Friday, May 29, 2015

Moving Forward

So, the time has come.  In the previous thirty-something posts on this blog, we have looked into the sights ... that inspired the thoughts ... that set the tone ... that drove the action ... in my recently-released book, Deep Disparity.

For those who have already read the book, I hope that the photos embellish the story in your mind's eye.

For those who have not read the book, maybe the photos will entice you to read the story to linger a bit longer in the settings displayed by them.

In any case, for me it is the time to move forward.  To consider the next story, the next inspirations, the next tones, the next actions that will ensue.  The next book ...

I have made a start.  But the publication of more blog posts related to the development of the new story will wait for a time.  Most fiction authors say that, though they have the general concept of a story's progression in mind when they begin, the story and characters often develop lives of their own during the writing.  

Places expected and unexpected are visited, as a result.  For now, one small, pictorial preview for you of a place that will likely figure strongly in the next story:

TGV High-Speed Train, Gare de l'Est, Paris, France

I wonder where this train will take us ...

Friday, May 22, 2015

Peaceful Remembrances

Huang Sculpture Garden, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California

The Memorial Day weekend is here.  Does it bring images of the repercussions related to soldiers, uniforms, weapons and military prowess?

Or perhaps, now and then, does it convey visions of peace, the sounds of gently flowing water, the caress of sun-touched breezes.  As here, in the peaceful sculpture garden at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California.

Battlefields or peaceful gardens.  The eternal question and dilemma ...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Visitor's Visions

Aliso Creek Beach, South Laguna, California

A young visitor from Germany was amazed by this little beach, at the southern end of Laguna Beach.  How could it be so peaceful.  So empty.  So available to everyone.  

Day after day the visitor returned, eventually choosing one of the houses along the hillside as the one that she would choose as hers, if she had the opportunity.  Later, the young visitor's mother would paint a picture of that house, captured in her own view by her daughter's photo of it.  

How many visitors, one wonders, have viewed that same house with the same thoughts.  How many photos have been taken.  How many pictures painted.  Do the owners of the house realize the wonder ...

Friday, May 8, 2015

Museum -- Gone Global

Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California

It began as it should.  Art and artifacts from the southwestern United States merged beautifully with similar objects from Central and South America within the spaces of the gem-like Bowers Museum.  

Little by little, it happened.  The world reached in toward Santa Ana's charming museum.  And the museum reached outward to the world.  The permanent collections grew and expanded in their geographic orientations.  Visiting exhibitions arrived from other continents.  A growing range of visitors accompanied these changes and they were accommodated as spacious, new galleries were built.  A peaceful sculpture garden was added.  Entertainment performances and educational presentations expanded the opportunities for an ever-growing audience.

That is how knowledge should be.  Growing, migrating, expanding and reaching out for new avenues.  People responding and reaching for the understanding paired with knowledge that improves us all.

Or should ...

Friday, May 1, 2015

An Impressive Playlist

Mockingbird in Springtime
"Oh!  I think I heard a robin!"

No, false alarm, it was a mockingbird.

High atop a tree or a chimney or a light pole, the mockingbird broadcasts his repertoire in a robust voice.  Segment after segment, each song is a replica of that of a different bird.  Then the same playlist begins again.  And again.

In Spring, the serenade may continue for hours -- sometimes with a brief pause around mid day.  Perhaps this is the time of the mockingbird's siesta?  Or maybe this is the time that he races to a nearby water source and wets his whistle for the afternoon concert.  

Surely his potential mates are as impressed as I am by his vocal prowess.  And as eager for him to return ...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Weary or Not

Harbor, Oceanside, California

A port is a delightful place of rest for a soul weary of life's battles.  (Charles Baudelaire)

At first glance, there is nothing weary about this little harbor area on a sunny morning.  Aromas of coffee emerge from seaside restaurants, padding feet clap briskly on the sidewalk, sunbeams reflect off the water.  

Maybe though, as Baudelaire suggested, it is the port itself that is the antidote for world-weariness.  Perhaps the disenchantments of the coffee-brewers, joggers and ocean-gazers simply disappeared, for a time, when they arrived at the little port.

The wonder cure, right there at the ocean's edge ...

