Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pianos and Elephants

You may be wondering what they could possibly have in common? Well, I think they basically weigh the same, take up the same amount of space, can reach similar decibels, and are not easily relocated. I have a baby grand. It was given to me by my grandparents, when they moved out of their quasi-mansion to their retirement community home. The piano was moved about six blocks from their house to my parents', where it has resided since: for about 20 years.

Now, my grandparents have long been gone, and my parents have just moved to Weaverville, CA, which is fine, but of course, they want me to get the piano out of their Sebastopol, CA home. Natürlich. (Side note: just had to take a little trip into the "void"of Internetland to find out how to get an umlaut over the u; check out: how to get foreign accents) Pretty cool. Anyhow, as I was saying, the piano. I thought the universe had provided when I was told a woman would be interested in housing the piano in Sebastopol, until we were in a more financially sound and bigger place. Turns out, she's just interested in having it fill her room. So, she contacts a piano teacher friend of hers. Piano teacher turns out to know a single mom who is interested. She has a teen daughter who's taking lessons, and already has an upright. However, she stays with dad in Marin, who doesn't have a piano, so they might be able to do some swapping. I'm thinking that the universe has again just answered my concerns. The elephant will find her home.

Elephants don't like relocating. That's what I seem to be getting. Single mom backed out, as dad had bought a piano, and despite much effort on her part to come check out my piano, as it would provide a "fuller sound" for aforementioned teen, as well as provide an added point of interest to anyone's home (since when do elephants not draw attention to guests?!). My elephant needs some serious surgery: new pads, new hammers, and a major tune job (as in, $1200 - $1500 worth of work)...not to mention moving costs. Money neither I nor single mom are willing to fork out at this juncture in our lives. And so, the elephant still seeks a home.

Maybe I'll become a circus trainer...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Finding Center and Health

It's as easy as putting on your shoes and going. That's what I tell myself. But sometimes getting back into health and good shape takes patience and center. I had been waiting all week for all the accoutrements for my new bike to arrive from amazon.com, such as a comfortable seat. It arrived yesterday, and so today, having the day off, I decided to put all the pieces on my bike--all before my doctor's appointment at 10:30 in the a.m. Pschaw, riiiiiiight. I bought a basket to clip onto the bike rack, you know, the kind that collapses. It came with hardware--nuts and bolts--and thank goodness for grief, as my tool drawers are nice and organized from having to put my wonder dog, Chicca, down. So, finding the tools is half the battle, but then it takes an entirely different part of my brain, which I can channel, but not when I'm in multi-task mode.

So, having eaten, had a cup of coffee, I sat on the floor with the bike in the middle of the living room, as the Bay Area was deciding to have a foggy day again. (Surprise, surprise!) I knew that getting this basket on was the hinge to whether I would start biking today or not. After fits and starts, and feeling dextrously challenged, I finally managed to get the pieces to fit together, the threads to entertwine in the tiny metal pieces.

It's amazing to listen to the dialogue in my head trying to talk myself out of the ride. I needed to get to my doctor's appointment at Kaiser in Oakland, maybe 2.5 miles from my house, with a few hills in between. I knew that I could opt out of the hills, and just add more distance to the journey. Then, I couldn't find my headphones so that I could have some music to motivate the ride. And that was going to be the straw, but some inner strength crept out of nowhere, and basically, I was out the door, with basket packed: lunch, snacks, camera, purse. And off I went.

I conquered the hills. The long way seemed, well, long. And I had to be at Kaiser sooner than later. Sometimes, that convention of time is a really downer.

I had made an appointment to be in Alameda after the doctor's visit. Way on the southwest side of the island, a good 6.5 miles from Kaiser. Cruising through Oakland's industrial side leaves something to be desired. And the flat lighting really didn't strike any desire to stop to take any pictures. I really wish I had one of those pairs of glasses that you can snap pictures from. Or wish I could download all the "images" I've snapped in my minds' eye.

