The One With the Topiaries

A few years ago, I was watching a television show about gardening. (Why? I don’t have a garden. Or a yard. Or even a green thumb for that matter.) I saw a clip about Pearl Fryar, a self-taught topiary artist. I use the word artist deliberately, and you’ll see why in just a moment.

I felt a strange connection to Pearl, even though we have little in common on the surface. He’s an African American man in his late 60s in a rural Southern town who creates living sculptures from plants in his backyard. Pearl has a message he is trying to convey, and I sensed the honesty in his art. What I mean is, he has a commitment to his garden that precedes almost everything else. One might say it’s a calling. And by answering that calling, he has brought joy to himself, to his community, and to thousands of visitors.

I’m thrilled to be able to share Pearl’s story on Beth Ann’s blog, It’s Just Life. Beth Ann also participates in Comments for a Cause, donating money to a charity for each comment made on her blog. This month, it’s Room to Read, a wonderful organization that promotes literacy worldwide.

See you there!

image from pearlfryar.com

The One With the Blizzard That Wasn’t

The snowpocalypse that meteorologists predicted for the New York City area earlier this week swung everyone into high gear. Subway and bus service (which normally operates 24/7 here) stopped running. Non-essential vehicles were banned from the streets. Schools called a snow day. The Starbucks in my neighborhood was closed.* Clearly the world was coming to an end.

We went to sleep expecting snow to accumulate about two inches per hour overnight and woke up to…about two inches total. It snowed throughout the day on Tuesday, but since the subway was closed, Reggie and I went out to play.

The footprints of the Abominable Snowman or Reggie? You be the judge.

The footprints of the Abominable Snowman or Reggie? You be the judge.

Oh, it's just Reggie.

Oh, it’s just Snow-Reggie.

It was a dark and stormy night.  It was odd to see the streets so empty. A little too Vanilla Sky for me.

It was a dark and stormy night.
It was odd to see the sidewalks so empty. A little too Vanilla Sky for me.

 

Cool snow patterns.

Cool snow patterns on this wrought iron fence

A subtle hint to carpe diem by shoveling the sidewalks?

A subtle hint to carpe diem by shoveling the sidewalks?

More cool snow patterns.

More cool snow patterns.

Those lumps of snow are buried cars.

Those lumps of snow are buried cars.

I *heart* snow.

I *heart* snow.

 

*Thankfully Starbucks opened about 11:00 a.m. I know. I was worried too.

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

A prompt from Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop.  The prompt I chose was, #2 “A photo journal entry…show us what winter looks like in your town.”

MamaKat

The One with the Pale Blue Dot

“It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot—the only home we’ve ever known.” ~Carl Sagan

A confluence of three events occurred in recent weeks: two were global news and one was personal. The Charlie Hebdo tragedy and the unity march in Paris (reported in a wonderful post by Caitlin Kelly) captured the world’s attention, and I finally watched the television series “Cosmos,” which had me riveted for days. My personal accomplishment pales in comparison of course, but sometimes in life timing is exquisite.

“Cosmos” ends with the following words from astronomer Carl Sagan and the short video below. He so eloquently puts the aforementioned global events into perspective.

 

February 14, 1990, Carl Sagan

The spacecraft [Voyager 1] was a long way from home. I thought it might be a good idea, just after Saturn, to have [it] take one last glance homeward. From Saturn, the Earth would appear too small for Voyager to make out any detail. Our planet would be just a point of light—a lonely pixel, hardly distinguishable from the many other points of light Voyager would see: nearby planets, far-off suns. But precisely because of the obscurity of our world thusly revealed, such a picture might be worth having.

It had been well understood by the scientists and philosophers of classical antiquity that the Earth was a mere point in a vast, encompassing cosmos, but no one had ever seen it as such. Here was our first chance, and perhaps also our last, for decades to come.

So here they are: a mosaic of squares laid down on top of the planets and a background smattering of more distant stars. Because of the reflection of sunlight off the spacecraft, the Earth seems to be sitting in a beam of light as if there was some special significance to this small world, but it’s just an accident of geometry and optics.

Pale Blue Dot

Earth as seen from Voyager 1, near Saturn

 

There is no sign of humans in this picture. Not our reworking of the Earth’s surface, not our machines, not ourselves. From this vantage point our obsession with nationalism is nowhere in evidence. We are too small. On the scale of worlds, humans are inconsequential—a thin film of life on a solitary lump of rock and metal.

Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.

 

I’ll let the video (3 min.) take over from here.

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One With the Greyhound

Every morning in my neighborhood park, I watch a greyhound play fetch. He has sleek, black fur, but he wears a red coat now that it’s cold. He streaks across the grass in a blur of grace and fluidity, his paws meeting beneath him and then extending for another long stride. It’s breathtaking to watch him.* I wish I had slow-motion vision so I could savor it even more.

