Sunday, October 3, 2010

foggy mornings

Back in college I would occasionally get up early and sit on a bench that was carved out of a massive tree trunk and smoke cigarettes with my friend Carrie. We used to sip coffee in our pajama pants, surrounded by redwoods and silence, watching the fog slowly disappear. Carrie introduced me to this practice of hers-- getting up before the world begins to stir. She has a delicate nature, it's part of her charm, and I think that she needed to prepare herself each day for whatever would transpire with these moments of reflection. Regardless of how early I got up I would inevitably get swept up in it-- the sunshiny exploits of the noisemakers. But Carrie always maintained that morning calm. Inside her is an endless foggy morning.

My sweet friend just got engaged this past week. I knew that she would eventually marry the fellow she's been dating, but I was still somehow surprised and-- I think the appropriate word here is "moved." I was reflecting on those mornings in Santa Cruz and thought that, perhaps, in her silence, Carrie was waiting. Her eternal calm reflected a vague knowledge of something to come, a destiny she would gracefully fall into like a warm embrace. She's not just a bride to be but a grown up woman. A grown up woman who wears fuzzy gray sweaters.

I'm sitting here wondering what will happen when the fog clears this time. Little blond kids, most likely. I continue to be amazed by my friends and the fact that they just keep on growing up. Off we go again into different phases of our lives. Thank goodness for these milestones-- marriages, graduations, birthdays and such. Otherwise when would I take the time out to notice how wonderful and heartbreakingly beautiful growing up has been?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The move to Alaska

Before flying out of Los Angeles to Alaska, the place I'd chosen to move, I sat on the blue carpet of the Airport terminal-- one of those big circular ends of the Airport with 5 different gates leading to 5 different planes leading to 5 different destinations across the globe-- and I learned how to play hearts. I've "learned how to play hearts" several times in my life, it must be said, because I can never remember the rules of that game so I just tell people I've never played before. This particular time I was being taught by a guy that would become my boyfriend and with whom I would eventually live with in a sad little basement apartment with an obstructed view of a broken down datsun. But that's a different blogpost. A little kid came to look at my cat. I waited with several other kids (yeah we were kids, at 24 or 25 years old) who were also moving to AK.

I don't remember much about the plane ride. Never take your cat out of it's cage on a plane, that's what I got out of that experience.

I met a stranger in the airport who was to be my first roommate in AK, and he took me to our little house on the opposite side of town. As I followed him to his car in the underground garage I kept waiting to confront the cold (it was January and I'd lived in California my whole life). It hit me in the garage, a refreshing, icy feeling. I was almost disappointed not to walk into a snowstorm. I expected a much more extreme reaction from my body, but I was okay with it. (I'd get my fill of extreme discomfort later on.) It was nighttime, and my first view of Alaska was driving out of the airport to empty streets, the sidewalks covered with piles of snow well over 5 feet, and massive pines with white covered boughs. It looked fake to me, not in a negative way, but it resembled the only things I'd seen before that were similar: fake snow scenes made of foam, plastic, and covered in glitter; ancient black and white movie scenes; etc.

The next important moment was the next morning, waking up and seeing the sun get up at 9am, just barely rising and lying low but shining bright below the treeline on a bright blue sky, and the view out of my window-- snow, sunlight, and the Chugach Mountains. The Chugach. Covered in snow, infinitely older than me, infinitely larger than me, holding onto parts of this world that I thought were lost to America-- real wilderness and all the secrets of land that has never been stepped on and animals that will never see a human. A secret part of my heart, a part of myself that is frightening to consider. It is not to be understood. You belong to it. You love it, and you fear it.

That was my first morning.

a simple, frugal heart

I can hear birds chirping but I can't see them, only imagine them in big leafy trees protecting little brown nests made of twigs. In my room, sitting on the unmade bed, propped up against the wall looking through the iron bedframe, through the wooden window shades, through their reflection on the glass and I can barely see outside, but I know cars are passing by on their way home from work. "Producers and commuters of steel civilization." Or more likely, men and women who sit behind a computer all day and stare at brightly lit screens. The room fills with light and darkens again as clouds are passing in front of the sun. It's a summer afternoon in early June-- in Los Angeles we're still pushing through the mists, walking through wet sprinkling mornings and driving home in the victorious sun and it's generous heat.

