appreciate

appreciation

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Typically, I’m about a year behind on watching movies—sometimes longer. 

A few reasons: we don’t make it to the theater much (a product of having two young children), movies take time to watch, and there are a lot out there to catch up on.

That said, we saw La La Land recently. This is hardly a review, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. The songs were great and I got to relive my experiences of life in LA, including my pursuits as both a budding actress and an underground jazz club owner.

Ok, maybe not the last bits.

One thing I found ironic (not sure if it was purposeful) was the song, “City of Stars” since, as anyone who lives there knows, both the light pollution and air pollution prevent the seeing of many celestial bodies in the sky. 

Something that really stuck out to me, and the point of this post (yes, I’m getting to it finally), was the presentation of this universal truth: 

You often won’t appreciate something until you see someone else enjoy it.

I don’t think the following is much of a spoiler, but, if you care, be warned.

One of the main characters, Mia, comes out early on in her relationship with Sebastian informing him that she hates jazz. Sebastian, however, is a jazz enthusiast who dreams of starting his own jazz club in hopes to revive the art form.

Sebastian takes the time to sit Mia down and show her why he loves jazz so much. Over the course of the movie, his excitement rubs off and she, too, learns to appreciate jazz.

Now, I’m no jazz buff, but I’ve seen the same story played out many a time through movies and real life. One person has a real passion for a hobby, sport, art form, etc. Eventually, as that passion is lived out, it spreads and others share the same love.

Why does this happen? Excitement spreads.

I’ve definitely seen it happen with board games, and it’s worked on both sides of the table (heh). I’ve learned to enjoy them because of other friends and family who shared them with me. In turn, I’ve shared them with my own friends and family and their interest has grown.

That’s the beauty of creativity: when you share what you love, others learn to appreciate and enjoy the same things you do. A community develops.

I encourage you, take time to sit with someone else and learn about the things they love and why. You may be surprised how your interests change and what you discover. 

In the same way, don’t be afraid to share what you love with others. You just might find a friend or a fellow aficionado. Hey, maybe you’ll find yourself dancing across tables playing jazz flute. You’ll never know until you try.

A brief regard of slow things

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With apologies to Patrick Rothfuss ...

Things take time. Some very good things take a long time.

I’ve been learning to appreciate this, to enjoy the process itself.

The Sequoia national forest is a good place to observe this. Those immense trees have been around for hundreds of years through fire and storm and they just keep on steadily growing. They are remarkable in many ways and, unlike a Los Vegas hi-rise, they didn’t sprout up overnight.

Most of the time, I want to rush everything. Whether it’s my culture or personality (let’s just blame culture, shall we), my tendency is toward instant gratification.

I want it now. Actually, I wanted it yesterday, but since we haven’t quite got time travel down, now will have to do. 

A lot of businesses run this way (even my own at times), and I think the frantic demand for faster and more is killing us.

It definitely doesn’t help where sleep deprivation is concerned.

These last few months have been more a time of rest than rush for me. While I still struggle with feeling unproductive and unaccomplished, I think there is a definite positive side to taking things one slow, measured step at a time. 

The theory holds true with compound interest—very small amounts added in over time equal a much greater end result than a few large deposits.

I heard about a study where they had one group wear spf 15 sunscreen every day and the other wear 65 spf only when they were outside and it was sunny. The result, after only 5 years, was the 15s looked about the same and the 65s look noticeably older. 

Hey, maybe I’m not so crazy when I fret about unprotected exposure to even trace amounts of sunshine. Mr. Sun is a big meanie. 

Anyways, I’m trying to enjoy more things that take time. Lately, I’ve been making batches of cold brew coffee, which, in my completely accurate opinion, tastes way better than the hot brewed kind. But it takes 24 hours of brewing as well as some prep work and cleanup.

Besides the end result (smooth, delicious coffee), the process itself is kinda fun. It makes me feel like some kind of coffee connoisseur.

In my office, I’ve got a standing desk with a hand crank. It was way cheaper than the electronic one. It takes longer and requires some effort to crank that baby up and down a few times a day, but it’s also a nice little break for me.

Sure, it’s more work to grow your own vegetables rather than buy them from the store, to write a letter by hand, or to take a break and soak your feet at the end of the day. But the attention required by slow things leads to a greater appreciation, and, ultimately, enjoyment of the thing itself.

So take a break now and then, smell the flowers or put a kettle of hot water on the stove for some tea. You may just find yourself smiling. 

And, hey, you could use a break.

beautiful things

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We recently took our kids to the local zoo for the first time. All-in-all, it was pretty nice. 

