If you have consciously or serendipitiously arrived here, welcome. I’m Fran, aka Redondowriter, and my interests include family, friends, writing, reading, art, computers, storytelling, spirituality, photography, animals—and exploring the layers of everyday life.
I wonder if there is an elementary school in the nation that doesn't have a Halloween parade. It was a long time ago, but I sure remember being in them when I was a kid--although I have no memory of any costume I ever wore.
So, it was delightful to go to my grandson's Halloween parade today and to the concert that followed.
This is Fritz, age 6, who is an officer and a gentleman and a kindergartner.
Unforftunately, I didn't get any pictures of Henry in the parade but he looked like Napoleon to me. I did get a picture of the boy's mom, however. Be sure to read the sign around her neck, which I'm embarrassed to say she had to explain to me. I had forgotten the witch part.
And this is a dear friend, who though retired, often subs at school.
Yesterday I posted about the Tibetan monks who came to my school to create a sand mandala. Part of this painstakingly beautiful and detailed process is the deconstruction of the creation which began at 2:30 p.m. The library was packed with children from 5 to 18, faculty, staff, parents. Everyone was mesmerized. The children were raptly attentive. The man who came with the monks explained the impermanence of the mandala and a beautiful ceremony followed with lots of chanting and instruments. I saw several people with tears in their eyes--and I was one of those people.
Here are two photos of the mandala when it was completed. The spokesman said this is a simple mandala but the larger ones take days to make--with the deconstruction being the sacred culmination.
The monks wore special clothing for the deconstruction ceremony--very colorful. The following photos show the monks in ceremonial dress and then one of the deconstruction itself. I will never, ever forget this.
The grains of sand ultimately lay in a small pile in the center of the table. Then the monks, using a small brass tool, filled tiny bags with sand for those who wanted to take some sand home. I got really teary when I got my sand and I thought to myself, "I want to have my family bury me with these grains of sand."
If you go to YouTube and type sand mandalas, there are countless videos of various sizes of mandalas you can see. I'm still feeling awe struck.
When I first wake up in the morning, I lie in bed for a while and say what I call my gratitudes. Then I briefly pray for a safe day and ask that when miracles are happening around me, I’ll be “awake” enough to notice. I'm of a mind that miracles absolutely bombard us continuously, but we're too busy to notice.
Imagine my surprise and delight to come into my office at school this morning, which is in the library, and the first thing I noticed were Tibetan monks at work. Something was very, very different than usual. At the far end of the room was a puja table with a photo of the Dalai Lama, another table with artists tools, and a tall black table with a few robed Tibetan monks drawing the outlines for what I later found out was to be a two-day creation of a sacred Tibetan art form, the Sand Mandala.
All day long I’ve had meetings inside my office so I missed the opening ceremony at 10 a.m., but could hear the chanting and instruments right outside the door. Students, faculty and staff streamed through the library the entire day and I’ve never heard the library so quiet. Even the smallest of children was deeply respectful and amazingly focused. Photos were allowed. Even my two young grandsons (6 and 7) came to watch. Periodically I’ve gone out to snap photos and simply sit quietly watching them. Just watching them is a form of meditation.
If you Google sand mandalas, you will find countless sites with photos of monks at work. If you click on this Tibetan healing mandala link you will find detailed information.
In a nutshell, the Tibetan mandala is a tool for gaining wisdom and compassion and generally is depicted as a tightly balanced, geometric composition wherein deities reside. The principal deity is housed in the center. (I draw mandalas in my art journal periodically and have long been fascinated with them.) The mandala serves as a tool for guiding individuals along the path to enlightenment. Monks meditate upon the mandala, imagining it as a three-dimensional palace. The deities who reside in the palace embody philosophical views and serve as role models. The mandala's purpose is to help transform ordinary minds into enlightened ones.
Sand mandalas constructed from sand are unique to Tibetan Buddhism and are believed to effect purification and healing. Typically, a great teacher chooses the specific mandala to be created. Monks then begin construction of the sand mandala by consecrating the site with sacred chants and music. Next, they make a detailed drawing from memory. Over a number of days, they fill in the design with millions of grains of colored sand. At its completion, the mandala is consecrated. The monks then enact the impermanent nature of existence by sweeping up the colored grains and dispersing them in flowing water.
I’m working late tonight and the tall black table is cordoned off until morning. Our phona-thon starts in the library tonight and here's this incredible symbol just sitting there while life continues on. I swear, however, there is an energy in this building that could blow the roof off. You can be sure I won't miss the closing ceremony scheduled for 2:30 p.m. tomorrow.
Wow, when I woke up this morning little did I know that something so amazing would happen. Following are a few photos.
Just when you thought I was gone forever, I've resurfaced to say Happy Halloween from Sophia and me.
I look at her little wasp waist and hourglass figure and remember when I looked like that long ago.
