Growing up with a Canadian mother brought me great joy and profound insights. I learned life survives ferocious winters, hospitality trumps even the most mean-spirited, and no person arrives on earth better than anyone else. As the Canucks among you can tell, my mom came from the Western Prairies (a bastion of both radicalism and independence).
Her greatest gift lay in teaching me to seek out kindred spirits. Inspired by her favorite book “Anne of Green Gables“ this meant looking inside a person to find their core values and beliefs. In the process you disregarded differences in race, class, and gender. Looking back on my mom’s amazing life she never faltered from this approach however far it drove her from the path planned out for her. As a result she created a beautiful extended family which still benefits us long after her passing.
It hit me again tonight as I visited other bloggers’ sites. Like my mom, WordPress gathers a pretty diverse bunch. These bloggers write for various reasons: to capture beautiful images all around the world; to save souls through politics or religion; or to share their hard won knowledge and experience (without payment). At their core, each seeks to bring beauty where perhaps none currently exists or wants to show the beauty our busy eyes currently disregard.
One of the cool things about aging is you really grasp how little trappings matter. You have been fooled once too often, survived losses you once assumed insurmountable, and humbled by how the little things make you the happiest. It’s truly what the cliché “youth is wasted on the young” means. But of course, the cliché disregards the lessons one must necessarily learn to get where light shines through darkness.
It’s late so I’ll wrap up now. However, let me give a shout out to kindred spirits in my life (both real and virtual). Most importantly let me say love you to the woman who got me out of bed to write it. Miss you Mom. Here’s one of your favorite places (SFJapanese Tea Garden)
Growing up as a bookworm gave me a strong affinity for older, elaborate homes. My favorite tales featured hidden passageways, transport to other worlds, or (as I aged) bodies crying out for justice. None of these things frightened me because each promised the fictional release my brain and spirit craved.
Later – as I pursued my passion for social justice – I looked to history both for inspiration and justification. The large homes I had avidly scoured for secrets became reduced to symbols of excess (especially after learning my relatives toiled downstairs to run them). Smaller, run-down homes I once barely glanced at achieved heroic status as examples of working class ingenuity.
In time – lots of time – I removed both the dreams and the judgments. Having come from a working class family I could see the skilled labor and fine materials poured into the more elaborate homes. Frankly the same went for the smaller homes clearly built from Sears Catalogs and salvaged items. In each case I could appreciate how these efforts allowed them to stand through the decades.
While I will never forget or forgive the excesses poured into some homes (both old and new) while many people barely survive, I cannot help but photograph them. In glancing at my favorites, however, I realize I need to capture the smaller, older ones. This will be quest.
Apologies for those attempting to follow the blog tonight. Even without the ADHD, picking a new theme would whiplash me. So many selections, so little ability (on my part) to make them perfect.
Photography grounds me by forcing me to see, stop, and focus. Prior to picking up the camera again these words rarely entered my vocabulary. Constantly moving always took me somewhere but too often I ended saying why here.
Still downsides exist with being a photography newbie. The more I learn, I realize the less I know. Seeking inspiration in others work proved humbling given the talent out there. Catching one image well often meant not seeing other available shots. Or worse, taking the same shot over and over. Shrug.
Still sometimes it all comes together when you least expect it.It’s kinda like life.
Woody Allen aptly stated “eighty percent of success was showing up.” However, as someone who showed up most of her life, I want a little more out this next half. I want – no need to – like where I end up (even if it will only be on walks behind my camera lens).
Seeking a burst of color to kickstart this blog back in action.
Knowing me means knowing I’ll wander any side path. It entertains (hell nourishes) me but plays havoc with those depending on (or just following) me. Unlike a longtime ex, few figure out “she (I) always finds her way back.” Even then – like the ex – they get tired of waiting.
Looking back on now 50 years (mind-blowing still) I see art me sustained through my various walk-arounds. Different passions marked different periods: politics, work, love, or all of the above [meaning none got done very well]. But in every venue I sought art (either created or viewed) as a retreat. Now my photography fills my spirit.
So, expect various posts filled with silent portfolios. But if I took the time to capture and post the picture, it meant something to me. Hopefully u will feel a similar connection.
I took the following pictures on my 50th birthday as I wandered through the Conservatory of Flowers in SF Golden Gate Park. It turned out to be the happiest in years because I felt at peace and in charge. Hearing from distant friends and relatives only fed the quiet euphoria. Not how I planned my 50th in my youth but oh so much sweeter in the aftermath.
Once again we seize control of the blog to bring real news. (Of course, given the lack of updates we wonder if you can call it a take over. But we will save the digression for another posting.) As many of know, Comrade Buddy (in the red hat) has been missing in action. Subject to too many Mama hugs and (frankly) questionable forced escapades, his posture and fur were drooping. Almost two years running as the blog owner’s talisman and hug source had worn him to a frazzle as shown by this photo snapped clandestinely at her work site (wonder if labor rights protect little bears forced to work).
