Wednesday, July 28, 2010


My jaunt to Northern California exemplifies my favorite way to travel.  I prefer to take up residency in a home for a few weeks rather than check into a hotel.  I love falling into a routine of languid mornings around the kitchen table followed by yoga, a museum exhibit or simply sampling white nectarines at the local farmers market.  Home cooked meals with new and old friends, tasting wine from vineyards near and far or venturing out to the newest, press worthy restaurant is the perfect ending to the ideal day.  Fluid schedules, accidental discoveries, guidebooks left unread leave room for the unexpected . . . like falling in love with Louie.  The most adorable welsh terrier who belongs to our generous host, had me at the first sniff.  Our walks immediately changed my status and mindset from tourist to local.  Last night on our way home from a sunset stroll a golden moon ascended over the water I looked over at my new friend, smiled and continued up the hill to the warm house where dinner was waiting.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Window Shopping

My trip to Northern California has been a bit like clothes shopping.  I've been meandering through various neighborhoods and trying them on for size.   I imagine what it would be like to live in San Francisco (not so desirable in fog-soaked July), the coastal towns of Marin (prerequisite 2.5 kids) or the grape laden communities of Napa and Sonoma (tasting rooms on every corner).  While discovering unexplored streets I pretend all of the houses are for sale.  I envision walking through a particular gate, opening the front door and calling out, "I'm home."  I've already ditched the table lamp peeking out through the window.  The outdoor patio becomes populated with my friends sipping wine before dinner.  As I visit less populated locations my fantasies become more fantastical.  Barns are renovated and orchards planted.  I start to scratch my entrepreneurial itch.  A vacant storefront becomes a gallery for photography, furniture and conversation.  My berry patch blossoms into a thriving jam business.  Everything in life is possible, but being able to differentiate what is probable is essential as I continue to window shop on my journey.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Light Bulbs

While walking along the blustery shore in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge I had an epiphany. I needed to make a decision and with the help of a sage friend I was able to recognize thought patterns and core beliefs that often cloud my judgment from making the best choice.  Shielding our faces from gusts of cold air whipping across the sea made our trek comical. It is after all July . . . in California. In our puffy down jackets we trudged on. My friend continued to ask me key questions. Light bulbs were popping with each inquiry. I quickly stumbled into the truth. I unwittingly seek insurmountable situations, ones in direct conflict with my fundamental values, all because I think the outcome will be sweeter if I rise to the occasion. I have a hard time recognizing the uncomplicated road even when it's at my doorstep. No pain no gain. Life isn't a bowl of cherries. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Mantras deeply rooted in my psyche playing over and over again as truths.  I've often wondered how I'm able to ignore the red flags that clearly present themselves.  With the help of a friend, I just received a gigantic clue.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Coastal Utopia

On a ten mile stretch of craggy bluffs in Sonoma County is a planned unincorporated community known as The Sea Ranch.  In the 1960s a group of idealistic architects envisioned a coastal neighborhood where the dwellings would enhance the salty landscape.  A covenant was written giving birth to the frequently uttered phrase “live lightly on the land”.  Wooden houses with ocean front views were built around meadows.  Cypress pine hedgerows were planted.  Soon after, the paths to the cliffs were littered with families and dogs.  The vision had sprung to life.

Spending a vast number of years living in New Jersey and Los Angeles my eyes have grown accustomed to unappealing strip malls, disposable apartment buildings and poorly designed housing developments, all of which have minimal regard for the land.  On a recent trip to Baja Sur, Mexico the overdevelopment of Southern California was underscored.  The topography was similar, but the land void of freeways and concrete jungles, was pristine.  Thus The Sea Ranch is a utopian delight.  Fifty years after the community was planned the vision is still intack. Proud residents continue to live by the original rules governing the community which they admit can at times be inconvenient. Eye rolling accompanied conversations about the placement of exterior lights (so the night sky would be optimal for star gazing) or the limited color palate to paint one’s door.  However, they seemed more than willing to jump through these additional hoops in exchange for living in a community that valued both the architecture and landscape. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Unexpected

