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Archive for the tag “Celebration”

celebrating the senses: vision

eyeThe human brain processes around 11,000,000 bits of information at a time, of which we are only consciously aware of about 40. The vast majority of those 11,000,000 bits of information are related to vision. As John Medina says in Brain Rules:

Visual processing doesn’t just assist in the perception of our world. It dominates the perception of our world.

The things that are in our visual field, whether we’re aware of them or not, have an effect on us. I really became aware of that two years ago when I went through my living space from top to bottom to get rid of all the things I was no longer using. In the course of decluttering, I decided to make my space as cheerful and visually appealing (to me) as possible.

sunNow I have plenty of colorful things I enjoy looking at, including the sunflakes in my windows, the bright things in my office, and the two dozen pieces of talavera pottery in various locations. Most of the talavera critters are on the walls: frogs, geckos, salamanders, birds, and turtles. There’s a roadrunner (the New Mexico state bird) looking out the window of my office, a sun over the stove in the kitchen, a mushroom on top of a bookshelf, and several flower pots full of ivy.

My favorite color is red, so that’s the accent color in my kitchen. The pottery on the mantel over the fireplace belonged to my partner, and looking at it frequently reminds me of him, as does looking at the two stunning 4’x4’ paintings he created, one in the office and one in the living room. Of course, what I enjoy looking at the most in my apartment is my cat, Naima.

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Photo Source: TripAdvisor.com

Then there’s the great outdoors, which is what attracted me to the southwest. It’s hard to describe the nature of the light here, but it’s unlike the light in either Michigan or California. The sunsets can be spectacular. The clouds are different, too, or so it seems. And the Sandia mountains that always let you know which direction is east aren’t just a great place for hiking, they’re amazing and beautiful, especially when the setting sun turns them watermelon-colored. The picture above does not lie!

cranesfallI love to look at all the trees and the wildflowers in this area, along with the roadrunners and occasional coyote. The cottonwood trees along the Rio Grande bosque turn into a magnificent golden canopy in the fall. And the migration of sandhill cranes to the Bosque del Apache in November is another sight to behold.

The world around me is full of both humdrum and wonder, all of it worth celebrating. I’m truly grateful for having the opportunity to see and appreciate it.

This post is the last of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

Thanks for sharing this brief journey with me.

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celebrating zentangle

zentangle1Zentangle, you say? What the heck is that?

The short and simple answer is that it’s a combination of meditation and doodling. Maybe it could have been called moodling, but I like zentangle better.

I will let the folks who created this process describe it.

Anything is Possible One Stroke at a Time

At first glance, a Zentangle creation can seem intricate and complicated. But, when you learn how it is done, you realize how simple it is . . . sort of like learning the secret behind a magic trick. Then, when you create a piece of Zentangle art, you realize how fun and engrossing the process itself is.

Zentangle uses “simple deliberate strokes which build on each other in beautiful, mesmerizing and surprising ways.” The tools of this art are few, simple, and portable. You need some black micron pens, a couple of blending tortillons, maybe a pencil or two, and a handful of 4.5″ x 4.5″ tiles to draw on.

Opening (2)Although you can get creative with color if you like, most zentangle art is done in black and white. Using different width pens, soft pencils, and the tortillon for shading gives a three-dimensional appearance while allowing you to focus on the patterns. I have a few colored pens, but so far I’ve only used the black ones.

Fortunately no artistic talent is required to engage in this activity. Since I already had a habit of doodling, zentangling just took it to the next level. Above and to the right are a couple of my attempts. The first is called opening and the second springing forth.

Springing Forth (2)The “tangle” in zentangle is the free-form outline you begin with. In the example above you can see the rectangular outline and the strong lines running through it. The design is created by filling in the open spaces.

The one on the right is a little more loopy.

The appeal of zentangle is that it’s very relaxing, even meditative. One of the few rules is “no erasing!” So if you make a so-called mistake, you simply incorporate it into your drawing. It’s sort of like life, which also doesn’t come equipped with an eraser.

My favorite way to zentangle is to get out my pattern books and my supplies, create my tangle on a tile, and decide which patterns I want to start with. I always like to try one or two new patterns. Music is a good accompaniment. So is a cup of hot tea or even a glass of wine.

