Thursday, May 13, 2021

Flowers and Paints

Hmmmm... as soon as I formatted these two images, it dawned on me that today's post won't look much different from yesterday's post, which does beg the question: Why am I posting at all? I take photographs, and I write posts for this blog, because I can't not do those things. Besides, the pictures I shared yesterday are not so wholly like today's pictures, not really. I made some progress on a watercolor painting. It's from a portrait of my Grandmother. No. I should say it is a watercolor painting of Eunice Velasco Solis, because this was before. Before she was a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, or a world traveler, before she lived by the ocean, or went to college, before she taught me how to sew, before she had read a million, or more, books. I am not sharing my painting because I think it's very good, but because I am glad I tried to make it good, and I may try again. I feel a mix of frustration and amusement that no matter how mindfully I sketch, no matter the care I take with painting, when I step back and look at it, after it's too late to do anything about it... that's when the errors and questionable choices are visible, glaring even! I marvel at those perspective flaws, and the way shapes lost meaning, when I was so intent on deliberately getting it right. "Getting it right," means reflecting exactly how beautiful she is, even evoking how I adore her, and how the photograph makes me long to travel to Mexico City, with her, to wear huipiles, and faldas, and walk through mercados with aisles of flowers, then pottery, then toys and housewares, to sit in a Tía's kitchen and listen to todos los cuentos. What is perspective and proper anatomy to all of that... those dreams and wishes that I will never be able to fulfill?

And then there is the chamomile, still lifting me up, still being a favorite. And even with it growing in my very own garden, I couldn't help bringing this bouquet home from Trader Joes. They smell like someone put the kettle on, and is about to offer us cut sandwiches, and small cakes, with tea. Even thinking of them soothes my thoughts, and I breath a little deeper, easier. Do you know, something I find brilliant? If I search "chamomile" in the small box on the left side of this page, all of the posts when I have typed c h a m o m i l e will appear? There's a lot wrong in the world, and the Internet can be such a mess, but I find satisfaction in this tiny bit of order, and instant gratification. It really is a kind of miracle.

Last week I attended a virtual gallery exhibit and cocktail party, hosted Live, by my friend, Lola Argemí. My cóctel was delicioso! Over ice, I poured sparkling mineral water (Topo Chico is our new favorite) and then I added a splash of Pear-Cranberry balsamic (Something I learned from Baker & Olive.) The balsamic gives a hint of sweet, with a zing, and the Topo Chico is satisfyingly bubbly! I watched and listened as Lola and her friend, who makes jewelry, shared their art and creations. We aren't even in the same time zone, and all I could do was observe, and of course drink my cóctel, but I enjoyed the hour. I love Lola's art, the lessons she shares, and I especially love the time when we were Zooming, and I could hear vendors calling from the street where she lives, or just watching her paint, listening to her whistle. Now I think of it, my cóctel needs a name, y claro que tiene que ser Lola, refrescante, ducle, y burbujeante. I am naming my cocktail Lola, refreshing, sweet, and bubbly, like my friend.

For a moment, I believed I would share other accounts, other people I follow, admire. I think I will save those for another time. I might go back into my corner, and sketch, or maybe I'll fold some laundry. Have I mentioned? Lately, I have been calling myself the luckiest woman in the world. It's just a thing I say to myself, and it's nothing to do with anything like perfection, or feeling flawless, or having everything my heart desires. I am simply astonished at how many good things I have access to, how much better my life is than what I imagined it could be, what it was when I was younger, and trying to picture what a good life could be. Also, I am very likely superstitious, or just have survival notions about how to protect myself, so I am guarded, and saying aloud, even thinking I am fortunate feels reckless, like an invitation for fate to take away comforts and blessings. I'd rather be daring, or I would like to be daring, to really feel confident and assured... say, My life is lovely, and I have a comfortable home, and I love my children, I love Geoff, and flowers, popcorn, my dresses, floss, paints, and cats, and not look over my shoulder, or glance sideways, fearful of what might take it all away. Nina Simone, she was so right... "I'll tell you what freedom is to me. No fear."

