Saturday, May 23, 2020

Permission in the Pandemic

Our home in full bloom. 
Photo credit: A

I gave myself permission
some call it freedom

to let my curls be curls
not tied up, not straightened out

they are a start
to my writing and loving

I let them loose
now I can rein in my tongue

I let them loose
now I can write

my rage flows through my hair
instead of being suppressed

built up only to burst into flames
that hurt everyone and me

now my hair is angry
but my tongue is full of love

now my hair is angry
but my fingers and heart let go

I think before I speak
I love with more kindness

I, me, myself, I now celebrate
my curls have let me think and calibrate.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Coping in the Time of COVID-19

No, we are not alright. I'm not okay and neither are you. and...that's okay.

As I write this, the number of coronavirus cases in my state, California, has topped 12,300. The U.S.  has more than 311,000 coronavirus cases. Woo hoo! America is the best, bar none, yeah? Trump is truly making America Great Again...not. I wonder if he is currently outshining other covidiots by a large margin.

Here are some ways in which many of us are loving and coping through this pandemic.

1. In Praise of the Paranoid:

"Better safe than sorry", "prevention is better than cure", "only the paranoid survive". These have just been a few of my mantras in life. Right now, though, we all fall somewhere on the neurotic scale.  The more neurotic, the better for the individual and society.

Some neurotic things we've been doing at home:

  • A and I have been wearing face masks and plastic gloves to grocery shop. 
  • When S1 caught a cold, cough and sore throat and passed it onto me and S2, we isolated ourselves from the grandparents who are staying with us. 
  • I canceled my travel to Chicago more than a month and a half ago when my paranoia radar was up and almost everyone else around me still seemed fine with travel. V and J were my voices of sanity through that difficult decision. 

I've been paranoid about this for a while. If you were also equally paranoid a month and a half ago, I saw you as my equal, my loving, kindred spirit who 'gets it'. If you were not, I saw you as having a delayed response. "Give it time, s/he will come around to it", I told myself.

2. Love is the Predominant Emotion:

While I see some universal hate against covidiots and Chinese wet markets, love seems to prevail against all odds. I've always been a sucker for love. Loving more enables me to continue living more. While I believe that blood is thicker than water and think it's basic and easy to love family, I'm humbled by how much love and help strangers are offering strangers in these strange times.

We are all on Zoom meetings at work and school, hosting and attending birthday parties online and spending ginormous amounts of time with the ones we love the most, if we are lucky to live with them at this time.

Across the board, instances of loving I've engaged in are:

  • Hosting Zoom meetings with cousins and hosting a baby shower for a dear friend J
  • Video chatting with my faves
  • Checking in on those who've touched my life positively these past few years
As M and I strongly feel, video chat> phone call> voice recording text> text message right now. 

3. Remote Love and Longing:

I've been working from my home, remotely, for the past 5 years. Right now, it feels like the world is catching up to my everyday lifestyle. Finally, I see people, who had strong behavioral inertia to video chat, opening their minds and video apps to video chat with me and everyone else. 

As an extrovert, I'm loving this. I am fundamentally a huggy-kissy person, though. Perhaps because I want what I cannot have, I'm left with a longing to touch the people I love through the screen. A warm hug, a gentle kiss,  a tight squeeze. How much longer do we need to wait to be able to display these forms of emotion outside the four walls of our homes? Sigh.

Among the many small things I've been loving and longing for everyday - waiting to see a new California poppy pop and burst into life overnight in my garden. What a joy!

4. Rise to the occasion...and do nothing:

As several memes have emphasized, this is one time in history when we are all required to save the world by...doing nothing. Simple as it sounds, it is hard to sit back and do absolutely nothing when the world is suffering.

Charity begins at home. I've seen that the ones who don't help around the house or their immediately family generally don't have a tendency to help the world either.

