What will 2023 hold for us? We will find out together.
I will be back with a new post on January 2nd.
Have a safe and relaxing final week of this year. I will see you right here next Monday.
The very happiest of holidays to you and all your loved ones.
Regardless of your faith or tradition, the tree and fireplace represent the love, compassion, and the best for all humankind that this season can reflect.
I will be taking a short end-of-year break. Look for a fresh post on January 2nd to start 2023.
In the meantime, peace to all and blessings to you.
|Photo by Betty|
For a certain age group, if I mention the artist, "Sweet Baby James," there should be instant recognition. As the first artist signed by the Beatles to Apple Records, Boston-born James Taylor has sold 100 million records, racked up nearly 50 Top 40 hits, and is an American institution. At 74, age is not slowing him down. He continues to tour the U.S. and around the world, in fact, he was in Phoenix this past summer, with tickets selling out within hours of becoming available.
Out of more songs than I can count, one, in particular, has always resonated with me. The lyrics perfectly capture how to build a satisfying life that continues to the very end. He tells us how to build a life of significance, joy, and understanding of how everything works together, all with just a touch of irony and tongue-in-cheek.
Released in 1977 on his album, JT, Secret O' Life was never released as a single. But it has become a staple of his, being performed at most of his concerts, included on other albums, and covered by a dozen other artists.
As I reviewed the lyrics, it was obvious that many of them fit this blog perfectly, our journey through life, and are part of my personal philosophy of life. Hoping that Mr. Taylor doesn't object, I am picking a few of his lines as a springboard to some comments. The full song is available on the Youtube link at the end of this post.
Here are the first two verses:
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain't nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill
But since we're on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride
The secret of love is in opening up your heart
Then, can you still remember the shock when you were told that Santa wasn't real? That the idea of one guy leaving gifts for everyone all over the world just couldn't happen? That someone tried to explain that he was a metaphor for hope and dreams and childhood fantasies?
We have to deal with expectations and facts all our lives. The Santa - No Santa jolt was probably the first time you had to face facts that wishing doesn't necessarily make it so, but I am pretty sure it wasn't the last.
Your "friends" in High School suddenly dropped you from their clique for no discernable reason. Those straight-A grades ended with the reality that Chemistry wasn't your strong suit. Your first true love didn't love you back. Marriage isn't always like the movies. Being single is tough, but you actually kind of like the freedom, regardless of what your mother and friends say.
Your 20-year-old body did not follow you very far into the future. The calendar didn't care you weren't ready to become Middle Aged, and then almost overnight, a Senior.
The career you envisioned became a series of jobs; your various bosses never took a charm class or learned much about people skills. Your co-workers were just as likely to climb on your back as to offer you a helping hand. Being alive is a neverending course in having expectations tempered with reality.
Those who accept that and learn to adjust are the most satisfied. Knowing when to hold them and when to fold them was not only a lyric from a Kenny Rogers song but a rather straightforward guide for life. Striving for what you want is part of life. Continuously tilting against windmills is not.
I am confident in stating that most of us are doing the best we can. We take what we have been given, what we have learned, and what we want and try to mold all that into a life of significance.
At the same time, we have certain expectations of what our one and only life on earth should be, what we should accomplish, and how to be happy and feel complete. And when we fall short of our own measuring stick, as we will certainly do, there is a tendency to blame others, the world, or fate.
Isn't it more healthy, productive, and realistic to reflect on our Santa Claus experience? What we have expected will happen probably will not. What our dreams are will often face a world of humans and nature that aren't required to make all that happen.
Do we strive too hard to bend the world to match our dreams? Do we stubbornly plow ahead even after it is clear that the path leads to a cliff? Or do we take our strengths, understanding, experience, and native intelligence to build a life that is both satisfying and accepting of limitations and restrictions?
We all anticipate that life will turn out the way we had planned. So, do we put pressure on ourselves that we wouldn't put on someone else? Do we live in fear of a failure of something that is really just an expectation that runs into reality?
Overall, I have lived a happy, contented life. But, there have been instances when my plans and future were in some doubt. I will admit I fought against the unfairness of it all; this isn't what I signed up for.
Yet, as soon as I stopped insisting something would be the way I wanted and started reacting to how it was, the way forward began to fall into place. I shifted, reconfigured, and dumped stuff that was no longer worth carrying.
