What the Mind Does

Funny how you’ll read something and it’ll spark this whole train of thought* … but here was an interesting thing that popped up: on the night I graduated from high school in Merced, California, Charles Ogletree Jr (yes, that one) came up to me and requested a celebratory kiss, and I obliged him (because, duh, I was full of myself back then, even with my boyfriend standing right there). It mightily annoyed said boyfriend, even though it was nothing more than a friendly—and quick—smooch. Charles was a scrawny kid, not tall, not possessed, yet, of the stature he would earn by his accomplishments.

He went on to Stanford University with a few of my classmates and from there to Harvard Law School, and subsequently a professorship at the university, where he taught, among many others, Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson (later Obama, of course). You can read more about him here; his is an impressive career, an impressive life.

I snagged this photo from Ogletree’s page at his speakers’ bureau, Collaborative Agency Group.

It was announced in July 2016 that he has early-stage Alzheimer’s, and that news broke quickly in the world and among my old Merced crowd. None of us have seen him in decades, I should point out, but we were proud of him from a distance, and we’re all sorry to know this news. There’s been some better, hopeful news on the horizon for Alzheimer’s patients; one hopes he gets the benefit of the latest treatments and that his twilight years are exceedingly happy ones.

But what I wondered, though, that night in bed, feeling the synapses fire between the Coates and Ogletree, who sprang into my mind unbidden, was this: I wonder who else of my friends he kissed that night? Funny, how the mind works.

* It was Ta-Nehisi Coates’s We Were Eight Years in Power, the introduction to the sixth essay, which speaks of “how black families had been cut out of the FHA loan program and thus excluded from much of the suburban housing development in the postwar years … [which] was a great source of the wealth for American families.” Including me. My first husband and I financed more than one early home with FHA loans. This train of thought really got my attention—and broke my heart.

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The Zen of Balanced Rocks

My sister lives on the West Coast, in a small town. The house she and her husband live in is not far from the beach, and every day she goes down to the water. To walk the dog. To get some exercise and fresh air. To meet up with friends. (To meet new ones, too, but you can’t exactly plan that.) And so on.

She often takes photos of the things she sees. Usually the dog. Friends. Her kids. Or beach art.

Beach art takes many forms. Sometimes people make something with the sand. Sometimes seaweed arranges itself artfully. Sometimes there’s a stack of rocks.

Sunset …

Sunset …

My sister has a whole collection of these photos. I didn’t realize that rock-balancing is a thing. (But then, I work too much.)

Simple, pyramidal.

Simple, pyramidal.

Stacking rocks, of course, has been around for centuries. A human-made pile of rocks is called a cairn; they have been used as landmarks or signs, trail markers, even as gravesites. Probably a lot as burial sites.

And as art.

This one looks like a bird perched on a square rock, don’t you think?

This one looks like a bird perched on a square rock, don’t you think?

It’s a creative outlet. People go down to the beach just to do this.

Seriously, I can’t even imagine how this one is balanced. But there it is.

Seriously, I can’t even imagine how this one is balanced. But there it is.

A nice mixture of large and small.

A nice mixture of large and small.

If I lived near a beach, I suspect I might try it too.

This one looks pretty tall!

This one looks pretty tall!

Sometimes my sister participates; sometimes she just photographs.

It’s a family affair. SIL and daughter on the left, husband and dog on the right.

It’s a family affair. SIL and daughter on the left, husband and dog on the right.

The tide, of course, washes most of them away.

Getting tricky. See the one on top?

Getting tricky. See the one on top?

Again, I can’t imagine how this is done.

Again, I can’t even imagine how this is done.

The tide won’t take this one down.

The tide won’t take this one down.

And yet, every day … another stack of rocks appears. Think about that.

Same rocks, different angle.

Same rocks, different angle.

New every day.

Silhouette.

Silhouette.

And then sometimes … there’s something different. My sister didn’t know what this was, but thought it was special. Perhaps it was someone’s swearing-in ceremony.

A swearing-in ceremony on the beach? Don’t know.

A swearing-in ceremony on the beach? Don’t know.

What do you do when you go to the beach?

NOTE: All photos taken by my sister, Jill.

Fall Foliage Is Here … Or Almost Here

A friend of mine brought this piece to my attention, and since I get excited about the color change in my own front yard, I thought I’d pass it along.

The front yard, Tennessee, October 2014.

The front yard, midmorning, Tennessee, October 2014.

Fifty small (American) towns with beautiful fall foliage, it says. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys a Sunday drive—and I am—you’ll enjoy scrolling through this list. Around here (Middle Tennessee), folks often go to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge (both on the list) in East Tennessee. And hey, if you’re that far east, drive on into Cherokee, North Carolina (on the list too). I’m a fan of Asheville, North Carolina, myself—and this list mentions Weaverville, “just minutes” away.

My friend—we grew up together in California—was pleased to see Mount Shasta on the list, but noted two other California sites for enjoying fall foliage: the Sonora Pass (the second highest highway pass in the Sierra Nevada) and Hope Valley (located on the south side of Highway 88 not far from Lake Tahoe). I don’t know, however, what the wildfires may have done to these locations this year.

They’re talking about an early winter here, so don’t waste any time once the leaves begin to turn. Get out from behind the computer, drive slow and safe, and report back. I’m hoping to see some nice fall colors when I’m in Ireland next month. And I’ll take photos!

Same tree, different angle, October 2013.

Same tree, different angle, late afternoon, October 2013.

 

Keith Haring Exhibit—Don’t Miss It

Wikipedia says the late Keith Haring’s “imagery has become a widely recognized visual language of the 20th century.” I don’t know about that, specifically, but I can tell you that for me it is iconic, it represents the time I came of age. (And Haring too: he was just five years younger than me.)

So I’d like to recommend that if you are going to be in San Francisco between now and 16 February 2015, stop in and see “The Political Line”—

Keith Haring: The Political Line has its US premiere at the de Young and is the first major Haring show on the West Coast in nearly two decades. Many of the works are on loan from the Keith Haring Foundation, New York, with supplemental loans from public and private collections. Several pieces have not been published or on public view since the artist’s death, in 1990.

I fully recognize Haring’s art might not be for everyone but … I love it. It’s so … alive! So full of movement! It’s familiar but still feels fresh. Drop in at the Keith Haring Foundation and cycle through the photos there and you’ll see what I mean.

Image from the de Young’s website.

Image from the de Young’s website.