It is startling how even a single word written on a page gives long-deceased authors eternal life. These words, heavy and textured, evoking in each of us a different color, memory, or flood of memories, which we pour forth from our conscious into our tiny spaces and create a new atmosphere and energy for ourselves. Hold those words for a moment. Speak them out loud. Does not each author give a musical rhythm to their writing? Can we sense the way they spoke in the rhythm with which they write? Or does the rhythm solidify in memory multiple voices with which each of us speak and express ourselves? Perhaps their rhythmic words evoke an inner voice that they expressed to few, or only at particular times in their lives. But these layers of voices, no matter how or to whom they were expressed, are so very alive and warm in our internal voice. And perhaps when we give our internal voice to bring new life to their words, their voices become a part of ours.
In the night I hear the caterpillars crunching and the plants creaking, and I watch as a caterpillar in the shadows silently weaves a nearly invisible web with thin, silk thread to hold herself to as she continues to understand and map out her territory as she grows. As I watch and listen in the solitude of these night hours as the rest of the world seems to be so distant, wrapped among the depths of their nightly journeys in which the mysteries of our conscious find new means for expression, I allow my thoughts to be wrapped among those silken threads that I cannot see in this low light but know are there from experience with these silent creatures, and a feeling is suddenly inspired within me, up from which blooms a thought and an understanding: that much as this silken web proves to be greatly important to this little caterpillar, so is the very web we weave for ourselves. The web we weave proves unique to each of us, connecting our experiences and providing us with a foundation as we too continue to understand our surroundings and grow evermore. And just as invisible as is her’s, our webs may appear strange and even illogical to others until one touches it or moves it into different revealing lights: the revealing light that are the stories we tell about our lives. And interestingly, the very telling of those stories can help us understand our web of experiences ever more deeply.
I love how some clouds, just a rare few, seem to bloom outwards as the wind carries their draped edges out from a single epicenter, and the evening sunlight catches upon their ruffled edges and glows and dances, catching your attention and holding it despite the deep drama occurring throughout the rest of the wide expanse of sky as it meets the earth. These peculiar clouds seem to me as though God is playing and experimenting with textures and light, forming objects as unique, but common as those white, glowing seashells scattered along the edge of the sea.
I think one of the most beautiful things we do is Cry.
The rising up of waters and fire from our bosom is a remarkable experience every time, so strange that I too sometimes find myself struggling to keep it down, as though they are a life force that can be hidden. But its bursting out and the seeming rivers streaming down my cheeks is a time at which I have never felt more vulnerable, so heavy, so free, and yet so connected to other human beings. It is a universal experience… the rising of passion and pain that hits us so deeply that our souls seem to demand that we share it with the world. For is it not a spiritual and physical engagement and understanding of the tragic elements and experiences, the struggles, underlying our lives? But, for me, it is also an experience of Joy. Yes, on occasion overcome by the pain I may feel. And yet, it is those moments in which I feel so connected to other human beings that I feel the warmth of Joy. It is a warmth easy to miss in the convulsions of all the other feelings we may have at the same time. And I think that as a society, as a global culture in transformation, we are still wrestling with our understanding of Joy, and, more importantly, what it feels like. But in my limited understanding, to feel Joy is not the same as to feel Happy, for Joy contains the warmth of happiness amidst the greater wisdom and vision of the complexity, ambiguousness, and tragedy around us. The gratefulness of being alive to look into one’s eyes, to stand vulnerable under a violent storm, and to live a life asking questions. The gratefulness to be able to cry with others. It is at those moments of connection with others in ways that transgress the limitations set by our definitions that I see the reason that I am here in a vision so clear it cannot last for long… and that is why it is so beautiful.
