Note to Self:

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Things that can be carried on a bike (#731)...


There is beauty in silence and there is silence in beauty and you can find both in a bicycle!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

On the bike...$22 in groceries and a live tomato plant.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sister Summer...


Sister Summer
You enter so quietly
With subtle beauty
You arrive almost unnoticed
Until you are here

And when you approach
You bring with you
Such vibrancy
Not just in color
But all the senses

Flowers bloom in your presence
Offering themselves to you
Even the weeds bloom
Returning on queue
With you

Your hot days
Yield to gentle evening breeze
Awaking cricketers
And other nocturnal things
Which also yield to you

You turn things
Upside down, right side up
Long days
But then you leave
As quietly as you came

Stay with us
Sister Summer
Your comfort
Is welcoming
Becoming

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Maghmour v2 (Smokey and spicy eggplant and chickpea stew)


 "If my cuisine were to be defined by just one taste, it would be that of subtle, aromatic, extra-virgin olive oil."
~Alain Ducasse


So I've posted another version of this recipe a while back, but this one is more adapted to the summer months using fresh tomatoes instead of canned. This version is also a bit smokier and spicier (I increased the amount of smoked paprika and chili flakes). Anyhow, this is a really delicious and nutritious, but simple-to-prepare, vegetable stew. Eat it on its own, with bread, or over rice, it is delicious and filling (I had it for dinner over turmeric-infused basmati rice). Make a double batch because it tastes better the second day. For additional Lebanese inspired recipes, click here. The simple recipe is below.

 
Maghmour v2
(Lebanese Eggplant and Chickpea Stew)

Serves 4-6

¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium eggplant, diced
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoons crushed hot pepper
1 teaspoons whole cumin seed
1 cup water
4 cups diced tomatoes (about 4 medium tomatoes)
1 (15oz. can) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small bunch mint, chopped (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook for a few minutes while stirring, until the onion just begins to brown.

Add the garlic and the diced eggplant. Initially the eggplant will absorb the oil and begin to stick to the pan, it is for this reason you should stir nearly continuously for a couple minutes.

Once the eggplant softens, begins to brown, and releases the oil, add the smoked paprika, salt, hot pepper, and cumin seed. Cook the spices for a minute or two.

Stir in the water, tomatoes, and chick peas, and lemon. Bring the stew to a boil, then lower to a slow simmer. If it is too thick add additional water. Simmer the stew for about 30 minutes.

Stir in the mint and remove the stew from the heat. This can be eaten hot, room temperature, or even chilled in the summer months.


Urban Simplicity.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Happiness.


I catch a glance of you
And then you are gone
Like a shy lover
Playing with me

You’ll lift the veil
Briefly
To reveal a glimpse
Of your natural beauty

You make me work for it
Your beauty
Your love
The happiness within

Sometimes you’ll hide
For days weeks or months
Then return
Unannounced

But it’s a riddle
Happiness
Because you are here
Always

Natural
Like a flower
Returning after winter
More vibrant

Closer than my breath
My heartbeat
You are I
And I you

Like a golden pearl
I need only to look inside
Then you’ll glow outward
Lighting the way

The search for you
Happiness
Is endless
But effortless

Only I
My false self
Which is illusion
Make it difficult

I
My True Self
Knows you
Soul deep



Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Stardust...


The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.
― Carl Sagan


The great mystics concur
We are
In some inexplicable way
Connected
And that when we harm one
We harm all

Sacred texts tell us
Too
That the creator is in us
As we in them

Researchers say
That we have common ancestors
From which we’ve all come

Modern science
Proves
That we are all
Made from the same stuff
Stardust

Six of one
A half dozen of another
All of this
Says the same thing
To me
And I am not alone

So if this is true
That we are connected
Related
Stardust
Divine

And we know it

Why, then
Do we do the things we do

For if we truly believed
We should be jumping
For pure joy

Each day
And Every day
Because it is all a gift
 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

After the rain...


