The Uber Seafood Feast

My hubby and I visited his family when we arrived in Manila late last week. He cajoled our sister-in-law to do her seafood feast for all of us who are in town. She beamed and accepted the challenge.

Yesterday, after braving the tortuous quagmire that was playing out on EDSA, a major thoroughfare in Manila, we settled on the table that sister-in-law, Josette, had orchestrated.

She said she was up bright and early, and off to the farmers’ market to gather the components of her artistic vision of what the banquet was to be.

When we were all ready to sit and partake of the feast, we could not help but spend a few minutes reveling in the luscious sight.

The Uber Seafood Feast at the Ortiz-Luis home in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, February 24, 2015. Photo credit (c) Likeitiz

The über Seafood Feast at the Ortiz-Luis home in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, February 24, 2015. Photo credit (c) Likeitiz

She laid out large banana leaves on the dining table. Then one by one, the food came in from the grill, the oven, the fryer, the chopping boards. Crisp tart green mangoes sliced and paired with fermented shrimp paste (bagoong). Bitter melon (ampalaya) salad paired with red onions, carrots, jicama dressed in local vinegar and spices with just the right amount of chili for the kick at the tip, not to overpower.  Fiddlehead ferns were blanched and became the bed for the Crimson ripe tomatoes and salted eggs.*  There was also a salad of popping seaweed (it pops in your mouth!) that had a natural slight salty taste and paired with more fresh greens. There were grilled whole tomatoes and eggplant. There were crisp steamed asparagus.

There was the sawsawan. These are condiments combined uniquely for specific faire. But there are really no rigid rules. You are allowed to interchange them as you please.

There were different kinds of fermented shrimp, fish sauces, seasoned soy sauce, vinegars with pickled whole chilis that could bring tears to the most fearless. On a large white spouted bowl was a yellow milky liquid. It turned out to be mashed unripened tamarind. We were taught to mix it with fermented shrimp paste. It made for a versatile dipping sauce with the right amount of souring, saltiness, and umami.

Then there was the parade of seafood. The fish were said to still be splashing around when they were brought home. The tilapia and catfish (hito in Tagalog) were fried to crispy heads and tips. The milkfish (bangus in Tagalog) were stuffed with tomatoes, onions and spices then grilled outdoors.  The crabs, langoustine, and giant shrimp were steamed malasado and claws were cracked for easy meat extraction. The scallops and mussels were topped and baked.

Of course the four-legged camp had to be represented. So, there were clusters of longanisa (sausage), some all the way from Alaminos, Pangasinan, and some supplied by a local artisan.  There were mounds of steamed white rice shaped to anchor all the flavors.

And as though all this was not enough, one cousin brought some fresh-made Chinese style lumpia (more like a stuffed soft crepe) complete with the nori (dried seaweed) and vegetables.

Did you notice there were no plates? We ate on the banana leaves. We picked our own little spot and we helped ourselves to whatever lay before us and wherever our noses took us.

Through it all, we washed it all down with sparkling water, dalandan (a native citrus fruit, not quite an orange, not a lime either) juice, buko (young coconut) juice. We had fresh fruits and buko pandan dessert to cap off the meal. Someone put the coffee pot on. A few asked for tea.

As we peeled ourselves away slowly from the table and on to the verandah, some us were handed glasses of brandy.  We sat around remembering the sweet crab, the succulent shrimp, and crisp edges of the fish. The day was almost over. It was time to move on, contemplate some work, and head out into the traffic for our next stop.

This post is my ode to a most special meal.

*These are traditionally duck or goose eggs cooked and then brined in a saturated salt solution for 18-21 days.

Posted in Filipino Food, Food, Grilled Stuffed Bangus, Seafood Feast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

This Archbishop Is Overreaching!

I was on my way to work this morning when Michael Krasny’s Forum started airing on the radio. Today, the topic was the recent move by the San Francisco Archbishop to revise the teachers’ handbook for four local parochial high schools to include what is really, a sexual morality clause. The argument is that these doctrines have always been there so this is nothing new. However, the changes are demanding more specifics on how teachers are to conduct themselves in their professional (public) and private lives.

There are many specifics on what they can and cannot talk about privately and publicly with regards the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, artificial reproductive technology, contraception, abortion, masturbation, to name a few, pronouncing these as “gravely evil.” On top of this, the Archbishop wants to categorize all faculty members as ministers of the Church, even if they are lay people.  All these have been added to their contracts that they would have to sign as a prerequisite to continued employment.

