Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I have too many clothes. There’s a plethora of reasons I may hold onto something…
~ Because someone I love gave it to me;
~ Because I am waiting for the perfect thing to wear it with;
~ Because I might iron it next time it comes out of the dryer wrinkled;
~ Because I might like it better on me the next time I try it on…
… and so on.
So I’m always on the verge of getting rid of about half of what I own. I devised a new way to say goodbye to clothes I don’t wear so much, but am not quite ready to get rid of: Wear each item one last time before popping it into the clothing swap bag*, and make it as memorable as possible.
The last time I ever wore my pale green World Peas sleeveless tee shirt – the one that has a pea pod on it with tiny earth-peas inside – was a few weeks ago. My friends R and A were en route from Burning Man to San Francisco, playa dust still molding their hair into wild, lovely chunks. They parked at my place and we walked to the Tower Café. We sat at the angular table outdoors, me at the apex, under the warm white glow of the lights strung in the trees. I had a glass of white wine, and the Caprese salad. My birthday had been the week before, so they surprised me by ordering a lemon tart from the dessert case! When it came, there was a little candle stuck in the top, and the waitress lit it. They sang me “Birthday” by The Beatles; “Happy Birthday”; and “God Danced the Day You Were Born” loudly and joyfully, and other diners grinned at us. One told us it was her birthday, and thanked us for the show. When R & A left, I gave them CDs to listen to for the drive home.
The last time I ever wore my blue plaid skirt was at a dinner party at E’s house last week. W was there, and E’s friends T and N. We laughed so much and had such a great conversation. We drank awesome chardonnay. E made delicious tofu, veggies and rice, and salad with sweet poppy seed dressing. I brought a chocolate cake, which I had baked with Reese’s Pieces, which ended up looking like moldy spots on the cake… it tasted good anyway. We piled onto the couch and watched silly YouTube videos while N tried to fix E’s mouse. I left with a big grin. I’m pretty sure it was the best dinner party ever.
* As most of my friends know I have a clothing swap party with my friend K twice a year.
I feel the changing of the season. I feel the slowing of my world. I feel the way each person or thing is preparing itself for hibernation. I want tea and baked goodies and naps. I am less in the mood to go out, and more in the mood to sit and read.
Goodbye, summer, you sticky, coconut-scented, skin-baking thing. Goodbye sunshine till late evening. Goodbye, swimsuits and sunburns on legs I forgot to shave. Goodbye, choosing which pair of flip-flops look best with my tank top. Goodbye, eternal warm nights on roofs looking at stars. Goodbye, carefree, no-school-havin’ teenagers with highlighted hair and cell phones tucked into bras under aquamarine or orange tube tops. See you all next year.
Hello, autumn, you smoky-smelling, cool-aired thing. Hello, pajama pants, thick slipper socks, and soft glow of lamp. Hello, reason I kept my Netflix subscription through the blur of nights I preferred going out while Tyvek-encased disks collected dust near the TV. Hello, crisp apples and kids crossing the street in school zones and new, sharp-cornered magenta Dora the Explorer backpacks. Hello, crunchy brown and yellow and red speckled leaves falling on rivers and into gutters. Hello, cat in my lap and orange sherbet-colored blanket of cloudy urban night sky. Hello, Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving potatoes, and everything pumpkin. Hello, nutmeg. Hello, long-sleeved top the color of baked yams creamed with marshmallows and butter. How’ve you all been?
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
A few days ago, I was feeling kind of gloomy about the impending end of summer, and so I posted a status update on Facebook saying as much, and soliciting from my friends things to enjoy about autumn. My friends responded in full (gale) force! What a windfall!
Kel Munger of the Sacramento News and Review thought the list was fun stuff, and posted a condensed version to the SNR's blog, SNOG.
And now, shamelessly stolen from SNOG, I present you with the Top Ten Reasons to Love Autumn in Sacwhich was shamelessly stolen from my Facebook page! Shameless thievery abounds!
10. Walking around without sweating out all your bodily fluids,
9. Wearing awesome socks without melting,
7. Apple Hill! Cider!,
6. Leaving the windows open during the day,
5. Fall colors, followed by the crunching sound of leaves under your feet,
4. Dusting off the Crock-pot and making soup,
3. No more air-conditioning,
2. The sound of rain on the roof, and
1. The smell after it rains!
Read the SNOG posting here, or friend me on Facebook to read the entire status message with all its deliciously detailed comments!
Also, thanks to S, and to Wikipedia, for informing the masses that there is, in fact a word to describe the smell of rain. That word is "petrichor."
The term was coined in 1964 by two Australian researchers, Bear and Thomas, for an article in the journal Nature. In the article, the authors describe how the smell derives from an oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods, whereupon it is adsorbed by clay-based soils and rocks. During rain, the oil is released into the air along with another compound, geosmin, producing the distinctive scent. In a follow-up paper, Bear and Thomas (1965) showed that the oil retards seed germination and early plant growth.
Finally, a haiku I wrote awhile back about enjoying fall without risking the ire of landscaping neighbors:
Leap in piles of leaves!
Jump only vertically…
Don't scuff; leave no mess.
I hope you enjoy fall, friends and readers, and keep me posted on your seasonal adventures!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Ode to Oatmeal
you most unassuming
bowl of mush.
But how essential
and their children's children's children.
you never asked
to be dressed up
and paraded in boxes
through 10-Items-Or-Less lanes
at Vonn's, Albertson's or Safeway
by soccer moms
with false eyelashes
and purses they can't afford,
by college students,
pulling crumpled dollar bills,
out of front jeans pockets.
No, you gnashed
the day they shook
maple flakes into you
and put you in
brown paper packets,
by the crimper
at the end of the
If you had your way,
you'd only be
sold in bulky
in plain Arial font
on the label.
you would be
to live your
out among the
beneath a cloudy
the shepherd's fiery-haired wife
in her cream-colored
Friday, July 31, 2009
Letter to the Editor
October 27, 2008
Dear [Sacramento News & Review] editor,
A big “bravo!” to Josh Fernandez for his article “Inhaling the City” (October 23, 2008). Having always been a scent-sitive soul myself, I thrilled to read about Josh’s olfactory memory associations. Many writers neglect the power of smell in their works.
