AUTUMN COLORS

IMG_20181111_151326.jpgThere is no doubt my life is richer since I have a dog… or two. One dog -you’ll perhaps think- is enough, but I can tell you that two dogs are even better. It seems I walk more with two than with one.

Ever since Lollipop arrived -my second dog, the little one-, I have been walking at least two times more and twice as far each time than I used to walk with Salomé, my older doggie. You might ask why… Well, it isn’t because of the dogs, of that much I am aware; rather it is for the pure pleasure I have found in the walking.

I leave in the morning and stroll to my regular coffee shop to meet with my Frenchoznor friends, two dogs in tow … or racing ahead as the case may be. Usually it is with one racing ahead (Lollipop, being the younger) and one trailing behind (Salomé who -as the queen of the realm-takes her time). An hour later, when I leave to walk home, I take the long way around, or go to the park before returning. By that time, it is 11a.m.

IMG_20180929_134106.jpgAround 90 minutes later, I foot it back into town for lunch and take another, longer walk afterwards. Then, again, about three in the afternoon, it is time to trot into town anew for an afternoon coffee at the shop in the center where they offer dog biscuits to Salo and Loli (for short). Both canine damsels know they are going to get treats and pull desperately to get there first. IMG_20181111_161210.jpg

The way home takes us on another loop around the other side of town and sometimes we slip into a smaller road or some alleyway we haven`t been up before and discover a special corner that offers a new view.  At 5 o’clock, it is doggies’ time for dinner so it’s back home again. When everyone is fed, out we go for yet another stroll, this time heading for the roads behind our building, to the public vegetable gardens and the general compost deposit, where I will leave my little gathering of vegetable peals and wilted lettuce leaves.

Our walking is done until after my supper and perhaps watching a movie or writing a blog or playing solitaire, and then about 9:30 pm., a last turn around the block for a nighttime pee. IMG_20181113_095358.jpg

It sounds like a lot of work, but actually it is a gift. I am obligated to get up from my computer, or the book I am reading and go outside. And outside is where life is. At this moment it’s where autumn life is. What colors I see! What fantastic combinations! What unexpected natural Works of art hidden in corners or down an alley between two brownish houses; at the far end of the park, across the street, in front of the neighborhood supermarket (unfortunately closed since the flood and with no sign of reopening)…sdr

These are places I have passed a thousand times in the last 8 years, but suddenly an unexpected autumn color, a previously unnoticed combination of forms, a slant of sunshine that makes everything look new will catch my eye, and the camera comes out and the photograph is captured.

Recently there was a surprising new addition to Salies’ potpourri of shapes and colors, and it wasn’t a pleasant one. Someone, during the night of Saturday to Sunday last, had painted several walls with black, anti-Semitic slogans, calling the Holocaust a fraud. I was shocked that something that seemed so evil and violent had appeared in our peaceful little town and it seemed that everyone else was too. I had to actually look up what or who “Faurisson” was. It turns out that Robert Faurisson was a French Holocaust denier who died last month. Then -of course- the words Resistance and Shoah Escroquerie (fraud) suddenly made sense. place-du-temple-a-salies[1]

All day Sunday, everytime I went past the painted walls or looked out of my living room window at the small electric station 20180832-1[1].jpgacross the way, I wondered who in the world would do such a thing, and the ugly words became the talk of the town. Then, yesterday, something beautiful happened. A local graffiti artist, who signs as Athorn, started covering the aggressive expressions with beautiful flowers, and turned something of hate into something of beauty. I saw him as he was finishing his work on the old, abandoned barber shop near my home, and I went over to thank him from the bottom of my heart. oznor

“I do this without pay,” he humbly offered as an explanation, confirming what I oznorsuspected: his was a work of love.

So today, the walls of Salies have sprouted multicolored flowers and a feeling of peace returned to my heart.

Tomorrow, I’ll venture forth again with my trusty cámara and -of course, my two little doggies.

oznor

 

INSIDE AND OUT

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“For an answer, go to the place where there is no thought and listen.”-Katie

The world is what it is, it’s neither good nor bad, it’s not happy or sad; it just is. There is no should or shouldn’t. There is no ‘I would rather…’ It’s either cloudy or clear, day or night, rain or shine and neither is better nor worse than the other. In this instant, which is all there is, that is what is… and you are perceiving it, you are the perceiving. Look, witness, be.

