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Earlier this year, some friends and I were on 17-Mile Drive in Monterey (a scenic road christened by a lazy thinker). Somehow, we got lost along the way. We pulled over to a side road to regroup, and a stranger in another car rolled down her window and told us to look for the red line and then drove off.
“What red line?” we asked each other. “Did she mean yellow line?” (since yellow lines are the ubiquitous road markers for narrow, windy roads). However, sure enough, as soon as we got back onto the main road, we started seeing red lines everywhere. It turns out that 17-Mile Drive is dotted with red lines to help tourists stay on the path. They’re hard to see—until you know they’re there. We never saw them before—but as soon as we knew that we should look, of course they kept coming up.
What if faith is like that? You can think you know where you’re going…but it’s not until a moment of revelation, which can come from a fellow traveler or when you look at the guidebook with fresh eyes (yes, as we later discovered, the cover of the tourist brochure said there were red lines!) that you realize how your path has been undergirded by the Way all along.
Someone once encouraged me, “First…we meet each other as children of God and then just trust in Him to order our steps.” This sentiment was so beautiful to me. I love the image of God’s word as a lamp to our feet. I don’t need to know/can’t ever know the biggest big picture—but as a child of God, I can trust that, though I don’t have a set of numbered Google map directions of my life’s course, I know where I’m going and who I’ll be when I get there.
This year, I’ve been thinking about all the desert imagery in Scripture. The desert is where Hagar truly felt seen/known by God—and the desert (well, technically a ravine—but the rest of the land was in a drought) is where the Lord fed Elijah via ravens—a dramatic (and odd) example of Jehovah Jireh’s provision versus our own efforts.
When I think of deserts, I think of Joshua trees—those twisted testaments of endurance and of being “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Well, did you know that a crazy beautiful thing happened this April? This spring, the Joshua trees in the Mojave Desert and the Southwest started blooming in a way that no one has ever seen before. Whereas in years past, a visitor might encounter a single tree blooming—this year, all the trees—young and old—started blooming all at once! What an awe-inspiring and humbling vision of the Lord’s supernatural abundance and blessings, even in the midst of unimaginably grueling conditions…
Beloved Father/ precious lover/ dearest friend
Even blooming Joshua trees
drenched in grace
can’t grasp your glory
What can I speak
to the one who leaves me
All that’s left to say
is you are home to me
and I am welcome here
To Angel, with love and hope
When looking westward, I beheld
A something in the sky.
—”The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” S. T. Coleridge
He was my North, my South, my East and West.
My working week and my Sunday rest.
—”Funeral Blues,” W. H. Auden
Wunderlich, a rural park tucked into the quiet hills of Woodside, California. 2.5 miles in on a solitary upward ramble.
Breathing in the fresh start of a new year, admiring redwoods, sidestepping horse shit.
I pause at a small clearing. A wooden bench planted in the yellow earth. A bronze plaque affixed to the bench, a simple remembrance of “____ ____, Horseman & Friend.” Horseman? Unfamiliar with the first descriptor, I think of a boisterous dapple gray-hided centaur snuffling his feed at a banquet table, alongside the polite chatter and precise forkfuls of his two-footed friends.
Further up the trail, the redwoods recede and the dirt road blooms into four pathways. In each quadrant (no, not quadrant—something less akin to the Four Corners and more like the squat and shaky “X” where Russia, Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan converge), the dirt borders play second fiddle to expansive verdant meadows.
A fellow sojourner, who has reached this juncture from the opposite direction, comes into view. We smile. Nod. Exchange hellos.
I spot a young madrone on a hill and clamber to reach the tree, its not-yet-ancient roots.
From this heightened vantage point, I breathe in the landscape, the distant mountains, the near-naked skies.
A small and swift cacophony of clouds to the east, wispy white tendrils moving in a silent symphony.
I play that childhood game. What do you see? What do you see? I see a tuskless elephant, a fleet-footed pachyderm defying the gravity of its weight, this celestial Rorschach scampering along its merry way on a windy January.
I consider the ornery king of Siam. The thing left unsaid. The beast that disappears. And sometimes, an elephant in the clouds is just an elephant in the clouds.