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Wishful Thinking

Alicia is getting an electric bike. She posted about how eager she is to ride, and described a trail she is looking forward to, how she will be riding "all over it..." It's funny that my reaction is one of feeling familiar with her yearning anticipation, as though I can totally relate. The truth is, I love my e-bike now... now that I am over the sense of anxious dread that first gripped me when Geoff announced that we were "getting bicycles," that we were "going out, into the world, and riding those bicycles," that it would "be fun," and "good" for me. My first response was fear, which in my case triggers resistence and mild displays of petulance. And that fear took riding miles and miles to somewhat dissipate. I am closing in on 3,000 miles ridden since we first got our bicycles, and I am happy to say that I have enjoyed some wonderful moments when I felt excitement riding, and even eagerness to ride. My favorite rides include the times when the rain chased us home, or night rides in summer, when stars and owls, bats, and thrills accompany us. The best rain ride caught us half way through a regular route, and there was thunder, lightning, and hail, too, and I laughed, and screamed all the way home. We were soaked through. And, of course, I have written about all of this before... Geoff's love, my fears, the progress, and even some of my more wild fantasies and make-believe schemes.
When we were waiting for our electric bikes to arrive, I could not have imagined a future when I would be recommending E-bikes to friends, when I would study maps and trails, and day-dream about long rides, overnight adventures. I am partial to Rad-Power Bikes based on Geoff's extensive research, and my own familiarity with the only electric bike I have ever ridden. But if you could see how the number of Rad-Power bikes, in our city alone, has as good as exploded, you might be impressed, like me. There are so many you'd be convinced they're dependable, and reasonably priced, too. Oh, and I this isn't a paid endoresment, by the way. I just happen to like my bike.

Geoff and I are still riding back and forth, in front of the house, practically. I am still nervous. We ride the same neighborhood route, most everyday, sticking to quieter streets, and loops. Usually we pedal 5 miles out, and 5 miles back. The nice thing about pedal assist is that I don't have to get off the bike and walk it up hills. It's never a free ride, because the heavy bike always needs some pedaling, and as I've gotten stronger, I use less assist, even on the steep coastal hills. Now, like Alicia, I think about trails. I need to find some near to home, some that aren't shared with cars. The trails I am thinking of more and more often are in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin my father-in-law, Phil, has spent a lifetime developing and advocating for bike trails, orgainzing rides, leading tours, and writing, writing and writing about all things cycling. He is a cycling legend, honestly. For a long time I have wanted to ride one of his trails, like the "first of its kind" rail-to-trail Elroy Sparta State Trail. Riding that seems like something I could handle, and would pobably be more my pace than his wilder Fat Tire Tours, Chequamagon, or Milwaukee! Something very special happened recently, and Geoff and I are seriously looking forward to riding this very special trail being developed, and named in honor of Phil.

It makes me happy seeing more and more people out riding their bicycles, all ages, and abilities. I even joined a committee advocating and planning for cycling safety in the schools corridors of our community. We don't have a particularly safe, cyclist-respectful culture in San Diego County, and that needs to improve, a lot. It makes me happy thinking how much pleasure Alicia will take when she is out there, riding all over! I'd love to ride around Portland, Oregon, too. And if you are like me, hesitant, nervous, I hope you find something new, slightly thrilling, that you can try, and challenge yourself with, and then get more and more comfortable with, maybe even start to love. I am still working on the love part, myself. If I were a philanthropist, a benevolent queen of dreams, I would send bicycles to friends, and to their friends, and to you, and you. We could all be pedaling, sometimes assisted. We could be on tandems, or riding bikes that accomodate our needs, and everywhere there would be movements for more trails, more consideration and mindfulness about people on bikes, out there, pedaling all over... I would like this very much.