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Fine Art of Listening

Salt Creek Park, Dana Point, CA

Soothing wisps of music float tranquilly toward me on the salty sea air.  To my left, and up the pathway, the Ritz Carlton Hotel gleams brightly beneath its palm trees.  To my right, a walking and jogging trail weaves gracefully through this public park and beach area.  But here, the gentle melodies hold my attention like glue.

Who is this guitarist who plays something classical -- by Albeniz, I think.  Is he a visitor from a faraway place, who couldn't resist the opportunity to deliver his music to, and commune with, the sea?  Is he a musician?  A composer? A captain of industry on a brief retreat from the big city?  

One could ask, between songs.  But that would risk breaking the mood, the charm, of the moment and the setting.  And so, I simply listen ... 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Beautiful Wordlessness

Flower Fields, Carlsbad, CA
Sometimes even those of us who love words must pause, surrounded by beauty that leaves us speechless.

Even these tourists seem to be lost in contemplation as they ride through the flower fields.  Wordless ...

Friday, April 3, 2015

Pacific Surflining for Beginners

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner near San Clemente, CA
Train travel, so well-known and widely used in most of the world, has become somewhat of a rarity in the United States it seems.  Train passengers, however, are not an endangered species.  From an observational standpoint, they are clearly filled with life and vibrant personality.

Or maybe it is just that the liveliness of the species is so well-displayed on certain routes.  In certain environments.  On a train trip that sends passengers gliding near the ocean, on a sunny day or better yet at sunset as the golden orb sinks into the western sky, who can resist the magnetic attraction of the Pacific Ocean views.  

Passengers raise their heads and leave nose prints on the windows, pointing out ocean-misted sights to their companions -- sometimes even to perfect strangers.  Could it be that, at least now and then, the handheld white screen has met its match?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Seeking Seagulls

Seagulls at Laguna Beach, CA

A raft of seagulls crowds the shoreline, running inland from the approaching plumes, rushing outward with the receding waves.  Over and over they go, back and forth.  Seeking something -- or nothing.  Is each one oblivious to its colleagues, caught up in the same cycle?  Are they more like humans than we think ...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Gone Fishing

Fisherman on Breakwater, Dana Point, CA

Early in the morning, the fishermen appear, walking confidently on the breakwater as if it presented no more obstacle than a sidewalk.  Well-practiced strides bear a touch of hope, at arrival.   Fishing pole in one hand, plastic cooler in the other, the fisherman knows that the expedition holds promise.

 At departure, who knows what rides in that plastic cooler.  Several fish, which will be eagerly greeted by a young family as it gathers around the dinner table?  Or perhaps nothing more than an empty water bottle, as a sport fisherman reflects on a time well-spent and fish released to their Pacific home?

In either case, that sense of "gone fishing" always makes me want to whistle a tranquil song, somehow ...

Friday, March 13, 2015

When Needed

It is sometimes said that cats come into our lives when we need them.  This seems especially true when a surprise, feline visitor shows up one day, peering in at you from your screen door.

Perhaps they know who is a cat person, and who is not.  Who wants them, and who does not.  Who needs them, and who does not?  

That extra sense, that they have, always guiding their way ...

Friday, March 6, 2015

Springtime Beauty

Beauty hovering over a parking lot

Is beauty a constant?

This tree, ablaze with the color of springtime, hovers over a parking lot.  Cars come, cars leave, doors slam, alarms squawk.  But the beauty remains, endures, enlivens.  As surely as if the tree displayed its wonders in a rambling garden.

Surely, some of the people from the cars notice Spring, on display here.  And smile.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Beautiful Arrangement

Doheny Park Beaches, Dana Point, CA
Like a beautifully assembled floral arrangement, the view toward the beaches of Doheny Park rises before us.

In a floral arrangement, there should be something low -- here, the ocean and sandy beaches.

There should be something at the middle level -- here, the buildings overlooking the small road that edges its way below the coastal cliff.

There should be something up high -- the hills of San Juan Capistrano, in the distance.

And higher still, as befits every beautiful nature scene, a vibrant blue sky provides the background.  