Even before I adopted Reggie, I had dreams of doing this with my future dog. I would come to the park during off-leash hours to see the dogs fetching frisbees, chasing each other, and playing tug of war. How much fun they were having! My dog and I will have fun like this! I thought.

At the first opportunity after I brought Reggie home from the shelter, we went to the park. It was a lovely summer morning, not too hot, not too buggy. I had a new tennis ball in my bag, and I’d bought a collapsible water bowl. Reggie was sure to get thirsty after all the frolicking.

I threw the ball and…nothing. I threw it again and again and again. He looked at me with lazy eyes and walked away to pee on a nearby bush. Over the next few weeks I tried frisbees, a red rubber ball (maybe he didn’t like yellow tennis balls, maybe he didn’t like the fuzz), boomerangs, and twigs. They didn’t entice him. He didn’t want to play with other dogs either, giving them nothing more than a cursory sniff.

Reggie

You want me to fetch?

 

Other dogs and their people were having a grand time. I was missing out. I watched that greyhound zero in on the ball and felt resentment. Why wouldn’t Reggie do that? Dogs are supposed to fetch and play.

Determined to solve the problem, I decided I would teach him to follow the ball. More weeks passed, but I still couldn’t get him interested. One day I was watching him track the scents of squirrels and raccoons along the park trail when he looked up at me with joy in his eyes. All along Reggie was having a good time—just not the good time I was insisting he should have, i.e. my idea of fun.

Why does it take so long to let go of expectations? Frustration, disappointment, and resentment build because things don’t turn out the way we hoped. We get irritated because our dogs won’t fetch or our spouses forget Valentine’s Day or our sons hate football. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits says that a life without expectations “means you accept reality as it is, and people as they are, without expectations, without trying to force people into the containers you have for them…”

That’s not easy for me. It takes practice. Lots and lots of gentle reminders, but I’m working on it.

 

Have you had to let go of expectations?

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

*A word about greyhounds. While I find their speed a beautiful thing to behold, I do not find anything beautiful about dog racing.

The One With the Shopping Bag

Work ended on a sour note the other day. I learned, only after several emails and phone calls, that a supplier was going to be late making a delivery—four or five days late. The supplier feigned an apology in the same backhanded way Shia LeBeouf apologizes to his fans. “I’m sorry if you misunderstood my intentions.” In essence: maybe you should lighten up.

I would love to lighten up. Believe me. But I couldn’t. I had several internal departments breathing down my neck to find out about this delivery and, then, to find out why I hadn’t done something about this sooner. Why did I let this become a problem, they wanted to know. What they’re really asking is why I’d let this become their problem. Because, really, no one cares until it becomes an issue on their desk.

I ranted and raved at the supplier via email. I felt my blood pressure rising. “Why should my company have to pay extra for this expedited delivery? This is your fault.”

Ah, the blame game. I suppose every office has a version of this. But here was the rub: I had no one to hand this off to, no one to pass the buck to. It was my responsibility to figure out a solution and fast.

I took my barely contained anger to the phone. The supplier’s customer service person answered in a sing-song tone. In the first ten minutes, he treated me to a rundown of every sales cliche in the book. “Jackie, I’m sure if we put our heads together, Jackie, we can come up with a win-win solution” and “Jackie, let’s get granular here” and “Okay, Jackie, let me take this offline and run the idea up the flagpole.”

I am not ashamed (well, a little) to tell you that I said, “Say something that means anything! And if you don’t stop using my name every five seconds, I will get granular on your ass.”

So…

I have no idea why I was this annoyed. I hadn’t made any egregious mistakes. No one’s life was on the line. No one was about to lose their livelihood over this delivery. Regardless, I was going to write to this person’s supervisor and the owner of the company if I had to. I thought at the very least he should be reprimanded and removed from our account.

I commuted home still seething. It’s a good thing that I ride the subway rather than drive, with road rage being what it is these days, but the subway has its own form of irritations. I was standing in the middle of the car when a woman with purple hair squeezed in next to me. A seat opened up and she gestured that I could take it. I did and I opened my book, but I just read the same sentence over and over.

As the train swayed, her bag kept hitting me on the knee. Great, I thought, I get a seat only to be thwacked repeatedly by this woman’s bag. She was in her own world, oblivious to her out-of-control bag. Then I looked closer. It was a cloth shopping bag. On it was a single word printed three times, one underneath the next:

KARMA

KARMA

KARMA

Sometimes the universe gives you a nudge in the form of a shopping bag.

karma bag

 

Have you received a karmic nudge? 

Have a great weekend, everyone!