I'm glad to have a large bed to serve as my desk until the rest of the room gets cleaned up and I can move everything else in. All that's missing is the sound of the sea. (Don't focus on what's not there, don't try to change it but accept it, appreciate the slow afternoon, the commuter traffic, the obstructed view and the waning sunlight, she tells herself.)

It's a new goal, or rather an old goal made new again, to force myself into the moment and appreciate it for what it is. (to have a simple and frugal heart). And then to write down those little details that make this moment unlike any other. Right now I appreciate post-shower freshness, a combination of pillows, a book that smells good-- old pages smell sweet, bare feet, wet hair, and the promise of a chicken dinner.

"We stayed silent by the brazier until far into the night. I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else. And all that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple and frugal heart."


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Audrey Hepburn

Some days I will meticulously set about composing an outfit. On other days, I'll throw on a tattered shirt, goodwill jeans, and some flip flops. I don't think that this shows inconsistency in style because I believe that it is more than choice of clothing. Style is displayed through a woman's compassion, her intelligence, her creativity, her love for the world. These are four things Audrey Hepburn never left home without. She lived with quiet dignity and humility. The same understated style that guided her choice of clothing also guided her daily actions. She maintained a clearly observable connection to her basic humanness, which allowed her to connect so wholeheartedly with the characters she played in film, remain close to her family and friends, and to empathize with the starving children that she aided later in life. She's a new role model of mine.

AH is remembered as a paragon of classic style, known for her simple and elegant ballet flats and button down oxford shirts, collar up, of course. (Above with Billy Wilder and William Wyler, directors of Sabrina.) She might have encouraged today's women to find their own style and stick with it, as opposed to becoming slaves to the latest trends.

She formed a lasting friendship with Humbert Givenchy after their first collaboration for the film, Sabrina. The two are photographed together above.

According to the biography written by her son, Audrey spent much of her developing childhood years in occupied Holland during World War II, and was severely malnourished, which had an impact on her figure later in life. (That's how come she's so skinny.) This experience also led her to become a spokesperson for UNICEF and visit places like Somalia... she could relate to these children whose basic needs went unmet. In the picture above she has recovered well and is about 16 years old.

Little interesting facts: Audrey carried messages for the Dutch resistance in her shoes; she dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina and managed to continue her study of ballet throughout her childhood; and when the occupation finally ended, malnourished and unhealthy, she was aided by UNICEF, the organization for which she later become a spokesperson and volunteer.

A charity has been founded in her name to benefit low income children. The link for more info, how to donate funds, and how to volunteer with UNICEF can be found here. For an interesting read, pick up Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit, by Sean Hepburn Ferrer. That's where I found these photos. He's not the best writer, but it reads like an interesting and heartfelt eulogy from a son to his Mom, and is worth a look-see if only for the pictures.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The little bullfighter is born!

I suppose this is how change happens...

One day you're sitting under a tree and you decide to do something, believe that you can accomplish it, and then go about making it happen. At the age of 16 I made a mental list of things to accomplish. After compiling this list I decided to take a break, which lasted about nine years... until my moment under the tree! I've decided to start actively checking things off, and currently am in the process of starting my own little business (number one on the list), which I have dubbed The Little Bullfighter. I'll be selling vintage clothing online via Etsy and my style blog: to kick things off. The first items will be up on the site around the 18th or 19th of August, I'm hoping. I need some time to take some photos and one of my lovely models won't be in town till next week. But hooray for grand inspiration and drive!

Speaking of inspiration, my love for classic style in clothing is surpassed only by my love for classic film and the people who made them. So for fun, and for inspiration for my latest business venture, I want to share a little bit of about some of my favorite men and women in black and white. And I'll throw in some other random bits of loveliness as I please. Whateva, whateva, I do what I want.

This is a picture of the tree I was sitting under. Anyone who knows where it is can understand why it brings me back to the age of 16, and why it inspires. :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Los Angeles Blog #1

I stepped out of my car and onto a street in Los Angeles's South Central wearing my interview-best outfit. It was mid-day but the streets were still full of people. Cars were driving by slowly, little kids ditched school and wandered the neighborhood, a drunk homeless man walked without a destination. Behind an iron wrought gate a woman played with her daughter as a young man rode past the house on a bike that was much too small to be his own.

