‘Boxing’ Day and Red Shoes!

It has been a long time since I have written a post because in recent months, so many activities took center stage in my life. First, my husband and I decided to move back to Asia, after living for so many years in  Europe. Then, a few months after we have settled down, my eldest son who had lived for most parts of his life in the United States, decided to join us.  This move entailed a lot of tedious time sorting and re-arranging all our personal belongings which we have accumulated over the years. Adjusting  to a new way of life also took so much of my time – in meeting new friends, forging and reviving old friendship, hosting lunches and dinners for friends and relatives, or attending to  invitations for a ‘get-together’. I also undertook a major extension and renovation of our kitchen in support to the increasing needs of a previously disbanded family, to one that has recently united under one roof.  When I had dealt with every little thing, and just as we were beginning to get familiarized to our present surroundings, Christmas came. Then, I got busy decorating our home to keep up with the spirit of the holidays, and with the season being a season of giving, finding those delightful little presents for the special people in my life also kept me occupied for most part of  the Christmas holidays. Days passed by as swiftly as they came – just like a breeze!…Before I realized it, the new year has set in, and then, it was time for me  to keep all the Christmas holiday decor once again and tuck away the Christmas tree in its old and almost tattered box….This is what I call my version of ‘Boxing Day’, when after the holiday season, I gather all the boxes for all the Christmas ornaments and I begin the tangible aspect of  removing and keeping all these lovely, glittering objects that have brighten up our home for that brief holiday season, tediously putting them all back into their original boxes.

Balls in different sizes, shapes, and glittering colors adorn our Christmas tree.

Big colorful balls in red, white, and silver glitter, putting a festive touch on our traditional Christmas tree.

No matter in what shape or color, surely, balls such as this can make any Christmas tree look festive.

By this time, everything ‘Christmas-y’ is now in its respective boxes.  For many months, these boxes will be forgotten, stacked at the farthest end or on the topmost part of some storage rooms. The ‘rush-rush’ of the festive holiday season, has now been replaced by the ‘hush-hush’ of the new year. The tangible, have been quickly done and gotten over; however, some intangibles still remain – such as  the joy and the happiness that have tickled my heart – brought about by a surprise visit on  Christmas morning by two cute, lovely girls,named Princess and Jessabelle, who are  daughters of a family friend. I met them at the front door, and they kissed my hand, and gave me a somewhat shy smile. They looked  like fragile dolls, garbed in colorful dresses, with matching pairs of shiny shoes. I  loved the way they have dressed up for that special day, so I  asked them to pose for a photo using  our Christmas tree as a background. I just love how their photos turned out as these have captured  that certain look of ladylike finesse from these young girls, in spite of their natural childhood innocence.

A little princess named "Princess" came to visit me on Christmas day, all dressed up in sweet lilac party dress.

Jessabelle, looking like a doll, as she posed for a photo by the Christmas tree.

These lovely ‘princesses’ reminded me of those days many, many years ago, when I was just at their age –  when I was full of innocence and wonder; that was  when I looked forward to the  Christmas holiday as a break from all those tiring, and oftentimes boring, routine school days…when I had joyful anticipation of  Christmas, firmly believing that it would be the day when all my wishes would come true.

It was a joy watching them open the tiny gift box I gave to each of them. Their excitement and genuine appreciation were so visible  as they hurriedly tore open their gift.  It didn’t seem to matter to them whether the gift was big or small; whether it was worthless or priceless, nor did they seem to have any expectation. The gratitude attitude of my surprise guests reminded to be more appreciative and grateful for the simple joys that come my way.  They may not know it, but through their sheer youthfulness, playfulness, and perhaps by the graceful way they carried themselves, and their colorful and very becoming get-ups, Princess and Jessabelle made me want to be young again; they have  made me look at life again with childlike wonder and excitement for what tomorrow will bring, in spite of my age.

Remembering how these two young girls dressed up for that special occasion, I am now inclined to throw away all my “old and serious” looking clothes in shades of pale colors, as well as all my “safe and comfy” pairs of shoes, and  start dressing the way I want to feel – happy, beautiful, upbeat, and young! I would like to  start wearing that bright red skirt I have been too embarrassed to wear on certain occasions….and those  faded pairs of blue jeans….and what the heck! I will not even think twice about  matching them with an equally bright red pair of stiletto shoes!

My favorite pair of red shoes will go very well with my red skirt or faded blue jeans...Beautiful to look at, but hey! wear them only if you are to be carried to your car or destination!

I wish everyone a wonderful new year.  May all your days be filled with many priceless, intangible presents! Smiles and Cheers!

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The Windows of Venice

Old and faded, but still glorious.

Painted in a patina kind of green, these windows seem to make this old palace come alive.

Even in its simplicity, this window exudes charm that is all at once enthralling.

These windows may look like they are crumbling down, but they have held up 'come hell or high water'...

 

Some Venetian windows are like a woman's neck, bejeweled, with pink geraniums.

An old building with windows facing the canal at Calle da Mosto Dei Colori.

