Archive for the ‘Essays’ category

Weekly Photo Challenge: Joy and … Happy New Year!

January 3, 2014

This past year I started with “dancing my troubles away.” I also danced for rain in Tucson while on Solana Beach last June. In both cases the dancing was not very effective – my troubles did not go away, and we did not get as much rain as we needed.

Every New Year is supposed to be joyful, and of course often it’s not. When you live long enough, you lower your expectations. To my surprise, this New Year’s Eve was more joyful than I anticipated. For that I am very grateful to Tucson’s Laffs Comedy Caffe! That is where I met the New Year of 2014 (http://www.Laffstucson.com).

Comedy Club at New Year's Eve

Alicja laughing

Every one of us defines joy differently. However, we can all agree that a smile is a good indicator of joy … I mean a genuine smile!

Rodney's Smile

It is hard not to feel the power of Rodney’s smile, which is totally disarming. He owns a one-man-operation restaurant on the main street of Wilcox, AZ. If you are ever in Wilcox, I am sure you will try his cooking as I did in November.

Rodney Menu posted on the window

There is another type of smile full of joy that is not interactive, but self contained. This flower girl in a wedding ceremony on a Cape Cod beach just couldn’t resist the joy of touching and sifting the soft, warm sand.

Flower Girl smiling while playing with the sand

I experience a similar feeling of joy while looking at luminaries – the characteristic holiday lights that are common in this part of the country – their soft glow evokes a soft smile.

Luminaries in Tucson

Happy New Year 2014! 

Let it glow with JOY for each of us!

Alicja at New Year's Celebration

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

The Power of Daffodils

March 30, 2013

I consider daffodils to be a cosmopolitan flower. They are cultivated in many countries at this time of year to be sold for spring celebrations.

The power of daffodils is the same over here as it is in Poland, Bulgaria, or Sweden. It lies in the power of the contradiction between their energy and their vulnerability. Their yellow represents great energy and optimism. At the same time these delicate plants are greatly dependent on an abundant supply of water for their survival. They definitely are not suitable for my Tucson garden!

Yellow daffodils on a dark background

Daffodils are beautiful when in masses – as in an open field. They are as beautiful in cut form, but their lives then are much, much shorter.

The daffodils of this spring have had a strong touch of sadness and drama for me. I brought them to my dear friend, Susan, in the last hours of her intense and brave battle with cancer. I shared them with good friends to honor both Susan’s departure and this Easter Holiday’s arrival.

I am now looking at the daffodils standing royally in a vase in the center of the table at my home. They look strong and happy, while I feel deflated and sad. Never before had their yellow reminded me of other yellows: the massive gold of forsythia blooms next to my house on the Cape – the plant that I have always considered the birthday plant for my older son who now is totally estranged from me…. The yellow of the lower row of the daffodils’ petals reminds me of the gentle yellow of the roses associated with two friends who are no longer among us. Finally the strong yellow of the daffodils’ blooms brings to my mind the bloom of the mesquite tree that I loved and lost several years ago. Losses, losses, losses – all in a yellow hue….

Is that yellow melancholy going to take over my heart for the entire Easter weekend? I wondered. So I examined again carefully the daffodils in the vase. And here was the surprise – their tender green stems and ruffled yellow trumpets were not affected by my dark mood at all! Yet, their irresistible yellow energy slowly replaced my darkness. That is the power of flowers!

Alicja

P.S.

Many poems were written about daffodils and their youthful dancing energy. Here you can listen to the poem of William Wordsworth:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EK9UWpYuZiE

Have a good Easter weekend and a MULTICOLORED Spring!

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

January 31, 2013

Another photo challenge? And with the theme of LOVE?  “Oh no!” I thought, “I will skip it.” I knew that a huge number of bloggers would respond to it and I did not feel compelled at that time to search for photos of loving couples, mothers with babies, people with puppies, kittens, and roses…. My mind was occupied with a different issue – the issue of growing gun violence in this country. And gun violence is the opposite of love! Gun violence breaks hearts of so many. Although I have addressed the gun violence issue in this blog several times, I still had plans to voice myself about it again. Articles, newspaper clippings and photographs were piling on my desk. A bunch of links gathered on my computer desktop were also waiting when I opened Jim Nintzel’s (Tucson Weekly journalist) tweet informing about the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings the next day—January 30th (which was yesterday)—and I knew immediately that I would watch it. I also knew that I would take that photo challenge on LOVE, even at the risk of being very late.