I am an aficionado of the olfactory myself, and have many memories linked to odors. Having been raised in Placerville, the musty smell of caves and mines immediately evokes evenings spent at the coffee shop at the converted Pearson’s Soda Works (now the Cozmic Cafe) which itself is built into a hill. The smell of tar reminds me of an indistinct nightmare, so summertime construction projects always make me illogically squeamish. Wet summer grass is the smell of road trips and being achingly in love at eighteen. Fresh laundry drying is one of the best scents: it immediately takes me back to a particular rainy afternoon spent listening to Sarah Vaughan and reading paperback novels in my bedroom, just next to my apartment complex’s laundry room. I was shivering under a rust-colored afghan blanket, but couldn’t bear to shut out that clean, wet smell. And smelling pie baking will always take me to Thanksgiving Eve in my grandmother’s orange-linoleumed kitchen, where I would sprinkle the pie crust dough scraps with cinnamon and sugar, and bake them on a cookie sheet into crumbly "cookies".
This summer, at age 26, I belatedly taught myself to properly ride a bike. Since mounting my blue mountain bike, I have often found myself toodling through Downtown, sniffing wildly at fleeting smells, like a dog with her head out a car window. I’ll sometimes find several in a single block. For example, T Street between 11th and 12th Streets tonight smelled of sour and smoky cooking (sausage and sauerkraut, perhaps?); the faintly acrid tang of a just-peeled green banana; and something perfumey, like the bubble bath I used as a pre-teen. Downtown Sacramento's alleys are even more fragrant than the streets, exuding the rich scents of backyard soil, ripe garbage cans, and motor oil.
In fact, I think the yellow-jacketed Downtown Sacramento Partnership guides ought to offer tourists SacTown Scent Maps. Here are some olfactory packages to get them inspired:
Locale: Old Sacramento.
Time: Mid-day, warm weather.
Scents: Dust, chocolate (near Rocky Mountain), hay-laden horse droppings.
Locale: Southside Park neighborhood.
Time: 5:30pm to 7:30pm.
Scents: A mouthwatering menagerie of Asian delights on the stove: rice, hot oil, fish in the pan.
Locale: Capitol and McKinley Parks.
Time: Post-rain, springtime or early summer.
Scents: Wet pavement, infinite combinations of flora and fauna.
Locale: Lavender Heights.
Time: Saturday night.
Scents: Each carouser wears her or his own cocktail of scents, a mixture of beer, sweat, soap, cologne, and lotion.
My best friend J’s stepfather lost his sense of smell as a child to hay fever. I’ve often wondered, looking at him pityingly, what a world without my sense of smell would be like. When people ask those irritating “Would you rather…?” questions, aimed at forcing you to think long and hard about which fate would be worse, I usually answer to the one about deafness versus blindness, “either one, as long as I can still have my sense of smell.”
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I had a marvelous lunch today. I hopped on my bike and made my way to the Sacramento Central Library, and was waited on by a very cute and smiley guy with a few scattered tattoos (and a wedding ring. Drat!).
Then I rode over to one of my absolute favorite places in town, Temple Coffee, and ordered an iced black citrus tea, which was super yummy. When I went to sit down, I saw that the best seat in the entire house - the window seat with all the pillows and the view of the street and the flower boxes - was free... just waiting for me to occupy it! It was enveloped in sunlight and calling to me, and there were music and birds twittering in the background as I floated toward it, so happily.
That tea was so good - cool and tall and flavorful and PROBABLYHADTOOMUCHCAFFEINEFORMEBECAUSEINEVERDRINKCAFFEINEANYMORE!... It was a perfect complement to my delicious peanut butter and honey sandwich. I used soft, healthy bread with texture and all kinds of interesting little seeds to nibble at. The peanut butter was the kind you grind fresh at the store, so there was nothing funky in it - just a thick spread of smooshy peanuts. The honey was just a little crystallized so it was ever so slightly sugary. And to top it all off, I read a super interesting article from my favorite magazine!
Soon it was time to go back to work, and as I went back out to get my bike, I chatted with people standing outside under the shady trees. One of the guys owns this little store next to Temple I've never been in but I'm now super curious about. They sell all kinds of miscellany, and there was a rack outside with $1 shirts on it. I buzzed through the streets and alleys, grinning the whole way at pedestrians, other bicyclists, motorists. I love the allies in Sacramento because they dip down into the basement and parking garage level of the street so you can race up and down the little hills and have an urban adventure! The sunshine was just warm, not sweltering, and I could smell the rich bits of city life as I whizzed past restaurants, dumpsters and cars.
The most incredible thing about this lunch is that I even got back a few minutes early!! A foreshortened lunch hour, yet I didn't feel shortchanged at all.
And before I knew it, I back at my desk, coffee scent hanging off my body like wisteria on trellises. I smelled like a waitress, hon.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
A Drive at Sunset
Last night was extraordinarily beautiful. As the sun was setting, M and I drove down Jefferson Road in West Sacramento to where it turns into a levee road. Clouds were stretched over the pale sky like layered gauze. The sun was as red as a strawberry, halfway behind the hills, when we saw a blond field up ahead with a backdrop of towering oak trees. But the trees looked peculiar – they had large, white spots in them. I thought maybe it was the sky shining through, but the spots were too pale and uniformly-sized to be sky patches. As we approached, I realized they were nesting egrets - my favorite birds!! I never knew they roosted in trees that way.
We passed over a little canal lined with horse grass and reeds, and pulled over by the trees. The field alongside the canal was bordered by a white post-fence, with an opening to a dirt pathway. As we approached the pathway, the egrets (who were hundreds of feet away) all took flight and circled around the sky. Funny, I thought, that they wouldn't be afraid of large, loud, motorized vehicles whipping by at 50 miles per hour, but that two people on foot would spook them. They probably knew what guns sounded like, and that they were usually fired by humans on foot.
We wandered through the field, which seemed to be some kind of grain, and eventually took a side path down to the canal. Some of the egrets returned, and I could hear them honking and chattering. But mostly they settled among the branches of trees further down the canal. One flew almost directly overhead, and we had a full view of its slender elegance from beneath.
We sat down at the water’s edge, toes on the mud, and watched as fish splished and flipped in the water. Small, dark birds sped after one another, zipping down close to the water, but never touching it. We took pictures of the horse grass silhouetted against the sky. Small animals created rustling noises as they went about their business in the dry, hollow reed grasses. We joked about getting West Nile Virus from the mosquitoes that hovered around, and I said I’d rather die of West Nile than miss evenings like these. The sun slowly melted into the horizon, and eventually nighttime came.
Conflict and Consensus
As we sat, we talked about philosophy, overpopulation, and reproduction. We talked about emotions and communication, and M. gave me one of the best compliments I could imagine:
“I really admire how you do such a good job of asserting your opinions without shoving other people out of the conversation.”
That is precisely the kind of balance I strive for - only I'd never put it in those words before. I was very touched. For about five years now, I’ve been thinking constantly about my own worldview in the context of conflict and harmony.