My appointment in Alameda was to finish a project that I've been working on for 2 years. It all began in Kyoto, when I was at Fushimi-Inari Shrine with my husband, Tony and my good friend Suzy. Before entering the vermillion tunnel of toriis, there was a vendor having the Japan equivalent of a garage or yard sale, except sans garage or yard. He had small Japanese antique bric-a-brac, and then some old kimonos, and two very gorgeous obis, you know, the ornate sashes that tie the kimonos together. I bought them each for 500 yen, basically, less than $5.00. A steal, really. I gave one to a friend, and then suggested that we make purses out of the two of them. The problem being, I decided to make my own pattern--which became a serious geometric nightmare to finish. Sometimes my brain just can't wrap itself around seam allowances and how pieces will come together. Thus, the project has sat in a plastic box in the shed, and most recently, under my bed.

My job is currently in Alameda, and I work for a family who moved in with grandma, as she had a massive stroke, becoming paralyzed on the left side. She is left-handed, and a quilter. So, I figured, she'd be able to help me finish it by giving me suggestions. And, she has this incredibly fancy sewing machine, it actually levitates by use of a remote control. I've never seen anything like it. Then again, I'm not much of a seamstress. I just like to sew. It turned out that grandma's quilting friend happened to show up as well, and gave me some good pointers, and saved me a lot of headache, like how to affix the strap portion onto the body of the purse. So, it's finished! It's far from perfect, but it is a reminder of beauty and shrines and center. I'll post a picture soon.

And by the time I left, it was 3:30 p.m. and the sun was shining. I got to ride through some of Oakland's more "colorful" neighborhoods. Fruitvale. I do wish I had taken some photos, as the juxtoposition of some of the cerulean blues against the backdrop of deep azur sky were really striking, as were the deep shadows of still being in full sun. Gotta love contrast. Like people with barred windows shining the mega-rims on their Esplanade SUV. It's a different planet sometimes than I'm from. Makes for interesting ruminations. Gratitude for the simpler things: my rose bush is blossoming, and hummingbirds are dancing in and out of the agapantha.

I made it home, sweaty and done. I think my total mile count was probably around 15. However, I didn't get to install my new speedometer until my good friend Michael came over, and helped me. So now, I'll be able to tell how many miles I've traveled, how many calories burned, and what the temperature was, and more things than I probably need, but it's a measuring stick. I like numbers and knowing random facts. Keeps my mind stimulated.

Doesn't take much to stimulate my mind, the opposite is what I need. Center. Om. Mu.

And then you meet people who break you out of center, like the guy sitting on his porch in his Oakland neighborhood, where Michael and I parked to go grab some Thai food.

He says in a seemingly curious tone, "Where are you going?"

I respond non-chalant, "Thai Food."

"Hiking?!" He seems not disgruntled, but rather dumbfounded that we would be going hiking.

Michael clarifies that we're going for dinner.

"Well, you're eschewing my parking space to go enjoy your dinner."

Michael said, "Well, it's a public street. Have a nice evening."

We heard him mutter something under his breath, to the effect, "Go enjoy your dinner with my curses."

e.e. cummings wrote:

Humanity i love you because you
are perpetually putting the secret of
life in your pants and forgetting
it's there and sitting down

on it
and because you are
forever making poems in the lap
of deathhate you

I really send an envelope of compassion to this man, swinging on the porch at the cusp of twilight, my most magical time, when light marries dark, and I tip my hat.

Monday, July 13, 2009

the scroll

When I drive, the road is like a connect-the-dots for my thoughts. A road trip alone is merely an informal way to paint the canvases of my ideas. I took a trip "home" this weekend. Home has always and will always be Sebastopol, Sonoma County, California. I have had lots of homes, and I have planted many roots in this particular soil. My parents just moved away. Actually, dad still lingers during the week, and despite not really having the lily pad to land on anymore, I realize that the community I've built, as well as they have built, is fortress strong. I will always have people and places to visit. So, I made an impromptu sojourn to Sebastopol to visit with old friends, some who live in Europe and are home briefly during July.

