In which there’s a sunrise

Sometimes you miss waking up early or staying up really late until the sky starts to brighten.

Sometimes you miss riding your bike across the playa in a race against time and light to make it to the Temple on time.

Sometimes you miss toasting the sunrise with champagne with lots of your crazy friends and a few new ones.

Sometimes you go ahead and recreate it on a beach in Seattle just because you can:

Sun peaking over Lake Washington

Sun peaking over Lake Washington

Love these ladies

Love these ladies

Photo credit: The amazingly talented Eddy Adams.

Photo credit: The amazingly talented Eddy Adams.

Wading on in.

Wading on in.

Photo credit: again, the amazing Eddy Adams.

Photo credit: again, the very talented Eddy Adams. I call this my “How in the world did I get so lucky to be right here, toasting the end of an awesome summer in an incredible city with some truly great people? HOW DID I END UP HERE IN LIFE? GAH SO AMAZING!” face. Happiest Sunday. 

Thanks Mikey for organizing this! Totally worth the 5:50am wake up alarm on a Sunday.

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In which I go to San Francisco for 48 hours

The only person we knew we moved out here was Symon, our friend from Duke. He was in Jeff’s fraternity and I was actually in class with him eight years ago when he stepped out to take the call from Microsoft offering him a job. When I came out for the pedo interview I met him and his girlfriend Ashley for a lovely lunch at Wild Ginger downtown, fresh off the plane from the East Coast. She was immediately welcoming, so sweet and so kind; I couldn’t have imagined a better partner for Symon. In my jet lagged haze I remember telling them what a long shot it was for Jeff and I to match here. They were hopeful that it would happen, but I realistically wasn’t so sure. He was one of the first people we told besides our parents after the results came out, which made for a sweet reunion when they came for our wedding in March.

How often do you have a picture from the first day you met someone? Meeting Ashley after a lovely lunch with her and Symon in the Market just before my interview.

How often do you have a picture from the first day you met someone? Meeting Ashley after a lovely lunch with her and Symon in the Market just before my interview. Ugh, at the Original Starbucks like the tourist I was.. I didn’t know at the time if I’d ever be back!

Since we’ve been here Symon and Ashley have helped us settle in so well. I am forever indebted to them both for taking us in, giving us a sense of community, taking us to Burning Man and introducing us to some of the most lovable people on the planet. They have given us our first urban family and we could not be more thankful. So last January when they decided to get married, we could not have been happier for them. The wedding is in August here in Seattle. To celebrate, I was honored to go to Ashely’s bachelorette party in San Francisco, my first time to the city, but definitely not my last:

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Our group outside of a great row house we stayed in

I was fortunate to have the expertise of those who had visited San Fran before me – Ashley had gone to college there and many others had visited countless times. I was just along for the wild, fun ride. The first night we started with an awesome show and dinner at Asia SF:

Red Carpet action

Red Carpet action: Theme of the night – Pink and Black

Dinner with the girls

Dinner with the girls

Ashley with the performers - so much fun!

Ashley with the performers – so much fun!

Myself, Brea and Mel.

Myself, Brea and Mel.

Toasting the bride!

Toasting the bride!

From then on it was lots of dancing in the Castro and sleeping in the next morning.

The only SF touristy thing I did was visit the Haight and Ashbury street districts with a bunch of other girls

The only SF touristy thing I did was visit the Haight and Ashbury street districts with a bunch of other girls

Of course the clock there is always stuck at 4:20..

Of course the clock there is always stuck at 4:20..

We replenished ourselves with giant burgers and bowls of delicious punch

We replenished ourselves with giant burgers and bowls of delicious punch before heading out to another night of fun.

First time trying fake eyelashes - holy Batman they were long!

First time trying fake eyelashes – holy Batman they were long!

Sunday, we had plenty of time to walk around before our flights left that evening so we went to the farmer’s market for brunch:

Anna and I outside Urbana, an adorable, declines restaurant that opened out into the farmer's market. Great scenery all around.