A beautiful arrangement.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ramos House, Repurposed

The Ramos House Café, San Juan Capistrano, CA

In the city of San Juan Capistrano, we easily find visible remnants of its history.  Much of the credit goes to a persistent band of locals who did the work necessary and took the steps required to gain listing on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.  

Here on Los Rios Street stands a study in the age-old, now reinvigorated, concept of repurposing.  The Ramos House was built in 1881 by the Aguilar family but owned for many years by the Ramos family, one of the city's oldest and best-known families.  

Now a popular small restaurant, the structure stands proudly beside the railroad tracks that brought so much life and activity to San Juan Capistrano in past times.  Could those early travelers possibly have envisioned crab cake salad with remoulade or sweet potato hush puppies with pepper jam?  

Repurposing often requires reenvisioning to make it work!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Cruising Pacific Coast Highway

Yellow Cab on PCH in Laguna Beach

Pacific Coast Highway, CA State Route 1, and as the locals call it, PCH, is over 650 miles in length.  Parts of it run very close to the coast, as here in Laguna Beach.  These near-brushes with the ocean lend a touch of rejuvenation to the journey.  Even behind the closed windows of an air-conditioned vehicle, the hint of ocean air seems to breeze in and make me open my eyes a little wider.  

And marvel at the beauty nearby.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sailing Into A Metaphor

Blue sky above, blue sea below.
It would be lovely to know, just where they will go.

Setting sail from the harbor in Dana Point, California on a sunny day is undoubtedly an exhilarating experience.  Here, safe in the inlet, within the protective barrier of the breakwater, who knows what lies ahead.  

A bit of a metaphor for life.  Sailing.

Friday, January 30, 2015

A World of Friendship and Peace

"Nakayoshi" by Anonymous Sculptor

On even the most-hurried visit to the Newport Beach Public Library, one has to smile back at the expressions on these faces.  Two children, good friends, exude happiness and contentment in this sculpture which was a gift from the city of Okazaki, Japan to the city of Newport Beach, California.  

Though the sculptor is anonymous, he or she has perfectly represented the idea of sister cities -- or as they are known in much of the world, twinned cities.  

"Good Friends" or "Nakayoshi" the sentiment is the same and a fitting reminder that peace on the macro level begins with good relationships at the micro level.  Baby steps toward a world of friendship and peace.

Friday, January 23, 2015

In the Details

Bowers Museum architectural detail

The beauty is in the detail, at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California.  The architectural detail of the museum building is just the beginning.  A permanent collection of artifacts from California and the Americas and beyond, plus a constant stream of visiting exhibits, layers a mind-expanding and culture-evoking layer of detail on top.

Which makes one wonder about that old saying,
"The devil is in the details."  

Maybe it is time for an update:
"The beauty is in the details ..."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ocean Lessons

Almost ready to roll, Dana Point, California

The ocean can be such a good example for all of us.  Huge ships and the smallest raft or kayak are welcome.  Red, yellow, black or white makes no difference.  Political attitudes are unimportant compared to nautical rectitude.   

The fresh air, wind and waves are great equalizers.  Surely.

Yet, do some sailors still feel they are more equal than others ...

Friday, January 9, 2015

San Juan Capistrano's Los Rios District

Los Rios District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Good things come in small packages.

The old adage is certainly true in the case of the Los Rios historic district of the city of San Juan Capistrano.  A walk here, on the shade-dappled street across from the train station, is a little history lesson in the people and past of the city and of the entire southern California area.  

So many lives, so many stories, over such a long time, spring forth or whisper gently as one strolls ...

Friday, January 2, 2015

Peerless Dining at the Pier

At the base of the pier in San Clemente, California, restaurant sounds clatter, almost sparkle, in the sunshine of the daytime.  And at night, the magic of candlelight and the warmth of outdoor heaters shimmer among dinner conversations.

Below, all is lively, during the daytime, or calm, in the night, as ocean waves tumble beneath the restaurant.  In such a haven, can intrigue exist?  Or will it be swept away by the great sweeper of duplicity ...

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sparkling Footprints

Footprints to the sun, at the tip of the pier in San Clemente, California.  Who has gone before and who still swims below?

These are the things that dreamers want to know.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Hello Up There!