Trying to find the trail for a hike to Golden Gate Park proved more difficult than expected when the arrows along the path dead ended. Undaunted my friend and I carried on, engaged in conversation while smelling the intoxicating eucalyptus. We let go of the trail needing to be something it wasn't. We were happy to be meandering in nature.  And then something unexpected happened.  In the middle of nowhere, on a route we had assumed was "wrong", words of wisdom crafted from straw and metal magically appeared.  Smiles resulted.   Viewing art in a museum or gallery always elevates my mood, but coming upon an installation unexpectedly, especially one that was witty and perfectly in sync with the environment, made my day. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Changing Moments

I like to think of myself as a stay-in-the-moment type of person.   I've always believed nothing is static -- the good, the bad, the unremarkable.  Everything is fluid, always moving.  This too will pass.  This perspective allows me to be grateful for where I am, especially if the moments I'm experiencing are of intense joy.  If sadness permeates my day, I remind myself nothing is forever.  This too is fleeting.  I don't believe in getting too far ahead of myself into the future.  The realm of "what if" can often be littered with anxiety.  Anticipation breeds expectation and excitement which can often lead to let down.  How does one temper expectation without dousing excitement?  How does one dream while staying tethered to the moment?  Nothing has changed in my life, yet I'm anticipating a shift. I smell it like a fresh pot of coffee wafting through the house on an early Saturday morning. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Butch and Sundance

In my online art class I've waded through weeks of painting, collage and doodling with varying degrees of exuberance and results.  Thus, I was elated on Monday to read this week's focus would be photography, a medium I've spent the last few months perfecting.  Interestingly, the first assignment was to forget any knowledge of the camera, abandon the correct exposure to get a predictable outcome, and instead let play guide the process.  The entire class has been rooted in this philosophy, to color outside of the lines, so I shouldn't have been surprised.  I turned to an unlikely source, my DVR, for inspiration and clicked on one of my favorite flicks, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID.  Light spilled into my TV room casting shadows on the handsome, rugged faces on my flat screen.  I zoomed and panned across desert scrub and mountainous peaks.  I followed the bank robbers from Wyoming to Bolivia.   My shutter clicked over 200 times.  I lost track of time.  I was reminded of a conversation I had just had with a friend about the unique, and comical way, the universe often answers our questions.   I smiled, finally hearing the message I'd been getting.  There is no correct way to do something, there is no right path.  The ever changing road I'm on is one of experimentation and surprise, and it will always be more enjoyable if I remember to just let go.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


The days are passing without a blog entry.  I feel compelled to write.  Various topics swirl around my head.  I'm in search of a proverbial arrow to sail across my mind and pin one down.  I riffle through a list of potential subjects -- The provocative, witty memoir, THE TENDER BAR by J. R Moehringer whose pages were like laughing and frolicking with friends at the beach.  The delightful, contemporary movie THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT which made me bask again in the magic of film making.  The disappointing, downtown art walk that was in desperate need of organization and inspiring creations.  The realization after a seminar on composting that I'm not up for the task of separating my carbon and nitrogen waste and churning it in a tub in my backyard.   However, when I look back on the summer of 2010 those won't be the defining experiences.  Instead this season will be marked by the solitude and silence of my days.  As I get more and more comfortable with the uncomfortableness of being still I encounter my thoughts.  Conflicting, familiar, and often pessimistic thoughts.  The escape hatch into distraction is present, but I'm not interested in running.  Instead, I face them.  I teeter on the precipice of an unknown world.  I lose sight of the battle I'm trying to win, the point I'm trying to make.  I know my thoughts don't define me, but they've been with me for so long.  Who am I if I shed them?  Who will I become without them?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Unlikely Companions

Due to a 4th of July marathon, a dozen episodes of the irreverent series "Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations" were stored on my DVR when I turned on the television last night.  I was just completing my first day of a five day, raw food cleanse so I wondered if this was the smartest viewing choice.   As the intrepid host feasted on chicken feet soup in Jamaica, deep-fried pig intestines in Columbia, and sheep's hooves in Saudi Arabia  I realized this was the perfect, albeit unlikely, appetite suppressant.  Over the past year I have unwittingly become a vegetarian, an unexpected result from watching the documentary "Food Inc" last summer.   Once my eyes were open to the inhumane conditions abundant in factory farms through out the US, I no longer wanted to eat meat.  In the first few months I did sample the occasional piece of organic beef or chicken, but over time my desire waned.  The other, more surprising, effect of the documentary was my reaction to processed foods.  Some of my favorite vittles fall into this genre -- pretzels, saltines, peanut butter, diet coke, tortilla chips, movie theater popcorn -- but after confirming what I already suspected, ingredients you can't pronounce aren't good for you, I've reduced my consumption significantly.   On any given day I know where there is a farmers market in Los Angeles.  I've charted the seasons by watching the hearty squashes and wilted greens of winter be replaced by pea shoots and persimmons in the spring.  My sabbatical has given me endless, enjoyable hours in the kitchen and a preference for having friends over for dinner rather than meeting at a local restaurant.  Although, I look forward to watching the rest of Tony's gastronomic global adventures, I'm very grateful to be just an armchair companion.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