Anna and I outside La Urbana, an adorable, delicious Mexican restaurant whose patio opened out into the farmer’s market. Great scenery all around. By the way, this totally looks like it could be an awesome album cover if I was in anyway musical.

We walked around the neighborhood, window shopping and eating delicious treats

We walked around the neighborhood, window shopping and eating delicious treats

Deep graffiti on the walls..

This city seems to have profound graffiti on all the walls..

And settled down to enjoy the sunshine and some champagne near the Painted Ladies (of Full House opening credits fame).

And ending up settled down to enjoy the sunshine, some Cards Against Humanity and champagne near the Painted Ladies (of Full House opening credits fame).

All too soon we were headed back to Seattle as the infamous San Francisco fog rolled in:

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So excited to celebrate Symon and Ashley in August!

In which we Burned the Man (Part III)

The second major time I took out my camera in the dusty desert was to capture one of the sunrises we went to. Next year I’m resolved to take a lot more – especially of the art! Fortunately we still have a couple of pictures of us from other friends:

Tuesday was "Tutu Tuesday" where a lot of people dress up in tutus. I made Jeff's and mine on the car ride down using lots of tulle and elastic. Here we are in front of a huge sculpture of a UFO crashed in the desert. Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

Tuesday was “Tutu Tuesday” where a lot of people dress up in tutus. I made Jeff’s and mine on the car ride down using lots of tulle and elastic. Here we are in front of a huge sculpture of a UFO crashed in the desert. Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

Huge block lettering spelling out exactly what most of this place was.

Huge block lettering spelling out exactly what most of this place was.

We met an Australian who built a huge coat hanger on a hydraulic scissor lift and then drove it out into the desert. We could see for miles! And we were taller than the Man even.  Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

We met an Australian who built a huge coat hanger on a hydraulic scissor lift and then drove it out into the desert. We could see for miles! And we were taller than the Man even.
Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

While we were out one day we met the artist who encouraged us to write down our dreams and goals and add them to this sculpture.

While we were out one day we met the artist of this piece who encouraged us to write down our dreams and goals and add them to this sculpture.

I couldn't find ours, but it was so much fun to read all the other ones left

Later when I returned to take a picture I couldn’t find ours, but it was so much fun to read all the other ones left

Ashley made us take our picture in front of a wedding chapel piece of art. Photo Credit: Asheley Gonzalez

Ashley made us take our picture in front of a wedding chapel piece of art. There was a dust storm raging, so hence the facemasks.
Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

Creepy baby head

Creepy baby head

Boys on Tutu Tuesday Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

Boys on Tutu Tuesday
Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

On of my favorite art cars that was parked near our camp

One of my favorite art cars that was parked near our camp

These huge sculptures that seemed to glide across the morning desert. They reminded me of neurons.

These huge sculptures that seemed to glide across the morning desert. They reminded me of neurons.

Cool honey-comb looking sculptures.

Cool honey-comb looking sculptures – great for taking breaks in the shade.

Dawn

Dawn

Just coming up!

Just coming up!

The sun rising over the mountains. Each morning crowds of people gather at the Temple to watch day break. Our crowd usually brought plenty of champagne as well.

The sun rising over the mountains.
Each morning crowds of people gather at the Temple to watch day break. Our crowd usually brought plenty of champagne as well.

Friends gathered for the morning

Friends gathered for the morning

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Photo credit: Alex Can

Photo credit: Alex Cahn

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The Temple is a quiet, solemn place in stark contrast to the insanity of the rest of the playa. It’s a space to remember those lost in the last year and takes some mental and emotional fortitude to enter into its heavily weighted atmosphere. Many people write messages and leave momentos to be burned on Sunday evening after the Man. I went inside briefly, just to see it; I was too happy that week to want to stay for long.