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Watch. Be still. Everything changes. By the time you think “now”, it is gone; it is already a story of the past. Remember the saying ‘go-with-the-flow’? That is the only Now: the flow.

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Be still, perceive, let it flow in and out, in and out. Sounds, sensations, colors, shapes. Feel, see, hear, smell. Who? What? Who or what perceives? Close your eyes. Find the Perceiver.

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Did you find it, the perceiver? Good. Now, who did that? Who or what perceived the perceiver? Find that one. Oh, yes… there it is, found it! Fantastic! But… who or what perceived the perceiver of the perceiver?

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Are you beginning to see? Really see? You can never, NOT EVER, see or find the Who or What that you are. The self cannot contemplate the self. The Perceiver can never find the Perceiver. The Perceiver can only perceive what it is not. There is only the possibility of experiencing its presence through what it perceives, through the very act of perceiving.

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Almost 60 years ago, I saw. I was an adolescent. An adolescent knows nothing; an adolescent has so little experience. Perhaps, an adolescent is open to whatever because it knows it does not know and becomes curious. To be curious is to be. So, that night, I turned off all the lights in my room and looked.

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There was still a glow from the street lights. Therefore, I covered my eyes with my hands to shut out all possibility of light. There was no question posed, I was not looking for an answer to anything, there was no goal, spirituality wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary. I have no idea why I did what I did. Curiosity was alive in me. So, I covered my eyes. Then, with the lights off and my hands tightly blocking any glow, I opened my eyes again and looked. Then I saw, I perceived with an intensity that left no doubt. For an instant, I sat in wonder just looking. And then the mind came in and named it: There was absolutely nothing in between the Cosmos inside and the Cosmos outside.

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Of course, by putting it into words, I have turned the pure experience into a thought, but in the instant I experienced it, there was no thought so I knew it to be true.  I told no one about this experience, but I have never forgotten it and that infinite cosmos, inside and out, is a space I can always go to when I believe that reality should be different than it is.

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MY OWN TRUE LOVE

 

How-to-loveMeet my Best Friend and my own True Love. She is someone (or something) that has been with me from the moment of my conception and will continue with me until dust do us part. She is less than a heartbeat away and nearer than the breath that joins us. She has been there during every single experience, both conscious and unconscious, and she lets me know the instant anything goes wrong (when a finger gets too close to the fire or a toe meets a table leg, or my mind is conjuring up a terrifying nightmare).

She began minuscule and has progressed to what a normal sized human fema1942-2 Julian + Brianda are born21042014 (3)le should look like, and soon –if not already- she will begin the opposite process until once more becoming minuscule and disappearing. I know that you’ve guessed by now that I am talking about My Body. Hmmm, is it mine? Perhaps, in the sense that a rented car is ‘mine’ as long as I have the use of it and then goes back to being agency property when I am through. Therefore, it is my ‘Best Friend and own True Love’ 1943-1 Brianda 1 yr18042014on loan.

I have not always been friendly with My Body; as a matter of fact I have treated her downright awfully more times than I please to remember. I hated her when I was a little girl around 6 or 7 because she wouldn’t obey anyone: not me, not my mother, not my father and not even the doctor or the camp counsellor. Every night I would order her to stay dry till morning and every night she would wake me with a chilly puddle of pee under my bottom. I was six years old, for heaven’s sake! I hadn’t used diapers for years and suddenly I couldn’t spend the night at a friend’s house without her mother being told I would need a rubber sheet on my bed. It was humiliating! And there was nothing I could do about it. My Body had decided –for a reason that will always remain a mystery- to begin wetting the bed again and it seemed that nothing would make her stop. She wet the beds in all her friends’ houses; she wet the bed in summer camp1944-1 Poughkeepsie25042014 (2) (and was made to wash her own sheets); she wet the beds in every hotel she stayed in and even in her grandmother’s house when we slept over. My Body turned 7 and 8 and 9 and 10 and continued wetting the bed. We moved to Mexico and turned 11 and she still insisted on emptying her bladder as soon as deep sleep moved in.