We are all forced to help ourselves and our immediate family during this time. We've offered to help elderly neighbors and we've also started making face masks, thanks to my amazingly talented mom and ever-helpful dad. S1 and I are hemming face masks today. S2, the artist in the family, wants to decorate them and make them "creative".

So - How are you coping during times of COVID?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

If you give a snake some sambar

If you give a snake some sambar,
he will want some rice to go with it.

When you look around the kitchen for boiled rice,
you'll realize you need to pressure cook some.

When you start to keep rice in the cooker,
he will spot a caterpillar on your flowers.

When he slithers and tries to slurp up the caterpillar, 
the caterpillar will become a beautiful butterfly.

The butterfly will flit about and spot the moth on your window
and the snake will greedily eye both the winged creatures.

The winged creatures will fly up, up and away
and the snake will be crestfallen, defeated.

He will spot a crispy chip on the floor
and taste the crunchy, salty goodness.

He will wish for some spicy sour dip
to go with the salty chip.

You will feel kind and generous towards the patient snake
and give him some delicious sambar.

and if you give a snake some sambar...

- Bedtime "mouth story" for the girls tonight. The silliest stories evoke the loudest laughs. They rolled off the bed, hysterical. 

This is sambar.
This is the story style.

Friday, February 2, 2018

How to Explore Tide Pools during a Super Moon

Last week's supermoon + blue moon + blood moon + lunar eclipse phenomenon reminded me of my recent tide pool experience.

Here's how I went about exploring tide pools during that supermoon:

1. Learn about supermoons and tidepools

2. Find the nearest tidepool
3. Wear appropriate footwear
4. Name underwater flora and fauna

1. Learn about supermoons and tidepools

supermoon is a full moon or a new moon that approximately coincides with the closest distance that the Moon reaches to Earth in its elliptic orbit, resulting in a slightly larger-than-usual apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth. The technical name is the perigee syzygy (to be pronounced without imbibing alcohol) of the Earth–Moon–Sun system or more simply full (or new) Moon at perigee. Source: Wikipedia

Supermoon or Why The Natural World is Wonderful
Source credit here

I like to think of it as the moon being so close to earth that it's gloriously huge and awesome, something that was likely used as an excuse for a human sacrifice or husband-beating ritual or some such totally normal act.

Tidepools or rock pools are shallow pools of seawater that form on the rocky intertidal shore. Many of these pools exist as separate bodies of water only at low tide. To get the most out of a visit to the tidepools, plan to go during a low tide – the lowest low water level for a particular day. Low tides occur twice a day, but the lowest low tides tend to occur around the full moon and the new moon each month. The connection between supermoons and tidepools is that when there is a supermoon, there is a super low tide.

2. Find the nearest tidepool 

Supermoons also cause these crazy tidepools in which the ocean's tide becomes super low and the entire ocean recedes for 1-1.5 miles. To find an upcoming low tidepool in California, check out Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve 

During the previous supermoon, the nearest tidepool to us in the San Francisco Bay Area was the Pacific Ocean in Half Moon Bay. Half Moon Bay is a bay of the Pacific on the coast of San Mateo County in California, South of San Francisco. The bay is approximately semi-circular, hence the name half moon, with sea access to the south. 

We learned about this tidepool event via a totally random group email forwarded to me by an enthusiastic mom:

Greetings Everybody

Let's Go Negative Tidepooling next Sunday in Half Moon Bay!

Tides will be an unusually low -1.4 feet on Sunday December xx at Pillar Point.  That's the world famous Maverick's Surfing Spot!

So the famous surfing spot will be WALKABLE from about 2pm to sunset at 5pm.

For about 3 or 4 hours, the tides go out, and we will be able to walk
the astounding reef about half a mile into the Pacific.

This is a rare daytime weekend opportunity to see tons of sea life
trapped in the reef rocks by the retreating tides.  Animals and
algae/kelp are EVERYWHERE!  You will see lots of tiny crabs, moon snails, urchins, anemone, etc etc etc.

