Day 142 Clearest Way

April 30, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day's gift.)

Wild violet no larger than an inch.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest. ~ John Muir

I believe a clear way into the universe is through my yard. Unlike some chemically treated, perfect lawns in my neighborhood, crabgrass and other weeds abound on my lawn—and I like it that way. Perfection is not created through chemicals but through tiny flowers that present themselves with no planning on my part. 

I grew up in a row house in Baltimore City. We had a small lawn patch in the front and mostly concrete in the back yard. In the small space available, my father planted roses and (my favorite) celosia, specifically cockscomb which was a deep velvety red. My mother grew African violets inside. Right outside our house was a sycamore tree with wonderfully textured bark and seed balls with potential for many creative games. There was no forest nearby but nature, order and balance were part of my life.

As we drove around Baltimore earlier this week, I thought of kids growing up in a concrete forest of broken glass, trash and boarded up houses. When I consider the role nature plays in bringing beauty and serenity into my life, I wonder how the lack of nature shapes children’s lives. Perhaps there is a disconnect with the universe on many levels. However, the beautiful flowers that grow on their own in my yard flourish in spite of me. Some children too seem to grow like unwanted and unappreciated weeds. Maybe it is up to us to find their beauty. It could be another path to the universe.

Today I felt connected when I examined a wild purple violet of less than one inch. It is a weed but it is one pathway to the universe. 

My gift today is a tiny piece of the universe.

> Day 143  Continuum

You can find links to my other posts on this project here:

Day 141 Homecoming

April 29, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day's gift.)

It happened during a quiet moment. I was sitting on my porch with pollen raining down on the umbrella I was sitting under. Various neighborhood birds forgot that I was a foreigner and they ventured to the nearby bird feeders. (As I discovered later, I had another visitor too—a tick.) I was alternating between reading Atul Gawande’s book, “Being Mortal,” and a revealing interview with David Simon about the complex problem in Baltimore that is coming to light.

A fluttering near my head caught my attention and I was greeted by the first hummingbird of the season, a ruby-throated hummingbird. It had been attracted to an orange object near me and then it flew away disappointed, for sure. But not for long. I knew that migrating hummingbirds return to Maryland in April and I had been so distracted lately that I forgot to put the feeder out for the new season. I immediately went into the house, mixed one cup of water with ¼ cup of sugar, and poured it into the feeder, which I then hung outside in its regular spot.

It took no longer than two minutes until a couple of hummingbirds discovered it. Since they live about four years, I think these returned to my porch from last year.  I love to watch these bee-sized birds that beat their wings around 55 times per second and can fly 25 miles per hour—right, left, up, down, backwards and even upside down. 

It makes me speculate that if humans were as flexible in their thinking as hummingbirds are in their flight, maybe we would be able to solve many more problems than we do now. 

My gift today is a hummingbird.


> Day 142  Clearest Way

You can find links to my other posts on this project here:

Day 140 Gratitude

April 28, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day's gift.)

A chance encounter with James A. Smith on the streets of Baltimore.

I’ll have to admit that the news last night was a real downer. Baltimore, the city of my heart, was in chaos ignited by anger and hatred. I watched business windows being smashed and buildings set on fire. Where did all this anger come from? The answer is complicated but bottom line is that the situation was depressing.

David and I had promised our Korean guests that we would give them a tour of Baltimore and we did today. By the time we rolled into the city, the National Guard was no longer on Pratt Street. In fact, compared with a normal day, the city looked like a ghost town, deflated of its vibrancy, its life.

Then I met James Smith on a street in Hampden. He told me that, in spite of what things looked like last night, he was optimistic about the city. Why? He was among hundreds of people who this morning had worked together to help clean up the mess from last night. And they were people of all backgrounds, he said, who had worked together for a common cause. 

Talking with him lifted my spirits and made me think there really is hope. He told me that he is a community health organizer for Baltimarket, an organization that “focuses on food sources throughout the city to bring healthy affordable food, with a particular emphasis on neighborhoods where healthy, affordable food is more difficult to find.” 

James and I have something in common. Although our ethnicity is different, we both love Baltimore and grew up in the city. He says, “I’m a survivor of the street light and all that goes along with that.” James believes he can make a difference. 

“But for the grace of God, I turned my life around and made a pact with God that I would dedicate my life helping others, especially youth, to turn their lives around before they end up on drugs, in prison or die. This is why I’m so optimistic about life and life’s occurrences. If God can bless me and turn my life around, who am I not to do this for someone else? Last night was a bad scene unfortunately, but it is through these situations that change will occur in my Baltimore.”

I told him about my 365 gifts project and he encouraged me. "What you are doing through your blogging is wonderful. I hope it brings the gift of healing your way and that you use your gifts to continue to bless others. My hope for you is that God continues to bless and use you to bring smiles and healing to others." Then he added, "Please understand that our meeting today was not by accident but meant to be."

Gratitude is an attitude demonstrated in how you live.

My gift today is optimism from a stranger.


Read about Baltimarket here:

You can find links to my other posts on this project here:

Day 139 Two Sides

April 27, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day's gift.)

Seeing the other side of the tree
A Korean couple landed on our doorstep this afternoon, Servas travelers we had agreed to host. After initial introductions and some tea, I took them to Downs Park just a few miles from our house. Chang is also a photo enthusiast and we both carried our cameras with us to the park. We did not always point our lenses in the same direction. Sometimes I took photos from one side of a tree while he looked from the other side. 

It is always a lesson for me when I share a familiar location with someone who has never been there. Apparently, squirrels are not common in some parts of the world. I remember a young Latvian girl’s amazement at seeing squirrels in the park and a Singaporean man’s enthusiasm as he clicked his camera and took 300 shots of squirrels on our back porch. Today Chang and his wife Kyung Hui were also quite interested in our Maryland squirrels. For me, these gray creatures have become so commonplace that I do not pay much attention to them anymore. 

Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in. ~ Isaac Asimov

To see something through another’s eyes expands my understanding and appreciation. I fervently hope that all eyes watching the present unrest, rioting and destruction in Baltimore will begin to shift perspective so that we all can learn from it. Only then can change take place. 

Meanwhile, today I started looking at squirrels again.

My gift today is new eyes.

You can find links to my other posts on this project here: