Monday, October 29, 2007


There's something about Halloween that really brings out the creative juices and the urge to be downright scared. I put more horror flicks in my Netflix queue than usual, visit a haunted house or two, and get excited about handing out candy to ghoulishly clad youngsters and attending our town's Halloween parade. This post is a tribute to this fun-tastic holiday and the crazy things it makes me do!

Haunted House

On Friday night, Ryan and I went to the Leitersburg (Maryland) Haunted House for their final weekend of fright before closing down after 30 years. It was a cold, rainy night and the town looked perfectly spooky with its old houses and semi-bare trees. The haunted house experience started with a terrifying show put on by the staff, which made me clutch Ryan's arm and hide my face in his know, the fun kind of scared. The second half of the experience, however, was a bit more intense for me psychologically. They ushered us into a pitch-black maze where we were forced to feel along the wooden walls, people searching blindly for a way out behind and in front of us. As soon as we entered the maze, I realized that I must suffer from a bit of claustrophobia. I started to hyperventilate and get light-headed, and had to remind myself that this was supposed to be fun, orienting myself by keeping an eye the whole time on the rafters at the top of the building that had a bit of light on them. No one jumped out at us, and there really wasn't much to see. It was just pitch black and tight spaces for a dreadfully long 15 minutes. Several times we actually ran into dead ends; that really almost sent me over the edge. Then we were ushered down a dark, metal tube slide that shot us out into the open air...finally. Phew! I could taste the fear and adrenaline in the back of my throat as we walked toward the car. I was a bit unnerved at first, but I must admit it was still a lot of fun to be that frightened. It can really take you out of your comfort zone, and highlight your most potent fears and how you might handle yourself in dangerous situations. My fight or flight instincts were on high alert!

Speaking sociologically, the haunted house afforded an interesting perspective on the cultural artifacts of what humans deem scary. For instance, someone dressed up in a hospital gown and a mask was enough to send a domino cascade of screams through the line leading to the haunted house as he walked through trying to scare people. How did these two simple props come to be considered horrific in our society? How did the concept of mummification from ancient Egypt come to be such a dominant presence in grindhouse and horror flicks over the years? It was fun to look around at the costumes at the haunted house and think about their historical adaptations and how fear-inducing they have come to be.


Ryan and I usually like to send out a little Halloween photo created especially by Chace+Smith Photography. This year's spooky photo project was especially eerie since we had Ryan's parents' attic at our disposal. I found his mother's old prom dress up there and Ryan put on one of his suits. We powdered our faces white and painted dark circles around our eyes. Then we sat up in an abandoned corner of the attic and scared ourselves silly. Keep in mind when looking at these photos that the flash went off at the very beginning, but the shutter stayed open for a good 30 seconds while we sat in the dark with crazed looks on our faces. So for an hour and a half we basically sat in the dark attic donning strange clothes and facial expressions. In the end it was a real hoot (Ryan's parents got a big kick out of it), and certainly a fun way to scare ourselves a bit. Have a look. Some of these are downright spine-tingling!

(Don't I look like a little girl who's been locked in the attic for 100 years?)

(You never know what strange artifacts you'll find in the attic to enhance your creativity)

(For this one, Ryan used his headlamp to trace the letters during the 30 seconds the shutter stayed open. He turned it off, then turned it back on to cross the T just before the shutter went off.)

All photos by Ryan Smith©

How have you been ghoulishly expressing yourself lately?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Another Poem to Enjoy

It's funny, I read through my poetry and often feel like I am such a different person now. Then I look at the date and it just doesn't seem that long ago. Time is impalpable.

Here is another poem, untouched since the day I wrote it.

I live on a river beach
just for one day
the wild Salmon river has turned
into my bedroom fan
just for one night
and smooth round worry stones
formed by the dancings of
such a river
they are my linoleum for today.

What of the rest of the world
when I can watch the sun light
this treasure chest beach,
hear canyon wrens laughing
way up the walls,
see a proud osprey on his loft
after a fresh catch dive
and the stars of Idaho spinning
just for one night.

Salmon River, Riggins, ID
May 12, 2002

©Larissa Chace Smith

I hope you're having a wonderfully creative day. Do share your creative endeavors with all of us!

Monday, October 15, 2007

BLOG ACTION DAY: “How Many Planets?”

Photo by Ryan Smith ©

Today is Blog Action Day, a day in which bloggers from around the globe blog about one topic only. This year’s feature topic is the Environment, one that is certainly not untimely since it is becoming more and more the hot issue. It is a topic that can induce a plethora of reactions and emotions: spirituality, love, fear (global warming is what really keeps me up at night worrying, not money or work stress), happiness, etc. Thus, there are many angles from which to approach such a theme. For me, the obvious direction in which to take my Blog Action Day post is from a conservationist perspective.