If you haven’t heard of zentangle yet, you’ll be surprised to discover how many books, websites, and even videos are available to show you how to do it. Should you decide to try zentangling, be aware that it can be addicting. But I suspect we could all use more quiet, focused time in our lives, and zentangle can be used as a practice, the same way meditation and writing and walking are used.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating favorite places

PtReyes1As much as I love New Mexico, my favorite place is not here but in California, where I lived for 30 years. It’s Pt. Reyes National Seashore, 70,000 absolutely gorgeous acres of park land and nature preserve located in Marin County. I’ve said for decades that if anyone were to gift me with a small cottage in Bear Valley and transport me into it, I would happily remain there for the rest of my days.

PtReyes2Although I had easy access to many hiking areas including Mt. Tamalpais, Muir Woods, and the Marin Municipal Water District, Bear Valley trailhead in Pt. Reyes was my favorite. Just as Pino Trail at Elena Gallegos Park in Albuquerque is my current go-to trail, my go-to trail in Pt. Reyes was a loop that included Bear Valley trail to Old Pine to Sky to Mount Wittenberg and back to Bear Valley.

Pt.Reyes4There’s an area along Sky trail that steadily inclines as you get closer to Mount Wittenberg. The path is gravelly and out in the open. The best time to hike here is in the spring, because just at the point when the thought might cross your mind that this is not so much fun, you turn a corner and are faced with a brilliant display of bright orange poppies against the side of a hill that is guaranteed to stop you in your tracks to celebrate the moment and the fact that you’re alive.

PtReyes3I haven’t been back to Pt. Reyes in almost six years, but the place always feels like home to me. I’ve hiked there alone, with groups, with various friends, and most often with my partner, who died 10 years ago. He was much more of an outdoor person than I was when I met him shortly after I moved to California from the flat land of eastern Michigan. I can still remember purchasing my first pair of hiking boots. They cost about $35, which seemed like a lot of money in 1975, but I didn’t have to replace those boots until I moved to New Mexico.

Of course I miss Pt. Reyes and plan to visit it again, but I spent so much time there and have so many memories of my experiences in it that it doesn’t really matter if I ever get back. There’s a part of Pt. Reyes that’s inside me now and always will be.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating the enneagram

English: This is a colorful gradient version o...

  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s obvious to anyone who has been in the presence of a very young child—or even a baby—that we each come into the world predisposed to respond to it in our own way. Our basic temperament is part of us from the very beginning and usually doesn’t change significantly as we grow older.

The fact that we have such different temperaments has led to many systems of classifying people according to personalities. I’ve studied and used several of these systems, but the one that has held up over my 20 years of experience with it is the enneagram.

The enneagram is an apparently simple yet rich and complex system that reveals our strengths and weaknesses, our deeper-level motivations, and most importantly, the compulsions that often rule our lives. We move through this world under the impression we’re making authentic choices, but most of the time we’re just blindly following our compulsions, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome. We’re living our lives on autopilot; asleep at the wheel.

The nine points on the diagram represent nine core personality types, each of which has a unique perspective and approach to life. The theory behind the Enneagram is that we each polarize at one of the nine points. We then overdevelop the characteristics associated with that point, while leaving the characteristics associated with the other points undeveloped. So each point also represents a particular type of imbalance. Our core personality type doesn’t change over the course of a lifetime, but as we become aware of our imbalances, we gain the ability to moderate them. We are no longer ruled by them.

I’ve learned a great deal about myself and about other people as a result of studying the enneagram. It has helped me take myself and my foibles less seriously and to stop expecting other people to see things the same way I do. And that’s definitely cause for celebration!

There are at least 5 reasons to learn about the enneagram. You can read about them here.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating the senses: taste

raspberriesA friend and I had lunch at the Orchid Thai restaurant yesterday. I chose the Basil Fried Rice (with tofu), which I’ve enjoyed before. The tastes I like are the hot basil, bell peppers, green onions, tofu, and—most of all—the generous garnish of cilantro. I love cilantro. I love it so much that it also made it into my post on celebrating the sense of smell. As far as I’m concerned, cilantro pretty much makes any dish amazing.

Cilantro is one of my three favorite things to taste, the other two being ginger and raspberries. It’s not too difficult to pair cilantro and ginger, especially in stir-fry dishes or Chinese Chicken Salad. Chinese Chicken Salad has been off the menu for me since I became vegetarian a year and a half ago, but I recently discovered that Vinaigrette Restaurant has an Asian Chopped Salad that includes everything but the chicken.