Hears of love for Gabrielle Giffords

Tucson Loves Gabby

Paper hears of school children for Gabby Giffords

Loving Gabby

Paper chains with messages for Gabby Giffords

Chain of Love

I took these photos two years ago in front of the University Medical Center (in Tucson) where our Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords—affectionately called Gabby by Tucsonans—was fighting for her life after the violent shooting spree by Jared Loughner. Six lives, including 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, plus a number of injured were the horrible toll of that shooting. It placed Tucson at the center of attention of the entire country and the world. That was two years ago and in the meantime several other horrible and senseless shootings have occurred—the latest, and the most brutal, took the lives of 20 children and six of their heroic teachers at the Sandy Hook School.

Yes, it was two years ago. Tucson took time for healing and so did Gabby to recover from the severe head injury inflicted on her. It is remarkable how well she is recovering. We witnessed her painful struggle for many months, admiring her strength and determination. She could finally return her love for Tucson by moving back here recently with her husband Captain Mark Kelly. Mark’s presence by her side from day one of the tragedy and his dedication to Gabby’s recovery became a symbol of a durable love.

Gabrielle Giffords with her husband Mark Kelly

Gabby and Mark – photo PK Weis

And there is another story of love, love larger than life. It is Gabby’s love for her work, her loyalty to her constituents, her love of Tucson, of Arizona, and of this country. Such love requires solid dedication. And our former congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, demonstrated that before the Tucson tragedy and she demonstrates that now while still recovering. Her tireless effort to do the right thing for society is so inspiring that TIME magazine recently featured her on its cover.

The cover of Time magazine

Gabby’s short and moving statement yesterday in front of the Judiciary Committee touched me deeply and, I am sure, touched millions. I was tearful watching her with amazement that two years after that horrible day of January 8th of 2011, “our Gabby” could deliver her statement and that she looked so beautiful, as if nothing had happened! But it did happen! That is why she was there. In spite of the limitations that tragedy had placed on her, she was there in an effort to prevent similar future tragedies. If that is not an expression of love, than what is?!

Gabby Giffords making statement in front of the Judiciary Committee

Gabby Giffords making her statement

“Speaking is difficult but I need to say something important,” stated Gabrielle Giffords at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. “Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying – too many children. We must do something. It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act….”

That’s right— there is no excuse for inaction. And yes, it will require some love by the people for the people to get involved and to demand significant changes to our current gun laws and regulations.

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Here are some links for you to explore:

@shuttlecdrkelly pic.twitter.com/sAHvgnXe

Jim Nintzel

Violent Imagery Shapes Our Reality

https://alicjamann.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/violent-imagery-shapes-our-reality/

American Tragedy in Tucson

https://alicjamann.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/american-tragedy-in-tucson/

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann except photo (cropped) of Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly              © 2013 by PK Weis

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond

January 24, 2013

It was a day full of symbolic images tied to the history of this country—cherished with pride and joy by many.

Imafeof the Inaguration 2013

Beyond Images (c) 2013 by Alicja Mann

BEYOND those images are the dreams, hopes, and great expectations of many Americans. Beyond those images also are disappointments, criticisms, and political conflicts that were left behind for that celebratory historic moment.

The day of the second Inauguration of President Obama was like an elegant portrait of this country, carefully staged and shared proudly with the world. And as such portraits tend to be, it captured the best images of us. We should be aware of that, but enjoy it without any guilt feelings because such is the purpose of most celebrations.

The determination of Latinos, women, gay people, and African Americans secured a second term in the White House for our first black president. Our diversity and prosperity were very visible in that celebratory portrait of this country. As The New York Times writer Sheryl Gay Stolberg stated, “…the faces of 2013 Inauguration Day were the faces of those left behind by the political process in decades and centuries past.”

And that is something truly to be proud of.

P.S:

I took this photo watching the second Inauguration of President Obama on television in the comfort of my home.

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

December 18, 2012

Delicate – delicate fabric, delicate flower, delicate touch, delicate feelings….

Delicate Neckline

Delicate

Delicate is not robust, but sensitive, tender, and can be easily damaged. Yet delicate butterflies are strong enough to travel miles and miles to their destination point.

Delicate is vulnerable and fragile. The joyful side of delicateness is its delight. But it also can have a whisper of darkness – a fear of destruction and even death.