For a small-time operation (at least compared to the San Diego and LA zoos) they had some notable animals. And the people working there were laid back and friendly. 

We got to pet a miniature horse who was being taken on a walk, see the tiger get her breakfast, and were even greeted by some free-roaming peacocks. Most importantly, they had a great play area—oh, and also owls (my daughter’s favorite).

There are many positive things about zoos: they educate us about wildlife, they’re usually a nice outing, and they play a large part in protecting and breeding endangered species. Still, I can’t help but feel a little sad when I see a wild creature trapped in a cage, even if it is being treated well and eating much healthier and living much longer than it would in its natural habitat. 

It feels like I’m cheating by enjoying the experience in such a manner. It’s not the way things were meant to be. A tiger in a cage chowing down is actually still fearsome (that growl will make anyone shiver a little), but it’s nothing like a tiger catching her pray out in the wilds of mother nature. 

Zoos remind me of one of my recent favorite movies, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s during the scene where Mitty finally meets up with the man he processes photos for, Sean O'Connell, whom he has been hunting down almost the whole movie. Sean is in the process of photographing a snow leopard. But then he stops and doesn’t take the picture. He drops one of my all-time favorite lines,

"Beautiful things don't ask for attention."

It makes me a little sad that animals must be caged and put on display to be preserved, appreciated, and enjoyed today. But even more, it makes me think about the surprising beauty of life—those special moments, those rare spottings, where everything is just right and instead of feeling the need to capture, preserve, and make a sad attempt at enjoying it forever, you just sit there and soak in the moment with a sense of awe. 

You can’t cage something like that. And there’s no use parading it around, because if you do—you’ll lose the beauty.

I talked with an acquaintance recently who is going through a difficult divorce. After expressing how much of a struggle it has been for him, he said, even so, he still experiences moments of joy and peace. Though he sleeps by himself and is lonely, there are times where he’ll throw a warm blanket over his cold feet, or times when he’ll hold his grandson and just be thankful to be alive.

It reminds me of the part in the first Die Hard movie about making fists with your toes in the carpet. Sometimes it’s the little things in life, you know?

Personally, I try to look for beauty wherever I can. I try to enjoy every moment of it. I hug my kids tight, I try never to miss even a halfway decent sunrise or sunset, I try to recognize the funny little moments that just happen. And I try to remember often and daily just how good a life I have. 

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But I also think beauty is found by those who look for it.

So often presentation plays a big part in the things we consider beautiful. But I think the most beautiful things are natural, they need no presentation but just are.

I encourage you to live a life not only searching for beauty, but also giving some of your own to the world, in your own, natural and untamed way.

 

Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.
-Andy Warhol

in a moment

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This post is something of a follow-up to the previous one, on record.

I don’t think any of us truly appreciate how much weight a moment carries. Or maybe I’m the only one and the rest of y’all got it figured out but aren’t telling me. Hey, fess up already will ya?

We often repeat phrases of encouragement like, “live in the moment,” or, “be in the moment,” or the classic, “carpe diem,” which, shockingly, has little to do with fish or ten cent coins.

And I like all that stuff, I really do, but how to live it isn’t always clear to me. Moments and days aren’t easy to lay hold of. Time itself is tricky; it keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.

But hey, we’re talking about just a moment here. A fraction of time so small it’s hard to measure. Surely that can’t be so hard to grasp. And moments are so plentiful, like a bucket stuffed with fish, they should be a cinch to snatch.

Could be it’s because there are so many of them, we forget their value. And what do you do with it once you’ve got it anyways? I mean, it’s all wet and slapping you in the face now! The fish, I mean.

Maybe moments are more like a giant stream full o’ fish just swimming on by. Sure, you can get a few in a net, you can try to capture those precious moments, but, unlike pokemon, there’s no way you can catch them all.

Yes, moments are important, but does each hold the same weight? It doesn’t seem that way. But I do think every moment, even the most mundane, holds the great potential.

One decision can be made in a moment which entirely changes the course of your life. You might choose to quit your job, move, forgive someone, take up drinking, quit drinking, run away, get married, or even join the rotary club. A reputation may be destroyed in a split-second decision.

And unexpected things can happen in just a moment, ground-breaking, earth-shaking things. There is a magic to the moment.

Moments are plentiful, powerful, and unappreciated.

I might never be able to hold every moment sacred while also releasing it to allow time for the next. Still, I do try to pause now and then, just to take things in—to take a breath and notice where I am, to enjoy people I'm with, and to just be thankful for it all.

Once I have it all figured out, I’ll let you know, momentarily.