I felt dainty, and a bit ridiculous, in my fashionable skirt. A local man did appreciate it and was sure to let me know as he passed me by on the sidewalk. He said, "Hey bebe, garble garble drunk talk garble garble, yeaaaa-haa!" Still got it, I reflected.

South Central is different from the part of LA I grew up in. You can feel the difference in your attitude, thought, and even your body when moving from one place to the other. A dirty sidewalk makes you feel different than a clean one. And you can't forget about our country's poverty issues when you're constantly surrounded by it's symptoms. And you realize that some kids grow up with this feeling everyday, as opposed to you, who spent the 1992 riots in the comfort of her home watching the Sound of Music, blissfully unaware of the fact that the smoke in the air was coming from a violent mob only 10 miles away. Being in South Central is just different. So is being in Malibu, Westchester, Echo Park, or even... the valley.

This is one thing I love about Los Angeles-- it's incredible diversity. Social classes exist separately in their own little neighborhoods, but we're all right next to each other. We cross through, over, and in between each other's worlds to get to work or to a friend's house.

Sitting in bumper to bumper traffic yesterday, which I don't mind as long as I have good music, I noticed that to my left there was a Muslim woman wearing a head scarf who had prayer beads hanging from her rear-view mirror. To my right was a Latina woman who had a rosary hanging from her mirror. We all have our separate boxes that we live in: our cars, our cultures, our neighborhoods, our economic classes. While we often let these barriers separate us, sometimes we allow them to fade. And even when we do not let our barriers down on purpose, commonalities still exist that connect us, like those two sets of prayer beads on rear-view mirrors, that remind us again that our barriers are, in fact, permeable.

While I do miss Alaska, it's a pleasure to be back weaving through Los Angeles on the freeways. I hope to be writing about it much more in the future. I owe this post to AJ who asked me to write about my city for his newsletter, and who forced me to look at it through new eyes. THanks dood!

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Greatest Lessons of my Life (are still being learn't)

There comes a time in every person’s life when something horrible happens, something that shakes up your life so drastically, that it leaves you questioning your very understanding of good and evil, of how and why the world exist, of why you exist. At this moment, you may come to the conclusion that the universe is meaningless, or that its meaning is too great for our feeble, un-godlike minds to understand. Either way, the person has to accept that a satisfactory answer to the question, “WHYYYYYY!?!?!?” is not available.
It is at this crucial point, that a person begins a journey of thought and action to give meaning to his or her own life, despite the fact that shit happens, and ain’t nothing you can do about it. There are many strategies. Some achieve peace and meaning through spirituality, and I know others have chosen to try to live each day as if it were their last, without regret. In my moment, (I was in high school at the time) I chose the latter.

In Zorba the Greek, the character Zorba chose to live each day as if it were his last, also. I’m going to include one part of the story here:

"Look, one day I had gone to a little village. An old grandfather of ninety was busy planting an almond tree. 'What, grandad!' I exclaimed. 'Planting an almond tree?' And he, bent as he was, turned around and said: 'My son, I carry on as if I should never die.' I replied: 'And I carry on as if I was going to die any minute.' Which of us was right, boss?"

Living each day as if it were your last gives you permission to do a lot of things that have negative effects in the long term. For instance, if there’s a chance I could die tomorrow, I’m going to eat this entire can of bean dip with my fingers, I’m not going to class, and I think I might challenge someone to a knife fight and see if I can win. Etcetera, etcetera. I doubt I am the only one who has ever thought this way. And I’d bet that I’m not the only one who found herself living longer than expected, suffering the consequences of her choices, and finally asking herself, “What now?”

Well, now it’s time to plant some trees I suppose. It wasn’t as clear to me as it is now what my new path would be. I just knew that I was going to be less destructive… This idea is actually what brought about the title of this blog. My bro once wrote me a letter when I was still in high school that mentioned something about how I have a wildfire inside. While I am fairly sure he was referencing the intense mother-daughter fights I used to regale the family with, I felt it was an accurate description of my “insides,” so to speak. I felt very intensely that… I felt very intensely. My passion was misdirected and much like a wildfire, I caused havoc throughout the Californian West Coast. So I decided, hey—let’s keep the passion, just express it in a different way. Wildflowers. Yeah.