"The kingdom of the father is spread out over the earth, and people do not see it."
The Gospel of Thomas, Saying 113

When I rode to work this morning it was raining. I didn't get soaked but I was rather wet. Thankfully I brought extra clothes in a plastic bag. I stopped home during lunch break and it was just after the rain. Steam rose from the pavement and there was dew everywhere. I snapped these photos from a tiger lily plant in my front yard, the words I wrote later this evening.

After the Rain
after the rain things are different
if not just for a short time
everything is lush
green
steam rises
droplets glisten
for just a few moments
maybe more
the veil is lifted
ever so slightly


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Things that can be carried on a bike (#730)...


"There is no machine known that is more efficient than a human on a bicycle.  A bowl of oatmeal, 30 miles, you can’t come close to that."
~Bill Nye

On The Bike...
A bottle of red wine and all the ingredients for whole wheat-roast vegetable pizza. Click here for recipes.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sweet Crispy-Crunchy Cheddar Corn Fritters.


These are so simple to prepare you'll wonder why you never have before. And by the way, they are super delicious...bet ya can't eat just one.

Corn Fritters
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
½ cup milk
¾ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
vegetable oil for frying

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl and mix together. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and milk. Add the egg-milk mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until it forms a thick batter. Add the cheese and corn and mix thoroughly.

Heat a couple inches of  vegetable oil to 350F, then carefully add spoonfuls of the corn batter into the oil. Fry until golden and cooked throughout. Drain on absorbent paper.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Synchronicity on 72nd Street.


Synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance, namely, a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers.” ~ Carl Jung

I was in New York for an extended weekend last week. That’s not unusual, I try to get there at least once but usually twice a year. What is unusual is an idiosyncratic experience I had, and for reasons I am not entirely sure, feel the need to share it. So here it is.

As per usual with me these days, before I travel to NY or anywhere I jot down a few or more places I want to photograph. I’ll do a bit of research prior and then plan my days around it. Two of the places I wanted to photograph were the 125th Street Viaduct (pictured above) and Bethesda Terrace in Central Park (pictured below). I’m more of a “downtown guy” and hang out in the east or west village, so it was sort of interesting for me to travel that far uptown.


On my second day there I took the train up to 72nd Street and walked the short distance through the park to the terrace. It was beautiful, but being nice out and also a Saturday it was packed. I wanted to get a shot of of it with few or no people. So I decided to come back the following day. I also decided that I would not travel to 125th Street to photograph the viaduct simply because it took time and my time was somewhat limited (as I wanted to visit a few other locations).

So the next day after lunch I took the train from 14th Street, which is close to my hotel, and headed uptown. After the train started I could hear the conductor announce something but couldn’t make out what he was saying. The person next to me told me this train which is usually a local is now an express, which means they only make a few stops. The next stop was 42nd Street; there normally would have been 2 or 3 stops before that. No problem, I thought, as most trains—even express—seem to stop at 86th. Worst case scenario I’ll either hop a local the 14 blocks back or walk (which is something I love to do).  As it turns out the train didn’t stop at 86th; the next stop was 125th Street, the very place I had decided not to go. Okay then, I guess the Universe wants me to take a photo of the viaduct after all, so I did. Then I hopped another train back to 72nd Street, where it did stop this time. And this is where it gets a little strange.

I have to preface this next part with a few things. Firstly I’ve had some things that have been weighing heavy on me lately and was thinking about them as I walked. Secondly, and this is where some overt religious speak comes in, I also have to qualify the next few statements. I am a person of faith. Meaning I believe (know) that there is something greater than I. Name it whatever you like...God, Universe, Spirit, Divine; I use them all interchangeably. What I don’t believe is that God is an old white guy sitting up on a cloud looking down and judging. Quite the opposite, actually. My belief is that God/Universe/Spirit is all that there is...that we live within Its presence.

