Thursday, January 7, 2010

Merry Christmas from Caitlin 2009

Christmas 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope that December finds you looking forward to the holiday celebrations that are coming soon, surrounded by people you love, and feeling cozy in houses of warmth and light. I’m sitting here in Northern Florida, in the middle of December, dreaming of and looking forward to spending a white Christmas in Minnesota at Wildrose Farm. The weather patterns have been so strange here. The temperature actually drops down low enough that I have to turn the heater on, but then the very next morning I wake up sweating, and it is hot and humid outside and I think of turning the air conditioner on. I’m really looking forward to returning to a cold place, as strange as that may sound to my friends and family that are reading this in sub-zero temperatures. Don’t get me wrong—I have a great appreciation for the sun and warmth of Florida. There are some mornings that I’ll be running outside and I will think of how incredible the sun feels on my face, arms and legs. I’m definitely getting some much-needed vitamin D here, after having lived in the Pacific Northwest for 6 years. But I am craving to return to the cold I grew up in (for a while at least)—to feel the cold slice right through me—to have my breath taken away—to wake up—to remember what it feels like to walk in the snow on a winter day. I am excitedly awaiting the smell of chimneys in the cold air, the sound of snow crystals crunching beneath my feet, seeing peoples’ breath dancing around their mouths, being in the stillness and quiet of the cold, seeing snow resting gracefully on the branches of Pines, Firs, and Spruce, and snowflakes falling softly to the ground, having ice crystals form on my eyelashes, feeling a warm cheek and embrace welcome me in from the cold outside, and experiencing the body thaw that occurs upon entering a house heated by the warmth of a fire.

I think that different places bring out different parts of our selves. And so I think it is interesting to try and live in contrasting places that introduce us to different sides of our selves, and to all kinds of other things, but it is also important to remember and return to (if possible) the places that shape us and help us to know and remember who we are, including the places that gave us our roots. Minnesota is the place that gave me roots—It is the place that grounds me—it is the place in which I first became acquainted with the world. It is the landscape that reflects to me my most authentic knowledge. It was in this landscape that I was able to act, feel, know, and see before the world could react and cause me to be inhibited, embarrassed, hurt, protective, and to realize my limitations. It is a place of innocence and wisdom in the same rite. It is a place where I am still free to shout out for no reason across farm and field, knowing there are no nearby neighbors to hear me or think it strange. It is a place where the materialistic laws of the world don’t seem to apply (at least in rural Minnesota, where my parents live). It is a place of comfort and quiet. It is a place to think and to “just be”.

Even though I love having a place such as this to return to—a refuge of sorts—I have also really enjoyed my time away from Minnesota and have learned a lot from living in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and now Florida. Living in the South the last 7 months has been a very interesting experience. I have learned a lot about a new part of the country, seen new and beautiful landscapes, been introduced to new creatures I had never seen before, become a part of a thriving music community, met some really neat people, and lived alone for the first time in my life. I feel like I have learned and am learning a lot.

It is truly beautiful here, and the birds, animals, reptiles, insects, swamps, savannahs, springs, trees, plants, and the natural history of this place astonish me every single day that I am here. What a wild place this is. It is teeming with life and mystery. There is a celestial golden light here, that was especially present in the fall months, and magical and vibrant sunsets that compete with those in the Midwest, and may even surpass them in beauty. The light shines down on giant oak trees, filters through the Spanish moss hanging from their old branches and highlights shiny-leaved banana trees nearby. Lizards scurry across fallen tree trunks. Alligators slowly slip into the rivers, yet keep their eyes on you. You can look out onto a Savannah and see hundreds of beautiful birds and butterflies and turn the other direction and see endless river swamp, giant spiders dangling from the trees and snakes slithering by. I have seen owls up close and heard them calling, “Who cooks for you?” more often in the last 7 months than I have in my whole life. The biodiversity is absolutely amazing here. I feel lucky to be experiencing the beauty of another incredible place and to have the memories of other beautiful landscapes I have known still living inside of me.

Even though I leave a part of myself in each new place that I live in, I feel like I soak up much more than I leave behind. The landscapes we live in become a part of who we are. I feel lucky to be exploring a new part of the country, though I don’t know how long I will be here or where I will go next. I hope that all of you are getting to know new landscapes and remembering and reconnecting with ones you’ve known in the past. I look forward to hearing about your explorations. I also hope that the coming year is a beautiful one for you, full of hope, joy, and adventures.

