Of love and bitter almonds…

“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”

                               –First line in Love in the Time of Cholera,

                                      by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Bitter almonds
Bitter almonds

Today, when I read the wordpress daily prompt asking bloggers to quote the first line of our favorite book,  immediately writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez came to mind.

Off the top of my head, I could not come up with the first line of my favorite book of his Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), but looked it up. Marquez writes in a style commonly known as magical realism, characterized with conflicting points of view.  One is based on reality, but is blended with one holding elements of the supernatural, or magical.  This style can also  be found in the works of American novelist Toni Morrison and Latin writer Isabel Allende.

To look up first lines from other great works, check out WikiQuotes Opening Lines page.

It was difficult to choose a favorite book, so here is my top 5 Favorite books:

Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist
Tom Robbin's Another Roadside Attraction
Tom Robbin’s Another Roadside Attraction
Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years Solitude
Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha
Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha
Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera

I love lists and it was fun to share a bit of my favorites here.  Here are a few other cool book resources:

Happy reading!

  • “Little free library” featured on bookshelfporn.com

Inspiring: A*R*T…..Thailand!

                           

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they bloom like flowers.”                                     Thich Nhat Hanh                                                                                                       

Man and Woman paintings, from a street market in Thailand
Man and Woman paintings, from a street market in Thailand

This pair was picked out from an artist on the street selling his work in Thailand.  I love the stylized facial features and vibrant colors.

Thailand was an explosion of sights, flavors and sounds.  Monks dotted the streets with their saffron and maroon robes, curry and spices scented the air, and sound on the street was a combination of city sounds of cars and tuk-tuks honking, to lively music, to daily chattering in the exotic Thai language.  I must say, it was the most foreign a country has felt for me, and I think part of that was due to the signs being in characters, and not letters as seen in other languages.

It was also my first exposure to a heavily populated Buddhist country.  At the time, I did not have a very strong interest in spirituality of Buddhist philosophy, but I chose to share this piece of art from my collection because this is the year I have embraced spirituality more.  Meditation, studying spiritual literature and focusing on mindfulness in daily life have all been a big part of my life and personal growth this year.

As the year comes to a close, I am reflecting on what the year has brought to my life, and am looking forward to doing a bit of a photo journal to document and share the past year through today’s daily post.

Enjoy your Friday folks!

The Small Miracles

I have always been a lover of quotes, and this was taken in New York City’s Central Park a few years back during a Thanksgiving visit with a dear friend.

Park Bench, Central Park, NYC
Park Bench, Central Park, NYC

It was my first time to the city, so Central Park was a must-see sight. The park is sprinkled with lovely benches with dedication plaques.  A nice way to remember someone, and this particular one highlights what a miracle everyday is.

Another inspirational highlight in the park is the famous “Imagine” plaque, commemorating the late John Lennon, near the city street corner where he was shot.  The simple word set in stone is visited by many, and symbolizes the great things that can be achieved with the human imagination, and a vision for a better world.

John Lennon Memorial, Central Park, NYC
John Lennon Memorial, Central Park, NYC

Imagine if we treated each day as the miracle it is.  Pretty incredible, right?

Everyday is a new start, an open slate, and to breathe in crisp winter air (or warm, depending on where you maybe reading this from at the moment!), to think, enjoy, love…Continue reading “The Small Miracles”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”  ~Richard Bach

Wings of a Butterfly

Butterfly wings are remarkably delicate and intricate. Truly a minature piece of artwork from our natural world.  This guy was rescued from the heat of my greenhouse in the high mountains of Colorado this past summer. To see the incredible heck out this time lapse video from Neil Bromhall posted on Youtube.

This is pretty remarkable…

To see more of this UK-based scientific photographer’s incredible work, visit Neil’s wordpress blog Completgarden’s Weblog.