This said, I also consider myself a Christian. Meaning that I follow the teachings of Yeshua ben Yosef (Jesus the son of Joseph), the poor Jew from Nazareth who latter became known as Jesus the Christ. And this is where it gets a bit tricky for me. What I mean by this is that I question things. So many things. I’ll just say that I read the bible as metaphor more than anything, that it is meant as an inwardly spirit-pointing book to guide and change us. Reading it literally is where many problems arrive. These of course are simply my own humble opinions. Now I have to qualify these statements with a request...if you do not share the same views as I this is fine, but please don’t try to save or convert me or send me hate mail.

Anyhow, There I was walking down 72nd Street on a lovely warm NY spring evening and thinking about these things that were weighing heavy on me. In fact, I was praying. Not aloud, of course, but to myself. I wanted some things to change and I knew that I couldn’t do it alone, in many ways I was surrendering to the Divine as I walked down the street. As I walked I was speaking (mentally) the Universe and thinking how maybe it would be better if I prayed to Jesus like a “good Christian.” The problem was that I have problems with that. This is actually what I was thinking when as I walked and saw something etched in chalk which is pictured below. It stopped me in my tracks. “Are you fucking kidding me?” I questioned (aloud this time). Passersby looked at me as I repeated myself.


Now if you are not familiar with John 3:16, it is one of the most quoted bible passages, especially by evangelicals. This is why I have a problem with it. For me it sounds exclusive rather than inclusive to other faiths (or no faith) and this is where (one of) my problems lie.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16

So what’s to make of this? Is it just silly mumbojumbo? Maybe, but I do think there is something to it. At the time, as I do now, I felt the Spirit was sort of giving me a shake to wake me up and remind me that everything will be fine.

I relayed this story to a friend this past week and he commented how it’s not uncommon to see people write biblical passages around. True, I suppose, but what are the chances that I would be walking down a street in our country’s largest city when I saw this. That I came from an opposite direction because of the train mishap; I would have been on different part of the street and not seen this if not for the express train. Though more importantly, what are the chances of me coming across this while I was actually thinking the inverse of what this passage has to say? Slight at best. Anyhow, this is something that happened to me the other day which I felt compelled to share.

Synchronicity: A meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved.”
~ Carl Jung

Monday, May 7, 2018

Cocovan and Her Love Letter to the World



“Letter writing can be seen as a gift because someone has taken his/her time to write and think and express love.”
― Soraya Diase Coffelt


So this is Cocovan, or simply Coco, as she introduced herself. I first saw her when I was walking through Washington Square Park the other day and she was kneeling an arranging her scroll-like letter on the ground, and then sat at the heart-shaped chair and desk at the head of it. I was mesmerized in a way and had to see what was up. "It's a love letter to the world from the world," she said with a smile when I questioned her. She is originally from Paris and has taken the letter across Europe thus far and plans on taking it to all seven continents, collecting signatures and letters of love and drawings along the way. Beautiful, I thought to myself before signing it. It is interesting to think that my short letter to the world is on this scroll along with thousands others and will travel the globe. Safe travels Cocovan, and thank you for spreading love. To read more about the project and the artist, visit Cocovan's website here.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Question to self (how far would you go)



how far would you go
if you lacked resources
for basic necessities
what
would you do
to survive
how far would you go
to help
offer aid
if you
had too much
would your heart
be hardened
or
cracked wide open


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Life Flows...


This is a short poem I wrote today. As hokey as it sounds it was inspired by this tulip leaf growing in my teeny front yard. I've lived in this house for nearly 20 years and have not planted tulips. Mostly I plant vegetables. But each year this single tulip re-emerges. And today when I came home from a coffee shop, on a particularly unseasonably cool and wet day, I noticed the tulip leaf which had pushed through the cold ground reaching for the cloud-shrouded sun. The flower will soon follow, as it does each year.

life flows
like a river
after a spring thaw
from one event
to the next
life flows
sometimes in bursts
sometimes in wanes
life flows
from one lifetime
to the next
we learn
from everything
each thing

every one
life continues
it is continuous 


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Jeremy's Vision...



“Space and time are the framework within which the mind is constrained to construct its experience of reality.”