And then the miracle happened: my mother found a doctor (more like a sadistic torturer, than a man of the medical profession) who said he could cure My Body of its insane obsession. He handed my mother a small square pad (about15ins x 15ins) crisscrossed with wires and connected to 1947-2 Minnie the cat and B's b'day02052014 (2)an alarm clock that would wake the dead, and a set of instructions of how to plug the whole thing into the lights in the room. That night My Body was introduced to its executioner. Of course, by that time she had been peeing in bed almost every night for about 5 years and I didn’t think there was anything that could stop her. We were both in for a surprise.

At the first DROP of urine, the wired pad went into action: it1951 -3 Brianda 9yrs gave My Body an electric shock that sprang her out of sleep and convinced her that if she continued in that direction she would be electrocuted; it set off the alarm that woke my parents in another bedroom and probably the neighbors, and all the lights in the room went on.

Needless to say, that happened twice and the problem was solved. My Body was headstrong but not stupid.

1951-3 Mexico (6)However, five years at the mercy of My Body’s shameless behavior had taught me not only a total mistrust of the traitor, but also that I was completely powerless over her: she was going to do what she was going to do whether I liked it or not. That meant future endless torture especially in my teen years: an oversized bottom half with an undersized top endowment; pimples always in very visible places and right when there was a big dance or party to be attended; a frame made for a taller woman thanks to one leg that insisted on growing faster and had to be stopped; a nose that in boarding school earned me the 1957 - 2 Acapulco and Xmas (3)nickname of Dome; a mother that was to me the most beautiful and perfect woman ever created; and a grandmother that said “round eyes, round nose, round face” every time she looked at me and, when I was 18, suggested I have my nose fixed (by that time I was arrogant enough to respond: “It gives me personality” and not do it).

Somewhere along that narrow and unblessed path, I convinced myself that I was not and never would be pretty, so I decided to be intelligent instead. Anyone who has read this blog knows 1960-2 Brianda's Graduation (2)where that led me and I am not going into it again!

So I grew up, got married and had children all the time thinking My Body was so far from attractive that she didn’t even deserve to have her pictures in the family albums; instead they went into a drawer where they stayed for as long as I was married, and during all the time my children were growing up and getting married themselves. It wasn’t until after my divorce, when I was living alone, that I discovered all those pictures from so long ago, and began to see just how attractive that Body had been before. It was then that I 1965-1 MANOLO ARRIVES IN MEXICO02052014 (3)realized that if I didn’t start appreciating the beauty that she did have, instead of thinking she should have a different kind of 1962 -3 Church weddingbeauty, more like her mother’s for instance, I would some day in the future look back and realize how attractive I had been at that moment. It was then I knew that I had to accept My Body for what it was and make the best of it.

That was the day all the photographs of My Body, from my teens up until the moment I had divorced, came out of the drawer. I taped them up all over my dressing-room doors and walls and under each photograph I put a quality I wanted to believe that Body had represented at some moment: friendliness, generosity, patience (very little), 2001 Aug 11 Brianda marries Fernando 217042014helpfulness, honesty, kindness, etc. And every day I would stand in my dressing-room contemplating the pictures of My Body and finding her more and more acceptable. I did not, however, love her.

It was Salomé who taught me that. I loved my little dog from the very start. It didn`t matter if she was clean or dirty, perfumed or smelling doggy, asleep or awake, interested or bored… I adored her; I loved every inch of her hairy little body, each perky ear, her black little nose and her white whiskers, and I could gaze forever into her deep black  eyes. And then one day while I was cuddling her (against her will, mind you, she hates to be cuddled) I suddenly found myself wondering why I didn’t Betty 90 años en cumpletreat My Body at least half as lovingly as I treated my dog’s body. How could I love her body and not mine, when her body never even looked for mine unless she wanted something, and mine had been at my beck and call every second of every day since the beginning of my time? I understood the injustice I had committed and I looked down at My Body for the first time with tenderness, the same kind of tenderness that Salomé’s body had awakened in me.