How many planets do you think would be required if everyone lived like you or me? Have you ever asked yourself this question? My youngest sister recently performed an exercise at her high school that allowed students to estimate how many planets would be needed depending on each person’s lifestyle. I’m sure many of them were surprised to find that they would need several per person! What we often forget is that not everyone on this earth lives the consumptive lifestyle that we North Americans do. We are taking and using more than our fair share of natural resources, plain and simple. We may often forget this fact since it is natural to think of ourselves as tiny specks on an enormous planet, not fathoming that the ecological impact of just one individual is astronomical. What is often referred to as our “carbon footprint” should perhaps instead be called our “carbon crater.”

The emergence of the American Dream and the rise of our capitalist society as a “superpower” in the global economy have cultivated deep in our psyches a certain standard for what we think we deserve and have a right to as citizens of the earth. Recycling is not required (as it is in some countries), nor is a certain fuel economy for our vehicles. Thus, trash cans and landfills overflow and Hummers run at large on our highways. Why would our government ever take away our “freedom” to consume as much as we want? That would be un-American! Though I see many examples of this trend slowly changing for the better, it is ultimately up to us as citizens to make our own choices to decrease our global carbon crater back to a footprint.

In my recent Creature Comforts series on this blog, I discussed the idea that comfort is a default for many people in our society. Likewise, reducing our carbon footprints can involve initially going out of our comfort zones, making more of an effort, and potentially spending a little extra money. But if we can make spending and consuming a priority, there is no reason why we cannot tweak the ways in which we do so in order to give back a little of what we take. Small changes create large effects in the long run, and it doesn’t have to be as hard as one might think. Unfortunately, the resources and messages to conserve are not nearly as accessible as those encouraging rampant consumption and materialism. The media is greatly at fault for this as messages of “bling” and flashy cars are touted as the ultimate status symbols. But there is hope in that the media and technology can also be used to spread new, grass-roots messages. Blog Action Day is a terrific example of this.

Of course, we must be proactive in any way we can to start the process of shrinking our global footprint to a smaller shoe size. We have to constantly be mindful of the possibilities available in every day, as well as the hypocrisy and irony involved in being a conservationist in a materialist society. After all, I am sitting at my desk as I write this, using an Apple computer whose construction involved toxic materials and waste, and whose usage requires me to suck energy from the grid hour after hour. Indeed, I feel guilty about this, but perhaps a little guilt and humility is what we as a society need to shift the pervasive message of take-whatever-you-want that has seeped into our psyches over the decades.

Here is a list of simple things you can put into action every day to keep your footprint as small as possible. All it takes is common sense and creativity. This list is in no way comprehensive, so please share ways in which you reduce your impact.
  • If you are able, walk. Why do you think we were given two feet?
  • Go shopping! That’s right, go buy several canvas bags and keep them in your car for your trips to buy groceries. You can even put plastic or paper grocery bags that you already have in the canvas bags to take with you and reuse as well. Do it now, there is absolutely no excuse not to.
  • Shop locally as often as possible. Check out Local Harvest for more resources.
  • Eat at home as often as possible. Restaurants often serve too much and give you leftovers in Styrofoam containers to take home and throw away. To-go meals often result in a ton of waste in your garbage can that end up sitting in the landfill for decades. Eating in and packing your lunch are also healthier since you can control what ingredients you use and how much you consume (this also goes for children's school lunches).
  • When shopping ask yourself, “Do I really NEED this?”, even if it is on sale. Material items give us our identities and ground us to the realities we create for ourselves. But they also take energy to make and many end up in the landfill so just pause and think before you buy. Keep a list of things you really need (groceries, clothes, etc.) to have on hand if you ever need a reminder.
  • Be aware of marketing schemes. Now that fuel economy in vehicles is the selling trend, companies are touting new “low” mileage numbers on their advertisements. This is a standard they are setting to make you think these numbers are impressive. Always demand better fuel economy when purchasing or leasing a car, or buy a used car that has a good reputation for gas mileage. Compare mileage through reliable sources that give you the facts. If you really want to make a difference, get rid of your car altogether. This is easiest in urban areas, but it can be done anywhere you live with a little resourcefulness.
  • For heaven’s sake, don’t flush every time you pee! Shut the lid when you are done to avoid seeing or smelling anything unsightly and clean often with vinegar to deodorize and sanitize the toilet. Number 2 is another story. Go ahead and flush that down. Let guests know of the house rules and spread the word about this simple, money-saving tip. You can also invest in a low-flow toilet that uses less water when flushing.
  • Carbon Offsetting: donate money to organizations that fund projects such as reforestation and energy conservation to offset our vehicle emissions and other polluting habits. is just one of the many organizations that provide such a great service.
  • Be aggressive and unapologetic about being a conservationist. I am not suggesting you go out and get arrested for it. But if a cashier says he has already bagged your item but you don’t want the bag, don’t let him force you to take it. Just say no thanks and give it back. If someone is helping you bag your groceries, make sure they don’t double bag or put too few items into each bag. I can fit a week’s worth of groceries in no more than 3 deep canvas bags. Always ask if someone has recycling in his or her home or building.
  • Rewash plastic baggies and hang them to dry for future use (this also includes produce bags from the grocery store). I am proud to say that my husband and I have had the same box of baggies for the past 4 years! Also, check out this wonderful product!
  • This may be a sensitive topic, but you are responsible for how many children you bring to this earth and how much they consume while they are here. If you must have a large brood, please teach them to be good stewards of the earth and how to keep their impact low. Everyone deserves a happy life on this great planet! That means we have to leave it the way it was when we entered it for future generations to enjoy.
After all, how many planets do we really have? One. One planet is all that has been bestowed upon us to support it as it supports us. This is Blog Action Day, so let’s commit to ACT today to make big changes for this one planet that we have before it’s too late.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Favorite Song Update #3

