Thursday, June 30, 2005

Costa Rican Memoir #2, Part 4 (finale)

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Our breakfast done, we realized that we had missed the object of our journey. The sea turtles had come and gone, and we would witness nothing of their miraculous sojourn. All that was left for us was to find the airstrip where we would make our rendezvous with the plane that was scheduled to return us to San José. The locals assured us that it was just up the beach a little way....

So off we went in search of this mythical construction.

Now the beach was hot. The day was hot. The sun was HOT. And before long we were all roasting. And progress forward in shifting sand is really hard to calculate.... it always seems like you've traveled farther than you have (or, at least, worked a Hell of a lot harder to get there!). As to an airstrip, we really didn't even know what it would look like. So after a time we discovered a path that led into the jungle away from the beach. Perhaps this was the way to the airstrip? Mr. G. and I were assigned to investigate. All we found was an abandoned thatch hut and lots of mosquitoes. Upon returning to the beach we also found Mr. M. splashing about naked in the surf, while our womenfolk huddled like (reverse) musk oxen in a circle of embarrassment. Ms. Y. (the unofficial leader in all things) explained how Mr. M. just took off his clothes and jumped into the surf! As if this was some abomination before the Lord. And I ached to have the freedom of spirit to join him, as the sweat poured down my back, and I itched insect bites on my neck and wrists....

Once Mr. M. had dressed and rejoined us, we all continued our trek up the beach. After what seemed like forever we suddenly noticed a thong clad, burly man swimming in the surf. We engaged his help and he explained that we were, in fact, standing in the middle of the airstrip. Who knew? It was just more shifting sand. And, MORE importantly, where was our plane?

He offered to take us to a phone. A phone?! And with this we followed him down another trail off of the beach. No sooner had we left the pristine seacoast than we entered the world of “Fantasy Island”. The rustic trail became bamboo paved with tethered tropical birds lining the pathway near the entrance to the resort. It even included a quaint little bridge into this tropical lodge. At its entrance, an American researcher from some university who was assigned to study the habits of the sea turtles greeted us. When not on duty, he apparently spent his free time resting in a hammock, enjoying some sweet cocktail and the company of local women -- to quote Billie Holliday, “good work, if you can get it!” He graciously directed us to the pay phone in the resort's bar/dance hall.

As it turned out, this was a luxury get away resort for sports fisherman. None of whom were currently in residence.

A phone call to the airport in Alejuela revealed that the central valley was experiencing a tremendous storm, and the pilot assigned to meet us refused to take off in such conditions. What to do? And then the airport contact announced that there was a pilot willing to come, if we really wanted him to. And so we ignorantly said, “Yes.” Having no idea how bad things were. It was only hot at “Fantasy Island.”

The plane arrived and we boarded, bidding Mr. M. “good-bye.” It was a six-passenger thing, at best, with me sitting in the co-pilot's seat. The take off was like driving over a washboard, but we ended up in the air. At first, the vista was awesome: the inter-coastal waterway that we had so recently traveled along, the Caribbean Sea coastline, the broad inland rain forest.... but there loomed before us the central mountains. OR, there should have been such mountains, and instead there was only dark, billowing, foreboding clouds. At this point, I made a strategic decision. I was sun baked, dehydrated, exhausted, and so, “What the Hell?” I snuggled down in the plane's co-pilot's seat just as it began to be buffeted by the storm front's shifting wind forces, and I actually fell asleep. Sleeping seems like a great way to experience death, no?

My friends long chastised me for this, unable to understand how I could behave so calmly in the face of the present danger. When recounting the adventure to my supervisor at school on the following Monday, she was equally exasperated by my (and by extension our) irresponsibility. The storms were really bad. There were small planes like ours that did not make it through (Her husband was a pilot for the national airline "Lacsa," and he refused to fly into this front.)

But we did (Well, our crazy pilot did!). And we made it back to San José in one piece, albeit roasted, with new perspectives on our world and ourselves.

