Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Upside of Early

This morning, I was wide awake at 5:30 and after lying in bed unable to fall back to sleep, I decided to get up and seize the wee hours of a Los Angeles weekend. Considering our population and what it usually means for a commute anywhere, there really is nothing like hitting the 101 this bright and early. My destination: the Los Angeles Flower District.

Located in downtown, this is one of the largest wholesale flower markets in the United States. And it was breathtaking. Literally every kind of flower you could imagine to the point where it was hard to choose which ones to take home. Some had the names of the flora on white cards floating above and I tried to memorize the names: celosia, amaranthus, cymbidiums. I imagined how I would create bouquets and table arrangements from some, studying the shape and the stems from a respectful distance. The vendors all greeted me with kindness in spite of their early hours. Then again, waking up to work in a room full of the most beautiful objects on the world, like movie stars flown overnight from far off destinations, couldn't be a very bad way to start your day. The smell of each little bloom waking up and releasing its scent into the air made the sensory experience even more intoxicating.

I stopped at one vendor to seek out another vase after my first Ikebana class, and was met by a Japanese woman who shared her appreciation for the art. She told me that in Japanese homes, because they are much smaller, you really only see a bouquet from one side, and said that being in a kimono and doing Ikebana is one of the most wonderful parts of life. She gave me a much appreciated discount and we exchanged an "Arigato gozaimasu."

Some of the flowers I found to be interesting for their color and versatility, especially for this time of year were:

Ornamental millet (Pennisetum glaucum 'Jade Princess'): Having the shape of a cattail, this fluffy chocolate brown flower seemed masculine and very seasonal. They are noted for their hardiness and eventually get darker and darker to almost black.

Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi): I loved these when I worked at a flower shop before and with their bright orange hue, they definitely stand out. They almost look like little toys, last a long time and work well for dried arrangements too.

Branch of Persimmons ((Diospyros kaki): This variety looks like a bunch of miniature pumpkins on a stem. I might be back for these closer to Halloween.

Chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus): Another great fall flower and great if you want an arrangement that's more masculine. An added bonus: late in the day they actually start to smell like chocolate. But please, don't eat them.

I really think there is a floral designer in all of us and while the market and variety were a bit intimidating, I doubt any flower shop would be able to offer the prices and freshness you can get with an early morning adventure to your own local flower or Farmers market.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My first attempt at Ikebana. There is such a beautiful artistic method and sort of meditation to creating these arrangements. The display honors the design and space surrounding each flower or plant instead of the color explosion known more frequently here in the West. Our Sensai, Hisako Shohara, instructed us in the "Rising Form" beginning with the placement of the subject, the tallest and most primary flower, the object, which is the second one placed near the front at a 45 degree angle, and the filler. Each element is cut and placed to give support to the subject, but they all stand alone. Although there are certain guidelines for this art form, none of those created in class looked alike.

I really loved the way Ikebana let each flower truly be seen. The harmony and sentiment behind letting each stand on its own form and beauty was akin to how I hope all my friends and family feel. We aren't just roses and babies breath shoved in a vase; we each bring something unique and breath-taking, supporting one another and honoring the beautiful space we fill together. It isn't just our blooms that are worth seeing, but our stems, backsides, the shape we take as we grow and the way we bend and form throughout life that adds depth and grace to what we make together.

On a humorous note: Kaz pointed out that in the film "Lost in Translation" Scarlett Johansson's character, Charlotte, begins studying Ikebana to ease her boredom while her husband is at work and where she contemplates leaving him. After one class, I am only inspired to leave Kaz early enough in the morning to check out the downtown flower market.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.

~Joseph Campbell

Thursday, July 30, 2009

In my quest to figure out what life is all about, I've stumbled on a number of websites, books, e-books and mentors that all have great advice for how to live the good life. So my most recent adventures have been one, incorporating more raw foods into my diet and two, finding common ways to do silly but meaningful things.

