What's It All About?

It's all too easy for days to pass without reflection. It's my hope that through a greater active awareness on each day, that I will be able to consider God's presence in my life and in the world around me. Writing has always been a way for me to round up my thoughts. This blog seems like a good place to park those thoughts for my own benefit as well as the benefit of others. Please take a moment to read what I have written, to offer comments, and to share the ideas with others.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Big Picture

Overlook to Melones Reservoir-On the way to Sonora-Parrotts Ferry Bridge
The above photo is included not only for the excellent view but also as a reminder to keep an eye on the bigger picture. Part of doing that means searching for God's presence and trying to balance the things that are wrong with the things that seem more right. 

I have had a great day and will continue to try and do so. The weather is beautiful now and I have gotten some things done. Earlier today I ran several errands. The first was an appointment with my cardiologist (all good news there). The next stop brought me to the library which is always an enjoyable time for me. On my way out to the parking lot, I saw a woman getting out of her car. She left two little dogs in the car with the windows partially rolled down. I suspect something was on her mind because I heard her tell the dogs that they had plenty of water. I hesitated as I got in my car. What to do? San Andreas is a very small area and I drove to the bank. After that I drove back to the library. Her car was still there. I walked into the library and explained to the woman behind the desk about the dogs. She suggested I call the sheriff. On my way back through town I stopped at the Sheriff's office to give the information. That was it. I drove back home. Did I do enough?

I don't know the answer to that question just as I don't know a lot of things. I hope I did enough. What I do know is that I also had a great day yesterday. As part of that day I spent some time at a park where I saw an older lady assisting her two dogs. She was actually carrying one and was helping the other dog to get over a small curb and onto a grassy strip. Life is such a mixed bag isn't it? Eye on the big picture though:)


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Now You See It, Now You Don't!

Mt. Diablo image by Libby Fife
A smarter person than me will be able to piece this together!

I drove to the Bay Area today to have my teeth cleaned. Part of that drive takes me north on highway 680. Mt. Diablo is an ever present landmark and while driving on this particular stretch of road, the mountain chain is on my right hand side. It's visible from my dentist's office and it is visible from Heather Farms Park where I stopped to eat my lunch and then take a walk. I used to live in the city of Concord and Mt. Diablo was visible from my home too. Driving back on 580 towards Livermore you can catches glimpses of the mountain in your rear view mirror.  It's like the mountain is always there even if you aren't quite sure of it. Frankly, it's possible to feel "surrounded" by this chain of huge structures; almost like you are in a bowl of sorts. 

I included a link above to an article about the Diablo Range of which Mt. Diablo is a part. Here is what is a little crazy. I live about 2 hours away from the Bay Area now, specifically the area mentioned above. When I leave my driveway and go up the hill to the next street I can turn around and just see Mt. Diablo. From my house. Two hours away. The view eventually goes away as you get further east and north but really, I know it is still there even though I can't actively see it. And by now, the smarter person has already deduced my obvious point!

I hope anyone reading has had a great wednesday. I know I did:)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Close, Far, Together and Seperate

View from 26 on the way to Moke Hill 1/15
Two things:

I start nearly every morning now with the awareness that I am alive. Recognizing that I am awake and functioning and thanking God for this miracle is part of my morning routine. I try to do this every day and most days I am successful at remembering what to do. Though I am Jewish, I learned this practice from reading a book on Jesuit life and theology.  It isn't that Jews don't engage in this kind of "prayer"; it just so happens that I learned how to do it by reading a Roman Catholic centered book. I have no prejudices these days about where or how I get my info or how I jump start my awareness.

I also start each morning by reading "news feeds." The feeds are mostly art related but some of them have to do with religion or philosophy, life and morality- in a very broad sense. I read this post , written by a Jesuit author, this morning. The post deals with the idea of public and private spaces, how children share a common need of belonging, and how people can have such radically different paths in life yet still manage to find each other. (And be found.)  In looking for "evidence" of God's presence, I am beginning to think that one of the best places to search is in the interactions between two people or groups of people. How we relate to one another, what we do for each other, and how we are present in the lives of those all around us. Even if the places seem unlikely or the people in them seem mismatched, there is still some underlying commonality that makes you aware of the presence of something greater. Just take a look:)


Monday, April 27, 2015

Dogs and Cats

Lake Hogan-Early March 2015
The picture isn't related to the post-I just thought it was nice!

Today I drove to Jackson to pick up my artwork for the River Reflections tour. The show has come to an end and it's time to wrap things up. While over there I ran some other errands. Today is one of the first warm days of many more to come and so I had the car windows down and was just sort of driving along mindlessly. I looked over to the car in front of me and to the left. There was a huge dog sticking his head out the window, tongue sort of hanging out. He was a cross between Marmaduke and a dalmatian. He was out for a ride evidently and just enjoying himself. Seems to me he had the right idea!

