Monday, April 30, 2012

White Box

Candy Stripers
I slept like the dead last night – the kind of deep, dreamless sleep that comes from sheer exhaustion.  It was quasi – not fully – restorative.  I’ve been burning too many candles at too many ends for one night’s sleep to put me back together again.  But I do feel better today and perhaps I’ll enjoy another sound sleep tonight.

I’m now on a plane to Seattle where I will spend the next week wandering back and forth between a bland hotel room and the convention center.   Maybe I’ll have time to take in the Space Needle or take a ferry around the harbor.  Mostly, I’ll be in meetings or at receptions and dinners.  I don’t feel nearly prepared enough but I’m sure I’ll muddle through.  I always do.

My JetBlue TV is broken – the sound system emits a very high pitched squealing sound no matter what headphones I use – so Wrecking Ball , Bruce Springsteen’s latest, plays quietly as I write this.   There is something bluesy about this vintage of Bruce and I’m loving it.  The album is a gift from a dear friend.  And, as instructed, I started with the title song.   Reminds me of earlier times when another dear friend gave me my first taste of the Boss.  Inherent in the gift is the memories it brings back.  Open windows, soft breezes, youth.  I may not be able to go back in time but for a moment I can capture that long ago feeling that my life was yet mine to paint.

Hues of the Sun
Which brings me to the white box.  No, it’s not the white box challenge of many a home design show.  You know that one, the designers are given a room, all white  with a white sofa, table, and lamp.  They are sent to a pet store (or some equally inane place) to shop for accessories.  No, this is the white box of my dream this morning.  The one I had in that space between full awakening and deep quiet sleep.  The space where I dreamt of a white box floating in the sky.

In my dream, that box was my new home.  It was like a NY city railroad apartment or a Shotgun house in New Orleans, the rooms progressed along a long corridor that ran from the front door through to the back.  The corridor ended in a picture window that looked out over the tree tops and into the deep blue sky.  There was a terrace but the entire thing – terrace and all -- was suspended inside of an all glass building that reminded me of being inside the apple store on 5th avenue in NYC.  A staircase wound  down, down, down from the balcony to who knows where.   The balcony railing was a matte silver finish that ran straight as an arrow from room to room.

Graceful Exit
There was only a mattress and box spring leaning up in the corner of the living room. Hanging on the wall was the crazy quilt jacket that now adorns the space above my bed in my current abode.  The kimono jacket made by the fluttering crafter from a long ago show.  The flutterer had the type of nervous energy that you had to be in the mood for if you stopped at her booth.  As beautiful as her work were the hangers that her husband made for her display – all copper and wood those hangers are.  Both followed me home and both followed me into this dream.  Blue on a white wall.

My dreams are more textured than this one – they are vivid with colors and often about traveling.  Sometimes they are nightmares – perhaps the most memorable of the last several years being standing in the streets of a strange city with water up to my waist, snow falling, and waves crashing in the distance as I watched the ship I was supposed to be on pull away from the dock.  Frustrated, cold, and wet is how I remember that dream.

Creamy Shadows
This dream was different.  The white box was a space that I liked – every room a picture window, a balcony running the length of the abode, white walls just waiting for me to put my stamp on them, a living room that was perfect for the tangerine sofa that I fell in love with on a long ago trip to Chicago.  A different space from my cozy pre-war abode – that space of soft whites and richly colored rugs and art from here, there, everywhere.   Beamed ceilings, hardwood floors, and subway tiles in the bathroom.  A solid, grounded apartment – not this ethereal white box in the sky of my dreams.

I like this white box that I created this morning.  It’s a place of endless possibilities where I could, yet again, paint my life.  It ‘s a space that is free of the flotsam and jetsam of the life I’ve already lived – no knick knacks from Africa, or print of a mystical young woman holding an apple from China.  Just me and a bed floating in a deep blue sky where as the sun fades away, the stars will seem close enough to grasp.

