Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I’ve always considered ambition to be a positive trait. It generally means setting a goal, working toward an objective, focusing, and eventually, if one is tenacious enough, achieving. Such drive and determination often results in accomplishments, rewards, or accolades. How many of us would have loved to be named “Most Likely To Succeed” in the senior section of the yearbook way back when? Would the label “Most Ambitious” be as coveted? That’s doubtful, but perhaps it really doesn’t matter. What does seem to make a difference is that completing a task, no matter how small or large, requires a certain amount of resolve, and I would think that simply striving to complete a goal to one’s satisfaction is reward in itself, which as a result, shifts the definition of the word ambition a bit.

We all likely know that ambition holds within it a pitfall or two. Can one work too hard to achieve something only to be disappointed that the result is not truly fulfilling? Does ambition blind a person to the importance of family and friends? How often have we seen children set aside as one is consumed by a compulsion for success? Furthermore, does ambition embody false pride or misplaced intentions? Can one be deluded by ambition? Does luck, or lack thereof, ever sustain or sabotage one’s ambitions? At some point must one stop waiting for success that may never come? And finally, is there a time in one’s life when a person should set ambition on a shelf forever and simply be satisfied with what is?

For those of us who have been taught to work hard, to set goals, to smash barriers, and to keep trying, it’s difficult to let go of those questions, much less to answer them. Ambition for many of us is a bit engrained, I’m afraid. The results of our efforts may not be right in front of us, not at this moment, but, positively or negatively, they will reveal themselves soon enough. What’s most important is to trust in one’s efforts and be patient.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Little Scenario Created In The Early Morning

I woke up today with the intention of writing a blog. I had no idea, when I sat down in front of my computer, what I would write. I just knew I would. I started with a name, a woman’s name, and what followed, “just like that”, is below.

Constance was tired. She had dealt for thirteen days with Jack’s bewildering behavior. She’d been counting. After day four, she had begun counting and for her to keep track was a new phenomenon in itself. Constance had never felt the need to monitor much of anything, especially her teenage son, Jack, who always had been a model son – polite and present. The two had been a pair, especially after the baffling disappearance of Jack’s father when Jack was only three. Out of the blue, however, in recent days, something had changed.
“It will be two weeks tomorrow,” she thought. “Guess I’ll have to have a word, if I can get his attention that is.”
Jack worked days, stacking cartons of supplies in the storage area behind Cotton’s Hardware Store. When he was home he locked his bedroom door and played music that ranged from hardcore rap to soulful country ballads. He took long showers. When he finally did make an appearance for a bite to eat in the kitchen, he was solemn and unusually quiet, grunting a greeting if Constance were lucky and then bowing his head to stare and text into his iPhone for long minutes.
“Going out,” he’d mutter finally.
“Where?” she’d ask.
“Just around,” he’d answer, a smirk playing on his lips.
He had been staying out late, slipping in through the back gate in the middle of the night, never quite making it into the house, but instead tossing himself onto the thick cushion of the chaise lounge to sleep or stare into the night. Constance had watched silently from her secret vantage point behind the curtain of her bedroom window. Her instincts made her want to cover him with a blanket or two, but he was sixteen, the nights remained warm in the Sierra foothills in August, and he clearly was pulling away.
Constance’s heart fluttered with an alien loss she could not have articulated had she tried. This was new and it hurt. What was happening to her son, and to her?

So, this is where the intention ended. I’ll figure out what’s happening to the two at a later date.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Nice Things

Nice is a pretty innocuous word, actually, but I’m using it today because I realize that even in this crazy, sometimes baffling world in which we live, nice things happen. AND what are these “things”? When I was teaching I often told my students not to use “empty words” such as “things”. “Be specific,” I’d tell them. So I will be.