On my way home I thought about animals (dogs and cats in particular) who just sort of enjoy things as presented. For the rest of my drive, I took my cue from the dog in the car. Not too much on my mind but certainly enjoying the scenery:)

Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Shifting Focus

Several mornings ago I took this photo of my hillside. There is this brief window in the morning when that hillside is lit up by the sun. Every color seems intensified for just a short while. And then, just as quickly, the sun moves across the sky and the light changes and things get back to normal. It's nice though to carry this image around for the rest of the day. It's possible to revisit it later too, both mentally and with the aid of the photo. Sort of like a souvenir.

To risk a cliche, life is like that isn't it? Moments come and go pretty quickly. The trick I think is to realize that and then do something about it. Such was the case this morning as I took my walk. I was almost done with the trip out when I came upon a man walking his dog. The man was smoking and his dog was off leash. Our park doesn't allow either of those things. It bothered me on the way back. People who choose not to follow a rule for whatever reason make me stop and think. Think for quite awhile. Why are they exempt? For the rest of my walk I considered this and at the same time, I tried to focus on all of the other wonderful things that were happening right then. Here they are in no particular order:

* warm sunshine and a cool breeze
* beautiful blue sky-near perfect weather
* birdsong
* oaks are still lush and green
* lots of wildflowers are still blooming
* feet felt great!
*lovely crunch of gravel underneath my shoes
* lots of "hellos" from all of the regulars
* best of all? I got to pet the cutest little dog with an upturned nose and golden colored eyes.

There is a lot that goes right during the course of the day or as above, even in the space of only a few moments. Focusing on that helps to turn things around. And as with the above picture, I can carry those things around with me for as long as I like, just like a souvenir.

Hope everyone had a good weekend!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Gift That keeps On Giving

Putah Creek, Davis CA
When I was in high school, one of my classmates said something to me that I haven't forgotten to this day. I paid her a compliment and she thanked me. She said that she always thanked people when they said nice things to her. Of course I was taught by my parents to say please and thank you but it was really more of an obligation than anything else. It hasn't been until recently that I have suspected that there are other benefits to these words. 

Yesterday I ran a bunch of errands. Later in the day as I was driving home I thought about all of the people who had helped me that morning. First there was the nice young woman at the doctor's office who gladly made a photo copy for me first thing in the morning. She probably hadn't even been there for more than 15-20 minutes. Next up was my friend and hairdresser, Jill. She happily listened to all of my ridiculous comments about my hair and gave me a wonderful cut and style as always. And don't forget Jill's staff: Rhoda, and Sally (Jill's mom who is unfailingly nice to me) and Kirsten-wonderful ladies all of them who made my visit so pleasant. Continuing on to the store, I was helped by a nice woman who checked my groceries efficiently and also by a young man who wanted to carry them to my car. On the way back, thankfully I wasn't hit by the gentleman in the oncoming car who absolutely had to pass the car in front of him. At the hospital where I had my blood drawn, I was helped by Cassea and Peggi and Jen. (I especially thanked Jen because she had to stick me twice for the blood. :))  Finally, on the last leg of my trip, I was helped by all of the drivers who made it a point to stay in their own lane. 

As I thanked each and every one of those people for helping me, I remembered my classmate's advice from way back when. I am starting to see that the use of "please" and "thank you" is not only a necessity and a nicety but it lets you know that you are engaged in an interaction with someone; that you are not just either taking or receiving. It's easy to look around sometimes and think , "What am I getting here?" By saying both "please" and "thank you" it's a reminder to stop and consider the back and forth that is inherent in any kind of exchange.  


Friday, April 24, 2015

Remember The Pies!

Big Trees State Park-Arnold, CA
Some of the best things I find come through chance intersections. Several things happen at once that are related and it's as if someone is speaking to you directly, saying, "Hey! Pay attention will ya?!"

I recently visited the Crocker Museum in Sacramento. I love going there! It's wonderful to have a first class museum close by. But, going out in public, even to enjoy something that I love, can be a challenge. There are lots of distractions such as people on their cell phones, children running through hallways or people talking loudly about something other than the art in front of them. It's a work-around to be sure. 

For this visit, I steered clear of the crowded main exhibit hall and focused on the lesser visited and smaller exhibit and then the permanent collection. While viewing a very favorite Wayne Thiebaud  piece, I couldn't help but overhear a man speaking with his mom. She was in a wheelchair and he was pushing her around to see the various paintings. He stopped in front of the work next to me and started talking with her about it. He really appreciated the piece and eventually after adjusting my attitude (he was talking a little loudly-understandable since his mom was elderly and maybe hard of hearing) I was able to enjoy his conversation with his mom. The last thing I heard him say to her was to remember the cream pies. If she took nothing else from the day, remember the pies!