Recently I had the opportunity to preview a new restaurant/performance space which will open very soon here in Buffalo. It is an extension of a longstanding funky coffee shop on our West Side, Sweetness7, which is owned by Prish Moran. 

The new space, which is adjacent to the coffee shop is called the Tabernacle, because...well, that's what it originally was. It was built around the turn of the (last) century and at one point was used as a place for the famed preacher Billy Sunday to proclaim his message. Today one would never know by its unassuming facade what an incredible wonderland awaits within. 

While the place may be owned by Prish, the art is the creation of one-time cook and house philosopher, Jeremy Twiss. When I stopped in recently he showed me a few of his favorites and told me it took him about a year to accomplish, sometimes working as many as 15 hours a day on his art. But here's the best part...this is his first work of art, prior to this he claimed the "he couldn't paint." Well, I guess he proved himself wrong. 

Being in the space I felt like I was in some sort of mystical Alice in Wonderland Sistine Chapel, it is truly inspiring. I love the vibe of the coffee shop and the Tabernacle is an extension of that same feel. I am really looking forward the the Tabernacle opening, this will be a great addition to Buffalo's flourishing cultural scene. 

Click any photo for a slightly larger view. To read a recent story in the Buffalo News regarding Jeremy's art and the Tabernacle, click here. Here is a link to Sweetness 7's Facebook page, and here is a link to their website.






Urban Simplicity.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

evening


the day fades
night slithers in
another day in life
tomorrow is new
another chance
to be alive
to live
moment by moment
but for now
it is evening


Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Day of the Resurrection (Journal Entry: 1 April 2018)

The Day's First Light

“Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.”  ~ Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

This morning while doing some reading I stumbled upon the above quote and it could not have been more appropriate, and this, I suppose, can be interpreted in a number of ways. While I woke in a dark place today I also find inspiration in the darkness, but I’m jumping ahead.

Today is Easter morning, the celebration of the resurrection, a celebration of all that is light and hope. But I woke to internal darkness. It wasn’t sudden, it’s been stalking me for a while. I could feel it, sense it, see it lurking behind corners just behind me. Then like a thief in the night it engulfed me. This is not to say that I am in despair, as I have been before, just like so many others. I can still see the light, and know that the light is achievable, it’s just that it is in the distance, slightly out of reach.

The darkness, which can take many forms, has been a mild feeling of uncertainty for a while...weeks or months, I can’t recall. But now it is time to grab hold of certainty. As a natural observer and creatively inclined, it’s easy for me to see things then capture them in a photo, or words, or a drawing, but at the same time it is difficulty to observe myself. Not just my physical actions but internally as well, and that’s where things begin, on the inside.

There are some changes that need to take place in my life, which I am aware of, and that can only happen from the inside out through introspection first, then action. Easter is the day of resurrection, a day of hope and rebirth, thus it is also a good day to begin again, and likely tomorrow begin again, and then again. The light is within reach, and the darkness cannot overcome it. Now it’s up to me to reach for it.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” ~ Romans 12:2


Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Second March Moon...what's in a name?


Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.
~ Mark Twain


The above photo is one I shot last night from the sidewalk in front of my small and disheveled Allentown (Buffalo, NY) home. The moon was 99.7% full last night and tonight it will be 100%. I took the photo last night while I had the chance as it is supposed to be overcast this evening. 

Anyhow, this is the second full moon this month, which makes it a blue moon. Some Native American tribes refer to this as the worm moon because it is the time of year that the ground softens enough for earth worms reappear, which then brings birds. The early American Colonists referred to this moon as the sap moon because it was at this time of the year that maple sap really began to run. It is also sometimes called the Lenten moon, because it signifies the end of the Christian period of Lent.

This brings me to the next brief topic, and some of you may already know this, but this moon is also the reason that the date of Easter changes each year. Easter is always on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, which of course shows the early Pagan roots of Easter and Christianity (please don't send me hate mail or try to "save me," this is fact-based information).  Anyhow, this is pretty interesting stuff, I think. But I'll get off my little soap box now.