People tell us that life is hard, and I will agree it isn't always a walk in the park. But, I suggest we make it harder than necessary when we insist our way is THE way. The unexpected surprises that life can bring are so much brighter than the rocks in our path.
Happy children and family memories come to mind when I mention Disneyland. Along with its companion park, California Adventure. it is the self-proclaimed "Happiest Place on Earth." And for generations, it has been a magic place that defines summer vacations.
What if that image was modified a bit? What if the people in this story had no children, teens, or family members in tow? What if standing in long lines for rides was not a goal? What if the average age of this intrepid pair of visitors averaged over 70? Could the Magic Kingdom still generate magic?
Betty and I decided to find out. About ten days ago, we took the hour flight from home to southern California. We had three days to immerse ourselves in the adult version of a memory-maker. That meant no standing in long lines for rides. We'd go for it if something looked fun and we could experience it without more than 15 minutes of waiting. No extra expense of Genie+ or Lightening Lanes, nothing that prescribed we had to be at this place at this time.
Dining reservations made weeks in advance? Not this time. We could make do with browsing the carts and kiosks or an occasional fast-service option.
If you are willing to go on only a few rides, skip the fancy sit-down restaurants, and avoid anything that requires standing in a long line, there is so much to experience and enjoy that three days was just enough.
The lights and decorations for the holiday season do transform a magic place into an absolute fairyland. Parades of Disney characters, whether during the day or after dark, absolutely sparkle with energy and goodwill. The "cast members" are trained to always look like they have never been happier than when you see them; not one of the thousands Betty and I saw broke that rule. They were uniformly happy, in step, and spreading a manufactured but enjoyable aura.
If I mention "It's a Small World," you probably can't help but sing the song that accompanies this family-favorite ride. I have been on the California and Florida versions a dozen times and didn't feel the need to get into that boat and float through the ride again. But, as we passed by, the line was non-existent. We boarded immediately and figured we knew precisely what was about to happen.
Wrong. Not only was every scene, every animated figure, and every nook and cranny decorated, but the music was re-imagined (pun intended). While still wholly familiar, the lyrics and music were the holiday version of that Small World tune. Sounding familiar and fresh at the same time, the ride was a new experience.
The street performers were absolutely top-rate. We enjoyed old favorites, like the Dapper Dans, along with groups we had enjoyed before. Mostly Kosher, Jambalaya Jazz, Five and Dime, the Blue 13 Dance Company, Dickens Yuletide Band, The Holiday Toy Drummers, The Disneyland Band, and the Mariachi Divas kept us captivated. Tale of The Lion King live stage show was 25 minutes of almost overwhelming energy, color, and costumes. Nighttime fireworks and light shows were as spectacular as one could hope for.
Surprisingly, just a few days after Thanksgiving, both parks were busy. Families with little kids and strollers, groups of teenagers looking for the best place for selfies, young couples, and some older visitors like us. In short, a typical Disney mix.
Betty and I are glad we had this opportunity to be part of Disney magic in a different way. Sometimes doing something differently opens up a new set of memories.
|Part of the lobby of the California Grand|
|Yes, that is real gingerbread|
|Main Street all lit up for the holidays.|
|It's a Small World - Holiday Version|
|Tale of The Lion King stage show|
|Who doesn't love Woody?|
|Greetings from Disneyland|
Every once in a while I feel compelled to display what I have painted over the last few months. I show them to push myself to improve and tackle new subjects. If I didn't have anyone other than me or Betty see what I am up to, I am not sure there would be much improvement, or I would find one thing that is decent and just reproduce the same scene again and again. There is power in accountability.
Also, I know my humble attempts to put brush to canvas have inspired a few others to pull out the long-dormant easel and paint to give it a go, or some other creative attempt that has been forgotten.
My granddaughter noticed months ago that I prefer landscapes to people or animals as my subject. She is correct. I have tried living things, particularly when sketching. But, the end result is more Halloweenish than I prefer, plus I find landscapes more calming to paint and look at afterward.
So, what follows is a sampling of some of what has been finished. I am averaging a new painting about once a week; some survive and others get covered in white gesso, never to see the light of day until I try something new.
I have asked Betty to share some of her flow art, too. It is a technique that appears deceptively easy but is not. Pouring paint on a canvas and then blowing all the colors around with a straw and hairdryer takes a real artistic eye. I have found the freeform abstract approach isn't my thing.
And, here are some samples of Betty's flow art