As an amateur photographer, I originally started this blog with the intent of sharing pictures that I have taken, and perhaps share an occasional thought or two. It turns out I have quite a few things to say and in the process, I haven’t really posted a lot of pictures lately. So in lieu of the few hundred words I may otherwise write, here are some pictures taken at Meadowlark Gardens in Vienna, Virginia.
It’s been a while since my last post. Between work, training, and the busy hum of life in suburbia, I haven’t had much of a chance to post something. There’s also the problem with having a little bit of writers’ block. Weekends are filled with picture taking and cleaning up the house, a little bit. Why do I have all this stuff and what am I going to do with it? Over the years, you buy a small thing here, a small thing there. Cabinets, once empty, fill up. The floor in my study is not quite as open as it once was. A pile of papers here, a pile of papers there. No, I am not going to go through the process of holding each time and trying to find out if this thing or that things gives me joy. Truthfully, there’s just too many things to pick up that if you were to somehow divinate that this or that is giving me joy, I may end up with arms even more tired than they already are. So I’ll just throw some things out, donate some things, and assume that what’s left is giving me joy. Heck, how much joy can a guy take in one day?
Anyway, I took the day off to ruminate. I went for a short walk at the Mosaic District, one of the mixed use neighborhoods that are popping up in Northern Virginia. I love walking around here. There’s a movie theater, a couple of shops and eateries to go to, space for people to walk around and just enjoy the day. This morning, I stopped by the Praline Bakery, one of those nice places to grab a quick bite and just enjoy a few minutes of alone time (before the noon rush). A crisp apple confection (I forgot what they call it) that’s just sweet enough without being overwhelming, with that slightly tart flavor that makes you savor it even more. A nice cup of coffee, and no phone calls or web surfing. Just some downtime.
A place to relax, to think, to ruminate. I picked up the fork, took a small slice out of the confection in front of me, and this feeling of joy was amazing. The joy increased as the desert got ever smaller. I don’t think this is what Marie Kondo had in mind when she said pick things up and see if it brings you joy, but I’ll take it. And now that I know that picking up a fork, in a certain place, is sure to bring me joy, I believe a return trip in the very near future is a very real possibility. Return trips, if I have to be honest. In some things, a guy can’t have enough joy.
And what a colorful selection of deserts (macaroons!). I love the growing diversity in the population. You used to choose from pistachio, vanilla, orange, chocolate, almond. Now you can get mango flavored treats. And passion fruit. Joy, Joy, Joy!!!!
And, there’s this beautiful wall mural outside of this little corner of the world.
And a little dog park/patch right next to it (and I mean little, but it serves its function). Oh, the artist left his calling card.
Great comfort food, a nice day, beautiful wall art. A joyful morning indeed.
Last Saturday morning, I woke up shortly after the sun had awakened and Huntley Meadows, one of the local wildlife refuges, beckoned. There was only one thing that made me think that maybe, just maybe, I should stay in bed. The sky was overcast and the weather casters predicted about two inches of rain for the weekend. I was pretty sure I wanted to just go out, go for a short hike, and take some pictures. There was, however, something weighing on my mind. It was grey. It was dull. What pictures were there to take in such a day as this? In short, while I knew what I wanted to do, how will the reality of the on and off drizzle mesh with my idea of taking pictures of birds in spring? My heart said go ahead. My head asked why? How so?
Sometimes the head wins out. Sometimes the heart flutters too much and like the sweet smell of sampaguitas, the feeling envelops you, and the world feels new. Is new. The dawn of a new day. A little muted, perhaps, but alive with possibilities.
And so it was that three hours was spent walking around in the on and off sprinkles from the sky. And sometimes, the sun decided to tease a little warmth into the cool May morning. The heart may be a lonely hunter at times, but then again, it can only be so. For in the ups and downs and ups in life, we find our way to life lived, a life lived well.
How so? The answer is simple. Make it so. And here are the pictures to prove it.
Spring is tulip season in the mid Atlantic region. With days getting warmer, rainfall is also bountiful. Life giving water. It makes the grass green. The mood a little melancholy. The ground, saturated by the drops of rain falling from the skies, is a little soft. Maybe even muddy. Grey skies indeed. And in what can only be described as a pleasant contrast, shades of red, pink and yellow adorn countless gardens in all the neighborhoods. The colors, saturated by the clouds diffusing light as it falls from our star, are vibrant. Droplets of water cling to every flower. And through each miniature lens, beauty is magnified.
