Friday, July 31, 2009

Spell it!

i say is
whistle that
sing that yell that
that out big

e.e. cummings (thanks elly)

So, life without hearing. There are so many things that I continue to be surprised by each day and many of them are simple annoyances. Like when I want to buy a cup of coffee or go to the grocery store. Or the much more advanced and risky things like restaurants and hair cuts.
What all these things have in common is, of course, they all involve a series of verbal exchanges. Most of the exchanges range from slight to meaningless but you don't want to be the one who misses the cue. "Debit or charge?", "have you been having a good day?", "what kind of dressing?" I took a bit of a verbal fall this morning. I went to Starbucks and ordered a cup of coffee. Once I ordered I knew the first question would be, "room for cream?" So as his lips moved with his silent request I confidently responded, "yes please, room for cream." His look was NOT one of confirmation but one of slight confusion. And then it dawned on me, he had asked the other Starbucks question - did I want my receipt. Oh well, it's the little things.

In these social situations I am on high alert, trying to look for body cues, read lips or see if I can't just get a bit of what's being said. I am very aware of what I should be able to do but can't. However, its when I'm just moving around, mostly outside, that I am often struck by the strangeness of it all. To see trees sway  and not be able to hear the wind. Being on a busy street and not being able to hear the crowds. Driving on the freeway and not being able to hear the traffic noise (not even being able to hear the noise of my own car.) It's a strange and sort of beautiful silence. All that action and no corresponding soundtrack. 

This morning I was in West Hollywood and I was standing on the corner of Santa Monica and San Vicente Blvd. As I stood waiting to cross I watched as four lanes of traffic filed by. When I went to take a drink of coffee my slightly open mouth created an audio cavity that caught the sound of the traffic. It was so slight but so beautiful. If I moved my tongue or slightly changed the opening of my mouth it would change the pitch of the noise. There it was, the sound of traffic singing through my skull.
Noise coming in instead of going out.

I miss hearing my granddaughter's voice. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I've had a strange thing happen to me this last week. I have temporarily gone deaf. Silence. My life film with no sound track. I have a condition that is not so unusual called Exostosis or "Surfers Ear". Those of you who know me know that I have been affected by this the last couple of years. But as of last week the spirits of the sea have closed the hatches in my ear canals. 
As I said, it's a fairly common amongst surfers a condition that is brought on by years of exposure to cold water and cold wind. In an attempt to protect the inner ear the body grows bone matter that closes off the ear canal protecting the eardrum and shutting out the outside world. To remedy this there is a common surgery in which the bone matter is drilled out reopening the ear canal. 

From what I understand it will be a couple of weeks before I can have the surgery so I will be in this state of silent bliss or purgatory (depending) for a short while. I've decided I want to write about my experience for the next few weeks but feel like I need to start with several disclaimers.
1) As I stated my situation is fairly common with a very good prognosis so I'm not writing from a distressed emotional state. I have friends and family members who have been vexed with far more serious ailments requiring far more physical and moral strength and I in no way want to equate my situation with theirs. 
2) I am fully aware of my extremely privileged position in which this experience is framed by access to expert medical care and medical insurance. I will be taken care of.
3) Mine is a temporary situation that I will not honor by calling it a disability. I consider a disability something far more impacting and again requiring far more moral strength then I will be requiring. 
4) This situation has not been brought on by some tragic misfortune or wicked transgression. It has been visited me by the long and glorious privilege of surfing; a sport that has brought me great joy and insight, physical and spiritual gains and a sweet fellowship with my sons, brother, dear friends and extended family of practitioners. So I must say, that if this is what the cost is of all the years of wave riding, so be it. I accept.
5) I am going to say a lot of obvious things over the next few weeks but give me a break; I'm trying to learn from this.

That said, why do I want to blog about it? Because it's such a totalizing thing. From full hearing to no hearing (though I can hear using a cell phone as a hearing aid.) To have one of my primary senses taken away has been a profound experience, particularly in light of a busy studio practice. To wake up day after day (this is the seventh day) and be surprised by the fact I still can't hear. I know I will, but I can't now. 

So I will use my blog as a site to document this strange performance I'm in. What the heck, I can't talk to anyone so I might as well write to someone.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Richard Tuttle

Sand-tree 2, 1988, R. Tuttle

"Tuttle, who in perilous times persists in making delicate, witty, and in all other respects exquisite things, he is the creator of perishable delights in a period given to appalling destructiveness. Rather than critiquing power's excesses with totalizing alternatives, he does so by changing the subject to the poetics - that is the making - of being in the world."    Robert Storr

Monday, July 27, 2009


"We are indeed beginning to go about our lives homeless, shelterless, undefined and indefinable .... Settled peoples have split the world and themselves into portions, into 'nomai,' into idioms, and that is what they are sitting on, trying to own more and more of these portions. And nomads experience the connected, concrete reality, they travel within it and ride fields of options."
" I have no doubt about one thing, however, if we do not travel toward each other, we will eradicate each other."   Vilem Flusser, Nomads

works in progress

a few things that have my attention 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Activity in the Studio

Whatever you
have to say,  leave
the roots on, let them
And the dirt
Just to make clear
where they come from.
C. Olson

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Return to Baja

I can't remember, do you get the flu or drugs from whale sharks? Anyway, Rafe put us right on top of these creatures. Got to swim with them. Needless to say, it was amazing.  

Spent a week camping through Baja. Went down to celebrate the retirement of Rafe and Jan Payne. For those of you who don't know, Rafe, professor and field biologist, has given most of his teaching and research career to Baja and in particular to Bahia De Los Angeles. He has a home in Bahia where he, Jan and their dog, Poncho, look out over the Sea of Cortez.
In spite of all the bad press concerning drug gang violence and flu epidemics, Dick Flory and I found Baja as peaceful and beautiful as always. Maybe even more so because there were so few tourists. Don't tell anyone but American media has a need to cause paranoia. 
We spent four days camping and surfing on the Pacific side and two days in Bahia on the Gulf side. Highlights of the trip were good surf, spending time with Rafe and swimming with (riding on dorsal fins) migrating whale sharks.