A report from SFGate states:

“The document notes that while not all staff at the schools are Catholic, they are “required to stand as effective and visible professional participants and proponents of truly Catholic education.” Those who are not Catholic “must refrain” from participating in organizations that “advocate issues or causes contrary to the teachings of the church.”

The talk show had representations from the Archdiocese, from the students, as well as parents of students from these high schools.  The audience, as always was allowed to call in or email their comments.

Through the course of the discussion, Fr. John Piderit, who represented the Archdiocese, would explain some of the statements and provide rationale for the Archbishop’s requirements. He assured the public that the Archbishop has been in discussions with various groups about all the issues he wants to further define and require.

In spite of Fr. John’s reassurances on how there is no intention to infringe on people’s rights to their private lives, there were too many other requirements that would, in order that the specific requirements be met. While he says one thing about the rules, another rule just contradicts it. More importantly, there are serious impacts to truly providing what anyone would consider a well-rounded education in this day, and one that would provide a student with a comprehensive world-view.

Horse with Blinkers to narrow its range of vision. Photo credit "Horses 2" by Steve - originally posted to Flickr as Horses 2. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Horses_2.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Horses_2.jpg

Horse with Blinkers to narrow its range of vision. Photo credit “Horses 2” by Steve – originally posted to Flickr as Horses 2. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Horses_2.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Horses_2.jpg

One case in point was the discussion that centered around restricting teachers from discussing anything that contravenes the church’s stand on such issues as mentioned above, while at school or to the students, or outside of school publicly, as in newspapers, blogs, or social media.  To me, this is like putting blinkers (used on horses to limit their range of vision) on our children.

Why can’t there be free discussion of pros and cons of anything? Why can’t a teacher reveal where they stand on the matter instead of being required to deny it?  It seems the church is discouraging dissent by suppressing its faculty’s diversity.  This in a world where most top educational institutions are actively seeking to diversify its faculty and student population in order to provide the right preparation for a student’s future in the global stage.

I also have a problem with the explanation that infractions as defined by the church, would be treated on a case to case basis. So nebulous. And it can become arbitrary. It’s a slippery slope.

It seems that the church as represented by the leadership of this archdiocese thinks very little of how students would hear from various aspects of an issue and make decisions for themselves on what they want to believe.  One parent, Vincent Campasano, expressed that he lives by his conscience. And his conscience is guided by core values of the church. However, Mr. Campasano admits he’s gay, he has lived with the same person in a monogamous relationship for 32 years. They have a daughter who attends Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory.

To this, Fr. John proceeded to explain that “a well-formed conscience” is to be obeyed. He emphasized that it is important to ensure that one’s conscience is properly formed. It can only be properly formed (and therefore acceptable to the church) if a student follows the doctrine of the Catholic faith. It cannot be formed well if a person “is persuaded more by the spirit of the time.”  In so many words, he’s saying Mr. Campasano’s conscience is NOT well-formed!

Another parent, Kinsley B, wrote in the comments section:

“…These words are like a kick in the stomach. I personally fall in the evil, divorced, mom category and hold dear to my heart many who are called gravely evil by the archbishop’s words. My oldest has had three great years at the school, but this dissolves the atmosphere of charity and good will, loses sight of ‘do unto others’, and lets all of us who don’t see the world as quite so black and white know that we are not actually welcome. In fact the response of one parent who was in support of this was, ‘well if you don’t like it, you can leave.’ So beautifully christian, don’t you think? It appears intolerance rather than charity, is going to be the school’s new guiding tenet. I read the words, they are filled with intolerance. They are the fertile seeds that blossom into hate. There is no love, no charity in them. Children should not be indoctrinated to see others in their community as gravely evil. Why choose to add these clauses rather than to tell the teachers to do good works, protect the earth, help those in need, or spread love through charity?”

I looked at some of the language as made available online. I can’t help but wonder what legal counsel put in the Archbishop’s head to categorize faculty members as ministers. Sneaky! Sneaky! This is fraught with many legal and labor problems, to say nothing of the maneuver to make them now accountable to the church for their personal and private thoughts, beliefs, and activities.  It totally changes their job description. And it now makes them punishable for their private beliefs and lifestyles.  I guess it boils down to the church owning you as a prerequisite to teaching in a Catholic school now.

I laughed out loud when Fr. John likened the opposition to the contract to a Coca cola employee who brings a can of Pepsi to work and drinks it. The employee can’t be doing this forever at the Coke workplace without getting into trouble. At some point, it would affect his job. (Really? Really?) This analogy would only work if we talk apples to apples:

What is the product of the Catholic Church? To love thy neighbor? To do unto others…? Compassion? Therefore, a faculty member should definitely get into trouble if he/she goes to work and preaches hatred and bigotry. If that same teacher preached tolerance and charity, is that not in keeping with the teaching of the Church? Tolerance towards people who are not like us? The LBGT, for one?