To the west, I see another something in the sky.
Countless black orbs dart and flit, contract and retract in giddy synchronicity. These birds don’t look like the static “m”s from grade school drawings. In fact, I can’t make out the semblance of fluttering wings at all, just a dizzying display of split-second transformations as the orbs squish then squash, become oblong like beetles then almost as round as hockey pucks.
I consider the singularity of this moment, the oneness of this aerial band of brothers. We’re not sure (don’t care?) where we’re going, but we’re in this together! These never-resting dots are Cartesian coordinates, the axes of their invisible system stretching to the heavens, to the spaces between the stars.
Their contoured flurry is harmonious. Effortless. So different from us, seven billion landlocked creatures traversing a shrinking space, our migratory patterns a function of chance and will and want, passion and indifference, blessings and sorrows, the muck and stuff of life.
We are not perfectly spaced coordinates on a plane. Our paths look more like the furious scribbles from a three-year-old’s hands. Lives intersect. Spaces collide. We pull together. Push apart. Say hello. Say goodbye. Don’t say anything at all.
When the flock doesn’t follow. When we’re on our own. When a bullet sears the chambers of our fragile flesh. When we can’t fly any further. When we are soul tired, bone weary, ready to shake our fists to the heavens (enough is enough!) or rest our weary heads in sweet defeat. In those heavy moments—moments that are as true and as real and as present as those moments of weightless freedom when we are Icarus ascending or the phoenix rising from what once was—what are we to do?
So cared for and yet so alone in our anguish, what is there to do but to look to Gethsemane. To gaze upon the man wrestling in the garden, to see the one who pleads and grieves and surrenders to the dark night of the friendless soul.
And though our pain is not like his pain, somehow, on that splintery tree, they are one and they are the same.
But this man is no Icarus. He is a man who was somehow more than a man. He tumbles, he crashes, but then he rises anew. He is the hope of glory, the Prince of Peace.
And in him is order.
In him is simplicity.
In him is Love.
Olbers’s Paradox & Mr. Poe
Liquid watercolor with glitter, kosher salt, and a spray bottle
It’s a really good feeling to see some of my closest friends in an entirely new light. As I eavesdrop on Tawny rattling on about rotator cuffs, I remind myself that this is the same person that I bonded with 19 years ago (and just yesterday) about Calvin’s potato tattoo in Wayside School is Falling Down. As I read Walt’s paper about astronomical instrumentation, it occurs to me that the same guy who relishes playing peek-a-boo with two-year-olds and hiding behind furniture to give me a scare (hm, I’m starting to notice a pattern) is also singularly the most brilliant person I know. (No offense, everyone else I know.)
The last half of June was filled with transitions…and flowers!
It wasn’t until my last year of college that I started appreciating plants. Three of my closest friends (including Tawny and Ingo) were landscape architecture students, and I took a class taught by Robert Hass, a poet/nature lover who stressed the importance of “knowing the names of things.”
Over the years, I’ve become more appreciative of the elegance of a single peony, the heady fragrance of jasmines at dusk, the endless whorls of a field of ranunculuses. Nowadays, I love flowers…and these past few weeks were unexpectedly abounding in blooms that marked a time of transition, hope, and friendship.
The past two weeks were about…
The past nine months of working at a start-up have been an incredibly rich experience. Last week, I said goodbye to the amazing team that I’ve learned so much from, and they, in turn, sent me off with this gorgeous bouquet (sunflowers, Peruvian lilies, lilies, and irises) and their best wishes.
One of my favorite girls even made a paper bouquet.
Exactly one year to the day that I’d turned in my letter of resignation at my corporate job, I received a delivery of Gerber daisies, roses, and lavender from the new company that I’ll be joining next week. I was stunned by the gesture. The new job is quite literally a dream come true (I’ll be an editor/crafter/blogger for an amazing company that makes activity kits for kids), and I’m thrilled at the prospect of joining a talented team with big dreams and people-centric priorities.