Two bedrock theories of sociology (and other social sciences) are the structural functionalism perspective - attributed in large part to Emile Durkheim - and the conflict perspective - the brainchild of Karl Marx. Structural functionalism conceptualizes every aspect of society to have a constructive purpose, even dysfunction. This means our society’s institutions function as a result of the synthesis of different perspectives, or the compromises reached by opposed parties. The Marxist conflict perspective, on the other hand, posits that society is characterized by the constant state of opposition between various classes, or groups of people with differing interests. To put it more simply, one theory posits that we are defined by our ability to compromise on our disagreements; the other views our same society through the lens of those very conflicts themselves. Either of these perspectives can be used as a level of analysis for any sort of issue, from the interpersonal level to a global scale.
I haven’t decided whether I put more stock in Marxism or structural functionalism - either as far as an explanation for the way society works, or insofar as far as which approach I value more as a tool for organizing for social change. It’s clear that both are at work in the world, and I also truly value both techniques. However, I always feel somehow at odds with myself when I consider this fact. It seems the two paradigms cannot co-exist simultaneously because by their very nature they are diametrically opposed. But last night I had a little epiphany about balance: the two are not mutually exclusive; they happen in tandem with one another.
Similarly, both confrontation and consensus-building are useful and necessary tools. The two even complement each other in what may appear on the surface to be a contradictory or counter-productive way. In fact, one could go so far as to say they are interdependent. One oft-cited example is the respective roles played by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s non-violence and the Black Panthers’ radicalism in the civil rights/Black freedom movement.
Thus it is neither illogical nor wrong in any way to use both as tools at appropriate moments. In thinking about this further, I see that this has been obvious all along. Most reasonable people would agree that trying to talk through a problem when it arises is the best course of initial action; and everyone but the most staunch of all pacifists would agree that things come down to confrontation sometimes. Academia, however, tends to set up a false dichotomy about the two. Do you have any thoughts on conflict or consensus?
Update: Today (yes, literally less than 12 hours after posting this blog), I ran into the professor I had for Introduction to Sociology during one of my first few semesters at Sierra College. Apparently, she works for DHCS. She was so excited that I so clearly and fondly remembered her class. That is quite a strange coincidence, no?
Finally, some sad news to report.
If you didn't know, a family of pigeons was nesting just outside my bathroom window. Recently, I walked to the laundry room and saw an egg splattered on the ground. I thought, “Why would anyone throw an egg at the side of my house?" But, hey, I live downtown, so I didn’t think anything of it. But a few days later, for the first time since they appeared, neither Mirabel, the female pigeon, nor Maxwell, her mate, were on their nest – and I saw there were no eggs, either. It clicked then that the egg on the ground a few days before had been one of their eggs, and that probably during the night, a raccoon or a blue jay or something had come and taken their second egg, or else maybe it had fallen. But the next time I walked downstairs, I didn't see any evidence of another egg on the ground. Poor, sweet family. Mirabel, Maxwell, and their eggs – all gone. Just an empty hollow of twigs where their white-shelled offspring were once developing.
It all makes me want to stop eating eggs. And it also makes me marvel that any birds survive, living as they do in delicate nests, beginning their lives protected only by a thin, fragile shell. Maybe you think pigeons are disgusting, but I think any bird is a miracle.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I know many of you are looking for work right now. Below are some tips I wrote up for a friend who was out of work. I was just recently out of work for six months - so I know how it feels. I hope it's helpful!
Best of luck to all of you.
It sucks losing your job. (Mostly. Take cheap road trips, relax and volunteer when you can.) But being laid off or fired is a loss, just like any other. Allow yourself a little process of grieving - you may feel pained, shocked, angry, confused, guilty, whatever. Let yourself feel those feelings when you need to, and then move on.
Having just been through this, I thought I’d put together a list of tips and ideas for job searching.
First off, if you can get it, get Martin Yates' Knock 'Em Dead books - I used the Interviews one to study, and I rocked my interviews!
Try not to sleep in in the mornings. Have a routine, or a reason to wake up. I took my mom (she lives two blocks from me) to work every day, and that kept me from sleeping in and waking up at 11:00 am feeling crummy.
Register with as many websites as you can.
Register with both those sites specific to your profession, and general, as you can to keep your options open. Here are some I was on/checked every day:
If you live in California, take state tests and get on lists ASAP at:
(There are more. I’ll post them as I think of them.)
Go to job fairs. You never know what might lead to something. Plus, once again, it gives you a reason to get up in the morning when you feel like sleeping in, eating ice cream and watching Seinfeld re-runs instead.
When I was out of work, Kinko’s had a special where they let you print 25 copies (per location! On nice-ass paper!) of your résumé. I hit up three locations on my bike and got a total of 75 copies of my three-page résumé on fancy granite-gray paper. Watch the business news – CNN.com or Yahoo business – for these kinds of jobseeker opportunities.
Keep a spreadsheet (or a binder, if you’re old school) of jobs that you’ve applied to, contacts at each location, dates to follow up, etc. That way you can keep track of who to call when. Also (obviously) ask all your ex-bosses, favorite co-workers and professors for letters of recommendation. I included an average of five letters of recommendation with my application each time I applied to a job. It can’t hurt. Keep copies of cover letters in the computer so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time a job opportunity arises. Be sure to let your references know when someone will probably be calling them.
Have a weekly routine. I used to apply for all the jobs listed in the Sunday Sacramento Bee and the California Job Journal on Mondays; local government jobs on Tuesday; private sector on Wednesdays; and state jobs on Thursdays. I saved Fridays for researching and contacting non-profits I was interested in working for, so that let me have something to look forward to on Friday, even though I wasn't working.
Pound the pavement! It can’t hurt to do walk-in inquiries and résumé drop-offs; besides (again) it gets you out of the house, and you'll probably learn about businesses/organizations you didn't know about walking around.
Also, register with temp agencies. I had an awesome account executive at Apple One who was always keeping her eyes peeled for me, and got me a temp job and a bunch of interviews.
Unemployment benefits have been extended, so at least there’s that. If you’re lucky, it’ll be enough to pay your bills and still have money left to eat and buy gas.
Get on www.linkedin.com. It’s a great network. And use your resources – which basically means anyone you know. Make a business card and have a brief description of what you do. I got free business cards at http://www.dcp-print.com. There are also a couple of other free websites. Google “free business cards”. Remember to include the information you want to share with everyone.
If there's a cause you care about, volunteer there for awhile. It can't hurt to have something - be it unpaid - on your resume for the time you were out of work.
