It was our second night in Prague and the Old City shops were closing early and making me angry. Prague is not cheap. And if they charge you $25 for soggy buns, the least they can do is have shops that stay open past four.
When people find out that my daughter’s middle name is Vienna, the first question is inevitably some variation of, “Ooohh, you didn’t name her after that bitch from The Bachelor, did you?”
So, no. I have never watched The Bachelor. I don’t even know what network it’s on. I don’t think The Bachelor is the hottest thing since those big sunflares last month.
The car is packed and I can barely see the road behind me. A wall of pillows separates the kids, fortuitously precluding their ability to intentionally annoy each other. They look out at the sea of forest and mountains and bob their heads to dubstep while periodically asking us random questions about the world including, of course, whether we “are there yet.”
We arrive at a dusty opening in the woods and look around at the blank slate upon which we will create our home for the next two nights.
I often lament that so many moments of profound beauty go unnoticed during the course of an average day with my kids. That everyday I perform small miracles that nobody sees. The conversations we have, the projects we complete, the places we discover, the meals we create, the games that we play and the intention and effort that drive it all flashes each day with unheralded brilliance.
Summer has arrived in the Bay Area, dazzling and puzzling us with the spectacular yet unpredictable symbiosis of sunshine and fog. On the day of the solstice, I joined throngs of like-minded revelers at Stinson Beach, soaking in 84 degrees of unfettered sun. Two days later, I awoke immersed in a cloud of thick mist.
During a Bay Area summer, you never know what you are going to get on a day at the coast.
I am speaking into a microphone on the dock of a small pond in my hometown of Litchfield Park, Arizona.
When I first moved here in 1985, it was a lone oasis of pools and palms amid an expanse of dry and dusty desert. An oasis it remains, though today it glimmers amid strip malls, chain restaurants and cookie-cutter homes.
It is a town that smells of orange blossoms, chlorine and fresh cut grass.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, we sat transfixed as unspeakable violence and tragedy emanated from our television screens. Having just graduated from college and spent a summer abroad in Poland in a search to find myself, I sought refuge and perspective that fateful day at the one place I knew it might be found.
I climbed up to Mitchell Rock, a jagged tooth breaking through the dry skin of a low-lying foothill of Mt. Diablo, less than 2 miles from where I grew up.
Winding down the headlands of Marin, the city’s jagged skyline dominates the horizon, crowning a sparkling expanse of water.
“Is dat Sawancisco Dada?”
“Yeah Sasha, that’s San Francisco.”
We are at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. The iconic span looms above, stretching boldly across the choppy strait.
I love you Oakland, but I’m leaving you.
I am your strongest advocate, your most ardent defender. I show off your Michelin-starred restaurants, artisan beer bars and stunning historical theaters. I take visitors to your fragrant forests and canyons, sunny ridges with jaw-dropping views, tree-lined streets of Craftsman homes and double-wide strollers.
One of the most important things we can do for our children is to immerse them in the quiet and unspoiled beauty of the natural world.
The world we normally occupy is cluttered with schedules, tasks, worries and duties. It is polluted by noise, diluted with distractions and shrouded by psychological preoccupations. The world of nature simply is.
We awoke that morning to a bright sky scrubbed clean by passing showers during the night. My wife and I had driven up the previous evening from the Bay Area to spend the night in a cabin rental just outside the village of Inverness. We had strategically positioned ourselves alongside the Point Reyes National Seashore so we could get an early start on our hike.
My name is Gowri and I have an addiction to haiku. If you look carefully at my hands when passing me on the sidewalk, you may notice my fingers gently counting and recounting something. If I laugh or pull out my phone to start typing, that is typically a sign of self-professed success.
“Motherhood is a sad thing really. You watch these little lives grow and fashion them to be a certain way. It is such a thrilling experience and then suddenly, one day, they are strangers and you are 94 and you are alone as if it all never happened. You realize that the happiness was only temporary, which makes for a very deep sadness.”
I walked to the church around the corner from my house to vote last Tuesday.
Greeted by a helpful elderly lady, I received my ballot from other similarly good-humored neighbors and walked over to a private booth where I took all the time I needed and cast my vote with my best intentions.
We are just a few days from the presidential election and the country is shrouded in red, white and blue as the autumnal winds romantically hiss to the tune of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
I wish I could say that it is a time when people from all walks of life, across a vast geographical area, hold hands and unite in solidarity to delve deeply into and debate thoughtfully the intricacies of policy, economics, society, technology, sustainability and education with the sophisticated goal of respectfully electing the next President of the United States of America.
They say that writing can be therapeutic. If that is true, then writing must fit more into the hot-coal-walking, electro-shock, swimming-with-sharks, Tough-Mudder therapy genre, than in the day-spa, cucumbers-on-the-eyes one.
Writing is hard.
So hard that I habitually postpone it as much as I possibly can.
If you are anything like my wife, youʼre probably asking, “What the hell does ʻFive to Oneʼ mean?” I made Amy guess, so Iʼm going to make you guess too. Go ahead, guess.
Nope. Try again.
Sorry, wrong. One more time.
Wow, that was pretty dumb. I donʼt think Iʼll be asking you any more questions.
“Five to One” represents the magic ratio of positive to negative reinforcement that typifies quality relationships.
It is that time of year again.
The time of year when the air starts to cool and is filled with the invigorating smells of promise and possibility.
When world-class athletes across the nation prepare their sculpted bodies for violent battle on the field and the rest of us prepare our pudgy asses to sit on couches, eat junk food and yell at the television while ignoring our families and compulsively watching statistics update in real time on our laptops.
