here’s looking at you, twenty-seventeen

“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”
– C.S. Lewis

Twenty-seventeen.  I like the sound of it.  Three-hundred-sixty-five days, each offering possibilities. Or at least invitations to take small steps here and there.

 “The days are long, but the years are short.” ~ Gretchen Rubin

I’m a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions, or, better yet, Intentions.  I always have been, although my success at achieving them is about as good as anyone else’s.  Still.  I love to dream.  If the day ever comes when I stop dreaming, I might as well call it quits.

Philadelphia Museum of Art - Perelman Building
Philadelphia Museum of Art – Perelman Building

I have a long list of resolutions that cover a wide array of categories: education, health & fitness, finances, household projects, spiritual & cultural growth.  I use the same categories every year, written in a large bound periwinkle-colored book full of blank pages. At the beginning of each new year, I write: Cathy’s 2017 Resolutions (or whatever year it is) and then I tape a copy of 2017 Yearly Horoscope: Scorpio (which rarely holds any truth in its predictions).  At the end of each year, I evaluate what I did and didn’t do (no rewards or punishments necessary), clip together the pages of the old year, and close it out. It’s my method, and I enjoy the process.  I love the bulk of those years of resolutions, some met and some not. My periwinkle book of wishes and dreams.

Urban hiking in Philadelphia
Urban hiking in Philadelphia

It has taken me a long time in life to figure out what’s most important to me, but now that I know what lights my fire, my intention for twenty-seventeen is to focus on the things I love, to expand on them and to delve deeper, to let the full expression of them bloom.

a tree-lined path near the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia
a tree-lined path near the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia

These are the things that set my heart on fire: inspirational and creative travel, writing & blogging, photography, walking (urban and nature hiking) and reading. I’ve also been toying with the idea of entrepreneurship as opposed to career-seeking in a world that seems infused with age discrimination.

I guess pedestrians go that way....
I guess pedestrians go that way….

Because I’m interested in so many things and I have so many ideas, because there are so many choices, I often feel overwhelmed; in fact, I feel utterly swamped.  When I read this passage from Robert Clark’s Love Among the Ruins (p. 162-3), I recognized myself in Jane:

Jane, “having resigned herself to the fact that a Ph.D. was not in the cards … for a personality, a character formation, that, truth to be told, has felt itself ‘swamped’ since perhaps the age of four — no, longer still, since before she seemingly alone rowed herself ashore and landed in this life.

“It is, Jane must admit, a curious thing to be so overwhelmed by obligations and duties — to have unfinished chores hugging at her hem while lined up behind them is the impending sense that some fundamental necessity has been completely overlooked — but also to experience moments of terribly clarity in which she sees that she is not busy, that in fact she is doing nothing.  And that ‘nothing’ is perhaps the substance which swamps her, the flood that threatens to sink her altogether.  For it is not merely nothing in the sense of a moment of inactivity, of respite or pause.  Nor is it the nothing of ‘nothing in particular,’ neither this nor that.  It is, Jane sees when she looks up to see it hovering just above and in front of her, her thumb holding a place in a magazine article whose subject she has already forgotten, the index finger of the other hand clawing in the near-spent cigarette pack, ‘nothing at all.’ It is the kind of nothing that is a force in its own right, that precludes all the possible somethings one might try to put in its place; that marks the fact of everything one is not doing and, looming stupidly, heavily like humidity, renders starting impossible.”

How I love it when I read a book of literary fiction (which I read to the near exclusion of anything else) and recognize myself.

following the glowing path
following the glowing path

The nothing that I’m doing, that nothing that has a life of its own, is so physically oppressive that starting something, anything, becomes a force to be reckoned with.  How does one start something when “all the possible somethings” remind me every moment of what I’m NOT doing? I often feel smothered by all those possibilities, and rendered inactive.

Philadelphia urban hike and Paint the Revolution banner
Philadelphia urban hike and Paint the Revolution banner

Yet.  I do continue to search.  To seek.  A good friend of mine once admitted to admiring me for always searching.  For what, he didn’t know.  Neither do I.  But I do believe it is important to keep searching, even if you don’t know what for.

urban hike through Philly
urban hike through Philly

In the excellent memoir-writing book, Writing Life Stories, teacher Bill Roorbach asks one of his 85-year-old students, coincidentally named Jane:

“Jane, tell us, what’s the secret of life?”

Jane smiled benignly, forgiving me my sardonic nature, tilted her head, and said without the slightest pause: “Searching.”

An indignant Chuck (one of the other students) said, “Not finding?”

“No, no, no,” Jane said emphatically, letting her beatific smile spread, “Searching.”

Searching is what keeps us alive, gives us hope, keeps us moving along, step by step, through our lives.