…saying, “It’s nice to know you”
Walt surprised me with hydrangeas and chrysanthemums(?) last weekend to celebrate our two-year anniversary. Two years would seem like plenty of time to get to know a person, right? And yet the time has gone by in a flash…and it seems like at least once a week, even still, I learn something new and entirely wonderful about Walt. Recently, I found out that he once invented (and still uses) several alphabets, each with its own symbols, consonants and vowels, and usage rules. I feel so lucky to know someone who always surprises me with the depth of his kindness, curiosity, and wit.
…saying, “Welcome home”
Tawny and Jonathan got this arrangement at the Durham Farmers’ Market to make me feel at home in their new digs. This is the first time that I’ve spent any extended time with just the two of them since they got married in 2010 and also the first time that I’ve been able to get a glimpse of the life that they’ve built for themselves on the East Coast.
When we were in college, I used to wonder what kind of man would possibly be good enough for someone as inspiring, funny, and unforgettable as my best friend. When Tawny and Jonathan first started dating, I was cautiously optimistic about this guy whom I barely knew but who, by all accounts, seemed like a pretty good guy.
As their relationship grew more serious and as I learned more about Jonathan’s character and sense of humor, I knew that Tawny had found someone who could keep her on her toes—a guy who complemented her sweet yet feisty personality, and who would be able to support and challenge her in all the ways that mattered.
Over the years, I’ve seen that Jonathan is an awesome person in his own right who’s insightful, hilarious, and remarkably hospitable. Like Tawny, he’s become a cherished lifelong friend.
Besides being full of great food and great friends, this trip to Durham seems like a homecoming of sorts. It’s been a good reminder that with time and experience, we hopefully become a truer reflection of who we are and who we want to be…that with friends who touch our souls, we’re always on the journey together even if the road meanders or paths diverge…and that whatever the future has in store, you can always come home again.
What a way to start the week! This pretty pom was hanging above my desk when I got into work Monday morning.
It turned out that my boss had made it over the weekend to celebrate the launch of a product that we’ve been collaborating on. As if that gesture wasn’t sweet enough, later that afternoon, one of my coworkers asked if I was expecting a package because something had come in for me. I wasn’t expecting anything, but she urged me to open the box. Before I knew it, there was a gaggle of girls behind her. I was confused, but I opened the box — and was so touched by what was inside! The box was filled with homemade and craft goodies — a hand-embossed card, fabric flowers, an adorable tea satchel, scrapbooking charms, and other treats. Everyone’s been working so hard to get to this product launch, and it was very unexpected to get singled out … and in such an incredibly thoughtful and heartfelt way!
What’s your favorite childhood toy?
Mine’s the Transit of Venus Care Bear.
More elusive than the furtive Yeti of the Great White North, more wanderlust-y than Nessie of the Scottish lochs, the Transit of Venus Care Bear only appears once every 105 years. But don’t look directly at him! The Care Bear Stare’s* so bright that you gotta wear shades.
Last summer, Walt taught an astronomy class. This sparked (what I think will be) a lifetime interest in star-gazing. When we’re outside, his neck cranes upwards as soon as darkness descends. He looks for familiar constellations and contemplates the wonders of the universe, as I glance upwards occasionally while also keeping an eye out for oncoming cars. This is a good metaphor for our relationship.
This Tuesday marked the transit of Venus, a once-in-a-lifetime (twice, if you’re a super ager) occurrence where Venus travels across the sun, Earth’s closest star. (It’s flabbergasting to consider that Venus is 3.5x closer to our planet than Earth is to the sun!)
People all over the world set up special equipment or donned cardboard glasses to see the spectacle, including at the Stanford Student Observatory where astro enthusiasts brought telescopes and projection solar sun spotters. (Walt on his Care Bear-ish pic: “This has got to be the best photo of a concrete floor I’ve ever taken.”)
Here are some photos Walt took during the viewing:
I wasn’t able to make it up to the observatory in time, so Walt set up his astronomical binoculars for me in the flatlands of Menlo Park during the last hours of the transit. Here he is projecting the solar image onto a lens cap he’d crafted out of a Fat Tire container. (“Hey kids! If you want to make a binocular cover, just grab the closest beer cans and…” Just kidding. :))
By the way, my second favorite childhood toy is Teddy Ruxpin.
