These are my daily musings, the little things that make me happy. They aren’t the big stories; they are saying hello to the moon, the flowers, the colors. They are the little thoughts, the quotes, the joys. They are the everyday sunsets.
This week I am simply sharing some new art I’ve been working on.
I’ve been learning about watercolors and gold leaf with accents in white. It’s a new process and one I’m loving.
I have an idea for an ongoing multi-piece collection using this same process that I will be announcing soon.
My daughter turned 17 last week and this week has really been about her and our relationship. She preformed in a play, we went to Disneyland, we talked a lot about life. She perfected her skills at making a family favorite, brigadeiro, a Brazilian candy. This morning she was up early for senior sunrise and this afternoon she is dressed as a Hobbit, volunteering at her school carnival.
Last year I shared our journey with pregnancy and her birth story, this year I just want to sink into all the moments I have with her.
Instead of sitting here writing, I’m headed back to help my growing Hobbit as she guides kids through a carnival ring toss.
I hope you have a good week and enjoy the love of the people around you.
Speak to most creatives these days, and they will tell you they are exhausted. Speak to most empaths, and they will tell you how drained they are. War, daily natural disasters, social media, human conflict, scarcity, crime, recession, the constant news cycle of sad and bad, are echoing through the corners of our brains.
There seems to be a lot of black magic and we have come to take the amazing for granted.
In June 2020, while quarantined, I happened upon this sunset. I was so lucky to be living in the high desert, with open space to roam and chickens that made me laugh. I would stand out every night and watch the sun set. (When the world started to return to normal and I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t see the sun setting for the first time, I felt real grief.)
This sunset was a reminder of the magic of our existence. I haven’t seen one quite like this in the years that have passed, but it imprinted itself upon my heart. It sang to me and made me feel like I was a part of something larger. I’m grateful I had the time to stop and listen.
I hope you find a bit of magic today, whether it be in a flower or in the sky, or in someone you love. Pick up a book. Go for a walk. Take a nap. Do a bit of art. (That’s what I plan to go do.)
I find myself posting less and less on social media. If you are interested in new art, short stories, occasional thoughts and random musings, I hope you’ll consider signing up for my newsletter here. I send out one newsletter a week.
Who am I kidding? The hoards of people came in and lined the beaches. The firecrackers popped and zinged. The night before, the air was filled with explosions, and laughter was heard long past 2 am.
The weather was that perfect mix of humid salty air and a cool breeze. Still far too hot for me in the sun, but we took a quick walk to the shore. Cousin Pat likes to say she’s checking that the beach is still there, and after living through Tropical Storm Sandy, she’s only half joking.
The umbrellas were lined up as far as the eye could see, both to the north and to the south.
This island is constantly in a fight with the tides, the sands transform daily. Artificial dunes are maintained to protect the homes on this spit of sand with fines for walking along their edges
Assured that the beach still existed, and not wanting to fight the crowds, we spent a relaxing day at the house, protected by the shade and hearing the crash of the waves in the distance.
As the sun lowered in the sky, we made our way to the west side of the island where the fireworks would reflect over the bay. We found our way early and settled on the wooden benches that overhang the water.
Teens wandered the area in enormous groups, the girls wearing a uniform of cutoff short shorts and midriff mini tops. The boys indulged in their collections of fireworks and groups of people would scream and run as they set them off in the middle of the crowds. Police roam the multitudes, taking alcohol from underage hands and pouring it out, without reprimand or ticket.
We hide somewhere along the edge and secretly I looked for an exit, imagining us leaping into the water should the screams of giddy excitement turn to something more like terror. I hate that that’s where my thoughts live when I am among crowds of people; how to escape with my family if this turns… bad.
Others line wooden benches, eating ice cream and acai bowls. We collectively watch as the sky streaks yellow and then orange and red. We watch the seagulls as they dip and dive over the water, searching for the small fish along the surface.
As the skies darken, we can see along the distant shore, the other side of the bay, the New Jersey mainland. Fireworks begin to shoot up in tiny bursts with every town on the bay’s western side having their own show. At one point, we see six shows happening in the distance.
