Wednesday, April 20, 2005
I recently went kayaking in Richardson Bay between Sausalito and Tiburon. It was a pretty paddle through marinas and moored sailboats with a view of the San Francisco skyline. It was more urban than my normal jaunts in Tomales Bay but serene in a different way.
I rented a fiberglass Necky kayak for the first time. The model was designed for slightly rough seas. It was most stable when it was leaning just off-center... either leaning into an approaching wave or onto one that just passed. Sailboats are designed the same way. They are more stable in a stiff wind then they are upright. Not knowing this (they explained it all to me when I got back) I went about trying to keep the boat balanced on center. The result of my efforts was that the smallest wave or gust would push me off center making me feel like I was about to tip. As I was paddling, I was constantly shifting my hips to keep as centered as possible... a losing battle given the kayak's hull design. I paddled a bit in the shallows near the beach to try to get comfortable. As I finally ventured out into the Bay, I was immediately hit broadside with a strong gust blowing what little confidence I had right out of me. I continued to paddle out with short, light, cautious strokes... clearly not as committed as the direction of my kayak. The uneasy feelings continued and I contemplated bringing the boat back. I looped back into a marina where the water went calm again. After calming myself, I decided to head out for the Sausalito houseboats, my intended destination.
All of this made me think about what many solo adventurers must think as they are leaving civilization behind and hiking, paddling or sailing into the wilds beyond. In particular, it reminded me of a lecture by Ben Saunders that I saw at this year's TED Conference. Ben cross-country skied from Russia to Canada via the North Pole. He mentioned that he had those feelings as his family and support teams took off in their helicopters after dropping him off in the already remote reaches of Northern Russia. Later, he realized that he was the only person in an area the size of the United States. I imagine that this is only a cool thought to have after you have finished the journey and are telling stories at some pub surrounded by friends. In the moment, they can only generate fear and uncertainty if anything goes wrong. He has a cool website with some great photos of his journey and links to other outdoor adventurers. His most frustrating day was when he skied 14 hours across drifting ice only to realize at the end of the day that he was almost 3 miles behind where he started. Anyone who has had any kind of solo back-country experience has probably contemplated the feeling of being truly alone... but to be alone at the North Pole, that's amazing.
So, at the risk of sounding like I'm equating my experience in Sausalito with Saunder's experience in the Arctic I'll return to my story. The feeling that I was about to tip over continued for the majority of my trip. It was only on the way back that I started to get comfortable in the slight lean the kayak was designed for. I made it to the Sausalito Houseboats and had several close encounters with seals as I passed their haul-out spot. My tension was ultimately relieved in an encounter I had with a sea lion and sea bird. As I was drifting towards a sea lion in front of me, he dove under. Just as I reached the still-swirling eddies created by his dive, a sea bird came up in the same spot directly under my bow. My heart skipped a beat because I thought it was the sea lion. But I wasn't half as scared as the sea bird as he tried to figure out what my kayak was and then noticed that it was moving. It's moments like that when you realize that even when we city slickers are scared being out in nature that the vast majority of wildlife is more scared of us (often for good reason). The moment made me laugh, forget the tippiness of the kayak and at peace in the moment.
Friday, April 08, 2005
Went to the opening of the Extreme Textiles Exhibit last night at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York. This is an amazing exhibit! There is something for everyone here... sci fi, fashion, cool factor and hi-tech. There is some amazing work being done around the world with fabrics. I heard that Matilda McQuaid, the curator had been thinking and planning the exhibit for more than a decade. She did an amazing job. The exhibit features a broad range of applications including industrial, sports, space and military fabrics. Many have samples that you can touch and interact with... a rarity in the museum world. Great job Cooper Hewitt!
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Went to the Ashes and Snow exhibit today at Pier 54 in New York. It is definitely an interesting experience perhaps most of all because of the design of the "Nomadic Museum" that houses it. The building, designed by Shigeru Ban uses materials that reference the frayed edges of New York City... empty shipping containers, giant cardboard tubes, gravel and raw wood. The view down the central walkway inside is worth the price of admission. It's like entering a cathedral but the industrial palette makes it more poetic than religious. The building and exhibit are designed to be easily disassembled and moved to other port cities. This view made me think about New York's constant state of decay and renewal... showing its age and its ability to define where the urban experience is going next.
As for Gregory Colbert's work... it is certainly interesting, especially given that both the building and art exhibit were entirely self-funded. There are a few beautiful and elegant photographs of elephants being revered by children in traditional dress. But after seeing several of these, the photos start to feel a bit contrived. In photo after photo, the child is peacefully sleeping... in puddles, next to a cheetah, and in various poses with the elephants. I get the whole slow time theme but a bit more subtlety would have been more powerful. Still, the walk down and back is a serene, beautiful and peaceful experience.
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Shot this through the back window of my cab while sitting in traffic. Its always interesting to be in a city like DC... seeing the major sites as a side effect of getting somewhere else. I shot this with the built-in camera on my T-Mobile Sidekick. I think the low resolution and the rear-defogger wires make for a romantic image... it almost has an Alfred Stieglitz's Flatiron Building quality to it.