Yesterday I went on an Artist's Date*. It wasn't really planned, but finding myself at UCLA and Westwood, it just kind of evolved into one. I took some friends from church to the medical center for the wife's bi-weekly cancer treatment. Because it takes a few hours, they encouraged me to go off and do "something fun". The city can be rather intimidating. You know, traffic, congestion, students and medical personnel walking and driving everywhere. It is a challenge to get around, especially when everyone (including drivers) seem to have their eyes glued to tiny screens in their hands, oblivious to the world around them. (That is a fit subject for another blog...to come).
I dropped my friends at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center and drove to the Whole Foods on Gayley Avenue. I did some window shopping, picked up a few fun things, and then decided to buy something for lunch. Fresh sushi...salmon and avocado rolls....with a limeade vinegar drink seemed to fill the bill. I sat on at a small table with one chair on the sidewalk and watched life passing by. I thought I might feel conspicuous, but, no, no one paid any attention to me. I snapped this picture with smart phone.
When I was done, I decided to walk about a bit. I was struck by the variety of businesses there, different architectures, and the people, most with a zombie-like fixed gaze on their cell phones. But I was soaking up the environment. It was alive with an energy of activities, even though I had no idea what people were up to or where they were necessarily headed. I wondered to myself if they had any idea of where they were or where they were headed.
I decided to go to the Elysee Bakery, a place I remembered going to thirty years ago. Dessert seemed in order and this was a date with myself just to treat myself and indulge. I decided to have a vanilla eclair and just plain coffee. I told the young lady behind the counter that I used to come there occasionally in the 80's. "Have we been here that long?" she said, adding, "Will that be all?" I ordered a croissant with chocolate sprinkles to take home for breakfast.
I took my eclair and coffee and went back out to the sidewalk where I found a table on the corner in front of the bakery and sat down. I leisurely ate my treat and drank the delicious coffee. It was as good as I remembered. Again, I watched people go by. Cars and trucks and bicycles lined up at the intersection, waiting their turns to proceed. All very orderly yet seeming to verge on chaos should someone look up and realize they were missing life around them. When I was done, I went back to the car and sat a spell before going back to retrieve my friends.
It was then I realized this had been a true Artist's Date. I had taken myself out, bought myself some indulgences, and had some great inner conversation with my inner artist. It was refreshing to know I could do this. No one would point or laugh. People seem to go out with themselves all the time. The important thing was I re-discovered I enjoy my own company. That's important, especially when there isn't always someone around to do things with. Plus, when you date your inner artist, it is a romance made in the proverbial heaven.
*An Artist's Date comes from an exercise that is part of the Artist's Way, the book/recovery program written years ago by Julia Cameron. The purpose of the program is to recover you artistic nature. We all have one. Most of use stifle and/or suppress it, thus the need to recover it.
I have been experiencing loss of the track of time of late. This sometimes happens during a holiday week...especially when the holiday falls on a Monday as Memorial Day did this week. Monday felt like Sunday most of the day except television programming was basically the same save that Day of Our Lives was pre-empted for the French Tennis Open. It didn't help that Dancing with the Stars ended last week and so Monday night was not the same.
Usually on Monday I am "off" from most duties and jobs I have assumed. This Monday began with a trip to San Pedro to retrieve someone returning from a cruise. Today I went to Malibu to bring someone home from a stay with her daughter in an exclusive celebrity riddled enclave. (That trip may warrant a separate blog). Then my chief source for the weekly newsletter I edit and prepare for church sent me her info a day early. That made me think it was Wednesday already! But the dogs went to the groomers...and they always go on Tuesday.
I always that I was flexible and not a slave to the calendar or a rigid schedule. And really, I am not. I just have to remember the cues for each day of the week are not always timely. All this could be God's retribution for not going to church Sunday, but Sunday I went down to Newport Beach to spend time with 97 year-old friend there. She threw me off by coming back to Riverside with me so her son could pick her up and take her to the mountains for a visit.