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”  ~ Vincent van Gogh

enticing shop window
enticing shop window

In the areas of life that excite me, here are my intentions for the year ahead:

Reading: I intend to bask in my love of reading, using Goodreads extensively, adding to my to-read list and writing reviews of every book I read.  My goal is to read 40 books in different areas: literary fiction, memoir, poetry, short stories and travel memoir; books on the craft of memoir, travel and fiction writing: and inspirational books on creativity. Last year, my goals was to read 35 books and I achieved that goal. I was enriched by every page I read. 🙂

a construction zone beneath a mural in Philly
a construction zone beneath a mural in Philly

Photography: I intend to read books on photography, push myself to play more with my camera, possibly take a photography workshop, and challenge myself to be more creative. I will try to participate in several photo challenges on WordPress.  I would also like to get and learn a new photo processing software.

diagonal walkways
diagonal walkways

Walking (urban and nature hiking):  I intend to continue my 3-mile walks 4x/week, but also to take local urban hikes through cities such as Washington, Philadelphia, and Richmond and natural hikes in the Shenandoah mountains or elsewhere on the East Coast.  I also hope to do three official 10K walks this year.  Of course, I walk a lot whenever I travel abroad because I believe it is the best way to fully experience any destination.  I also have a dream of walking the Camino de Santiago in the fall, possibly September-October. If I do it, I want to do the whole thing, The French Way, all 780 km of it.  I hope I can swing it this year.

As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life. ~ Buddha

urban hike in Philly
urban hike in Philly

Inspirational and creative travel:  I intend to travel more intentionally this year, and to make something creative from my travels.  My plan for this spring is to try to volunteer at a bed & breakfast in Croatia for a week, travel solo in Croatia, and then meet Mike, where we will explore Hungary and Czech Republic, focusing on Budapest and Prague.  In the fall, I hope to be able to walk the Camino de Santiago.

urban hiking in Philly
urban hiking in Philly

Writing & blogging:  I’d like to stop being lazy in my travel writing and blogging and to push myself to be more creative and inspirational.  I intend to travel more intentionally and observantly, keeping a detailed travel journal and taking more creative photos. I hope to make something from my travels, whether the stuff of memoir or fiction, poetry or storytelling photography.

still decked out for the holidays
still decked out for the holidays

As for my fiction and memoir writing, I’d like to self-publish my novel and finish my memoir by year-end.  In addition, I plan to take classes at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland.  I’ve already signed up for three classes: How to Build Complex Characters, Building Better Characters, and Character Building. I know, they all sound alike, don’t they?  However, they each have a slightly different focus and are taught by different teachers.  I’m interested in this subject because I want to create characters to take with me to Croatia and on my other travels.  I’m also interested in creating a course on how to create characters and bringing that character to …..(fill in the blank with a foreign country name).

Old row house on Cypress and Juniper, modern Kimmel Performing Arts Center, Art Deco 1920s Drake Hotel converted to luxury apartments
Old row house on Cypress and Juniper, modern Kimmel Performing Arts Center, Art Deco 1920s Drake Hotel converted to luxury apartments

Entrepreneurship/Career:  Finally, there is the issue of work.  I’ve been reading a book by Gail Sheehy called Sex and the Seasoned Woman.  I started this book years ago, but I finally finished it this year.  What I found most interesting were the stories of older women who decided to reinvent their lives and bring their passions into fruition.  I found a story about Elaine, who started out as a schoolteacher, to be funny and inspirational (p. 232-235):

Elaine’s husband asked her: “What are you passionate about?”

“Books,” she said.  “This may be a really dumb idea, but I’ve always wanted to be a bookseller.”  Now she is the proprietor of a large bookstore in California.  Later, her husband asked her again if there were anything she was missing in life.

“Teaching,” she admitted.  “This may be a really dumb idea, but what if we started a conference for travel writers?”  Now their bookstore has expanded into a small university of sorts.

Elaine says “But these things didn’t start as smart business ideas.”  They started with Elaine saying to her husband, “This is probably a dumb idea, but….”

So, THIS is probably a dumb idea, but I hope to start a new blog where I don my teaching hat and write posts about how to immerse oneself more creatively and intentionally in travel, how to approach travel with awe and with an eye to inspiring creativity in oneself.

The Church of St. Luke & The Ephiphany
The Church of St. Luke & The Epiphany

I’m hoping that eventually this will lead to me offering creative travel retreats.  Slowly, slowly.  As a teacher, writer, and traveler, I know I am perfectly capable of doing this.  Yet.  And of course, there is always a YET!  I’ve never been an entrepreneur before, so I know I will have a steep learning curve. I intend to climb that curve, even if it involves backsliding down that slope as I learn.  I will need confidence and courage.

