Here, A Photograph of Life in Lisbon

“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”
– Aristotle

Here I found no pretense.
Here I found neighbors filling the small bar housed next to the neighborhood soccer field to watch the game together – children laughing.
Here I found a better representation of life in the city of Lisbon than anywhere else.
Here I found authenticity and I suppose, a sample of Portugal’s own 99%.

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Door, A Photograph of Lisbon, Portugal

“There are such moments in life, when, in order for heaven to open, it is necessary for a door to close.”
– José Saramago

The first post from Lisbon, Portugal, or anywhere for that matter, should be a door. After all, upon entering a new place, you have to open the door first.

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A Mongolian Symphony

“My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony.”
― Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

First came my birth….and my orchestra.

— When my parents brought me home from the hospital the day I was born, my siblings asked why they had brought home a “Chinese baby.” I only knew of my Italian, Irish and Eastern European roots while growing up. It’s what we all knew.

— Upon seeing photos of my two sons, most people ask if their father is Asian. He’s not – his heritage is German and Italian.

— I had a boyfriend once who would tease me, always joking that I must have Chinese in me because the way I held my face.

— A few years ago I had some body work done with a well-known physical therapist. To assess the alignment of my body he measured each of my bones that he could feel. When he came to my pelvis he said, “Hmm, that’s strange. You have an extra floating bone. It’s rare and I’ve only seen it in Asian women. Are you of Asian descent?” I told him no.

— I frequently dream of horses – riding horses, seeing horses in a barn, helping injured horses and watching wild horses.

— When my brother got married many years ago, his wife’s co-worker asked, in her thick southern accent, “Is that boy white? Or Asian?”

Throughout the years, we’d all shake our heads, shrug our shoulders and laugh at the comments; never thinking beyond the extra bones, slightly slanted eyes and wild horse dreams.

Then came a blood test.

A few months ago my parents decided to have a blood test done to chart their individual DNA, and as you can guess by my post, we found out an interesting piece of information about my ancestors. It seems a small percentage of my mother’s DNA is of Mongolian descent.

Then an old theory I read once.

Some scientist believe that within our DNA there also lives memories. Memories not formed by us, but our ancestors. Passed down from generation to generation the imprint is so strong, that it can even influence our decision-making. I suppose this cellular memory is also linked to quantum physics, as cells are energy matter.

Along with an idea.

While driving and considering my next article for The American Mag on…you guessed it… DNA and cellular memories, I decided that the next new continent I’ll visit will be Asia – Mongolia to be precise. Yes, Mongolia.

Europe is always near and dear to my heart and I’ll continue to split my time between Here and There, although my travel to Mongolia next year will take precedence within my wandering mind. And from what I can tell, much planning must be done (something I am generally loath to preemptively do so this should be interesting.)

I don’t know how long I’ll stay. I assume it will be a few weeks to a month maybe. I don’t what I’ll do either, though horses will surely be involved at some point or another, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll acquire another instrument for the symphony inside of my soul.

Pretty, A Photograph Lacking

“Let us leave pretty women to men with no imagination.”
– Marcel Proust

Although not my typical photo style, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to snap it. The fake skin, the fake nails, the fake drink – the clock ticking in the background. Also considering I am a Proust fan, his words added just the right touch…and honesty.

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Ruins, A Photograph of Advancement

It seems, in fact, that the more advanced a society is, the greater will be its interest in ruined things, for it will see in them a redemptively sobering reminder of the fragility of its own achievements. Ruins pose a direct challenge to our concern with power and rank, with bustle and fame. They puncture the inflated folly of our exhaustive and frenetic pursuit of wealth.”
– Alain de Botton
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Bread, A Photograph of Kindness

“Are you upset little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, don’t worry…I’m here. The flood waters will recede, the famine will end, the sun will shine tomorrow, and I will always be here to take care of you.”
– Charles M Schulz
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Auspicious Blackbirds

Yesterday while walking my dog, a flight of birds flew over our heads and I stopped to watch them. There seemed to be hundreds of them but I couldn’t tell the variety. Five minutes before the bird dance I had been listening to Eddie Vedder’s version of Blackbird while doing my dishes. “Auspicious” I thought to myself. Or perhaps hoped.

They moved in complete synchronicity with one another; darting one direction and then another. The movements seemed playful to me and I envisioned smiles on their little beaks as they followed the leader before filling a tree close by.

I dream every night and have since I was a child and many of those nights I’ve been flying like a bird. I’ve never dreamt I actually was a bird, just that I can fly like a bird. Not surprising, if I should come back in another life, I’d like it to be as a bird. You may be thinking, “Oh she wishes to have freedom,” as the bird is so representative of freedom. Although that’s only part of it really. My desire is much simpler than that – I only wish to see things from a bird’s perspective and I like the playfulness of the little creatures.