Fashion Island Shopping Center, Newport Beach, CA

Things are looking up!  High spirits and happiness seem linked, somehow, to altitude.  We jump for joy.  We rise above troubles.  We hold our heads high when we are proud.  We go over the moon with happiness.

One can only imagine how happy and proud these sculpture figures at Newport Beach's Fashion Island must have been to rise to such heights ...

Or maybe they just had an exceptionally successful day of shopping for holiday gifts? 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Above and Beyond

Laguna Beach, California

Every now and then, I remind myself to look up!  It is so easy to just look straight ahead, as one barrels through life, always on the way to or from somewhere.  

Some places simply beckon our eyes to rove up, up and away from the usual path.  Standing at Main Beach in Laguna Beach, it is beautiful to gaze out over the ocean.  We will do that in an upcoming photo, you may be sure.

But turn around to look inland, and our eyes are naturally drawn to the upward views.  Of those hillsides above and beyond.  Surely there are stories to be told up there as well?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Richard Henry Dana's Gap Year

Richard Henry Dana, Jr. Statue, Dana Point, CA

The gap year has overtones of adventure today.  A time for young adults to see some of the world, to get in touch with their goals for the future, before continuing their studies.

In the mid 1800s, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. took a gap year of sorts from his studies at Harvard.  He signed on as a deck hand for the trading ship Pilgrim, setting off for parts unknown.  Finally arriving at California's west coast, after a long journey from Boston, he experienced plenty of adventurous times.  And he thought deeply about them, writing his epic Two Years Before the Mast in the process.  

Did this adventure shape his future life, his goals, his subsequent attitudes?  It would seem so, as he returned to his studies at Harvard, completed his degree in law, then applied his learning to advance the rights of the working man throughout his career as a lawyer and politician.  

A bit of hands-on experience worked its magic, yet again.  It set the direction for his life.  And produced a book that endures because he wrote what he knew.  

And doesn't that always ring true ... 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Aiming For These Shelves

Library, San Juan Capistrano, California

There are wonders to be found in libraries.  Shelves and shelves of books.  Today, abundant choices await us in other media as well.  And if we can't actually visit the library, libraries offer e-book collections, as close as our favorite electronic device.  

The library in San Juan Capistrano is well-visited by locals and tourists alike.  Designed by Michael Graves, the structure itself is a work of art.  You may have marveled at Disney park attractions that feature his work.  Or maybe you have admired his collection of housewares at department stores.  His post-modern style work is known, and award-winning, around the world.

Function meets form in his works.  In this library, an inner courtyard hosts cultural events.  A rambling hallway exhibits the works of local artists.  Cozy reading areas lure book-lovers to sit down and begin reading, right this very minute.

Little wonder, is it, that would-be writers hope to add their books to the shelves in these fabulous surroundings?    

Friday, November 7, 2014

Enthusiast or Obsessive?

Mustard, gotta have mustard!  

Better yet, make it an import, from a place that speaks to me, for some reason.  Maybe I've visited there, or have friends and family there, or have read about in my favorite books or seen it on my favorite cooking shows.  Or maybe that location is, in fact, renowned for the mustard that it produces.

Or is it something else that drives this inexplicable interest?  It's one thing to become an enthusiast about something, surely.  Upon introduction to that item or topic, we recognize its appeal to us.  We want to know more and more and more about it.  Or acquire lots and lots and lots of it.

And when does that interest-turned-enthusiasm progress to obsession?  When is that definitive corner rounded, when is there little likelihood of turning back, when does the exigency spring forth?

Each person, as ever, is different.  Maybe there is such a thing as the obsessive personality, hard-coded into our genetic DNA strands.  Alternatively, maybe there is just something that plucks at our heart strings, for some cosmic reason-beyond-reason and we fall in love with the topic or the idea or the object.

Are enthusiasts and obsessives in stories the ones we call quirky and eccentric?  Or is there something darker at play?  Ah, that can often be the question!

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Bells Are Ringing

Basilica, Mission San Juan Capistrano, California

What a beautiful sound, those ringing bells in the tower of this church in San Juan Capistrano!  The surrounding city is not filled with high-rise buildings, so the music moves well over the rooftops.  Yet inside the church, and if the doors are closed, the music of the bells seems somewhat distant.  