Job searching is like a full-time job, but remember that it’s just that – something to occupy a decent amount of your time, but not to obsess over. Take time to exercise, go for a walk, cook good food for yourself, and watch movies. Don’t feel too bad at the end of each day if you haven’t found something yet. It’s tough out there.
Finally, good luck!! Go kick butt, and be yourself. You are resourceful, amazing, smart, and capable. (Duh. Why do you think your other employer hired you in the first place?)
Thursday, May 28, 2009
It was a hot Sacramento day in the late spring of 2009, when the California state Supreme Court voted 6-1 to uphold a the discriminatory Proposition 8, voted into law in 2008, invalidating same-sex marriages. But the demonstrators gathered on the Capitol building’s west steps seemed less drained than energized by the heat – as if our skin were made of photovoltaic cells.
The large crowd marched from the Gay and Lesbian center on L Streets with signs reading “ImaginEquality,” “Second Class Citizen,” “Trash 8,” and “‘I Do’ Support the Freedom to Marry.’” We shouted, chanted, sang, cheered, and showed our solidarity. We were addressed by the flamboyant and hilarious State Assembly member Tom Ammiano, couples married after the 2008 Supreme Court decision gave them that right, reverends, and organizers.
Sweat dripped into our eyes, and a thin woman wrapped in a rainbow flag grinned. Couples held hands.
Across the street, a small group – noticeably reduced in size since the rallies following the election – held pro-Prop 8 signs and chanted, “Celebrate Prop 8!”
I didn’t see much to celebrate. We were there because we were incensed by the court ruling… Nonetheless, we also gathered in a spirit of solidarity, love, and levity.
A temporary setback is what yesterday was.
“The arc of history is long,” a speaker quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “but it bends toward justice.”
Quit Mormon-Bashing, Friends.
I realize there are many issues surrounding Proposition 8, ranging from our electoral system and constitution to the debate surrounding the institution of marriage itself… but the one in particular I want to address is this recent bout of Mormon bashing.
I don’t like it.
First and foremost, why make hypocrites of ourselves by stooping to the level of those whose points we disagree with by using their tools - i.e. thoughtless vitriol, broad-brush painting, and bigotry? These are the very acts we disparage.
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t boycott select businesses that supported Prop 8. I’m not saying we shouldn’t strongly voice our values and perspectives. But I am saying we don’t need to be jerks about it.
My second point is: it's not just the Mormons, folks. Plenty of other groups and individuals voted for Prop 8. And perhaps in that way, we supporters of same-sex marriage, religious and non-religious alike, should take a long, hard look at our approach. How can we better work with religious and other communities to show them our perspective?
Among the fallacies passed off as truth by pro-Prop 8 advertisements during the campaign season was the idea that schools would be forced to teach same-sex marriage to students. The fear played upon was that same-sex couples would be “forcing their lifestyle” upon the general population. Interestingly enough, most same-sex couples would argue that not allowing them to marry is, in effect, discriminating against them by forcing a mainstream idea – a straight lifestyle – upon them. This is a perfect instance in which simple grassroots efforts can be effective. Both debunking the forcible teaching of same-sex marriage myth and talking to your neighbors about basic rights is a simple way to plant seeds of new ideas.
Finally, I want to state that alienating ourselves from other people is never the way to build a revolution, win an election, gain friends, or influence people. Dr. King spoke of using “an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind” as a tool to find common ground among all people:
“This oft-misunderstood concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions [and read: peaceful revolutions] have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”
Pretty much every group of people has been discriminated against at one point or another – including Mormons themselves, who were historically persecuted for their religious beliefs and practices… including their marriages! Maybe at this point you’re thinking, “then they are being hypocrites!” Possibly. But instead of being pompous about it, let those of us who hold the banner of love, justice and equality, not also succumb to the base emotion of hatred or the shameful tendency to “other” those we disagree with. Instead, let us use the tools of love to find common humanity and open a dialog with anyone who might initially disagree with you with regard to Prop 8.
I know it’s cliché, but some of my best, dearest friends are Mormon, or disagree with me for some other reason about Prop 8. It is my sincere hope that they will someday see that love is love in any form, and that my hypothetical marriage to a woman would be just as valid as my hypothetical marriage to a man. But they are much more likely to see my point of view if I present it with love instead of with anger.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
If only I knew what my cats are thinking. If only I knew what the birds are singing. If only I knew why people who speak the same language rarely understand each other.* * *How alone I feel this morning, as alone as the earth in photographs taken from space. But am I alone? Really? Here on this planet with 6 billion brothers and sisters? Our superficial differences keep me from recognizing how much we have in common -- starting with the undeniable fact that we're all alive and breathing the same air. Breathing in. Breathing out. Hearts expanding with love and hearts contracting with fear. Is there anything I'm experiencing right now that hasn't also been experienced by innumerable others -- even my loneliness, my sadness, my longing for something I can't name?
Reading this reminded me of the following bit from my friend Trevor's travel blog Where the Hell Is My Towel?:
There is no night culture here. I miss that sense of camaraderie I used to feel whenever I'd be out driving at four in the morning in the rain and I'd pass some other lonely pair of headlights going the opposite direction. It was the strongest sense of understanding I've ever felt. There is nothing like that here...
I was also reminded of this piece from Natalie Goldberg's book for writers called Writing Down the Bones:
Last night I was sitting with a very old friend in my living room. "You know, Natalie, I know you've talked about being lonely, but last week when I was really lonely, I felt that I was the only person in the world who ever felt it." That's what loneliness is about. If we felt connected to people, even other lonely people, we wouldn't feel alone anymore.
When I was separated from my husband, [my mentor] Katagiri Roshi said to me, "You should live alone. You should learn about that. It is the terminal abode."
"Roshi, will I get used to loneliness?"
"No, you don't get used to it. I take a cold shower every morning and every morning it shocks me, but I continue to stand up in the shower. Loneliness always has a bite, but learn to stand up in it and not be tossed away."
Later that year I went to Roshi again: "It's really hard. I come home and I'm alone and I get panicky." He asked me what I did when I was alone. Suddenly, it had a fascination. "Well, I wash the dishes, I daydream and doodle on pieces of paper, draw hearts and color them in. I pick the dead leaves off the plants and I listen to music a lot." I began to study my own desolation and I became interested in it. I stopped fighting it.
Goldberg goes on to discuss how writers can use loneliness as a tool for expression. "Reach out of the deep chasm of loneliness and express yourself to another human being," she writes.
To be sure, loneliness is a nearly universal human emotion - at least in our culture. Isn't this fact one of life's greatest ironies?