As I child I was obsessed with George Washington.  As soon as I could speak I badgered my mother about her relationship with the country's first president.  I was adamant she knew him, and was by his side during historic moments witnessing America's birth.  My mother's lighthearted, practical response, "sweetheart, I'm too young to have known George Washington", threw me into a tailspin.  Time, and therefore this explanation, didn't make sense to my developing brain.  My mother, exasperated by my unwavering conviction, finally gave in and admitted she was nearby when GW cut down the infamous cherry tree.  As I got older I accepted the implausibility of my mother being alive two centuries earlier, however my fixation with this period in history remained.  My parents, indulging my passion, took me to a myriad of historical inns and houses where Washington had been rumored to sleep.  In the 1970s on the eastern seaboard colonial restoration villages were as plentiful as amusement parks.  My favorite weekends were those spent on cobblestone streets, watching women in long hoop skirts and bonnets churn butter while muskets popped from a reenactment skirmish in the distance.  My heart would swell with patriotic pride.  Those suburban pilgrimages were my way of saying thank you to the young men whose blood nourished the soil on which our country was built.  I still think about George Washington although the scenario is different.  I picture him coming back to the nation he founded and scratching his itchy wig in bewilderment.  This can't possibly be what he had envisioned two hundred and thirty four years ago.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Me and My Tripod

Although I have embraced the routine of shooting my picture everyday, I have encountered a surprising challenge.  I've exhausted every inch of my house and yard for potential backdrops.  I've taken advantage of the morning light in my bedroom, the afternoon rays in my garden, and twilight in my living room.  I will never accomplish the next 305 days of this task if I don't take my tripod out for a spin.   I need the stimulus of a new location, but something is holding me back. I've gotten comfortable pursing my lips and throwing back my head for the camera when there are no witnesses, but the thought of setting up a shot and hopping into frame with possible onlookers makes me shy. A trait I typically don't associate with my adult self. As a young child at social gatherings I'd initially cling to my mother's side finding comfort in the conversations she had with her friends. Eventually I'd acclimate and integrate with the other kids who were playing dodge ball or mother may I. When it was time to leave I had inevitably made new friends. As I got older, shyness was no longer an issue, so I find it fascinating that this photography endeavor has touched upon this recessed trait. My house has become my mother's pant leg. Perhaps this week I will leave my comfort zone and join the other kids in a game of bloody murder.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I've never been a good wait-er, not as in "can I take your order?", but rather in waiting for something or someone.  Waiting occurred often in my youth since my mother had a case of being perpetually earlier. We never arrived on time at the orthodontist, bur rather twenty minutes prior to the appointment.  Even if the doctor was running on time I was still able to sift through a stack of magazines prior to having my teeth examined.  The other night, waiting at home for a friend who was first delayed at work and then in traffic, I was reminded how difficult it is for me to pause, especially when the pause is not self-imposed.  I can spend hours reading or being online, but if that hour is due to a delayed friend or flight it's harder for me to chill.  I'm simply not my best when I'm waiting.  Even if I try to distract myself with a task I'm still aware that what I'm rally doing is waiting.  In the last ten months my days of unemployment have been languid like a warm summer's night.  However, the more I seek the perfect job opportunity, the less carefree my days seem.  I may not start working again for another six or eight months, but my perspective has already shifted.  My time no longer feels like my own.  I hesitate about planning a month long trip or signing up for another photography class. Transitioning from my last job into an extended period of play was achieved with ease.  The greater challenge is facing the transition ahead.  While I need to plan for it and make it happen, I also need to be in the moment instead of waiting for the next one to arrive.