These are uncertain times. The world is afraid and in absolute disarray. Innocent people are dying everywhere and it is especially hard in these times to have any sort of hope.
In these times, we cling to what is necessary, what is near; specifically, our faith and our friends.
Nothing calms my head more so than doing henna designs (on either myself of my friends). Two of my friends came over and I drew on their hands, we had an impromptu henna party. It was great to spend time with them and also to further perfect my craft. Sometimes doing henna on my own hands gets tiresome and it is so much more fun to photograph others hands after I finish my work. These designs were great and my subjects were, too!
Let us hope that devastation and despair is replaced by hope, everywhere. No more fear, intolerance, hatred, bigotry, and let us fight to end oppression and injustice!
Ramadhan and Eid were hardly cause for celebration this year. Indeed how could one be expected to rejoice when many in the world suffered? Wars, famines, diseases, instability, racism, bigotry, prejudice, just to name a few things, put a real damper on my mood and my reflections turned inward. There are many things I needed to correct about myself and it was about time I started to.
I did a lot of mendhi designs whenever I could these past 2 weeks. It kept my mind occupied and focused on the task at hand (pun intended). Doing henna often helps me think clearly, as well. My hands, my friends, a wedding, there were many henna patterns to keep my mind engaged. The results were quite good and my henna cones from Pakistan have demonstrated brilliant color.
The joy of spontaneity is in the word itself. An unpredictable surprise at an unknown point in time. In a life of routines, spontaneity is often thrown aside for an easier, predictable life. I prefer to go home and spend time watching reruns of the same shows instead of going outside and doing or trying something different.
Last week however, in a burst of spontaneity, I decided on a last minute trip to Edinburgh, Scotland and Amsterdam. I met with some friends in Edinburgh, spent 2 days touring the city and on the way back I toured Amsterdam alone. What a great way to have spent the weekend and I certainly encourage every person to be spontaneous in their lives. It changes things, one meets new people, tries new things (like hiking a dormant volcano); all in all it fosters change in a generously sheltered life such as mine.
The rest of the city (and country) is very green. A dormant volcano called Arthur's seat lies in the city limits and we hiked up its 800 ft summit to enjoy spectacular view of the city.
There are many streets closely packed together, alleys called "closes" that have very interesting historic stories and were, essentially, tenement apartment dwellings without proper ventilation. Plagues festered and destroyed the lives of thousands in those closes. Walking along the royal mile in the old town feels as if one has stepped back in time. It is stunningly well kept, the closes are in great structural condition, too. One can easily imagine how life must have been in those days, in small cramped rooms beneath towering steeples and grey skies.
Two weeks ago I never would have thought that I would be standing on the summit of Arthur's seat, looking over the city of Edinburgh, with volcanic ridges and moors around me. Absolutely love spontaneity...the idea of not knowing tomorrow has become quite a romantic idea indeed.
Henna cones from Pakistan are fresh; they smell different and leave a much longer lasting stain compared with any that I have found here.
I was lucky enough to visit Pakistan again and in the markets of Karachi I ordered some awesome mendhi cones. I used a cone and now await the color.
I keep practicing different patterns but these paisley style swans are my favorites. They look elegant and are simple enough to do.
Who says rainy days cannot be fun?
The flu, by far it has been the worst thing I have ever felt in my life. The fever, aches and pains, the coughing, it was quite unpleasant.
However, those three days at home did lead to some blinged out, henna inspired iPhone cases using metallic markers, nail polish, and rhinestones from Michaels. I now have four different cases to use, its like giving my iPhone a choice of what it wants to wear for the day!
There has been this persistent grey color to the sky, the ground, and the very air we breathe in New York City. The lack of sun and this endless winter has turned this city into a page out of a Dostoevsky novel, cold, snowy, miserable, and grey.
I was lucky enough to escape for a few days in January; we went to San Juan, Puerto Rico. When I felt that warm sun on my skin I completely understood why people used to worship this majestic, celestial body. It is rejuvenating and magnificent in its splendor; it is life.
Old San Juan was particularly inviting, a 500+ year old city surrounded by forts built by the Spanish in the 1500's. The two forts, El Morro and San Cristobal, were high and mighty and must have been quite a sight in the days of colonial trade routes in the Caribbean Sea.