What about women? Do women have to be protected from being able to make their own decisions on contraception and their reproductive rights? Do they need the church to do it for them? (This Archbishop must love Hobby Lobby, huh!) Does the church still go by the premise that women can’t make their own sound decisions about their lives that they need a bunch of old men to do it for them?

The numbers won’t lie. The mass exodus of Christians, especially Catholics from the church in the recent decades all over the world is enough proof that the church needs to rethink its principles. Or, it will go the way of the dinosaurs, the fax machine, movie rental stores, and dial-up connections.

This obstinacy to change is very disturbing. It all stems from the belief that the church’s doctrines are eternal. (I keep wracking my head to understand what that means at all! Maybe my brain is not well equipped to understand this construct). We all cannot deny the validity of some rules as they came about in view of the environment of the time. One example is the prohibition of shellfish centuries ago. This was explained historically that in those days, with no means to preserve or store them properly, they would spoil easily. When consumed, they were known to cause food poisoning or upset stomach. But times have changed. Science has afforded us the ability to preserve such perishable foods, with refrigeration and food preservation. So, why is it still mandated to avoid these in some religious groups when it is no longer relevant?

I would argue the same for many of the teachings of the church.  It’s time to reassess their relevance and how these beliefs they desperately cling to are not the expression of the love and wisdom that they ascribe to God.

I cannot forget one of my teachers when I was doing my Pediatric residency. I did my first year in Ottawa, at the Children’s Hospital. One the neonatologists there was Dr. G. Everyone loved him — nurses, respiratory techs, residents, even parents. In one of our rounds, as we walked through the bridge to the general hospital, he told us about the five basic human functions, and how we would understand this more when we were his age. He said that all people need these five basic human needs: eat, sleep, poop, pee, and have sex.  Granted, they have all been somehow modified to conform to society. We can’t poop or pee just anywhere. We have to use the toilet. We eat and sleep at specific times through our day, unlike in the wild, it’s when we are able to hunt and gather. And sex, he said. He can’t understand what all the fuss is about with sex. It’s a basic human need (expression of affection, intimacy) and function (procreation, release). He still could not understand how and why it could be used for many things other than what it is for or why it has to be subject to any religion’s doctrines. (We don’t hear about pooping, peeing, eating and sleeping being subjected to detailed religious scrutiny or regulation!) To some, sex is a commodity, a means of exercising control, manipulation, dominance, to sully a race or ethnic group.

Looking back, I found his ideas amusing. I also concluded that the church is hung up on sex just the same way that the radicalized Muslims are too.  Both also seem to have another thing in common: this self-righteous claim to have a monopoly on God and what God wants. But, that’s another post.

Posted in Abortion, Bigotry, Catholic Church, Catholicism, Civil Unions, Equality, Human Rights, LGBT, Marriage, Religion, Religious Freedom, Religious Freedoms, same-sex marriage, self-righteousness, Sex, Teacher, Women's Reproductive Rights, women's rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

You Should Think Out Loud More Often, Ed!

The other day I had an earworm again in my head. It’s Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud. He has this manner of delivery that slowly grows on you, with every time you hear him sing on the radio. I guess you could categorize his music to be Pop but it has a slight jazzy bent to it, which adds a different dimension for me.  I especially like the acoustic version with just him strumming his guitar.

At my age, loving me “until we’re 70” may not mean such a long time. But then, he writes the song from the standpoint of a 23-year-old. A relationship spanning almost 50 years may seem like forever for a millennial.

I also always find myself smiling at “…when my hair’s all gone and my memory fades…” Ah yes, the signs. And hey, it’s all right!

To my hubby on this February week. This is sappy. So what! It’s Valentine’s week.

Posted in Ed Sheeran, Music | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Photo Challenge: Depth

I saw the Daily Post’s Photo Challenge last Friday.  Ben Huberman asks us to show what we think, visually and/or emotionally, is Depth.

Here’s a photo I took of my hubby walking along the Purisima Redwood Trail at the open space preserve, last January, to commemorate our 31st anniversary.

