Weekly Photo Challenge: In The Flooded Forest

In The Flooded Forest

Within the depths of the Academy of Sciences, there’s a tunnel called the Flooded Forest. People can sit there for hours and see all kinds of fish drifting overhead. It’s inspiring to see; no matter where you’re from or what language you speak, nature is fascinating for everyone. Larger version is viewable here.

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Illusion of Lights: A Journey Into The Unseen

Goldpaint Photography shows off what our night sky really looks like. It takes me back to my childhood camping days….

Death And Life In The Family

Hey, folks. You might have noticed I’ve been incommunicado for part of this week. I wish I could say that I was on some wonderfully epic adventure, but my near-600 mile road trip down to Bakersfield was for something much more personal. If you were following my blog a couple of months back, you’ll probably recall a post I wrote about my grandmother. Just before the end of January, the inevitable happened; her body could no longer keep up with her iron will and spirit. She died just as we all thought she would: tending to that rose bush in front of the house. She had just finished watering and pruning it, when a neighbor saw her suddenly lay down. My relatives and emergency responders did everything they could, but it was over far too quickly. And that’s the best anyone could hope for. Aside from dying in your sleep, a fast, peaceful death is preferable to an agonizingly dragged-out hospital drama. While I’m sad she’s gone, I’m actually happy, too; her injuries in 2013 made daily life incredibly painful, and she must have despised being so limited. It’s only fitting that she died doing the one of her greatest passions.

She died almost exactly 19 years after my grandfather, and they were buried next to each other. I had the honor of being one of her eight pallbearers. It’s an tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, though not all coffins are covered with cloth anymore. I won’t go into details about the funeral out of respect for my family; it’s excruciating to see the important people in your life emotionally broken. What I will say is that my grandmother earned the love and respect of every person she ever met. I heard so many stories about her life in the last week. How she met my grandfather – a valedictorian with hopes of becoming a lawyer – in high school. How they in their mid-20s survived the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II. How they once owned a coconut plantation. How she had a dozen kids, and became a master seamstress just to make ends meet. How the family suffered through floods and famine, starving and barely scraping by with nothing. How she sacrificed so much to keep everyone alive and well. How she taught her children how to kill and butcher a chicken the old fashioned way, to garden, to cook, to sew, to tell time by looking at the sun, to be disciplined, to be appreciate what little they had. How my grandparents took in stray kids and helped them survive to become pillars of their communities today. How much she loved to travel, and how she could be up and walking miles before sunrise. How the family came to the States in the 70s, resulting in multiple real-life American success stories. How her willpower was the stuff of legends.

To quote my cousin: “It’s a good thing Grandma died before the zombie apocalypse, because you know she’d have slaughtered every single one of us.”

Judging from what I’ve seen, that’s probably not an exaggeration.

I spent a lot of time with my extended family. I don’t get to see them very often – some of which I haven’t really visited with in 19 years – so it was very good to catch up. Religion is a huge part of our parents’ lives – it’s the reason they came to America – but it’s only one aspect of ours. I may be considered strange and rebellious by the older generations, but I discovered that all of us grandkids are far less straitlaced than we look. In a good way. I’m relieved to know that introversion, sarcasm, and geekery run in the family. My cousins are programmers, civil engineers, chefs, bakers, entrepreneurs, cosplayers, video game geeks, fashionistas, teachers, bankers, athletes, aspiring scientists, and so much more. Some like to go barhopping, while others prefer Disneyland, Comic-Con, and Austin City Limits. Others love Magic: The Gathering, Creepypasta, and Vocaloid. One of my cousins vowed to get all the kids together and throw me a Dirty Thirty birthday in Vegas this October. I haven’t decided if I’ll take them up on it yet.

Thank you for everything you’ve done, Grandma. Not just for all you’ve taught me in life, but for helping me become closer to my family even in death. I’ll miss you.

Freshly Pressed Gratitude

Hey, folks. It’s been a cold but wonderful Friday. This morning, I was shocked to discover that my narrative about San Francisco’s Market Street was chosen for the Freshly Pressed page:

There it is, third on the top row. I never expected my post to make it that far, let alone for it to be noticed by so many people! I’m still quite new at this whole blogging thing – I only started posting here a little over a month ago – so I’m immensely grateful that people are reading and enjoying my work. I don’t think it can be fully articulated in words. You guys give me a reason to believe that what I’m doing has meaning, that I’m not just blindly wandering the abyss that is the Internet. As long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing. I stand by what I wrote in my profile. The world is full of incredible, awe-inspiring things; most just goes unnoticed. I’ll share what I find, and maybe we’ll all learn something along the way. I never lost my sense of wonder.

I hope you haven’t, either.

PS. By the way, I actually did run into the Buddhist monk again just a few days ago. Twice in one afternoon, in fact! I had left the prayer beads at home – I was running late for the train that morning – but he recognized me the second time. Probably because I was wearing a huge scarf and my hair was going all Medusa-style in the wind. The language barrier was still a problem, but I made sure to give him the proper greeting. Palms clasped, head tilted forward. No camera, indeed. He just returned my smile and nodded, and we parted ways. Good to know the old-fashioned ways still work. I’ll probably run into him again next week. As for you, see you tomorrow…Or later today. Whichever comes first.