Saturday, January 31, 2009

A walk in the park

I lied. the other thing I've been missing at my new digs is my dog. She comes to visit me two or three times a week, but I miss our hikes. I'm sure she does too.

I took Jada for a walk in the park near my parents house today. It was a beautiful day, and the meadow was calm and quiet. I use to play in this place when I was a kid. It hasn't really changed that much. The property owners whose yards we use to cut through to get to the park all have fences now. The giant play structure with it's multiple slides is gone. But it still feels the same. It's still an interesting and magical place.

There is an almost pungent perfumed smell that comes from trees that bloom with bright yellow flowers. That scent is layered with the scent of Eucalyptus that comes from the adjacent grove. As a kid, I can remember walking into that forest to a chorus of birds. They chirped wildly chattering back and forth. Below the chirping, an owl would hoot methodically.

We imagined great things in that forest. We told each other stories of fairies, and ancient spirits. We caught frogs and polliwogs and collected feathers. Later when we were teenagers and we went there to do the things teenagers do, we still appreciated the magic of that place. We laid on hills and watched sunlight fall through the trees appreciating the serenity that it offered.

One of the great things about living in the place where you grew up is being reminded of these things. There's an entire study that focuses on memory of space. This space for me is not just a place I played. It's a space that preserves our memories, our emotions, and our adventures. Everyone should be so lucky to have such a place.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two days and a wake up

Hallelujah! I'm a person again! Well at least I'm online that is.

It's been an interesting month. My mother has been sick. So, being the dutiful Mexican daughter that I am, I came to camp in my childhood room, so I can cook, clean, and drive for the folks. It's not that bad. I have my own tv, my own bathroom, and time to actually read. The kids aren't here so I get all the coco pebbles to myself, and because I have to feed the folks a low fat, high fiber, low sodium diet, I'm losing weight. The only thing I haven't had is internet.

I never realized how essential internet has become until I went without for almost a month. I was relegated to do email via my wannabe Blackberry mobile device. There was no online Tetris to clear my mind, no endless link surfing, and no online video clips. Of course I could spend some time at work checking headlines, but it's not the same as taking time to read an article and googling the facts. Even writing email wasn't the same. When on a computer my fingers are simply an extention of my thought process. I can type almost as fast as I think and speak. Using the miniature keyboard on my mobile device to send meaningful messages proved to be quite a challenge. I finally understand why kids resort to so many acronyms.

In the middle of my communication breakdown I got a new job, and now I'm going to have to commute. In my area, commuting is a way of life. I don't mind it so much. I simply accept it as a subculture that I'm a part of. There are all kinds of commuters. There are those who drive solo, they're usually talking incessantly in their Bluetooth headsets, shaking their heads and gesturing as though the person on the other end of the call can see them. Then there are the carpools. Some casual, some arranged. The person in the back seat is usually reading the paper, while the person riding shotgun figures out how many more times they can listen to the same play list the driver has plugged into his stereo. Finally, there are those who take public transit. Although I sometimes fall into the previous two categories, public transit is my mode of choice.

I have the options of a bus, a train or a boat, or a combination. Each has it's pros and cons. The buses available to me are quite nice. They are the result of a nice pork package courtesy of our local Congressional Representative. Pork has never been so nice. The coach buses have nice plush seats, and a luggage area below if you have a bike or shopping cart. And as long as you don't look through the wind shield you won't get carsick.

The bus can be taken all the way to the City or to the light rail system. Light rail in the Bay Area is called BART. BART can be very interesting. There's what I call BART theatre, which are those uncomforatable moments when people talk to themselves, fight, make out, or inexplicably recite a soliloquy. The down side to BART is that it is often crowded during commute time. But, one can still read by holding on to a pole with the crook of your arm while holding your book or magazine. This brings me to my favorite part about any public transit. I could never read while I drive. I could never sleep while I drive either. I couldn't crochet, organize my backpack, review my calendar, make a grocery list or drink alcohol. The latter option is possible when taking the ferry.

To me, the ferry is the most civilized mode of travel. There are tables to work on, a snack bar that also serves cocktails, a bicycle rack, coat hooks and nice scenery. It's relatively safe to fall asleep and it doesn't take long before the crew knows you by name. To celebrate my new job, I treated myself to a new bike helmet and thermos. I can't wait to enjoy a daily journey to and from the world. It always makes home, where ever that is at the moment feel that much more special.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's a new world

Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. But it certainly feels like a new world. Has anything really changed? Not really. Unemployment is still inching toward double digits. Naysayers are revving up for a new front. We still have two wars. But America has just been told that this is a "new era of responsibility." So it does feel like a new world.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

Yes, it's a new year. This is the year we inaugurate our first President of color. One of the things I usually hate about the week between Christmas and New Year, is the inevitable retrospectives on television and in print. This season was the exception. Reliving President-Elect Obama's victory over and over again on various news programs never got old, and never ceased to make me misty. His election is the event that I hope defines many generations to come. And the exuberance of that moment will be something I will always cherish.

And, I can't help but feel hopeful. Even though the economy is tanking, jobs are harder to come by, and an endless war rages in the Holy Land, I feel like things are about to happen. Great things. Amazing things. Things that we knew could happen but were not brave enough to make happen. I think that's what I always hope for...the ability to do really brave things.

Speaking of brave things, this will also be the year I blow off my 20th class reunion. Nobody liked me in high school anyway. Of course, that won't keep me from trying to loose 40 pounds by summer just in case I decide to change my mind.

So here's to a new year, a new president and hope for the opportunity to be brave.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

E Pluribus Unum

This is from a recent writing assignment. For what, I will not say, but I so enjoyed the process, that I decided to post it here as well. Happy New Year!

E Pluribus Unum, Out of many, one. This American motto chosen by Charles Thornson, has been in use since 1795. It is a phrase, seen passively on notes used for debts, both public and private, and it encapsulates the nature of American culture and society.

The idea of American democracy is based in convergence. E Pluribus Unum is an acknowledgment that, as a country, we are not all alike; an understanding that we do not come from a common race, ethnicity or religion. Thus, we seek to be unified by ideas, concepts, and values that are not predestined. E Pluribus Unum is a summons to seek out collective understanding via discourse, informal dialogue, and individual expression. In this democratic society, the pursuit of such a collective understanding is an exercise we rely upon to come together as a people.

Collective understanding is based in multiple perspectives and disciplines. Perspectives range from the intellectual to the social to the personal to the artistic. And in the conglomeration of these ideas, patterns emerge and are repeated until they are recognizable as indicators of culture.

Media and art represent two modes of distribution for ideas. Media, or Press as referred to in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, is designated to provide truth-based information to freethinking citizens for interpretation, discussion, and action. Media provides narrative, but media also offers opinion, and it is through public opinion that collective understanding is gauged. Thus, media can be a powerful instrument of influence.

If Media provides a narrative, then art offers perspective. Art conveys complex messages by appealing to our senses, be they visual, auditory, sensory, olfactory, or even taste.

To understand a democratic society that is E Pluribus Unum, one must be able to understand multiple perspectives. Because our democratic society seeks out equality, not just for people, but also for ideas, it is necessary to see those ideas from the originator’s point of view, both intellectually and emotionally. Art allows us to venture from that which is purely intellectual, to a hybrid of thought and emotion. Art is perspective, art is insight, art implies that which is unsaid and often offers vibrant opinions.