*Merry Christmas and Peace and Love throughout the New Year,

Love, Caitlin

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Alone in the South

Living in the South for the last 6 months has been a very interesting time in my life. I don't think I have ever been this alone before. Alone geographically, culturally, and personally. I didn’t feel this alone when I went to North Carolina for the summer to attend the American College Dance Festival at Duke University. I took part in the festival in order to pursue my dream of becoming a professional dancer at age 17. Even though I was interested and immersed in a new and difficult world, I remember aching for familiarity while I was there--I had never been away from my parents for such a long period of time before--and I kept trying to think of ways to break my leg so I could return back home. I didn’t feel this alone when I left the country for the first time for Ecuador at age 20 and couldn't imagine crossing national and cultural lines, and feared I might never see my parents again because this incredible distance between us was so difficult to imagine. I didn’t even feel this alone when I left my home-state at age 22 to follow the man I loved to the Pacific Northwest, not realizing that this move would mean that I was leaving the place that gave me roots, a place that I knew and cherished, and made me who I am, for a very long time. I did not realize at the time that the reason my parents cried when I left wasn't just because they were sad to see me go, but that they were remembering and even still realizing what similar moves in their lives had meant for them and their families, and what this might mean for ours.

What my move at age 22 meant for me is that life and adventures happened, and I moved from Alaska, to Oregon, back to Alaska, to Washington, and now to Florida. 7 Years have passed since then. My parents’ sadness and fears were not unfounded. Both my brother and I have been away from our roots for a long time. I am still very connected to my parents and to Minnesota as a place, and I return there several times a year and have had the luxury of going on extended visits most years that let me continue to know the place as it changes and to have an adult relationship with it as well as with my parents.

I moved from Seattle to Northern Florida about 6 months ago, to a town called Gainesville, home of the University of Florida. Who knows how I got here—it’s complicated, and I’m still trying to figure that story out. Before coming here, I never would have imagined myself living in Florida. But I have gone through culture shock—culture shock in general, Southern culture shock, and Florida culture shock, and have experienced some neat things while living here. Florida is much different that I ever would have thought. It is truly a beautiful place. In my mind’s eye I had always pictured Florida as a big sand bar essentially, with palm trees scattered here and there. But I live in North-Central Florida, where there is seemingly never-ending greenery and swamps, huge oak trees with Spanish moss hanging from their graceful branches, clear lagoons, springs, banana trees, tropical flowers, and more. It is an incredibly beautiful place--so amazingly biologically diverse--and I am thankful that I have had the chance to explore this part of the country.

Getting to know “the South” has been a real eye-opener. Different rules apply down here. People are less politically correct. Racism is less subtle, or silent. The relationships between Caucasians and African Americans are very different here in the South. There is more racial tension. The town of Gainesville is very segregated. I happen to live in one of the few “White” houses on the “Black” side of town, and so feel like I am contributing my part to the gentrification of Gainesville. At the same time, I am living in a unique neighborhood, and am experiencing things I have not experienced in depth before, such as being an outsider, racially and culturally. I have been an outsider before in my life—unable to fit in for various reasons, oftentimes due to cultural differences, and I have also experienced being an ethnic minority on “visits” into other cultures. However, these were just visits.

Growing up in Minnesota, my parents often referred to us as outsiders, because culturally, religiously, and politically we did not fit in with the majority of people living in central Minnesota. But here I am living alone in a neighborhood where I cannot pretend not to be an outsider. I am unable to blend in. I do not blend in at work either—people ask me every day, “Where are you from?” They cannot for the life of them, tell where my accent is from. I think my accent is going to be even more difficult to distinguish after living here, because I already confuse people with my Minnesota-Northwest accent. Now it will have a Southern twist as well, and people will no longer be able to understand me. I guess I will just have to resort to writing in order to communicate.

Another thing that I have noticed about the South and that lets me know I am living in a very different part of the country is that economic hardship seems more noticeable and extreme here. There is a great deal of poverty in Northern Florida, and in Gainesville in particular.