I do not know how prevalent this is, but I am always shocked how just a couple months before my birthday I suddenly realize I am ready to be that age. I suppose I am still at that age where each new number is like a right of passage into a new chapter in my life. But this next chapter, I just realized now, means more than all the others. I am ready to enter the second half of my 20’s because I am becoming such a strong person. I remain always self-conscious, and a little shy on occasion, but no longer do I shy away from the harshest aspects of the world I am coming to know. And in this growing and stretching of my courage, I am beginning to envision remarkable ways to make positive changes that I could never have done through the original goals I left my undergraduate experience expecting to fulfill. In high school I had such grand ambitions of being a great scientist, environmentalist, historian, or writer. But by the time I had received my bachelors of sciences my ambition had nearly vacated me as I looked in awe at great minds who seemed a universe away from me. I lost sight of my own inner intelligence and thought that the only creativity and vision I could give to the world was through my clever hand in writing, an intuitive gift for the culinary arts, an aesthetic inclination for garden design, and my passion for plants. These were beautiful gifts, but living upon them alone left me feeling desperate. I see now that I needed to experience the loss of a place I loved dearly and of one I loved even more to come home to my inner energy and aspirations: to see within myself the creativity and intelligence I thought I did not have in comparison. This journey since those years as an undergraduate has been a rediscovery of my inner self, but more importantly, a realization of my personal power to affect change in ways I will not understand at this time but which I can feel moving in my veins. And this power has given me a taste of freedom I have never had before to do more than I realized was possible and to see beyond the horizons I had built for myself.
As a fellow driver I wish to make a gentle appeal that we all be more patient and tolerant. I have been witness to a recent spree of various drivers getting fiercely angry at those in front of them regardless of what type of automobile the person is driving and with what intent. In some cases it has been a dump truck attempting to back up and deliver their load in a very tight construction zone. This is a tricky and dangerous job for both the driver and those standing or driving nearby, and caution and a slow speed is necessary to this type of work. Instead of measuring this particular situation the driver caught behind the truck reacted with an escalating anger that resulted in the individual threatening the truck driver who respected the magnitude of his work and continued on seemingly oblivious to the unsubstantial offense he was giving. This sort of unreasonably directed anger does nothing good to ourselves or our fellow drivers. We must all remember that we often do not have the perspective of the driver who is seemingly going “too slow” or stopping too quickly, and in some cases for them to do as we would wish would be for them to not be reacting properly to the situation they see before them. In some cases the driver may be a young adult or new resident or citizen just learning how to drive, may have something delicate in their car, or be giving a ride to a passenger in great pain that needs a smoother ride. To react with anger is to give ourselves an unwarranted spike in stress that could turn a good day into a bad one only to insult individuals whose lives we know nothing about. It also may give us a dangerous and false sense of superiority: have we not all offended another driver at some time in our lives, or made a mistake for which we wish to bang our heads against the wheel as though to knock the memory out of existence? Therefore, when you find yourself next irritated on the road remember that even the most alert drivers cannot see all situations before and behind them. We as a collective of drivers hold a collective responsibility to keep the roads safe for each other. If we all approached this daily activity with more patience and tolerance we could better tend to maintaining the greater safety of our roads by not allowing anger to blind our current vision.
As a native southern Californian I have always dreamed of a White Christmas. But two years ago, after returning from a lovely internship and adventure in upstate New York, I became exasperated searching for conifers and hollies to spark up our home for Christmas. This absence awakened me to realize my folly in pretending each year that it was actually cold outside. The truth is that Christmas Day in our climate is almost always very warm and sunny, providing us with a never-ending growing season, and surrounding us with loaded citrus trees, lush, aromatic herb gardens, massive winter squash, bundles of cold-season greens and root vegetables, brightly colored succulent and cactus gardens, and even strawberries, pansies, and daffodils! It really isn’t fair to ourselves to celebrate Christmas with imported decorations from the North, (not to speak of the extra fuel required in shipping these materials so far) when we should give thanks for the local produce our gardens are still providing us. For that reason, over the last three years I have been decorating with the plants and produce we have at hand, and the result is always a charmingly eclectic range of colors and textures, leaving no lack of the obvious celebratory atmosphere, but adding a touch of the individuality and diversity of our sunny home.
Since arranging the table setting above, the Pelargonium began putting out more new leaves reaching towards the west window, just like little hands reaching out towards the late afternoon sun. Meanwhile, with the help of the indoor night-time temperatures the Christmas cactus has exploded with its glowing fire-engine red, fuschia, and magenta flowers.