So…I Voted Early

I voted on the first day of my period last weekend. In fact I was so laid up in bed with cramps that morning that I almost decided to call off voting until the following day. But I started to feel better in the afternoon, and decided to go get it over with despite news footage of dauntingly long lines all over the city as well as pictures my husband kept testing me from upstate where he was voting early with my mother in law. Also the day had gone from a dull grey dreary one to a lovely Fall afternoon when the sun came out later. Weather has a huge impact on voter turnout. I also figured (and I’m not kidding) if I got there and the line was too long I could just hit the Chipotle and come back another time.

I voted at an Armory in Washington Heights. The line was on the same block with the Armory and when I arrived the line hadn’t even reached a full quarter of the long block it started on. I felt good about it. I got 6 feet behind a guy, leaned over after a minute to confirm with him that I was indeed on the line for voting and just got comfortable for bit. As we moved up the block. which happened frequently and significantly, I let my surroundings sink in. The sky, the iron work on gates, the homeless people, the doctors and nurses and ambulance drivers from the hospital across the way. As we turned up the corner to the left, the gentrification stores were lined up, Starbucks, Chipotle, and the like. Across from that was one single tree with leaves turned gloriously and fully golden. I meditated as a firm breeze encouraged it rained gold on the street. I took pictures of the tree. I wanted to always remember it.

On that corner I noticed what looked like a coalition of food delivery guys with their bikes parked close together. The day glow bright spokes on their wheels, the insulated box shaped bag packs, the bike gear, helmets. They were all brown. All Latino men by my guess. I started to wonder about their ages, where they lived, if they took care of families, if they were married or dating, how much this job paid them. I took a few pictures of them as well but they didn’t capture what I saw, what I felt watching them.

Halfway up the next corner on the opposite side of the street I started talking with the guy in front of me. He was Black, it’s important for me to say. I don’t know who started it. I think he asked me a question. We talked easily, back and forth about the election, Covid, the electoral college. Previously that day, he had been in a line at a whole other voting site for 2 hours before getting to the check in table and finding out he was in the wrong place! He could have called it a day. I might have. But I was glad it hadn’t happened to me so I would never find out. And I guess I was glad he came to the Armory as well instead of turning back. It was good to have someone to chat with. Plus…

YOU HAVE TO GO VOTE IN THIS ELECTION! GO VOTE!

We talked all the way to entrance of the Armory, him walking backwards and trying to maintain a constant 6 feet away each time we advanced up the block. Then he was whisked off somewhere opposite from me by a few poll workers. I advanced as directed stopping and waiting from one 6FT pad to the next and grateful to be able stand for a bit and survey my surroundings. It was a nice clean, chill interior. Warm colors. Track and field stripes on the floor. I took a nice shot of a woman leaning over the table I was headed to and signing her name. The light was perfect. Calming. The poll workers (mostly of color) were fired up, clear, and encouraging. I was in and out with a free stylus pen and a sticker. One of the poll workers cheered and thanked me as I walked out.

A young White lady walking her dog asked me how long I had waited. The guy I was talking with told me we clocked in at an hour and a half. She said she would be voting the next day. We smiled at eachother and parted.

Pleasant.

Then I went to Chipotle. Now the wait on that line was painful…

That time Street Food Saved My Life…

When you eat an arepa like Dona Berta’s arepas, it’s as if you were eating at your grandmother’s. It’s a direct reference to emotion, to nostalgia.

-Luisa Acosta

Did I ever tell you about the time a Caribbean fruit smoothie revived my soul?

Ok so I had a nervous breakdown in the late 90s, dropped out of college and came back home a hot mess.  My mother took me to Trinidad, her birthplace, for a change of scenery and I was still  pretty miserable for most of it but there was something that happened to me there that even in the midst of my fragmented existential inner torment I could not deny. And it stays with me to this day. I can never forget it.

My mom had a friend in Trinidad who made fruit smoothies from the patio of his house, a bright colored wooden house with a yard that brimmed with abundant fruit trees. All of the fruits and ingredients who used were locally sourced from the island. I remember going there with my mom and another friend of hers to get a few tall frosty blended fruit drinks before we got in a car to drive to the beach. Somewhat just as determined to remain as miserable as I actually was, I took the drink in my hand with no sense of gratitude and then I took a sip and my insides were dancing frantically against the will of depression. The taste was so joyful, so pure, innocent, open, unapologetically present and delicious.

