Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Standing in Place

As I continue to contemplate life after cancer (that is, after my Dad is finally well, which we hope will be in the next few months), I am pulled in two directions.

On the one hand, I find myself being drawn to traveling abroad again, working for an NGO, doing research on my story ideas, etc etc etc. And on the other, I am drawn to staying put (wherever I am, which has been changing a lot). Maybe even spending 6 months or a year doing a work/trade at a retreat center or house of hospitality where I clean/cook/farm in exchange for quiet, prayer, service.

This morning I came across an article that SO speaks to me, I feel compelled to share it. The author, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, reflects on his earlier habit of moving and traveling, of seeking out meaning and purpose abroad, doing service work, in looking after the OTHER, and of how he has come to realize that standing still, looking around at the world in which you are currently, and planting roots HERE, is sometimes a better way to find meaning and stability within and without.

Funny, even the idea of seeking "stability" seems so foreign to me. It's a word I don't think of much, at least not in the more traditional/American sense (partner, money, career, house); but I am not deceived into thinking I lack a desire for stability. We all do.

Rather than looking for stability in what I have, I seek stability in who I am and how I live. The stability I hunger for is satiated by moments, little epiphanies, that affirm who/how/where I am. YES! What an amazing conversation. YES! Thank God I was able to be here for this friend in the hospital. YES! I loved smelling the eucalyptus and feeling the dirt underfoot on my run. YES! I have time to hear your story. YES! I want to walk with you and make photographs and be consumed by the power of live music.

Stability comes for me when I feel I am where I "should" be, doing what feels right, being in the world in a way that I feel called to be. The ground might be moving below me as I travel back and forth across the country to be present to my father and family, but the continuity, the stability comes in feeling that I'm fully present wherever I am, to whomever I'm with.

Wilson-Hartgrove's reflection is informed by what he's read from the mystics to Barbara Kingsolver, many of whom I've been reading with greater interest of late, and there is much here that resonates with what I'm contemplating these days.

Standing in Place is published in Conspire Magazine, a publication of a grass-roots organization called The Simple Way, which Marcy told me about (thanks...they are way cool!). The Simple Way is somewhat like Elizabeth House, and the Catholic Worker model, working in a poor section of Durham, North Carolina, guided by a call to go out into the world in love. Simple as that. They're feeding the homeless, greening the neighborhood, partnering with a hospital in Iraq... but, of course, it's not about what they're doing but how they are being that inspires and speaks to me.

Today I seek to remain in the moments I am most Myself. Not the ego-self, but the self that is the same as all other selves. The mystery that is within me and within you. More accurately, it's the self that knows no distinction between within and without. In that place, in this Me/You/We I find stability and security and meaning. The where-what-when answers will come in time. For now, I remain standing in place.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Runners High Documentary

Runners High Film Screening
Thursday, 21 January 2010
400 Hawthorne Ave on Pill Hill, Oakland

Students Run Oakland, a non-profit youth development program promoting health (physical fitness, mentoring and nutrition ed) among Oakland public school students, is hosting a screening of their documentary, Runners High.

The award-winning film follows low-income Oakland kids training for the L.A. Marathon. Some of us in the Touchstone Running Club are training for the upcoming Oakland Marathon and Half. Let's all rally to support the next group of students who will be running with us on 28 March!

Check out the trailer below.

The screening will take place at 400 Hawthorne Ave., in the Bechtel Room, of Samuel Merritt University near the Alta Bates/Summit Medical Center (aka "Pill Hill") off Broadway in Oakland. It will be followed by a student/mentor panel for Q&A. Tickets are $25 and go to support Students Run Oakland. You can buy tix at the door or by emailing Christine Chapon [ christinechapon AT yahoo DOT com].

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cowgirls of Montclair

Read about a mother-daughter duo who are selling ranch-inspired clothing, accessories and household goods to support animal rescue.

I wrote/shot this assignment last week, and it was published in the Contra Costa Times on Friday, 17 December 2009.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Running in Ramadan

A story I wrote and shot for Running Times magazine is now available online here.

It will print in the December issue of Running Times, which will hit the magazine rack in the next week or two. Check it out...the layout is great!

The article features Moroccan Olympian Abderrahim Goumri, who recently took second at the Chicago Marathon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Remembering the Dead

It's been a few years since I visited Boston's Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, Paul Revere's House, Old North Church and the Copps Hill Burial Grounds. I first visited the cemetery as a grade-schooler on a field trip from New York. We made etchings by rubbing butcher paper on the centuries-old tombstones, and I remember being in awe thinking of the families who had stood where I knelt, burying their loved ones.

Death has brushed close many times since that first encounter: I've lost friends to the ravages of AIDS and the painful march of cancer. All four grandparents have died, two of them while very much a part of my daily life. I've stood helplessly by as friends have buried husbands and sons, and just a few months ago photographed my cousin's burial with full military honors (color guard, playing of Taps, 21-gun salute) at Arlington National Cemetery.

I do not fear death, although I have a strong, albeit futile, sense of how I'd like to pass, knowing from all that I've seen how unlikely it is that I'll get control over that outcome. I do, however, fear allowing my life to pass without making a mark on the world. This burning desire to have a positive impact (less than leaving a legacy, as motivates some) has been recently fueled by a less-than fulfilling work life and by reading too many books about those who have done so much. Three Cups of Tea, Mountains Beyond Mountains, even Into the Wild with it's less than inspiring ending have intensified my sense that life is passing too quickly and I must hurry and make something of it all.

It was in this frame of mind that I happened upon the New England Holocaust Memorial just after exiting the T at the Haymarket stop. Traveling as I was the day before 9/11, and being a New Yorker, I suppose it's not surprising that when I approached the tall glass towers of the memorial I immediately thought it must be a tribute to the terrorist attack of 2001.

Even the steam vents blowing up smoke in the midday heat and humidity made me think of Ground Zero. But as soon as I entered the memorial by stepping on the black granite stone path, across carvings of names like "Auschwitz," I realized I was entering sacred ground and the recollection of terror of another era.

Six glass towers, each 54-feet tall, bear six-million numbers to recall those tattooed onto the arms of those who died in the Nazi death camps.
Personal statements by survivors and witnesses also testify to the horror of what took place. I've included one here, to the right, and a photo of it below.

Writing in my notebook as I rode the subway to the airport, my simple response was this:

Glass standing tall, reflecting the financial towers nearby. I start to walk through, wondering why there is steam coming up from the ground, through the grates in each section. Poor planning? Warmth for winter tourists? Reminds me of Ground Zero.

Looking more closely I see digits etched into the glass. In white. Then words, a memory, etched in black. A woman remembers seeing her sister shot and killed. Faces of other visitors, like me, with tears in their eyes are also reflected on top of the words, on top of the numbers, on top of the reflected buildings all in this tall glass.

No, it's not a memorial for the World Trade Centers collapse eight years ago.

Those memorials, breathing the grief that is still so fresh, will be re-visited tomorrow, Friday, 9/11/09.

No, it's a reminder of the six-million who died during the Holocaust many decades before. And the grief of that memory suddenly feels as personal, as close, as the loss of DJ and Marian, Tommy and Hazel, Carl and Pop and Aunch and Corrado and so many in my life.

May I take life and run, fly, L I V E fully. Anything less is tragic and wasteful. Forgive me. Inspire me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Published in SF Examiner

Sustainable Raised-Bed Gardening at Alameda Point
Written by David Howard for the San Francisco Examiner
illustrated with my photographs taken while doing a marketing job for Rock Wall Wines, the subject of the article.

Check out the story here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Meet Michael Schmidt, the Young Times Writer Who Exposes Baseball's Worst

Read Meet Michael Schmidt, the Young Times Writer Who Exposes Baseball's Worst to learn how one sports writer worked his way up from pizza delivery boy to the big leagues...

I'm interested to hear who among you joins me in being inspired by Schmidt's rise while also saddened that he climbed on the backs of supposedly anonymous players to get to his perch?