Urban Simplicity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Things that can be carried on a bike (#729)...


“[Commuting by bicycle is] an absolutely essential part of my day. It’s mind-clearing, invigorating. I get to go out and pedal through the countryside in the early morning hours, and see life come back and rejuvenate every day as the sun is coming out.
~James L. Jones, Barack Obama’s former national security advisor


On the bike: nearly $80 in groceries and a bottle of wine.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Penne with Angry Sauce and Crispy Tofu-Broccoli Gremolata


“To be a vegetarian is to disagree - to disagree with the course of things today... starvation, cruelty - we must make a statement against these things. Vegetarianism is my statement. And I think it's a strong one.”
― Isaac Bashevis Singer

Okay, so a couple things. Firstly, I am not a vegetarian, though I do aspire to be. It's difficult at times as my job requires me to cook and eat (taste) meat. But still this is no excuse. This said, I rarely eat meat out side of work. I can't remember the last time I cooked it at home. Anyhow, it's simple recipes such as this that I am convinced would even satisfy a carnivore, maybe not all but some. I topped the pasta with Pecorio Romano cheese, but it can be kept vegan with that omission. The simple but super flavorful and healthy recipes are below. And by the way, the sauce is referred to as "angry" because of its spiciness.

Arrabbiata Sauce
(Angry Sauce)

Makes about 5 cups

¼ cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons crushed hot pepper
1 cup red wine
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat, then add the onion. Cook the onion, while stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until it just begins to brown. Add the garlic and crushed hot pepper and cook for another couple minutes, or until the garlic begins to brown. Stir in the red wine and water, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook the liquids for a couple minutes, then stir in the tomatoes, and salt. Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes, then add the chopped basil and simmer another 10 minutes or so.

Crispy Tofu and Broccoli Gremolata

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 (14 oz package) extra-firm tofu, diced small
1 small head broccoli, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 bunch parsley, washed and chopped
2 teaspoons lemon zest (the zest of 1 lemon)

Heat the olive oil in a skillet that is large enough to hold the tofu in a single layer. When the oil is hot add the tofu. Cook the tofu, while stirring occasionally, until it is golden brown and crispy. Add the broccoli and garlic and cook a few minutes longer, or until the broccoli is cooked but still crunchy. Stir in the parsley and lemon zest and immediately remove the skillet from the heat.

Urban Simplicity

Friday, March 2, 2018

After the storm...


Like much of the northeast, Buffalo got pummeled with snow last night. Thick, heavy snow. Though it is late in the season it still looked beautiful to me (maybe it's because I had a snow day off of work). Anyhow, I walked to a coffee shop this morning and brought my camera. Here's a few things I saw. Click any for a slightly larger view.




Urban Simplicity.

The Element of Texture (Updated!)


"The photographer has almost as much control over his subject matter as a painter. He can control light and shade, form and space, pattern and texture, motion and mood, everything except composition." ~Andreas Feininger

Due to foul weather (yep it snows every once in a while in Buffalo) the opening has been changed to Friday March 23.

Here's a last minute plug for a group show I'm part of, which opens this evening. I'm one of, I believe, eight artists. I've seen some of the work of the other artists and it is going to be a really interesting group of art. The show, which is part of the First Friday Gallery Walk, is at Parables Gallery on Elmwood Avenue (click here for a map to the location). The show focuses on the elements of texture; the two photos pictured are two of seven or eight of mine that will be hanging in the gallery. The above photo is of Little Italy, NYC, and the below photo is of my neighborhood just after a heavy snow a couple weeks ago (click either photo for a slightly larger view). The show is up for the entire month of March, but the opening is tonight from 7pm-9pm. Here's a link with additional info provided by the gallery owner. I hope to see you there.


Urban Simplicity.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

This is Bill, or Muhammad, and His Beautiful Dog...