So this afternoon after watching the soapy histrionics this afternoon on DOOL, things seem to get back on track. Right now I am watching KABC Channel 7 News. Normally I watch KNBC. I fear this may cause another upset in my universe. Worth the risk though. I don't want to fall into a rut!
By the way, I don't remember ever seeing the movie If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium. Do you suppose that might explain the phenomenon I experienced above?
Originally Memorial Day was called Decoration Day. It was the day Americans everywhere would go to the local cemeteries, especially VA cemeteries, and decorate the graves of veterans. It began to honor those who died in the Civil War. Here is an "official" history of Memorial Day if you are interested:
As a kid, I remember it was a rather somber holiday which we still often spent at the lake with a picnic. Soldiers and war dead were few and far between in my family. My great uncle Norm served in WWII. He was the only American-born among his siblings of which there were eight, on being my maternal grandmother. I remember Uncle Norm being very quiet in what was a rather raucous family given to great laughter and mirth. He would sit quietly at family gatherings. He always seemed to have a far-away look in his eyes. I never really talked to him much. I wonder now if he had what they now call "shell shock". I remember hearing he was at Normandy on D-Day. He eventually came down with Parkinson's Disease and died in the 1970's one week after his wife of forty-plus years.
The other war veteran I know of was my cousin Mike. His war was Vietnam. It was not something he talked about much either. He was a few years old than me and we were't really close. He married, had kids, divorced, and had a long term relationship with a Vietnamese woman. I haven't had any contact with him in years, so I probably will never really know much of his "story".
If there are other veterans in the family, I don't know of them. I was declared ineligible for service when I was 19 due to health issues. Frankly, I didn't think I would make a good soldier. I think the armed forces would agree. Vietnam would have been "my war." Of course, all wars belong to all of us.
Anyway, I wasn't sure where I was headed with this blog today. I felt like I should write something about such an important holiday. But is it for patriotism or for remembrance? Is it a time to take stock of the costs of war or to honor those who were sacrificed during time of war? As usual for me on these type of ocaisions, I am torn. I fly my flag mostly because it is my flag and I am, even if I don't agree with, "my country right or wrong", I do still believe in this great experiment called the United States. I just wish we'd get it together and be that "shining city on the hill", that "beacon of hope", we say we are, and at times truly are in spite of our shortcomings.
Decoration Day or Memorial Day. No matter what you call it, it is a day I think about these things and I expect that is what it meant to be for.
I bought a new pair of blue jeans the other day. What I found fascinatting was how this elicited such mixed feelings on my part. I felt good because I was able to buy a new pair of jeans without having to worry about how I would pay for them. I felt disappointed because I had to buy a bigger size because, well, I have put on a few pounds again. I felt excited because I thought they would look good on me. I felt odd because I had to buy a shorter length than I used too because apparently I have shrunk a bit.
Yes, there is nothing like new pair of jeans, especially if they fit just right. And these Wranglers did. I was comfortable in them the minute I put them on. And they looked new, but not too new. I bit broken in, but not too broken in. And practical. I usually prefer Levi's Button Fly 501's, but have you priced those things lately? These Wranglers were just right for the transition I am sure I will be going through again as I watch my calorie intake (once again) and get myself under control. A new pair of jeans can do that for you.
When you think about it, why did buying a new pair of jeans inspire this blog? Lord only knows, but, truly, I find it is the little things in life that make life worth living...sometimes. A new pair of true blue jeans can do that. Yes they can.
(Warning: This is a rant. I doubt you are in either category, but sometimes I am aware that I can fall into being either a vampire or a zombie. That's what's scary).
Whenever I go shopping at the "big box" stores, or even "small box" stores, I am always struck by the many zombies that are walking among us. Zombies I tell you. Just walking about, vacant looks in their eyes, leaving their carts in the middle of the aisle. Seemingly overwhelmed by the gazillion choices of dog and cat food or breakfast cereals, they stand beside their carts, staring blankly. Frozen in fear of making the wrong decision I suppose. And when you are trying to navigate the aisles with your own oversized cart, they are oblivious to your very presence. Scary.