Philadelphia urban hike
Philadelphia urban hike

In that vein, I’ve written a lot of notes about defining my business and my market, signed up for a course called Starting Your Own Business, and have subscribed to Entrepreneur magazine.  Now I need to come up with a name!

I will reveal more about my ideas for this business on a new blog at some point soon, I hope.  I have lots of ideas. 🙂

southside Philly
Southside Philly

As for my ESL career, I will cut back on my job applications, but I will periodically apply to jobs abroad or at home.  My heart isn’t really in the work itself, except for the travel opportunities offered.  If I get a job, it may waylay my aforementioned plans, but I’m open to any adventure the world throws my way! 🙂

facade in Philadelphia
facade in Philadelphia

I hope everyone continues to dream and grow in twenty-seventeen, and I hope all your wishes come true. 🙂

(All photos were taken on urban hikes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 29-30, 2016)

philadelphia: the south mural arts walk

Friday, December 30:  This morning, we have two goals before we need to return home to Virginia: 1) walk the south Philadelphia mural walk and 2) visit the Magic Gardens.  We don’t have time today to do the north mural walk; that will have to wait for another visit.

Mural Arts Philadelphia was established in 1984 as a Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, encouraging graffiti writers to redirect their efforts into constructive public arts projects.  According to the website, the “collective mural-making process proves to be a powerful tool for generating dialogue, building relationships, empowering communities, and sparking economic revitalization.”

The work of the project serves a “larger movement that values equity, fairness and progress across all of society.”

“Women in Progress,” by artists Cesar Viveros and Larissa Preston, depicts the progress made in women’s rights.

“Women of Progress”- artists Artists: Cesar Viveros and Larissa Preston, 2001

Kenny Scharf  is known for “using images of cartoons from his childhood, as well as inventing sometimes wild designs inspired by graffiti and club culture” (Philly Mag).

“Philly Chunk Pack” Artist: Kenny Scharf

HOW and NOSM are twin brother graffiti artists born in Spain, who grew up in Germany and currently reside in New York, according to the Mural Arts website.

“Personal Melody” Artists: How & Nosm

In a mural by Gaia, Philadelphia architect and urban planner Edmund Bacon gazes down at those traveling the streets of the city that he helped so much to shape. The use of light colors such as white and grey help the portrait to stand out for blocks.

“The Father of Modern Philadelphia” Artist: Gaia

I’m not sure what this one is, but it doesn’t seem to be on the official Mural Walk.  Today, some earth movers are doing some heavy-duty digging in the adjacent parking lot.

Unidentified mural
Unidentified mural

“Building the City” by Michael Webb shows the builders and planners of the city.

“Building the City” Artist: Michael Webb, 1992

Some of Philadelphia’s urban art is not listed as part of the Mural Arts program, such as this one shown below.  With over 3,000 murals, the city is known as the world’s largest outdoor art gallery.

Unknown mural
Unidentified mural

I don’t know that the building shown below has actual murals or simply panels hanging on it.  There is one mural listed at this location on our mural mile walk map, but this doesn’t look much like the other murals we’ve seen.

Murals?
Murals?
Murals?
Murals?

My favorite of all the murals we see today is “Garden of Delight” by artist David Guinn.  The artist returned to the neighborhood where he grew up to create this lush mural overlooking a community garden. “Two trees in the center lean into each other, symbolic of an embrace.  The garden spills out from the space between them. This is to symbolize the spirit of community gardens and the people who work together to nurture these gardens,” according to Mural Arts Philadelphia.

“Garden of Delight” Artist: David Guinn, 2010
“Garden of Delight” Artist: David Guinn, 2010

“Pride and Progress” by Ann Northrup shows today’s unconventional families.  According to Mural Arts Philadelphia, “the artwork occupies the entire west wall of the William Way Center, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community center in Philadelphia. The 55’x165′ mural depicts a gay pride festival in the midst of nearby landmarks, including the Drake Hotel.”

“Pride and Progress” Artist: Ann Northrup, 2003
“Pride and Progress” Artist: Ann Northrup, 2003
“Pride and Progress” Artist: Ann Northrup, 2003

“Taste of Summer” by Ann Northrup is set in an idealized landscape – a combination of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and “Perugia, Italy. The people are outdoors on a terrace eating, drinking, arguing, flirting, climbing trees, and sleeping. There is an element of indulgent comedy, within a garden of earthly delights.”

The mural is on the side of Vetri Ristorante, owned by James Beard award-winning Chef Marc Vetri.

