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February 2014

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Small Plate Ski

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Yesterday a group of us went for a 10K cross-country ski. Saturday 10am out the door. Pick up friends. 10:30 we’re parking in a field by rolling snow-covered hills in Gatineau park with others piling out of vehicles brightly colored jackets and hats, packs on backs. At the top of the trail, we gather around making some jokes about our abilities to keep the pace; some of us are better than others! We click boots onto skis with a professional snap that gives a confident sound to starting out. The trail begins a gentle descent across a frozen stream then climbs steeply up into the forest. Once in the woods, the trail twists back and forth up small hills around curves through the snow-laden limbs of the northern woods. It’s like a landscape one reads about in classic Russian novels.

Skiers glide past, some wait at tops of hills for others further back. There is fresh snow atop the 2 feet of packed snow from late November. Every now and then if you get ahead of your party, the quiet of the blanketed forest surrounds you, the milky light amplifying the quiet of the landscape. But often we ski beside each other or catch up with someone else or ski right behind our friend and talk for awhile, then go ahead or fall behind in the natural rhythm of exertion. It’s fun to share being out of breath! (And it’s addictive too. As I write this, I’m texting people for another ski outing this week!)

Wood stoves warm the cabins that are spread throughout the 90,000 acres of the park. We reach the Heannesy cabin and hang mitts and outer layers up to dry, throw our things on the picnic tables. Other skiers are already in full lunch mode. Packs are open. Soups, stews, hot chocolate, bagels, fruit, chocolate…. Kids take sandwiches to the stove.  The air smells of wood, wind and melting cheese.  We all sit and smile for a minute before we even want to eat anything; the zen-ish peacefulness of physical exertion making everyone drowsy for a minute. Then we share our small plates meal like good travelers on the road of recreation.

Later that night, Andrew and I go to a new restaurant, “Earl’s Variety” – it’s all small plates, blond wood, open kitchen kind of place. It’s got that same air of woods, wind and happiness of the local.

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If you ask a ballerina to dinner

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If you ask a ballerina to dinner, it is likely she will politely agree.

And will say: Yay! And my fellow dancers too?

What will happen: Battements for two, demi plies for four.

You will lose count. In tutus, they do not score.

But spring and light and spin and stop

En pointe to the table from the floor they hop

Pink clad girls and black cat boys

Sit down together in one dear flop

And sigh they do like dreamers dreaming

Of Plates of pasta and bowls of bread

Of butter and sauces rich and red

Of cream and puffs on chocolate clouds

Balanced in arabesques, in rainbow shrouds.

Ensemble they dip napkins to knees

Look up to say, “Yes, more sauce please!”

Then minutes of silence tick tock and pass

Scenery changes and costumes, alas,

One beat, two beats, whirl and go,

But one little dancer stays just so,

And says, Mommy, that’s the end of my show….

For my youngest ballerina and our Tuesday and Friday drives to New Edinburgh to the School of Ballet where she practices many plies and our drive back where we often pass the Prime Minister going home and we wave.

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Nashville

One night in Ottawa at the regular Friday night dinner party, we were talking about careers we’d left behind, and the accompanying multi-layered reasons we had for up and changing our lives around, in many cases  – so dramatically.  One guy was a former astronaut (seriously!), his wife a former United Nations crisis intervention specialist, another friend used to work for IBM but now is a high-end furniture designer, my husband used to be a university professor, now he is a policy guru for the Fed, another friend studied agriculture but became a medical doctor…. One guy is a photographer and oh, yeah … he still is a photographer!

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This is a hot topic for me because I left behind a career that was a product of a certain time and place. It was the 90’s and it was Nashville.  It was part of music history.  From 1989-2001, I lived and worked in Nashville, Tennessee and we made Music Videos for CMT, VH-1, MTV and commercials that aired across the world.  We worked with them all.  Roseanne Cash, the Dixie Chicks, Steve Winwood, Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams Jr, Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, George Jones, Neil Diamond, James Taylor… scores of musical artists and the record companies that had signed them when there was big money to spend on marketing recording artists.  AND we were shooting on FILM! 16mm, sometimes even 24mm.  Arriflex cameras, Panasonic. Iconic Tower Records down West End Ave was the place to hang out on your days off after you’d gone over to Arnold’s or Monnell’s for some chicken and collards.  If you were a star on Warner Brothers Records or MCA Records for 100K we’d make your three minute video for you, no problem baby, just ring us up to talk about how our top directors are going to make you look gorgeous and sell your records!!

It was fun, it was fast, it was a once in a lifetime experience.  I worked with the best of the best crews and technicians.  Swift, efficient, creative, and more – they were just cool.  Year after year, loading in a crew of 40 to 50 new locations each time.  You work so closely together, the crew, the talent, you become like a disheveled family traveling together in vans, trucks, eating your meals from craft service. (see future blog posts for stories about all that)  We shot everywhere: in the California desert (of course) rooftops of office towers, abandoned old canning factories, mountaintops in Colorado, rivers in Kentucky (camera crew and artists on rafts!) aboard planes, trains, on old dirt roads in rural Mississippi, on riverboats, in Graceland (yes, that one!) – anywhere and everywhere they would sign the permit and agree to the fee.  But a lot of times, we were in elegant mansions, on fields and farms, or at old plantations of the belle Nashville.

After shooting all day we’d go to the Sunset Grill or the Third Coast Café and run into other crew people, music biz execs, songwriters…  and unwind.  It was a scene in the truest sense – a certain time in a certain place that doesn’t exist in the same way and I’m always amazed that I was there and that I got to be that girl in jeans and a denim jacket, walkie-talkie hanging off her belt yelling “… and… We’re Rolling!”  And I’m totally addicted to the current TV series of the same name.  Rayna and Juliette and Deacon – what’s next?

And then I met this really handsome Canadian guy who spoke French and read lots of books and we had a wedding out in the fields with cows and wildflowers and of course, we had the best musicians playing fiddles on the porch.  And now?  Well, two daughters, a year in Paris, a year in Nova Scotia, life in Ottawa as a stay home mom for a while which was the most awesome decision ever (but that’s for another blog post).  After all that, and all those years of producing music videos, of working with artists, managers, ad agencies, record companies, of working in a fast paced high profile industry, now I’m an Event Producer – just like filmmaking – helping to turn clients ideas into creative and stylish marketing campaigns and events that visually tell their story and communicate their message. After all, life is our stories, and storytelling is mostly what it’s all about.

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