Thursday, November 27, 2008

If you don't like a thing ...

... change the way you look at it. I don't know where or when I first heard that (it seems like it's from one of those female empowerment movies like Steele Magnolias) but it's one of those truisms that I picked up along the way and stored away somewhere in my brain but don't exactly live by on a regular basis.

I was reminded of it this morning, Thanksgiving morning 2008, when, on a rainy, wet, grey morning I looked out my kitchen window and saw this:

A rainbow. This is the same front window from which I can see the hacked up tree that I blogged about a few days ago. Same window, different day, different view. Instead of seeing a hacked up tree instead I see the rainbow. It seems like that's a metaphor for more than just trees and neighbors.

In some ways this also conversely proves what I wrote about the Santa Anas ... out of a gloomy, grey, rainy day comes something so beautiful, one of Mother Nature's many miracles: a rainbow.

So often I focus on the minor irritations and minutia of my life, but things are changing all the time. From one minute to the next, maybe if we looked at the same thing just a little differently we'd see something else. Feel something else even. Maybe if we didn't focus on the minutia, like the chopped off limbs of a tree, we could see the larger world view, the rainbow in the sky.

Perspective matters.

On Thanksgiving people pause and think about the blessings in their lives, the big picture of what really matters. It's not that their view of their life has changed, or that those things that bothered them the day before have gone away, it's that on Thanksgiving they stop and look at things a little differently.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Go and the Sun Will Follow

Go and the sun will follow. If you had to sum my friend Sheri up in one phrase, that would be it. That's her life philosophy. The companion to that is, "There's no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing." That one belongs to Sheri's friend Dan. They're both true and if you had to live your life by just one philosophy, either one would stand you in pretty good stead I think.

The first time I ever heard her say it, it was her birthday many years ago. It might have been the first birthday I ever spent with her. Anyway, it was raining. No. It was hailing. We were headed out to Borrego Springs for a hike. We drove north along highway 67 - in the hail - thinking that this hike was NOT a good idea. Well, I was thinking that. Sheri was thinking: Go and the sun will follow. We stopped at Santa Ysabel at Dudley's bakery on the way. There was snow on the ground. I don't think I even had a jacket with me. But this is what Sheri told us: Go and the sun will follow. So we went. And, if you want to know the truth, that's exactly what happened. We drove over the ridge and down into Borrego Springs - the skies cleared, the sun shone, the wildflowers sparkled orange and yellow in the spring sunlight. I know, it sounds like I'm making that up. But, seriously, that's what happened. And, to topi it off, we had a great hike.

"Go and the sun will follow" is really not a life philosophy about weather though; it's all about attitude. It's a fancier way of saying, "think positive" (but its specificity helps it ring truer). I hadn't thought about Sheri's life philosophy in a while until today when I realized that I had followed it. Sometimes I guess things are just so "right" that you stop thinking about them and just start living them. That's what happened today when we decided to go ahead with our plan to go to SeaWorld even though the geniuses at the National Weather Service said that there was a 100% chance of rain. When we got up this morning the sky was looking pretty grey and threatening and it definitely seemed like the meteorologists would win this round. But we packed our raincoats, donned our boots and went ahead and went anyway. Rain be damned. Another life philosophy applied here (my mom's): "you won't melt."

Needless to say, not only did it NOT rain (at all) today, it was actually sunny and warm at SeaWorld. We had an amazing day. Go and the sun will follow. Check out the pictures below if you need proof. Thanks Sheri.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Addendum to Trees

This morning my three year old, God bless him, was eating breakfast and he looked out the kitchen window and he said to his dad, "Daddy, what's wrong with that tree?"

Maybe I should send Will to go talk to my neighbors.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Santa Anas

It's sort of the irony of the world that something that can cause so much beauty can also wreak so much havoc. In this case, Santa Anas. When the Santa Anas are blowing we have this amazingly clear view of La Jolla from our deck. When the sun sets it shines off of some of the windows in La Jolla, making La Jolla literally sparkle. The smog and pollution that the Santa Anas blow out to sea make the sunsets glow a bright orange red in a way that they don't at other times (assuming we can see the sunset through the marine layer of fog that covers the coast for a great portion of the year). In a word, they're beautiful. Breathtaking even. But there's a downside to that beauty as well.
With the Santa Anas come the winds and dry conditions that not only often start fires here in Southern California, but fuel them and make them burn out of control. And often what's lingering in the air off the coast to make the sunset so fiery red and orange is the smoke from those fires. For a lot of people I know, including myself, the Santa Anas also tend to bring sinus headaches from the change in atmospheric pressure. It seems sort of strange that a weather pattern could cause headaches (not to mention hay fever) but I know so many people who talk about it that there must be something to it.

What is it about trees?

This is the view from my kitchen window, facing the street
This is a close up view. In this picture you see the ficus tree that straddles the property line between two of my neighbors. This tree is not on my property and I have nothing to do with it (except that I look at it from my kitchen window).

Yes, you're right, it's pretty ugly. Hacked up. (Another) One of my neighbors even calls it an eye-sore. Thank you for thinking so. I agree. But neither this tree, nor the fact that it's an eye-sore (right now) bothers me. Truthfully, I really don't care. What bothers me is that the neighbors between whose property it is are fighting over it. What bothers me even more is that they are fighting over it when one of our neighbors is going through a divorce and another is in the hospital with pretty serious kidney problems. It just seems to me that in these times, there are (much) more important things for people to focus attention on.

What is it about neighbors and trees that makes otherwise seemingly reasonable people completely unable to get along? I don't really understand the big problem about trees. If you have a tree and it's in your neighbor's yard, or it's blocking their view, or it's dropping it's leaves all over their yard it seems to me that reasonable thing for you to do is trim your tree. It is, after all, your tree and your responsibility. I think it's reasonable for your neighbor to do the same. Now granted sometimes your neighbor isn't aware that their tree is doing these things - and that's where you come in, asking them politely about remedying the problem. But that's where your role should end and your neighbor's role should begin (or visa versa if yours is the offending tree and you are the clueless tree owner). I guess I just don't understand why your tree should or ever would be more important than your neighbor. If you're weighing two things, tree or person, and you're choosing the tree ... well, that just seems a little silly to me. No matter how much you like your tree. The bottom line is, trees are living things, but they don't have feelings. People do. And I just think that people's feelings, and getting along, and being neighborly are more important than a tree.

I'm not talking about cutting down trees here. Tree removal is a whole 'nother ball of wax. But trimming? Maintaining? And privacy is another valid reason to keep trees at a certain thickness or height and I'm fine with that too. People have a right to a certain amount of privacy. But if privacy is not the issue, then I simply don't understand the problem. If your tree impedes your neighbor and they ask you to trim it I think that you should. End of story.

In this particular case I'm really not taking sides. Both of my neighbors are nice to me and the tree in question has no impact whatsoever on my life so it's not my place to be in the middle of this issue. My point is just that there are so many more important things to spend time and energy on. Being nice to our neighbors who need our help, for one thing (think globally, act locally and all).

We want our politicians to be non-partisan. To "reach across the aisle". But I'm starting to undestand that we want this for our politicians because, if my neighborhood is any example, we're unable to do this ourselves. Obviously God knew that this neighbor thing was going to be tough. He gave Moses two commandments specifically relating to neighbors. That's right. One fifth of the commandments talk about neighbors. That tells you something.