Costa Rican Memoir #2, part 3

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
At just before 4 AM we awoke -- anything BUT bright eyed and bushy tailed! Mr. M. asked to join us, and we added him to the shared cost of the long boat, the captain of which was waiting for us down by the little dock on the inter-coastal side of the strip of land upon which Tortuguero resided. We boarded and sat two by two. It was still dark and the world was so mysterious and calm. Then our captain fired the outboard motor and we were on our way.

The journey took about 3 hours, and all along the way the deep darkness of the night was slowly illumined by the rising sun. Much of the previous day's journey had taken place in narrow, man-made canals, but this leg of the journey was on a broader, natural waterway. The surface was like polished glass and the wake of our boat the only disturbance to its perfect reflection of the jungles on both sides. I remember the flight of a great blue heron, disturbed from it's rest by our noisy motor; it paralleled our boat for quite some distance skirting the edge of the verdant jungle until a wider pool of water gave us each room to take leave of one another without fear. We made the journey in relative silence. It was no doubt a combination of our awe and sleep deprivation! But it worked. This was a world best experienced in the silence of our own hearts.

When he arrived the sun was fairly well on its way to its mid-morning station. We were greeted by a family who offered to provide us with breakfast for a price, and we agreed. They had a little screened in patio with a couple of tables in it for this purpose, and we entered to discover another couple from the states who were already enjoying their morning repast. The fare was almost identical to our dinner the night before (and for about .50¢ a person, no one complained!)

The one addition was biscuits. And while we ate on plastic plates, the butter arrived on a substantial and lovely pewter butter dish with cover. Mr. M. and I sat adjacent to one another. As it turned out, the other guests hailed from Denver, and so did Ms. B. of our party. So at the end of the meal the conversation took a turn toward their shared experiences of that city. I realized that the cover remained off of the butter and so grabbed it in order to recover the softening oleo. No sooner had I lifted the heavy metal cover from the table than I noticed something long, and hair-like extend itself from inside the cover. I turned it over to reveal a HUGE cockroach whose antennae had caught my attention. After showing it to Mr. M.,on the sly, I gentle replaced the cover (mammoth insect included) on the butter dish. Clearly the creature had been there from the beginning, and everyone had placed some butter on his or her biscuits. So what would have been the point in sharing my discovery with the entire group? To create bedlam? It's a secret that Mr. M. and I have kept, low these many years....and no one died, no one even became ill. Discretion can really be the better part of valor. Believe it. And I promise to wrap this memory up in the next post.

Costa Rican Memoir #2, part 2

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Once in the coastal village of Tortuguero, we disembarked and took stock. We knew we needed a meal and a place to stay, but we where not organized in our approach to securing this. The Belgian couples were, and so they secured the premiere room in the only house in the village with rooms for rent on the night of our arrival, and we were happy to let the other one. It held a twin and a double bed. So of our party of five, I shared the twin with a visitor from Ohio named Mr. G, and the three women slept on the double. Not beds in the formal sense of the world, more just lumpy mattresses suspended on frames just slightly above the floor.

As the evening continued, Mr. M. and his traveling companion, who was from Spain, Mr. P., joined us in this little room, sleeping on the floor. There was just enough room for one between the beds and one perpendular across the foot of the beds. We must have looked like the proverbial can of sardines!

But before retiring for the evening, we (the now seven of us) took a simple meal with the family in the only other room of the home. (Note the picture is of this event) They fed us huevos con atun, arroz con pollo and an ensalada of cabbage and tomatoes. It was a typical meal, which, along with our lodging, cost each of us the princely sum of $1.50. We dined under the pulsating glow of a single naked light bulb, all electricity in the village supplied by a lone gas powered generator whose humming and moaning punctuated the night from somewhere else in the little hamlet.

