Saturday, September 29, 2007

Rooting for you, red team

There's a game tonight and hordes of red-shirted football fans are in the neighborhood. I walk towards the looming cement stadium with Yuki, taking advantage of walking in the middle of normally busy streets that are are now closed to traffic. I see a wildcat family, all dressed in red and carrying stadium cushions. The girl wants to pet Yuki; I ask to see the flashing lights shining from the older boy's teeth. The mom tells me they're similar to those wax lips we used to wear at Halloween except that the lights are worn like a retainer inside the mouth and against your teeth.

On a corner I see a scalper who asks me if Yuki is a spitz. I say no, he's an American Eskimo dog, and I ask him if scalping is legal. It is in Arizona, he says. On a side street near a convenience store, more red shirted people are drinking beer out of cans and bottles that are partially concealed in brown bags. I look up at the various sports flags on the side of the stadium and simultaneously imagine these flags as prayer flags and the Wildcat fans as ticket holders for a Dalai Lama event... My mind stops there. Yuki and I cross the street.

I catch a snippet of dialogue between two scalpers on cell phones--I have two tickets together for $60 at the 20 yard line, one says--and I see the lit up squares of both scalpers' cell phones moving towards each other on the dark street. A neighbor seated on a beach chair is holding up a cardboard sign advertising $15 street parking with free beer, $2 a cup if you just want beer.

I hear the announcer's stadium voice, "ladies & gentlemen, please rise for the national anthem" and in a flash I recall watching a Cubs' game in Wrigley Field when I was nine with my grandfather who smoked cigars. There was organ playing throughout the game and the sky was blue. My grandfather bought me a blue cotton CUBS cap with a big red "C" stitched on it, and I remember the crack of the ball on wooden bat.

Yuki is oblivious to the festive atmosphere around us and to my reverie; he just sniffs along enjoying what he enjoys until the fireworks makes him jump at kick off. I've never been a football fan and find nothing appealing about American alcohol culture, and yet tonight I find a peculiar joy in observing the people and things that turn an ordinary Tucson neighborhood into "Wildcat Country."

Meanwhile many thousands of miles away, on the streets of Yangon and Mandalay, red and saffron robed Burmese monks and thousands of lay people march peacefully, nonviolently, for democracy. Go red team! Burma may not win right now, but they will eventually.

"May we be completely free from all danger, may we be completely free from all grief, may we be completely free from poverty, may we have peace in heart and mind." (This is a translation of what the monks chanted when they were greeted by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

little treasures

I found these shells at the beach at Asilomar a couple of years ago. They're called Janthina-Janthina and they travel through the oceans in mucous bubbles attached to the Velella-Velellas (bluish jelly fish) that land on shore. The shells are so delicate and small. I have kept them in a little plastic jewelery box and rediscovered them a few days ago hidden at the back of the glove compartment of my car (which I rarely go into these days because I usually bicycle everywhere!).

Another interesting Janthina fact: the little animals inside the shells start out as males and later transform into females!

When I first saw the shells laying on the beach in a little group, I thought they had to be plastic with that rich periwinkle color. How could such a bright color appear out of the grey fog and how could those perfect little delicate shells just be there for me to find on the brown grainy wet sand? Why didn't anyone else see them? When I got home that day, I called the education department of the Monterey Bay Aquarium to find out more about them and was asked to bring them in. The education director there told me they were a rare find of a rather common pelagic sea snail that they had not seen on the Monterey Peninsula for over 40 years.

Global education for all

Here's a short video showing Walter Payton High School on Chicago's Near North Side where all students are learning through acquiring second languages (Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish, English, etc) and interacting with others around the world. Institutions who are aiming for "eliteness" are aiming in the wrong direction.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sometimes you just have to fly

I have not painted, except for my little post-it note art series, in over two months. I've had other projects to work on and have had to push aside what I love to do. Today, I felt that if I didn't paint, I was going to die. Put another way, painting enlivens me. So, just a while ago, I picked up my brush, got out my watercolors, grabbed my watercolor journal and sat down. I had no idea what i was going to paint. I wanted to see what would emerge from my imagination. My paint box looks too clean and neat and my brushes hardly knew me from months of disuse.

What came out was the above painting of a brush & bird flying above the jeweled earth.

I wouldn't have died immediately. It would be a slow drying up kind of death leading to this epitaph on my gravestone (though I wish to be cremated): "She died from not painting; her brushes dried up, too." I'd rather see "She died as she lived~joyfully, artfully" or something lively like that.

Earlier, I was thinking about one of my Japanese English students who told me that his father wanted him to be a business man, but that he really wanted to be an artist. I remember him saying, "If I don't do art, I will die." That was a long time ago. His words left a deep impression on me. I hope he made an enlivening choice.

Friday, September 07, 2007

For joy! Nature in the city

The sky is cloudy again today! Yay! Besides being delightfully cooler both yesterday and today (high temperatures of only 95ºF/35ºC yesterday and 92ºF/33ºC forecast for today), I found these two moths mating this morning on the potted cactus on my front porch. They are from the species Hyle lineata, the subfamily Macroglossinae, in the family of Sphinx Moths or Hawkmoths (Sphingidae), and commonly known as white-lined sphinx moths.

"The white-lined sphinx moth is a very important pollinator in the Tucson region. Like other sphinx moths (Sphingidae), Hyles lineata is a very fast and powerful flyer. They are able to hover while feeding, quickly moving between flowers. Unlike most moths, Hyles lineata is often active during the day, although they are also active at night. Both the thick, chunky bodies and triangular wings of the adults are striped (hence the name "white-lined sphinx moth"). The hind wings have a patch of pink, but otherwise these moths are brown and white. The caterpillars are abundant at times and are bright yellow (or occasionally black)."

~from the UA Tree of Life Web Project site.

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And after yesterday morning's rain, I saw this brilliant wildflower growing in the tree-basin on the street outside my house.