I have had the amazing opportunity to visit the monarch migration location in the magical Sierra Chincua forest in Michocan, Mexico.  To read more about this amazing migration, check out the article In the Midst of Monachs: Mexico’s Butterfly Oasis from National Geographic magazine.

Enjoy this day, whatever it may bring.

Cheers,

M

28 Brilliant Tips for Living Life

I love lists, and here is  a great one of 28 brilliant tips for living life compiled by Leo Babauta , of the great blog Zenhabits.  He asked  his followers on Twitter:

“What’s your best tip that has made life better/easier?”

Good stuff, and especially relevant during this time of year. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to live brilliantly both for your benefit as well as the people who love you!

Happy Thursday night.  Enjoy!

  1. Use travel delay as opportunity to stop rather than get stressed. When the world stands still, let it. [Karl Durrant]
  2. Whenever your spouse says something the first thing you should hear is “I love you & want to spend my life with you”. [David Inman]
  3. Stop clinging and embrace change as a constant. [Isabelle Cholette]
  4. Try and give people the benefit of the doubt if they snap at you. Might be something going on you don’t know about. [misslmdavis]
  5. Wash your bowl immediately after eating! [niekstarr]
  6. The daily practice of silence. [dimovich]
  7. Life is so much easier when you make a decision within 5 minutes. Longer than that and you get bogged down & never decide. [Tiffany Cooper]
  8. Friendship is a gift, not a possession. [Chris Reetz]
  9. Mostly nothing is that serious as it seems in the first moment. [Julian Pollman]
  10. Before you go to bed, write down only 3 things that you want to do the following day. This is how to prioritize. [Ziba]
  11. Do the most important task first thing in the morning. [Jordan Ayres]
  12. Make all driving a mindfulness practice. Well being and safety! [Branden Barnett]
  13. When you think you want something, put it on the planner a month from now. When that month rolls around and you still want it, OK. [connie baber]
  14. Smiling … seems to help with most things. 🙂 [zen fostering]
  15. Love where you live, and work in walking distance from where you live. [Anoel]
  16. Expecting less or nothing, and just being. That way disappointments are nil and you are pleasantly surprised often. Simple. [Traci]
  17. Allow extra time in your schedule for wandering. [dylan]
  18. Meditate — it makes everything fall into place. Being happy makes life so much better and easier! [Gabriel Rocheleau]
  19. Do something relaxing before going to bed. No electronics. [Rozanne Paxman]
  20. Don’t fold clothes. Saves time and hassle. [Rachel Jonat]
  21. QTIP: quit taking it personally. [Will Hopkins]
  22. To avoid cluttering: After any activity, put everything in place. It only takes 5 minutes vs. 3 hours if you allowed to pile things up. [La Piña]
  23. Organic steel cut oats. YUM! [Prem]
  24. Realizing that you treasure experiences over possessions makes life better. [Sophia Khan]
  25. If you lick a glass before drinking from it, your lipstick doesn’t smear the glass. [natalie fergie]
  26. When in doubt, take a deep breath. [Kevin Cuccaro]
  27. Define what’s necessary; say no to the rest. [Dana]
  28. Expect nothing. Welcome everything. (from a homeless man with AIDS on the streets of Vancouver.) Sarah Chauncey

Teaching Peace

“I have nothing new to teach the world.  Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills.  All I have done is to try experiments in both as vast a scale as I could”  -Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi as a Symbol of Peace, Ciwara Pilot Alternative School.  Kati, Mali, West Africa
Gandhi as a Symbol of Peace, Ciwara Pilot Alternative School. Kati, Mali, West Africa

Education and kids have been on my mind lately, as I am sure is true for many Americans and people around the world in light of last week’s events.

My reaction to violence is to embrace non-violence.  There is a great quote by Mother Teresa that I love that goes….

“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”   –Mother Teresa

Love this, as it exemplifies the power of positive and energy that you put into what you are doing.  Do you fight evil with more evil, or do you transform it by turning it around and fighting evil with goodness?