I imagine our fireworks start much later than theirs because our backdrop is the sunset and theirs is the sunrise. Their view of the east darkens quickly while ours lingers. It is a clear difference of perspectives, one that has continued to linger over me as we sit waiting. I don’t feel particularly like celebrating freedom right now as I see women losing their rights. I don’t feel good about fireworks and pollution when we are facing climate crises around the world. I am aware of my anxiety over who in the crowd might be there to hurt others instead of being there to watch the lights as they explode through the sky.
This is balanced with wanting to experience something new, with spending time with my family. As always, I am a mess of contradictions and my mind fights to overthink everything.
Finally, around 9:40, the first firework is shot from a barge in the bay. The crowds cheer and watch as the colors reflect in the water, creating abstract images in the dark night air.
As the show comes to a close, the teenage boys begin to chant, “USA. USA. USA.” They return to their drinking and their explosions. The crowds begin to clear; families climb on their beach cruisers and gangs of bicyclists find their way home.
It will be another long night as teenagers make their way to the beach to party on the sand, roving around the neighborhoods, avoiding police. The personal fireworks ring through the air.
The cool night air kisses my skin and there are no bugs to speak of. Sitting outside on the porch listening to the waves crash on the sand brings moments of peace amongst the chaos.
Here I sit. Sipping a dram of whiskey, listing to the Atlantic Ocean on the New Jersey shoreline. Cousin Pat is heading to Scotland next week and this is part of her research.
We’re on the Jersey Shore on a narrow strip of sand that I didn’t know existed. I thought the coast of Jersey was like that of California or Brasil, a long stroke of sand or cliffs in a continuous unending ocean line.
But here is an 18-mile-long island, less than a mile wide. The sun rises in July at 5:30am over the Atlantic. 15 hours later, a short walk to the east, it sets over Little Egg Harbor, an inlet with only a shadow of land far on the other side.
It has been an emotional two weeks. I said goodbye to my old sweet cat, allowing her to pass humanely. A few days later, my father-in-law passed away, my husband, Fred, and his brother at his side. Then my gentle young dog’s eyes began to grey and suddenly I was making specialist appointments as I tried to minimize the damage with vet-prescribed drops and gels. I am in no way attempting to compare the sadness of these events, only that they were many and emotionally overwhelming each in their own way.
Despite these things, we chose to continue our plans to go someplace we’ve never been, Long Beach Township, New Jersey. We have been discussing this visit for years. We first planned our trip for summer of 2020; and then there was Covid. About four months ago, we finally took the leap and bought the tickets.
I suppose if this was just a vacation for us, perhaps we would have canceled. But it wasn’t just for us.
My father-in-law, Bill, has a cousin, and she had been asking us to visit for almost 10 years. My husband’s job in the Air Force often interfered, with deployments to Germany and Korea, and just the commitment to a job that was often unrelenting. He retired in January and took a job working in a high school. Suddenly we were faced with him having actual time off; a whole month every July.
With Fred’s father passing, it seemed even more important to make the journey to spend time with his cousin.
And so early on the morning of July 2nd, we got up early, dropped the dog off at his cage-free boarding (who assured me they will take care of his beautiful eyes), loaded our daughter in the back seat (up all night with a terrible migraine) and headed to Las Vegas.
I’m sure you’re wondering, Las Vegas? We live in the Tehachapi Mountains, only an hour from Bakersfield and only 90 miles from Los Angeles. In my flight searches, Las Vegas provided the only direct flight while also being the least expensive.
Travel these days is complicated and the warning for this weekend was glaring; canceled flights, not enough pilots or airplanes or staff. Las Vegas was quiet and clean and easy.
We arrived in Newark near midnight. There was very little wait for bags and then went to meet our driver; a New York native who had settled in Jersey. You could feel the 98% humidity, a warm heaviness to the air. He drove us the hour-forty-five minute drive south and onto Long Beach Island. There are regular tolls along the Garden State Parkway and even in the dark, I could see the dense trees lining the edges.
The roads were wet from occasional rain storms and when we finally arrived at Cousin Pat’s, the smell on the island was deep and earthy. Hers is a 1950’s bungalow surrounded by modern beach craftsmen. She has a beautifully landscaped yard filled with flowers and bark.
She’s the 5th house from the Jersey Shore. The beaches, and many of the properties here, were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Her home was piled with 3 feet of sand, taking 11 trucks to clear the property.
You would never know, almost 10 years later, that this little community was hit so hard.
