Author Archive

wishing on a little moon

“Most of the dandelions had changed from suns into moons.”
– Vladimir Nabokov

This year on my birthday, I didn’t have cake. But I did blow out a single candle that was sticking out of a chocolate-drizzled coconut macaroon. (Better than cake!) And, of course, I made a wish on that candle.

The candle-blowing wish-making opportunity reliably comes along once a year. It’s the other opportunities that are more haphazard, so it’s good to keep a look-out for them.

People make wishes on the night’s first star, on an outlier eyelash, on four-leaf clovers, and on dandelions. The dandelions are the most special because, at certain times of year, they are so very plentiful. And because, when you make a wish and blow, you get to see your wish explode out into the world.

Have you made a wish lately?

new eyes on a palm

“I suddenly realized I was in California. Warm, palmy air – air you can kiss – and palms.”
– Jack Kerouac

When I first visited California, I found the site of palm trees to be hilarious. They looked so goofy to me, like pretend trees in a Dr. Seuss book. But now, having lived in CA for a year and a half, I’ve gotten rather attached to them… these tall, strong, confident, exotic trees. The goofiness has simply gone away.

Perhaps it was when I mistook them for giraffes that I gleaned this new perspective. Giraffes, to me, are not at all goofy. They are tall, strong, confident, and exotic… the words I now use to describe the palms.

Funny how we can shift a perspective so easily and just when we least expect it.

What are you seeing with new eyes these days?

new wave

It occurred to me, on the very afternoon I took this photo, that I have never in my life been on a sailboat.

It also occurred to me that I must remedy that.

What new experience is calling to you?

fig tree patience

“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I can get really restless in the winter. There’s the fresh start of a new year in January followed by the fresh start of a new age in February (my birth month). And fresh starts get me fired up! Even though, damn it, it’s wintertime… so things are slow and forming underground and I can’t see them yet.

But then I ponder this tree and know, without a doubt, that the summer bounty of figs will arrive at just the right time. And that it’ll be worth the wait.

How’s your wintertime patience?

the art of gambling

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run”
– Kenny Rogers

Sometimes people gamble money, and sometimes people gamble time. Artists do both.

The vast majority of artists passionately do their work with very little pay for years and years and years. In hopes that, one day, “it’ll pay off”. But no matter if they walk away or if they run, if they hold ‘em or if they fold ‘em, how marvelous that they put their chips in at all! Our society celebrates the successful, the famous, the wealthy, and the winners. I’m opting to celebrate all those who were / are gutsy enough to sit at the table and play the artist game.

Have you ever gambled?

deflation

The phrase “a penny for your thoughts” has apparently been around for five hundred years. Surely a penny was worth much more back then. So are thoughts now worth much less? In this day of tweets and comments and texts, perhaps so. But I do believe that some thoughts have incredible value. And since the world needs all the good ideas now, shout ‘em out! Even if it doesn’t earn you as much as a penny.

big kids

“The most potent muse of all is our own inner child.”
– Stephen Nachmanovitch

I recently rode a ferris wheel with my sister and two childhood friends. It occurred to me that it’s simply impossible to be 40-something on a ferris wheel. In truth, we all are 40-something, yes. But when that thing started going up and down and around, we turned into four kids with large feet and big grins.

Have you taken your inner child on a ride lately?

looking up

There’s a tale from my college days about a fellow student that’s gotten lots of mileage. Let’s call the student “Brittany.” The story goes like this:

American teens wait in line at the Sistine Chapel in Rome for hours. They’re finally let in and are bustled through. Upon entering, Brittany exclaims loudly, “Oh my God, y’all. Look. Up.”

The funny thing about this, of course, is that Brittany didn’t know that the very reason they’d been waiting in line for hours was precisely to “look up.”

At the time, I laughed at this story and at Brittany. But now, 20+ years later, I’m thinking we could all stand to have more of her delight and surprise in the simple act of looking up.

a coat of humility

“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.”
– Sinclair Lewis

I have perfected the art of bundling up. It involves a few pairs of socks, pajamas under pants, and my “sleeping bag coat”, which is reserved only for days under 20º F. And when I’m in that getup and I still feel uncomfortable in the freezing temperatures, I add to my outfit a soft layer of humility. You see, a hundred years ago, my great-grandmother reared eleven children on a North Dakota prairie near the border of Canada. It snows half the year there, with temperatures regularly below zero degrees. When I think of her (with gratitude and awe), the bitter wind sneaking under my sleeping bag coat doesn’t feel so bitter at all.

How do you best manage the cold?

duty and doughnuts

I signed up to be an election official this year. It was a wonderful day. I got a hundred bucks, the satisfaction of civic duty, and many offers of doughnuts.

A definition I found for civic duty is “the responsibilities of a citizen.” I suppose that each of us tends to those responsibilities in a unique way. That tending certainly doesn’t have to be in an official capacity. It could be as simple as checking in on your elderly neighbor or picking up trash in your neighborhood park. The important thing is that we regularly tend to those responsibilities, keeping in mind that each of us is part of a larger whole. Heck, it can even be fun to keep that society train moving along. And sometimes there are doughnuts!

What’s been your civic duty lately?