Bernard the Bear

Bears are made of the same dust as we, and they breathe the same winds and drink of the same waters. A bear’s days are warmed by the same sun, his dwellings are overdomed by the same blue sky, and his life turns and ebbs with heart pulsing like ours. He was poured from the same first fountain. And whether he at last goes to our stingy Heaven or not, he has terrestrial immortality. His life, not long, not short, knows no beginning , no ending. To him life unstinted, unplanned, is above the accidents of time, and his years, markless and boundless, equal eternity.

— John Muir


Somewhere between ages 12 and 26 bears overtook dolphins as my favorite animal. I can’t narrow down the time at which this occurred any further than this 14 year span, but I suspect it may have coincided with my growing love of the forests and mountains (except, wait – I love the ocean too, so that’s not a great hypothesis). I also associate bears with Yosemite because it’s the only place I’ve seen them outside of a zoo, and Yosemite is my favorite place in the world (except for long weekends in July when it’s jam-packed with buses and tourists with selfie sticks).

When we first moved into our house in San Francisco, I decorated the couch with two pillows painted with faces of bears. I spend a lot of time sitting on the couch looking at them and admiring how simultaneously calm and peaceful, yet strong and powerful, they are. If only I were half as multi-faceted and beautiful!

I have a lot of feelings about the concept of hibernation. It’s:

a) Funny. I mean… come on. Who can’t relate to a good hibernation meme?

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b) Incredible. How? Just… how does it happen? How can they do that?! (Don’t tell me to watch “Planet Earth” or read an article because I’ve done both of those things and I still don’t understand how it’s possible.)

c) A good analogy for life, hence the cartoon. I was thinking about the longer periods of time in my life where things feel dark and sad and depressing and disappointing, and how beautiful it is to emerge from those times feeling stronger and more grateful for the little things than before. All of a sudden, the small things that bring happiness seem that much bigger and more wonderful.

Desiderata

Is it ironic that I was writing out the words of “Desiderata” (“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, / and remember what peace there may be in silence”) while watching the fourth quarter of the NCAA finals? I’m pretty sure the stress I incur while watching close sports games (this seems to happen whether or not I’m invested in either of the teams) doesn’t count as “going placidly” but, here we are.

I grew up taking the “Desiderata” for granted. A framed version of the poem sat opposite the toilet in the bathroom of my aunt and uncle’s house in England and so, over the course of many childhood visits to their home, I memorized it (it was sort of hard not to read it when patiently waiting on “the loo”). I didn’t realize how much I appreciated its words and sentiment until later, but perhaps I discovered it at exactly the right time.

As I reread its words tonight I heard the cynical voice of adulthood whispering, “This poem is silly. It’s optimistic and hippy-ish and – frankly – bullshit.” And yet- another voice, the one of innocence and optimism and hope: “Who cares? If certain words or ideas inspire you, let them. Don’t let the pain and cynicism you’ve incurred since you were a young child, sitting on the toilet and minding your own business and seeing the best in the world, silence your soul.”

Anyway- I just ran out of the veggie chips I’ve been snacking on, so this internal philosophical debate is being put on hold for the foreseeable future (meaning I’ll resume it later tonight when I’m lying in bed awake and full of anxiety).

Windows on the World

The way in which I experience a window depends on the weather that day, and if I’m on vacation, and the temperature of my coffee, and if it’s a Tuesday or a Sunday, and whether or not I have a good book to read, and if I’m waiting for someone, or if someone is waiting for me, and if there’s something happening outside, and whether or not I want to leave my body behind.

Some days windows are protection: from the rain, the cold, the “real world,” the sadness and injustice and pain that rear their ugly heads just outside my bedroom. Other days, windows are temptation: a promise of freedom and San Francisco sunshine and a colorful, vibrant world waiting to be explored just outside the office walls…

I dream about windows a lot, too, mostly when I’m daydreaming and thinking about where I’d like to wake up and drink my morning coffee, or evening glass of wine, or midday Diet Coke (with a turkey sandwich, of course, and yes, I know Diet Coke will give me cancer, but no one is perfect).

When I’m lonely, I’ll dream of a window overlooking a snow-covered mountain, where the snow is so deep that you can’t make out the brown of the tree branches below its thick layers.

When I’m happy, the window is open wide so that, even from my bed, I feel the mist of the ocean’s spray and smell the salt water so strongly it’s as if I’m standing with my toes touching the water. (Is there anything better than the smell of salt water, of knowing the ocean is near?)


I spent this past weekend in Monterey and painted these window scenes this afternoon while Thomas and Aaaron “hooped it up” in the nearby park:

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Earlier this morning, I went for a walk along the coast and admired the houses with perfectly-manicured gardens lining other side of the road. I squinted my eyes in attempts to peer into each of their massive glass windows, trying to catch a glimpse of what life was like inside those colorful, warm, bright walls. What was the woman in the kitchen writing as she bent down over the marble countertop? Was she listening to music? What was the young couple (and were they on holiday, or were they able to afford that house this young?) sipping from their wine glasses? What would it be like to be on the inside of those houses, looking out through those windows at the teal-blue ocean, at all the tourists biking by, at me?

Maybe I’m in France in the second window, I’m not yet sure. I’ll find it, though – at the very least, in my dreams. Don’t windows make you hopeful? And sad, at the same time?

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White Cliffs

A watercolor-turned-pastel landscape for day three, because I’m bad out of practice when it comes to pastels but apparently even worse even more out of practice when it comes to watercolor. Or perhaps watercolor wasn’t the right medium for this attempted portrayal of the white cliffs of Dover?

Anyway- this attempt brought me back to my elementary school art class days (Mrs. Morton, if you’re reading this, this one’s for you). I then showed up to play my evening squash match with pastels all over my hands, which made me laugh because it made me feel like one of those “crazy” artists who has frizzy hair and paint all over their clothing, even though I haven’t done any of this stuff since 5th grade.

I started out on the first day of this project writing about how I didn’t want to let my fear of embarrassment or judgement stop me from creating things… so, I’d say this is my first true, hesitant step towards that goal.

I couldn’t draw this without thinking of that poem “Dover Beach” – the one we read and re-read and analyzed and re-analyzed in high school – and for some reason I seem to be able to remember poetry better than I do movie plots? I disliked the poem because it made me feel depressed, but I guess the beginning of the last stanza (“Ah, love, let us be true / To one another!”) is supposed to be romantic? Either way, reading that poem makes me sad and, in my opinion, one should honor the feeling a poem gives them regardless of how it’s interpreted by others.

The Main Reason I Can Never Become Famous

My first day’s project was more of a “deep” one, so I thought I’d switch it up with some funny-ness on day two. I have a whole list of Twitter drafts that I haven’t posted, mostly because I thought they’d be better represented as cartoons than as tweets. But I’ve never actually taken the time to draw one of them out, so here’s my first shot. (Does anyone else think I’m funny? Or is it just me?)

As a side note, I’m currently sitting in the Starbucks near my house (catch me there every morning before work), and the baristas are all singing to “Hotline Bling.” If I ever move from my house, it’s probably this Starbucks that I’ll miss the most.

Gratitude

Welcome, and enjoy this first foray into the public posting of my creative endeavors… or, hypothetically public, but probably only my sister and mom will read this. My intention for today was to make a collage that represented what have always been – and what I expect to continue to be throughout this journey – my sources of creative inspiration. Un-coincidentally, they also happen to be my primary sources of happiness: love, relationships and friendships, nature, the ocean, mountains, books and poems, and music. I’ll admit, collaging also felt more accessible and less difficult to me than other forms of art at which I have less experience (painting, drawing), and therefore a less intimidating place to start.

More meaningful than the final product of this effort, though, was the time I spent sifting through old papers, magazines, birthday cards, and scrapbooks in order to create it. My intention for this collage helped me return to these sources of creative inspiration and, less intentionally (though perhaps I should have foreseen it), remind me of everything for which I’m grateful in this world.


I make “gratitude lists” in my journal each morning (and have been doing so for awhile), so I’m one of the last people who needs convincing that the simple practice of gratitude journaling can positively impact one’s life. So, as I sat on my bed combing through old photos, plane tickets, postcards, and notes, I felt as though I were “gratitude journaling” on steroids. Needless to say, the process was somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster, but my intention to create a collage of inspiration turned into something better: a visual and enduring representation of my “gratitude list.”


I’ll likely return to my “gratitude list(s)” in future days, so here’s something else I want to note about this evening’s collaging process: if you’ve ever written me a birthday card, or a letter, or even a thoughtful post-it note… I’ve kept it. I’ll admit, it’s not the most practical thing in the world to carry all of these letters and cards around with me (especially when trying to transport folders of cards from my childhood home in Connecticut across the country to California), but I don’t regret for one moment keeping each and every one. Almost all of the time it took to make this collage was actually spent sifting through these wonderful, physical representations of love, friendship, and generosity.

The thick yellow pieces of paper are taken from a card my late grandfather (Duke, we affectionally called him) wrote to me before I went off to college. The rose petals are ones I saved and pressed from the night Thomas proposed to me, and the “20” and “19” are cutouts from two plane tickets, one from a trip to Nicaragua and the other to Colombia (during which I conveniently happened to have been assigned a seat in row 19). You might recognize the magazine cutout of Yosemite, or the stickers of different characters from The Little Prince, both of which have served to inspire me throughout the years. And these items are only a small representation of the souvenirs and photos and notes I read and appreciated this evening.


I spent a long time looking through one particular book I’d added to the pile of memories on my bed: a scrapbook, actually, that my dad had made and given me for my 21st birthday. It’s full of my old writings, drawings, and certificates (some “participation” — namely, the one for completion of “Level 1 ice skating” — some actual achievement) from the first 21 years of my life. One of the pages that stood out to me in the context of beginning this project was of a drawing I’d done when I was much younger:

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It’s nothing special from a visual perspective, that’s for sure, but it reminded me of the lack of inhibition that I had as a young child. Somewhere along the way, as I grew from a young child, to a teenager, to an adult, I developed a resistance to, or even fear of, doing things I wasn’t “good” at. When did I stop drawing because I was told, or felt like, I wasn’t “good” at art? When was the enjoyment I got from an activity surpassed by a fear of judgement or failure? Why have I given up so many hobbies or ideas I love and that bring me happiness because I’m “not the best”at them? What a sad way to live, really. I hope this project restores in me some of that childhood inhibition — or that I give myself permission, if you will — to explore what I enjoy, regardless of if I’ll ever be “good” at it.