In my bird-like dreams, after my air exploration, I always have a hard time landing back on earth…and if that isn’t a complete representation of my essence, I don’t know what is.  And so in honor of the flock of birds, my bird-like dreams and auspicious events, I give you Eddie Vedder —

 

Contemplation, A Photograph of Hawaii

“Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is the spirit that is experienced. That is why there exist contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally.”
– Fernando Pessoa

I’ve spent the better part of the week in Hawaii with my sons. What I find interesting about the islands is that for as beautiful and pristine as they are, I struggle to be photographically inspired here. Don’t misunderstand please – the sunsets alone are photographed from visitors all over the world and I’m a sucker for a good sunset. The beaches, the aquatic world full of great sea turtles and fish the color of rainbows are what postcards are made from; though for me, while meditative, therefore giving me ample time to contemplate, they lack artistic inspiration; drama.

Take me to a city with interesting architecture and people and I can’t seem to put my camera down. Take me to the beaches where cameras abound, and I’m loathe to pick mine up. The photo below is one of the twenty I felt inspired to take. The man in the photo must’ve known he was being photographed because he quickly moved down the beach.

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Still, A Watercolor with Pablo Neruda

“Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.”
– Pablo Neruda
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The American | In Italia: Living: Lost in Translation: The Deep End, A Prose Poem

Below you will find a link to my column Lost in Translation and my most recent piece, “The Deep End” which is not a typical article, but more-so a prose poem. Anyone who knows me, knows that poetry is near and dear to my heart. Although the magazine does not typically publish poems, this particular prose was allowed – this one time.

http://www.theamericanmag.com/article.php?article=4326

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Girls Who Read, A Poem by Mark Grist

This video poem was sent to me recently. I don’t usually share videos on this forum, although not only did I find it entirely refreshing, but thought it worthwhile enough to share with all those girls out there like me, who may one day be found buried underneath a pile of books while others are found underneath a pile of make-up and clothes.

Deep, A Photograph

“There’s no value in digging shallow wells in a hundred places. Decide on one place and dig deep. Even if you encounter a rock, use dynamite and keep going down. If you leave that to dig another well, all the first effort is wasted and there is no proof you won’t hit rock again.”
– Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras
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My Hometown, A Photograph and Thought

“We need a home in the psychological sense as much as we need one in the physical: to compensate for a vulnerability. We need a refuge to shore up our states of mind, because so much of the world is opposed to our allegiances. We need our rooms to align us to desirable versions of ourselves and to keep alive the important, evanescent sides of us.”
― Alain de Botton,

Earlier this week I was asked where I’m from. As usual, this particular question brought a long answer. I explained that I was born in Europe and had for the entirety of my young adulthood, moved every few years or so. He then asked a question I’d never thought about before.

“Well then where would you consider “home” of all the places you’ve lived?”

It’s funny how sometimes the most innocent of questions or comments can open in us insights into ourselves that we didn’t know existed. His question was one of them and I answered as honestly as I could.

After considering it for a few moments, I told him I suppose I’m from here. Here being the place I’ve lived the past 18 years – Gig Harbor, Washington – a small, quiet little community about an hour from Seattle. For the first time in all of these years I actually owned up to being “from” a place. I mentally made it my home even though I had technically been “living” here for years and years.

The next day, before heading to my girlfriends beachfront to lunch I took my trusty dog Cella for a walk – a walk around our hometown. I did it with a new set of eyes. I’d spent so many years snobbishly wishing to be back in the city; in the hub of culture, that I had been completely ignoring the charm of the very town I inhabited. A town people from all over the world come to visit. The town – my town, originally a little fishing village, was founded by immigrants from Sweden, Norway and Croatia and the street names give the history away and some of the original families still exist. There’s culture here too. Culture I ignored.

On our walk we passed the organic market I frequent, the wine bar my girlfriends and I meet at all the time, as well as the small grassy field my dog likes to play fetch in. As we made our way downtown I was greeted with a view of sailboats coming in to the harbor, Vashon Island to my right with it’s forested beaches dotted with houses and The Olympic Mountains waiting for the sunset to set them on fire. Behind us stood Mt. Rainier looming like a great protector over our little village. How was it that I had taken this for granted for so many years? Everywhere you look, there is natural beauty.

