Friday, January 31, 2014

Small Stone: January 31, 2014

As we come to the end of the third Mindful Writing Challenge, it is appropriate to celebrate all of those who made a mindful effort to see their world, to interact with the people and environment and to share it with us. I am aware again of how difficult it is to make a purposeful observation each day. The way that time gets so fragmented is apparent to me, and with that fragmentation goes my focus. I always learn more about myself than I do about my world. And, I gain so much from the comments of friends I have developed here from around the world. Thank you and godspeed in the year ahead. I will continue to post at least weekly, but cannot commit to daily. Perhaps we will all meet here again next year. Today’s photo is a glorious burst of Spring at a local vendor…seems just right to close out this incredible month.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Small Stone: January 30, 2014

My neighborhood’s first farmer’s market of the New Year. Not too many vendors yet, but one woman had her flowers, her knitting and was bundled up against the chill. Even in abnormally sunny San Francisco where we have not had winter, it may be a bit early for outdoor shopping.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Small Stone: January 29, 2014

Tonight, we may have the first significant rain since early December. The clouds are deep, there is mist on the trees and surfaces. Hopefully, we will see a turn from sere to beginning green in the days ahead. People are talking about the difficulty in cutting water consumption by 20%. Nature has already taken a much greater hit. What will our environment look like at the end of this drought? (Update: .03" of rain. Most of the storm went north and to the Sierra, so at least there is some snow out of it. Driest January ever on record for SF!)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Small Stone: January 28, 2014

On one of the busiest streets in San Francisco, I heard an incredible screech behind me. I felt a rush of excitement as an image flew past my shoulder. I felt the draft of the huge black wings. The cawing was from an enormous raven claiming territory. With impunity, the bird sat on the fence and walked on the sidewalk with an absolute sense of ownership. The urbanization of nature showed itself in full force.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Small Stone: January 27, 2014

I am pulled toward the murals of the Mission neighborhood. They are colorful, often make a cultural or political statement, and are simply a joy to me. Sometimes, though, I must admit to being mystified. This mural is on the side of a church parking garage. The opener for the garage door is rather strategically placed in this depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus. Not sure if it is meant to be humorous or not.

Small Stone: January 26, 2014

Part of the wonderful mural on the Women's Building.

My meditation group meets every two weeks for reading, discussion and meditation. Fortunately, we have been doing this for more than 20 years. Our teacher, Eknath Easwaran, focused on discovering the unity of all life as the central reason for a spiritual practice. A woman in our group shared today that her negative self image, incurred by constant mental abuse as a child, changed when she realized that all life is equally valuable. She is a successful author, works with people struggling with language problems and has a beautiful smile! I think of the Mindful Writing Challenge as leading to that unity….we have to observe and participate in our world daily. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Small Stone: January 25, 2014

I posted about the little parklets earlier this week. Today, as I went by there was a concert….well, of sorts. Everyone seemed to be having a great time: the dancing man on the left, the dog on the steps and the babies observing. The oompah pah guy just put his horn down for a moment…guess you get to have a break when you are the entire horn section. Ah, summer in San Francisco. Except, it is winter!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Small Stone: January 24, 2014

An artist’s collective here in the Mission has two store-front windows that are given over each month to local artists to display their work, create an installation or make a statement. The Author Is, actually reads The Author Is Out ─ I did not aim the camera well. But, I rather like “is”. We get to see the work table, copies of the most recent book and we can guess what the author might be like from the other objects. Actually, that is an incomprehensibly tidy desk! This author, me, has never had such a neat space.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Small Stone; January 23, 2014

The photo has nothing to do with the post. Just a cute thing I saw at a neighbor's sidewalk sale.

After a visit to the Dr.’s office, I was waiting for a prescription in the on-site pharmacy. The building also has the pediatric clinic. A tiny girl, maybe 3 or 4, at most, was telling her mother what the pediatrician’s instructions were about care for her ailment. “He said that we should have every kind of ice cream. But, chocolate will be enough.” Indeed, chocolate will be enough!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Small Stone: January 22, 2014

So often people write or talk about urban isolation and separateness. I find a lot of smiles and interactions on the street, in shops and in nature, as it appears in my City. We have a small phenomenon of parklets in San Francisco. A business or resident takes over a parking space and makes a public park space for all to enjoy. That seems to me the antithesis of separate. The photos above are from a delightful parklet in front of a Victorian home on a busy nearby street. It is fun, it is bright and it is friendly. Here is a link:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Small Stone: January 21, 2014

A local bookstore has a street display of used books…bins for perusing and inspiration. One of them today was filled with children’s books. I was taken decades back  to the time when I was given the incredible gift of reading. Reading was always central in our house. Well, that and programs on the big Philco radio. But, every day there were books and magazines and time for reading. I am filled with gratitude each time I see a child literally immersed in a story in a book. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Small Stone: January 20, 2014

I did not take a photo of the little girl with the iguana.

