California

Stop. Breathe. Play Through.

The City of Oakland owns 290 acres that are used as parking lots, which the City designates as “open space.”

In spite of my best efforts, I still think like an economist. Don’t ask me whether that thing is too expensive. Ask me whether it’s worth the price, or whether spending a dollar on that thing is better than spending it on that other thing. During this *unusual* time, the spenders among us are probably thinking a little more like this. Maybe we don’t need 12 pairs of jeans and 30 pairs of shoes. Maybe we don’t need to spend $160 on hair color every month. Maybe we should use the money to plant a garden or support the local food bank. Maybe we should put it away in case one of us gets laid off….

Continue reading

Rethinking the F Word

Photo of an exhibit at the Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA.

Last month in Mexico, my friend, Pepe, who has four kids, lost his job when his gringo employers decided to abruptly leave Mexico. Closer to home, two of my nieces are working from home with toddlers who insist on acting as personal assistants. We all have stories like this, some tender, some tragic.

My own story changed on March 14 when I boarded one of the last flights out of Morocco a few days after my sisters told me, wisely and somewhat *emphatically*, to come home. If a global crisis hadn’t intervened, I would be in Portugal walking the Camino de Santiago after two months in Central Asia and the Middle East, before heading to who-knows-where.

Continue reading

It’s Alright

People congregating! Oakland 2019.

By now, I think we have learned that there are two kinds of people when it comes to staying at home. The first category of people say, “I am doing great, enjoying this time to relax and slow down. I am calling my friends on zoom and doing online yoga!”

The second category of people say “Oh yeah, well, I was kind of down yesterday but I am better today. Lots of people have it much worse than me. We’ll get through this, no problem.”  If you are in the first category, please know that the people in the second category are actually thinking “I am going out of my mind.”

Continue reading

Morning Adventure With Little Plastic Folder

Wood block print by Munakata Shiko

Our world is redefining the idea of adventure I think, and small things are getting more interesting by the minute. I had an adventure with a small thing this morning. It began with a search for a coaster for my coffee mug. I was starting to feel that my use of paper towels as coasters was wasteful and not very attractive. And, you know, I was trying to maintain a semblance of civility on Day 3 without a shower.  So I routed around in a bag of small odds and ends I had picked up in my travels and I found something that I could use as a coaster. It was a little plastic folder. Here it is:

Continue reading

O Brave New World

“The Tempest” by John William Waterhouse depicts Miranda watching the shipwreck in Act 1 of Shakespeare’s play.

In the Bay Area, it’s a great day to stay inside, and that’s what we were going to do anyway. It’s raining with wind, like this stormy time in our history, reminding me that I have wanted to learn about Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.”  So I did some research and, as always, I found much more than I expected, including a poetic reference to a bat.

Continue reading

The Sky With Diamonds

Lake Merritt, Oakland, California

I used to think the title of the Beatles’ song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” meant Lucy was taking diamonds into the sky. But now I think it means Lucy is going into a sky that already has diamonds. I changed my mind about this after I realized why the air in my Bay Area home feels different. It has sparkles in it!  The natural beauty here is covered in a light that our proximity to the ocean makes glittery.

Continue reading

Freedom Riders

Eastman Johnson: A Ride for Liberty- circa 1862

I recently came across a reminder of a simple act of defiance that changed history. In 1517, Martin Luther tacked a document called the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Castle church. The 95 Theses questioned the foundations  of the all-powerful Catholic church. Most specifically, the document challenged the church’s practice of “indulgences,” payments made by believers as a way to enter heaven. Indulgences empowered the church and enriched the church elite, mostly at the expense of the poor.

Continue reading

Shelter for the Storm

Laura Sierra’s house in San Miguel de Allende, Murals painted by her and Pepe Rodriguez.

When I was 11, my mother said, apparently out of the blue, “You know, sometimes we don’t know how we are going to pay all the bills. When that happens, your dad and I write a check to the homeless shelter. It reminds us how fortunate we are.”  I am still thanking her for that expression of my parents’ sense of community and humanity. Continue reading