Walking the trails at Purissima Open Space Preserve near Half Moon Bay on January 7, 2015. This is a Panoramic shot I took with my iPhone 5S. I'm sure a more powerful camera could capture the beauty of the place. But, the phone is convenient and handy. Photo Credit (c) Likeitiz

Walking the trails at Purisima Open Space Preserve near Half Moon Bay on January 7, 2015. This is a Panoramic shot I took with my iPhone 5S. I’m sure a more powerful camera could capture the beauty of the place. But, the phone is convenient and handy. Photo Credit (c) Likeitiz

It’s hard to capture the depth of the beauty all around this place. I’m sure a video at different elevations would do a better job. I can only hope to memorialize how great a morning this was.

The theme also reminds me of the verse from Elizabeth Barrett Browning:s famous poem:

…I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace…

Is there such a thing as an earworm for poems? If there is, well, I had it. I kept saying the verse in my head all weekend. I figured I needed to finish the poem by looking for the complete verse or else it would continue going around and around in my head for a long time.

Note: If you click the link “Depth” it will take you to the challenge. You might find some other interpretations that might interest you!

Here are some of the ones I liked:

Posted in Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Hiking, Nature Preserve, Poetry, Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, Sonnet 43, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Daughter Chronicles: The Rice Battle

Bowl of white rice, photo credit Likeitiz

Bowl of white rice, photo credit Likeitiz

I remember arguing with my nanny and eventually my mother, about finishing the food on my plate. In the first place, my plate was prepared for me. I did not have a say on the quantity of food my nanny used to pile in front of me. We would argue back and forth. Then, I would reluctantly start to eat.  On some nights, our parents would be home early enough to join us for dinner. Or, if they were going out for dinner, my father would sometimes sit with us while he waited for my mother to finish dressing up.

My father would weigh in and admonish me that little girls who did not clean up their plates would end up with scarred faces from the ravages of acne and whatever else the disapproving gods dished out.

“Not a single grain of rice should be left on your plate if you want to have porcelain-like skin when you grow up,” my father would tell me.

“I hate the rice, Daddy!” To this, he would just shake his head, look at the nanny, signaling her to take over.

Or, I would be subjected to guilt trips about the millions of starving people in the slums or the rest of the world for that matter.

As young as I was, these sermons always annoyed me to no end. None of it made sense to me. I failed to see how a few mouthfuls of rice would alleviate world hunger.  As for my face, well, I was too young to care about my complexion then.

I argued to be allowed to serve myself persistently. By the time I was in grade school, my mother finally relented. I didn’t really need a nanny to follow me around either. I got my homework done before bed. I showered and made sure I was clean, even the back of my ears!

And so it was when we had a daughter, I would come home after a long day at work to a sad face. There she was, sitting in the kitchen in front of her plate. Her lips were slowly drooping to an inverted “U,” quivering. There was the threat of tears welling up on the large almond-shaped eyes. I sidled up beside her and gave her a hug.

“Now what? What’s wrong?”  I smiled reassuringly.

“I can’t finish this rice.” She said it slowly, trying to keep herself from crying.

Nanny interjected from behind the sink, “But I put barely half a cup!”

“I ate everything else, mommy!”

“How about just another mouthful. Maybe we can put some sauce on it?” I was trying to coax her.

“But, but, it tastes like nothing, mommy!” And there it was, the real reason!

This framed photo of daugther sits just beside my computer. She had given it to me with the post-it "Inspiration, priceless!" She was about five years old. Here she was seated at our kitchen having her evening meal, I think. See those cheeks? There must be rice tucked in them that she was struggling to swallow. We made peace with rice. We resolved to only eat what we can. I think we did that when she was three! photo credit Likeitiz

This framed photo of daughter sits just beside my computer. She had given it to me with the post-it “Inspiration, priceless!” attached. She was about five years old here. She was seated at our kitchen having her evening meal, I think. See those cheeks? There must be rice tucked in them that she was struggling to swallow. We made peace with rice. We resolved to only eat what we can. I think we did that when she was three! I hope it’s made a world of difference for her relationship with food.  photo credit Likeitiz

I admit, I could not argue, really, because I have always had the same abhorrence with rice. For an Asian, that is very unusual. It’s tantamount to the Irish renouncing their beer or the Indians their curry. I wonder, is it, could it possibly be inheritable?

We had resolved that she would get to fill her plate as long as she ate from each food group the prescribed daily allowance.

As parents we try our best to ensure our children receive proper nutrition. However, we should also be mindful that food can be a battleground. It can be weaponized! Any and all dysfunctions stemming from the subtle ins and outs of feeding, eating, and dining can and will result in long-term effects. Think of the perpetually orally fixated schoolmate who always needs to have something in his mouth, whatever he’s doing. Or the coworker who binges on chips and chocolates when she’s late for her deadlines or a breakup. Then she complains to you that she’s fat. The friend who orders triple and quadruple servings of food only to ask for most of it to be packed in take-out boxes. The sibling who bakes and bakes all sorts of goodies, gives it away and enjoys watching you eat her creation, but without eating a bite of it. Then there are the binger/pukers, the anorexics, the picas, and what-have-yous. You get the drift.