Suddenly I felt such gratitude to have a Body that had taken such a beating and still was healthy; a Body that never had any trouble sleeping, that had cooperated and lost weight under the strenuous diets I had subjected it too (gaining it back, of course, because I would then feed it all the stuff it didn’t need), a Body that needed so little medicine to be able to count the times I had taken aspirin… in other words a FANTASTIC Body! A Body worth living for, a Body worth loving.P1100838

So today, as I work on my 74th year, and My Body produces the normal aches and pains from use, I understand her, I treat her with love and respect, I give her the exercise she needs, the rest she needs, the love and fun she needs and, occasionally, the ice-cream she doesn’t need. And every time there is something new, an umpteenth wrinkle, a new ache, an uninvited roll around the waist, another vein that shows blue on the legs, a painful cramp in my toes, I think of Salomé and ask myself: Would I stop loving my little dog just because she was getting old? And such a wave of tenderness DSC_2566flows over me that I smile and hug My Body, and tell her that she’s doing fine, that we’re doing just fine.

And, now, seeing as the evening has drawn to a close, and my True Love is feeling a bit fatigued, and Salomé is already in her bed happily snoring away, I think I’ll end this contemplation here, and trot off to bed with my own Body. What a delight it is to sleep every night in the arms of my one True Love and Dear Friend who will be with me forever and ever, till dust do us part.

(The Featured Image: is taken com the Blog of Shirley Maya: shirleymaya.com)

DEMENTIA

When I came home from Madrid last Tuesday, I sent my friend Janice a Whatsapp saying IMAMA had her saffron. The answer was “Yupee”. Thirty minutes later I got a message from her also through Whatsapp saying that her 96 year old father had just fallen down the stairs and died, and that she was leaving for New York to bury him and find a home for her mother who is suffering from dementia (also 96). Today I asked how she was and the answer was that she is sad and tired, seeing where she can put her mother to live. She said: “Mom understands he is dead but she hasn’t cried yet; that is dementia for you.” I answered: “Yes, sometimes dementia might be a blessing.”

As I was walking out this evening with Salomé for our evening stroll, I looked up at the moon that in the night-time haze lay with a  bright orange fringe all around it. I thought of my mother and her dementia. I can remember the beginning.

She called me one afternoon and said: “I think I am getting gaga”. I said something noncommittal thinking she was trying to manipulate me into going over and keeping her company or something, and jotted down in my diary: Mom trying to hook me in with the idea that she is going gaga, and forgot about it.

But I couldn’t forget about it long because the onset was very fast, if I remember correctly. She stopped being able to carry a conversation, then she began doing a funny Betty, 90 añosthing sticking her tongue out all the time and repeating a senseless phrase in Spanish which literally said: “When are we going to eat nothing.”

I took her to the doctor and got the news some days later: mother had progressive dementia. I phoned my brother and told him: Mom has dementia, I said. He was immediate in his response: “Of course, you’ll take her to live with you.” “No way,” I responded; “why don’t you take her to live with you?” I can’t remember what he answered but it definitely wasn’t “ok”. As my brother lived out of the country, I knew it would fall to me to care for my mother, but I was decided to do that without bringing her into my house. I understood from the very beginning that if I brought my mother to live with me I would end up killing her long before life did.

We had never gotten along. There could be a lot of reasons and a lot of excuses but I think that is just the way we were programmed. Part of the problem was that my mother always competed with her sister and, when I became an adolescent, she just seemed to shift that competition over to me. The situation was complicated, not only because as a daughter I naturally competed with my mother, but also because my father unconsciously used my 1939-6 Trip home SS Manhattan15042014 (4)very heavy Electra complex to make my mother jealous, something that heightened my own competition with her. And then again, my mother was extremely beautiful and I… well, I wasn’t that kind of beauty and I tended to be overweight.

Whatever caused it, we had never been close and as my mother became more needy because life began to take things away from her and she just naturally expected me to make up for their loss, I drew farther and farther away.

When she realized that she was losing her mind, her fear was unbearable, I had trouble staying with her for any time, but as the disease took the last vestiges of understanding of what was happening to her, it got more bearable and I could spend a couple of hours two or three times a week at her house. In order to ease my conscience, I saw to it that she had every care in the world and was never alone. She had a cook and cleaning girl, someone to care for her who could drive her around, a handyman who did the chores and could carry her from the wheelchair to the car and back again. Her medicines were taken care of, her needs and whims were catered to, she was well cared for. That made it easier for me to not take the guilt trip down the road of bringing my mother to live with me. I understood very well that after three days I would probably throw her out of the moving car.