I think I’ll keep this airy white box of mine – perhaps some day I’ll find its corporeal equivalent sitting in a tree or floating at seat or on top of a mountain.  For now, it exists in that space in my mind that is somewhere between sleeping and waking.  That space where dreams break through into consciousness and paint a memory onto the canvas that is my mind.

Black & White Tulips

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Random Thoughts, Tulip Pairings

Twist & Out
A favorite quote from a Midsummer Night's Dream -- "Lord, what fools these mortals be." Happy belated 448th (maybe) birthday to William Shakespeare.  I acquired that little factoid from Bing, via Twitter.  Although, upon digging deeper, it's not 100% sure he was really born on this day.  So there you have it -- our modern world in a nutshell.  Some 30 years ago, if I'd read that yesterday was the Bard's birthday (in 140 characters or less), I would have taken at face value.  In this day and age, I feel compelled to fact check just to be sure.  Technology -- how can it be at once time-saving (easy access to information) and time wasting?

......this just in, I  am earning about $1.21/quarter for Facebook -- that's according to papers filed today.   That's up from 2007 when I would have been worth $.30.  I guess I need to get cracking on helping Facebook to make money.  I'm going to sign up for that online degree program, go see a man about my broken thyroid (at least Facebook thinks it's broken), buy some Dansko clogs and a Lincoln, and start watching Mehmet Oz.  I'm not complaining that the ads are so poorly targeted - in the long run, that saves me money!   Plus, it's a little eerie when advertisements start getting targeted to you.  Back in January, I experienced a whole month of North Face advertisements because of really good targeting on google.  Ads were popping up everywhere -- including in my email inbox.  So, at the risk of seeing my value to Facebook NOT rise, I am hoping that they don't get any more adept at targeting ads to me.  

And, finally, on the subject of April showers bringing May flowers in 2012?  Although not as damaging to the trees as the freak October snowstorm of 2011, I fear that last night's storm and today's cold wreaked serious havoc on the gardens of Central Park.  For sure, the crabapples are completely done in and I would not be surprised to find many tulips stripped bare come Saturday.  Which is too bad, because one of my favorite phenomena is the way in which tulips shed their petals.  They peel down, curl up in the most unusual ways, and then drop.  It's all achingly beautiful.

.....goodbye sweet tulips.....until we meet again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

too tired to write

It's that time of year where I feel like I'm swimming as fast as I can against a REALLY strong current.  As a result, I have no coherent thoughts tonight -- just a few photos that seem to pair nicely.


Little waterfall (Central Park's North Woods) shot from above
Big waterfall (Victoria Falls) shot from above


First flower picture I ever loved from my first ever digital camera

Among my favorite tulip photos from this past weekend from my first ever digital SLR


Amazing the creatures that roam around in Central Park

Amazing the creatures that roam the plains of Africa


.....and now to bed, perchance to dream of calmer days spent walking along a wide empty beach as the waves roll in......

Big Wave Coronado (unusual, I know!)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Planning for Death: National Healthcare Decisions Day

End of the Road (Shakespeare's Garden)
It's April 16, 2012 and aside from being tax time -- it's also National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD).  Death and taxes -- two of our least favorite topics.  I'm pleased to turn my blog over to Nathan Kottkamp, Founder and Chair of NHDD, a man who believes passionately in the need for us to be honest about what we would like at the end of life.  He encourages us to have an important conversation -- with ourselves and with each other.

As for me, somewhere I have an advance directive which I need to swap out for a MOLST form (I count myself fortunate to live in a state that has this form -- having been through the time when NY was not so enlightened and one needed a DNR signed for each care setting.  I pretty much know what my Mom would want (although it is not entirely clear to any of her children who is her proxy).  In a nutshell, I have a bit to do on all fronts and I plan to take some time to get it all done.  If I have time to think about where I'll be planted (or scattered) after my death, I should have time for this.   