This year it was called the Temple of Whollyness and made completely of interlocking wood panels - no nails or screws to hold it together.

This year it was called the Temple of Whollyness and made completely of interlocking wood panels – no nails, screws or glue to hold it together.

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People are encouraged to write messages all over it.

People are encouraged to write messages all over it.

Inside the space people were crying and sleeping, hugging and whispering.

Inside

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Messages and photos

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Photo credit: Alex Cahn

A group of us outside.

A group of us outside.

Sunrise over the playa and all the bikes strewn in front of the Temple

Sunrise over the playa and all the bikes strewn in front of the Temple. That dragon looking thing in the distance is an art car that played really loud Dub-Step music.

Since I had my camera out that morning we walked over to another one of my favorite sculptures - Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane. He's completed a few others in the series and they're all so stunning.

Since I had my camera out that morning we walked over to another one of my favorite sculptures – Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane. He’s completed a few others in the series and they’re all so stunning.

To give you so idea of scale.

To give you an idea of scale.

She's put together with thousands of tiny welded points.

She’s put together with thousands of tiny welded points – many so fine they seem like a fabric skin overstretching her.

More pictures in the dawn

More pictures in the dawn

The making of this sculpture is told in the Burning Man documentary, "Spark" that Jeff and I saw at the Seattle International Film Festival this year.

The making of this sculpture is told in the Burning Man documentary, “Spark” that Jeff and I saw at the Seattle International Film Festival this year.

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You can go up inside it – and are fully encouraged to! There are hammocks on one end.

And so ends all the Burning Man pictures. Thanks to everyone in our awesome camp for embracing us newcomers with such enthusiasm. Many special congrats to Eric and Mel. Let’s plan to meet up on the playa again next year? K, deal.

Many describe Burning Man as a life changing experience (which to me always was a weird phrase – you’re malleable; every experience will change you a bit). Don’t worry mom, I’m not going to give away all my belongings and settle down in a Tibetan yurt (plus, the kind folks at SallieMae still think I own them some moneys). I was changed, but in a way that made me more me. I feel like I’m a better version of myself.

On Monday when we first arrived I rode around on my bike alone for a few hours and the whole place was just too overwhelming. Strangers wanted to hug me. There was enough nakedness to make the Fremont Fair look tame. People were constantly shouting and the ever present Dub Step music thudding through my chest was giving me an arrhythmia. I rode back to camp almost in tears and close to what I think was a panic attack. Six more days of this? Oh God.

Instead of crawling inside my sleeping bag I ran into some people who wanted to get snow cones.  On our sojourn across the playa they slowly taught me how to embrace the madness. There was so much goodness out there, lurking between the dust and tarps! I learned about all the art that was popping up everywhere. I broke my bike and someone dropped what they were doing to help me fix it. I rode on a borrowed bike while finding a new tire. I met a camp that had had their trailers of tents and supplies stolen the day before they left. Within 24 hours other Burners had replaced everything for them so that they could come and give out fried baloney sandwiches. I learned how to keep the dust out of my eyes. I embraced getting hugs. Nakedness no longer phased me. I realized my first mistake earlier in the day was trying to take this all in alone – this place was built to function on radical inclusion and community. I learned that the journey is always better than the reward. We never found the snow cones. And it was totally okay.

How am I changed? I go back to some of the 10 principles. I learned how to adventure better. Gifting: I learned it’s okay not to have anything else to give in return when you are given a special gift of a bike tire with working gears 300 miles from the nearest bike shop. Decommodification: I also learned that I could give someone what they needed in the moment and have no thoughts of what they could offer me in return. I am learning even small gifts are good enough, even if it’s just the time. I am embracing radical self reliance: I changed the toner in the big industrial copy machine at work yesterday. Past Elise would’ve found someone else to tackle that job for fear of breaking everything. Leave no trace: I try to pick up trash everywhere now, even if it’s not mine. Someone else might not do it. Immediacy: I’m trying to live in the moment. I won’t be a resident forever. It won’t just be Jeff and I in our little family forever. We may not be in Seattle forever, though we like it very much. This is a good moment in all it’s uncertainty and I will strive to go placidly amid the noise and haste.

