Friday, March 24, 2017

Sweater Weather

Three days into fall and our first overcast day. Fog. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’d know fog anywhere. The deep bass sounds of the fog horns are rooted in my childhood memories. I can read the sky. The fog will not clear today. I sit sipping two cups of coffee, alternating my attention from Wolf Blitzer to the pairs of doves and sparrows poking in the grass for tidbits.
            Silence pervades our house (aside from the television which I’ve now turned off, totally disgusted with the repetition and evasion of spokesmen and lawmakers). My husband is away for five days, off to a southern lakeside home with his running pals. I enjoy having days home alone. I consider the possibilities of how I’ll spend my time. My first decision is to eat only salads while he’s gone and cycle at the gym across the street every day. This is day three and I’ve stuck to my guns.
I’ve watched more television than I’d like. There’s a TV at the gym and I get caught up in sugary, totally predictable dramas, even hurrying home to watch the finale. An inner voice tells me that I’m not spending my time well. I wrote in my last blog post of my admiration for astrophysicist Neil de Grass Tyson who stated that knowing he’s going to die someday gives the focus to his life. I feel impelled to do something productive in my days. Yet…I tell myself that we all need some lightness and fantasy in our lives. Perhaps watching that silly movie earlier has loosened my writing tongue.
An overcast day spent in solitude encourages thoughtfulness. My thoughts are with my son and his girlfriend, who at this moment are flying from New York City to Costa Rica to a new job and an adventurous change. My son was feeling melancholy these past days, moving out of his apartment and leaving friends and the city that was his home for the past five years. I feel his sadness. New beginnings often start with difficult partings.

So what have I accomplished today? Aside from Pilates class and cycling? Well, I did plant the two lavenders in the large pots be the front door. I look out the window to admire them. And I painted my nails (clear polish) which I seldom make the time to do. I’m overdue posting something on my blog so I’m working on that at the moment. I tried to call my soul sister in California, but no answer. Think I’ll try again. Then maybe I’ll tackle the pile of papers waiting to be shredded, a boring job that is best done a little at a time.
I’m saving the best for last today. My sister-in-law and I will go downtown to attend a concert by the Orquesta Sinfónica. Tchaikowsky and Greig. Music for the soul on a foggy day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Small Joys

My Facebook and emails overwhelm me with multiple petitions to sign – save the elephants, no to Environmental Protection Agency budget and staff cuts, investigate Trump’s ties with Russia – and I sign them all. I’d vowed to cut my addition to Face book “news” and to CNN, but I haven’t been very successful. Quite honestly, I haven’t tried. Today I miss Wolf Blitzer only because I forget that last Saturday the U.S. went on daylight savings time, so all the programs are an hour later for us in Chile.
            Buried amidst the repetitious posts and emails on the U.S. administration’s latest gaffs and lies, I discover some gems: a video interview with Neil de Grass Tyson, astrophysicist, a new acquaintance of mine. He expressed so eloquently the philosophy of life that I hold to now in my seventieth decade: Knowing that he’ll die creates the focus that he brings to being alive. He speaks of the urgency of accomplishments and the need to express love NOW.
            Reconfirming and expanding on these weighty thoughts are quotes from writers I find in Maria Popova’s Brainpickings newsletter. Two more gems are from Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives.” And on a post-it stuck to my computer screen you will find: “Life consists of what a man is thinking of all day.” Then there are words from Hermann Hesse praising life’s small joys. He asserts that the most available and most overlooked of small joys is our everyday contact with nature. Oh yes.
Brainpickings is addictive. One article links me to another which connects me to a book or an author. I stop to look at an illustration by Maurice Sendak in Ruth Krauss’ book Open House for Butterflies of a small boy sitting by a stream with the caption: “Everybody should be quiet near a stream and listen.” Something I do whenever I can, but not often enough. Streams are not readily available to the big city dweller.
Speaking of city dwellers, writer and photographer Bill Hayes comments on life in New York City, saying he makes a point of waving or nodding hello whenever he can. “…kindness”, he says, “is repaid in unexpected ways….”

My city garden offers me many small joys. This summer I’ve been watching closely the progress of my four potted heirloom tomato plants. I’m learning as I go. Because they are potted, the plants are not very big. I resort to Google to find out why their leaves have curled. Too hot? Too much water? One has several tomatoes, slightly larger than golf balls. We ate the first two to ripen. Absolutely divine. Definitely worth the effort. And the scent of their leaves – heavenly.

More garden events: at summer’s end the apricot leaves are turning lemony yellow and falling to the ground; the abundant avocados grow steadily; the nasturtium leaves are infested with little green voracious caterpillars, the result of eggs laid by white butterflies; two azalea bushes have their first blooms; the camellia is covered with buds, promising winter color.
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.

                                                                                   John Muir

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Way of Water or What to Do with My Anger

My anger seethes. In theory, I know it is not healthy, yet I seek out what produces it. It’s an addiction. My anger came to a peak after watching the movie “Welcome to Sarajevo.” Critics claimed it was not accurate and that there are better movies about the Bosnian War. Still, it brought home to me the horrifying consequences of war, particularly for children. I immediately thought of the ongoing suffering of the children of Syria. These tragedies are happening now, in the present and, yet, the current American President wants to build up the military and reduce the budget for diplomacy and the environment. There is the root of my anger – a Presidency that foments anger, hatred and fear and mocks the values of honesty, tolerance and compassion. I recommend that the current Administration be locked    in a room and shown “Welcome to Sarajevo,” the current documentary “The White Helmets” and Al Gore’s “The Uncomfortable Truth,” exposing them to the raw truths they choose to deny.
What to do with my anger? I found a positive answer in the latest blog by writer, Ursula LeGuin. The current political climate also has her asking the question: What do I do? She says: “I am looking for a place to stand, or a way to go, where the behavior of those I oppose will not control my behavior.” In the thoughts of Lau Tzu she finds an answer: the way of water. Water is a metaphor for nonviolent resistance, for it is adaptable, changeable, passive, yet unyielding, always going the way it must go. It is a thirst-quenching glass of clear water; it is the persistence of the ocean currents; it is a stream wending its way to the sea.

I will be a part of the resistance, but I must now break my addiction to CNN and Face book if I intend to follow the way of water,