The sky crossing the San Francisco Bay on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge turned dark and ominous, and actually opened into some precipitation, meanwhile the setting sun was blinding me. My mind was caught in a whirlwind of where home has gone now that my parents have moved away, after 30 years. Thirty years. That's a long time. That's most of my short life. The pavement continued to slide under me and the scenery became increasingly picturesque, taking me out of my ruminations and more focused on landscape's zen. Between Novato, and Petaluma is nothing but golden knolls, rolling towards the sky, dotted with gnarled hands of oaks and bovine grazing.

The sun had passed beyond the hills, but I noticed to the east a vibrant rainbow, with Maxfield Parish clouds. The rainbow lasted for over ten minutes, and it was as if every other driver on the road was oblivious to Life's mysterious beauty.

I had an experience similar to this when I was visiting Nepal. I had awoken suddenly at 6 a.m. in my guest house in Dhampus, near Pokhara. The Annapurna range, second in height to Everest, was apparently nearby, but in two weeks of visiting Nepal, I had not been able to even catch a glimpse of the majestic spires of granite due to it being rainy season. Yet, this particular morning, I awoke in a shuttered room in the guest house, pitch black, and for some reason, grabbed my camera and ran outside. I had barely made it out the door when I felt like I'd been hit by a stun gun. Before me was sun-splashed mountains, so breathtaking in grandeur, that I didn't even bother to check exposure, but hurried to snap some shots. No sooner had I taken a couple of frames, than the clouds had shut their curtains, the unveiling-of-the-world's-tallest-mountains show had finished its encore. And meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Nepalese were sweeping. An ordinary day.

I guess for me, the mundane is extraordinary. I did not stop my car for the rainbow. I felt compelled to keep going 70 miles an hour. Sometimes, I choose to let my mind be my camera. I realize that sometimes, painting with words, oils or watercolors instead of 35mm is warranted. Someday, I will be able to hook up a USB cable and be able to share these images trapped in my head: the monkeys in Thailand, the rainbows of Petaluma, the dancing children...until then, find them on the page, and imagine with me.

Friday, July 10, 2009

the road ahead...

I bought a bike today...after days of scouring craigslist. It met most of my criteria. It symbolizes the journies that lie ahead. Good health...cheers! And sharing the skies with hawks again. Living in an urban area makes owning a bike a challenge, but I need to remember that even in Oakland, my backyard is full of winding roads unfurled by my eyes, a Japanese scroll waiting to be read.

I miss the days of having a camera slung on my back in Japan and stopping to ask some innocent Japanese farmer, who was taken aback by this gaijin (foreigner--literally, "outside person"), for directions to wherever. The response, nine times out of ten, was "go about a kilometer down the road, turn right, then you'll see a large tree, and then you'll get to a fork in the road, and then find someone else and ask them."

I want to stop the gas crisis with minimizing my carbon footprint just a little. Getting the wrong bike last time on craigslist was a lesson either in humility or stupidity. You be the judge. Helps to know a thing or two about bike mechanics. I'm now willing to learn. I have a book. I've even read a few of the chapters. I'm probably crazy enough to try it.

I tried making paper once from a book I borrowed from the Sebastopol Public Library. I went to the hardware store, got all the materials I needed to make the frame and deckle thing....only to realize that I didn't have the right TOOLS! Sometimes, paying others is WORTH it!

So, cheers to the Way, le chemin, la camina, and discovery and adventures!

Friday, July 3, 2009

May wedding in Oregon!

My husband and I took a road trip at the end of May to photograph Angela and Brian's wedding! It was juxtaposed on the lower Rogue River, near Galice, Oregon. Gorgeous country, with fun people!