Ginger and raspberries also make a great pairing. Fortunately for me, Heidi’s Raspberry Farm, located in the Village of Corrales north of Albuquerque, produces four varieties of raspberry jam, including one with ginger. Even better, another variety includes both ginger and red chile. Now that’s raspberry jam with an attitude—a delectable, sweet/savory, kick-ass (that’s the chile speaking) kind of attitude.

campariAmong the tastes I appreciate the most are very dark chocolate, dark roast coffee, strawberries, the occasional fresh baked scone, pink grapefruit juice, Campari, Campari and grapefruit juice, good (or even just decent) red wine, fresh basil, rosemary, blackberries picked from the bush, green chile, and the vinaigrette dressing I make with basil olive oil, grapefruit white balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard.

Since the taste buds are merely receptors that register sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, sourness, and umami (savory or meaty taste), we know it’s the brain that generates the variety and complexity of tastes we actually experience. We don’t know exactly how the brain does it, but imagine how boring it would be if it didn’t do it. What if everything tasted the same—or worse, had no taste at all?

There are so many things to eat and drink that both taste good and are good for us that we shouldn’t have to consume anything that isn’t a celebration of the sense of taste.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating sunflakes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA suncatcher by any other name would be a sunflake. That’s what the artist who creates them calls them, and I’m not about to argue with her. It all began with a yen to find a single suncatcher to hang in my kitchen window. I searched retail stores and art galleries off and on for well over a year. I also searched online for almost as long before I came across exactly what I was looking for. It’s the one on the lower left in the photo below. But as you can see, it has company.

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I wasn’t able to stop after getting just one sunflake. So I thought maybe I’d get another one or two for windows in the living room. Sunflake #2 is the fourth from the right.

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It turned out that I couldn’t stop with two, either—or with three or four or eight. I now have close to 24 sunflakes hanging in front of the windows in my apartment. The ones in my living room, including this beauty below, sparkle at the first light of day, while the array (above) in my dining room window glints and gleams as the rays of the afternoon sun cross its path. The three in the kitchen reflect the last of the bright light in late afternoon.

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Here you can see it with a couple of its bright companions.

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The source of these beauties is Amber Bechtol of Natural Curve Creations in Leander, Texas. After I’d ordered several pieces from Amber, I realized she was willing to customize the colors of her designs. Of the several pieces she customized for me, this is my favorite. The design is called Zephyr and the color choice is rainbow. So I have a rainbow Zephyr hanging in my kitchen window!

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Although I wondered if I was going a little overboard while building this collection, I have to say I have never regretted acquiring any of them. I notice and appreciate them every single day. Each one is a celebration of light, color, artistry, and joy.

Thank you, Amber!

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating making a difference

animalhumaneOrganizations that make a difference in the community deserve to be celebrated every day of the year. There are two organizations in Albuquerque that I want to give a figurative high five to. My involvement with them has been on a small scale, rather than a large one, but the effect they have on people—and pets—is huge.

Albuquerque Reads

albreadsI participated for a few years in this program that operates in three local schools, pairing adults with kindergarten students to give them 30 minutes of individual attention several days a week. According to the Albuquerque Reads website:

During Albuquerque Reads operations the students have achieved impressive gains in reading levels. Typically at the beginning of the school year, fewer than 5% of the students enrolled were reading at or above grade level. Just nine months later, and with the help of Albuquerque Reads: 70% were reading at or above grade level, and another 20% were reading almost at grade level.

I really enjoyed Wednesday mornings at Bel Air School with Shan Diin, Shayla, Curtis, Patrick, and Dominic, the mischievous one, who was definitely my favorite. I got to read so many, many books. I was familiar with a few of them from my long-ago stint in the Children’s Room of the Bay City Public Library. But I also encountered many new books, such as Jonathan London’s Froggy series. We read Froggy Eats Out, Froggy’s Sleepover, and Froggy’s Baby Sister, but I think the supply of Froggy books extends far beyond those three.

The refrigerator art our students gifted us with on holidays was definitely appreciated and cherished long after the end of each school year.

Animal Humane New Mexico

animal humaneNaima the Wonderful, my most favorite of all the cats I’ve had, came from Animal Humane. That’s enough reason for me to celebrate this organization.

