Day 69 – Thanksgiving

img_6960

Today I give thanks to this happy couple. My parents – circa 1969 at Banff or Glacier NP. They represent what the United States of America is all about.

A country of compassion.

A country of opportunity.

A country where an economic refugee from Germany and a political refugee from Cuba, could meet, fall in love, get married, and carve out a life and raise a family.

All of that happened in a little neighborhood on the far north side of Chicago called Rogers Park.

They embodied the American Dream.

My dad, a craftsman, opened a business with his brother and my mother went to school to become a registered nurse. It took them a little over 20 years to buy a house, which by that time my brother and I were in college.

But it wasn’t all peaches and cream – if I may use that cliché.

My little nuclear family was a place where two very different cultures collided.

Yes, collided. No melting happened in the pot of my family. Although, you could argue German and Cuban DNA did blend to create my brother and me. But that is another story…

From our little experiment – I am authorized to say the American melting pot is a farce, a fantasy, a disillusioned idea.

What does it mean to melt cultures together?

What does it mean to have no diversity?

What does it mean to have no differing opinions or perspectives?

What if there was only one color in a rainbow? Blue bow? Red bow? Purple bow?

Take a walk in the woods, snorkel around a coral reef, canoe along a river through a rain forest.

In nature there is only diversity. An ecosystem is made up of diverse creatures. From microscopic plankton to huge whales. Life on Earth thrives on biological diversity. Any time one organism takes over a habitat – the ecosystem becomes imbalanced. Disease, mass die-offs, decreased food sources.

coral-reef

Life on Earth thrives on biological diversity.

Why should it be any different culturally?

In my little family, we didn’t blend cultures. We didn’t create a new culinary genre where  sauerkraut is paired with arroz con pollo, lechon asado, or ropa vieja. Although bistec milanesa or empanisado (breaded steak) was very similar to wienerschnitzel – and this little Cuban/German girl loved both.

Dad never learned how to dance the Cuban son – mom never learned to polka. Neither learned the other’s language. A version of English is what we spoke in our household (although I always say English is my second language).

Dad thought my Cuban family yelled too much. And Mom thought my German family didn’t like her because she was a “darkie.”

For better and worse, my parents stayed together until my Dad’s death in 2013. Despite their outer dysfunction – the communication challenges, the short bouts of yelling, followed by years of silence – deep down inside, they loved each other.

As I approach my late 40s, I have finally realized what my parents gave me.

Cultural sensitivity, an ability to be patient with and understand people with accents, a mysterious morphological make up that allows me access into a diversity of groups, and the consciousness to see the humanity shared by all of us.

So I give thanks for them and for this country that made it all happen.

I only hope I can share their gifts with others.

Aloha!

 

 

Advertisements

Day 67 – Rain + Sun = Rainbows

img_0192
Cloudy day reflects the mood at the USS Utah memorial at Pearl Harbor.

I prayed for rain.

I prayed for weather that reflected my mood.

I wasn’t feeling sunny, mostly sunny, or partly sunny.

I wasn’t feeling summery.

I was feeling mostly cloudy.

My mood was autumn rolling into winter.

The rain began Saturday – a trip to Lanai reminded me of my Pacific NW home and I started to feel better but on Sunday the sun came back.

Monday saved me – rain flowing through the gutter of my apartment woke me up.

I danced while I made coffee, I sang to the koi fish in the pond, and I cooed at the doves feeding at the bird feeder.


But folks here don’t know that rain makes for slick roads.

Traffic caused by accidents slowed my commute. Frustrated drivers sped by after passing the firetrucks and cars pulled aside on the shoulder.

I giggled at their frustration. I relished being stopped in traffic within the rain clouds collected on the windward side of the Koolau mountains. My only wish being to be able to get out of my car and dance in the rain.

I was beaming – this was a real rainstorm and not only a passing tropical shower.

Sometimes a good downpour is the perfect therapy for cleansing the doldrums of life.

Sometimes to find rainbows you have to walk through a storm.

Aloha!

Day 65 – Lana’i

A quick trip off Oahu was the perfect cure for island fever. Especially, when the island plus the weather reminded me of home – the Pacific NW.

Tall Cook pines, thick clouds, and misty rain had me wondering what kind of spell I was under all day long.


Perhaps I was on an island in Southeast Alaska?
Alas, the tropical foliage and temperatures in the 70s snapped me back to the reality of Lanai. A sweet little community that deserves a stay longer than a few hours.

Aloha!

Day 59 – Super Moon

img_0108

Dear Super Moon,

You looked splendid tonight. Your rouge-like aura when you first emerged above the horizon made me wonder if you were a bit angry. Did Mars tell you something that pissed you off? Did he tell you that you are not made of rock, but of cheese?