Posted in Food, Food Preferences, growing up, mother-daughter relationship, Parenting, Rice | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Trip To Paintland

My friend, Baby Herrera feverishly at work with her obra maestra.  I could tell she was really having fun. Then she confessed to me that creating a painting is in her bucket list of things she wants to accomplish in her lifetime. Well, she aced this one! January 2, 2015, Photo credit (c) Likeitiz

My friend, Baby Herrera feverishly at work with her obra maestra. I could tell she was really having fun. Then she confessed to me that creating a painting is in her bucket list of things she wants to accomplish in her lifetime. Well, she aced this one! January 2, 2015, Photo credit (c) Likeitiz

One of my very dear childhood friends, Baby, came to visit us with her family this past holiday season. Once they were done traipsing around the country, they managed to give us a few days of “not doing much,” before they headed off home to Manila.

On one evening when our spouses were at a Warriors game in Oakland, I arranged for us to attend a painting class close to our home.  I figured, it would be a great evening for some wine and artistic expression.  It was to be my gift to her for her upcoming birthday in this month.

Baby's Grove of Trees painting at its final stages. Photo credit Likeitiz

Baby’s Grove of Trees painting at its final stages. Photo credit Likeitiz

After we were provided our stark white canvases, brushes, and paints, we proceeded to look at what we might like to paint. I picked a cityscape from their online file. My friend chose a grove of trees.  They poured some sparkling wine and gave us tall glasses to “help us loosen up,” they said.

We were given general instructions on how to create our “masterpieces.”  We got tips on how to use different brushes and knives, some techniques such as dripping, smearing, layering, scratching (yes, with your fingernails!), scoring with various tools, etching, and a whole slew of really fancy stuff! We were also cautioned not to over think things and to not be afraid to experiment.

Photo of Baby Herrera and author painting at an art studio in San Mateo, January 2, 2015. Photo Credit Likeitiz

Photo of Baby Herrera and author painting at an art studio in San Mateo, January 2, 2015. Photo Credit Likeitiz

I was first introduced to this by my brother and his wife. They gave me a gift certificate for my birthday. I had postponed using it for the longest time. I now know what great evenings they were having at this place.

My Citiscape during final stages of completion. Photo credit Likeitiz

My Citiscape during final stages of completion. Photo credit Likeitiz

Would I go back? Hell, yeah!

P.S. I hope you have a place near where you live to do this. Yes, you do have to convince yourself that there is an inner artist in you that badly wants to get out. Then when you stand in front of the canvas, you should not listen to the overly critical voices in your head telling you it’s not good work. And if you get it wrong the first time, let the paint dry, then paint over it with a fresh idea.

My foray into painting. Not so bad for starters.... Photo credit Likeitiz

My foray into painting. Not so bad for starters…. Photo credit Likeitiz

Posted in Art, Childhood Friends, friends, Friendship, Painting | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Open Trails For The New Year!

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Shadowed.”

Somewhere in the beginning of Craig Britton Trail, Purisima Creek Redwood Open Space Preserve, Near Half Moon Bay, California, January 7, 2015. Photo Credit (c) Likeitiz

Somewhere in the beginning of Craig Britton Trail, Purisima Creek Redwood Open Space Preserve, Near Half Moon Bay, California, January 7, 2015. Photo Credit (c) Likeitiz

We were hiking on the Purisima Creek Redwood Open Space Preserve. We decided on taking it easy this time around. We chose the 7 mile loop recommended by the Bay Area Hiker here. It was perfect for a 4-hour leisurely hike with pauses to admire the scenery, take a few photos, and have some refreshments.  I would recommend this place for people who don’t mind going up and down gentle slopes.

Here’s to wide open trails for all of this next 365 days!

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For Our 31st, Some Affirmations

Pink-tipped roses to mark our 31st! photo credit Likeitiz

Pink-tipped roses to mark our 31st! photo credit Likeitiz

Last night I came home to pink-tipped roses and a kiss.  So begins our quiet celebration of our 31st year of being together.  We had promised to go hiking again to celebrate the day. My hubby was a little reticent about Mount Tam. A little too windy, he read.