I sat down the other day to write about the disturbing amount of gun violence plaguing our country when I found out that the featured artist in this month’s Art Walk reception at our local library is Jesse Michaels, former singer and songwriter of Operation Ivy.
Currently a painter out of Oakland, Jesse Michaels and his seminal band have been an inspiration to me for over twenty years.
Like many children, I grew up with the understanding that whatever my parents believe is what I should also believe. I had complete confidence in my parents. After all, they fed me and provided me with shelter and love. Who was I to skew away from their beliefs and values?
In junior college, I took a class called Critical Thinking that forever destroyed the link between my thoughts and those of my parents.
While eating dinner, my four-year-old son asks me why forks don’t have faces.
“Why do you think you have a face?” I ask him.
“So that I can see,” he replies. “And so I can smell and taste,” he excitedly adds. “And I have hair to protect my head so, um, the sun won’t burn it.”
“But why do you think your mouth is below your nose and your nose is below your eyes and your eyes are below you hair?
Everyone talks about finding your passion. The “passion-experts” say that when you find your passion, you can do it for the rest of your life and possibly make it a living.
For thirty-five years I had no idea what my passion was in life. This may sound like I have lived a miserable life until that moment, but this is not the case. I have lived, traveled, and experienced so many things and have met a variety of interesting people that I would not trade for anything.
This is not a comparison between a seminal punk band from southern California and electronic dance music.
This is an argument that the search for truth requires only that we open our eyes and pay attention to everything that is happening right now. It is an argument against substituting knowledge with belief. It is an argument in favor of celebrating our inability to know.
A confession: I’ve had a lifelong fascination with beards. When I was a small child, I told my best friend that my dad acquired his beard by falling off the roof of the house, after which it spontaneously appeared. I can’t recall the genesis of this story, but it must have held some sort of strange logic for my developing mind.
My dad, a professor of geophysics, has sported a full beard as long as I’ve been alive.
Love is given and received in many different ways. The three magic words, “I love you” can be enough, or a simple gesture or thought about another expressed in a loving action. Maybe a gift or a token for the one you love is an expression of your sentiment. Whether it is words, actions, gifts or kindness, we are all able to give and receive this sentiment every day, as much or as little as we allow.
We are reminded today on Valentine’s Day of the most common expression
I don’t consider myself an outdoorsy person. I’ve never been camping, don’t particularly enjoy athletic challenges, and haven’t worn footwear that doesn’t slip on or zip up in at least two years. Although I grew up in New England, when it’s cold outside, I don’t relish the need to envelop my body in so many layers that I may as well be constructing an exoskeleton.
I recently went on a meditation retreat in Thailand. I brought very little with me. My supplies consisted of basic toiletries such as toilet paper, a toothbrush, clean drawers and a towel for showers. I left behind my iPod, cell phone, make up, jewelry, and even my books and journal.
I had a recurring dream as a child that still haunts me today.
A frail but radiant flower grows out of a patch of tar amid a barren and blackened landscape. The thunderous, frightening sound of a machine much larger than me smashes down to the ground, shaking everything around it, threatening and taunting me, growing ever louder.
“Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men – above all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends.”
According to a Meyers-Briggs test I took a few years ago, I am a 26/30 extrovert.
I breathe deeply and scrape the last spoonful of oatmeal and blueberries from the bottom of the bowl. Knowing I should wait half an hour after eating, I rise from the table slowly to make the first preparations.
First, I fill two water bottles mixed with ice cubes. It’s going to be a hot one.
Next, I get “kitted up.” Pulling up the bib/chamois, I look like a weightlifter minus the bulging biceps.
As I sit at the table with the glow of the kitchen behind me, the aroma of coffee slowly creeps about the room. My cat sits across from me, ready for a morning gab. This is not the way I want to spend my Saturday morning.
My dry, tired eyes are straining to focus on the words I type in the dark. With a sip of hot coffee, my brain finally begins to form coherent thoughts and it soon starts to race.
My husband and I made a decision to drastically alter our lives.
I take the kids to the San Francisco Symphony on a field trip with their preschool on a foggy Wednesday morning.
Driving to and through the city during rush hour is not fun. Then waiting for over an hour, compressed into a small enclave off the sidewalk, with about thirty 2–4 year olds acting their age, well this is pretty maddening.
I had spent the entire week within the boundaries of the resort in Puerto Peñasco, where smiling staff and sparkling pools swept us away to a faraway place. A place well beyond the relentless reach of reality.
I was in paradise. Away from the rain and the gray of winter back in my hometown. Away from the typical monotony of pounding fact after fact into my overflowing brain within the confined corners of a study room.
My childhood ended when I was fourteen, at 6:30 PM, June 21, 1954.
No Bar Mitzvah. No coming out party. No walk-a-bout. No woman. No nothing.
It happened at our home in West Norwalk, Connecticut. We were sitting at our kitchen table waiting for Mom to serve up the macaroni cheese casserole and salad greens. My father leaned over the table toward me like he had something special to say.
Sitting outside in my daughter’s backyard, the spring sun warms my face. My grandchildren are laughing while soaring through the air above their trampoline. I did yoga with my husband this morning and will spend the rest of my day taking care of my grandkids until their dad comes home from work.
It is a typical Tuesday.
My grandmother woke up every morning before sunrise to sit in her bed and recite mantras while methodically counting them with her sandalwood beads.
I was amazed at her dedication and discipline.
The only reason I was up that early was to watch The Smurfs. She was seeking enlightenment.
I know they are already awake but I lay in bed desperately grasping for just a few more moments of peace.
My three-year-old son sharply barks my name from across the house. It is obvious from his tone that he is eager to make a demand of me. I quietly listen for sounds of distress or increased agitation. Hearing nothing, I roll over, draw the covers over my face and sink into slumber.