I have eight nieces and nephews that go to school everyday.  What is their daily experience?  What is the world like that they are growing up in?

I ask you, a global citizen no matter where you are reading this…the US, West Africa, the Netherlands, China, Ecuador, Cuba…wherever.  Don’t we want safety and education for our world no matter what country we call home?  Or skin color?  Or religious beliefs?  The list goes on.  Let’s begin with peace within, and the circle moves out.  Help build a better world for the little people who will grow up in whatever world we leave them.

To show an example of peace portrayed in a school setting,  I wanted to share an experience in the West African country of Mali.  I was there doing research in the state school system involving evaluating the effectiveness of a new reading program, where students were learning to read in their native language (this part of Africa is mostly French, although there are many, many local languages.) in hopes to increase literacy nation0wide.  The details I don’t want to focus on, but what I do want to focus on is some of the key values that the flagship pilot school built its programs on.

MLK as a Symbol of people at school in Kati, Mali.
MLK as a Symbol of people at school in Kati, Mali.

There was a hallway that had leaders in the peace movement posted all with the name of the person and where they were from.  Among them was Gandhi and Martin Luther King, who both showed you can achieve great things by well-thought out and strategic peaceful movements.  Every day these children walk down that hall, in their very humble and simple school house, seeing these leaders.

I am including some photos, to share with you my experience a bit, but hopefully also to show you that education, children, beauty and daily is universal.  We all have differences, but peace is a no-brainier to me.

Happy Monday people, and let it be a great day.

Classroom in Mali, West Africa

Malian research colleagues, Niger River Banks, Mali, West Africa.
Malian research colleagues, Niger River Banks, Mali, West Africa.
Colleague doing observation....Malian women are  GORGEOUS!
Colleague doing observation….Malian women are GORGEOUS!
Malian children learning to read in their native language.
Malian children learning to read in their native language.
Rural classroom setting
Rural classroom setting

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Season

This week’s photo challenge was a great one, the changing seasons.  Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I learned to appreciate the four seasons, and whenever I start to see the change coming, I run for my camera and out the door.

Last season's flowers forgotten on a park bench,
Last season’s flowers forgotten on a park bench.

These photos were taken at the beginning of 2012 in a Colorado ski town in the high country of the Rock Mountains.  When the snow falls, it is magical.  As we enter the winter season, I wanted to share a few shots that capture the changing season, and one of my favorites (though I say that about each one until the next one arrives!)

Changing seasons are not only gorgeous to witness, but I think it is a moment to be present with one of nature’s small miracles.

Water is in a constant state of change, highlighted by the changing of the seasons.
Water is in a constant state of change, highlighted by the changing of the seasons.

National Geographic also has some really lovely seasonal galleries that are worth checking out:

Starry Night Oaxacan Style

“If you hear a voice within say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. ”

–Vincent Van Gogh

A Oaxacan, Mexico artist's version of Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night"
A Oaxacan, Mexico artist’s version of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

I purchased this painting from an artist selling his painting on the street at an artist’s market in Oaxaca Mexico.

Vincent’s Van Gogh’s Starry Night has long been a favorite work of mine, and I fell in love with this piece quickly.  It was also important for me to buy it from the artist, even if at the time I was a little low on pesos.  Supporting artists by purchasing directly from the artist is a way to support local economy, and a person, a family and community.  It also gives you an opportunity to talk with the creative mind behind the piece you love, getting a story and making that human connection.

The magestic Santo Domingo Church in the historical center of Oaxaca City.
The magestic Santo Domingo Church in the historical center of Oaxaca City.

So, next time you past a street artist, take a moment to check it out.  It is a simple way to support a local, more sustainable world!

Oaxacan street artist performing his craft.
Oaxacan street artist performing his craft.

Happy Tuesday to you all.

Let it snow….

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Winter in the Northwest
Winter in the Northwest
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