Afterward, I left my (exhausted and ever practical) American friends and joined Mr. M. for a little exploring. First at the local dance hall -- a pavilion covered slab of concrete that offered rum and coke while the music of the day: Lionel Ritchie's “Dance the Night Away”, as I recall, competed with the generator. The fiesta continued until the gas ran out in the generator, and with a sudden gasp and a sputter, the lights flickered, the music wobbled, and then all was dark and quiet. Everyone simply said their good nights and dispersed.

Mr. M. and I retreated to the beach for a time. I do not recall that of which we spoke. I do remember the utter incredibility of the heavens! The universe never looked so full of stars, and earth never seemed so much a part of the whole infinite cosmos. No wonder the Mayans were obsessed with the night skies! As the Caribbean lapped methodically against the shore, the fact that we live on an improbable bubble of gas surrounding a speck of rock spinning around a spark in a sea sparks was mind-boggling to me. I'll never forget that night.

Before long, however, there was a glow in the east, and by midnight the moon's brilliant reflection appeared obliterating all the lesser stars as it rose toward its zenith in the night sky. And with it's arrival it was time for Mr. M. and I to join our friends and rest for at least a little while before the final leg of our journey. We were to meet our guide at 4:00 AM and board a long boat, which would ferry us up to an outpost of settlers on the southern edge of the park. More to come....

Costa Rican Memoir #2, part 1

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
The year that I spent in Costa Rica was amazing in so many ways. Again, I was young and idealistic (versus older and idealistic, still!). And when I lived there I ran with a group of ex-pat's who were also around my age and equally in love with the possibilities of life. I regret that I have lost contact with all of them since then.

On one occasion a group of us set out on an adventure to the extreme northeast of the country and the village called Tortuguero. It was our hope to witness the ancient sea turtles' arrival and laying of their eggs in an annual ritual older than man. To get there we secured train fare to Limon, spent a night in the cock roach infested Hotel Miami (hopefully it's improved it's hygiene or been torn down!), and then secured passage on an inter-coastal ferry headed north. (The picture is of our "Costa Rican Queen.")

It was on this boat that I met Mr. M. He haled from Austria and was one of 6 Europeans on the voyage. There were two couples from Belgium, his traveling companion from Spain (an older gentleman, Mr. P.), and himself. My group was made up of 5 Americans; and the rest of the travelers were locals. At various points along the trip the boat would stop to off load a passenger or two into a dug out canoe, and then as they rowed away with their cargo (furniture, sheets of corrugated tin, a pig, or a crate with chickens), the boat we were on would fire up its engine again and away we would go.

I was standing on the side of the boat staring at the jungle in amazement, when Mr. M stepped up to me and introduced himself. He earlier noticed me reading a book of psalms and said, "So I see you are a religious man." A religious man? -- Hardly, but it was a bold way to begin a conversation.

I still remember how, this simple declaration led to him telling me of his life, his journey to Central America, his volunteer work in Nicaragua. At one point he broke down and cried while telling me about his family and how much he missed them. My heart utterly embraced him in his moment of loneliness. What a precious gift he had given to me.

Finally, toward evening, we arrived at our destination for the night...the coastal village of Tortuguero. With so much more to tell, I will save the rest of this rememberance for another post. Your forbearance is graciously appreciated.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

What's for Dinner?

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Glad you asked. After watching the food channel for an hour or so this morning, I got the bug to cook. So we have a zuchinni egg-drop soup to start, the main course being lightly breaded and brown tilapia glazed with a wine reduction made with kalamata olives and capers. The salad is baby spinach with sweet red peppers and madarin orange slices served with a champaign vinagrette dressing. The meal is complete with a side of dill creamed cucumbers. And the only thing missing? You! So call the next time you're in town. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Random Quote #6

"The only difference between saints and sinners is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future"

~ Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900)

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Each year the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC sponsors a folklife festival on the Mall. There are always three foci, this year they are the culture of Oman, the cultivation and preparation of food, and the resource of our world's forests. In the evenings there are concerts highlighting the music of Latino cultures.