But they are amazing for all of the things they do, such as:

  • The donor subsidized veterinary clinic that provides low-cost services to low-income pet owners.
  • Cats-around-town, their off-site adoption program that allows people to encounter adoptable pets in locations all over Albuquerque.
  • The many training classes, behavior seminars, and workshops that are offered to pet owners to help insure they have successful relationships with their dogs or cats.
  • The internet cat video festival that offers a cash prize of $250 for the best cat video submitted.

animalhumane2Animal Humane New Mexico accepts animals from other shelters around the state, and the staff and volunteers do a fantastic job in terms taking care of the animals’ health needs and in training and socializing them. Both the pets and the pet lovers of Albuquerque are fortunate to have Animal Humane New Mexico in the community.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating public art

public art1No matter what part of Albuquerque you travel through, you’re bound to encounter one or more of the 800 works of public art scattered across the city. Many of them are the result of Albuquerque’s 1978 Art in Municipal Places Program, which sets aside 1% of City construction funds for the purchase or commission of works of art.

Whether you love or hate individual pieces, you can’t deny that all of these sculptures, murals, and colorful mosaics add immeasurably to the sense of place.

I particularly enjoy the gorgeous mosaics that decorate the entrance to my local library as well as the downtown Convention Center. This (below) is one portion of the Juan Tabo Public Library facade.

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Here are a few more. Which ones do you like best?

GE

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public art5

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating waking up

breathing (2)


the worm’s waking

Rumi

this is how a human being can change:

there’s a worm addicted to eating
grape leaves.

Suddenly, he wakes up,
call it grace, whatever, something
wakes him, and he’s no longer
a worm.

He’s the entire vineyard,
and the orchard too, the fruit, the trunks,
a growing wisdom and joy
that doesn’t need
to devour.


throw yourself like seed

Miguel de Unamuno

Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
Sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
That brushes your heel as it turns going by.
The man who wants to live is the man in whom life is abundant.

Now you are only giving food to that final pain
Which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
But to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
Is the work; start there, turn to the work.

Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,
Don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it to death,
And do not let the past weigh down your motion.

Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead in yourself,
For life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
From your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.


95

e.e. cummings

if up’s a word; and a world grows greener
minute by second and most by more–
if death is the loser and life is the winner
(and beggars are rich but misers are poor)
–let’s touch the sky:
with a to and a fro
(and a here there where)and away we go.

in even the laziest creature among us
a wisdom no knowledge can kill is astir–
now dull eyes are keen and now keen eyes are keener
(for young is the year,for young is the year)
–let’s touch the sky:
with a great(and a gay
and a steep)deep rush through amazing day

it’s brains without hearts have set saint against sinner;
put again over gladness and joy under care–
let’s do as an earth which can never do wrong does
(minute by second and most by more)
–let’s touch the sky:
with a strange(and a true)
and a climbing fall into far near blue

if beggars are rich(and a robin will sing his
robin a song)but misers are poor–
let’s love until noone could quite be(and young is
the year,dear)as living as i’m and as you’re
–let’s touch the sky:
with a you and a me
and an every(who’s any who’s some)one who’s we


This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating the senses: touch

repotting plantsThe skin that covers and protects our body is full of sensory receptors that feed information to the brain, helping us stay alive and making it possible for us to function in the world. We’re physical beings in a physical environment, so we’re constantly touching and being touched even though we may not always be aware of the sensations. Physical contact with others is important to our sense of well-being and social connection—not to mention continuation of the species.

Physical contact also feels good. I’ve just started getting massages again after an absence so long that I can’t remember the last one. I think it was some time in California in the 90s. I don’t have a strong recollection of any particular massage therapist or massage experience, which is probably why I hadn’t made any effort to find someone in New Mexico. Not that I couldn’t have used some help with the chronic tightness in my neck and shoulders.

kelly forrestFortunately I met Kelly Forrest, a skilled and talented massage therapist, several months ago and finally made an appointment with her in March. When I discovered she has magic hands, I had to wonder why in the world I had waited months to make that first appointment. So today, along with the sense of touch, I’m celebrating the happy end to the massage drought in my life!

The first massage Kelly gave me was the best I’ve ever had. So was the second one, which I got today. (I predict all the massages I receive from her will be the best I’ve ever had.) Besides being excellent at what she does, she’s also very friendly and approachable, and the environment she’s created in her new office space offers her clients an immediate sense of comfort and relaxation.

Yay, Kelly! Yes, massage works (and Massage Works is the name of her business). Thank you, so much.

Here are a few other things I enjoy the feel of:

  • The warm sun on my skin
  • My cat’s paw tapping my cheek to get my attention
  • A light breeze on a hot day
  • Hugs
  • Clean sheets
  • Flannel and fleece in the winter
  • My bare feet in sandals
  • Tending to my indoor plants
  • A book in my hands
  • Writing with a favorite pen

What’s on your list?

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

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