I will remember that at last, when you’ve pushed all your limits, gathered your friends and built great things in an inhospitable desert, to be wholly content and enjoy the accomplishment. To then take a collective breath and store up the sweet memories. And then, to gracefully surrender and let it all burn:

From Reuters

From Reuters

In which we Burned the Man (Part II)

On Friday we had the amazing privilege of attending Melissa and Eric Westburg’s wedding. Dozens of people are married out on the playa each year. Many of these ceremonies are just that, playa marriages, that only exist in the Burning Man world whether they are destined for a few days or maybe even a few lifetimes. A few, like Mel and Eric’s, are honest to goodness, legally binding weddings. Their wonderful families were not only cool with having the nuptials out in the middle of a crazy desert festival, but embraced the craziness and came down in full force with RVs, amazing food and so much love. Melissa’s aunt Kim Clune (who is not only a fantastic photograph, she’s just an amazing person with such a full life – she is the mind and voice behind this blog) beautifully captured the day and with her permission I’ll repost some of her incredible shots here:

Credit: Kim Clune We took an Art Car out to the middle of the deep playa where Eric and his groomsmen had built an alter of Pacific Northwest drift wood.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
We took an Art Car out to the middle of the deep playa where Eric and his groomsmen had built an alter of Pacific Northwest drift wood. Mel and Eric sat atop the lifeguard stand above our barge as a living wedding banner. It was such a fun procession of music and love!

Photo Credit: Kim Clune We had frequent stops for awesome pictures in front of the cool art on the playa

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
We had frequent stops for awesome pictures in front of the cool art on the playa…

Photo Credit: Kim Clune

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
(This church was one of my favorite things – inside there were pews and a real working organ! At the end of the week they burned it too. Not only did it play beautiful music, several weddings took place throughout the week there.)

Photo Credit: Kim Clune (and the important bathroom stop - remember, we were in a desert and it is a crime to dump anything on the playa!)

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
(and the important bathroom stop – remember, we were in a desert and it is a crime to dump anything on the playa!)

Photo Credit: Kim Clune Party on top of the bus!

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
Party on top of the bus!

Photo Credit: Kim Clune It's been a while since I bawled my eyes out during an entire wedding ceremony. Thank goodness my silver face paint was waterproof!

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
It’s been a while since I bawled my eyes out during an entire wedding ceremony. Thank goodness my silver face paint was waterproof!

Photo Credit: Kim Clune After the ceremony we broke out the champagne and everyone dissolved into this hug fest - it was beautiful.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
After the ceremony we broke out the champagne and everyone dissolved into this huge hug fest as the sun set – it was so, so beautiful.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune So much Love, Anna and I.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
So much Love; Anna and I.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune Seriously, who has a wedding party that looks like this?? Many of those outfits were handmade.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
Seriously, who has a wedding party that looks like this?? Many of those outfits were handmade by the people who wore them especially for the occasion.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune Then it was back on the party barge and back to camp for the reception. The whole way back people shouted their congratulations and best wishes.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
Then it was back on the party barge and back to camp for the reception. The whole way back people shouted their congratulations and best wishes.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune Back at camp it was fresh tamales from the parents of the bride and groom and delicious cupcakes.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
Back at camp it was fresh tamales from the parents of the bride and groom and delicious cupcakes.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune You have to light yourself up at night out there lest you be run over by an art car in the dark or lose your way. Even in shining bridal white there is no exception.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
You have to light yourself up at night out there ALL THE TIME lest you be run over by an art car or bike in the dark or lose your way between the camps. Even in shining bridal white there is no exception.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune Hanging out in camp with Ashley. By this time in the week I was disgustingly dirty, so much so that I had dreamed the night before of taking a shower. My hair was crunchy, full of dust and no amount of dry shampoo was helping it. Jeff kindly helped me shampoo my hair in a bucket on the morning of the wedding and then evaporate the water afterwards (you can't just dump it on the playa, it'll leave a disgusting puddle and that violates the Leave No Trace policy).