Incorporating raw foods has been quite a challenge. I started looking into this method of eating close to the New Year, perhaps spurned on by some crazy resolution. From what I was reading it all made sense, but the idea of giving up cooked food seemed crazy. Cue Steve Pavlina, a guy who gave the full-on fruitarian raw diet a test drive for thirty days and documented every craving, bolt of euphoria and calorie counting conundrum he could. A few weeks ago, I made my first raw strawberry pie for a dinner party. Everyone in the group was fairly health conscious, but when I mentioned I'd made a raw pie, they wondered if I hadn't cooked the dough, or what exactly it entailed. Simply put, it was raw almonds and dates put through a food processor and pressed into a pie pan, then strawberries, more dates, a bit of lemon and alcohol-free vanilla for the filling. Voila!! It was delicious, giggle-inducing for it's simplicity and nutritiousness and no one felt bad about having seconds on dessert. Kaz and I even had some for breakfast the next day. I still waiver between cooked and raw food, trying to find ways to make it a way to stay full while not being limited to just all salads and fruit plates, but I've ordered a few rawbooks (not cookbooks, obviously) and hope to see what I can come up with. Perhaps raw raviolo, cheesesticks, sorbet?

The second thing is doing small things for the intention of doing something good.

"Buddhists assert that saving the lives of animals that are doomed to be killed increases ones lifespan, protects from certain illnesses and helps to remove obstacles in your life."

My friend Caroline is remarkable for giving her time to protecting abandoned and abused animals back home, as are numerous animal lovers in my life. So in my well-intentioned silliness, I purchased crickets from a pet store that would most likely have been devoured by someone's lizard, and took them to a park to roam free. There is a superstition that finding a cricket in your house is good luck so I sent my crickets out hoping that they'd bring good fortune back to some people in the world.

I've also started on a path of No Complaints. If you go to, you can get a small glimpse of what a huge difference this sort of commitment can make. My hope is to go 21 days without complaining, criticizing or gossiping so that I break the habit of it altogether. So far, I've made it a day and a half, but I will keep trying until I get there. To be honest, I think some have come to expect that sort of thing from me. One night while doing this, Kaz asked how my day was. My answer was positive, saying we were planning a birthday party for two coworkers and things like that. At the end, he replied "And what else?" For me to not complain about work made it seem like I was leaving something out. It's a big step to try to not say the first negative thing that comes to mind, especially because I have become good at framing them in a way that is somewhat comical, however, I've realized it's not good for the people I'm talking to. A couple people have decided to join me on this challenge, others have simply stated, "I'm going to take the low road and keep complaining." Fair enough.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

This is not mine... just came across it today and thought, based on the upper part of my page, I'd put it on here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

This weekend we made our way to Switzer Falls, and to the tree that he had carved our initials into over a month ago. Having navigated the stepping stones across the creek bed and around gnarled roots draped across the forest floor, we walked straight to the place where our tree nestled at the edge of the water. A quartet of boulders created an unending cadence where the water dropped down and around them. Of all the trees, all the myriad curves and breaks in the path, stones and nature rocking and changing, this became our place. The exposed trunk where the bark was cut away was brighter and more vivid. The angles he had cut with a lockless key had become more refined and smooth, to where the individual strokes had become a fluid line. A heart, slightly imperfect, but ever-changing, growing closer to heaven and becoming a part of something bigger than itself.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

For my writing group, we have to bring a six word story. Ha!! This could be interesting.

Ernest Hemingway's example, which will be hard to top is:

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

Ack!! Alright, here I go.

She let tears stain the letter.

He'd forgotten his only friend's number.

The lipstick would not come out.

He chose his liquor over family.

She bought epicac for the office.

I'll let you know how it goes on Monday night...