The crescent moon shines brightly in the quickly darkening sky
Twilight receding, stars ascending and in front of me
Stands mighty Orion, with Rigel’s light blazing forth
And to one side sits Canopus, with the brightest star in the sky
Looking down on me as I gaze upward one more time
And see the beauty that only the sisters can bring
The seven forever chased by the hunter
And as the winter stars meet the horizon ever earlier
In a slowly changing dance, a sequence of moments, each a memory
Spring will come soon enough
The past will be past, but like the stars that circle the earth
They remain with us, reminding us
That what we treasure is not lost
For they will always shine brightly in our hearts
As long as love endures
For people who love musicals, the hashtag above will be familiar. It is so fitting that at the moment of great loss, I found meaning in music. My first distinct memory of my mother was watching “The Sound of Music” so many years ago. When I posted the last entry on this blog, I was on my way to Manila to bring my mother back home from her vacation. Her cancer came back, and unlike the saying, the third time was not the charm.
It’s hard to imagine what happens when the music that has ruled your life suddenly disappears. It is an empty feeling when your world is devoid of the person who raised you, who understood you, who cared for you. The person who knew you first, the person who felt my heart beat for the first time. The person who taught me that honesty and truth were the important ideals in life. That love, among all the things that we can give to another, is the greatest gift of all. It is so easy to think that all that we have will always be with us. And truth be told, if we lose a lot of the things that we have, we will not be missing anything at all.
That is almost true. The thing is, we are nothing without the people who care for us. And the people that we care for. Why is it that a child with almost nothing at all, in the warm embrace of her mother or father has a smile so broad that in that instant, the world lights up as if a meteor is streaking through the sky. The warmth that love brings is the one thing that truly makes our lives complete. We can look to the skies for inspiration. With love in our lives, we need only look at our hearts to find that a simple look, a simple smile, a single touch is enough to lift our souls to the heavens.
And so it was in May that the person who saw me as I am finally joined the husband that she lost more than a decade ago. In that moment, her spirit joined the spirit of my father and together, I imagine that they look down upon me and in their corporal form, the same love that bore their son fill the heavens, magnified by the love of the countless multitudes who came before them. Love free of the boundaries of time and space.
I say to myself that as long as I remember, as long as I feel, they are never truly gone. The truth is, life for those who lose someone truly dear will never be the same. Life is altered forever. And yet, it does not have to be a life without meaning. Different yes. Meaningless? No.
And so it was that I happened upon the music that keeps playing in my head. It is in an endless loop. Not that it mutes everything else in life. Rather, the music gives one the clarity to understand that as long as we live, there is always a place for us to find love. We need not wait for someone to embrace us. The gift of love is best manifested when we share it with another. And so, in the loneliness and emptiness that death can bring, it is the act of giving one’s self to another that allows us to find life anew.
Accept people as they are. Find the good in all and in so doing we find the good in ourselves. “I never dreamed that I would find someone like you who would want me.” For many of us, we have already lived the dream. Loving parents that nurtured us, cared for us. We have been found, in the very first moments of our existence.
And now, it is up to us to find the meaning of the hashtag “youwillbefound.” It’s not about being alone. It is about realizing that we are never really alone. There will always be someone who will love us. We are, after all, created out of love. We are all children of love that is infinite.
And so, thank you Evan Hansen. In the depths of sorrow, the wonderful music, the incredible story, the beautiful words reminded me that there is so much to live for. No one is truly alone. #youwillbefound.
A note about Dear Evan Hansen. This is the best musical I have seen in years. Dare I say that it might be my favorite musical written in the last thirty five years. Yes, this includes Les Miserables, Phantom, Hamilton, Rent, etc. A lot of great music to be sure, but there is something about the vulnerabilities that the characters in this show exhibit that we as human beings can understand. And relate to. We all have fears, moments of doubt. Sometimes, no, often times, we need to let others into our lives. To heal us. To love us.
On the Saturday matinee, Michael Lee Brown played the part of Evan Hansen. A fantastic Evan! And Mallory Bechtel as Zoe was adorable and wonderful. This is the show to watch in New York. And now that it is about to embark on its first American tour, I hope that you are able to watch this wonderful musical. Pasek and Paul are the new dynamic duo in the musical universe. The play by Steven Levenson is exceptional. Two and a half hours of laughter, sorrow, empathy, and hope. Yes, hope. The core of this show is hope. Forgiveness. And love.
You are not alone. You will be found.
Look closely and the world looks like a different place. A beautiful flower, incredible. At close range, it is otherworldly.
The you realize seeing things in black and white is not necessarily a bad thing. Just ask Edward Weston.
Springtime Flowers. If you look really close, you get distracted by the abstract.
When the sun closes it’s eyes
And the moon gazes on a world
Bathed in the warmth of the fading day
It casts its gentle glow
And the world finally sleeps
And a million dreams fill the sky
With little points of starlight
Hearts beat in unison
Pulsing with the joys of the day
And with the hope for even better tomorrows
In this quietest of moments
When all is calm
When the mind lifts the veil of uncertainty
Love, at last, can smile