Stained-leaded glass windows of the Church of San Marco, vying for attention among the equally gorgeous steeples, dome, and architectural details of the church.

Windows of a church with mosaic tiles as background details.

Vibrant blooms of petunias and geraniums, mauve louvers, and purple striped-awnings make for a very attractive window treatment.

Windows of all sorts....on the residential buildings and palaces along the canals of Venice give a theatrical effect like a backdrop for a stage or movie production.

A philosopher named Immanuel Kant, and the Bible’s verses from Matthew, said that “the eyes are the WINDOW to the soul.”….but for  visitors like me to Italy, specifically Venice, I can say that their WINDOWS are the EYES through which we can see through its soul.  The windows of Venice  may look faded but they remain glorious as ever….. simply charming…. beautiful… colorful…theatrical….artistic…. gorgeous…. resilient…practical. I can say – as their windows are, so are its people….so is Venice….

The Three Jewels

‘Fascination’ took me to the ‘Path of Enlightenment’….I have always been fascinated by this ubiquitous group of young men, walking about silently, clad in orange and garnet robes, wherever we travel.  Who are they, and what are they doing? – I thought to myself.

On one recent trip to  India, my husband Gam and I took a detour from our intended purpose there, and on a weekend, took a day tour to some scenic mountain ranges in Bangalore. On a rented SUV, we  drove up to a place on the mountain, which from afar  seemed to me a small cloistered convent. On the way up, there were vast vegetable farms, and walking towards that ‘convent’, are young men clad in orange and garnet robes! I found out then, that the glistening structures from afar  is not a convent, but a monastery – a Tibetan Monastery, where a center for monastic education is situated – and these men walking about in orange and garnet robes are either monks or young men studying the teachings and traditional practices of Buddha. For the first time in my life, I was stepping into a hidden sanctuary of the Tibetan Buddhists, named Palyul Mamgyal Jangchub Choling, meaning the ‘Victorious Land of Perfect Enlightenment. It was so unthinkable that I could be in a place like this, away from civilization, up on a mountain,  and in a monastery of believers whose beliefs are completely different from the kind of faith that I profess.This Tibetan Buddhists Monastery is  perched 3,300 meters above sea level in the mountain range of Dri-dza Zalmo Gang Mountain, close to the Dri-Chu River, within the kingdom of Dege in the Kham in Eastern Tibet.

We entered a narrow pedestrian gate, painted in red and blue, with iron works that look so misleadingly simple.

The pedestrian gate leading to the interiors of the monastery, painted in a subdued hues of red and blue.

Past that gate, one is welcomed by a big bronze bell, hanging under an ornate roof covering. The bell, I have come to know, is a symbol of emptiness and wisdom, thus, its place at the entrance of the Center for Monastic Education for Tibetan Buddhists. The bell has five spokes which signify five forms of mystical wisdom, and on it are engraved eight lotus petals, representing the eight Bodhisattvas. There are other elaborate engravings on the surface all around the bell; I guessed each figure represents certain symbolic meanings.

The big bell at the entrance to the Tibetan Center for Monastic Education, symbolizing emptiness and wisdom.

Young men clad in orange and garnet robes studying the teachings and practices of Buddha.

It is absolutely amazing to find out that as one goes deeper into the monastery, there are many works of arts, hand painted murals, and wall hangings – all of which have been done with elaborate details and vibrant colors. All the doors leading to the place of worship, to the classrooms, and to all the other areas of the monastery, are painted in rich colors of red, orange, yellow, and blue – just like the rainbow! Each door is also adorned with symbolic figures; all the art details were crafted, I surmised, with great devotion and honor to some Gods, so beloved and so revered.  All the artworks in this place were anonymously done by some great artists, but as part of the Buddhist’s teachings, these artists have to remain anonymous to remove  pride which by nature, is inherent in any sentient beings.

A pillar at the Tibetan Monastery, so delicately hand carved, painted in vibrant colors of red and yellow.

A door painted in vibrant red, leading to the place of worship, inside the Palyul Tibetan Monastery.

A close-up of a brass door knocker on the door of the monastery.

A door adorned with art murals, delicately hand carved colonnades, painted in vibrant hues of red and yellow, leading to a classroom, at the Tibetan Center for Monastic Education

A mural depicting kindness to animals, at the entrance of the school's classroom.

We are all connected....as depicted on a Tibetan mural art of an elephant, a monkey, a rabbit, and a bird - one on top of the other.

The place of worship has been elaborately designed and decorated, as a fitting homage to their God. Every piece of structure – from the gate, to the façade, to the rooftop –  all made with seemingly meticulous details.

The front view of the elaborately designed, two-tiered rooftop of the Palyul Tibetan Monastery.

An ornately designed rooftop, with a symbolical rainbow on the topmost part - painted in gold and lilac - inspired by the blue lotus flower, a fitting tribute to the God, Tara.

Corner view of the Tibetan Monastery's rooftop.

At the altar, there are several representations of the Buddha, all  in gold and ornately adorned.  Scents of incense and sandal wood pervade the dimly lit altar area, giving a mystifying effect.