I got her dress and and wig from a garage sale for next to nothing. Her hat, necklace and flowers are from the 99 Cent Store.
I also put up my annual ofrenda, or Day of the Dead altar and photographed it this afternoon so I'll post a photo in the next few days. I'm still fine-tuning it. This was, unfortunately, a year when we lost several friends and I'm still gathering photos. One long-time friend is near death in a local hospital as I type this.
I can't recommend The Social Network enough and I recently finished Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Nieffenegger. Audrey also has a graphic novel out I just finished called The Night Book Mobile. Both Symmetry and Book Mobile are perfect reading for the Halloween season.
Where have I been? Darned if I know. At the beginning of the month I had a tough work schedule but since then I've been mostly buried in books and art work, coming up for air occasionally to see a movie or go out with friends to eat or to a concert.
Sophia says to tell you that she is utterly sick and tired of political ads and that you may come trick or treating if you bring Lady Godiva chocolate.
A close up of her Halloween face is below. As far as I know, neither of us are actually celebrating on Sunday night, but we might watch a DVD together.
"Dependence generates anger, shame, defiance. It’s acceptable only for the very young; among adults, it’s not merely an uncomfortable personal reality, it’s un-American. We are all supposed to be able to take care of ourselves, apparently forever." – Paula Span, New York Times.
I am one of the “lucky” ones who appears to be aging gracefully, but like most Americans who are 70+, I occasionally lapse into a state of fearful limbo where I worry about what will come of me as life narrows down. In my group of friends lately there have been a lot of deaths and I know as I age, this will become far more common. One of the gifts of having a large family and group of friends is that ultimately you will suffer with them and attend their funerals, or vice versa. Sigh! One of the early teachers at our school, who is also a friend, is probably one of the most independent women I've known. After a year of bad health, she will be moving soon to assisted living.
When a friend in Minneapolis shockingly reported that recent Norwegian houseguests had been in a fatal accident on Monday in the U.S., something inside me snapped. I know all about impermanence, but when it rears its ugly head, I am sometimes breathless and then de-energized for a few days following. Fortunately I have my written journals, art journals and SoulCollage where I tend to work out things rationally or simply creatively when I can't put feelings into words. I also am a great proponent of "scheduling the pain." I'll set the alarm for an hour now and then and feel the feelings and then get back to living a day at a time.
I once had five sisters; there are three of us left now which brings me back to my beginning quote on independence/dependence. Virginia, the sister who is 11 years older than I am, has gone through a hellish set of months of bad health and emotional breakdown. She has now settled into a group home in Las Vegas that she is successfully adjusting to; fortunately, she has the resources, but how she grieves for life in her beautiful home which is only a few miles from her current group home. A widow, she has Parkinsons Disease and is under assessment now for dementia and/or Alzheimers. She is 84-years-old.
My soon-to-be 87-year-old sis Betty, who lives independently in Washington in her own home, has begun to look at assisted living facilities with a plan to relocate by spring time of 2011. I call her my Energizer Bunny sister with a remarkable optimism given all that she has gone through in her life. Widowed three years ago, she completed treatment for stage 3B lung cancer some months ago. But the rigorous treatment has taken its toll and she has slowed considerably. She is a practical woman who still drives but realizes she just can't be alone much longer.
Years ago I purchased long term care insurance "just in case," but I'm another fortunate one who will be able to afford to downscale and live communally if I have to. I would prefer not to.
So, tell me how you cope with life as it begins to change and narrow. Do you have some techniques that you use that help you feel safe when fearful thoughts when they rear their ugly heads?
On Sunday evening of alumni weekend at my school there was a reception at one of the early (1927) Spanish-style houses. This house had once been deeded to the founders of my school, but it is privately owned now. I just wanted to share with you a few of the decorating touches that I photographed and the lovely view of Redondo Beach and the Pacific Ocean as seen from one of the house's terraces. The current owners have restored the house to its original grandeur--and made many interior upgrades. The house is above the Palos Verdes Golf Club and it is a genuinely magical place.
"Back in the day" the founders actually owned the house next door as well and many students actually lived in these houses dormitory-style. I live in the lowlands of Redondo Beach that you see off in the distance of the scenery shot. Don't you just love the white Day of the Dead bride?
My favorite garden and museum in Los Angeles is The Huntington in San Marino. As part of my school's alumni weekend, several of us took a bus today to specifically see the Peter and Helen Bing Children's Garden and the relatively new Chinese Garden. One week ago today the Garden Director (we got a private tour) said it was 114, so it was far better in the rain today although the colors didn't pop as much.
Here are three photos I'm sending on the fly:
If double click this photo you will see two spiderwebs.
Every opening in the Chinese garden is another window to utter beauty.
Though my trip today was technically for my work, it definitely felt like a vacation. We also had high tea in the Tea Room, which is every bit as good as the Empress Hotel in Victoria. What a nice way to spend a rainy day.