Demanding Justice we insisted Mama do something to help him. Nor was she giving up on her little guy. Frantic for help she searched the web until she came across Beth Karpas at http://www.realmsofgold.com/. Beth labored long and hard to repair Buddy by closing up tears, untangling abused fur, and hand fluffing him during the drying process. [By the way, the Big Guy wants everyone to know it’s repaired not fixed.] She let him hang out with celebrities like Ernie from Sesame Street (allowing him to snuggle up during the most of trying of times). However, Beth (or Goddess as we prefer) went a step further by re-stuffing Buddy so he could stand bear strong to years of being a hug machine. See how handsome and big he looks in this picture holding all of us. Nor will you find a trace of a stitch on him (trust us we have all looked).
Let’s see Mama try to do the following to him. It all started off innocently as the first-born is subjected to endless pictures. (How did they meet? Comrade Buddy leapt from the top of a Safeway freezer section on one of Mama’s toughest birthdays. Being young he missed the basket and tumbled on top of her head. But it was her fault for reaching for the Lean Cuisine.) Initially Buddy got trotted out for various ethnic holidays (apologies to anyone offended by the obvious ethnic stereotypes) from St. Paddies to Chinese New Year. Just remember as a true San Franciscan Buddy genuinely gets into the various holidays.
However things took a more sinister turn when Mama started having Buddy demonstrate affinities with various causes. Perhaps the most serious was his brief time as a spokesbear for Sleep Apnea treatment (i.e. using the CPAP machine). Bravely the little guy strapped the overly tight breathing apparatus to show sleepers need not fear it. The fallout from concerned friends and bears was terrific. One loving uncle described little Buddy as looking like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet. As a result Buddy threatened to put BPS (Bear Protective Services) on speed dial and Mama relented. She hasn’t forced him into any more dress up unless it involves his beloved Giants. (Again, as noted above, it’s stuffing not steroids; no Melky Cabrera [snort] here.) Lets see her try to put the CPAP mask on him NOW (thanks Beth).
Still Buddy wants his legion of fans to know it hasn’t been wholly terrible with Mama. Her misfiring wiring keeps life interesting and jumbled. She makes the TV remote available each day. She gathered a wonderful family of soft stuffies to keep him company. She also brought many loving relatives, animals, and children into his life. It almost makes up for the indignities associated with living his life on the web. Below are some of his most cherished memories.
Can you go home again? And even if you could, should you?
Most of you are shouting “HELL NO” because past experiences discourage such a fanciful exercise. Returning to small classrooms remind us how it felt being small and powerless. Class reunions trigger old insecurities and disappoint dreams of rekindling old bonds. Family get-togethers rife with tension inspire endless novels, plays, and films skewering the underlying hypocrisy and pain.
Yet the enduring truth about family – be it is biological or created – is no one knows you – or rather past parts of you – better. Conversely you know them. It explains why nothing hurts worse than a searing conversation with a past lover, estranged family member, or classmate with an overly good memory (yes they exist, even in my age group :)). Wisely many of us avoid these conversations (not only do we suffer but we inflict suffering in return). Too often funerals drive home the painful finality of this choice. Still most of us have moved on to create new families and/or communities so we generally even survive this horrible guilt.
However the very items sowing the seeds of emotional terror also support the bridge to honest communication. Despite conventional wisdom – and millions spent to reinforce it – deep down no one carries more credibility than someone of our own background. (Yes, we can all name favorite pundits, celebrities, and ball players. But I said DEEP DOWN.) The same bridge(s) among us also provides refuge when things get really bad (pride be dammed) financially or emotionally. Past closeness and ever-present DNA spawn obligation deeper than the eye can fathom.
Its this ever present obligation – and past bonds – which prompt me to post the following election advice to old friends and classmates.
Yes, it hurts to lose campaigns. I have spent most of life supporting losing candidates and causes because either conscience (liberal) or identity (lesbian) demanded it. Afterwards I spent my free time fighting those new administration’s policies on war, poverty, or civil rights. Similarly, each year I came up with money I didn’t have to fight nearly annual referendums designed to prevent the LGBT community from holding jobs or keeping our families and relationships safe. I don’t begrudge the time or the money, especially since each seems to be paying off. It’s the same reasoning prompting me to respect those former friends, classmates, and family members still pushing for a conservative movement. Hopefully this mutual respect will allow us to find common areas of agreement.
However I must address a disturbingly large fringe of you. (Mind you, though, it truthfully surprises me who among you ended up on this fringe.)
Grow up people. Quash the racist imagery (you know who you are). Quit mocking poor and disabled folks (especially when some many of us remain a paycheck or diagnosis away from joining them). Quiet your inner demons demanding you see each darker skinner person as a criminal non-citizen (especially when as a child most of you resisted this temptation). None of you either came from – or even married – the fabled 1%. Many of you – like me – lack the racial purity necessary to truly belong to Aryan Nation. Even choosing a conservative parish won’t save you when the forces behind most organized religions decided to jettison you (besides how many of you really want your life run by an Ayatollah of any stripe?).