*If the Care Bear references didn’t make sense to you, you probably weren’t an American child growing up in the 80s. Here’s a writeup that might help, authored by some of the greatest literary minds in the world.
It’s the night before the night before the night before Christmas and all through the home, I’m the only one stirring because I am…uh….um……….on the hunt for a gnome! He was grumpy and frumpy and had big, bulging eyes. I tried to befriend him, but he donned a disguise. He used his gnome powers to grow a long beard; when I said it was ugly, he snorted and sneered. He stole my red jumpsuit and ripped open my bear. He glued cotton to his brows, then leapt to his lair. And that, kids, is how Santa Claus came to be.
Just kidding. Actually, I meant to just say that I was still up because I was procrasticrafting (rather than packing for my 6 a.m. departure) and then had the idea to blog about an inexpensive Christmas craft that involves a wonderful product I just found out about called Wonder-Under. But then I started thinking, “What rhymes with ‘home’?” and then I started thinking about Clement Moore’s poem and then I started googling “twas the night before christmas” but then for some reason Google started suggesting “twas the night before christmas grinch” so then I started thinking about how the Grinch stole Christmas and then I started thinking about Tim Burton and The Nightmare Before Christmas and then I started thinking about Jack Skellington’s gigantic nothing eyes…
…and now I’ve not packed even further into the night, so I really should pack before I do anything else this late evening. Also, I think I am a bit delirious with sleep deprivation right now. Will I regret this post in the morning?
A friend from college recently commissioned me for an art project. R. wanted to give her husband a gift she’d been thinking about for a few years. She asked if I could draw a map that commemorated her and her husband’s courtship during their student days at Berkeley. (She thought of me because of a journal I’d made for her in 2004 that featured the Phantom Tollbooth map as well as some personal projects I’d made in 2005 that were inspired by Stephannie Barba’s wedding maps.) She provided a list of symbols (as well as the story behind each), and together we worked through a few rough drafts.
I started the final draft at my housemate’s new art studio space in San Francisco’s SoMa district. (She’s got a wall of windows overlooking the Bay — and a Philz Coffee across the street to boot — a perfect recipe for creativity!) That same day, my own beau and I worked on a birthday gift for our favorite seven-year-old.
This past weekend, on our way down to Santa Cruz, Walt and I stopped by San Jose to drop off the drawing in person.
Drawing is an area where Ingo really shines (I’m more a crafter), but these projects were definitely fun to create and a great way to get the creative juices flowing. And it was fantastic connecting with old friends and collaborating with my best boy!
Once upon a time there were two creatures who moved in to a three-unit burrow in North Oakland. Wiley was a smallish creature who liked to gobble spaghetti and sprint around the neighborhood. (What she was chasing after, we’re not sure. A runaway meatball perhaps?)
Ingo was an even smallerish creature who loved her pet praying mantis, finding small places to hide in her closet, and piloting vintage planes.
When they first moved in, the burrow smelled like an unused library. When it rained, the closet leaked and ants paraded in.
But Ingo and Wiley worked hard to make their new house a home. They mopped, scoured, and disinfected. They salvaged furniture from a nearby junkyard and gave old chairs and treasure chests lots of TLC. They worked on art projects and decorated the living room with things that inspired them. Their place was tiny but full of love and good cheer. Great things happened while the two shared their burrow. They got to know their neighbors. Friends came over for pizza parties and pinata powwows. Ingo got engaged to an Endearing Dino and Wiley met a Cosmic Creature who was out of this world. A lot of yummy snacks were had.
But to every thing there is a season, and eventually each of the creatures moved out of their burrow and into new habitats. Ingo and Wiley stayed close friends though and one day, while Wiley was helping Ingo with wedding crafts, Quizzical Creatures was born.
Quizzical Creatures is a celebration of two of life’s greatest blessings: friendship and treasured moments. We’re inspired by the natural world around us (e.g., insects, animals) and when we hear encouraging stories about our fellow human beings — the most quizzical creatures of all.