December 30, 2017

Dec 3
Descanso Garden, 12/3/17 (watercolor, Inktense pencil and watercolor crayon)

It’s about to be a new year and this post is my idea of a wrap up of 2017 I guess. Of course what I have to say has some heavy-handed symbolism, with a few of my stories that are sprinkled with my abounding love of art. And it’s a time where I get to take myself way too seriously. Ha! Gotta love that. This year, as well as any year for that matter, it’s all about special moments–like a moment in the sun when the light is just right. I got to thinking about reflecting on the year as light filled moments on December 21, the shortest day of year. Years ago, I realized I needed a certain number of sunny days in a row to really be happy and somewhat “centered.” Being raised in Silicon Valley we had many sunny days, and that was good. But as is typical of my native CA brethren and me, we move frequently. And I didn’t stay in Silicon Valley once I had graduated from high school. After that I lived in San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego and Berkeley (as well as a couple other East Bay cities—Walnut Creek and San Ramon), Santa Clara, Long Beach, Paso Robles, Grass Valley, Glendale and La Crescenta. (And that list is not in any particular order.) The year between my sophomore and junior years in college I ventured far from sunny California and lived in Munich. As I soon discovered, that’s a place with way too many cloudy days in a row for me. I remember a moment in the sun one particularly cloudy spring day. I had just stepped off the strassenbahn near the room I rented in a flat in Schwabing, which is near the Englische Garten. People on the street were dressed in their usual heavy wool coats and hats, carrying shopping bags, and they were shuffling along past the many store windows. It was another cloudy day and I had gotten used to no sun. All of a sudden the clouds parted and everything was bathed in sunlight. All the shuffling immediately stopped and it got very quiet. That crowd of people had turned to face the sun, standing so still that it looked like a huge army of shadows had materialized as if by magic. I stopped too, but more or less to look at the frozen bodies all around me. After 20 seconds or so the sun went back behind the clouds, never to return that afternoon or many other subsequent afternoons. The people unfroze and resumed whatever journey they were on that previous moment. I had met some people from the States that were doing doctoral research at the University of Michigan. They said the Germans loved being outdoors, especially on a beautiful sunny day. One friend had said they’d seen whole families strip down to no clothes on the side of a lake once on a particularly sunny day. It was just a moment or two in the sun that turned into an afternoon. How lovely!

When my son was little we lived in Paso Robles, a place of intense sunshine during the summer. I probably got spoiled with too many moments in the sun there because no particular moment comes to me now. After that we moved further north and lived in Grass Valley. I remember several lovely moments in the sun there, especially after days of brutal wind and snow. Once the sun came out you could see a huge blanket of snow as well as the almost individual snowflakes that had landed on the tips of leaves or were stuck to the side of fence posts or street signs. But those tiny sparkles would almost immediately start to melt once the sun came out. Just another moment in the sun.

While living in Grass Valley I had a doctor tell me that women who lived north of San Francisco probably didn’t get enough sun and that we should all take vitamin D to make up for that. I surely took that to heart and now find myself in sunny southern California. There have been so many moments in the sun here to describe and record in a watercolor. I am in a sunlit heaven. I have seen so many amazing sunsets and sunrises nestled on the hills near my house this year. Would love to see some rainbows. Maybe there will be a few more in 2018… Maybe this year you had memorable rainbows where you live…

On Christmas morning I went walking along Second Street in Belmont Shore. I carry a small scribble pad and pen with me always—just in case I see a perfect statue, strange plants or a symmetrical grouping of trees I need to capture in a moment. During previous walks on Second Street I had noticed that an artist had painted shadows on the sidewalk connected to a couple parking meters next to the curb. However, on this particular morning I started to really look at a shadow or two, madly scribbling notes about what the artist had depicted there. As I walked along I realized there were probably a dozen or more whimsical shadows painted on the concrete connected to these meters. That artist had captured a moment in the sun and had somehow created a beachfront southern California story I was really interested in. I’d been down the street countless times and had not noticed all those shadows. It occurred to me there were usually lots of people milling around down there, looking in windows, pushing a stroller, walking their dogs and/or waiting to be seated in a café. So, normally all those painted shadows would have obliterated by the real shadows of people, strollers and dogs. (I have spoken in the past about my distaste for people and now I had irrefutable proof of their infamy.) But since it was Christmas morning lots of the stores and cafes were closed, save a coffee shop or two. There was virtually no one walking around, or pushing a stroller with a dog attached.

Here is a list of those Second Street shadows, in order: 1. Parking meter with a bird in flight just above it, 2. Dog on a leash (sitting on the concrete) as though it was attached to the actual meter, 3. Two crows in profile perched on the side of the parking meter, 4. Parking meter with 2 pelicans in flight above the meter, 5. No shadow of a parking meter, but rather the shadow of a large dog, 6. Parking meter with a person putting money in the meter, 7. No shadow of a parking meter, but rather the shadow of a young girl on an adult’s shoulders, 8. No shadow of the parking meter, but the shadow of a very large crow, 9. No shadow of a parking meter, but the shadow of a heron with the heron’s reflection in water with 3 fish in the water within reach of the heron. There may have been more parking meter shadows further down the street, but I had gone past a coffee shop and turned around to get a cappuccino.

I guess the final thoughts I have about memorable moments in the sun in 2017 (or any year), is to remember to remember what you have seen or felt in a particular moment. Not everyone will capture a moment in a watercolor or see a series of shadows on a sidewalk on Christmas morning. But don’t forget to notice momentary snowflakes, blazingly amazing sunsets and sunrises, rainbows or the occasional impromptu army of German shadows on the sidewalk on a busy spring day. Such moments should not to be missed!

Happy New Year!

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