And so, this morning, he did let me sleep in a bit. But as the sun peeked through the curtains, he came back to our room and showed me what he had found.  Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve. A real mouthful of a name! But, when you get there and you hike the trails, you will understand why.

One thing about the great places to hike in Northern California, cell phone and data roaming will be spotty. I wonder if that’s deliberate. After all, if one is to venture out for a serious hike and commune with the grand dames of the forest, the phone needs to wait!

Bulletin Board at the Entrance of Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve. Photo Credit Likeitiz

Bulletin Board at the Entrance of Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve. Photo Credit Likeitiz

The only disadvantage was that we could not bring Beau with us. We had to get into our car and leave with him running after us on the driveway. It was heart-wrenching. But the Preserve did not allow dogs at all, not even on their fire lanes.

The Trails on Purisima Creek Redwoods. Note the canopy of trees, the soft earth from layers and layers of dead leaves and branches. Photo credit Likeitiz

The Trails on Purisima Creek Redwoods. Note the canopy of trees, the soft earth from layers and layers of dead leaves and branches. Photo credit Likeitiz

After getting warmed up and adapting to the ambient temperature, the sheer beauty of the surroundings, taking in the gentle splish-splash of water running along the creek, I found my muscles relaxing. I focus on my pace, the rhythm of my walk. One foot in front of the other. Right. Left. Right. Repeat. Go up. Go down. Pause to take in the vista of majestic trees reaching out to the sky.  Admire a fairy ring flanked by graceful ferns. Take a photo maybe. Cross a wooden bridge and peek at the bubblers as it runs underneath. Spot a squirrel or just its ample tail whiz up a tree. Skip over a rubber snake slithering for cover under fallen leaves. Walk by giant exposed roots of old redwoods. All in all, such amazing sights to behold.

Gigantic roots of two redwood trees exposed on the trails.  Photo credit Likeitiz

Gigantic roots of two redwood trees exposed on the trails. Photo credit Likeitiz

I had mentioned in another post that I consider walking a form of meditation. I know the purists and the yogis will disagree. But, as we walked around and up, my mind cleared itself of present concerns. It flies to distant places and years past.  We talk, my hubby and I, as we ponder on how we arrived at this moment, in this wilderness. We remember the pathways we have chosen, the decisions. We recall the people who we have crossed paths with, who have changed our lives permanently. Hiking is an affirmation of our lives as individuals and as a couple.  We skip, hop, run, hang back. We climb, strip out some layers of clothing, replenish hydration. We support each other on steep climbs or balance each other on some precipitous drops. We whisper words of encouragement when the trails get tough. And we recognize the need to rest and admire the view.  All of it says, “I am glad to be alive and here with you.”

We reached the summit on the trail. The sun was full on shining. We could see the Pacific Ocean in the horizon. Except for the distant hum of an airplane passing, it was really quiet. Photo credit Likeitiz

We reached the summit on the trail. The sun was full on shining. We could see the Pacific Ocean in the horizon. Except for the distant hum of an airplane passing, it was really quiet. Photo credit Likeitiz

Come to think of it, there are other ways people do their own contemplation. I had often wondered why my mother all these years, would insist on washing dishes. Nevermind the dishwasher or other helpers. She liked doing it. Years later, I have become her at our sink.  The repetitive act of cleaning and rinsing with water encourages much mental rumination.  It is also very satisfying when everything is cleaned and put away.  Another affirmation. Only daily.

Of course, after a 4.5 hour hike, we were looking forward to something tasty and delightful. We headed over the Princeton-by-the-Sea for some seafood! Photo credit Likeitiz

Of course, after a 4.5 hour hike, we were looking forward to something tasty and delightful. We headed over the Princeton-by-the-Sea for some seafood! Photo credit Likeitiz

I had sent a photo of our jaunt to my sister-in-law, Merle, when there was a signal. I mentioned it’s our anniversary.  She commented that it was apropos!

Merle's text message to us. Photo Credit Likeitiz

Merle’s text message to us. Photo Credit Likeitiz

Posted in Hiking, Marriage, Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, Wedding Anniversary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

As 2014 Comes To A Close, Two Things

Beau and Me. We pause at one of our favorite streets in our neighborhood, December 31, 2014. Photo Credit Likeitiz

Beau and Me. We pause at one of our favorite streets in our neighborhood, December 31, 2014. Photo Credit Likeitiz

My, my, how time has flown! Once again, I’m faced with the last day of the year. Beau and I take advantage of the bright sunny afternoon. I buckle him up, put on my hat, scarf and warm jacket. Off we walked, somewhere in our neighborhood.