 “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard


As I exited the subway station today after work today I saw Bill and his dog crossing the street. I thought I knew most eccentrics in the neighborhood but had never seen him before. Both of them--he and his dog--walked in a graceful manner as they crossed the street. So as I approached them I asked if I could take their photo, to which he replied a matter of factly, "Sure, why not?" When asked his name he told me it was "Bill or Muhammad," whichever I preferred. He used them both but not at the same time. He told me his dog's name but it really long and one I cannot remember. I asked if he were Muslim, and he said, yes and that it saved his life about 20 years ago. I also asked him about the iPhone hanging around his neck...the camera was open and facing outward (see below), I could see myself as I spoke to him. "Oh that," he replied, "I just like the world to reflect back on people." We talked for a few more minutes and then we parted. But before we did, I commented that a lot of people must say that he looks like Abraham Lincoln. He responded plainly, "It must be the hat."


Saturday, February 10, 2018

This is Rich.


"Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality."
~Romans 12:13 

This is Rich, and yes I see the irony in his name. Even before he asked me the question I knew that he would. I could tell the way he surveyed the parking lot as I walked up to the coffee shop. And as suspected, when I got close enough he solicited me for change. But I'm jumping ahead.

I walked to the coffee shop today instead of riding my bike...a night of sloppy, heavy snow has made the streets also sloppy. So I walked. This is the time of year when the incessant grey starts to bring me down. And as I walked I was thinking about a class in which I am currently enrolled, Western Civilization and Human Progress. This is why I was heading to the coffee shop, to do some work. In the class right now we are discussing whether we as humans have actually made any progress by comparing some events to those of the Middle Ages, and also reading texts such as the Bible and the Confessions of St. Augustine. This is what was going through my head as I approached the parking lot.

Anyhow, as I approached Rich, even before he asked me, I noticed the cross dangling prominently from his neck. Someone from St. Luke's Mission of Mercy gave it to him, he told me, sometimes he sleeps there. It was a nice cross. As we talked I found out that Rich hasn't worked "in a while" because of a bad back, a broken knee, and colon cancer. 

He wanted money for a coffee. I actually thought about inviting him in and purchasing his coffee but didn't for a couple reasons. The first being that I had my laptop and books with me and needed to get work done, and the second is that Rich told me he wanted the money for coffee across the street because he's not allowed in this shop. So I gave him one of the two dollars in my wallet then asked if I could take his photo. Straightening up the best he could, he said sure and had a twinkle in his eye. After talking some more he asked me for another dollar, so I gave him the remaining one in my wallet (I knew that I had plenty of credit on my phone app for the coffee shop).

So did Rich use the money for coffee? I don't know, I hope so, but maybe not. Maybe he used it for alcohol (though he was sober when I talked to him), and I'll likely be spending money on alcohol for myself this evening. My point is this...I saw this guy who needed a couple bucks and I had a couple bucks. Giving them away probably helped him more than it hurt me. No one aspires to grow up and be homeless. I can't imagine how degrading it must feel to ask strangers for money. And I'll be honest, talking with Rich today was a really nice conversation, we were just two humans talking on a grey snowy day in the parking lot of a coffee shop. I hope he stays warm and safe.

Urban Simplicity

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A bag is a bag is a bag...


"Bags. Maybe it’s finally time for men to start carrying them. And not just to work. A bag to the coffee shop. To the bar. To the ballgame and the cage-fighting extravaganza and a bag to the monster truck show."
~Douglas J. Brown

File this post under "every day things." I've been a "bag guy" pretty much my entire life; I've carried some sort of bag since my teens. Be it a backpack, briefcase, shoulder bag, or camera bag, I often have one with me. I don't think much of it until every once in a while someone references it as a purse, or even worse, a "man-bag." To me it's just a bag. Anyhow, someone at a coffee shop this morning referred to it as such..."don't forget your man-bag." All I could do is smile. But then as I sat there I started thinking how it--and its contents--are really representative of me, or at least a slice of my daily life and things that interest me. One of the bags that I often carry these days is a small messenger bag which is designed specifically to hold a mirrorless camera (among other things), it's this one. And when I sat there looking at it, it really was like looking at a day in my life through it's contents, it contained the following...a camera, an extra lens, a journal, a pen and pencil for writing and drawing in the journal, a pocket-sized New Testament with psalms and proverbs, a slim book on mindfulness, an extra battery for the camera (wrapped in plastic), a culinary memoir, which I am reading for a class I am currently enrolled, and a rain pouch for the bag in the event weather turnes foul while on a bike. What's in your bag?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Matters at Hand (a New Year Reflection)