I went down and wandered around, had some good shikabob at the Omani Café, and generally was as unimpressed as usual.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Random Quote #5

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a flame to be lit.”

~ Plutarch, (c.120 - c.70 B.C.E.)

Saturday, June 25, 2005

In Praise of Mr. P.

By shear virtue of our humanity, we are creatures of relationship. Our ties to others not only define us -- as we are often like some puzzle piece in search of a neat placement in the correct position to form a particular picture -- but they also affirm, comfort, and even challenge us (At the least the good ones do).

And over time we come to understand the multi-faceted “intimacies” that we are capable of experiencing. The vast majority of which are probably platonic -- but no less holy.

One of mine is Mr. P. Mr. P. cuts my hair. Mr. P. has cut my hair since sometime in late 1994. Our relationship has outlasted that of my Ex- (who, in fact, was the reason that I originally relocated to Maryland, and my conduit to meeting Mr. P.!).

Mr. P. is an amazing man. He is one of my heroes.

He is first and foremost a great barber. He cuts my hair with such gentle care. I swear (and I recently told him this) that I could fall asleep while he’s cutting my hair. He works for a national franchise (and has done so for the last 15 years) in a storefront shop located on the main commercial street of a nearby local university town – really nothing special or unique.

So he gets a lot of business from college students -- NOT exactly a rich clientele. If I had money to invest, I would set him up in his own place. I’m sure it would be a goldmine.

Now to understand my admiration fully, you’ll have to know more about him. He is an immigrant from Viet Nam. He and his brother escaped the abject poverty of that war-ravished nation on a boat with others in the mid-1980’s. You remember? -- the “Boat People.” Their vessel remained adrift for over a month, and at one point was boarded by modern day pirates who pillaged them of their meager possessions, but, mercifully, did not executed them or floundered the boat. For days they languished under the brutal sun while sharks circled them. When they were finally discovered and taken to a refugee facility, Mr. P. was declared basically dead -- so weak and emaciated from the ordeal. Only his brother’s insistence saved his life. His brother would not leave Mr. P. behind, and so in the confusion and opportunity of that moment, he carried my friend ashore. Then he nursed him back to health

Together, they endured the inhumanity of life as refugees in a camp in Malaysia. He told me how new arrivals would be ignorant of the dangers posed by falling coconuts, and how literally people were killed after being struck by them on windy days. Eventually, they were tagged by a Catholic relief organization and sponsored to the U.S. I know this because after nearly a decade of visits, Mr. P. shared his story with me.

We have also talked about the dissolution of my relationship to my ex-, Mr. R., about the deaths of both of his parents and his return visits to Viet Nam to participate in various temple rites around this. As well as, stories from our various adventures -- Most recently, his to Singapore, and mine to Nicaragua.

I know that such relationships between clients and hairdressers are not that unusual. I do, however, believe that the journey that brought Mr. P. to this place in my life is. And how many people honestly think of the person who cuts their hair as a “hero?” I am so blessed to be able to.

Friday, June 24, 2005

A Summer Reading Recommendation

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Something I perchanced to pick up at Barnes & Nobles today while buying books to use in my classroom next year. Joel Derfner begins his introduction to this collection of his haiku with this statement: "This book happened because of a bad breakup." Now how could anyone resist a collection of campy, and thoughtful, haiku that redeems such a basic human experience? And they are delightful, a few even hilarious, and everyone insightful. Best $13.00 bucks I've spent in a long time. Also, the author has a websight and a blog of his own: Check the blog out, too -- you'll love the rainbow hotpants!

Random Quote #4

"The only reason to look down on another person, is to reach out and help them up."

~ The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson (1941 - )

Way Late/Early thoughts

Check the time out on this one, Campers! By the time I finish composing this it will be past 4:30 AM; and I have not been to bed yet.... It's a relatively cool night for Washington in late June. The dew point is below 60, so the air is actually breathable. I don't even have the AC on here!

