04 August 2017

History is Not Always History

I am a Storyteller for Historic Philadelphia, Inc. For the summer, this entails standing at a semi-circular bench and telling stories to young and old who come to the Independence Visitor Center. Before every story, I ring a bell and proclaim "free stories!" to attract any last minute listeners. At first, ringing this bell made me feel terribly uncomfortable. Many people walk by giggling, or looking awkwardly away as if the sound of my bell will compel them into some Ponzi scheme. Sometimes it's easy to get swept into the energy of those passersby, and think of my job as silly or superfluous or saccharine.

Today, however, my bell tolled a sobering reminder of how worthwhile my work is. A woman approached me, asking if I would tell a story to the group of refugees she had with her. "They might not understand much," she said, "but I think it would be nice." I, of course, obliged, and began telling the story of Ona Judge. I chose this story because I use exaggerated gestures and tones of voice that I thought might be amusing despite any language barrier. Yet, as I got deeper into the story, looking at their faces, I began to choke up. Unintentionally, I was telling them their own story.

25 July 2017

Become What You Receive

I just savored the last bite of a chocolate macadamia nut cookie from The Famous 4th Street Cookie Company at Reading Terminal Market here in Philadelphia. I'm on a mission to buy something from every single stand in Reading Terminal. At over 80 merchants, this is quite the challenge. So today, after buying bread and vegetables from my standard vendors, I settled on a cookie for my "something new". Thick, chewy, with the chocolate chips still gooey, it was a very satisfying choice.

What I eat is a significant part of how I experience the world. It seems I'm always making decisions about consumption: organic or conventional, price or quality, local or imported, dairy or meat. Sometimes I am very conscious about my purchasing choices regarding what's best for the world, or what I believe in when it comes to agriculture. But lately, I've mostly been making decisions based on the depth of my wallet, which is consistently slim. Yet, I try to justify my choices as having some benefit in line with my beliefs. "Oh, this isn't helping an organic farmer and therefore fighting subsidies one little step at a time, but at least it's buying local and supporting my neighborhood!" With consumer choices, sometimes grand ideals must be knocked down by the reality of economy.

19 May 2017

Seeking Pain and Finding Healing

Related imageWhy is pain so addictive? We live in fear of it, but simultaneously seek it out, dwell on it. We live in it, draw from it - heck, I'm drawing from it write now by writing this. Pain, particularly emotional pain, is a powerful thing.

05 May 2017

Rain Down on Me

Is there anything quite as magical as precipitation? Of course, it is not magical at all. It's very well explained in third grade science, most of which I don't remember at all. But atmosphere and pressure and moisture aside, is there anything that compares to feeling awe-struck, staring into the sky as it renders and releases itself?

05 April 2017

One Simple Vocation

Image result for who am i les mis
I've been thinking a great deal lately about what to be. A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker. A religious sister, a wife, a mother. 

I've been thinking a great deal lately about what I am. A daughter, a sister, a friend. A young adult, a city dweller, a nature lover.

I've been thinking a great deal lately about how what I am and what to be should or do intersect. I have spent hours puzzling over which role I am more comfortable performing, over what my strongest gifts and talents are. I have second guessed half the "important" choices in my life, wondering if I have by some accident led myself down the wrong path. What if I am still headed down the wrong path?

29 March 2017

On Maximizing Time

(Not the river I was looking at)
I work 4 different jobs. Some days I go from one to the other, and have 2 hours in between to work on something for a third. Piecing together my time in the most effective way is a constant challenge and necessity. Those in between hours are often a site of dilemma. Do I go home? Do I find a coffee shop? In which neighborhood? Do I stay parked and walk to a café or drive to one? Do I pack lunch or buy lunch? Will there be Wi-Fi? What can I reasonably accomplish in two hours?

Today* I got in my car and just started moving. I didn’t feel like buying a coffee, so I drove past the coffee shop. I figured I’d just go home in that case. But then I turned down a bridge I’d never driven and ended up taking a new, scenic route. Soon, I found myself pulling over to simply park by the river. It’s 34 degrees today, so I’m not lunching al fresco, but even in my car, just looking at the river was the best lunch I’ve had in a long time.

22 January 2017

Inaugural Wisdom

One perk of partial employment was being home to watch the inauguration of now President Donald Trump. I sat attentively, one third cringing in anticipation of an assassination, one third cringing at the reality of that comb over being in charge, and one third appreciating the pomp and circumstance - and impressive show of clenching bipartisanship - on the capitol steps. I confess to talking out loud to the television throughout the various speeches, nodding in affirmation and snorting at the absurdities.

Imagine my surprise and delight when Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York, was the first religious figure to take the microphone. After all, Trump is Presbyterian. It seemed odd that a figure of another sect of Christianity should be the very first to speak - not to mention one from a relatively divisive sect in contemporary circles. By the second line of Cardinal Dolan's recitation from the Book of Wisdom, I was grinning oh so very widely. He could not have picked better words to serve as a subtle critique, call to arms, and firm foundation for the years to come.

13 January 2017

Finding Joy

Getting stuck in the mire and muck of life is easy, and a weakness of mine lately. Times of difficulty often overshadow times of joy. Seeing a light at the end of the tunnel frequently evades me. I have been making a concerted effort to track the good things, to ensure I don't become some pessimistic, bitter cynic. Yet, these good things live beside not so good things. The difficulties and joys are entwined and intermingled so intensely, I can't just ignore the difficulties in favor of some blue-skied, grass-is-greener alternate reality.

Sometimes joy is pure positive emotion, an irresistible welling up of bliss that cannot help but overflow. But sometimes joy is not pure; it's mysterious; it's hidden and full of bafflement, confusion and surprise. Mysteries puzzle us and can only be resolved in time, with faith, trust, and sometimes a Sherlock Holmes level of intelligence. How can we understand and embrace that kind of joy?

05 January 2017

New Year, New/Same You

I want to be one of those people who always carries a notebook or sketchbook; who is always ready to absorb the world around me; who is engaging, thinking, and reflecting constantly. I want to be someone who is always prepared, but I hate carrying things, being weighed down by objects that could possibly be unnecessary, bothersome, or simply give me a neck ache from unequal weight distribution.

We are all full of these dichotomies within ourselves that we cannot seem to reconcile. We have fears we cannot seem to face, habits we cannot seem to change, goals we cannot seem to reach, no matter how much we want to. While this can frustrate both us (why can't I remember to take that journal with me!) and those around us (how can she call herself adventurous when she is afraid of heights?), it actually is a quality unique to the human condition that is rather beautiful.