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
Hanging out in camp with Ashley. By this time in the week I was disgustingly dirty, so much so that I had dreamed the night before of taking a shower. My hair was crunchy, full of dust and no amount of dry shampoo was helping it. Jeff kindly helped me shampoo my hair in a bucket on the morning of the wedding and then evaporate the water afterwards (you can’t just dump it on the playa, it’ll leave a disgusting puddle and that violates the Leave No Trace policy). I ended up wearing these braids for the rest of our time out there.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune Someone ambitiously titled this photo "A respite after dinner before a full night out on the playa". Haha, yeah right. I went to bed right after this!

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
Someone ambitiously titled this photo “A respite after dinner before a full night out on the playa”. Haha, yeah right. I went to bed right after this!

If you guessed that people who would have an unconventional wedding at Burning Man probably didn't register for gifts at Pottery Barn - you'd be right. Eric and Mel have a yurt that they use for BM and other festivals, so I made them this embroidered picture to hang in their new home.

If you guessed that people who would have an unconventional wedding at Burning Man probably didn’t register for gifts at Pottery Barn – you’d be right. Eric and Mel have a yurt that they use for BM and other festivals, so I made them this embroidered picture to hang in their new home.

It was my first foray into embroidery..

It was my first foray into embroidery..

My past needlework has been all cross-stitch. Every time there is a new baby born into our family, relatives each sew a cross-stich square and they're put together as a quilt for the newborn. I still have mine from all these years ago!

My past needlework has been all cross-stitch. Every time there is a new baby born into our family, relatives each sew a cross-stich square and they’re put together as a quilt for the newborn. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of many of my cousins’ quilts and I still have mine from all these years ago!

The yurt was my favorite. Haha, too bad that yurts at Burning Man actually are silver to help reflect the heat! Whoops, didn't know that when I started.

The yurt was my favorite. Haha, too bad that yurts at Burning Man actually are silver to help reflect the heat! Whoops, didn’t know that when I started. This was what Google Images came up with for “yurt”.

Each year the base of the Man is different. I tried to mimic this year's theme so they could date their wedding by it.

Each year the base of the Man is different. I tried to mimic this year’s theme where he is standing on a spaceship so they could date their Wedding  Burn Year by it.

Photo Credit: Kim Clune I think they liked their present :)

Photo Credit: Kim Clune
I think they liked their present 🙂

Photo Credit: Kim Clune

Photo Credit: Kim Clune

Right before the wedding Jeff and I snuck away to a camp a few streets down that had set up a photo booth. A photo booth! In the desert! No quarters, just gave you some silly directions from a slot in the wall and out came photos of the cleanest we had looked in days. Thanks whoever you were for this awesome gift!

Right before the wedding Jeff and I snuck away to a camp a few streets down that had set up a photo booth. A photo booth! In the desert! It accepted to payment, no fumbling for quarters, it just gave you some silly directions from a slot in the wall and out came photos of the cleanest we had looked in days. Thanks whoever you were for this awesome gift!

The next morning Jeff and I got up for sunrise (sometimes you stay up til then, sometimes you wake up to go, but we always meet at the Temple to greet the morning). We saw Mel and Eric getting some amazing pictures taken by Kim at one of our favorite sculptures.

The next morning Jeff and I got up for sunrise (sometimes you stay up til then, sometimes you wake up to go, but we always tried to meet at the Temple to greet each morning). We saw Mel and Eric getting some amazing pictures taken by Kim at one of our favorite sculptures.

Just so much love. Thanks Mel and Eric for letting us be a part of your incredible day. Thanks so much Kim for letting me borrow your great pictures.

