnected and fat and dumb maybe was just a cocoon, a small, limited space, where the next incarnation of me could shape itself.

Of course we always are exactly where we should be.

This is easy to see with the gift of hindsight, like looking at an old photograph and wondering why you did not really enjoy the way you looked back then.

When I first saw One Beach I felt that I was exactly where I should be in the big picture of life.

So.

Thank you all Barefooters for making this possible.

Jason Baffa, Scotty and Tyler for making me look good.

Michael Pizzo for producing and Curt O’Brien for setting it up.

Sean O’Brien for his creative foresight and green spirit that gave birth to the idea of One Beach.

And of course the entire Barefoot Wine team in California and New York that worked so hard to pull it all off in time for the premiere in NYC  last week.

We were all there.

In New York.

The team that made One Beach and the people it featured, called The Innovators in the film.

Kevin Cunningham, a surfer from Rhode Island who incorporates beach plastic in making surfboards from recycled materials.

Richard Lang and beautiful Judith Selby Lang, the king and queen of beach plastic, fell in love on their first date while combing Kehoe Beach for plastic debris. They incorporate beach plastic in their art from installations to photography and jewelry.

Left to right: Stephanie Gallo, Kevin Cunningham, Sean O'Brien, Barbara de Vries Jason Baffa, Judith and Richard Lang, Elizabeth and Anne. Lying in foreground is Tyler from Smash.

We watched the first screening together, wept at the end, and were all amazed at the synergy between us, four people who have never met, in three different parts of the US, who collect and work with beach plastic and whose dialog and message has evolved in an eerily similar way without ever speaking to each other.

We also had beach plastic envy as we drooled over pieces in each other’s collection.

The premiere was at the Helen Mills theatre in Chelsea, with a live feed to our own Facebook app where over 5000 people had signed up to watch the film and subsequent Q and A online.

Sitting in the director’s chairs, below ground in NYC, taking questions that Tyler, our MC, received on his Ipad from Facebookers all over, had a surreal sense of opportunity, the feeling that when we  all connect we can make a difference.

Below is  the One Beach film, which we hope will help raise awareness of beach plastic pollution. Numbers just released estimate that six million tons of what becomes “marine debris” (non organic material that does not break down) enters the oceans every year. One Beach has a positive message, it is upbeat about creativity and possibility, but none of us have the illusion that just  selling up-cycled beach plastic into ownership can significantly reduce what washes up on our beaches every day with every tide and every wave. We want to connect to people through beauty, and our message is to for everyone to reduce our plastic foot print (300 pounds per person every year) NOW by saying no to single-use plastics.

Tip: Start with refusing bottled water and plastic shopping bags, relatively easy steps, then pick an alternative material every time there is a choice…

Here are Sean’s pictures of the making of One Beach in Eleuthera:  link

Sunset from the pool at Squires