Monday, December 31, 2012

Breathing in a new year beneath the sun and moon and stars

"Every breath is a second chance." I saw that on Pinterest and thought, I need to remember, I need to not let that knowledge be lost to petty spats, old resentments, horrific news of the day, anxiety and fear. Easier said than done, but resolutions aren't meant to be slam-dunks.

How to do it then? Perhaps thinking before speaking--taking that breath and considering first--even if someone pushes the buttons that make me angry or sad. Perhaps making someone else's day a little brighter  with a smile for a stranger, a thank-you, a helping hand, because, although I already do these things, there is always a short supply in our world. Perhaps not allowing despair to derail the things I dream of accomplishing.

So that's my goal for 2013 to listen to my breaths and make them count.

And now I give you some more pretty pictures from the holiday-lit canals in Venice Beach.
A lantern tree to light our way.

A magical bridge. How do we get from here to there?

Lovely lights in the darkness.

And, finally, my wish to us all for the New Year: May we find the golden pathways of the sun and walk into mystery and wonder, beauty and light.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays from Venice, California

Most people know Venice, California isn't the average beach town, so why would we have the average holiday boat parade?
Crowd favorite: three surfboards with a Barry Manilow sail, which was lowered to go under the bridges.
Residents adopted pedestrian bridges and decorated them.

It was a rainy evening, so I'm sure that's why the reindeer slipped on the rooftop above. Ho. Ho. Ho.
A bike float before setting sail.

Here's a long shot of the canals, originally built in 1905 and put on the National Register of Historical Places in 1982. After decades of severe deterioration, the canals were dredged and rehabilitated in the 1990s. If you study the above photo, you'll see saltbush barriers that serve as guardrails between the water and pedestrian walkways.

I wish you all joy and peace over the holidays. May you find adventure and good cheer wherever you may go.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The truth about living and dying

I put off reading THE FAULT IN OUR STARS despite the glowing reviews, despite my loving everything John Green writes, despite knowing I would love this one, too.

The thing is it’s about kids with cancer. I’ve had cancer. I’ve had loved ones with cancer. Some survived, some did not. And this year involved a scare for my daughter and another one for me. So, yeah, not wanting to wallow in it.

But I changed my mind and picked up a copy. I’m so glad I did.

  My reaction in the opening pages was to laugh out loud at the biting wit that is always part of Green’s voice. I love, love, love Hazel Grace as narrator. Like this: “Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.”

Gallows humor, perhaps, but it serves a purpose when one is faced with possible early demise. A friend of mine who died of the same cancer I’ve fought told me once that he’d accepted an abbreviated version of his life. It was an elegant thing to say, but I realized with time, with experience, with grief and with terror that we never really accept it. There are moments of grace and moments of rage. We sail through it as best we can.

As do the characters in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, who feel like real people to me. That’s how authentic Green’s voice is.

Here Hazel responds to Augustus, a boy in her cancer support group who says he fears oblivion. She gives quite a speech that concludes with: “There was a time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”

Did I say how much I love John Green? Did I say how wicked smart he is? Need I say he encourages readers to be smart, too?

The tale becomes more bittersweet as Hazel’s friendship blossoms with Augustus. I love this thought of Hazel’s as he reads to her: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.”

They use his cancer-charity Wish to travel to Amsterdam to follow a dream. While there they make a physically and emotionally difficult visit to the Anne Frank house. A scene when they’d struggled upstairs to the top of the house brought tears to my eyes: “ ‘Augustus Waters,’ I said, looking up at him, thinking that you cannot kiss anyone in the Anne Frank House, and then thinking that Anne Frank, after all, kissed someone in the Anne Frank House, and that she would probably like nothing more than for her home to have become a place where the young and irreparably broken sink into love.”

By the last third of this book, I was crying. Not surprising. But I want to emphasize that this book is not maudlin.

Thank you, John Green, for the laughter and the tears and the truth about living and dying.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Just hangin

My online horoscope tells me to avoid travel today. There was a car vs bus tangle this morning at the end of my block. (cue the spooky music or skeptical eyebrow lift) It also tells me to stay in and indulge in scientific and metaphysical reading. Oh! I'll write a post on what everybody's saying about 12/12/12, the last such triple calendar date in our lifetimes.

 There's symmetry and mystery connected with this date, hence me choosing the Tarot's Hanged Man, which is No. 12 of the Major Arcana.

No, I'm not betting that this is the apocalypse or Mayan end of days. Look at how calm his face is and how the tree is growing. The illustration seems more like the Norse god Odin hanging upside down for nine days to seek enlightenment. When he did discover the mystery of life, he died but was immediately reborn.

Seems to me that we all get reborn many times during our lives. We rise from the ashes of tragedy. We get tempered by defeat. We hire a plastic surgeon (haha, I haven't yet).

A little blood rush to the head is a good thing, Hanged Man. Sorts things out.

So today we consider the No. 12:
12 months in the year
12 signs of the Zodiac
12 Apostles
12 gods of Olympus (and, um, Dec. 12 is National Ambrosia Day, so make of that what you will)

And 1+2=3. I was once going to write a post for my 333 blog follower. I never did, but I did collect some Three images, so let's contemplate No. 3, too, as 12 is neatly divided into four threes.

For the party folk, lots of abundance and cheer, along with creativity and art.

For the warriors, it is what it is

I don't know if any number or date or prophesy makes a difference, but how people let their imaginations spin, how they explore ideas and suggest possibilities matters. This is how we create.

And, besides, it's fun.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Shadow Girl, haiku mask poem

swish, hiss--the gray sea retreats
draws itself in, waits
for the moon to shift, release

sunlight seeps through clouds,
settling like pewter
beaten beneath us

I walk in Suzanne’s shadow,
hungry, eyes open,
ears attuned to hers

Ever heard of a mask poem? I hadn't until I read this guest post by Robyn Hood Black on Janice Hardy's blog.

In simple terms, it's writing a poem in the viewpoint of someone/something else, so you can get under the skin, into the heart and soul of a character. Since I already love writing my version of haiku, this seems like a fantastic tool for me--both as exercise with photo images and as character development for stories.

When I shot the above photo, I could see that one woman was active, doing what she pleased, and the other was following, there for the ride, for the excitement her companion generated. Even their body language shows that. Of course, I don't know these people, I am extrapolating for use as character development. In the poem, the shadow woman sees the world more clearly through her friend.