I'm just home from a little foray into the city and on the drive out of the District I was struck again by the beauty of the night. Shadows and light artificially constructing a world where ones depth perceptions bear no resemblance to those we take for granted in the stark light of the sun. It's like entering into the beautiful painting by the 19th century German Realist Painter, Adolph Menzel, entitled, "The Departure After the Party" (

Glancing up to see the moon, I was also reminded of similar summer nights at my previous home in Kentucky. Situated on a rise just above the palisades of the Kentucky River, many was the time when I would spread a blanket upon the front lawn and lay for hours in the dead of the night star gazing, my various pets at my side. The Milky Way was usually clearly discernable, as were so many constellations within and beyond its hazy band of stars.

The night is an amazing place. A place of wonder. It nearly drives me to scorn sleep and never want to miss anything! But, that's impossible....well, at least in the mortal sense.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Costa Rican Memoir #1

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
My life has taken me to amazing places. Beautiful places full of wonderful and generous experiences. One of the early examples of such gracious adventures was my year in Costa Rica. I was hired directly out of college to teach in a private high school there in 1984. I taught 3 sections of English and 3 sections of geography to students from 9th to 11th grade (11th graders are seniors in Costa Rica). The school was Colegio Métodista (Methodist School); although, by the time I arrived, it was no longer under the auspices of the Methodist Church (USA or indigenous--And we only pretended otherwise when donors paid us visits.) The head mistress was an imposing and yet approachable woman of African ancestry. She hired me over the phone during our first conversation. An Episcopalian by denominational affiliation, she and I maintained a formal relationship on a staff of many. I found her at times imposing, accommodating, even disingenuous, but thankfully distant. It was a great lesson for a teacher. Be popular, and you are left alone!

So, fresh out of college, this was my first teaching position. I was ignorant, illiterate in Spanish, innocent, and enthusiastic -- in short, I was a GREAT teacher! Many experiences from that year stand out, and in time, I will endeavor to share some of them with you: i.e. the title of this post representing only “#1” in this strain of blogging. (And, in general, I am thinking that I will divide my posts between reflections on the past and the present.... rather than some daily diary.)

Let this be a reflection on the past. My year spent in Costa Rica was over 20 years ago. Yet, it holds a very vivid place in my memory. It was basically, my 23rd year; a time of idealism; a time of discovery -- a time of trust in the gift of life itself (something I have always tried to remember). The possibilities of life bloomed everywhere and every day brought some new blossom of truth to my heart and mind. I know, these metaphors are as tangled and thick as a Central American jungle. So be it! This is essentially how I felt about life then, and it's not to far from how I see it now.

When my plane landed at the airport near Alejuela, I looked down on a world so different from my own -- a culture unlike mine. I looked at this world with excitement and determination. And I was not disappointed. The essential lesson that this teacher learned in my first year as such was really this: We are all more alike than most of us probably realize. And our differences are only opportunities for growth that we have yet to grow into.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Random Quote #3

“I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.”

~ Henry Emerson Fosdick (1878 ~ 1969)

Monday, June 20, 2005

I'm A Rat! ~ Who Knew?

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
A rat? This was a revelation to me. For as long as I have been aware of the Chinese Zodiac, I had assumed that I was an Ox. Born in 1961. The Year of the Ox, right?

And the Ox is strong, dependable, long-suffering. All characteristics that I cherish, and hope to possess. And then I had a recent tryst, with a lovely Indonesian man, and my ideas about my birth according to the Chinese Zodiac were soon dispelled.

Pointing out that the Chinese calendar is not the same as the Gregorian one, he showed me that the new year for the Ox didn’t start until after my birth, in the previous year according to the Chinese lunar calendar; the year of the rat. Beware all with January birthdays, the placemats at your local Chinese restaurant will not carry this disclaimer! So, I am a rat.

Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with the legend behind these symbols, the story is one of a competition. The Buddha invited all the animals to a meeting and told them that the first twelve to arrive would be given the honor of becoming part of the zodiac. From the get go, the Rat practiced treachery upon all the others until finally faced with a wide river to cross and no way to cross it, he convinced the dependable Ox to give him a ride. As they near the shore and the Buddha, the Rat lept from the head of the Ox (technically arriving first) thus achieving the honor of being the first symbol of the twelve, leaving the Ox with the dubious honor of being the second.

Okay, it’s true that like all things astrological, while never wanting to be smug about it, I have always maintained a certain distance from the allure of these ancient myth-based “philosohpies” to hold any power over my, or anyone else’s, life. They’re curiousities. Quaint folklore born of a primal desire to understand and give meaning to the events of life and the cycles of the world around us. But trade in my venerable standing as an Ox for the cunning life of a Rat? It just doesn’t feel right!

Perhaps an explanation for my consternation is found in the details of my birth. You see, my friend did a more thorough analysis of my arrival, and while I was born in the year of the Rat, the hour and month of my birth were both under the grace of the Ox! (The day was that of the Dog.) This gives me a greater sense of well-being. Something in which to take solace. But again, it’s just a silly superstition....right?

So, at the age of 44, in the beginning of the decade of my life which is overseen through my earthly branch by the Horse, with a heavenly stem of Wood +, and an elemental branch of Fire + (and I really don’t know what any of this means, except my friend told me that I should wear brown and green!) may the symbols of your life, whatever they are and wherever you find them, bring you both greater self-awareness, and . . . a little whimsy.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Pride Parade in San Francisco June 2004

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Some images from last year's Pride Parade; The Aztec King & Queen; Members of the MCC Choir; and the Altoids float -- my favorite...curiously refreshing!

San Francisco Prose #2

My second encounter with grace during my vacation last June occurred again on public transportation in San Francisco. This time it was on a street car and invovled a homeless man and a couple with Downs Syndrome.


"God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God has chosen what is mean and despised in the world -- things which are not, to put down things that are;"
~ from the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 1, versus 27 & 28.

On a typically blustery and chilly San Francisco morning, while waiting to board a MUNI street car, I was approached by a lanky black man with salt and pepper close cropped hair and beard and an anxious demeanor. He wanted to know if the street car I was waiting to board would get him down to Powell Street (My running joke is that everyone always asks me for directions when I’m on vacation!) I assured him that it would as the orange tram pulled forward, and we embarked sitting opposite one another. As it turned out, he was selling the little newspapers that the coalition for the homeless produces, the proceeds of which are used to pay for a night in their shelter. The source of his excitement was the fact that he’d made twenty dollars in just an hour, when he’d previously consider himself lucky to make five after two hours of hawking in the financial district downtown. He confided that it was his first foray into the Castro, adding in a softer voice, ‘”because, you know....” and then confessed with childlike excitement, “but the people here really do care!" It was not what he thought it would be like. He commented that the tram we were riding in was different from all the others, and I explained that it was a gift to the city in 1984 from the city of Milan in Italy. The only car from Europe; something I had learned from the plaque above his head the last time I'd ridden this particular street car. The tram jolted to a stop at the next platform, and a young couple with Downs Syndrome (who I later learned were on vacation from Boston) entered; the young man sat next to me, the young woman next to the homeless man. He was telling me about how people always make assumptions about the homeless that aren’t true. How people think he sells the papers to buy drugs, but that the program is really strict, and anyone who screws up gets kicked out. And because the competition is so tight to sell papers, it's impossible to conceal a lapse into alcohol or drugs, because someone else in the program would notice and turn the person in. By now the young couple was also listening with rapt attention. He went on to explain how hard it is when people look at you with these obviously judgmental assumptions. At a pause in his manic testamony, the young woman put her hand on his and looking ernestly into his eyes, said, “I feel your pain.” He froze, just for a moment, their eyes remaining locked on one another as the now crowded tram rumbled on down Market Street toward Embarcadero. And then he replied, “No one ever told me that before. Thank you.” A new sense of humility took hold of him as he began talking about how God is real to him. And God gives him the strength to love people when they act hatefully toward him. This struck a chord within the young woman and she begins to smile and nod along. Encouraged by her reaction, he continued speaking about the joy God's love gives to him until suddenly realizing that we were nearly at the Powell Street stop. Glancing outside the street car, he turned to me and handed me a paper and then one to the young man and another to the young woman saying how they were a gift. He wanted us to have them. And then he rose quickly to leave. The young woman called out after him, “What’s your name?” “Alfred.” he replied with a smile as he stepped away onto Market at Powell. The woman turned back to her companion and said, “I like Alfred.” then with a huge smile exploding upon her face and sending her eyes into glistening half-moons of ecstasy she added, “I LOVE Alfred! And I love you, too!” And though she meant that she loved her husband, I felt really loved at that moment, too. AMEN.