By the time I brought her to Spain and put her in a residence for the elderly who needed care, she had stopped talking all together and was barely walking. She had gotten feebler, but there was still someone there who was recognizable: she still was capable of getting mad. As she slowly slipped down into oblivion, she never lost the capacity to get mad, but not being able to talk made her incapable of pushing my buttons as she had done so well all our lives, so I finally could relax and begin to realize how much I loved my mother.

At the end, she was like my child. The strange thing is she would still get mad, as she had Betty 90 años en cumplegotten all her life whenever things did not go the way she wanted them to. I would visit and upon entering the room I would see her face tighten and she would glare down at the floor.

“Are you mad, Mommy?” I would ask giving her a kiss on the forehead. She would contract up even tighter, drawing away from me to show me that she was. I remember, I would smile and sit by her side watching the images on the tv screen, or chatting with the nurse who kept her company during all her waking hours, until, about 5 minutes later she would get up from her chair, take the step that separated us and sit on my lap lifting up her legs like a child so that I could hold her tightly. It was such a gift, there was so much love in my heart as I held my Mother-Child in my arms and told her how much I loved her. She weighed almost nothing, thin as she was, and she would stay there, sitting in my lap for a while, just letting herself be held.

That was the gift; that was the gift of her dementia for me; it let me love her as I never had before and she didn’t leave until I had really satiated myself with that love, enough to last me the rest of my life.

They say dementia is a terrible disease, that it is a tragedy. My experience was different, for me it was the greatest gift my mother could have given me. When she finally slipped away, one night in her 91st year of life, with me sitting beside her holding her hand, I was so happy for her and with her that my tears were of joy: my mother hadn’t left, she had just moved into my heart forever. I love you, Mommy.

WEEDS

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The following story was either told to me or I read it somewhere: “God is sitting on his favorite cloud with his Angel helper and happens to drift over the Los Angeles area of California. Looking down he is puzzled: ‘Tell me, Angel, what happened to all that biodiversity I created?’  The Angel shakes his head: ‘They called it weeds and pulled it out to plant grass.’

I remembered this tale while noticing the other day that lawns in this part of France are bursting with biodiversity; sometimes what they have the 20140316_145036least of is grass. There are tiny daisies called paquerettes, dandelions galore, and all other sorts of interesting plants that make up the green of the French lawn. The lawn is mowed the same as happens in California and, when not viewed close up, looks pretty much like any grass lawn: what is hauled away are leaves, stalks of grass and decapitated dandelions and paquerettes. The French term for “weed” is mauvaise herbe, only applied to a plant which is harmful to crops: I do not think that the dainty flowers decorating our French lawns at the first20150321_134930 sign of spring would be considered harmful to anything.

As a matter of fact, if one begins to observe closely while walking to and from the village, weeds are everywhere decorating every available nook and cranny. The pavement has a crack? It is immediately bedecked with a weed of some sort, occasionally accompanied by a much less attractive sprout of grass and a bit of garbage, like a cigarette filter.

20150321_133923Thinking about the obsession of some people (my mother had a special instrument for extracting dandelions down to the roots) with weeds, I couldn’t help noticing how varied and imaginative the leaves of some of them were. So that day I purposely took my walk looking down instead of up, and noticing the incredibly decorative variety of weeds.  20150321_133256

Weeds, just like people we have judged unworthy of our company, hide in cracks and minute crevices everywhere, as if they were trying as best they could to avoid our gaze, to protect our narrow, restricted world from that which we have termed ‘uglyness’. Yet that day, what I found the ugliest were the sprouts of grass, the kind that the manicured lawns of California strive to cultivate, that had somehow escaped the confines20150321_134131 of our not-too-tidy gardens.

The question would be: What makes some plants acceptable and others not? How is it possible that because this day I decided to take my time to look where I usually don’t, I found beauty growing out of the wounds in walls and walks? Why are dandelions considered God’s lesser plants while yellow daisies are accepted in the choir? Who decides that grass gets the privilege of cushioning the soles of our bare feet, while other wispy foliage must go? Why are there 20150321_133434all sorts of ferns and leafy greens that are allowed to gorge themselves on fertilizers in the pots on my window sills while others must struggle to eke out a pauper’s fare in20150321_133402 some ignominious chink in the pavement and still make room for vagrant grass?  Would not this tiny flowered creeper prosper more in someone’s window box than wrapped around a sewage pipe?