But perhaps that is not so unexpected. After all, it's well-established by social scientists that the intimacy provided by companionship and relationships is a significant human need. But our own life experience will tell us that, won't it?
Loneliness compels us to seek further and greater companionship -- or to flip that around, loneliness is merely a symptom of the (hopefully temporary) inability to connect with other humans in an intimate way. Since humans are such an interconnected and interdependent species, perhaps loneliness itself plays a fundamental role in our survival. So ponder that next time you're feeling sorry for yourself and listening to your entire collection of The Cure records on a rainy day. ;)
Any sociologists, psychologists, biologists, or other scientists out there - or anyone else for that matter - want to share your ideas on the function and role of loneliness?
Any artists want to share how you use loneliness as inspiration for your work?
What do you do to overcome loneliness? How do you use it to your advantage?
*As of today, May 20, the May issue is still posted online so you won't find this entry from the June issue.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Tonight my neighbor A asked me "do you have a position on Palestine/Israel?"
It was such a great question. I'm glad she asked! It gave me a chance to think about and articulate my perspective. It's not a subject I spend a lot of time talking/thinking about. Maybe I should...
Sacramento Area Peace Action is actually putting on a speaker series on Palestine. Next Tuesday the 19th is the next to last event. (More about that below.)
My answer to A is as follows:
So I am not pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, per se. I'm pro-peace... meaning I'm an advocate of finding a solution that creates social justice and quells violence for both sides. And no matter what, I believe that the US has no business funding a violent, inhumane, and illegal occupation.
To tell the truth, the more I learn about Israel/Palestine, the more I realize how much I have to learn. My general position is that it's NOT okay the way Israel (through the massive support of the US) treats the Palestinians. Regardless of the history of the region and picking sides and all that, the fact remains that Israel's occupation is illegal according to international law. It's also inhumane and against international conventions to do what Israel did by blockading Gaza earlier this year and not allowing humanitarian aid and basic supplies in. Palestinians don't have the same rights as Israelis. Palestinians routinely have their crops, their homes, their businesses destroyed by Israeli tanks and machines. They have to go through checkpoints all the time, as if they're criminals or foreigners. I heard a personal story of someone who was with a woman who could not get through the border even though she was in labor, and had to be driven hours out of the way to receive medical care. These kinds of things happen all the time.
That said, I'm not really well-versed even in modern Israel/Palestine history, let alone the thousands of years of history surrounding the different groups in the region. To be totally cliche, some of my best friends are Jewish, and are supporters of the state of Israel. I have no opinion on what kind of political structure should be in place... I just know that the Palestinians should not be being treated the way they are. Also, I know that the violence keeps festering because it is perpetuated by both sides. Neither side is right in resorting to violence, regardless of whether one uses tanks and the other uses car bombs.
In my non-professional opinion, the most destructive thing that causes breakdown in the dialog about Israel & Palestine is the flawed and overly-simplistic framing of the issue in the US media. Generally Palestinians are portrayed as anti-Semitic terrorists, whereas Israelis are innocent freedom fighters defending their homeland. There are so many fallacies in that. To begin with, an act is only called terrorism when it's a non-governmental group perpetrating it. Also, Israel is not exclusively Jewish; neither is Palestine exclusively Arab nor Muslim (some people don't even understand the difference between Arab and Muslim). And finally, Jerusalem and the entire country of Israel - is the historic homeland of BOTH groups.
Here's info about the Sacramento Area Peace Action event:
Tuesday, May 19, 7pm, Palestine Speaker Series: Current Realities/One State presented by Dr. Jess Ghanam, clinical professor of psychiatry and chief of medical psychology at UC San Francisco. Dr. Ghanam is on the board of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program and on the national board of Al-Awda the Palestine Right of Return Coalition. 909 12th St, Sac. Info: 916-448-7157, email@example.com; http://sacpeace.org/.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I registered and pledged to ride a certain number of miles on bikecommutemonth.com. I've been logging my miles there. I ride to work every day because, well, I live so close, and it's much easier than dealing with parking! Also I love to get the exercise, and enjoy the fresh air.
Last Friday, it rained in the afternoon. Riding the 14 blocks home, I saw only two other cyclists - one woman and one man. That makes for a ratio of one man two two women in Sacramento who are hardcore and perseverent enough to ride even when it's raining. (Among my statistically representative sample, you understand).
Yesterday and the day before, rain was forecasted but none actually appeared... save for a thin film of wetness on the streets when I woke up yesterday. It was pretty warm and muggy both Monday and Tuesday. Monday was especially cloudy, and I really thought it would rain, but it never did.
I got my state tax refund this week. I hopped over to City Bicycle Works right after work, under the BEAUTIFUL blue sky and puffy clouds. I picked up a kickstand; a rack for hauling stuff on the back of my bike (forgot what it's called); a new "I ♥ My Bike" bell (DING DING DING!!); and a new side mirror, since I cracked the other one running into a tree last summer. Oops. I cruised over to the Bicycle Kitchen, where I installed my goodies. My bike is totally tricked out now. Hee hee...
On the way home, I got bell-happy and ding-a-linged down P, R, 10th, and other streets. A man in front of the Fox and Goose called out, "Mmm-mmm! Good Humor bars!", and some other cyclists dinged their bells in response from half a block away. I heart my "I ♥ My Bike" bell almost as much as I heart my bike.
So, I suppose y'all want to know how I'm enjoying my job?
My first day, I walked in to "Welcome to BWARD (my Division) Heather Woodford" signs, and a pink vase of red tulips at my desk! Everyone keeps telling me how glad they are to have me there. The Division was super understaffed before, and my position was vacant for four months before I started working there, so I can only imagine they're relieved... and not just because my reputation as an amazing person and awesome worker has preceded me. Hee hee...
Well, they're keeping me busy, to be sure. I am the only Executive Secretary in my Division, so there's no one to sit with me and train me, really. I have to be super resourceful and ask lots of questions of the Exec Secs in other Divisions and the Department office. The Division Chief (my bigger boss) has been out ever since my first day, and so the poor Assistant Division Chief has been super stressed. There's been lots of trial by fire for me. I guess I should take it as a compliment that they just throw me in and trust me to figure things out. I have been asking lots of questions... of everyone. :) My co-workers are all super nice and helpful, and avail themselves to me whenever I need them.
I work just across the street from the Capitol Rose Garden, and I LOVE to stroll around the grounds during my breaks (when I remember to take them - SUPER BUSY!) and at lunch. It's amazing the way each variety of rose has its own scent and color. On Monday, the groundskeeper showed me to his favorite bush.