Random Quote #2

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart.”

~ Hellen Keller (1880 ~ 1968)

Friday, June 17, 2005

How do my gardens grow?

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Well, thanks to an unusually cool and wet spring, they flourish! June is Asiatic Lily month, as the middle left and bottom images attest. My oakleaf hydrangia is also blooming spectacularly (middle right). Upper right is my beloved and finniky Bee Balm in a bed of yellow "moon flower". The last image is of some of my geraniums. I over winter them on my sun porch, and they are absolutely at the zenith of their rejoicing in being out-of-doors again!

I have taken to making a late lite breakfast on days when the temperature and humidity allow just to enjoy my little gardens under the parasol festooned table on my back deck. It's a gracious way to start the day.

San Francisco Prose #1

It was a year ago today that I flew out to San Francisco for a two week vacation. I needed to complete a course for a class I mentored at my church here in DC. I extended my stay beyond the class to spend time with a dear friend there, and to visit museums and events around the annual Gay Pride celebrations. While visiting I used public transportation (BART) on most days to get around. And it was in this venue that I had a couple of really wonderful encounters with strangers. I wrote both up as little prose pieces, and want to share them with you now. The first occurred on the first Sunday morning that I was there. It was the last day of the course that I was taking at a seminary in Berkeley. (As an aside: I have been a Christian since 1979; I am constantly amazed by God and my relationship with God is THE constant in my life. But I ain't no fundievangelical type -- God is so much bigger than that!)


"Never forget to be hospitable, for by hospitality some have entertained angels unawares."
~ the Catacism to the Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 2

I met a man, while waiting at the BART station at Mission & 16th to open one Sunday morning (or more accurately, he met me). At first, he was quite timid, his features and jet black hair announced Native American blood flowed in his veins. He asked me to help him navigate his way to Berkeley, which is were I was headed, too. It turned out that he was on his way to see his wife and daughter. He’d just spent 18 months in prison and was in a rehab/half-way house whose program uses the garden space of my friend’s church, St. John the Evangelist, for Native American drumming, chanting, and dancing ceremonies twice a week. The program focuses solely on Native Americans who have entered into the wrong sort of relationship with the criminal justice system. It helps them to discover their heritage and find strength in their identity (often, gives them an identity) and a community. He was carrying a drum stick that he had made for his daughter. He was glowing with the innocent joy of a nine-year-old on Christmas morning as he held it gingerly, like a precious artifact. With tender surprise at my interest, he eagerly shared his story with me. He told me that he had discovered in the process of rehab that his ethnic ancestry was Comanche. He told me all about how the program was giving him a new life, and a new way to see life -- to cope with life. How he now realized that his assumptions about the world were all wrong. That once he had thought everyone reacted to pain and disappointment by escaping into drugs and acting out violently, but thanks to the compassion of his parole officer he’d been given this second chance, found a place in this special program, and could see how wrong his thinking about the world had always been. He had an eight grade education but was hoping to work on his GED. I rejoiced in his epiphany and drew him out with questions about his family, about the symbolism of the colors on the drum stick, about his journey into this new found freedom. He filled my heart with light without fading in the slightest. AMEN

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Random Quote #1

I LOVE quotes ... so here's a good number one:

“If we have no peace we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
~ Mother Teresa (1910 ~ 1997)

My Favorite Movies

I should begin this little self-indulgence by confessing that IF I see 8 different movies this year in a theatre, I have just doubled my average! It's not that I don't enjoy movies; I'm just not captivated by the medium. And I tend to watch the ones I like more than once.