These were not just flavors. This was the taste of something connected to spirit, something I would never taste again, something that could not be duplicated, the edibility of hope and life itself. I felt high and yet I was stubborn and inclined to stuff it down because it just didn’t go along with the heaviness that permeated my being at the time. But I felt it like a bolt of lightening and I know that drink made me want to live again. Taste made me want to live again. The seed was planted. Ridiculous? Maybe. But the reasons that truly let us know we’re alive don’t have to make sense to anyone else.

Continue reading That time Street Food Saved My Life…

NO MORE NORMAL PLEASE

Eventually, doctors will find a coronavirus vaccine, but black people will continue to wait, despite the futility of hope, for a cure for racism. We will live with the knowledge that a hashtag is not a vaccine for white supremacy. We live with the knowledge that, still, no one is coming to save us. The rest of the world yearns to get back to normal. For black people, normal is the very thing from which we yearn to be free.

-Roxanne Gay

This past weekend I went for what has become my reoccurring restorative walk through the park, which is just a block across from where my husband and I live. Since this pandemic began I have taken this walk about once every week or so.

As you know if you have been reading my blog long enough, I derive a deep sense of center, calm, inspiration, regeneration and healing from nature in a way I am ceaselessly thankful for. It’s free and it gives limitlessly, a truly actionable love. I am very much connected to the beings that exist in nature and it’s loving, functional and harmonious energy.

Since my husband is prone to respiratory infections, he has been vigilant at limiting his time outdoors, particularly in the city where Covid infected numbers are at their highest because of the high density of people in NYC. So I’ve gone on these walks alone always, with PPE on and defense at hand. But the more I love this walk, the more I want to share it with my husband and this weekend I asked him in my specially gentle tone (LOL!) if he might and he said yes.

This park has long stretches of wide path that go for miles and miles, breaking off along the way through miles of sky high tall trees, and lower leaning bushes that often create a thick tunnel of green overhead. There are Robins, and Blue Jays, Cardinals. There are large fallen trees that lay like majestic fallen giants in the woods which I have a deep inexplicable affection for.

I have been walking a path, about about 20 minutes long that leads to a crossroad. I take the left road just a few feet to where a long beautiful trunk of a large pale tree lays perfectly on the right side of that path.

There I sit.

There I rest.

There I reflect.

There I try to bring my awareness to the present.

There I dare to close my eyes.

There I breath in deeply.

There I sway to the sound of the trees swaying.

There I stare up into heavenly green canopy.

There, I am here.

 

My husband didn’t sit on the tree trunk with me. LOL! I was fine with that. I just wanted to be there with him, in a place where I have been able to feel free, feel relaxed, feel something like whole and even safe. I sat and watched him remove his mask briefly to take a few long deep breaths. He’s not used to walking this far or this long with his mask on. I’ve adjusted to it. When we got back to the apartment he told me he wants to go for a walk in the park once a week.

No one can take it from me.

 

 

Who Really are the Monsters?

I went to go visit my dad yesterday in Harlem for the first time in months, for the first time since this pandemic came down. I hadn’t been on the subway in months and it was kind of strange but I braved it, stood up all the way. It was a beautiful day and immediately upon emerging next to St Nicholas park I felt something in me restored. On my dads quiet brownstone block there were people sitting on the steps of their homes, a couple listening to music on headphones, a woman doing another elder woman’s hair, a woman taking her friends picture on a bench and smiling, singing, Black people just living, breathing, beautiful, existing. I smiled to myself. I breathed deeply behind my mask. It had been so long since I’d seen Harlem. And I didn’t realized how much I needed it.

I spent about and hour with my dad, talking, catching up, and never once did we talk about George Floyd or Christian Cooper or any of the Black lives taken by or threatened to be taken by racist white monsters over the last few months. It didn’t occur to me until just right now that it was no where in forefront of my mind, that I didn’t even hold it inside me somewhere to bring up in conversation with him later. No, I just wanted to sit and talk with my dad, see how he was doing, how he was keeping. There was no room perhaps for the unprocessed feeling of rage, hurt and anger I was dealing with the day before when isolation because of the pandemic had me drawn like a fly to the flame of social media barrage over these latest outrageous incidents which will not be the last, and yet continue to shock, paralyze, motivate, anger, touch and shape us in ways that are beyond violent. There was no room, no desire. Seeing my dad, being in Harlem, was almost like an escape.

Continue reading Who Really are the Monsters?