Ironically, I’ve spent a great deal of time in Seattle and had lived downtown before moving here. In fact, I’m attending a museum exhibit opening downtown with a girlfriend tonight. But how quickly after leaving the city had I forgotten my complaining of the lack of community, the traffic which was at some hours unbearable as well of the high cost of living? So easily I wished it back when away from it. Although walking with Cella, I realized that I would wish the peacefulness and beauty of little Gig Harbor back should I leave it too.

Downtown the Farmer’s Market lining the waterfront was bustling with people. Walkers and their dogs passed us smiling and giving pleasantries. The young Olympic Youth kayaking team prepared their boats for practice. A banner reminded everyone that every Tuesday night in the summer was free live music. Here the locals dock their boats filled with friends while others fill the grassy areas with their lawn-chairs, bottles of wine and snacks to listen and dance. On the weekends you can bring your chair back and watch free outdoor movies in the warmth of the summer. All of this I had so callously poo-poo’d for years.

I decided that from now on, I’d enjoy every bit of my slice of heaven, my hometown, known as Gig Harbor. I wouldn’t complain about the gated communities, the BMW’s filling the student parking lot at the high school or the increasing taxes anymore. Instead, I’d be grateful that I have a little piece of it. I decided I’ll always keep a little place here, even when I make my move to Europe. After all, it’s my hometown….
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The Path, A Photograph of Spain

“Let each man take the path according to his capacity, understanding and temperament. His true guru will meet him along that path.”
– Sivananda Saraswati

This church, sitting on a hill in the middle of a small neighborhood, was possibly the prettiest place I found on Ibiza. I can’t remember where it was as it was found during an exploratory drive. The beaches, coves and sunsets were lovely too, but I’ve found them other places as well. However, this church on the hill, with all its white walls and cobbled pathways was special.

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Aimless – A Journal Post

Travel

The first 24 hours after arriving home is always the most exhausting for me. I’m lethargic, I’m tired (I don’t sleep on airplanes unfortunately) and I tend to either wander my house aimlessly (something I am prone to even when not tired) or lay down. Upon this return, I charted my 24 hour life. For fun. Maybe you can relate. Maybe not.

6pm
– plane lands in seattle. warm and sunny day. summer is here. feeling worse for wear i find my car and drive home.
– call parents to check in. mom tells me she knew i’d fall in love with france.
– wishing i would have given my fruit away before i left. the smell of rotting oranges and bananas stinks up my otherwise clean house. there are starving kids in africa and i selfishly let my fruit go bad. guilt
– take garbage out and open windows. discover the rotting fruit was possibly the only food source in the house.
wander around aimlessly, dreading unpacking. neglect suitcase
– hot shower.
– walk across the street to the market for coconut milk, fresh fruit and pasta
– notice i have new neighbors in the townhouse beside mine. they like cats. their windows are full of ‘cat trees” – weird
– hug and talk to boys
– suitcase? what suitcase?
– can’t keep eyes open anymore. curse time change
9:00pm
ignore suitcase and wet hair. head falls on pillow and lights out. blackness

3:30am
– wide awake. trip on suitcase heading to bathroom. curse. make mental note to move it later.
– after lights on glance in mirror. wet head the night before not a good idea. look like a member of an 80’s hair band. another glance shows that i’ve shrunk slightly. make mental note to research how eating cheese and bread in france actually makes one thinner.
– wander downstairs. only half-dozen nespresso capsules left. have lots of coconut milk though. decide i now like hot coffee instead of iced. weird.
– take double cappuccino to bed. almost spill from tripping on suitcase. curse suitcase.
– respond to emails ignored for weeks. order nespresso capsules. pay bills electronically, and otherwise read news via computer. decide i am behind the times in world events. shameful
– another cappuccino
– research cars online. decide dorky volkswagon will need to last. new car not worth it. money better spent living in europe a few months next year. research flats in nice, france. much better than cars.
– try to wake younger son.
– try to wake son again.
– try to wake son again.
– lay in bed. eat banana. consider another coffee. stomach says no.
– wake young son.
– take son to school.
– wander the house. ignore suitcase. tell myself i’ll unpack later. knowing i won’t. back to bed
– pick up dog from daughter’s house. drive home with dog. reminded how much i missed her. decide never to get another dog again because of her shedding all over my car. dog looks at me, knowing I’m full of it.
– walk dog. realizing as she drags behind, she is getting old now. tell her i love her and walk slower. apologize for nagging her about all of her hair
– remember plans to see girlfriends tonight for drinks on the waterfront. decide to take nap.
– phone call with girlfriend while laying on couch. make plans for summer road trip
– nap on couch
– lay on couch
– consider brushing crazy hair. too tired. stay on couch
– decide to unpack tomorrow