The more I walked the more I marvelled at the intricate and artful variations of these greenhouse orphans and the more passers-by wondered what in the world I was doing aiming the lens of my portable phone at the sidewalk where they perhaps could see nothing but cement and a few weeds, if the plants themselves were at all visible to someone who was not paying attention as I was.  And I found 20150321_133129myself thanking my lucky stars that I lived in a small village in France and not in Los Angeles where any green growth that might struggle to plant itself where not invited by the city’s ordinance would be promptly extracted or herbicided. So my 20150321_134342morning stroll home was festooned with minute sproutings that bravely struggled to hold their own, thanks in part to the fact that our streets have potholes, our sidewalks are far from even and our stone walls are in dire need of repair. Beauty is everywhere, it is 20150321_133729just a question of opening our eyes and our minds and stop tagging some plants -or some people- as weeds!20150321_134705

 

SALIES ON THE FIRST SUNDAY OF SPRING

Salies this Sunday

Salies this Sunday

Ok, so it isn’t the first Sunday of spring, but it is here. The sky this morning was soooooo blue! Naturally, it has been washing itself clean for the last five months with industrial amounts of water, how could it not be blue? So, after having lunch I took a long walk about town just tuning into the beauty one blink after another and, of course, recording it in bright technicolor on my smart phone. 20140406_143817 When I got home, the desire to share these pictures made me think immediately of my (sniff, sniff) long forgotten blog. Oh, I have so abandoned this space… I would like to say “I’m sorry” and I would if it were true, but it isn’t. I have been up to my eyebrows in research, rising every morning at 6 a.m. in order to have at least 120 minutes of concentration time on the computer before the day’s occupations and duties begin to fragment the expanse of hours. 20140406_143737 Recently, however, when I am walking down the streets of Salies, or washing my dishes, or standing in the shower, or applying my makeup before leaving for coffee in the morning an idea for a blog-post will pop into my mind, the first sentence will begin writing itself as it always does, I will feel the longing to sit and once again take up the long silenced voice that some years ago found itself in this oh-so-kind-and-welcoming space… but immediately the mind will say “No! Concentrate on the task at hand, don’t take the time now to write other things; get on with the work undertaken or it will forever vanish and you shall have spent the time in vain…” and I will believe my thoughts, and lay aside the inspiration for a better moment (with which it will vanish like drawings in the sand), and promising myself there will be time later on, whenever later-on might be.
20140406_144015 And the truth is that, until this moment “later-on” had not come. But today it was impossible not to share the photos on this post so I came home, sat down at my computer and… REALIZED I HAD COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN HOW TO CHECK INTO MY BLOG AS THE AUTHOR!!! I could open the page as a visitor (and be asked if I would like to subscribe to my own blog) but I had no idea how to access this page where I might add another post, or a picture, or look at the info as to visitors or past posts or anything. I sat here, my head full of images and empty of code name, pass word or even the magic click that would get me to where I could check in. IT HAD BEEN THAT LONG!!!! 20140406_144149 Finally, I did the logical thing which was to open Explorer and write WordPress.com and “enter”. Of course, that was what I needed to have done in the first place and the friendly space to fill in “user name” and “password” opened up. That was a relief, but I still had to remember or guess the two items to type into the open spaces. It took three tries to finally find myself inside.20140406_151330 What a relief! I was home again! And… not surprisingly “home” had completely renewed itself and was totally different from the last time I checked in. Better I am finding, for it is easier to add photos which was the whole purpose of this post,20140406_145113 and I don’t have to figure out how to arrange them amongst the words of the text. It is like coming home again, like being in a so familiar and loved (and loving) space. I don’t want to go away for so long ever again… but then…20140406_151051 there is still so much to do on my new (well, no so new any more) project. But I will, I will… I want to promise myself not to stop this again, even though now that the sun has once more dained to shine on this beautiful corner of the earth I certainly shall want to go out more, and walk-abouts will be a requisite for the soul… but I shall write, even if only briefly, even if only to share some of the beauty that my eyes are so gifted with every day. I promise myself this I will do.
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