"Fork in the Road"

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
~ Matthew 18:3

So here it is, the first day of the new year. So much anticipation. The above bible verse came to me last evening while contemplating the prospects of all the possibilities of the new year ahead, like a blank page waiting to be written. A clean slate.

I personally have found that in order to make changes in my life I not only have to make changes in my habits but also myself as well. Like the old Buddhist saying goes, “change comes from within.”

The above passage is interesting to me for a number of reasons, especially when thought of in metaphorical terms (which is basically how I treat most of the bible). This said, let’s look at this in a sort of deconstruction, or in sections.

In the first portion of the passage Jesus tells his disciples that unless they change they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. This is from the New International Version, but in other versions the word “change” may be translated as “turn around” or “convert.” Interestingly, the word repent comes from Greek and one of its means is to “turn around” or to “change one’s way of thinking.” I bring this up to counter the negative connotations the word repent often conjures. And also (along these same lines) when John was in the desert baptizing and preaching he would cry out, “Repent, for the kingdom is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). This is also one of the first quotes of Jesus when he began his public ministry (Matthew 4:17). Think about this sentence in this way… Repent (think differently or change your ways) because the kingdom is at hand (or the kingdom is right in front of you). This is spelled out explicitly in the Gospel of Thomas (saying 113), “the kingdom of the father is spread out over the earth, and people do not see it."

So then, how do we do this? How do we see/enter the kingdom in this life? Well, we are told clearly to “become like little children.” But what does that mean? Are we supposed to act like imbeciles or babies? No, I don’t think so. I’ll give my thoughts on what this means with a brief story.

Recently I was at the local Jewish Community Center where I swim. I had just arrived and was locking up my bike when a father and his young daughter exited the building. It was snowing big fat flakes; they slowly cascaded down to earth. Upon seeing this, the young girl spreads her arms wide, lifted her face skyward and shrieked, “Daddy, it’s snowing!” She then stuck out her tongue and gleefully caught flakes on it as they walked. The father, seeing me, sighed in a low voice, “Yes, it is snowing...again.” The difference is obvious. The young girl was so excited and in awe that in some ways she was experiencing her own slice of heaven right there in the JCC parking lot. Her father, on the other hand, was not; he was miserable.

So my thought on this is that if we change (mostly our thinking) then we too can have what the little girl had, or at least glimpses of it. What the bible passage is saying, I believe, is that we should attempt to be in awe of everyday events, everyday miracles. When we were children everything was new and interesting and innocent, but then somewhere along the way as we grew into adults we began acting like adults, stifling our sense of awe in the everyday activities. When I think about it, I feel as though I should be in awe at the very fact that I awake every morning, at the miracle of this living body that I currently inhabit. 

This year I want to return to awe, that sense of innocence. It will not be easy, and it will take work and conscious effort, but I do think it is possible. This, after all, is what we’ve been told for more than two millennia. Even longer if you look at other traditions. To put this in Buddhist terms, this could be compared to being present, or mindful; seeing and appreciating what is right in front of us at this very moment. Walking the middle path. After all, the past is history and the future is just a dream at this point. All we have is the moment in which we live. All we have is now.


Friday, December 29, 2017

Lake Effect!


Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.”
― Vesta M. Kelly


 So the other day it snowed. Hard. Lake effect snow. I had the day off so I went for a walk and took a few pictures. If you have never been to the east of any of the Great Lakes during the winter, or you are not familiar with the term "lake effect," this page can explain it. Anyhow, click any picture for a slightly larger image.











Urban Simplicity.