I woke up feeling out of sorts today. I simply needed to snap out of it. First, a beautiful cloud reflection of the sunrise just beyond one of my favorite trees down the block. Then, I went for a happy walk ─ looking for only things that were upbeat. They were everywhere. A young Latina was sitting on her front stoop in the sun holding her iguana. Both totally content. I had never noticed an outrageous plaster pig on a balcony. I laughed. A beautiful street-side planter filled with succulents was in bloom with a marvelous yellow flower. And, then turning the corner by the playground, I heard a chorus: cheerily cheer-up cheerio….the song of the American Robin. A flock was enjoying the last rays of sun on this very warm day…and singing to me. And, their song cheerily cheer-up cheerio is exactly the message I was looking for today.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Small Stone: January 19, 2014

I simply chose a cloud picture from my files for today. To document the interaction with a photo would have been invasive, or beside the point.

As I walked along the edge of the park this afternoon, two very young gay men were walking ahead of me. They were obviously enjoying being together and one reached for the other’s hand ─ such a common show of affection. There was a moment of embarrassed hesitation. What was so clear is how both did not know if it was ok to for two men to make an innocuous public statement. It was disconcerting and painful to see. I have thought for some hours now about how we are socialized to withhold the expression of even the most basic and loving gestures. And, how standards of disapproval and rejection sometimes underlie fulfillment in human interaction.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Small Stone: January 18, 2014

The artist gives us a Madonna and child figure, but perhaps in a burqa? An anti-war statement with the halo framed with “no war”. And, a tear in the eye of the Madonna figure. This message meant so much to the artist that she has attached this large painting to the front of her house for all to consider. Very powerful and enigmatic. Still dealing with the enigma, but thinking of what issues would prompt me to make such a public statement. It would not have been a question in my youth!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Small Stone: January 17, 2014

We take a lot of ribbing here that every conversation ends in talking about food and restaurants. This year, they all seem to end in a discussion of the lack of rain and the severity of the historic drought. After a phone conversation with a friend about the dire circumstances our environment is experiencing, I was walking in a nearby neighborhood, still focused on the future. I turned a corner and this little blast of Spring brought me back to the present. Of course, that is the goal of the Mindful Writing Challenge. And, this photo says “This is the present. Enjoy!”

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Small Stone: January 16, 2014

It seems that absolute precision is required in so much that we do today. The digital age has brought an exactness that was never achievable…seemingly. My great love of letter press printing has required enough precision to be able to set type, set up a printing block and turn out nicely done printing. Beautiful, but not at millimeter specifications. This much used and loved “furniture” is part of the press work in setting up type for printing. We often use wood blocks that help keep it all in place. I think they are beautiful…and precise enough for me.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Small Stone: January 15, 2014

The first picture is a Denver Square; second: San Francisco Victorian; third: a 1915 store front; fourth: an art deco apartment building; fifth: a 2013 street side mural. All of the San Francisco buildings are within three blocks of my house.

In my childhood Denver, I thought of “architecture” as the buildings I knew well─ the Denver Square. Solid, built of brick and with almost no adornment. But, now I live in city where there is a long tradition of ornamental architecture. I wonder what a child growing up in my current neighborhood takes in as their “standard” of architectural style. So very diverse, it must have a life long impact on creativity.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Small Stone: January 14, 2014

It must be spring. Flowers explode in brilliant colors at stalls along the street. The sun shines so bright that it must not be winter. People lounge in the park on blankets and munch afternoon picnic treats. Except, it is not really spring. Mother Nature is playing a trick with a high pressure ridge all along the west coast. When, oh when, will she tire of this game and let it rain?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Small Stone: January 13, 2014

How do we define creativity? I have been observing the work of this assemblage artist at the San Francisco Center for the Book gallery over the past few weeks. I am amazed at how she has taken so many elements to make her artistic statement. Otto Octavius combines a lot of elements from an antique lens device to a 50’s set of rabbit ears. All the little tubes filled with objects are obviously part of the statement. I want to appreciate her work. Yet, I simply don’t get it. I guess I just need a little help here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Small Stone: January 12, 2014

A blissful Sunday morning. The clouds lifted from our all-to-brief weather front yesterday and the sun was shining. I spent a few minutes just checking how the potted plants in my garden were doing….well, I pretty much do that all the time. Today, however, was special. The dampness in the night left dew-drop jewels all over some of the plants. A gift.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Small Stone: January 11, 2014

At last, we had a very light rain. After weeks of nothing but dry, warm weather we finally had just a little rain. The air is clearer, the sidewalks a bit cleaner and there were even a few puddles. The smiles of the passersby were worth getting a little wet. In fact, it was joyful. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Small Stone: January 10, 2014

Today I received a real lesson in communication and communicating. I was on a cross-town MUNI bus. Two young men got on the bus at different stops. They did not seem to know one another. One sat in front of me, the other across the aisle from me. Both had ear buds attached to their iPhones. My assumption was that they were tuned out of the bus environment. 

