Adversity: becoming more human

So this whole fires experience –I am still going through it. Weds, watching the news was like watching a horrible sports game, –rooting for the firefighters and against the fire, but the odds were like the underdogs vs. the national champions. The odds were set dead against us. “May the odds be ever in your favor” a la Hunger Games…indeed were they in our favor.

Its hard to explain–its a mix of feeling despair and then dread…and tension…and then thoughts running through your head as if trying to brace yourself mentally, and prepare yourself for the worst, our home burned down by this sinister persistent fire. We are absolutely, unequivocally fortunate. Our neighborhood was set fully in the path of that fire, and it was just the whimsical chance that the winds didn’t blow north west, that we were spared.

Reflecting on these kinds of tragedies, I realize that it opens your heart, your ability to empathize, expanding your capacity of compassion towards others—because instead of just watching on the TV with a detached feeling, an almost numb feeling, intellectually recognizing that yes, that is horrible, yes, that sucks…but to actually be there, see the full devastation and awesome power of the fire, the destruction, it punches you in the face. Going through that horrifying experience of flipping through each news channel, hoping to glean something more, anything about the status of those horrendous flames voraciously eating the plentiful vast canyon of brush behind our home, like a drug addict desperately trying to get every last drop of drug–that is how we perceived each news development. I suppose its human nature to protect ourselves, to easily go back to being numb and detached. But I believe after having gone through that, when talking to someone who is going through this, you, having been through this too, are able to tap into a deeper ability to relate–sympathize. These things bring out the best in people–the unconditional selflessness that in today’s cynical society is so rarely purely seen or appreciated.

Thats the root of it…thats what gets me all emotional every single time without fail; the gratitude and thankfulness, appreciation to these firemen. They worked so hard and succeeded in protecting our precariously perched neighborhood. Thanking them, shaking their hands yesterday when they were leaving our cul de sac…then later when walking down El Camino Real, seeing a line of fire trucks drive by—I couldn’t see the people inside the truck, didn’t make any eye contact, but I mouthed Thank You…and to my relief and delight, they waved at me, acknowledging that they saw my expression of gratitude–that they knew that I recognized all of their efforts –and that made my heart swell.

So, adversity. All the eloquent phrases and quotes already said, about how it shapes you, makes you stronger—but from this experience, I’d add that it makes you also more human. And I mean human in the most positive shining way–as in our unique ability to feel compassion/unconditional care towards other humans and to feel more…our previous limits of feeling, expanded. Like a limb going through physical therapy, we may start off only having a limited range of motion…and with each adversity we can reach a full range of motion (E-motion 😉 And that, is truly a beautiful thing.

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Walking around NYC

 Cafe Little Collins

Small space–New Zealand accents sprinkled in with the rush of cars honking, life bustling outside. A lovely pause in the day—cup of creamy flat white with a buttery mini cookie, alongside the aqua cup and saucer. Thick wheat toasted crispy, piled high with a smash of lush avocado mixed with feta and sprinkled with rich nutty sunflower seeds, red chili flakes and bright fresh pops of mint.

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I squeeze onto a small perch of a stool next to the narrow table. A local woman asked to share the table, gratefully–and happened to order the same thing. When I gathered my things to leave, she thanked me again graciously, and I thought to myself how kind!

Walking up Lexington towards Central Park, brisk breeze, clear sunlight filtering through swaying branches, reflecting off of high rise windows, the tint resulting in tinged yellow or blue reflections and shadows on the uneven pavement. Crossing over to Park Avenue…I understand now perhaps why so named…organized rows of vibrant red, yellow, orange tulips–Cherry blossom trees with their branches overflowing with great round fluffy bunches of pale pink and white blossoms. The petals gently scattered on the sidewalk, dancing with a breeze, gathering in larger cracks. The nannies of different ethnicities than the children whom they are pushing. French, German, Chinese, Italian–language spoken all around me…

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The Met was closed today for some reason–same as last year–and realized that it was the Met Gala–hence i continued up to the Guggenheim for some Italian Art, the current exhibit being Italian Futurism. This period of art took place from 1910-1944, and interestingly embraced war as a means for change–they were anti-stagnation and all about constant motion–bold revolutionary even. One dissonant aspect was the anti-feminism view, which they regarded as simply “cowardice opportunism.” But, by and large the influences of this period as I observed the paintings, were familiar. The imagery of robots, mechanics…I found intriguing as well was a series of photos by Weems, documenting her life as a black woman in love, out of love, a mother and single mother.

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A brief break, at the third floor cafe- lovely view of the green trees in Central Park with the gorgeous vivid blue sky in the background. A lovely shot of espresso–slowly sipping–while watching the wind blow gently the branches. Sun shining brightly…a little to bright so I jump into a kind cabbie’s cab–good hip hop playing…down 5th avenue we go, passing the large commercial shops…down down to Bleeker, West Village where the shops are smaller, streets are narrower.

Down to Ellery’s Greens–delicious curly kale salad with a vibrant apple cider vinagrette–cubes of sweet kabocha squash and marinated mushrooms–with oval firm grains sprinkled throughout. I drink the De-Tox–something much needed from the past weeks of traveling. Interesting people watching as ever, Chinese girls chat nearby, then an older gentleman with an English accent..waiting…then meeting a young bohemian type young woman…Perhaps daughter? Then I see them kiss–and think otherwise. Gazing out the storefront window, I see the fluttering shop overhangs with yet another vibrant green tree.

Before walking my wonderful 40 blocks north, I stop by a small quaint bookshop. Despite the conveniences of my Nook, I love bookstores…something about physically holding the books, seeing the book covers, is much more satisfying. I add a few more titles to my “to read” list…State of Wonder (Ann Pachett), and then Dear Life (Alice Munro).

 

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