So without further ado....“My Favortie Movies” are:

#10 "The Hours" ~ When Meryl Streep offers up the weakest incredible is that? The water scene with Julianne Moore in the motel, the camio of my favorite Toni Collette (watch how she uses her mouth), and Ed Harris’ demise....all stellar in a galaxy of brilliant moments.
#9 "Billy Elliot" ~ Dance, Billy, dance! -- a child's dream redeems two adults...brilliant message.
#8 "Stand By Me" ~ Children acting like adults! It took me years to figure that one out! So it’s my favorite fantasy flick.
#7 "The Color Purple" ~ The shaving scene on the porch is a tour de force of cinematography and suspense. And I think God is pissed off by a lot of humanity's shenanigans, not least of which is our lack of appreciation for this fragile planet, our island home.
#6 “Y Tu Mama, Tambien” ~ Life can suck, but don't forget, it's also an adventure. Have fun, daring fun, ALL along the way!
#5 “Amelie” ~ Magical Realism at it best. Analyze the use of’s very intentional, and effective. Love the gnome, too!
#4 “Radio Days” ~ It's a Flounder, NO, it's a Fluke! I'm sure, it's a fluke.
#3 “Torch Song Trilogy” ~ This time the dream is on me.
#2 “Central Station” ~ Get out the mop, cause I'm a puddle at the last scene! Fernanda Montenegro is simply Brilliant!
#1 “Wizard of Oz” ~ Follow the Yellow Brick Road!--it will lead you where you most need to go....Home.

Honorable Mentions:

“Crimes and Misdemeanors”, “Gallipoli”, "Ma Vie en Rose," “Monsters, Inc.,” "The Red Balloon," and, yes, even “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.

Recent flicks worth seeing:

“The Incredibles” (loved Edna Mode, gave away all of my capes!) “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe” (The first five minutes are worth the price of admission -- and then the earth is destroyed, how awesome is that?) and “Madagascar” (An animated flick without the voices of Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Hanks, or Mike Myers -- daring! n’est pas?) These are relative lightweights in my filmography. But worth an afternoon with a friend out of the heat.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Luckiest Man Alive

Well this is a new idea for me....sending my thoughts out into cyberspace. I am encouraged to do this because I've enjoyed the postings of others on their blogs, but I am uncertain that my ideas and my little world will be of any interest to anyone else. To fall upon a cliche, I guess "time (and YOU) will tell". So it's Tuesday evening on a hot and muggy (typical summer) day in Washington, D.C. Tomorrow is the last day of class for my students.

It is the end of my 22nd year as a teacher, and because of changes in venue, (IF I continue in this profession. . . .), it will still be another 18 before I retire (and probably more as the Republicans seem destine to recreate the framework that defines our society). But those are worries for another time. Today creates enough to occupy the mind without adding anxiety about the future to my list.

It has been a good year for me. In my career, I most remember cadres, 3, 14/15, and now 22. Not because this year has been year of teaching is. But because the chemistry between my students and myself has produced a sort of magic. Inspite of bumps, the journey has been another amazing one. When the bell rings at 8:40AM, and my 27 fourth graders pour into my room full of enthusiasm, confidence, and joy -- eager to experience the day and happy to be with one another, I am born again. Whatever the previous day left unresolved seems unimportant. The present moment -- the only thing any of us has any control over -- takes center stage. And thereafter grace follows grace, with a sprinkling of epiphanies -- just to keep the mix exciting, the mind eager. I often think that I am the luckiest man alive.