why I might like summer a little

We all have our favorites, and that’s ok. My favorite TV show is Food Network’s “Chopped.” My favorite sound is that of quiet, if quiet can qualify as a sound. My favorite season is Fall, followed closely by Spring and then Winter. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever been a big fan of summer. I don’t particularly enjoy hot weather; 70 degrees is as warm as I’d like on any given day.  But some snapshots over the weekend may have changed how I feel about summer, at least just a little bit. Each season has its own emotional attachments, its flavors, its appropriate behaviors. I suppose in Southern California more than anywhere else, you could go to the beach in December and it might make just a little sense. But only a little. Every Christmas, I always tell myself I should just slowly buy and wrap gifts throughout the year and avoid the mad crunch in December. So practical, but it just wouldn’t feel right to wrap a Christmas gift in April. We are people shaped by seasons.

And so, from a non-summertime gal, here is my ode to the joys of summer.

Summer is a season for bubbles, lots of them!

Summer is a season for outdoor crafts.

Summer is a season for boys being boys.

Summer is a season for stealing moments and sharing secrets.

Summer is a season for eating cake shaped like fishies in an ocean because pumpkin pie is for Thanksgiving and classy cakes are for Christmas. But cakes shaped like fishies in an ocean, those are especially reserved for the summer, of course!

What is your favorite season, and why?

the world comes alive

There is something about photography that causes a deep place in me to come alive. I inherited my father’s serious, at times overly somber personality. But when I have my camera in hand, my heart beats with the anticipation of finding beauty:

Wonderful, hopeful, surprising, delightful, simple beauty.

I can feel the transformation in my heart when I take pictures for this simple quest for what is good and lovely. My eyes look past facades. They look for something that is beyond cliche. I don’t want the easy pictures, the generic pictures, I want the real thing. My eyes search out corners, cracks, expected places, unexpected places. There is no end to what can be found in any time and any space when my heart and eyes begin to search this way. A new way of seeing what I thought I’d already seen. Seeing what I had never seen before.

Wonderful, hopeful, surprising, delightful, simple beauty.

Abbot Kinney Road, Venice, CA

courage is a curious thing

Sometimes, we throw around phrases without really knowing what we are asking of ourselves or of others. Take courage. I have had a number of friends use that word courage with me in recent conversations.

It takes courage to live in community.

It took a lot of courage for those parents to withdraw life support.

That patient was so courageous in his years of battling his disease.

Courage is a curious thing. It is not quite like strength. It is more pliable, more dynamic. Strength takes on a more solid form regardless of its context. Courage, however, can take on new skin as its circumstances change. For many of our patients and their families, they take courage for weeks, months and years as they fight for the patient’s life. They take courage to undergo surgeries, to tolerate the debilitating side effects of strong medications, to endure agonizing hours of rehabilitation. But for many of these same patients, there sadly comes a point when they are challenged with what can feel like a complete undoing of courage itself. But in reality, it is simply a transformation. Going from the courage to live, to the even greater courage to die. Some families in our unit struggle deeply with this, and become stuck. Part of the reason, I believe, is because there is a moral aspect attached to courage, particularly in the context of a pediatric intensive care unit. (Or at the very least, there is a social aspect, because typically in situations where courage is required, other people are affected.) Purported courage without wisdom can easily slip into recklessness. Courage with wisdom does not come easily.

In another context, my artist friend Chia has a tagline on his business card, “Creativity takes courage.” I never fully understood this until I started becoming more aware of my fears. In my creative life, I began to notice that moment of hesitation, that quiver in my stomach whenever I finished a piece of writing, finished processing a set of photographs, or sat on the verge of playing an improvised melody. In the lingering seconds before opening these up to the world, I would feel those surprising yet familiar trembles in my gut. I began to realize there is a certain vulnerability that you open yourself up to when you share expressions of yourself to others. You begin a certain kind of dialogue with others when you begin to share your creative self, and in that dialogue, the door to criticism opens, whether you ever actually hear that criticism or not. But so too opens the door to exhilaration, encouragement, self-discovery, and growth.

It takes courage to live in community. This is not to say that we all need to become socialites, as Adam McHugh articulated so wonderfully in his book, which is gospel to introverts like myself. But introverted or extroverted, living in community requires creativity because we must learn how to define, accept and express our unique selves in the context of relationship. And creativity takes courage.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” True courage can feel, at times, terrifyingly elusive. But when it is found, its beauty and value are beyond measure.