So at this point, I “followed my heart” to Thailand, then Alaska, and I took some chances. And who would have guessed, the meaningless universe threw me a bone. By being my goofy self I can do a lot of good things, make positive impressions on the lives of others. While I’m not prepared to write about it all just yet, I know things are happening. Far from figuring this all out, I do feel more confident that at the very least, my feet have tread the trailhead.

And by the way, I have never been in a knife fight.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Because many wonderful things have happened in my life besides that last post, and I didn't want to leave with a sad note, I thought I would write a second blog today and list some of the reasons my life is awesome.

1. I got a new key chain.

Yesterday at the end of the day, one of my veterans came into my office with a tote bag. He offered it up and inside was a green key chain and a little painted canvas. He wrote me a letter to say thanks "for talking to him." This guy was one of my "special" vets, who for one reason or another I felt especially attached to. I suppose part of it was that I know so assuredly that he is going to be okay, and that it's due to his own struggle to be a good man. He also has been going through a very difficult medical treatment that nearly killed him, and often times was barely able to get out of bed. Yet he would come in to work as often as possible, sometimes having to leave in the middle of the day and go to the hospital to recieve blood, he was so bad off. He would come into my office and I'd ask him about his meds, how he was doing, that sort of thing. I told him about my Dad and how he recovered from a very difficult treatment as well. I think we helped each other out. Anyways, I did my best not to get teary eyed with the gift. The end of his letter said, "I hope that someday, someone can do for you what you did for me." It meant a lot.

2. I made a new friend.

And she's awesome! This girl is making my last month here such a grand finale, and I'm having a harder time leaving as a result. It's nice to have a gal pal to talk to who I feel genuinely comfortable with.

3. I am making a positive lifestyle change...

...that has led to the loss of eight pounds!!

4. We are officially gaining sunlight in Alaska!

5. It's always sunny in Los Angeles!

6. I have AJ for one more month of love, love, love.

7. In one more month I can see my parents and bro again.

8. I own ice skates.

9. Tomorrow night is the board game/knee hockey tournament.

10. Tutto รจ veramente bello!

A Damn Shame

I wrote this note yesterday when I was at work. Every time one of my guys or girls relapses it does hurt a bit. So I write something down about it and then I let it go. Here's one from yesterday.

Today should have been one of the worst days of Mr. Veteran’s life. He had been discovered drinking the day before he was supposed to leave for his daughter’s wedding.

For a moment when I walked in to the room to get my morning coffee I felt that perhaps this would be a day of reckoning for him. His eyes were bloodshot and teary, and he expressed worry about what would happen next. A month before I had taken him, myself, to a homeless shelter to sit and listen to a reading of names of those who were living on the streets, who had died in the past year. He was obviously uncomfortable. He had never been on the streets, but said to me that he’d used up the last of his resources. If he failed this time he would end up here with the drunks who came up to me, one moment in tears, the next in a jovial mood to tell me how many fights they’d been in. He also told me that if he were ever on the streets, he would surely die. He would surely end it, himself.

Later on when he seemed fine, and got permission from his poor daughter whose wedding he will surely ruin to come visit anyways, I realized that this, his seventh relapse, would be erased from his consciousness like all the other important moments when he should have learned some kind of lesson from his pain. He’s going to depend on his daughter to house him and she won’t have the strength to say no, or otherwise he’ll be on the streets.

This week is a record breaking cold week in Anchorage. For the past seven days it hasn’t reached above zero temperatures.

Friday, January 2, 2009

That last entry came right before the onset of the flu. I was out of commission for awhile, and I guess I lost my momentum with the blog writing. But I have no excuse now-- I'm feeling better, the holidays have passed, and I am in Anchorage, spending my last few weeks of work tying up loose ends and applying for jobs online. In 2009, I will either begin to work as a Regional Recruiter for the Peace Corps, a Park Ranger in the Santa Monica Mountains, or perhaps a Special Events Assistant for the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. Of course there is also the possibility that I will be unemployed for awhile and end up working at a Sizzler and living at my Mom's house. But for now I have high hopes that I will be hired on someplace where I can feel proud of myself.