“Taste of Summer” Artists: Ann Northrup, 2009
“Taste of Summer” Artists: Ann Northrup, 2009
DETAIL:
DETAIL: “Taste of Summer” Artists: Ann Northrup, 2009

In “Spring,” David Guinn “designed the mural to connect the trees on either side of the wall, on Pine Street and in the backyard of the house, as if there were a park in front of the wall rather than a parking lot.  The artist wanted to paint the trees crisply and in detail but at the same time have a soft and organic feel.  He was inspired by the idea of making soft forms out of discreet, hard-edged blocks of color.” (Mural Arts Philadelphia)

“Spring” Artist: David Guinn, 2000

David McShane’s “Mural at Dirty Franks,” a local watering hole, is painted with pictures of people named, or partially named, Frank.

“Mural at Dirty Franks” – Artist: David McShane, 2001

“Theater of Life” by Meg Saligman is about the many roles we play in our lives that make up who we are.

“Theater of Life” Artist: Meg Saligman, 2002
DETAIL:
DETAIL: “Theater of Life” Artist: Meg Saligman, 2002
DETAIL:
DETAIL: “Theater of Life” Artist: Meg Saligman, 2002

“Gimme Shelter” by David Guinn was sponsored by the City of Philadelphia, Morris Animal Refuge, and individual donors.

“Gimme Shelter” Artist: David Guinn, 2004
DETAIL:
DETAIL: “Gimme Shelter” Artist: David Guinn, 2004
Mural in South Philadelphia - near Magic Gardens
Mural in South Philadelphia – near Magic Gardens

One of the most iconic of the city’s murals, “Philadelphia Muses” explores today’s diverse artistic disciplines. “It features newly imagined, contemporary muses of the arts taking part in a gigantic game of artistic vision,” according to artist Meg Saligman.

“Philadelphia Muses” Artist: Meg Saligman, 1999
Random mural
Random mural

We end our walk on South Street at the fascinating Magic Gardens, Isaiah Zagar’s unique mosaic art environment.  I’ll write about this magical place in another post. 🙂

oklahoma city: bricktown & an urban hike

Friday, March 25:  After picking up Louise at the zoo, we drive to Bricktown, an area east of the downtown business district of Oklahoma City that served as the city’s first warehouse and distribution district.  It was founded on the heels of the Land Run of 1889 and it served as the central hub of the state and the country.

Bricktown, Oklahoma City
Bricktown, Oklahoma City

Up until the 1950s, it housed furniture and hardware stores, a biscuit company, cotton producers, wholesale grocers, a dairy, and even a school.  After the area declined in the 1960s and 70s, residents began to move out of the city and buildings were torn down until the area was almost vacant.

After decades of decline, investors and other forward-thinkers started to buy and renovate buildings and recruited retail, restaurants, and attractions.

Bricktown
Bricktown

Beginning in 1993, Bricktown added a baseball stadium, a water canal with water taxis, river improvements, and a nearby sports and concert arena.

Now a thriving urban entertainment district, Bricktown is home to more than 45 restaurants, many bars, clubs, and retail shops, as well as family friendly attractions, museums and galleries (Welcome to Bricktown: History).

bridge over canal in Bricktown
bridge over canal in Bricktown
Urban art in Bricktown
Urban art in Bricktown
Bricktown canal
Bricktown canal

We’re famished after our morning at the Cowboy Museum, so we stop for a late lunch at Zio’s Italian Kitchen.  By now it’s nearly 2:00, and we realize we’re running out of time to do all the things we hoped to do today.

I order a plate of Veggie Primavera. 🙂

Lunch at Zio's: Louise, Martha, Charlene and me
Lunch at Zio’s: Louise, Martha, Charlene and me

At lunch, we debate about what to do next.  We’ve barely explored Bricktown, but first and foremost, we want to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. As it’s about 2:40 by the time we finish lunch, and we have a Mexican dinner at Rosie’s son’s house tonight at 6:30, our time is limited.  We decide we have to forego further exploration of Bricktown so we can see the museum.

Somehow the GPS on our phones shows us the museum is right around the corner from Bricktown, but when we arrive at what is shown to be the destination, it’s not there.  We ask a passerby and find it’s still a number of blocks away.  We begin our urban hike, finding some interesting sights along the way.

urban hiking in Oklahoma City
urban hiking in Oklahoma City
urban hiking in Oklahoma City
urban hiking in Oklahoma City
tall people in the square
tall people in the square
urban sculptures
urban sculptures
tall folks
tall folks
reflections in the city
reflections in the city
urban sculptures on an urban hike
urban sculptures on an urban hike
oklahoma city
oklahoma city
cityscape
cityscape
First Church
First Church

Finally, we arrive at the museum.  Stay tuned for an emotional experience at this museum, marking the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building by Timothy McVeigh.