San Juan was fantastic however the best things to do were outside of the city. El Yunque rainforest, a national rainforest about an hour away from the city, had fantastic trails and interesting plants to discover and kayaking at night in the bioluminescent bay was one of the best experiences of my life. I was frightened a bit by the dark and the water however once we reached the lagoon we saw nothing but the green lights of the phytoplankton in the water below us and the bright stars above. I lived the entire trip in that one moment.
I would like to conduct an experiment. Once a week I will confess something and see what the results of the confession will be. There are no goals in this endeavor, I'm just bored. And therein lies my first confession: I get bored, a lot. I live most of my real life inside of my head, in a series of fantasy worlds. The tangible world and its day to day constructs bore me.
I did some freehand sketches with a pen and spent some time with the ducks and swans at the Prospect Park Lake. There is stunning beauty even on the most coldest of days.
My mind is far ahead of where my body is at any given time. It is exhausting. Constantly I remind myself to slow down and rejoice in the present for it is transient; meanwhile the future remains unknown and unpredictable.
Several years ago in 2011, Mayor Bloomberg said that the number of panhandlers in the subway had gone down drastically during his administration. I remember nearly choking on my water as I read the news. He obviously was not living in the same city as the rest of us. We encounter panhandlers and homeless people on a near daily basis- it is so normal that one does not even look up when these folks begin their tales of woe. The mayor obviously does not ride the A train or the 4-5 trains or the R trains (or any other train for that matter- I am the most familiar with these aforementioned lines). He does not see the hundreds of folks sleeping in Penn Station on a regular basis or the Roosevelt Avenue station, or the Jamaica stations or lining up outside train stations on Broadway near Wall Street.
I am ashamed to admit that I have become hard-hearted; I begin to make horrible assumptions about these people begging for money. What must it take for a person to become so desperate as to beg from folks who cannot even bother to look up from their phones or books? How difficult must it be to live from day to day, wondering where meals will come from or where one will sleep or if one will be warm for the night? May compassion never leave our hearts for those less fortunate!
There are several food pantries and organizations that are trying to combat hunger and organizations to help relieve homelessness. Can we, the city, the public and private institutions, open up more spaces for the homeless? For example - keeping public libraries open longer, especially in the winter. What else can we do to help? I try to give some money and pray for them. I am afraid that it is not enough. Any thoughts or suggestions?
Several years ago on a cold day in February, I was lucky enough to spend a single day in Paris, France. While I hated the time constraints we had, in retrospect that single day left memories that have idealized the city for me. Everything I remember about Paris is beautiful because my time there was so short. That philosophy should be applied to life in general- it is short, therefore make it as beautiful as you possibly can.
I can go on and on and repeat what the world has said about Paris, about its beauty, the architecture, the monuments, the people, the river Seine and its idealism even in the cold, dead of winter; however, I will let my pictures reflect it.
That cold day in Paris is one that I will never forget.
If I seem angry or aggressive, it is because I am passionate and I care about something and it is not moving forward.
If I seem sad, it is because there is an injustice that hurts me and that I am struggling to find answers.
If I seem annoyed or irritated, it is because I am frustrated with myself for not having achieved enough or done enough (or possibly because I did not have coffee or because the MTA sucks).
If I seem withdrawn, it is because I am pensive and searching deeply within myself to rectify my faults.
If I seem happy, it is because I have learned how to balance everything above and accepted this range as a part of life.
I have a job that allows me to travel to some cool places from time to time. Back in October we went up to West Point in the town of HIghland Falls, NY. It was the best time of year to visit, autumn, and the leaves were just beginning to change.
Some of the most impressive and inspiring views of the Hudson River valley are in this area. This picture above really takes my breath away; I could hardly believe it when I was standing there to take the picture. It reminded me of the scene in the Fellowship of the Ring, where the companions are traveling by boat through the river with enormous mountains on either side of them. Just beautiful.
I'll be adding pictures and commentary of the things I love. I am an ordinary person in an extraordinary place. There is no special purpose to this blog other than to project what I am thinking of at any given moment.
All the photos are mine (unless stated otherwise). Please do not use without permission. To learn more about me, check out my linked in profile below.