Pervading The Threshold

I am sitting in the Portland airport after a week of working a conference and exploring the city.  I was going to just sit at my gate per usual, but I turned into the business corner that was on the way to use my laptop, check my e-mail and kill time watching some mindless videos before boarding a flight to return to the East coast.  It is here that I had a realization.  When I go back, I won’t have a home.  I have moved out of my house.  My friend is graciously housing my belongings in her house, and I will sublet her room for a couple of weeks while she is gone on vacation.

Then, I’m off.

A new chapter. A clean slate. The open road. Whatever else you want to call it.

I knew the day I would leave DC was coming for a long time.  Even with the date set and visible on my calendar,  it all feels so surreal.  It’s funny because I don’t think I am any closer to figuring out what I want to do with my life for a living.  I know that I have not encountered whatever it is.  Maybe it doesn’t exist and I need to create it.  Right now, all I want to do is just that- do.  Do everything that appeals to me. That challenges me.  That scares me.  That is unknown to me now.

That is my plan.  Thank you, Portland, for inspiring me.

Here’s to many future firsts, small victories, and crossing out of bucket list items:

August 5- I work as a staff for a conference.  Almost 5,000 ecologists in one convention center.  And I got a name badge. I feel so special.

August 7- I climbed a rock wall. In cowboy boots. Hardcore.  Even the Army soldier was impressed that I was able to lift my leg so high in stretch jeans.  Totally gave the public a crotch view in doing so though.

August 8- I ate at Voodoo Doughnut.  Too… much… sugar…. But hey! I was a tourist for a moment.

August 9- My friend and I walked through a drive through at 11pm.  The Wendy’s employee at the window was not happy, but we made the truck driver behind us laugh.

August 10- I got my first pat down.  Not as invasive or humiliating as I thought it would be.

The Beauty of Beasts

Don’t worry! I won’t spoil anything!!

Last night, my friend and I went to see The Beasts of the Southern Wild at E Street.

It is an incredibly beautiful film about the world and life in The Bathtub as seen from the perspective of a little girl named Hushpuppy.  Through mesmerizing shots and narratives of wisdom beyond her years, she challenges us to think about the ethics of our own society and way of life as well as the role and responsibilities of humans as determined within the order of nature.  Capturing the adherence to the self-sustainable lifestyle of the community, observations of the world from Hushpuppy’s eyes force the audience to develop understanding, admiration, and respect for their world very different from what people living in the modern societies know.  Benh Zeitlin makes his directoral debut in this film shot over 56 days in the bayou of southern Louisiana, starting ironically the day Deepwater Horizon exploded.  In addition to Zeitlin’s status as a newcomer, all of the characters in the film are played by first-time actors, including Quvenzhané Wallis who plays Hushpuppy. You will be blown away by her talent and poise!

Go see this film and all the other amazing ones playing at the Landmark Theater locations!!!

After the film ended, my friend and I discovered that while we watched the film we had both thought of a little boy named Michael.  Michael was a student at McDonough 42 Middle School in the 6th Ward of  New Orleans.  We had spent our spring break at the school to do community service work and help rebuild the community post-Katrina. Michael had wandered away from the kids playing during recess to help us prepare a plot for the school vegetable garden.  In the hour we worked with him, we talked a bit and realized that Michael was not an ordinary child.  He said that he did not care about school because protecting his family was his priority.  With an intermittent adult figure in his life and their small house full of his various family members, he told us of how he sleeps on the floor by the back door with a baseball bat to fight off anyone who tries to break in.  While Hushpuppy was mature, she also lived in her fantastical world of imagination.  In stark contrast, he lived in reality of now.  He had no choice but to act as an adult figure for his siblings and his own security.  At six-years-old, he was well aware of the struggles that would surround his life.  Unfortunately, there are kids like Michael everywhere who are deprived of a childhood and live in an unstable environment.  We just hope that Michael is okay and is still in school to allow him a haven to escape from the responsibilities that burden him in his home life.

My friend and I had visited New Orleans three years after Katrina hit, and the city was then still recovering to restore its original affluence of vitality.  Then, after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the progress the city had made was again challenged.  Through all the hardship, the resilience of the community and their attachment to the place they call home is incredible.  With Michael in mind, we truly hope that New Orleans and the people who comprise the community have received and are receiving support and services to flourish once again and antiquate the nickname “the city that care forgot.”

Music Man Murray

Let’s put one thing out there.  I love happy old people.  I find them so endearing.  However, I also develop an incredible reverence for them because of the abundance of knowledge, stories, and the unbeknownst wisdom they have and reveal reflecting on the decades of life they have experienced.  For anyone, there’s nothing more I enjoy than to sit and listen to stories about their lives.  With the elderly, though, I sense vigor in the conversation -no matter the mood elicited by the topic or the triviality.  Sitting across from my senior companions, I find myself impressed by every word and captivated by the raise of the eyebrows, widening or squint of the eyes, manipulation of voice to mimic people or noises, and fervent hand gestures.  Watching the theatrics, I cannot help but imagine myself at their age and how I would go search my memories for something significant.  (Note to self: live more so I can be great entertainment for curious attentive youth).  

While catching up on some news, I came across this NPR article about Murray Gershenz, and I had to share it.

Murray Gershenz is an 89-year-old man going on 90 in May.   What makes him special?  He is a great lover of music.  Since 1962, he has been operating Music Man Murray in Los Angeles to share his collection of roughly 250,000 records, tapes, and memorabilia.  Each item there is his precious treasure.

“I love this place. If I had nothing else to do, I would just be here and listen to records all the time.”

The shop is Murray’s love, and he does odd side jobs to earn enough just to keep it open. However, both father and his son Irv realize that that their time together is becoming increasingly finite.  Irv hopes that someone will buy the store and continue his father’s legacy.  Murray is skeptical of this scenario and hopes a university will add it to their library.  Murray notes that if there are no buyers, his records will most likely end up in the trash.  The total value of his collection is appraised between $3 million and $4 million.  No buyers yet.

In the documentary, Murray reflects on his life with a sense of satisfaction -an ideal for all.

“I’ve done it. I mean, I don’t know how to say it, but when I started this thing in the first few years, I wondered if I could do it. And then for a while I was doing it. And now I’ve done it…Why not try to give it to someone who will appreciate it and take care of it.  I’m not the only person who really appreciates this.”

The implicit message to take from Murray: Make dreams reality. Do what you love.  Share your love with the world.

Today’s challenge: Grow younger!

To a young heart everything is fun.

-Charles Dickens

Working with elementary school age kids in the afternoon, I am always fascinated to discover their imaginative minds.  Whether I am a shark with chomping arms waiting to “eat” kids who fall off the monkey bars before reaching the other side or I am a customer at their new diner serving up vegetation from the schoolyard, I admire how naturally creativity comes to them.  I often found myself wondering if the world from my childhood was ever as whimsical as it is for them.

The answer: yes.  My brother is two years younger than I am, and back when we lived in California, we had played in our backyard everyday.  Sometimes, we were African villagers hunting for game (cars passing our house) with our rifles (branches we found and used as walking sticks on a hike).  Other days, we created homes for our pet rolly-pollys.  Of course, we also played the classic games of school and house with our older sister of six years difference with me.

I’m not sure when this all stopped.  Maybe it was when my sister started attending high school.  Maybe it was when my brother had become friends with boys on our block to go play video games at their houses.  Maybe I got bored.

I suppose that, with age, we are more inclined to see things as they are.  Leaves are leaves, not bread slices for sandwiches.  There are no “bases” in the office.  Play money has even less monetary value than a sheet of blank paper.  In this sense, seeing things as they are makes the world seem really dull and lifeless.  I love working at the school because the kids inspire within me a new enthusiasm for the world -the potential for the world to be just as you wish it was.  So, leaves are indeed bread slices, peers cannot tag you when you’re sitting on the bench, and you are a millionaire that can buy a restaurant.

As Pablo Picasso famously said, youth has no age.  So, go ahead and channel your youth! Go ride on a swing! Go paint! Go personify inanimate objects! Go make up a game!  Maybe delving into your creativity is all too challenging.  Then, for you, I have a fail proof method – go spend time playing with kids.

Youth is, after all, just a moment, but it is the moment, the spark, that you always carry in your heart.

-Raisa Gorbachev

Enter this challenge with all of your skepticism and doubt of the outcomes but also with your willingness to try.  I think you’ll be surprised.  Maybe you will reawaken a surge of new energy.  Maybe the world will once again become a wondrous place full of possibility.  Who knows? Maybe you will reach a moment where you don’t even have to actively seek sources of this energy anymore because you begin to exude it, at which point, you embody Picasso’s wise words.  You remain young at heart, and then everything becomes fun.  That is the ultimate goal of youth that no Botox, creams, or surgeries can give you.