It was overcast with a warm fog when we woke in the morning and made our way to walk along the beach. The plantlife is much softer than that on the California Coast, with broadleaf and grasses growing in the beige sand.
The sand is both thicker and looser than what I am used to in California. It is damp from the humidity and seems perfect for building sandcastles. You sink as you walk, not having that same compact firmness of California beaches. There are beautiful polished stones and tiny clamshells.
Later, we found our way downtown.
I didn’t know what to expect as we packed for this trip. I somehow imagined a sleepy community on an island and wanted to be sure we had exactly what we needed in case it involved driving off the island for more.
The sun came out as we walked into downtown, we were met with the hoards of travelers, families who haven’t fully been able to travel in 2 years. There are shops and restaurants on every block; ice cream and bagels are a staple.
In the afternoon, Pat and Fred journeyed out to the local fresh fish market and brought us home scallops, recently caught. Pat magically cooked them up on the BBQ and they seemed to melt with every bite.
As the sun lowered in the sky, we made our way the short walk to the west side of the island where we watched the sun set in dynamic oranges over the bay as paddleboarders and small boats made their way through the water.
We ended our day with ice cream. As we waited in line, we had a small family of 3 in front of us. They had the Jersey accents you dream of. As they began to order, more and more began to join them; grabbing their cones and wandering off again. Finally, the father turned and looked at us and said, “Sorry. There are a lot of us. All family.”
I love the feel of the air as it changes into fall. There is a dry whisp of a scent. Two different temperatures; a warmth to the front of the breeze but something colder just behind. I find myself thinking of the interment camps of WWII, and what it was to be taken from your home, to watch a sunset in a place unfamiliar to you. To watch the sun set behind Mt. Whitney from Manzanar as the weather turned cold.
The Japanese internment camps of WWII have been present in my thoughts the last few months. It started with reading, “Snow Falling on Cedars” in April. I knew about the camps, but that book, so beautifully written, re-awoke me to the time in our country when land was taken, Japanese immigrants and citizens imprisoned (anyone with Japanese ancestry classified as “enemy aliens”), families torn apart. This weekend I finished reading, “Daughter of Moloka’i” which also explores the Japanese-American isolation of WWII. I didn’t understand how the land was worked and developed in Florin (Sacramento), California by Japanese families. I didn’t realize the early relocation camps involved housing people in dirty horse stalls at race tracks. I didn’t understand how businesses were sold for nothing, that there were no options allowing those of Japanese ancestry to hold on to what they had built.
I didn’t know that residents in internment camps were asked to fill out forms which, depending on their answers, could label them “loyal” or “disloyal”. Question 27 asked if you would be willing to serve as a soldier or a nurse in the war. Imagine the fear in making this decision; to say no could mark you as disloyal, to say yes could mean leaving your young children or your elderly parents in the dire landscape of internment. Question 28 asked “Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States… and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, to any other foreign government, power or organization?” For those who were immigrants, forbidden US citizenship, would it leave them without a country? If Japan won this war, would they be killed or tortured for signing this form? If they didn’t sign the form, would they ever leave the camps?
My daughter will be reading “Farewell to Manzanar” this year, an unexpected assignment again connecting us to this time and place. She broke down last nigh, feeling like she has been betrayed by history in that this is something she is only learning now. I explained that I’m learning too.
And so I watch the sun set, and think about how it must have been almost 80 years ago, with the wind shifting towards winter.
On May 29th there was one of those sunsets where you can’t help but watch and dream. It split the sky; light and dark, orange and gray and purple. On that night I made a commitment to myself, to spend time each evening watching the day fade away. To take a photograph of each sunset. To acknowledge the transition from day to night. To slow down and participate in the rhythms of nature.
Since that night, I have not missed a sunset. There are nights I’ve been a bit early, others where I have been a tad bit late. I’ve taken a photo of every one. Through the month of July, the sunsets were straight forward and the sun dipped behind a hill with very little color or drama. In September, the sun took a new color with the smoke of California’s fires. One evening the smoke was so thick, the sun just disappeared into the haze. I have watched the sun travel south, down my horizon from it’s summer point furthest north.
These are the dailies; the raw, unedited footage of my life. A flower I thought was pretty. A line of ants marching on. A quote, a thought, a sunset.
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