Flying home for the break was a surreal experience. My flight left around 2:30 am. I popped two Tylenol PM after having a beer or two and tried without success to keep my eyes open until the plane took off. I woke up once when the stewardess was offering drinks and ordered a cup of tea. The woman in the seat next to me offered to pay for it since I was struggling to find my wallet. Later on I would repay her with a consecrated stick of gum. I fell asleep again and awoke when I reached my stop-over in Las Vegas. Out the window, the hills in the surrounding desert looked like topographical maps-- layers of dirt formed circular mounds with flat tops, piled one on top of the other. THe plane landed and the sun filtered in through the window. I closed my eyes and the light made the backs of my eyelids red. At that moment I remembered what it was like to soak up warmth from the sun, and also how much I missed it's bright existence in my life. I thought to myself, "this is the feeling of pure love."

It was an appropriate beginning to the week I spent with my family and catching up with friends. Returning home is like returning to myself again. I will be going back to los angeles very soon once my term here is up, and feel equal parts excitement to be with my parents and brother in los angeles's warm embrace, and reluctance to leave the person I love here in Anchorage, the first job that ever meant more to me than myself, the vets, the high peaks of white mountains and massive chunks of ice floating in a black ocean. Dramatic, eh?

And just for fun, look at this weird dog...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's been a few days since I've written... the past week has been hectic, and fun. My time at work is winding down to an end, and when I leave our peer support tech will be taking over my day to day duties, so I'm spending a little bit of time training, still teaching my class, working on a marketing report, applying for jobs back home, and having some fun. Tuesday night we had our annual Thanksgiving dinner at work, when all of the current and former program participants come for a catered prime rib dinner. After eating we all played bingo for prizes like crock pots, fishing poles, gift certificates, DVDs, and more goodies. I can't take home prizes because I'm not a program graduate, but I still play. The glory of winning is enough for me.

Wednesday night I got free tickets to The Nutcracker ballet from my boss. The only catch was that I had to drive a car full of veterans there, which wasn't bad at all. Who else could say they had 8 dates to the ballet that night? We were in the very back row, but it was a small auditorium, and there were no bad seats. AJ came along and I think we enjoyed being able to dress up and look out over Anchorage from the large windows of the Performing Arts Center, as much as we enjoyed the ballet. We went from sitting in a somewhat bare apartment with a hole in the ceiling to a ballroom overlooking the park in one night.

Thursday I got up at 8:00 am. It would remain dark outside for another hour and a half. I began washing and preparing a 20 pound turkey for my first time. About four hours later, which was two hours too early, the bird was done. But everything turned out great despite the bad timing. I did leave the giblet bag in the turkey when I cooked it, but besides that, it was perfect! Aj made deviled eggs, and the other vistas came with mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables and desserts, and I ended the night by having a couple drinks at a local bar named after a salmon (humpy's) and falling asleep four hours before everyone else.

Yesterday we were lazy and slept mostly, and spent the last couple hours of light walking to a movie theater where we could sit in the dark. We saw Four Christmases, then walked down to the local bookstore and spent a couple hours just wandering around.

Today I went snowshoeing with some friends up in Eklutna by a lake that has not yet frozen over. Turns out snowshoeing is just like hiking, only more intense. The snowshoes are made from a light metal and attach to my shoes with straps. They are meant to prevent my feet from sinking into the snow when it's five feet or deeper. It's a bit like climbing stairs because you have to lift your feet so high, and pluck them out of the snow when they get stuck. We walked while the snow fell and then stopped at a large tree, grabbed snow off of the branches and ate it. This zero calorie snack is a wonderful treat after a long hike. The best part of the trip were the moments spent in silence. When no one moved, there was no sound. Only slowly falling snowflakes everywhere and a million tall grey trees in all directions in the fog. In the distance the mountains could be seen through the snow. The forest was endless.
I still have one more day to relax! I'll try to upload some pictures tomorrow and will also try to not be as lazy about writing as I have in the past few days.

foggy mornings

Back in college I would occasionally get up early and sit on a bench that was carved out of a massive tree trunk and smoke cigarettes with m...