thankful

We have had our share of fallen trees, crushed fences and flooded basements. We brace for every storm knowing there will be repairs to be made and we will have to find some way to budget the costs. We hid out in the basement on Monday, watching the news, watching the lights flicker and checking water levels in the new sump pump. The wind rattled the windows and swayed the largest trees. Bits of leaves stuck to the windows.

The basement did not flood, the power did not fail and this time we have no damage to repair. Everyone I know is safe. For all of this I am very thankful.

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my first choice too: Sri Lanka

I was thrilled to read Sri Lanka was chosen as the top country to visit in 2013 by Lonely Planet. #1 Country: Sri Lanka / Best in Travel 2013

Since my first visit in 2008, the country has changed in some significant ways (most importantly, the civil war has ended) and thankfully it has also stayed the same (it is still a beautiful country whose residents are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet). There will be a longer post in the future about one of my favorite places in the world, until then here are a few photos:

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the future is a goal

There are so many young people in our community who are fighting anxiety and depression. Not all the kids I know have won the fight and that has been on my mind for quite a while. Here are just a few of the things I wish our young people could experience, feel or know:

  • The days before high school graduation. The feeling of freedom one has as the last exams are taken, the locker is cleaned out and you know that you never, ever, have to return to this building again. Unless you want to.
  • The future “firsts”. These are usually experienced after high school so one would have to push on to get past graduation: The first evening in your own place—whether or not you have a few dozen roommates—knowing that what you do in the morning is completely your choice. The first time you make a meal in your kitchen—even if it is only a bowl of cereal. The first time you waste (aka: really enjoy) an entire weekend doing exactly what you want. The first time you have someone spend the night knowing there is absolutely no way mom or dad or grandma will burst through the door, early in the morning, and tell you to get ready for school or you will miss the bus.
  • The best recoveries occur after the darkest days. High school can be hell. Graduating high school and getting on with life is a euphoric feeling but it doesn’t last forever. Unfortunately, for everyone, horrible events will occur. Sometimes our bad day stretches into a week, months, years. At some point, as a result of our incredibly hard work, or luck, or a combination of both and lots of other factors…the chunky, stormy cloud of loss and negativity starts to thin. The feeling of finding one’s self, or one’s path or just rediscovering a few moments of happiness after a down period is such a gift.
  • Re-experiencing a collection of love. Of my impossible scenarios, this may be the most important and effective but time travel into the future (utilized in the examples above) seems more plausible at this point. For the kids who have lost all hope I wish they could sit in a quiet place and recall and feel all of the positive feedback others have felt towards them. For most of the kids who are struggling there isn’t a positive memory or a realization of how much they are loved.

Best friend: Who helped me pick up my lunch after I tripped in the senior cafeteria? You did.
Random kid in gym: Daaaaaang. I wish I could run that fast.
Cute kid in biology: Your adorable face distracted me in class but your kindness and knowledge of science made it possible for us to study together after school.
Younger sibling: One day I hope to be as good as you.
Parent: Everything I do is connected to you.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

What are some of life’s pleasures you enjoy as an adult that you may not have considered when you were a kid?

What advice would you give your younger self?

Ai Weiwei

When I see something clever, inspiring, and socially sensitive I am impressed. When thoughtfulness and genuine care seem to be part of an art work I appreciate the effort the artist has made to share; being open and giving is not a common trait. I speak to my students about investing their head, heart and hands in their work—a very simple idea that is never an easy task.

Ai Weiwei (b.1957) is an artist whose work responds to complex problems of the mind and more importantly, issues deep within his heart. His hands do much of the work but frequently he employs community members to help create his visions.  Best known as the artistic consultant for Beijing’s 2008 Olympic stadium, Ai has become a well-known critic of the Chinese government’s policies, specifically regarding human rights and freedom of speech issues. When I think of Ai, I usually think of the quote, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”. The love he has for his country and the people of China is obvious (while wagging various fingers at his own government) in every work he creates.

I missed Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern (by one day!) but I found a small portion of them at Mary Boone Gallery a short time later.

A name is the first and final marker of individual rights, one fixed part of the ever-changing world. A name is the most basic characteristic of our human rights: no matter how poor or how rich, all living people have a name, and it is endowed with good wishes, the expectant blessings of kindness and virtue.
-Ai Weiwei

Names of the Student Earthquake Victims Found by the Citizens’ Investigation (and detail) 2008-2011

The wall is filled with the names of over 5,000 children killed (after schools collapsed) as a result of the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province. The names of the children are read aloud in an audio work titled Remembrance 2010

A room filled with photographs of historical architecture being demolished and land cleared to make way for construction of new, modern buildings in Provisional Landscapes 2002-2008

Like all people, Ai Weiwei is not perfect and mistakes have been made. No one knows when he will be able to leave China to attend an opening of one of his shows. I feel fortunate to have seen some of the works that have left China and are traveling the world. Ai’s work reminds me to remember history, communicate with my heart and make work that can make a positive impact on our collective space.

According to What? at the Hirshhorn in Washington, DC until February 24, 2013
Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds
Alison Klayman’s film: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
Let a Hundred Volunteers Bloom

a favorite place

There is an old Quaker town (settled in 1733…which is old by American standards) in Loudoun County, Virginia that has preserved generations of homes through dedication, lots of hard work put forth by the townspeople and by proceeds collected from an annual festival which takes place each fall. Waterford is a cultural and historic site and is registered as a National Historical Landmark. A visit will take one back to another time in American history.

weekly photo challenge: mine

This old man is mine.
I found him in a shelter. I feed him every 12 hours. He has trained me to open and close blinds. I know to leave windows open so he can keep an eye on the squirrels. I groom him and scoop his poop. I wash his blankets when they get too hairy. I search for the softest blades of grass to bring inside because that is what he wants. On his best days he seeks me out. On my worst days, I find him.
I am his.