I have learned that it is a no-no to poke fun at Uber-Christians or make fun of “Jesus freaks” here in the South. I realized this right away. There was a cultural shift I had to make in terms of talking about religion. In the “atheistic” Northwest, people (even Christians) find humor in poking fun at “Jesus freaks”. It is a cultural attitude that does not exist in the same way here. It is the same with politics. I think I started to become comfortable in my liberal bubble living in both Olympia and Seattle, the two most progressive cities in Washington state. In both of those places, if you are a liberal, you can almost assume that when you talk with someone, you are talking to someone that holds at the very least, moderately liberal views politically. Here that is not the case. Even though Gainesville is known to be one of the most (if not the most) progressive cities in Florida, it is dangerous to assume that you are talking to someone who is a progressive thinker when it comes to politics, religion, and race. I guess this is a good lesson to learn—it is dangerous to assume that others might be thinking on the same plane as you are.

There is a part of the United States that I was very unfamiliar with before living here, and I feel like I am getting to know my country better for the first time, in both beautiful and ugly ways. I am getting to know myself better too. I have had the opportunity to travel a bit through the South while I’ve been here. I took a road trip to New Orleans, and another trip to Savannah Georgia, which were both really neat experiences and showed me a lot of the South that I hadn’t seen before as well. The incredible spirit of New Orleans and its fight for survival was truly touching to see after having visiting the city pre-Katrina, ten years ago. I saw that the place had gone through so much, and had truly been changed, but is amazingly resilient and more powerful because of what the people are still in the process of transcending. In Savannah I saw incredible history and architecture, and even though the city thrives mainly on tourism, I saw women dressed in their Sunday finest, with huge, old fashioned church bonnets with face netting and all. I saw neat and ancient cemeteries, and Haitian painters selling their art by the river.

Even the animals here in the South are foreign to me. But I love the creatures here—they are fascinating. I never get tired of seeing little tiny lizards scurry across the pavement as I walk. If I look closely at a tree, I am bound to see a lizard or chameleon doing its best to blend in with the bark and successfully looking beautiful. Then of course there are the big lizards, the alligators that I have had the luck to encounter more than once. They are truly unique and bizarre creatures, and I still can’t fathom that they are everywhere in Florida—even in the city ponds if you look closely. There are huge, mysterious, and lovely reptiles lurking beneath the surface. How fantastic. There are endless species of beautiful birds that I had never seen before living here. There are giant dragonflies, and countless bugs and spiders. There are snakes, armadillos, deer, wild horses, bison, coyotes, foxes and owls. I have seen and heard more owls living in Florida in 6 months than I have in my entire life. It’s pretty incredible.

I am having so many amazing experiences here. And yet I have never been this independent. I am alone to experience all of this. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it is just a new thing. In all of my other experiences, I either had a partner that was experiencing it with me, or I was on a “short” adventure, knowing that I would soon return to familiarity and people that I knew and loved. Here I feel like I am living in another country—the different time zones of my family members make it difficult to connect with them, along with our different work schedules. I have made some connections here, but making good friends takes time, and I have only been here for six months. I have been enjoying spending time alone—I have just never felt this alone—I am living in a foreign place, in a foreign culture, thousands of miles from my family and close friends. I am living in the lonely, beautiful South.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


...why is it that they look like they are up to something? Must be that fake two-year-old camera smile.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Walking up the slide = doctor gluing your chin together

Tate slipped on the slide at school today. Slipped as he was walking *up* the slide. So his teacher called me and when I walked into the classroom, he started to laugh. The gash on his chin wasn't bleeding too badly, and he was so wound up you wouldn't know he had even fallen much less had a bigger booboo. And he started to run around, even running up the slide again before I could stop him!

Colin's out of town today so Tate and I did the return trip to the ER alone -- remember Tate had stitches in August -- and he was fine until I pulled up to the valet and Tate got a good look of where we were. He was NOT happy. He was upset but he did well and ended up having his chin glued shut rather than stitches. And he got a green otter pop and some kungfu panda stickers.

So it all worked out, you see.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Grandma's Bday

Sure was lovely to see practically everyone this weekend! Pictures to follow.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cute party pics

A friend just shared some pics from the birthday party of a mutual friend (and mom of a kid in Tate's class)... these were pretty cute, especially of Tate's first pinata!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Getting caught up...

Scroll down to June to see pictures from Caitlin's graduation.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Blanche Lake 2008