.......and now, a word from Nathan Kottkamp

Are you one of the 80% of Americans who haven’t completed an Advanced Directive yet? We’ve all struggled with how to get started on this topic – and there are plenty of reasons why we resist:

Tulip Swan (Conservatory Garden)
  • Fear
  • Uncertainty
  • Not sure how to start
  • Don’t know what’s legally binding
  • Worried I’ll hurt someone’s feelings
  • Just haven’t had the time to do it 
That’s why we recognize April 16 as National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) – a movement designed to inspire, educate, and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.  Put another way, NHDD is a day for all adults to mark their calendars, have the talk, and document the talk with an advance directive.

Regardless of your own reasons not acting already, you might find your way to start the conversation by watching this awesome three and a half minute video at It’s proof that it takes only a few minutes to start a conversation with your loved ones about advance care planning—a conversation that affects people for a lifetime. 
Tulip & Stone
Here are some specific things you can do for NHDD:

  • Lead by example.  Schedule time with your loved ones (on or before April 16) to “Have the Talk” and complete your own advance directive. There are many tools, including free forms, you can use to walk you through the process and make your wishes known; access them through the NHDD Public Resources page
  •  Encourage your loved ones and friends to learn more about advance directives and to complete their advance directives. You can forward this link:
  •  Share your advance directive with your healthcare providers and make sure it is on file in the event it is needed.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

National Library Week

Volcano National Park - Ferns Coming Back

It's National Library Week and here is a short list of favorite books that I borrowed from the hometown library in Connecticut.  A bit of framing may be in order before revealing my list.

  • This list is reflective of what I was likely reading between the ages of 8 and 18 (at which point I left for college and the list and the access to books totally changed (different blog post that is for sure).
  • I think I graduated from the children's to the adult library around age 10 in terms of borrowing (and I think my parents may have had to say that was OK before I could do so).
  • I was a reader and I grew up in a time when we had ever widening geographic circles of "where we could go independent of parents."  At some point, I had permission to cross Fern Street, Trout Book, and Farmington Avenue to get to that Library in West Hartford Center on my bike.  It was mecca and I was in heaven (freely mixing a couple of metaphors).
  • I consumed an average of 10 books a week in the hey day of my reading adventures.  How sad am I that I now consume an average of ONE book a month, if that.
  • For the most part, my family did not buy books -- we borrowed books from the library. 
  • As an adult, I buy books and do not borrow books -- how times have changed!
  • As an adult, I now carry a veritable library of books with me and I add to that library if the whim strikes me (Kindle and iPad have changed my world).
  • I have tried to be truthful here -- these are the books that I remember with fondness, they are not the books that I think it would be good if I said I had read during this phase (aka, I confess that I did not read War and Peace until much later in life).
  • I have memories of trolling those stacks, memories of that little library card with MY NAME on it and how independent that made me feel.
  • I have memories of parents who placed no boundaries on what I could read and for that I am very, very grateful for they essentially were placing no boundaries on what I could think because they allowed me to be informed not only by what they thought I should learn but also by what I chose to learn through the books that I chose to read.
So, here are the titles and authors that have stuck with me over the years (and apologies that I link the majority of these to Amazon rather than a public library -- simplest way to link you to more information and I am pretty certain that MOST books on this list are non-controversial and would be available in your public library):
Quiet Seas
This is just the top of the mind list of the the books or authors that form my memories of that public library when it comes to the recreational reading of my youth.  They are emblematic of 100s of books that I carefully placed in the basket of my bike and ferried home where I would then proceed to consume them -- just like I would consume a bag of candy corn or orange slice gum drops.  They are the books that kept me up at night and caused many a parentally arbitrated (adult word) disagreement with my sister with whom I shared a room over just HOW late that light would be on.