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, May 03, 2009

      She couldn’t believe it was finally over. Her skirt was rent and tattered, the skin on her upper thigh seeping blood, but it was a sign that she survived. The pain of her flesh tearing as she had ascended the final threshold in to the park had nearly made her faint. So much adrenaline coursing through her veins; she must keep a hold of her thoughts. She took in the area around the fence, the chain-link division between the pristine, empty park and the overgrown, blanched land leading to the bridge that straddled the river. She squatted to wipe her hands across the damp lawn then crawled to inspect the fence for evidence of her reprehensible acts. Little bits of skin and auburn hair were entangled in the metal web and she pulled her sleeve over her hand to remove them and tuck them into her satchel. She hid under a solitary tree to plan her next move. Her chest heaved quick smoke signals into the branches of the tree, pulsing “I live, I live.” She felt wary cowering under that tree. Victims cowered. Those with something to hide cowered. She didn’t want to remember herself that way, to attach that title to her sense of self ever again.
      The sounds of pulsing brakes and angry car horns in the distance snapped her from her trance. The early morning hours in the city park provided more solitude than any other time of day. People’s minds were muddled as they frantically rushed to work, scrambling to coffee shops, cursing their employers, the streetlights, their fellows. She was satisfied that the curtain of daybreak had shut out what she’d done. She walked slowly away from the overpass, from the debris and filth that were trapped in the catacombs of its industrial structure. She made her way through the park following a well-trafficked foot path that would lead her to the bus station. Taking in the sights and sounds of the dawn, she perceived from a distance the fragile complexity of the bridge’s architecture, the sweeping lines that cut through the morning sky like a switchblade. Flaxen sticks of dying summer brush crowded its foundation. The steel girders swayed and groaned in the wind, its brittle cables threatening to snap and throw all those traversing its spine into the water below. Everything seemed violent and beautiful. There was a justification for the way of things, a unity to the man-made fabrication and the power of the nature it sought to sequester. She had an urgent desire to see herself through this altered precept.
      Up ahead was a public lavatory where she could arrange herself before leaving the park. She threw open the door and stopped, silent. The fluorescent lights flickered on and hummed, and the grimy mirrors concealed any reflection of what might have crawled into the room overnight. There existed the chance of encountering another, some person inside that was not well, that would coerce her, hurt her. She couldn’t stand the idea of being inside a room that she might never escape. She stepped cautiously back, fearing she’d wake whatever lurked inside that would draw her in, and darted into a glade surrounded by Maples and Sycamores, the cold trapped by the overgrowth making her shudder, the shreds of her shirt letting damp air pass onto her skin. She stopped at a park bench and huddled into herself to once again survey the damage to her thigh. The blood had run the length of her leg and was down into her shoe. She remembered the stepsisters of Cinderella, the morbid vision of the girls slicing their feet to fit into the glass slipper, fitting in at any cost. She wet her finger with her tongue and cleaned up the visible part of the crimson trail that traveled down her leg.
      The trees grew sparse on one side and revealed a part of the river that had eroded its way into the park. The bend in the water was wide and replaced the frantic rapids of the narrower course with a trance-like movement. The glassy plane was interrupted only by flitting insects and small, swirling eddies dancing for a moment on the surface and disappearing again. This water was further north, just making its way to where it would come across her malefaction. It had no idea what she was capable of, and she trusted its innocence would not mar her visage.
      She made her way down to the edge of the water, over fallen tree trunks and onto a small sandy bank. She dug her feet into the darkened earth, creating a whirlpool of sediment around her legs. The water was colder than she’d imagined, and its hypothermic temperature brought her mind to the acuteness of the present moment. The hair stood up on her legs, and she felt her body heat pulled away by the river. Bending down towards the reflective surface, she could see her face surrounded by the approaching light of dawn. Her hair fell in wisps around her face, reaching towards the coolness of the waters rushing by. She saw it in her eyes first. The darkness was gone. The question that had lingered behind her gaze was no longer there. The light of daybreak and the light of her eyes was the same. The bruise on her cheek was fading, and her lip was now only swollen rather than cut open. She reached into the river and felt the tickle of the water moving like the rush of morning commuters around her fingertips. The colors of her battered face stained the tips of the ripples and danced away.
      An autumn leaf, changed and made more vibrant by the coolness of the season, floated gently into her hand, and nestled there, clinging to her shivering palm. She closed her hands around it and stood up, pulling the petal to her heart. Without warning, her breath stopped, and the pain of her past wrapped itself around her throat like murderous hands, constricting her life and making her submissive again. She wanted to scream, but her voice was no longer hers. She opened her hand and saw the crumpled, wet blade like a drop of blood against her pale skin. She grabbed it with her fingertips and tore away at each papery fragment between the veins, dropping them one by one back into the river, until she was left with the solitary petiole. It rested in her palm, like the needle of a compass, bisecting her lifeline. She lowered her arms down and let the quill vanish somewhere on the river’s edge, then turned to walk back up the river bank. She didn’t look again at the river, at the southbound tributary leading to the briny sea. The water seemed so common and it made her feel the same. She couldn’t linger on something so eager to be lost in the vastness of the obscure deep.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I woke up reaching for my pen and paper. I could tell the morning sky was gray; the cold, maritime scent creeping through the half-opened window, the lone warbling of a bird outside. Sunshine would have brought about a chorus of chirps but only a solitary twitter could be heard from my bed. I could see the little life in my head, a plump brown and black body bouncing on a spring switch, calling to his mates to join him on the dewy, green limb. I lay there, listening to the man beside me, the sleepiness rising up from his warm limbs tempting me to slumber. His arm found its way around my shoulder and wrapped me down under it, an unconscious gesture to not disturb either of our reveries. The words of this story bounced around in my head and I tried to hold them in tight while my eyes fell shut, hoping they’d be waiting for me on the other side. There was more to this, and fortunately some stragglers stuck about to be remembered here. Others flew away, as they are wont to do, like little birds.