Just so much love. Thanks Mel and Eric for letting us be a part of your incredible day. Thanks so much Kim for letting me borrow your great pictures. Thanks everyone for the awesome party!

The next day after the wedding three singers came by our camp with two guitars and a banjo to serenade the newlyweds. The Eagle’s Peaceful Easy Feeling perfectly captured the love. It was such an honor to be gifted with their beautiful voices:

I like the way your sparkling earrings lay
Against your skin so brown
And I wanna sleep with you
In the desert tonight
With a billion stars all around
Cause I got a peaceful easy feeling
And I know you won’t let me down
Cause I’m already standing on the ground.

 

 

In which we’re famous (okay, not really)

One of my favorite things of our wedding were our photographers – Geoff and Carolyn of Carolyn Scott Photography. They’re amazingly talented, sweet, sweet people (who also happen to be from Pittsburgh!). In recognition of their awesomeness they’ve been chosen as contributors to The Handcrafted Wedding Book by Emma Arendoski (available here from Amazon) – and one of their great pictures from our engagement shoot is in it!

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Our small bit of published fame

That’s our champagne! In the container I use for my spoons and spatulas! Wrapped in my grandmother’s flour sack table cloth! In print! Whoo hoo!

The original shot

The original shot

Jeff thought champagne would be great to pair with the cupcakes from Sugarland (that we ultimately ended up using for our wedding) and it helped us loosen up a bit. No one likes stiff engagement pictures. And, because I can (and because it’ll help put this in context), some gratuitous engagement picture shots:

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In which we pop some bubbly

Happy December everyone! Welcome to the month of many of our family birthdays, finals, and Christmas! Time to reflect on what an incredible year 2012 was for us and look forward to what 2013 has in store!

We ushered in this month of joy and celebration with a rainy Saturday night at home, catching up on DVR’d shows, designing our first married Christmas cards and lolling about. Perfection 🙂 To top it off we took the words of Hester Browne literally:

“You should always keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of champagne in the fridge.”

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In which we get our first Christmas tree!

Jeff and I have certainly spent some Christmases together, but this is our first married Christmas so we’re trying out a bunch of fun new things to see if they will become “our” traditions. First on the list: picking out and cutting down a Christmas tree ourselves. Live trees are something we both had when we were younger – before artificial trees looked decent enough and before our parents had lost the extra large amount enthusiasm required to care for a seven foot tall house plant in the midst of an already crazy season. Our family took it even one step further and for a few years had live trees with the roots in a ball at the bottom to replant later on in the yard. Between my little brother’s asthma necessitating less allergens and Jeff’s cats climbing all up in and knocking over his, neither of us has had an actual tree in a decade or two.

But this year we are young and crazy enough to think it’s a great idea.

On Bri’s family’s advice we schlepped up to Paterson’s Lazy Acres Tree Farm in Arlington, WA. I was hoping for snow like their website’s picture, but we settled for a fair amount of rain instead. Bonus points though: they had free cider and a tree bagging service!

We searched through the entire farm for the perfect one. This is not a perfect one. This is what Charlie Brown would pick.

This is a good one!

I told Jeff it didn’t count unless we chopped it down ourselves

Tree successfully procured!

After we got it home it was time to decorate! New tradition #2: Trimming the tree with a bottle of champagne!

We tried to watch Elf, but kept getting too distracted to pay enough deserved attention to it. So we settled for the Duke game (76-71 over Louisville!) and a This American Life recording with David Sedaris’s Santaland Diaries about when he worked as an elf at Macy’s.

We went with a silver, green and blue theme. Also included are all the glass ornaments my parents have given me since I was little.

As we collect ornaments ourselves it’ll get prettier – but not bad for some first timers!

To round out our nascent Christmas decoration collection I painted some canvases to hang in the hallway:

More pictures to come as we get the place set up!