Even with the inherent problems found in pop culture and the media, there are still so many instances during the day when I say, “Thank goodness for music, technology, and culture!”

I keep coming back to this clip. I just can’t shake how this video makes me feel: so happy to be alive to experience such things. I’ll let it speak for itself.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Creature Comforts (Part 2): Be a Pioneer!

In my last post, I asked the following questions: How can we help but opt for the comfort that surrounds us? And is there a happy medium? Ultimately, at the heart of these questions lies the purpose of this blog: to live each day to the fullest. I got some wonderful comments in response to this topic, and I invite you to peruse them and supply your own thoughts. In this post, I will continue my Creature Comforts series and offer insights and personal experiences in order to explore how one might find a happy medium between comfort and precariousness (several proceeding posts will feature more on this topic, so please stay tuned).

The first time I ever felt like a true pioneer was when I moved with my boyfriend-now-husband from the East Coast to the wilds of Idaho. This would be the first time I would live in a place where none of my family members (or probably even ancestors) had ever lived. Likewise, I couldn’t help but feel like a pioneer in Idaho, knowing that so many settlers had traversed the central plains of our nation to reach this wonderful land of extremes: big spaces, towering mountains, and rushing, icy rivers. Vulnerability took on a different meaning going from city life in Boston (where I went to college) to a state whose entire population hovers around 1 million. I could dare to do things in Idaho that I never would have back East: snowshoeing to the top of Moscow Mountain just outside of our town and snowboarding back down through fresh powder, barely seeing another human all day; rafting across the Salmon River with friends and hiking to hidden hot springs up the side of the canyon, then rafting back down the river in the dark to our private beach where we slept in the open air; traversing 60 miles of river through the Labyrinth Canyon of the Green River with three friends (OK, that was Utah) battling spells of cold rain, slower than expected currents (therefore lots of rowing), reading stories to keep our minds off the slow pace, and living out of a small raft equipped with only a cooler, some gear, a Groover, and my guitar. I might add that none of these activities cost very much money, though good ol' resourcefulness was required to make them happen.

The thing I took away from these marvelous experiences, and the lesson I wish to impart on my readers, is that I was in fact opting not to be comfortable in all three of those scenarios (actually, very uncomfortable in some circumstances). The uncertainty and precariousness of each situation allowed me to define myself as an adventuress, a pioneer, and a more fulfilled person. Ultimately, we do have a choice in the matter, and choosing to challenge the boundaries of our comfortable lives as often as possible is the wisest option if you are interested in seeing how full your life on this earth can be. It is certainly not easy to go beyond one's zone of comfort, but I'll never forget how it felt to slip under crisp, white motel sheets after 5 days on a cold, murky, and dreadfully slow river. For it is the juxtaposition of vulnerability and safety that make being inside and outside of comfort so worthwhile. Indeed, the great part of living in a society that is so navigable is that you can find a happy medium and live a comfortable, daring, and meaningful life. It all depends on what "meaningful" means to you.

Of course, you don’t have to go “into the wild,” so to speak, to be a pioneer or adventurer. The goal is to find opportunities or circumstances that will spark that ember of bravery that lives inside of you, master it, and put it into action. This can involve an enlightening personal journey through nature or paving the way for change in human rights, cancer research, or environmental policies, to name a few.

Being a pioneer is not something that is necessarily accomplished in one day or sitting, so it is important to think of small steps to take that will allow a pioneering goal to come to fruition. And don’t think you have to climb Mount Everest to be a pioneer. The smallest acts can often make the biggest difference.

My latest pioneering achievement was moving with my husband and business from Texas to our tiny hometown in Pennsylvania. It was a risky and precarious decision but I have already noticed the benefits that came with it. I feel more connected to my community, family and friends and see small but wonderful things happening everyday.

What are your pioneering achievements or goals?
In what ways do you opt to go "outside" of comfort?