Walking is SLIPPERY!!!  So wear your best water-proof boots.  Also, bring a walking stick if you have one.  Or a broom stick usually works just as well.

We drove to Half Moon Bay and then hiked to Pillar Point Harbor,
where the ocean had begun receding and would continue to recede for another 3-4 hours

Walking on the ocean floor

Low tide for 1-2 miles into the ocean. This is the ocean floor

3. Wear appropriate footwear

Wear shoes or boots that allow you to walk around in ankle deep muck and slushy water

A and I wore our waterproof Merrell hiking shoes. The kids wore their hiking sandals, which in retrospect wasn't the best idea. They felt comfortable and confident walking over slippery, moss-covered rocks so that was good. But they must have felt cold, since it was around 15 Fahrenheit (around negative 9 Celcius) though they denied feeling anything but excitement. 

Marching on slippery kelp - large algae seaweeds. Kelp grow in underwater kelp "forests"

Smart S, our friends' son, was geared more appropriately in gumboots

4. Name underwater flora and fauna 

I read someplace that living in a tidepool is no day at the beach and thought it was so appropriate. Each living being fights hard for its share of space, light, and water in order to exist every day.

Sea snail

Red algae, methinks.
Seemingly harmless, red algae are known to have killed thousands of abalone, mollusks and sea urchins along the California coast.

Giant Green Anemone
Anthopleura xanthogrammica 
They are primarily sedentary marine animals resembling flowers.

Back to reality, which isn't so bright, colorful or neon.

I think these are acorn barnacles.  (Anyone knows better?)
Barnacles are crustaceans and are related to crabs and lobsters. 

5. For all those names you don't quite remember, mentally resolve to visit the local aquarium so you feel better about your failing memory.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, here we come!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Wonder and Wildfires in Yosemite

The National Parks Service calls Yosemite "Not just a great valley, but a shrine to human foresight, the strength of granite, the power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra."  I couldn't agree more.

We headed to Yosemite over Labor Day weekend 2017. Two days before our trip, we heard there were wildfires raging across Yosemite. Most people in their right minds would travel away from wildfires. A, on the other hand, thought it was the best time to avoid crowds and explore majestic Yosemite. Crazy, right? We weighed the pros and cons and decided to take one day at a time, with a promise to run out any time things got hot. You know what I mean there. We were lucky there was only some smoke in the regions we visited, but we were cautious throughout and managed to have a mindblowing time, especially because several potential visitors canceled their trip. 

Life in California means we get to explore natural beauty just a couple hours' drive away almost all year around. A and I are taking advantage of that when we can. It's crazy that we visited Yosemite a whole 10 years after moving to the U.S. We have this urge to make up for lost time...and traveled with close friends who also have kids so the kids had a blast and we had great adult company. 

If you want to combine nature, adventure, easy hikes and also get the kids to bed early (yay, me-time!) the majestic Yosemite has few competitors. The girls climbed on fallen trees, clambered up rocks, scampered like monkeys in mellow meadows, swam in shiny rivulets and embraced Yosemite with wonder and well-worn legs.


Lower Yosemite falls - water, rocks and perfect blue skies

We have a climber - S2. If it can be climbed, it will.

Sunning like lizards at the bottom of the falls. We had to precariously climb over huge rocks to get down here

Swimming impromptu in the shallow river. I carry swimsuits everywhere these days

Really shallow, you could sit in it

Thankful for our friends K and V and their sons who were companions in adventure

and she climbs on...

and on...
Soda springs? Curioser and curioser
Soda springs have natural geysers and salt water. Just like soda, it has little bubbles but salty water

Who can resist skimming pebbles on rivers?

We found a rock and decided to climb it

It was a hill, really

or perhaps a mountain

The view was absolutely stunning

and everyone had to pause and ponder

Little Miss. Meadow

The sun has set but we shall be back soon, Yosemite. 3 days were not enough. 
We shall be back in Spring, Fall and Winter to see you change your colors and breathe in your beauty many more times.