Artwork by Kimball Davis

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This was inspired by two people that came in my office today...

       The woman is rolled in by her son. At this age, they don’t seem to look much different in age, save for the fact that she’s been reduced to being shuttled around in a wheelchair. His hair is gray, while hers is styled and coiffed into a blond helmet. He wears a flannel shirt like a working man, while she sports a leopard print sweater, a Coach purse, and gold bangles on her ears, wrists and fingers. She is all glam except for the shoes. They’re sensible, flat, tread-worthy. They Velcro rather than snap or slide on. There’s no elegant Ferragamo to shoe the swollen, water-logged foot of the wealthy invalid. Her fingernails are filed and polished, and most likely her toes bear the same, but a peep-toe pump is out of the question. Her clothes and skin emit enough perfume to remind anyone that she was there even when twenty minutes have passed. That same sweater, leopard printed, gilded, has been sprayed with her signature perfume for ten years now. She only wears it on cool Los Angeles days, days that used to be hard to come by when she was overrun with hot flashes and sweats. Now, she’s cold, all the time cold. The floor, the air, even the edges of her glasses as they find the nook on her nose and make more of the kidney shaped pink burrows on either side of her bridge.
       Her arthritic bones seem prone to splinter in weather like this. She turns in on herself to hold her heat, and people often wonder if she’s fallen asleep or just moved on… She hates the hump on her back, the fact that she sees more of the floor than her children’s faces. They’re all above her again. She tries to track their movements, but her neck aches as she turns to see them. They speak above her, words she should know, but nothing comes through. She wished for youth for so long, and now she’s gotten it. Pushed around like a babe by a man who reminds her of her own father. She was happy when he was born with eyes like her dad’s, deep, compassionate, wet brown stones in the pudgy, red face of her little boy. She wondered if his eyes still looked the same, but failing sight and limited mobility had robbed her of the chance to look her boy in the face. She saw his hands when he stood beside her, lying limp at his sides, the veins and tendons protruding under his thickened skin. His shoes looked scuffed and too young for a man his age, similar shoes to what she’d tied on his feet when he went to basketball camp years before. She saw the spots on his skin and worried over his health, the loss of muscle in his thighs and she wondered how long he’d have the strength to push her to and from the places he insisted she go.
       Her son responded to every ache and pain she mentioned to him, assuming the worst. For her, it was just the day to day events she had to talk about, and she didn’t give them much thought until he came through her door with that concerned look on his face. She’d made mental notes to not tell him her complaints when he came over, but the note probably got lost in the pile next to her big button phone, and she’d be there pouring out the despair of old age and loneliness, and he’d tend to her and say he’d stop by more. It was all she really needed. Being old and sick made her feel young and social again. She knew if she could just skip these appointments, she’d finally be able to rest enough to feel better. He’d do his duty as a son, going in late to work to get her ready and to the doctor. The getting up early and seeing the exasperation in her son’s eyes as she rifled through her purse looking for keys he had copies of, her glasses and some spare tissues, upset her. She’d sit in the waiting room with the other sick and dying, examining the tacky carpet they’d installed, listening to her son make small talk with the receptionists. He’d listen and nod, trying to conceal his concern as the doctor’s pronounced a death sentence through a fixed smile and glazed eyes. He assumed his mother was too far gone to comprehend the direness of her situation, the subtle message of doom behind the doctor’s words. She’d sigh and shift in her seat, he presumed from boredom, but she was annoyed that the medical professionals were filling her boy’s head with dread about her condition. She should have toughened him up more as a boy, but she fell in love with the whimsical little sprite that had emerged in their home, and kept him from really becoming a man. It was her own fault, and she prayed that his fragile nature might bring about his sepulcher first so he’d be saved from the devastation of going through her death. They both fought for the other’s life, believing they alone could bear the loss more than the other.