But isn't that part and parcel of churches?  A place that is away from everyday life, a sense that peaceful respite is possible for some moments of our lives, a belief that refuge can be found?

Maybe, as I have, you bought into that whole concept so widely used in television programs, especially police stories, that someone fleeing from the authorities may claim sanctuary -- protection from arrest -- as long as they remain inside a church.  But have you ever Googled that idea?  

I did that for you, earlier today.  And the answer is no.  Sanctuary in a church does not protect one from criminal arrest.  Of course, for the purposes of someone writing a story, a character may assume that refuge is still to be found there.  And act upon that assumption.  Simply requires another plot twist to resolve!

At least while inside, that character may enjoy some lovely bell-enabled musical interludes!

Friday, October 24, 2014

On the High Seas

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

Every time that I see this replica of the sailing ship The Pilgrim in Dana Point, these famous pirating words are always the first to come to mind.  Maybe it means that I am a worrier.  Something bad is likely to happen.  Or that I have visited Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland once too often!

Become a merchant seaman, face bad weather, churning seas, backbreaking labor?  As was true for the workers on The Pilgrim?  Many did, making trading voyages on vessels like this one that sailed from the east coast to the west coast of the United States during the 19th century.  But face pirates?  Now that is a different story entirely!  

 Adventurers may always have been drawn to the seas, to their inherent risks, to their unknown dangers.  And to their breathtaking beauty.  We likely are little different today, with recreation taking the lead over backbreaking labor in placing us gliding or racing over the waves.  We even hear of modern-day pirate action, from time to time.  

Are bandits drawn to the sea -- or does the deep anonymity of the sea beget bandits?  For that answer, I suppose we must search for some vestige of inner-bandit that may be found in each of us.  

The spirit of Halloween may typify my inner-bandit.  "Ahoy there!  Hand over all of your chocolate!"  Those would likely be my pirating commands upon boarding a vessel.  And then, I'd probably add, "Please" just for good measure!

Friday, October 17, 2014

San Clemente Observations

Things look quite calm from this hillside vantage point, high above the beach and pier at San Clemente.  Now and then, a train rushes by, filled with passengers headed to parts beyond.  Or not so filled with passengers, but faithfully making its appointed rounds, just in case.

Are things always -- or ever -- what they appear on the surface?  Are things really as calm as they appear from this view?  Who can tell what dramas are playing out, nearby.  

The birds that fly past gaze at me knowingly.  Perhaps they have flown near windows and observed those dramas unfolding.  Better still, maybe they gravitate toward the sounds of happiness, swooping in a for a closer look at the pleasures of time spent at the beach.  Picking up the transforming vibes of joys shared among families and friends.

Several small birds land elegantly, then flutter in the bushes behind my head.  Will they whisper little secrets of sights they have seen so that I can enhance this birds-eye view?  Or will they simply drop some whitewash on my head ...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fascinated by Harbors

Sailing ship leaving the port of Le Havre, 1851, photograph by Louis-Cyrus Macaire
Source: Gallica, Bibliotheque Nationale de France
Used with permission

I am fascinated by harbors.  

Can we imagine all of that exciting moments that have happened there.  All of the tender goodbye caresses.  All of the ebullient welcome hugs and kisses.  All of the life decisions that will be made by voyagers as a result of these voyages.

As for me, I love to imagine those life-events.  In some cases, I need to search through my knowledge of past times, distant places.  The picture above, from the mid 1800s, shows the Port of Le Havre, in northwest France.  

Many Americans may not realize it, but their immigrant ancestors from several countries in western Europe may well have departed their homelands, headed for America, via Le Havre.  These brave people boarded ships and, undoubtedly, gazed intently at the shoreline as they departed to a distant land.  For many, they would never see these shores, or their continent of birth, again.

At the same time, the exhilaration of the adventure upon which they embarked must have helped to crowd out their wistfulness.  A new world awaited them.

Each voyage, in essence, takes sailors and voyagers to new worlds.  Embarking upon new ventures, testing new waters, setting sail for adventures to come -- writing a book and sending it into navigable, though uncharted, waters is similar.

And so, we begin.  Alex Adam, Author.
Imagine that!