Being able to overhear these two people interact was kind of sweet. In looking for some meaning in it, I realized this morning what that meaning could be. And here is the kind of intersection that I wrote about above. I read this article before writing this post. The author discusses her own enjoyment in eavesdropping and what that could mean. She writes about our need to fix and help and to judge when we talk with others.  The thrust of her article is a little different but I like that she and I are thinking similar things. I just enjoyed the conversation I overheard and wondered if maybe that in and of itself was my gift. Bearing witness to two other people conversing. We do it everyday and think nothing of it. It made me glad to stop being annoyed long enough to enjoy their interaction. And thank goodness for that!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

No Wrapping Required

No wrapping required...

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 45 which, as I write this, seems a little crazy. But it's true, that is my age. How I got to be this age, I couldn't say other than to mention that time marches on for each of us. My friend called and asked me what I had gotten for my birthday. I actually received a lot so I am putting it down in list form. All items are gifts in one way or another and maybe anyone reading can interpret for themselves how the things mentioned are gifts. For me, they are a reminder of God's presence-some are obvious and some are not. Here goes:

* I woke up! That was possibly the best gift of all. Safe and sound and very much alive in my own home.

* I made coffee and breakfast for my husband and fed my cats.

* I spent the day doing the things that make me happy: painting, walking, cooking and keeping my home clean, reading and talking to friends.

* Several cards, emails, and FB posts.

* My friend, recently divorced, is now doing well and seems incredibly happy. Her life is full again.

* My other friend has been with me for a very long time now. It seems like no time at all has passed. When I think of her it seems like just yesterday that we met.

* My cake turned out well...sort of! The frosting was quite good.

* The dinner was delicious and quiet-salmon, potatoes, and a lovely beet and avocado salad.

* I took a walk in near perfect weather. Rain would have been good but maybe sometime soon?

* I ended the day as I began it. Safe and sound in my own bed, with my cats, and my husband all in one piece and happy.

I am happy to have noticed these things to begin with. That doesn't always happen but I am trying. One last thing. I received a post in my email inbox.Sort of an unsolicited gift. Kind of.  This writer (Katrina Kenison) is new to me. In this post here she writes about some gifts that she recently received. It's nice to know that someone else is looking too.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Friendly Hello...or Two

When we first moved to this area, I started walking on the trails at our local  lake. I have been doing that for about five years now, at about the same time every day and on pretty specific days of the week. That regularity means that I see some of the same people over and over again. Though I have learned some names I mostly recognize people by their dogs!

As the years have past, I have developed an expectation of seeing the "regulars." You start to look for people and worry a little if you don't see them. Yesterday morning as I was walking, one of my "regulars" drove by and waved to me as I walked on a visible-to-the-road portion of the trail. It was nicely reassuring to know that she would soon be on the trail! She recognized me form a distance and gave a friendly "hello" wave. As I was walking along, smiling to myself about that wave, I saw a man whom I had not seen in several months. In saying hello to him, I learned that he had been taking a break from walking due to the stress of his living situation. We fell into step and in a matter of moments, he told me several things about his life history as well as some of the events leading up to the resumption of his walking regimen. I tried to hear what he was saying and to offer some supportive comments. He was walking faster than me and so eventually I fell behind. I saw him again on the return trip and we told each other to have a good day.

As I finished my walk, I reflected on both people with whom I had interacted. I always feel like I am getting something from a brief encounter but it's always from my vantage point. What did I get out of the interaction?  Whether this is conscious on my part or not, I find myself consistently "searching" for people with whom I can have a dialogue. It occurred to me though that maybe it works in reverse too. Maybe not only was I seeking them (the two people I had seen on the trail this day) but maybe they were seeking me as well. Maybe I was supposed to cross their path for some reason. Maybe it's even a reason that I don't know about but is important nonetheless. It made me think that you never know when your presence will be needed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Effort as Evidence

Putah Creek, UC Davis, CA
One of the things about writing a blog every day is that you find yourself looking for material. Maybe even looking too hard. The point for me with these posts is to notice the unexpected and discover its meaning. I don't want to put the cart before the horse, in other words.

Yesterday there was a little pressure as I began my commitment to observation and writing. Was there anything to report? My day was filled with my own personal shortcomings. I had really been focusing on the negative. At the end of the evening, as I reflected, I realized that unexpected gifts can come along to fill in the gaps where I had failed. I had spoken with two friends that day who offered support when I most needed it. Both phone calls were unsolicited. Sometimes you receive an unexpected gift and it can be a reminder to try harder yourself, especially when you think you are failing miserably. Try harder because other people are trying too.