Who was it that said, walking, for all its repetitive predictable movement, affords us the appreciation of our surroundings for all their natural beauty? Eventually, we are able to blank our minds and then go to little quiet corners beyond our mind’s eyes, where we can bare ourselves to what we have gathered and put away for precious and private rumination.

The media abounds in hours and hours of “the year that was” or the “year in review,” touting unprecedented disasters, landmark events, and famous people who will no longer share the world stage. Yes, we grieve for the untimely passing of Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman. We re-read Gabriel Garcia Marquez and P.D. James, and watch again Mike Nichols’ works. We bid farewell Bob Hoskins, Joan Rivers, Maya Angelou. We listen to Joe Cocker’s signature voice, and revel the wonderful creations of Oscar de la Renta. I reminisce Casey Kasem’s familiar voice counting his top 40’s because I had grown up listening to him in Manila. Yes, he reached us there even back then.

Robin Williams in Patch Adams (1998), Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures/Getty Images

Robin Williams in Patch Adams (1998), Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures/Getty Images

But, we will leave the news media to rehash Ebola, the auto recalls, Crimea and Putin with his hollow victories. We will skip the race related events and cries against police brutality, our never-ending intoxication for guns (Ever notice how quiet the NRA has been since these senseless deaths? I wonder if they’ll still be silent over the recent death of an Idaho woman who was accidentally shot with her own gun by her two-year old son at a Wal-Mart store or the boy who was being taught how to fire an Uzi and accidentally shot his instructor, who we later found out is a war hero. What a waste!), the NFL and domestic violence, the incremental triumphs by the LGBT, one state at a time, and the Affordable Care Act, vilified and condemned in spite of its much denied and downplayed growing contributions.

Argentinia court grants Sandra the orangutan freedom,  photo courtesy of nydailynews.com

Argentinian court grants Sandra the orangutan freedom, photo courtesy of nydailynews.com

We will let the NYT, BBC or Al Jazeerah recount the Umbrella Revolution, the missing planes, or the thwarted split of Scotland from the rest of Britain, the hacking of Target and Sony, the nearly 300 young girls abducted by Boko Haram and forced into lives they never imagined. And no, I will not dwell on the hated ISIS or ISIL, who, according to the Skimm, is so vile, even Al Qaeda won’t hang out with them. Nor will I belabor the invasion of the citizenry by the NSA, but only to say that I hope Edward Snowden is all right wherever he is. And, a pox on the leakers of unauthorized celebrity photos and every pundit and blogger who perpetuated such craven depravity. Shame on you!

Photo of the John Lennon Wall taken on our trip to Prague in 2008, photo courtesy Likeitiz

Photo of the John Lennon Wall taken on our trip to Prague in 2008, photo credit Likeitiz

I would rather spend more time talking about the Ice Bucket Challenge, or Tim Cook’s breakthrough announcement, even the successful landing of the Rosetta spacecraft’s Philae probe on a Comet (called 67P).

There is also the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Prague, a cry for democracy when Czechoslovakia was still frightfully communist. In all the crusade for democracy, the John Lennon Wall stood as a steadfast symbol for anti-communist calls. The literal white-washing of the wall  by an anonymous group of miscreants only galvanized people to keep the wall going. The wall is NEVER over. (See the photos of the wall in different times here.)

 Jimmy Fallon, center, taking the “Ice Bucket Challenge” with guests to his late-night show. Credit Douglas Gorenstein/NBC

Jimmy Fallon, center, taking the “Ice Bucket Challenge” with guests to his late-night show. Credit Douglas Gorenstein/NBC

 And then there is Sandra, the shy orangutan resident of the Buenos Aires Zoo for the last 20 years, who through the intercession of animal rights groups, has won her right as a “non-human person,” to live her life in quiet seclusion somewhere in Brazil.

There are two things I have come to understand and embrace, finally, in all their meaning and implications.  One is that I have learned to let go of a lot of things over the recent years. And this is with the calm requited revelation of my own limitations. I am not god. There are things I cannot change, no matter what I do. I have had many occasions to witness this, most importantly in other people, some of whom are my own family. They agonize and stress over what cannot or will not be or what in their eyes, should be. And they continue to argue and force the issue, which only drives the possibility of what they want further away from becoming a reality. Also, in so doing, they alienate the very people they care most about. What purpose could these convictions possibly serve then?

New Year's Day Brunch at Home, photo credit Likeitiz

New Year’s Day Brunch at Home, photo credit Likeitiz

I am reminded of a saying that I have heard from the wise. It begins something like, “Grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change,….”  If more people lived this, maybe there would not be so many miserable people around?