Uncomfortable/Ok…

Every day is a little different from the last. And at the same time they blend together imperceptibly. Everything that ever was reality is now smooshed precariously, sometimes neatly, sometimes anxiously and even peacefully into the walls of our apartment. Work, therapy sessions, Dr’s appointments, meetings, shopping (primarily online now) picking out my best t-shirt/sleepwear for Zoom meetings…

I’m getting used it but I’m also getting antsy. I’m scared to get too comfortable.

But I am…comfortable.

And also terrified.

How could I not be terrified looking at the news and all the fucked up shit that’s happening from Pennsylvania Ave on down. The hoards of White bodies sunbathing in the Great Lawn while Brown bodies continue to be brutalized

JUST FOR EXISTING!!!!!!!

But how can I be hateful and angry when I’m here with my wonderful husband and our skittish but beautiful cat? How can I be hateful and angry when I have a job that allows me to work from home, have food to eat and to cook, have clean running water and access to technology? How can I be hateful and angry when I have love in my life?

Apparently I can be hateful and angry and lonely and happy and comfortable and joyful all at once, all in one day and in one moment as well. This is why it has never been more important for me to manage boundaries for myself between that which I can effectively do something about and that which I cannot at the moment. I have to be even more careful about how much violence, tragedy porn and “news” I consume as well trying to be mindful of the point when mindless distractions become empty guilty pleasures (which are sometimes necessary) that reach a point where I have no idea what it means anymore. This is when I have to stop, be still and try to get squared with myself a bit, find some balance, initiate things that require inner resources that can’t be bought, that require more of me then just clicking on “buy” “submit” or “enter.”

Continue reading Uncomfortable/Ok…

Courtyard Cherry Tree Moment

Why don’t we marvel at our own passing time on earth with the same joy and passion? Why do we neglect to revel in life when it can end at any moment, or in the grace surrounding us everywhere: our family, friends, a stranger’s smile, a child’s laugh, new flavours on our plate or the scent of green grass? It is time, cherry blossoms remind us, to pay attention.

This Saturday morning I left my apartment to help my husband with groceries in the car. He gave me all he thought I could handle before driving off to do the stressful work of finding parking. I hauled two shopping bags up to the top of the steps in front of our building. And then I put everything down and decided to hang out for bit. It was only time I would be out that day. I just wanted to take in some fresh air, take in a few deep breaths and stare at the courtyard.

We live in a complex with six building in all. There are at least 3-4 beautiful trees in the courtyard which I have paid very close attention to since this pandemic sent us all to our rooms. I look at them to see how they are blooming, to feel the hope of new growth and to enjoy their beauty. Two of them are already in full bloom with tiny white sprigs of cheerful white flowers.

Directly across from our building is the one Cheery blossom tree in the courtyard. I look at it a lot around this time to see if the blooms look like they might be peeping through but they still look very tiny, dark and uninterested. I can’t look at a fully blooming Cherry tree and not feel joy. I also love how even after the blooms begin to expire, the petals rain down on everything under the tree quietly laying a magical carpet of heavenly pink. I look forward to this. I resist the urge every season to step over the hedge boundaries and just lay in Cherry blossom petals.

I’m standing there in the courtyard breathing deeply and think all this and more and then I start crying. I tried not feel bad about it. No one else is in the courtyard but me. I realize the privilege of having trees in the courtyard where I live. I wonder who planted the trees and why they chose them. I am grateful to have them so close by. Then I took the groceries upstairs.

And I Stare at My Cat a lot: A Gratitude List

I can’t say that I prefer working from home because the nature of what I do is hard to translate over this format. But I do like that any minute I need to step away, my surroundings are immediately calming for me. I’ve have moments of tight chestedness and stomach flipping anxiety since this all began a week ago. Unexpected things have been revealed as a result of this situation and I have had to initiate things I never thought I would have perviously. It really helped me when these things were happening to know that I could just go into my room for a moment and close my eyes or cry or laugh, or laugh and cry at the same time which has happened as well.

Today I got on a Facebook live hosted by my dear friend Cecelia Falls who shared tips, exercises and resources for people dealing with anxiety at this unprecedented, scary, and deeply destabilizing time. It was so wonderful just to see Cece’s face and I’ve always found her voice to be very calming.  I came away feeling inspired to write short gratitude list of things that made me feel good and smile today.

Face-Timing with a co-worker who is not on my team

Just shooting the shit with a co-worker pal who is marginally involved in my work was such a relief! It was so good to see her face in real time. I’ve only been in contact with the people on my immediate team for the past two weeks and that’s been a lot. As laid back as you would think working from home would be, I’m still very aware of the the way tension shapes my body when I’m talking with people I have to have my guard up around, people I don’t feel I can fully trust. When I talked with this co-worker, someone I haven’t even know for very long, I just felt like I could let down about two layers. It was just refreshing to let myself breath in a conversation that wasn’t about updates and data entry and trouble shooting and…you get the drift.