The man in front of me began to move with the music, clicking his fingers, head from side to side in time with what he was hearing. The young man across the aisle tapped him on the shoulder and identified the song and the group! There was a fist bump of recognition and they had communicated. Only the rest of us were left out. My iPhone was firmly in my pocket and no ear buds attached! 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Small Stone: January 9, 2014

Reflecting is a January pastime for many of us ─ the year that is past and how we envision the year ahead. Almost unconsciously, I have been looking at reflections in windows, the bay and even in my own mirror. Walking along a nearby street, I saw this incredibly clean and polished motorcycle and realized that what we cherish is so often a reflection of who we are…I think I know a bit about the owner of this spotless machine. I have no idea who he/she is, except the pride in this particular possession is definitely a reflection.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Small Stone: January 8, 2014

Watching this beautiful piece of seaweed drifting in San Francisco Bay was a moment of serenity this morning. Gray skies added to the sense of closeness and modified the colors of the water and plant. Nothing sad, it was not about being detached or floating helplessly. Simply an appreciation of beauty and the peaceful feeling of that moment.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Small Stone: January 7, 2014

It is clean up time here for the Christmas trees. Every street corner seems to be a resting place for fading holiday greens.  I had not thought of the terror that will befall humans for disregarding the nature of pines…”you humans will soon meet the same fate”. These signs are attached to trees up and down the streets of my neighborhood. It will be difficult to sleep tonight, post-consumption ritual.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Small Stone: January 6, 2014

A consortium of nonprofits in San Francisco has started providing mobile showers and toilet facilities in specially refurbished/decommissioned buses from SF MUNI for homeless people around the City. The “comfort vans” are run by a group called Lava Mae (coined from the Spanish lavame--“wash me”). They take the buses to where the homeless people actually are located...the folks don't have to come to a facility.

 As part of their civic awareness to help with crowdfunding online for the project, they recently had an artists contest to come up with outrageous art that would call attention to the project. This is one of three toilets that artists re-imagined. This one is called "comfurt". It caused me to laugh when I saw them today at the Women’s Building. And then, thinking about what life would be like without a shower or a private toilet made the smile go away. A great project.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Small Stone: January 5, 2014

The weather here remains unseasonably warm and dry. I spent sometime in my little winter garden pruning back, watering and just enjoying the morning sun. On a walk through nearby Dolores Park, people were firing up barbeques, playing Frisbee and just lounging in the sun. Strangely, both of these things brought on feelings of un-ease and even a little bit of guilt at enjoying the day. Both the environment and our economy need actual winter to prosper. Makes me aware of how guilt was always at the edge of pleasure in my upbringing. Monday will be warm and sunny again, and probably tinged with that familiar feeling. And, looking back at previous year's postings here....there is a similar January picture. Ah, how things don't change.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Small Stone: January 4, 2014

Through the years when life was uncertain or plans not clearly made, I would imagine going on a jet to some place that I never had seen. Or, sometimes actually go. Even putting my foot to the pedal on my beloved cars would substitute for that when I was much younger. Today, I saw this marvelous vapor trail…one of several planes leaving San Francisco flying west into the sunset. Life plans are uncertain at the moment. And, I realized that the escape to far away places fantasy is gone.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Small Stone: January 3, 2014

The process of turning gold from a friend’s orange tree in Sonoma into marmalade had a couple of big issues today. First of all, they brought two huge paint buckets full of oranges…after 6 small batches we had about 40 jars and still one bucket full …the photo is what is remaining. A LOT of work, but a lot of fun, too. We laughed and fussed and it was a great day of friends cooperating on a “sweet” project. Sadly, the last batch was on the burner nearly too long…the old Belgian cast iron pot now has a serious patch of burned sugar that is soaking. Most of the jars will be gifts of California “gold” to friends and acquaintances over the next months. A significant portion will be on my toast these winter mornings!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Small Stone: January 2, 2014

Living in the city offers an amazing number of things to be involved in….advocate for raw foods, learn to make money writing, trim the fat at Overeaters Anonymous, volunteer with families in distress, have your energy levels moved around through Reiki, protest circumcision, support low wage workers in the fast food industry, or if it is all simply too much…affordable psychotherapy. And, all of this is available at my neighborhood Laundromat. Lots of choices to start the new year.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Small Stone: January 1, 2014

The weather is astonishingly warm and dry on the first day of 2014 in San Francisco. The past year was the driest on record. A good day for a walk along the waterfront, looking at the old piers, enjoying the many people just enjoying the day. Walking through a passage between piers, I met a colleague/friend and his wife out for their stroll. Serendipity. Then around the next corner, this reflection, so very skewed, in the lightly wavering bay. I wonder if the new year will be as out of shape?