"Isn't that unique?" he asked, showing me to a beautiful hybrid. "It's like nothing you've ever smelled!" He was right - it has a light, clean sort of jasmine-y smell.
Today, I was super pleased to see a man in a suit witha small a briefcase taking time to - well, you know! "Gotta make time for that," I called to him from another bush. "You sure do!"
On Friday evening, L&B and I had dinner with K&J at Cafe Rolle on H Street in East Sacramento. Absolutely exquisite. We sampled everything from salads and appetizers to lentils and sandwiches. The wine was amazing - a crisp, light white and two warm, round reds. We topped everything off with two creme brulees, including their special, the chocolate toffee brulee! Apparently, they will be featured soon on the Food Network. L&B wrote down the date, so we'll be watching for it that night, and I'll try to remember to post a link here.
On Friday night after riding home from work in the rain, I busted out my new pair of Havaianas because I couldn't find my other ones. I started laughing when I realized what I was doing, and had to tell B when I saw her, "You know you're from California when you bust out a new pair of Havaianas because you can't find your 0ther pair, and you don't want to wear any of your other five pairs of flip-flops... and it's RAINING!"
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Last night I worked a photography show exhibiting Francisco Dominguez's work at the Sacramento Area Peace Action. You might know Francisco as fotowaddle. The event details are here.
I arrived early with pink punch and strawberries and cookies, and worked with others to set up the room, Manu Chao our audio backdrop. Then the guests started arriving in pairs and trios, and chose their seats among the mauve chairs, set theater-style. They filled the conference room with their glib buzzing chatter and chips-and-salsa crunching.
The program began with a short introduction, and then Pedro and Manuel played their beautiful stringed instruments and sang traditional call and response songs. Such volume! Such energy! Such melodic, percussive, dance-inducing JOY!
Francisco's photographs document the harsh conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border, and the people who live there. In both color and black and white, they were simple portraits and action shots. They were pieces of truth and tragedy: white crosses marking the graves of unknown people who died trying to find a better life; bracero workers who have been lending their labor to the United States for decades; barrels of water placed out in the desert by merciful church family members visiting through gaps in the border fence.
Francisco also performed an art piece: a traditional prayer with a DVD slide show of some of his shots. A group discussion with a question and answer period was held. Manuel and Pedro played again, reinvigorating us, keeping us strong and happy for another day of good work and honest living.
And on that note, I might have a new crush on a certain Guatemalan musician. Oh dear, my heart did flutter when he hugged me, crisp white shirt against my red t-shirt, warm cheek against mine, my fingers in his hand and his deep, quiet eyes glancing looking into mine as he took my card.
Monday, April 13, 2009
I knew I was reading a good book when I'd find myself wanting to sneak away from people or tasks at hand to curl up with Brady Udall's The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint in a private room. I finished the last pages of the novel in Grants Pass, Oregon a few weeks ago. I was cozily sandwiched between the mattress and layers of colorful comforters J and R had placed in their office for my stay. As Edgar finished his story - typed out completely on his Hermes Jubilee - I felt a wave of bittersweet relief sweep over me. Udall's prose is dazzling but down-to-earth; his characters complex and amusingly idiosyncratic; his similes sumptuous; his bits of descriptive details delightful, like gooey chocolate chips in a warm cookie; and the story an odyssey that makes the reader root for the main character from the first sentence to the very last.
Edgar Mint is deeply troubled, but absolutely charming. Edgar, like me, is a writer, and finds comfort and meaning in words. I found myself wincing and wanting to skip over some parts, as Brady Udall's title character endures violence at the hands of schoolyard bullies, neglect at worst or a twisted kind of self-serving attention at best at the hands of adults all around, and other forms of intense emotional pain. It would stand to reason that this character, abandoned and left to a series of institutions - a hospital, a boarding school for Native American children, and an adoptive family - would act out. And act out he does, as he tries to negotiate a childhood shot through with various difficulties and confusion. In many ways, Edgar has to grow up at much too young an age, whereas in other ways, he remains amusingly unaware of some of the facts of life. The novel had me laughing several times, and close to tears at others.
The incredible circumstances of Edgar's life imbue him with an inadvertant kind of legendary charisma, and this characteristic attracts key people who exert various kinds of lasting influence on his life. At times, Edgar seems to be a mere hapless leaf floating on a frothy, churning river. But at other times, his integrity and other strong personality traits seem to be setting the agenda for his life. When Edgar takes on a purpose for himself, I found myself intensely wanting to see him through in this task, wondering when he'd find the person he is looking for. Edgar's ultimate goal is peace of mind and a sense of belonging. All I'll say is that when he finally reaches his destination, the situation surprises both Edgar and the reader.
The story is stitched together by themes of race relations, multi-culturalism, social and economic class, and the plight of indigenous people. Udall fills the novel with rich details about the conditions of the reservation and boarding school. However, the novel is not at all preachy or overly political, and it lets Edgar's story to speak for itself, allowing the reader to draw her or his own conclusions about the treatment of indigenous Americans.
I'm happy to loan it to any friend who wants to read it next!
Saturday, April 11, 2009
After six months of being unemployed, I accepted an offer on Thursday for an Executive Secretary position with the Department of Health Care Services!! (I think I may have earlier told folks it was the Department of Public Health - oops!) This is the interview I had on Tuesday and was really excited about. I am looking forward to working with awesome people at what sounds like a challenging position! I will be starting work after I clear HR, which should be "no sooner than the week of the 27th."
The call came while I was enjoying a falafel wrap with M at the N Street Cafe. Pretty good stuff, by the way! I recommend it. I was so excited that after I hung up the phone I shouted out to the entire cafe, "I HAVE A JOB! AFTER SIX MONTHS OF BEING UNEMPLOYED, I JUST GOT A JOB!" Some folks applauded and smiled, and others said "congratulations!" I felt so happy sharing my moment of joy with these benevolent strangers.
Until then, I'll be doing CODEPINK and Sacramento Area Peace Action work, enjoying the spring weather, catching up on projects around the house, possibly visiting K in Santa Cruz, writing, and spending time with my friends, family and Purrcey-Cat.
While there's a small chance I could not be approved by the HR people and am still keeping my feelers out, it is such a relief to have this offer. It's so relaxing not to have to walk past a business or office and wonder whether they're hiring, kick myself for not having copies of my resume on me. Such a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and I feel a kind of freedom like I used to feel at the end of a college semester. For a few weeks, my time will be my own!