My Husband

My husband, already quite the germaphobe is on really high alert right now. I have resist the urge not to shout “OKAAAAY DAD!” at him on the daily. I have to keep reminding myself that even if I sometimes feel like he’s doing the most he’s just trying to protect me and everyone he loves in the best way he can. And at a time like this, too much is never enough. He loves me. He’s not trying to control me. The difference can sometimes be hard to discern for many of us, for a myriad of reasons that we need to unlearn immediately.

Music/Dancing: A DJ Really Can Save Your Life

I don’t need an excuse to dance even to music I haven’t selected or curated. I dance to the music that plays during the video games my husband plays in the evening. They’re usually sports,  and they play some of the best rap, dance hip hop tracks and I’m always just bopping around to that unconsciously. The now infamous IG Live DJ set by D-Nice has been an amazing way to get loose and dance to amazingly beautifully curated set list of R&B and hip hop classics old recent. Quest Love’s IG Live afterparty was also legendary. And I’m sure many other DJs are going live for as long as it takes.  This also signals my body to relax again, that it’s okay to feel safe again.

My Cat

I stare at my cat a lot. I mean I play with my cat a lot, pick him up a lot, kiss him a lot, snuggle him and pet him a lot. But I also stare at him a lot. I watch him, watching life. I watch him engaging with life, the things he pays attention to, the way he behaves when he’s on alert, when he feels tense, what makes him feel comfortable, what makes him feel safe. I never get tired of watching him sleep at the foot of our bed throughout the day. I wonder if he has a clue of how therapeutic (though a big pain on occasion, ie every morning around 5am) he is for both me and my husband. We both go to him to hold him, pet him, scratch under his chin, ease his tension or just watch him sleep and in turn it makes us feel more calm, less tense, less angry and less self fixated in general. Here is this creature curled up in an endless series of sleep shapes, trusting and vulnerable, aware of our presence and just as tolerant of what may seem like our strange behavior to him. He’s okay. We’re taking care of him. We’re okay. We’re taking care of each other.

 

 

Sound Baths, Music and Coping In The Time of Rona

I’ve had a tension headache for three days. Today, the fourth day, a Thursday, I feel it starting to subside. Anxiety is a fucker. And it can’t be the way I continue to move forward at this time.

I don’t want to focus on the endless volume of negativity that has poured out of this pandemic in an ugly rush of mismanagement and lack of care for human life.

Instead, I want to share how I’ve been using music and sound to calm my nerves and de-stress while practicing social distancing while not going stir crazy.

Sound baths

I learned about sound baths from Evelyn on The Internets, one of my fave YouTubers in a video where she talks about practices she applies when she’s overwhelmed. First of all, the words sound bath already sound amazing to me. Who wouldn’t want to bath in sound right now? Better than Purell right?

What a sound bath sounds like initially is something like white noise but with a more concentrated composition of layers of sound. At first it may sound like a humming but as you sit and immerse yourself in it like a meditation you begin to hear much more. The first track I ever heard that I feel is similar to a sound bath is by Bjork the mad sound engineering genius herself. I can’t remember how I came upon it but when I heard it it was if I had fallen off of a cliff of “traditional” sounding remixes of her music into something pure and raw that resonated with parts of my body rather than an attachment to melody or song structure.

It’s the Patten Rework remix of her song Stonemilker from the album “Vulnicura.” I thought it was an accident, that maybe my streaming service was skipping the track like a scratched album and something had gone wrong. But no, this was a controlled piece of experimental beauty that not unlike much of Bjork’s work just reached down into my guts and pried open my emotions.

I promise sound baths are 100 times more gentle. LOL!

Here is a layman’s definition:

The sounds are created by a variety of overtone-emitting instruments including tuning forks, gongs, shruti box, Himalayan and crystal singing bowls, chimes, and voice. When you sink into a Sound Bath and guide your awareness to your listening, you allow your brain waves to slow, shifting from a more active state to a more relaxed state, or even a dreamlike state.

There are many varieties of sound bath tracks available. I’ve found the majority that appeal to me on Spotify.  There are sound baths that range from 1 minute to 5 that resonate for the chakras and for different parts of the body and even some that are for each astrology sign. I find them to be very calming, allowing me to slow down my busy brain and focus on an underlying silence, a great expansive space. I’m sure sound baths must be derived from ancient spiritual meditative practices.

Also

I’ve also been watching things that make me happy like Carpool Karoake which is an instant happy maker for me since the only thing I love more than music is traveling in a car listening to and singing to music I love. The latest episode with Billie Eilish is just amazing. I can’t say I’m a super fan of her music but I do think that at 18 years old, she’s a pretty authentic human being, one of a kind and fully immersed in the joy, emotion and deep catharsis of her work as an artist. And she puts on nothing. She just is who she is. I don’t see that very often.

Chris Martin’s recent #togetherathome IG live was also very sweet and soothing and is also available on YouTube along with the Coldplay Tiny Desk performance I just watched this morning. Man, talk about a human who could never live without music! It’s just infectious to watch people who make music light up inside when they share it. There’s nothing like it.

I’ve also been forcing myself to get out and walk even if it’s just for a short while. I get cabin fever easily and thankfully there are a lot of beautiful parks where I live. I need the fresh air and the nature, to be able to see that life is still thriving and blooming.

Next week I start working from home proper and I hate the idea of the toxicity that surrounds that work seeping into my sacred space so I’m hoping that fortifying myself with calm and focus and positivity now will make that transition easier.

Who even knows what will happen tomorrow.

Stay safe out there. And stay connected even in the distance.

 

What I’ve learned so far from Intermittent Fasting

I was hosting my husband’s 40th birthday party last month when the gf of one of my oldest high school friends told me that said old friend was not drinking that night. He was intermittent fasting to prepare for what I think is now his third marathon.

Intermittent fasting had come across my radar recently in my search for a diet that would help me to shed pounds without feeling like I was starving myself or giving up something I love to eat forever. So I was intrigued to learn that someone I knew was already doing it. It motivated me to learn more about it. There’s quite a bit of really useful simple info about it on the internet. And simplicity is what I think has allowed me to stick with it for almost two weeks straight now.

Continue reading What I’ve learned so far from Intermittent Fasting

Frames vs Snapshots

I went on my second Urban Photographers Walk last weekend. Via the Meet Up app, it is hosted by the energetic, immensely talented and delightfully hospitable Ron Louis. I learned about it from my favorite cousin in law last year. It’s a group of photographers at all levels shooting with SLRs, film and cellphone cameras called together by Ron once a month to different places in the Tri State area to take and make pictures. It’s a great thing to be able to do something you love in community. I met a guy there who lives in my building! And he’s an amazing photographer! I would never have known.

This particular walk was in Soho one of my favorite places for taking pictures on perhaps one of the nicest days we’ve had in NYC since Christmas. We visited several photo galleries as part of the walk, the first of which was a framing gallery.

Ron talked about how we should think about printing and framing our own photos and displaying them in our homes. This is something my dad has done for years. Photography has been his passion since before I was born and though it took me years to get the bug myself (I’ve been serious since 2008) I’ve never really taken seriously the idea of framing my images in any but the most generic ways, you know like small frames on my desk or the home coffee table. It made me think about what images I’ve taken that I would consider worthy of large scale framing. This is not me saying that snapshots are not frame worthy. I love snapshots and photos taken on the move. Good street photographers are dope as hell and galleries are full of amazing images that would not have been considered for framing decades ago. But that’s the thing that I’m curious about. Understanding that the process of taking tons of photos may be necessary in order to find two incredible ones is integral for me. I truly believe that among the many, there really are only a few that can tell a story in a way none of the others can. And it’s one of the many things about photography that’s kept me engaged and curious for so long.

Thanks to smart phone technology, the number of people with the capacity to take photos is at its highest and camera phone technology will only continue to improve.

We will take gazillions of photos that we will never even see, let alone look at more than once. But always with photographers, is the fact that on assignment, self given or commissioned, we can take hundreds to thousands of photos and only a small handful will meet the standards we seek or capture what we sought to capture or accidentally reveal something we never even imagined.

Many years ago I did dabble in self publishing photo books from my images at the time but after the Soho walk I created a “Print” album in my phone of images I would consider getting framed.

I have a total of 28,735 “Recents” in my phone album. Presently I have 18 images in my “Print” folder.

This also makes me think more about how I want to be shooting in 2020, for what purpose and also what human subjects I like to photograph and what they inspire in me. I want to think more about what it means to photograph things in a way that I think is  frame worthy. And I want to focus on finding particular spaces and people to shoot for the entire year. I want to give myself more rigorous assignments and push myself more to see what else is there in me besides curiosity.