Golden Buddhas adorn the place of worship of the Palyul Tibetan Monastery.

"Swirling masses of light adorn you, permeating every direction in beautiful circles....", an homage to a God, named Tara.

Being at the Tibetan monastery was literally touching new grounds for me, and going there empty of any expectations, fear, or worry, and  with nothing more except  childlike fascination, made that experience so surreal.

In this sacred sanctuary, I have come to know about the Buddhists’ way of life, where they follow what are embodied in what they call the ‘Triple Gem’ or the ‘Triple Jewels’.  They conduct their lives with a belief that there is an omnipresent force, a God, called Buddha; they live  in the practice of Buddha’s teachings, called Dharma;  and they show a genuine love for their fellowmen, known as Sangha.

We are forever seeking for that God in our life… Many times our strength is tested, we want to give up. We want to believe there is no God, because that is convenient. Indeed, there is no easy path to this kind of enlightenment….but I have come to know, that we do not seek God, because He finds us. This understanding is priceless.

May Peace and Wisdom find you…

Henry’s Bench

The inscription at the back of the bench says: “To Henry, who always sat beside me, from your loving wife, Jean”….. I found this bench in a peaceful corner of Park Hill Garden, where I went for my daily walks when we were living in London. Embraced by evergreen foliage, and centrally positioned among the Lavender and Iris garden lanes, away from the usual joggers’ path, anyone who finds it surely cannot  resist the urge to sit down on it. The bench is situated in a place that is all at once both poetic and poignant. Henry’s bench, as I reverently call it, is such a welcome respite from the tiring walks in the park. It is a place where one can read a book unfettered by its surrounding, or where one, in solitude, can simply watch the day  go by.

"To Henry, who always sat beside me....from your loving wife, Jean."

Henry’s bench had always been a part of my morning walks in the park since then, because by finding it, it was as if I have earned both the “sitting rights” to this bench, and the privilege to get to know Henry and Jean, even if only through their kindred spirits. I  sometimes imagined how Henry might have looked like and how charming a woman Jean was.  Sometimes, while seated on the bench on some solitary days, I could almost  imagine the  love and devotion that Henry and Jean had for each other. I wondered how often Jean and Henry came to this part of the garden……I thought about them as if I have known them all my life…

I dedicate this post to my  husband, Gam, in celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary last October 2, 2011. Thank you for walking with me… and sitting with me on Henry’s bench…. I love you more than you’ll ever know….S.MILES

IN MY ROSE GARDEN

“Every woman knows that a flower unplucked is but left to the falling, and nothing is gained by not gathering roses…”

…”So we must join hands in the dew coming coldly. There in the hush of wood that reposes. And turn and go up to the open door boldly, and knock to the echoes as beggars for roses…”

…”Pray, are you within there? Bestir you, bestir you! there’s two come for roses…”

..”We do do loosen our hands intertwining,(not caring so much what she supposes), there when she comes on us mistily shining, And grants us by the silence the boon of her roses…”

As I was gathering some of my photos on roses, I remembered this short but lovely and descriptive poem by Robert Frost, entitled “Asking for Roses”, an excerpt which I would like to share with you:

So we must join hands in the dew coming coldly, There in the hush of the wood that reposes, And turn and go up to the open door boldly, And knock to the echoes as beggars for roses.” 

Pray, are you within there? Bestir you, bestir you! ‘Tis summer again; there’s two come for roses.”

A word with you, that of the singer recalling – Old Herrick: a saying that every maid knows is  A flower unplucked is but left to the falling, and NOTHING IS GAINED BY NOT GATHERING ROSES….”

We do do loosen our hands’ intertwining, (Not caring so very much what she supposes), There when she comes on us mistily shining AND GRANTS US BY SILENCE THE BOON OF HER ROSES.”

There’s just so much beauty in the world that we can visually enjoy and spiritually be thankful for.  For one, I am thankful that I am able to grow a Rose Garden, and share its beauty and the richness of its colors with as many people as possible – with friends and family – or even with those who just pass by or “stumble upon” it. My Rose Garden is not necessarily  the real, physical garden in your mind. It is the place in my heart where I nurture all the beauty, all the goodness, all the blessings – whether it be small or wondrously given, the happy camaraderie among good friends, the happy moments in my family, all the milestones that we have reached, all hurdles we have successfully overturned, and every little thing or events that  have enriched our lives.

…”There she comes on us mistily shining…” It is not  perfect, but it remains beautiful despite of its imperfection…

Perhaps, our life may not be perfect, but I have come to realize that just like in a rose, nature has  a magical way of transforming it to a thing of beauty, to one that is colorful and interestingly beautiful.

My rose garden is a source of joy…it may not be perfect, but it is colorful, and is continuously blooming…

As far as I am concerned, despite of its imperfection, my rose garden is always blooming….and if one comes to admire and come knocking asking for my roses, I will “mistily come shining, and grant him even in my silence, the boon of my roses….”