Every day, a photograph

“Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead, Right Reverends and Wrong Reverends of every order. Dead, men and women, born with Heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus around us every day.”
– Charles Dickens

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Creative, a photograph of life

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that
without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”
― Pearl S. Buck

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Or not to be, A Photograph

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and, by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub.”
― William Shakespeare

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The American In Italia: I know you. Or do I?

Below you will find the link to my column Lost in Translation and my most recent article, “I know you. Or do I?” – A closer look into expectations, perfection, and cracks.

http://www.theamericanmag.com/article.php?feature=living&column=118

Lisboa, adoro-te – My thoughts on Lisbon, Portugal

José Saramago, Portugal’s renowned Nobel Prize winner, once wrote, “We always arrive in the place where someone is waiting for us.”

What if, however, that “someone” is a city? After all, do cities not have hearts? I believe they do. Some are warm and some are cold, but each has it’s own essential personality/characteristics. Do we arrive at a city which “is waiting for us”? It’s how I felt about Lisbon – it had been waiting for my visit. For years I’d been wanting to go, but somehow other trips would take precedence and I’d let the notion of Portugal go for the time being.

Until recently.

Before my departure, a friend of mine (someone quite wealthy) gave me her account of Lisbon.

“Well, it’s kind of…dirty. Run down. But I liked it…sort of,” she recounted.

Though my Lisbon, (Can I call it that? Mine? Will he be upset that I have claimed him, the city, as my own, such the foreigner that I am? And why have I deemed him male when other cities such as Rome are so female to me?) was far from “dirty” (Although I’ve always been partial to dirt) and there was no “sort of” in my opinion. My love for the city is definitive. After all, I just laid claim to it here, didn’t I?

It was lovelier than other cities I’ve been to and it wasn’t because it’s cleanliness or cohesive architecture (which I love architecture so very much.) In fact, Lisbon is quite a mess architecturally, so to speak. Expensive buildings mixed with cheap prison-looking facades of recent took my eyes by surprise. However…. inside of that mess lies the kind of beauty that Neruda speaks of in one of his famous Love Sonnets.

“There are purer than you, purer.
There are lovelier than you, lovelier.”
….
“When you go through the streets
No one recognizes you.
No one sees your crystal crown, no one looks
At the red carpet of gold
That you tread as you pass.
The nonexistent carpet.”

I saw the crystal crown of the city and it’s people though…each time I took a walk…

I came to appreciate the beautiful buildings much more so than in any other place I’ve had the pleasure to visit. The perpetual underdog of Europe has something that the other more aesthetically pleasing cities don’t – it has the mess. Because you see, in between the architectural wonders of centuries past are ugly monstrosities of buildings irupted like small pox during the sixties and seventies to replace the fallen down ancient structures. By seeing the lovely original buildings next to the nasty replacements, I appreciated the beauty even more-so than in those cities where nothing is out-of-place and every facade blends with the next..

And the people? They have the same flavor as the buildings. They’ve been built up, torn down, burned down, smacked down and built again….only to remain strong.

I was right at home.

In conclusion, Lisboa, adoro-te

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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.

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.

 

 

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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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.

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

Something True, A Photograph of France

“if you wanted to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone.”
– Richard Yates

I leave Europe in a few days, although take with me wonderful new experiences and a few new friends. I’ll return soon, no doubt. Eventually I’ll just move here I’m sure. However for now, it’s time I go back to my daily life instead of photographing the daily lives of others (which I love so much.)

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Comfort, A Photograph of France

“Comfort has its place, but it seems rude to visit another country dressed as if you’ve come to mow its lawns.”
– David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

This is my first real visit to France. I’ve stopped in a time or two on the way to somewhere else, but never stayed long enough to truly meet the people. The only French man I know happens to be one of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet though as an American, I was told virtually my entire life that the French would be rude should I visit. I should’ve known better and tsk tsk on me. How is it that I can go my entire life defending us “obnoxious” Americans while abroad, yet, because of what others say, have a preconceived notion of what the French are like. I feel rather stupid, to say the least. 

In fact, having been to Italy more than a dozen times, I never quite fit it. Don’t get me wrong though, I love the country. I love the history and I love the people. Although my Italian friends tell me that I don’t look or act Italian. I stick out like a sore thumb; I don’t wear that much make-up, my personal style (which I do love fashion) has always been more conservative or “vintage” and lastly, I talk and smile with people – I’m friendly. Here in France though, nobody stares at me like they do in Italy, I dress the same as most women here and when I smile – they smile back, they hold doors, they say thank you and even the women wish you a good day – and no, you don’t need to be purchasing something to gains smiles and chatting.

This morning at breakfast I sat and chatted with a nice German couple on their way to see the areas around Grasse. The owner of the Bed & Breakfast, Monique, showed them on the map how to get to their destinations. I found myself envious of their plan – I had none.  After they left, Monique asked me what I’d be doing today. I told her I had no clue, maybe Cannes, and asked what she recommended. “Cannes is full of tourists. You don’t look like you would like that. I see you don’t like those things. Let me show you where I go.” she responded. Music to my ears.

By the end of the day I had driven through the beautiful countryside, chatted with numerous locals and in some villages, felt I was the only one in the streets – completely safe and decided that my trip to France would be the first of many yet to come. My relationship with Italy is by no means over, it’s just a good friend now, instead of a lover, that’s all.

Below are a few photos I took today while exploring. They show the simplicity, yet elegance of the French style.
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