--Nice is having a lovely, long, leisurely, lunch, literally at the edge of the San Francisco Bay, with two longtime friends.
--Nice is seeing the sparkle of the sun running with the tide.
--Nice is a quick kiss on the cheek.
--Nice is a post-it note that says, “I love you.”
--Nice is seeing a photo of a friend’s genuine smile as she crosses the finish line after a grueling triathlon.
--Nice is the Champagne Study Group’s chatter.
--Nice is appreciating the awesome beauty of the fog and bright blue sky butted up against each other in the view of my camera.
--Nice is my fluffy, one-eyed cat purring in my ear.
--Nice is hearing the sound of tails slapping against the back of the couch when I greet my two dogs at 5:30 in the morning.
--Nice is a hummingbird sighting.
--Nice is a good book review.
--Nice is watching my baseball team win . . . please?
--Nice is an unexpected phone call from a former student just “checking in”.
--Nice is peaking under leaves in my garden for fresh vegetables . . . and finding them.
--Nice is being told it’s good to cry sometimes.
--Nice is a warm hug.
--Nice is giving a surprise gift to someone.
--Nice is accepting a gesture of unexpected kindness.
--Nice is, “You look nice today!”
--Nice is an infant’s smile.
--Nice is the crisp face of a Shasta daisy.
--Nice is watching a brightly colored koi floating serenely deep in the pond.
--Nice is becoming lost in one’s art.
--Nice is being absorbed in a good book.
--Nice is remembering.

The list could go on and on. I suppose that’s a good “thing”, but this is all for now.
Have a nice day!
Sausalito, California 6/19/2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An Email Response

I received an email from a friend this morning. She is depressed. I really don’t know how to help other than to send some encouraging words. I did that. Thinking about her prompted me to write a little scenario in an attempt to understand.

“When the sun goes down, are you happy?” Sam asked.
“Not always?” he pressed. He was concerned, for he had noticed her seeking distance from him, her face drawn and forlorn. Julia had been a beauty when she was young with long, glossy, brown hair that fell in long curls to her waist and eyes so dark he remembered staring, longing to be lost there.
“No, not always,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “I just didn’t expect to be here, now, living like this. I wanted more.”
Sam took her hand. It was not soft, but rather calloused, the years of work having taken their toll. Her face was sweet though – a bit rounder, more fleshy, but appealing, at least to him. He loved her.
“What is your life missing?” he tried again. He felt a sudden emptiness, as though his very heart had slipped out of place. Was he losing her?
“I’ve made mistakes,” she answered.
“Everyone makes mistakes. I’ve sure made my share,” Sam admitted with a crooked smirk. “Mistakes are in the past though.”
Sam’s words reflected his nature. He did not live in the past, or the future. He simply took each moment as it came, good or bad. It was what had drawn Julia to him.
“I wanted more, Sam,” Julia confessed. “My dreams are dead. I had to shove them onto a shelf, long before I knew you. Life took over. The years have sprinted by and here I am, we are, too young to stop now, too old to start over.”
“Of course, we're too young to stop living life,” Sam stated emphatically. “And we’re not too old to start something new. What do you want to do, Julia? Where do you want the rest of your life to take you?”
“I wanted to be an artist, a painter,” Julia whined, clearly wallowing in regret. “Instead, I had to find a career that would be certain to pay the bills. I had a kid. I had to be responsible.”
“Your dreams don’t have to stay on the shelf, Julia,” Sam told her. “You can still paint. Your kid’s an adult; he’s on his own. You did a good job. Now do what you want. Do what makes you happy.”
“I don’t know . . . “ she started.
“I know,” he gently interrupted. “Do what you love. Paint. It will make your heart sing.”

I don’t understand depression very much. I have moments of sadness but that’s different. Sadness is an emotion. Depression is a condition. I can only hope my friend finds a solution and as I told her in my response, “I’m here for you.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

