Dreadful California


This is a classic example of a fabulous old book. It’s a typical travel journal for those who didn’t have the luxury of traveling. This author, who later reveals himself to be a bit of a nut-job (who wouldn’t with such a name), seems to be a trifle disillusioned that his quest for gold during the 1849 Gold Rush resulted in zilch and is determined to squawk to anyone who will listen. Invariably, simply because there were few to refute the traveler’s outrageous claims, the resulting piece of literature is hysterically entertaining…particularly since there isn’t a single reference to earthquakes…the one thing that non-Californians fear most about this state.

I always marvel that one was gutsy enough to write such foolishness, but even more astonished that a publisher published it! Just when I think political pundits and non-stop commentators cannot be more irrelevant, rude and aggravating, I come across a title like this and realize I live in an excessively verbally boring and illiterate time. Here’s the complete title filled with excellent vocabulary:

Dreadful California: being a true and scandalous account of the barbarous civilization, licentious morals, crude manners and depravities, inclement climate and niggling resources, together with various other offensive and calamitous details of life in the Golden State. By Hinton Helper.

It’s not often one is gifted with such a title. Who, besides lawyers, talks about licentious morals any more? I’m not certain many people have been taught proper manners anymore, so there certainly aren’t critics remarking on one’s particularly crude ones. And niggling resources??? This is word choice at its best. What a more refreshing way to describe the present economy. I think I may have to start a new dictionary entry for this moment in history: A period marked by niggling resources.




I love old books. They have much more character and unique qualities which reveal so much more about who they are and where they’ve been than recently published books. Even the smallest flaws or irregularities excite me because I know that this is a one-of-a-kind and I’m inspired to discover all the eccentricities that this single book offers to me. The tiniest detail can often reveal the most magnificent thing about an old book. My favorite example comes from one of my favorite books: “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks.

“Ozren, it’s a fake, the thing in the vitrine. It’s a fantastic fake—the oxidized silver, the stains, the smeared pigments. I mean, we’ve all seen fakes, but this is outstanding. It’s a perfect replica. Perfect, except for one thing. The one thing that can’t be replicated because it hasn’t existed for three centuries.” I had to stop. I could hardly breathe. Werner was patting my hand as if I were a hysterical child. His hands, his hard, craftsman’s hands, had the usual perfectly manicured fingernails. I pulled away my ugly untended mitt and raked it through my hair.

Ozren was pale now. He stood.

“What are you talking about?”

“The parchment. The sheep that they made it from, that breed—Ovis aries Aragonosa ornata—it’s been extinct in Spain since the fifteenth century. What they’ve used, the pore holes, they’re all wrong…the size, the scatter…it’s parchment made from a different breed…”

How fantastic is that? To be able to tell how genuine something is by its irregularities…perfection in imperfection. Wabi-sabi. This term was introduced to me several months ago, but I struggled to truly understand and absorb its meaning and implication for me. Since then, I have been delightfully surprised in the most outrageous moments to realize I’ve just witnessed wabi-sabi. I’m only beginning to realize what wabi-sabi really means. In this culture of symmetry and thinness and young-ness and greed and deception and The American Dream, the idea of perfection is rather skewed toward a fake, illusionary perception that is perpetually programmed into Western society. And, when I choose to accept that definition of perfection as the only definition, I lose the one-of-a-kind genuine moments of beauty that surround me…the perfection in imperfection.

Communicating Kindly


I struggle to communicate well. To be honest, I struggle in communicating at all…the well bit is merely something to which I aspire.

I haven’t always struggled to communicate; not because I did it any better at any other point in my life, but because I didn’t know that I wasn’t particularly good at it. I honestly thought that what I communicated was as clear as the nose on my face (which is rather pronounced and impossible to miss). What I didn’t realize, is that it is possible for someone to see the nose differently than I saw it and that if I attempted to see the world through that person’s perceptions, mine would inevitably change as would my reality. And that was a truly remarkable moment for me.

I remember when I came across this book. It was completely by accident. I was reading the New York Times’ Review of Books, looking up a recent publication on Amazon in order to read reviews, when this one popped up in the result list. The title startled me because in that moment, I recognized why I experienced those many moments of frustrated and unsuccessful attempts to communicate with people I love. My body responded to the clarity by slumping in the seat, sighing deeply, and feeling a few tears slip down my cheeks.

I have been blessed with the gifts of articulation (a.k.a. a sharp tongue), strong convictions (a.k.a. highly opinionated), and heightened passions (a.k.a. a short temper). In the heat of a difference of opinions (a.k.a. an argument), all of these gifts come together alarmingly well for devastating results. My focus becomes more and more narrow as the importance of being heard escalates such that it quickly becomes impossible for me to even acknowledge that another person is in the room. My resulting words in these moments always cut with scalpel-like precision where it hurts the worst, and, much to my horror, I rarely feel regret. So, when I saw this book cover, it startled me into recognizing that it is possible to disagree kindly with someone I love. I know this isn’t a new mental concept to me, for my mother never ceases to remind me of kinder ways of stating my clear and precise attempts at communicating. However, this brutally honest, yet openly vulnerable appeal of a message was the catalyst that finally opened the light of day to my emotional understanding.

The necessity of such compassion in communication hit very close to home today when a dear sweetheart of a friend came out to all his extended family and friends in a beautifully constructed open letter to us. His vulnerability revealed to me how emotionally fragile we are in this water planet, and how vitally important it is to nurture relationships like tender sprouting plants rather than seeking to conquer one another in any fashion…a deeply ingrained pattern in me that requires a complete change in all that I do.

So, while I’m practicing communicating  kindly with you, should I slip into familiar and comfortable patterns, please hold up this sign…for I want to…and I do.

Dream Bigger


There is something about the number 3. Three legs, or wheels, are more stable than two. The third line in geometry suddenly connects two flat lines, moving away from each other, into a triangle. Pull the triangle into the 3rd Dimension, and once again, something magical has happened by creating a pyramid.

All spiritual philosophy also embraces the magical mysticism of 3. Three Marks of Existence; the Christian Trinity of Father-Son-Holy Spirit; the Hindu Trinity of Brahma-Vishnyu-Shiva; the Jewish and Muslim ideas of integration and intentionality require something to be done 3 times; Wiccans are reminded of the Law of Threefold Return; Numerology identifies 3 as being a number of magic, intuition and the concept of time (past, present and future). I’ve noticed that whenever things appear in my life in groups of 3, I need to pay attention to it and listen for the accompanying message.

This is why, when returning home from walking to a shop one lovely afternoon, I stopped suddenly on the sidewalk, shook my head and started laughing. In front of me, parked next to the curb in front of my house, was the third one. The third Porsche Carrera Cabriolet I had seen in a span of 45 minutes. I laughed, because this is my dream car…the seal gray metallic exterior with a black leather interior. And, while the colors and lines alone get me giggling, the added thrill of simply turning over the engine plasters a smile on my face so big that I put the Cheshire Cat to shame.

And, here it was. In front of my house…and the third one to boot. So. I stopped and laughed and listened for the message. And, here it is:

Dream bigger!

Let go of guilt and shame for wanting more when others have so little.

You deserve abundant blessings, just like everyone else,  for out of your abundance you bless others.

Dream bigger!

Find the childlike wonder again in your imagination and spend time there, for you have limited yourself, thereby limiting the Universe.

Dream bigger!

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