Learning From Community

Wake Up to Experience: Sometimes it can hit you right in the ass without even knowing it.

As I began my walk yesterday, an old woman, much smaller than a young child approached me on the trail. I quickly learned she was the one responsible for putting this beautiful walking trail along the highway, a place for thousands of walkers, runners, cyclists, strollers and canines. Her name is Florence. Easily giving up my brisk walk, I found myself in Florence’s experience, soaking up her attitude, putting aside my own sadness awhile (having a rough day), open to learn.

At 95 years old, her physical pain, in agony many days, there Florence stood in the middle of the trail. Her tiny face, engulfed by immense sunglasses, a bright smile looked up and said “good morning to you!” She spoke of her meandering trail, how she wanted the community to have a safe place to walk, went to the county, fought to build a respite for others to enjoy. I walked her home, around the corner from where we stood, though this was no jaunt. Each step taken, her newly acquired three prong cane in hand, deliberate care, with consciousness, she and I eventually made it to her home of 30 years. She spoke of her life, her “unusual” husband she adored, her beautiful children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. More than anything else, she wanted to show me what she called, her “wicked triplets.”  As if I could possibly pass up something like this? Not likely.

Three ginormous cards stand on her sofa, her “wicked triplets”; an homage to Florence from a community who reached out after her precious bronze plaque had been stolen March of 2012. Gathering funds, new plaque replaced, those grateful to one woman who made a difference in their community. Her pride, well-founded, her gratitude admired.

"Wicked Triplets"
“Wicked Triplets”

Wicked Triplets

FlorencePay attention to experience, pay attention to community. We may not understand or realize its significance at the time, yet do not dismiss what is to be learned. For years I have walked that trail, never meeting Florence until yesterday. I put myself out there in life for this reason alone – to learn from the collection of people I encounter.  The “Florence’s” in life remind me I am but a small part of this great universe. Gratitude begets, trumps everything else. Compassion must come before love, for it is in compassion where love reigns. 

What Makes a Home?

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Is it the neighborhood? The home design and architecture? Or maybe the backyard BBQ, sparkling swimming pool surrounded by tiki torches and left over props from an aged Gilligan’s Island episode? Two story feel more like a home than single? Is a home a home if it lies within the boundaries of that spectacular Blue Ribbon elementary school you’ve read so much about?

I have come to think about this question, more philosophically than real estate jargon. Most understand that the process of buying, selling a home is quite emotional. We are drawn to a home, often for how it feels, rather than its practical qualities. General statement, yet I’m speaking in generalities. Stay with me. There’s a point here.

Upon purchasing my first home almost thirteen years ago, I realized this entity called a house was not a living, breathing organism. Merely a place, a refuge with a roof, keeping the outdoor elements at bay. A house is a mortgage, a lease, a storage area for unpronounceable Ikea furniture, flat screen tv’s, scuffed shoes and rusted rakes. Told with great accuracy of George Carlin, a house is, “a place for your stuff.”

In 2000, bought my first house. About eighteen months into new homeownership I gathered the courage to admit I wasn’t a happy homeowner. It just didn’t feel like home.  Eventually, confronting my then husband with my new revelation left us with a silent relationship for 3 days. To his well-deserved credit, he was a champ upon hearing this new. Yet some how, in some way, after that confession, the 2,300 sqft. abode suddenly became a little cozier; a different air of warmth permeated her walls.

From that point on, I realized this house, our home, was not merely a place of stationary artifacts. More than that, the house was us, the family. Each person living under that roof, began creating their own memories, contributing to our collective experience of what home meant to us.

As a teen, my Mom, brother and I lived in a small apartment. Little did I care it wasn’t the spacious house on the hill, glorious oceanfront  or average single family residence. It was our home; a place where we took care of each other, helped make dinners, had friends come stay the night, drink Dr. Pepper and crunch on Doritos. It’s the living room my Mom comforted me when my first boyfriend broke my heart, the kitchen where I learned to cook lasagne, the breezeway where I helped my brother fold the local daily newspapers for his route.

Perhaps we have the capacity to create our own environment after all, house and home.

What ingredients make up your home?

 

Localism

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Yeah, I know, I know, a Starbucks is a Starbucks is a Starbucks. I get it. Same perky baristas, those regulars sipping their soy-latte-whatever… Not so quickly. Consider Old Towne Orange.

In the quaint section of the Orange Plaza in Old Towne Orange, sit two Starbucks, nary a stone’s throw from each other. Both have their own feel; one, the smaller of the two, college students tucked in a corner, a regular haunt for late night studies. The other, in a historical building, a bank, no less, sits its own Starbucks, much more brisk business, from locals on the run to mom’s treating the kids after school to the meeting-for-business-destination.

On this afternoon, Wells Fargo is a busy place – for coffee, that is, hold the deposits. Once a haven, a lovely discovery for me during some rough times not too long ago, a make shift office many mornings, there’s just something special about this specific Starbucks. It’s all about the PLACE, how it FEELS when I’m here. iPad in hand, I look up a moment; the old detailed etchings upon its walls, the subdued echoes of conversations reverberating from the heightened ceilings, the friendly local smiles….I feel right at home. Like always.

You have a local dig you’d like to share? What makes your place special?

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