Appreciating The Little Things

Yesterday I was in my garden picking lettuce. We have the most amazing crop of lettuce we’ve ever had this year. As I pulled out a batch of it, I noticed a tiny, red ladybug. It was nestled in the folds of a tender, green leaf near the root of the plant.
“Come on, little ladybug,” I said to the insect. “Hop out. Find a new home.”
I gently shook the bouquet of lettuce and the bug flew out, thankfully, and flitted away to another plant.
Seeing that ladybug took me back for a moment to my childhood, and to memories of my mother, “Honey”, who taught me to be observant and to appreciate the beauty of the world around us. She always was drawing my attention to something incredible: to a beautiful, fluffy, undulating, cumulus, cloud formation; to the vivid, perfectly placed colors -- orange, yellow, and black – in a Monarch butterfly’s wings; to the intricacy of frozen, ice crystals on a window pane in winter; to a wiggly, Earth worm frantically squirming its way back under dark soil; to an autumn leaf wrought with color – orange, red, and deep green, the dark veins a roadmap of its own. More than once my mother would caress a purple, pansy blossom and coo at it with admiration.
“Just look at that little face,” she’d instruct, pointing out its features. I cannot, to this day, look at a pansy without thinking of my mother.
So it is, then, that I do look closely at the beauty around me. I do appreciate the little things: the energetic spin of a ruby-throated hummingbird’s wings at a feeder outside, the flicker of sunlight glistening, diamond-like, on a waterfall that splashes into the Koi pond, and the spark of joy in my German shepherd’s amber eyes when I say, “Walk?”
I’m fortunate to have been taught that lesson – to appreciate the little things. It allows me to stop still in this busy life and take notice. It helps me to understand that amid all the hatred and strife that exists in our world, that there is beauty still, intricate, fragile, fresh, and tenacious. I’m left to wonder about the trite, age-old question, “Does a tree that falls in a forest somewhere indeed make a sound if we are not there to hear?” Does beauty cease to exist if we don’t notice? I’m not ready to let that happen, so like my “teacher”, my mom, I plan to continue appreciating the little things.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A San Francisco Experience – Go Giants!

San Francisco on summer evenings was often unique and that Tuesday was no different. The air was cool, with a breeze brisk enough to nip under collars and ruffle sleeves. She watched workers and shoppers crowding the cracked sidewalks, each person walking, strolling, or sprinting to destinations unknown to her. Some were intent, moving rapidly along, eyes riveted forward; others walked in cadence to their own chatter, engrossed in conversation with their cell phones pressed against their ears, oblivious to the chaos around them. A few homeless folks had found sidewalk settings where they would spend the evening staring sadly through blurry-eyes, lost in a consciousness of some phantom making. Bicycles dangerously darted in and out of traffic, invincible riders pushing the envelope, while cars, large and small, angled between delivery trucks and taxicabs, all inching forward minding the flicker of green and red signals like obedient children.

Exiting the car on Second Street beneath the concrete roadway of the Bay Bridge, she moved forward, flanked by two, forever friends who would accompany her to a venue just five blocks downhill by the San Francisco Bay itself. Maneuvering through the masses, the trio clutched their belongings close, and made their way down crowed sidewalks, across transit tracks, and into the city streets ignoring signals that urged them to stop, look, and listen before crossing. It was Tuesday night though, an evening in June 2014 when the only thing that mattered was the Giants game. No one was apt to follow the rules of the road. The throngs thrust forward, aiming toward the broad, red, brick building that was AT&T Park.

A quick pit stop at Majita for margaritas, chips, and salsa set the tone. The friends gathered a companion and moved on single-mindedly. Only one thing mattered at this point. Go Giants! It was almost game time. With seats directly behind home plate, and armed with cold beers and deluxe, ballpark franks, the quartet of friends allowed their anticipation to seethe into excitement.

After snapping a few photos with their iPhones, they simply sat, absorbing the lights, sounds, and action. Colorful neon lights flashed news, photos, and stats on the gigantic billboard and shimmered in frenetic bands that encircled the stadium itself; flags fluttered in the breezy night wind; intense, panels of lights, hundreds of them, flickered on, lighting the field as though it were midday though the sky had darkened to a charcoal grey. The organ player pounded loud, vibrant sounds, the rhythms all too familiar to the regulars there. Food was everywhere, vendors shouting, “Peanuts, cotton candy, kettle corn, here! Get your hot dogs! Hot chocolate! Get your churros here!”

The seats filled. Folks of every size, shape, height, and ethnicity found their ways to a single space that was theirs, lodging almost intimately next to family, friends, and strangers. They were all together, over 41,000 strong, united in harmony that warmed the heart. Worries about this cool night had disappeared with the sunset. Camaraderie, anticipation, enthusiasm, and solidarity heated the stadium now, where under the lights, no matter what the outcome, folks had fun. From “Play Ball” to “And that’s the game!” it was a party, and win or lose, it was one to remember!