And let's not forget the vampires! The people who just seem to suck the very energy out of whatever room they are in. Normal conversation -- give and take, back and forth, listening and actually hearing, giving feedback and hearing yours -- is not something these folks are seemingly interested in. Draining the very life-blood from you as you are forced into a passive stance, listening, listening, always listening and never being heard. And needing to take a nap whenever you leave them.
Oh my word, I know how negative this sounds, but there are times when I feel like vampires and zombies are all I encounter. And my biggest worry is when I find myself manifesting my own vampire or zombie tendencies! Argh! I guess it just takes remaining aware and not succumbing to the siren song of the dark world of the vampires and zombies among us.
Here are some ways that help me combat the plagues of vampirism and zombie attacks:
1. Stay aware of my own tendencies to retreat into my own world and not be aware of the world around me.
2. Breathe deeply and always remind myself that there, but for the grace of God, go I.
3. Take care of myself and limit my exposure to situations that are not life-affirming and nourishing to my soul.
4. Get a vaccinated by going to places that inspire me like art museums, botanical gardens, the ocean, the desert or just for a long walk.
5. Find a peaceful place and just sit a spell, empty my mind and start again.
Thanks for baring with me. What do you do to cope with the vampires or zombies in your life?
Today was Thursday. Tomorrow, then, will be Friday. And tomorrow being Friday, it means another week has flown by. It seems to trite to wonder where the time went, but, well, it only seems natural to wonder just that when, tomorrow being Friday, you realize yet another week has gone by and you are still...still...well, still.
Don;t get me wrong, I am glad to be "still". Still being, being alive, is a good thing. Waking up in the morning, is a good thing. Considering the alternative, well, as they say, we'll be dead a long time. Even if we make it to heaven, we will still be dead, at least to this life.
And that is why I am given pause to stop and think that tomorrow being Friday, what does it mean? What have I accomplished? Should I have done more? Should I have something to show for the time spent? Do we really "spend" time? Really, now is all there is.
And so I ponder this as I go to bed on yet another Thursday night. And think to myself, tomorrow being Friday, perhaps I should get busy.
As I was walking the dogs this grey and damp morning, I wondered, as the old hymn goes, as I wandered. Why do I feel compelled to write sometimes and not others? I wondered if maybe I had to be "inspired" or "motivated" by some illusive muse. I mused that it was a poor excuse that themuse has not been to visit. After all, if I am not open to a visit from the muse, then why would she visit? (Why, I wonder, is the typical muse female? Is inspiration a traditionally feminine thing? I think not, but perhaps it comes from having to be in a "receptive" posture? Anyway, I digress.)
So as I continued walking, waiting both patiently and impatiently at times for the dogs to investigate yet another bush or tree or bit of debris, I was surprised to find a chicken wandering in the parking lot of a currently empty office building near the underpass construction site. What on earth was a chicken, a rooster I think, and a very handsome one at that, doing wandering about on such a cool overcast morning? I presumed it had leapt to freedom from the backyard of someone who was keeping pet chickens and would hopefully wend its way home. Obviously I could not catch it, not with three curious dogs.
I continued to walk.
I began to think about the age old riddle that never seems to have an answer, "Why did the chicken cross the road?" There are only two answers that satisfy me:
"To get to the other side" and "Because". The latter answer is simple and succinct. Just because. And that, I believe, is what describes my reason for any of the creative things I do, whether it be writing, photography or gardening. Just because.
I think that chicken and I have a lot in common. I am glad I find my way home after wandering in the proverbial wilderness. Now it is time to tend to my muse, to do some creating, to, as it were, get back to what I think I was meant to do. That said, I hope the chicken finds his way home too.