My sweet, you do look beautiful when you are angry. The rush of lunar blood through your valleys gives you a glow of life – of – dare I say – passion. Was that your energy rushing through me? Spreading a renewed sense of vitality, of clarity.

As you ascended your rouge softened to a light pink then an angelic halo of creamy white draped over you like a beautiful, silky shawl. Did you forgive him?

Oh Super Moon, I need your wisdom tonight. I offer you a gift of plumerias, yellow and white, floating along your beams across the ocean. I send you a message in their sweet perfume drifting towards the heavens.

Please teach me how to wax with confidence, to embrace my intelligence, to honor what my eyes see, and to have courage to speak my voice.

Please teach me to take those words I hear from people who wish to keep me down below the horizon of my potential and turn them into wings.

Please remind me to be strong when these events make my energy wane.

If this is too much to ask for one night, I understand.

In the meantime, I will look for you every night, for another lesson.

Aloha.

Day 58 – Botanical Diversity

img_0100

Grounding. Solace.

Alone again, after a great weeklong visit with my brother, I felt pulled to take a walk among plant life. I needed their help to remember how to feel rooted on this Earth. I needed their help to remember the diversity of life. I needed their help to remember that life can happen in dry, desolate, and harsh conditions.

Welcome to Koko Crater Botanical Gardens.

img_0044

In this 100,000-year-old crater or tuff cone – created from an ash eruption, a consequence of cold seawater entering the hot Koolau volcanic vent – a botanical garden was created to feature plants from arid areas of the world. Le’ahi (Diamond Head) is another tuff cone or, as my brother and I decided to call tuff cones, volcanic farts (you heard it here first!).

East Oahu – or any Lee or Kona side of an island – the climate is hot and dry. This made Koko Crater a perfect setting for this type of garden.

Although I am a card-carrying biologist, I think any curiously observant human who paused at the absurdity of life in places where water may come every several years, would be in awe at seeing the diversity of plants.

img_0030

Diversity in size, shape, color, texture, mechanisms to collect water, flower, fruit, reproduce…  The list is long.

They are all different species, different genus, and different families – and that is just looking at the plants from hot, arid climates. These plants over millions of years have figured out how to take root and survive. But why?

To give us humans something to ponder? Or is it something greater?

img_0034

Can it be the will to survive, that encompasses the ability to adapt and thrive no matter how difficult an environment may be or become?

IMG_0096.jpg

It is how we got to where we are – and it will be the reason for where we will go…

Sometimes it takes a walk in a garden to remind us of this…

Aloha!

Day 50 – Life Happens in Paradise 


Ah paradise, you are my Shangri La, the place where there are no worries, food is plentiful, play no work, and I will never get old.

Who am I kidding? Not you I hope. 

The food is not free. The housing isn’t either. And there are chores to do. 

Thanks to my neighbor monopolizing the washer/dryer – I get to experience Laundromat in Paradise.

The only difference to the laundromats of my past is – it is an open air laundromat. The temperature inside is the same as outside, unless you are standing next to the dryers.


The machines are the same as when I lived in Rogers Park and went every weekend with my mother to the laundromat on Howard east of Western Ave. 

Today I am reminded of that time. When the dryers take all your quarters.

Today I am reminded that life happens wherever you live. The ups, the downs, the beauty, the ugly.

Unless you modify your definition of paradise – you will never find it. It will always be a fantasy because there is always dirty laundry to wash.


Aloha!

Day 46 – Love with Abandon


Love with abandon. You have heard this adage before. You have wished for it.  You may have decided you will never know what this means. But you are experiencing it right now, every day, every hour, every minute.

You are loving Earth with abandon.

You think she will support you. You think she will always be by your side. You think she will care for you.

You have forgotten how your actions impact her. You have forgotten to nourish her. You have forgotten her.

When you wash your hair in the morning do you think about where the soap goes? Do you think she will drink it like an elixir of love?

When you go for your morning coffee do you bring your own mug? Or do you think she will take your trash and make diamonds from it?


When you look at her do you only see her beauty or do you see the wounds that you thoughtlessly imprinted on her? Erroneously thinking your love is enough to cure her.

Do you see those marks? They are yours. Only you don’t want to take responsibility for them. You say they are her problem. You say they were there before you met her. You say “I love you” as if it is a magic spell to break all curses.

It isn’t.


Her baggage is your baggage. That is what love means. True love needs care, attention, and respect. How did you forget?

Now is not the time to love with abandon, now is the time to love consciously.

Only then will you know love.

Aloha.