Tonight I visited J, a fellow CODEPINKer and friend in Concord, and ate my first Passover meal ever! I am not Jewish - and was, in fact, raised a devout atheist - so I don't know much about Passover. All I know is that for some reason The Ten Commandments is always on around Easter time - which always just confused me because I thought Easter was about Jesus, not Moses.
Before dinner, J's son D took me on a tour of their amazing piece o' paradise backyard garden. The light was becoming white-yellow and our shadows stretched away from us at long angles over the poppies and strawberries. I touched the plants, especially the herbs, and came away with my hands smelling like rosemary, and with springy light green mint leaves in my pocket.
As we sat down to eat, I felt as I usually do when I'm present for an unfamiliar religious or cultural ritual: both curious and nervous that I may do something wrong on accident. J and her family assured me it was not really a sadar - meaning it was not a super formal ceremony - and that I could eat things in whichever order I wanted to. First there was a blessing, during which we waved light from candles toward our bodies with our hands and then covered our eyes. They repeated a Hebrew blessing. We took sips of something sweet and grapey from a silver chalice and ate a corner of matzo bread - unleavened bread, like an unsalted cracker.
The meal was such an interesting experience because everything eaten at Passover is symbolic. Combined with a dinner conversation we had about soy, corn syrup, and other kinds of food, the experience really got me thinking about being aware of what I put in my body. After all, the food we eat is really what builds and sustains us in every regard.
One of the Passover foods is bitter herbs, which, as I understand it, can include a variety of, well, herbs that are bitter. The symbolism of eating bitter herbs is to experience the pain the Jews suffered during their time under slavery in Egypt. The bitter herbs we ate were parsley, lettuce, and horseradish. The parsley is also dipped in saltwater to represent the Jews' tears. The lettuce starts off sweet and finishes bitter, like the Jews' time in Egypt. D advised me to "make a charoses sandwich" with the horseradish and the matzo bread. Charoses is a mixture that seemed to be made of a hearty grain, walnuts, and raisins, and is representative of the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the Egyptian pharaohs' pyramids. I spread the horseradish and the charoses thickly onto the matzo bread, which symbolizes the haste with which the Jews had to leave Egypt - no time to let the bread rise. They said I was quite adventurous with the horseradish, and I ate it till there was fire in my nose and tears in my eyes, which I think means I did it right. They also usually drink four cups of wine, but I only had a small glass and then most of a medium-sized one. I asked what each of the four glasses symbolized, and J's husband joked that the purpose served by the second glass was to get the kids to pass out early.
Another interesting thing I learned is that because the guidelines of eating Kosher can be complicated, many Jews are vegetarian. For example, you're supposed to clean the kitchen in a very specific way, and only use certain dishes for meat, and certain other ones for dairy products. This can become cumbersome, and some Jews opt to eliminate meat altogether.
"A Private Civilian"
On the way down to visit J, traffic thickened in Vacaville like cream at the top of non-homogenized milk. I'm glad it did because it slowed me down enough to be able to stop when I saw a woman pulled over at the center median.
She was looking under the hood of her ancient white beast of a Dodge Ram Charger. I put on my flashers and eased off the side of the road. She was Dawn. She smelled like honeysuckle and wore a blue top with a faded pattern of maple leaves stenciled onto it, over it a purple corduroy button-down shirt. Her long brown hair was loose and she cursed in frustration. There was a walking boot on her left foot, which she said had been infected and had caused her to need surgery. Fortunately, her job as a cook at a restaurant in Nevada City was being held for her while she recovered. Dawn was on her way to see her daughter, who had just graduated from a culinary art school in San Francisco.
I gave her my milk crate to stand on so she could properly see inside the tall hood to reach her fuel filter. Then we called her a tow truck on my cell phone. I let her use the screwdriver in my Leatherman Supertool after the purple plastic knife she was using to fiddle around under the hood had snapped in half.
She called her daughter on my cell, dialing the keys with her grease-smudged fingers. I considered being concerned about the phone getting dirty, and then decided not to care.
I had to run off to see J, so could not wait the "up to fifty-five minutes" it would take for the tow truck to arrive. But the tow truck company needed a contact phone number so I gave them my cell phone number.
I wished her luck, and she said, "bless you, girlfriend. You're awesome!"
We hugged, and when she walked back to her car, she shouted from her car above the traffic to admonish me, "you be careful pulling out there!" We waved.
Twenty-five minutes later, driving over the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, I received a phone call from a dispatcher at the tow truck company. I could hear her talking to the truck driver, who claimed Dawn was not there.
"Well, is that her on the phone?" The driver asked.
"No, a private citizen called on her behalf. She should be on the left shoulder of westbound I-80 near the Nut Tree Parkway exit."
He answered again in the negative. "Got on the highway at Leisure Town Road, and I been all through Vacaville. I haven't seen her. Maybe another tow truck picked her up."
"Are you sure?" I asked repeatedly, advising them to drive by again. "Just look for the only car on the left-hand side of the road!"
"If she is there and a CHP stops to help her, they'll call us back," the dispatcher assured me.
I grumbled a bit and then hung up. I called Dawn's daughter to tell her what had happened. She promised to call me when she heard from her mother, but I haven't heard anything. That was eight hours ago.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Edit: I beg your ongoing forgiveness for wonky font and other problems as I acquaint myself with properly formatting pasted text on this blog...
Sacramento made national news today, as we are again eligible to receive much-needed federal funds. A settlement was reached by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, following a year-long investigation of a scandal involving improper conduct and mismanagement of federal grant money while at his non-profit organization, St. HOPE. The settlement, which requires repayment of grant funds, takes Johnson off a list of people who are unable to receive federal funds.
Mayor Johnson making the news prompted me to post this open letter I wrote on behalf of the Sacramento Coalition to End the War regarding US involvement in
The Coalition invites other peace and social justice groups to use the format of this letter to address similar questions to their own mayors or local officials. Be sure to check out the websites and resources cited. You can use nationalpriorities.org to calculate the cost of the
I work with the
21 November 2008
Mayor-Elect Kevin Johnson
Dear Mayor-Elect Johnson:
The member organizations of the Sacramento Coalition to End the War seek your perspective on the occupations of
To date, the lives of six Sacramentan soldiers have been taken in the war and subsequent occupation of Iraq, and our state has sustained a total of 3,239 casualties, including 448 deaths (Data provided by http://www.casualties.org, as collected from the US Department of Defense.) With the $779.1 million taxpayers in
- 13,919 public safety officers for one year OR
- 2,332 affordable housing units OR
- 291,234 children with health care for one year OR
- 93,194 head start places for children for one year OR
- 9,840 port container inspectors for one year.