Fort Funston Walk on New Year's Day. Clear skies, low tide, lots of dogs with their humans. Photo credit Likeitiz

Fort Funston Walk on New Year’s Day. Clear skies, low tide, lots of dogs with their humans. Photo credit Likeitiz

The other is that all of us, with not much exception, can choose joy.  We can choose to be happy. Joy and happiness, they are a choice. We need to choose it if we want it. We need to purposefully seek it out and live it.  It’s sad that I see many people around me, again, some in my own family, who go about their day with a scowl, with their negativity hanging over them like Pigpen with his dust cloud around him. With some people I know, it has become their default countenance, their go-to mood and it has become comfortable to be prickly. And, they wonder why they are so unhappy, or why people avoid them.

We needed to walk off the heavy brunch. So we decided to walk on Fort Funston. Beau had such a great time. He had his "zoomies" of course! Photo credit Likeitiz

We needed to walk off the heavy brunch. So we decided to walk on Fort Funston. Beau had such a great time. He had his “zoomies” of course! Photo credit Likeitiz

I look forward to 2015 with eyes wide open, arms outstretched. Here is to more adventures, to appreciating more beauty in the world, and to seeing the human spirit shine in even the smallest of acts.

Posted in Beau, dog, Dog Park, Great Dane, Neighborhood Walk, New Year's Resolutions, Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Shave Your Cactus

Carlos Santana: The Univeral Tone, photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Carlos Santana: The Universal Tone, photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Earlier this month, I happened to come across a rebroadcast of Michael Krasny’s Forum where he interviewed Carlos Santana on his recently published autobiography, Universal Tone: Bringing My Story To Light.  The book talks about his struggles through poverty and sexual abuse, from the streets of Tijuana to the love-ins in San Francisco, to his rise to fame as the legendary guitar wizard.

Through the interview, they talked about his music, his spirituality, his deep respect for women, the snake he tamed (that’s his guitar!).

I found the background on the song, “Evil Ways” interesting. He wrote about women who worked as prostitutes just so they could feed their children.  He said, women represent the sacred and the divine to him. That we can learn a lot from women. They are able to articulate a lot, not just in the spoken word, but from the body language, the gestures as simple as caressing a child.

When asked how he handles his success, he became quite philosophical. It’s easy for fame and new fortune to get to you, to corrupt you, to shorten your memory of what it was like to struggle and to have nothing.

This was when he talked about “shaving your cactus.”  Everyday, he said.  Everyday, it’s a struggle to run away from the “ego.” It’s a daily battle.  And the conscious act should be as regular as brushing your teeth or applying deodorant, he explained. You don’t do it for yourself. You do it for others because you don’t want to be offensive to them.  You shave your cactus daily to remove your prickliness.  So you are not hurtful, whether unconsciously or deliberately.

Corazon, Graphics for Carlos Santana's latest. A Latin-pop version of his 1999 supersession, Supernatural, photo courtesy of Rolling Stone

Corazon, Album graphics for Carlos Santana’s latest. A Latin-pop version of his 1999 super session, Supernatural. photo courtesy of Rolling Stone

He talked about how having convictions, strong beliefs and principles, are all good things. But, these don’t give you the excuse to be judgmental and self-righteous.

“How do you balance your supreme conviction with humility?”

Figuring this out is a daily struggle.  I have not met a musical icon so self-aware as Carlos.  I have a lot to learn from the man. We had purchased a 2002 biography written by Marc Shapiro a few years back. I remember playing his music as I read the book.  One of my all time favorites is “Samba Pa Ti,” a true testament to the man’s guitar genius and his snake!  I have been a fan since the 70’s.  After finishing the book, I had a totally new-found respect for the man and his art.  Now, I will have to read his memoir.

I was also struck by his approach to a complex number of people he encounters. “I would rather identify with the mightiness in you rather than the wretchedness in you. ”  As for societal dictates that enslave: guilt, judgment, condemnation, fear, all these just serve to incarcerate your mind.  (Sounds to me like a few religious groups’ MO’s. Even a few social groups’ MO’s.).

saguaro cactus flower, endangered species, saguaro national park, photo courtesy of Edupic.net

saguaro cactus flower, endangered species, saguaro national park, photo courtesy of Edupic.net

I will remember to “shave my cactus” whenever I can. Maybe I’ll put a reminder beside my toothbrush so I will remember to do it every morning when I wake up.

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Posted in Books, Carlos Santana, Guitar Riffs, Music, Pop Music, The Universal Tone | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments