Archive for the ‘Thoughts On Life’ Category
After a long absence, I plan to post regularly again. It’s been a difficult few months. Chronic pain from an old injury is no fun! I’m glad to say that I’ve made great progress in these past months and have hope that I will continue to grow stronger and be able to ward off the worst pain.
Over the months, I’ve had time to think about life, about art, about my passions, and what I still want to accomplish in my life. Although it has been 13 years since I’ve been in remission from breast cancer (after 10 years, one is considered “cured”), I never stop feeling the press of time, especially as I age.
As much as I love to paint and still feel the urge to do so, I’m going to continue my sabbatical from art for the present. My other passion is family history and genealogy – and of course, my parrots. Both of these particular passions are currently receiving all of my attention right now.
My favorite uncle Hank Domagalski, a World War II bomber pilot in the Pacific theater, used to be the family memory keeper. He was the only one who made 8 mm films and interviews of family members and events. When he passed away a few years ago, these materials came to me and I’m slowly gathering material to self-publish a number of books about my family lines. If you are interested, you can read a short article I wrote about my father’s family at this link (my article is on pages 6 and 7 of the pdf here). This type of research takes quite a lot of time and thought, and it is something I feel I must do as a legacy to my family.
My parrots and my house rabbit are doing just great. For the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing for the addition of one more rescue parrot into my family, and I’ll be posting more about that later. This photo shows my rabbit Bun Rab checking out the carrier in which I’ll be transporting my new charge by airplane. I’m very excited!
So that’s my news for now.
On my way to Albuquerque, I had a stopover in San Francisco – it was so good to see the ocean again after so long! and to be close to that wonderful city I’d roamed as a teenager. I took this photo from my seat on the plane as we traveled south along the coast.
Upon my return to the same airport, I came across a gorgeously beautiful Belgian Malinois dog who was accompanied by his handler, Officer Jeffrey Brown of the San Francisco Police Dept of Airport Bureau. Belgian Malinois look similar to German Shepherds, but the breed is older and doesn’t have the hip problems that German Shepherds do, according to Officer Brown. Chico was alert and ready for action at all times (sniffing for explosives) while I spoke to his handler. Officer Brown handed me Chico’s business card, which explains his story:
You may not be able to read the “Personal Message” easily, so I’ll transcribe it for you. It is a quote from Mark Twain:
“Let us abolish policemen who carry clubs and revolvers, and put in a squad of poets armed to the teeth with poems on Spring and Love.” Hear, hear!
I mentioned previously that one of my regular walks is around the perimeter of the old pioneer cemetery in my town. Although there have been some recent additions to the cemetery, most “inhabitants” are very old.
Where I walk, I skirt around the very back of the cemetery, which is where the Catholics were buried. During the Gold Rush days, Catholics, people of the Jewish faith, and other non-Protestant religionists were considered 2nd class citizens, relegated to the outer fringes of the cemeteries in this country.
Many of the headstones I looked at this morning were names of folks who had come from Ireland.
Here’s an example:
I don’t actually know whose grave this belongs to. It’s just a wooden structure that once surrounded the gravesite of an infant or a small child.
It’s rather a poignant landmark. I guess in tribute to the unknown and long gone child, someone has stuck into the middle of the plot a modern-day baby’s pacifier.
But, I will say this: The residents here have a glorious view of the valley below (if they ever come out in ghostly form), deer for company, and lovely trees to shade their resting places.
Happy Earth Day to our beautiful blue-green jewel whirling through space! I can understand easily why astronauts rhapsodize over you with affection and homesickness.
In thinking about Earth Day, I can be a tiny bit proud that as a sophomore in high school, I participated in that very first one in 1970 (yep, the years are piling up… For a history of the first Earth day, click this link). I chose to walk to school, a round trip of 7 miles of winding, very hilly road. At that time I lived in a semi-rural town that overlooked the Carquinez Straits in the San Francisco bay area.
At dawn, as I began my walk, the spring cacophony of birds was everywhere. I could see the occasional tugboat pass by in the straits. The narrow winding road was very quiet that early. As the sun rose, it was warm and comforting after the pre-dawn chill. I had a lot of time to think, and to see the Earth and its beauty with every step. The Beatles song “Here Comes the Sun” kept running through my mind. It was a day that simply underscoredwhy I was walking. I wished even then that my life could be as simple and grounded as the feeling I had as my feet pounded the asphalt.
Owing to a string of significant health issues in my life, I am no longer able to walk or bicycle to work. But I find small ways to do what I can. I recycle every scrap of paper and plastic, I finally have a fuel-efficient car (yay!), I try to make smart choices in purchases, use cloth bags for shopping, avoid harmful chemicals for cleaning and laundry, try to eat locally and organically, buy organic cotton when it’s on sale, etc. When I have a spare $20, I donate it to a nature conservation or wildlife organization.
As you can see, these are not large accomplishments and may not make any changes in the greater global scenario. But somehow, I think that making even small efforts creates a way of looking at life with more awareness and respect. That has to be a good thing.
Painting wildlife and the beautiful things of this earth has come naturally to me because I want to express my love and appreciation for all the animals and flowers that roam and grow on this planet.
Sometimes when we think we can’t do anything, we still do have choices. Perhaps the greatest and best choice is to cherish and love this amazing, sparkling, breathtaking place we call our home in the Milky Way, and to care for it as if it were our most dearly-loved family member. Everything else just has to follow naturally…
It was so good to see my family and to be part of what’s going on with my sister and her upcoming surgery to remove the desmoplastic ameloblastoma in her upper jaw.
There was a lot to do while I was there, and I ended up creating a flyer for the all-day benefit concert for Carrie that will take place on May 30.
A huge garage sale, scheduled for next weekend, is also being planned – again, the proceeds to help defray the huge medical costs involved with her procedures. There are also constant reminders about how difficult the aftermath of this surgery will be: visits to the one and only doctor in New Mexico who makes prosthetic palates (called “obturators”), appointments to speech therapists (surprising how much a palate and a jaw contribute to clear speech and how unclear it becomes without ’em!), etc. Thanks to the help of her many dear friends, and one in particular who is spearheading the concert and providing immense support, spirits are high and Carrie is ready.
But there were fun moments too. We all went to a local rest home where the Highland Harmonizers sang to the residents with great gusto and fun. My mother is singing here (she wears the largest flowery Easter hat).
Speaking of my mother, she celebrated her 80th birthday – a week later, for my benefit, since I couldn’t be there for her real birthdate.
My sister cooked a fantastic meal and we had a great time with about a dozen friends who came to be part of the fun.
I had fun photographing this birthday balloon just as the sun set and the last rays hit the room. That light in the balloon is the sun just as it went down. You can see the reflected light on the balloon below the orange one, sort of like a sliver moon.
It was also fun to see a member of the newest generation arrive on the scene.
One of Carrie’s friends was babysitting her very first grandchild, and she brought the baby over to show us.
Carrie’s little Maltese, named Maizy, found the baby irresistible too. This was the first time Maizy had ever encountered an infant, and she was very curious – and extremely gentle, sniffing and licking the baby’s face in greeting.
And after all this activity, it’s nice to know that there is time to relax and recover (here she is under my covers, sticking her head out and very sleepy). That is what Maizy does best, and she’s an inspiration to take time out and nurture one’s self, don’t you think?
Soon I’ll be on my way to New Mexico to visit with my mother and sister. My mother, pictured here in her flapper girl attire, just turned 80! She is a live wire, and active in a singing group, which is now expanding its activities to dancing – hence, the spiffy get-up.
We get to celebrate Mom’s birthday a second time, and then have a good visit, eating my sister’s delicious food (she’s quite a chef) and the delicious Southwestern food of New Mexico. (Try the breakfast burrito at The Frontier in Albuquerque…). In addition to eating, we will see some sights, take long walks, talk a lot, and in general catch up on our lives.
My sister is preparing for major jaw surgery for the desmoplastic ameloblastoma she has, so there is much to discuss and plan.
It will be great to see my family again. I’ll bring back some photos of the beautiful panoramic views and wide open skies of New Mexico, which I’ll be sure to share with you.,/span>
Have a good week!
For instance, this first curtain I show here is one that caught my attention. I was sitting near it in the Vesancy restaurant in France where they serve hearty lunch fare for the workers and residents of the area.
I just loved the bright light shining through the pretty orange curtain. It provided such cheer in an already cheerful, humming place: people chatting nonstop in French, plates clattering, utensils banging, wine being sipped, laughter and good-natured banter.
The curtain on the right, on the other hand, was found in a relatively quiet tea room in the Gex patisserie where scrumptious chocolates and freshly-baked bread were offered for the customer. I like the delicate design and sheerness of the fabric with the light shining through.
Moving on to Annecy, France, the day was quite cold in March and the early spring sun was still weak. But how lovely it was to see it streaming in through these pretty windows.
The mood inside was mellow, low murmuring voices, appreciative thanks for delicious snacks to fuel the travelers. Everyone seemed relaxed and happy.
While I’m on the subject of Nurnberg, Germany, here is another photo to show you.
During World War II, my stepfather was an MP (Military Police) and was stationed in Nurnberg during the trials held there after the war. He, like other military fellows, would do some sight-seeing during time off.
The Allies destroyed about 90% of the old part of Nurnberg during bombing raids in 1945 because this city was considered to be so historically important to the Nazis. It defies belief – first, to see the extent of the devastation of the deeply loved buildings and cathedrals, and secondly to see how they were lovingly reconstructed out of such rubble.
My stepfather was also present when the concentration camp at Dachau was liberated. He told us that that experience defied belief too, but I need say no more on that subject.
On my first visit to Nurnberg, I brought with me the image above. I wanted to see if the statue still existed. My friends were unfamiliar with it, so we would show it to some oldtimers in the old city. Finally, a little gnome of an elderly gentleman recognized it and explained where it was – and not far away from the center of town.
The statue represents Kaiser Wilhelm I and it stands directly across from a church called Saint Igidien. I had no idea of the size of the statue from the old image, as the bombed-out buildings around it made it hard to find a reference point for size.
I was glad to have found the statue, bringing to a close a circle begun by my stepfather. But there was no real joy in it. The bronze statue was riddled with holes where mortar hit it during the bombing. That is how it is in Nurnberg: such beauty juxtaposed with the scars to remind one of the past and its terrible human costs.
I celebrated a birthday today and find it has been a time to reflect. The good thing is that I’m past that critical stage when I worry about the advancing march of the Army of Wrinkles. I lost that battle several years ago. The shock has worn off, and now there are far more important things to put one’s attention on!
Thinking of the hard slog my sister will be going through with her jaw surgery takes precedence (Carrie is on the right in the photo). I had forgotten, since it’s been over 11 years now, just how many emotions and fears one experiences in facing the unknowns of a physical condition that can disfigure and potentially kill. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, the process of digesting this information, realizing the ramifications, having to decide on what course of action to take (surgery, and choosing one’s poison, in this case), and then actually living through it is like dying many deaths. You get through one stage and wonder how you can possibly manage another aspect to the treatments, the reactions to drugs and chemo, the cocky or zombie nurses who seem to be experimenting with a dummy patient, the diminishing health and vitality of one’s body, the wasting before one’s eyes.
Carrie is now going through this process and I find myself reliving what I went through. I wouldn’t want to wish this experience on anybody. And yet….there were those friends and strangers who said just the right thing, fought for me when I couldn’t, held a hand, cooled a fiery forehead, held me up and loved me through the experience. I did survive, and it was life-changing for me. It became an experience I would never have traded for anything, even though its physical effects were to last many, many years. So we hold on to that thought: that through these awful invasive physical changes we have to bear, we will become even more what we were born to be.