Undoubtedly, you are looking forward to using your position as mayor to make a positive difference in our City. With this in mind, we, the member organizations of the Sacramento Coalition to End the War, ask of you:
Will you make a bold statement by becoming a member of Mayors for Peace, as your predecessor Mayor Fargo and so many of your esteemed colleagues from cities the world over have?
Will you continue to work in the spirit of Resolution 2005-805, Calling on President Bush to Commence the Withdrawal of American Troops in
(Resolution text available at http://sacramento.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=5&clip_id=744&meta_id=52827 ; City Council Meeting Agenda and Proceedings available at http://sacramento.granicus.com/AgendaViewer.php?view_id=5&clip_id=744.)
Will you bring forward a resolution opposing military action against
Will you strongly and publicly support a resolution by the state legislature, such as the 2006 Assembly Joint Resolution 36, asking Congress and the President to bring our National Guard home?
Mr. Mayor-Elect, with both your admiration for President-Elect Barack Obama and your slogan “Together We Can,” you have promised us a mayor who will listen to his constituents and strive to unite us. You have also made it clear by promising to bulk up law enforcement that you are concerned with protecting the safety of Sacramentans. As such, the Coalition hopes you will use your position of power to bring about the end of the outrageous spending and egregious violence toward Iraqis and Americans of this illegal occupation, and to bring our troops home safely, so our National Guard may once again tend to our community’s needs.
While we realize you are quite busy, we would appreciate receiving your response by Monday, November 24.
[Undersigned by representatives of member groups.]
Resolution Promoting Peaceful Resolution of US-Iran Issues
The Sacramento City Council directs the Clerk to send the following resolution to the President of the United Stated of America and the United States Congress:
1. That the Sacramento City Council supports a peaceful, diplomatic means to resolve the tensions between the United States and Iran as a result of Iran’s nuclear program.
2. That the Sacramento City Council calls for direct, unconditional negotiations between the
3. That the Sacramento City Council is opposed to preemptive military action by any nation against
4. That the Sacramento City Council calls for a renewed effort at all levels – people-to-people, interfaith groups, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and government – to help the United States and Iran eliminate the tensions that have existed between our two nations and to unite the American and Iranian people in a common effort to solve the problems of poverty, illness, and climate change.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
I had a fantastic interview today! The job itself seems reasonably varied in its tasks, and very challenging. And the two people who interviewed me embodied a balance between diligent dedication to their work and lightheartedness, like tightrope walkers. We laughed and joked several times, and I learned a lot about the Benefits, Waiver Analysis, and Rates Division of the Department of Health Care Services. So, even if I don't get the job, I had the opportunity to sharpen my interview skills, meet two amazing people, and laugh a lot.
That's not to say I don't really, REALLY want the job - because I do.
Manila Envelope Fun
Today was a superior mail day. No bills. No junk mail. No letters reading "While your resume and skills were impressive, we've decided to hire another candidate." Just a pleasingly plump package from my friends J, R, and N at the CODEPINK office in San Francisco.
- a pink tank top my friend R got at a clothing swap;
- three Mix CD's for personal enjoyment and fun PINK peace actions;
- resources for coordinating our local chapter of CODEPINK;
- a pink "Out Of Iraq Now!" ribbon magnet for the Ruby Suby; and
- a beautiful card signed by everyone.
For dinner tonight, I fixed an amazing sandwich, with mostly organic ingredients:
~ wheat and oat bread
~ horseradish mustard
~ sunflower sprouts - surprisingly crunchy and tasty little protein-packed green doodads!
~ cheddar and mozzarella cheese - I peeled little strings off the edge of the thick mozzarella slices!
~ a sprinkling of olive oil and balsamic vinegar
~ black olives, and
~ nature's most perfect food: avocado.
As I cut the avocado open, and was slicing half of it up for my sandwich, I realized I'd also have to eat the other half tonight. (Oh, darn.) Because let's face it - avocados just aren't nearly as good the next day. Okay, before you start telling me about lime juice voodoo, or leaving the pits in the guacamole after you make it, or winking three times and turning around while singing the alphabet backwards - hold it right there. Avocados just aren't the same the next day - and you know it.
I realized tonight that this very ephemerality they embody is one reason I love avocados so much - in addition, of course, to their perfect taste and texture. It is the very same reason daisies are my favorite flowers. Each is such a vivid reminder that this moment - yes, this one you're experiencing right now - is really the only one there is.
So live in it. Enjoy it. Drink it in! Roll around in it! Soak it up! Jump and dance with it and wiggle your toes in it and stare at it in astonishment and sniff it and throw it in the air! And then share it with a friend, or keep it for yourself like a delicious secret.
Recently, my friend A gave me a book of Paul Simon's lyrics. It is such a beautiful gift because it's caused me to listen to Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel a lot more. This music always seems to put me in some shade of good mood:
tears of joy
I feel so amazed and fortunate to live in the same time as Paul Simon does. The Simon and Garfunkel concert I attended in 2003 remains one of the best I've ever experienced.
And now, a guaranteed smile. Another one. And a third.
Monday, April 6, 2009
As a peace and social justice activist, I struggle with the idea of cultural relativism. To a certain extent, I (as all people do, both ethically and practically) need to accept that there are things people do that may be abhorrent to me, but which work for them. It's not my place to tell people how to run their lives. At the same time, there are things people do that are just inexcusable on a human level - hence international documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And at that point, it's my duty as a human being to step in and say "that's not okay" - to engage in disruption. I have a very hard time drawing that line sometimes, especially when the kind of disruption that occurs generally on my behalf by my government is often military - which inherently perpetuates injustice and violence.
Also, an activist (and a human being!) must accept her/his own limitations. I had a very sad epiphany about two years ago, in which I realized that atrocities will probably still continue to occur after my lifetime ends, even if I dedicate every waking second to trying to make the world a more just place. While this realization stunned and saddened me, it also helped me to form a more realistic and sustainable vision for my lifelong social justice work.
I am not a religious person, but I do like this prayer:
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference."
I don't want to be one of those activists who burns out due to frustration or disappointment. I have to allow my reward for what I do be the personal fulfillment I get from the work in that moment. All I can do is mitigate the injustice that inevitably exists in this moment and in the future. Therefore, as a citizen of the world who has been awakened to her own limitations, especially as one with lots of privilege - education, access to resources, etc. - I have two duties:
- Triage: to do what I can NOW to help reduce human suffering; and
- Society building: to work to build a world that sustains justice and rewards kindness.
And so, inspired by the great Frank Costanza, my meditation of the day is... "SERENITY NOW!" :)
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Now I am off to meet a new friend for coffee.