I am sure there are other books and plays buried somewhere in the vast filing cabinet that is my brain (a filing cabinet that I will never claim to understand nor even particularly want to).   Books from four years as an English major at a liberal arts college, books from the years of limiting my reading to the "great dead authors", books from a long ago book club (my one assignment to the group -- Iron John -- is likely worthy of another blog post if I have the courage), books from the current run of escapist literature.  Books upon books upon books.  Books that I've chronicled in other posts here that informed my growth into knowing something in my heart as opposed to in my head.
Old Church (Big Island)

During those early public library years, I was fairly indiscriminate in my choices (the books were free after all) but I was committed to finishing a book if I had started it no matter whether I liked it or not.  These days, and perhaps this is the sign of an older, more pressed for time reader, I will abandon a book if it is not "grabbing my attention."  More freeing, I have returned to the days of reading that are exemplified by this little list o' mine.   I gravitate towards what makes me want more of the story and not towards what I think (or others think) I should be reading.  I've returned to the idea of of books as a great escape as opposed to an opportunity to learn.

I am grateful to have grown up in a town that had a robust public library -- it nurtured my curiosity, my imagination, my recognition that the world was larger than me.  I am rooting that public libraries (where books and thoughts are free to all comers) will survive this era of eBooks and Web content.  They truly are a resource that we need to protect.

Libraries -- and librarians -- I salute you.

Simply Lovely (Hawaii)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dancing in the Dark: Bruce Springsteen

Dwarf Iris (Shakespeare's Garden)
Call me fickle, but I have moved on from Freddie Couples to Bruce Springsteen.  Sadly, I was slow on the uptake for tickets to the Wrecking Ball Tour (currently in full swing tonight at Madison Square Garden).  Sometimes the Internet giveth (floor seats at MSG for one concert) and sometimes it taketh away (locked out of EVERY show in this area for Wrecking Ball).  So, I'll live vicariously through my friends' tweets and posts on this go around.

I well remember the first time I heard Springsteen in a way that made me pay attention.  Vinyl.  College. Good friend Geoff.  Asbury Park.  It was the kind of day where you flung your dorm windows open and blasted music.  Blast away we did and I was a convert.

My first concert was at the OLD Giants Stadium in 1984 -- Born in the USA.  And, we were born to rock with Bruce.  We had delayed our departure for vacation in order to seek out tickets at the Ticketron in Middletown, CT -- driving South and away from Cape Cod.  All in search of the elusive ticket to a Springsteen concert.  I forget the name of the department store on Main Street in Middletown that housed that Ticketron but we were in heaven when we saw the very short line.  In front of us were some New Jersey kids that had been driving all day and stopping at every outlet along the way.  They scored and we scored.  My friend Jodi was a bit irritated with us when we arrived in Boston that night -- this was before cell phones -- some two hours late.  I like to think she was worried but now am wondering if it was because we did not think to buy a ticket for her.  Food for thought.

We drove to Giants Stadium and back in one day for that concert and all went to work the following day.  We were young.  We were energized by the BOSS.  It was a great concert and a good time with good friends.  And man, could that guy perform -- multiple encores -- he still does that to this day (as an aside).  Of course, there is no forgetting a young Courtney Cox in the Dancing with the Dark video that was released with the album.  Ahh, how we dreamed that we were Courtney and it was us that Bruce pulled out of the audience for that dance:

There are other memories of that time and that album.  It was filled with anthems that just made us want to bust a move on the dance floor and so we did.  We could be found dancing in the dark -- from Cape Cod where we celebrated scoring those tickets to many a club in our then hometown of Hartford, CT.  I've lost touch with most of those friends from long ago -- life moves on, we change, our paths diverge but the memories of the dancing and the laughter remain.

These days, I feel like Bruce has grown up right along with me.  He's a little older and a lot wiser.  He can still bust a mean move on tour and gives his all to every concert.  Even better, he has built a repertoire over the years that tells of dark days while retaining some hope for the future.  At the last concert I saw (in 2009 -- a part of his last stand at the old Giants Stadium) -- he did a reprise of his Courtney Cox video, pulling a woman out of the audience to dance with him.  I suspect it was his Mom but am not 100% sure.  He's dancing with Mom this year though --

I love that he is still rocking out and love that he is dancing with Mom when in this neck of the woods.  Most of all, these many years later, I still love Bruce.

I may just have to channel my inner 20-something and do a little dancing in the dark tonight.

Easter Island Vortex