This election merely gave voice to the pre-existing New Diversity. Most of your children will move on to embrace it either economically (it makes good business sense) or romantically (to paraphrase a brilliant writer: “the best racial integration is horizontal” — why, it builds family). They will leave you behind much like many of us turned away from our grandparents’ overt racism. You will also find yourselves increasingly isolated both at work or online.
If you really can’t hold it together right now, then step away from the keyboard. Many of us are watching appalled and with growing anger. Even if you want to cut off all our past connections, remember what you type stays somewhere. Make similarly stupid remarks at work and you will find folks scouring for other racist comments when they sue you. Most importantly, a time-out might also let you remember how we all once wanted to make the future a better place.
Although many tout Ginger Rogers for doing everything Fred Astaire did “backwards and in heels,” it’s generally not the world’s greatest strategy. After all it requires strapping on ankle breaking footwear and attacking a situation with your eyes closed. However, those of us with ADHD live a similar strategy, which I describe as an homage to “Wrong Way [Douglas] Corrigan” (a 1930’s era pilot who attained celebrity status by mistakenly flying to Ireland instead of New York). Unfortunately, unlike the publicity-savvy Corrigan, most ADHDer’s fill our lives with missed appointments, unpaid bills, and broken promises rather than celebrity endorsements.
Even though ADHD entered my life as an unsolicited burden, I now view it as a unexpected gift both for those of us with it and society as a whole. Despite popular cultural attacks – yes I’m talking to you “South Park” – ADHDer’s are not lazy, stupid, or defiant. Our sluggish cortex may impede our efforts to focus on things lacking an immediate payoff, impede our listening skills, or weaken our impulse control. But conversely it frees us to hyperfocus when it matters, see things others miss in their rush to conformity, and take chances on outsiders (be they people or ideas). None of the above is ever a popular position to take, notably in a time of seemingly shrinking resources and unstable political outcomes. Yet without the “fully aware”(aka non-ADHDer’s) who possess great courage and us ADHDer’s who stumble blindly along, society would often miss potential solutions.
Mind you these potential solutions don’t succeed every time. Nor can they erase the societal and personal damage an undiagnosed or undisciplined ADHDer causes. However, to paraphrase both Hegel and Act-Up, “no motion (silence) equals death.” Less poetically an unwillingness to seek out the new coupled with a refusal to diversify dooms both societies and organizations. Maybe its our eternal status as outsiders or simply our head-blindness but most ADHDer’s lack those fears.
This theory jumped at me (again) when I examined my last set of photos. I could have — and maybe should have — tossed them due to the bright midday sun. Further many lacked focus because once again a migraine muddled my brain. However, looking closer I saw the shots behind the shots (play of shadows, reflections in windows, or just unusual look of items). Part of handling ADHD involves a lot of self-forgiveness. Hopefully this will explain the indulgence I displayed by posting this latest slide show.
As many of you have guessed, I find pathways irresistible. It never bothers more if they lead nowhere or force me off my journey. Instead I greedily soak up everything along the path, especially if the “everything” captures my imagination or reminds me of a favored story. Neurons failing to fire for overdue deadlines or timed arrivals suddenly launch into hypermode as I internally spin connections known only to me and (perhaps) other dreamers. Whether it translates into anything but pleasure remains an open question but I no longer feel guilt. An artist friend described something similar by noting she viewed life as vivid colors and definable shapes (all pushing at her brain to create things). Fortunately her great talents allow her to produce a great product out of her ruminations. In my case they most often feed the endless trivia popping out of my during both opportune and inopportune moments.
Anyway, my August foray to UCSF – featured in an earlier post – produced several vignettes from my thrashing through the campus. Below are a couple more, which I hope to exhibit in slideshows. However, I can only figure out how to place them in one slideshow. Go figure.
A beautiful 2008 exhibit championing communication captured me on all counts. A beautiful pathway draped with beautiful plants and stunning canopy featured signs written in the world’s languages. Many beautifully calligraphed statements went beyond hello to evoke real thought about the nature of communication. Points if you can translate them. More points if you can read some of them (in time I will get to better know my camera).
I obsessively snapped the pathways leading to closed doors or unseen places. Some pictured active work sites hidden beyond locked doors. Others remained as ghosts from UCSF’s path (both due to the passage of time or movement of jobs to Misson Bay site). All reminded me of the endless mysteries I gobble up either in books or television (always my endless need for justice). Some just downright frightened me (reminding me of the poverty-strickenareas in which I have worked). Hopefully you will see some of those things (or find your own source of satisfaction).
Finally (for tonight) I wandered into UCSF’s beautiful art garden, which resides near the School of Nursing. It proudly displayed both world-class art – include the cheeky sculptures featured in the slideshow – and heartfelt homages to fallen classmates and faculty (most appearing as beautiful trees now reach to the sky). Interspersed among all of it was great artwork from various eras and genres. Some championed the patients and providers, others seemed to celebrate the eccentricity associated with a life spent fighting both life and disease. Or maybe just the quirky spirit needed to survive school in a hilly wind tunnel. Either way I found both its charm and absurdity a welcome antidote to the stunning beauty associated with the hill views.