Butterfly

Darkness & Fragility

Flower Girl

The flames of the candles that I arranged on my studio table are delicate and can be extinguished easily with a whisper of the wind—just like the lives of 20 children were extinguished with the deadly power of the gun in their school last Friday. Seven lives of adults where destroyed as easily. The fragility of life is no match for the power of a gun.

Candles 27

Tears like drops of water are delicate, but hold the vision of a powerful river if in numbers.

Chalice

Let our tears fall, again and again, not into the pool of forgetfulness and acceptance but into the river of change. Let them unite us in a powerful movement with determination to change.

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Please take action at these links:

http://www.demandaplan.org/stories

Share your personal message of condolence with the families of Newtown, Connecticut.

You might want to read my earlier posts:

Violent Imagery Shapes Our Reality

https://alicjamann.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/violent-imagery-shapes-our-reality/

American Tragedy in Tucson

https://alicjamann.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/american-tragedy-in-tucson/

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Text and photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

December 13, 2012

I was born and grew up in a country that has been celebrating the four seasons for centuries! Spring was always beautiful with little flowers peeking from under the snow, and so was autumn with nostalgia of the falling leaves in Warsaw. Majestic winter, generously spreading its white fluffy blanket, could beautify anything. But my favorite season was summer! It represented freedom from school and a lot of fun with friends on the Baltic shore. The warmth of the sun was unforgettable.

a
My life in this country started on Cape Cod where I settled for “quite a while” raising my two sons and working professionally. All four seasons marked the rhythm of our life there. Again, summer was my favorite and compensated for the grayness of winter.

a
It was on the Cape that I defined the color of my parachute. And that is how I landed in Tucson, Arizona, a place where summer never ends…well, almost never. Actually, there are some changes of season here in Tucson. And that is the point of this photo essay.

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Saguaro Bloom (c) Alicja Mann

2) Lilies

Southwest plants are blooming all year round – just different ones in different (calendar) seasons. With the flowers, the blue sky, and the warmth of the sun, every day seems like a summer day.

3) African Daisy

4) Durable Verbena

5) Orange Trumpet

 After the hottest days of June the monsoon season is greatly anticipated. Dark clouds signal its arrival. The heavy, warm rains are welcomed and celebrated.

6) Before the Rain

7B) Monsoon Rain

7C) After the Rain

Even in December the patio plants look as if it were summer.

8) Geraniums

9) Yellow Trumpet

10) Spike and Window

I know it is winter when our neighbor, Joe, decorates his orange tree with large, colorful lights to celebrate the Holidays and keep the tree warm at night. That is the sign for me to be ready to cover our plants to protect them from the occasional touch of frost. It also is the time to hang the Holiday wreath and acknowledge the arrival of winter.

11) Joes Lights

12) Winter Wreath

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Text and photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

Unsent Postcard

September 28, 2012

Postcard from Alicja Mann

Dear Readers,

Please consider this to be a belated postcard from Cape Cod, one of the most charming vacation spots in this country and my “old home” place.

As I stated in my previous post, it was my intention to have a long, true time off from work and a real vacation. Well, it was a long time all right, but not as restful and free of stress as I desired.

Sometimes life presents us with challenging situations and even dramas that throw us off balance. I found myself in such a spot lately because of a difficult family conflict relating to my motherhood. Having a painful time with it, I needed a lot of solitude and was not very communicative or sociable for a couple of months. I am sure that I disappointed some of my readers by not responding to their comments before and during my “vacation”. The same goes for not returning my friends’ calls or answering their e-mails. I apologize and will try to correct that.

The great benefit of being on the Cape was having the ocean nearby. I loved my numerous visits with it — the soothing sound and touch of waves, and the ever changing texture of the beach.

Footprints and water on the beach

Summer afternoons on my favorite Silver Beach were always crowded with people, young and old, but mostly families with kids. I even took pictures of two boys that closely resembled my sons when they were in that happy, care free stage years ago.

Two boys on the beach

Like my Taurus; Like my Leo

Toys on the beach

After a few afternoon visits to the beach, I decided that they were not good for my psyche—they were too nostalgic! So instead, I decided to make my visits to Silver Beach in the very late afternoons, until the sunset. It really was a great idea! I loved that time when almost no one was there—except me and my shadow.

Silver Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Ocean and the beach to my right

Silver Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Ocean and the beach to my left

Sun over waves

Ocean in front of me

Two views of Silver Beach at sunset

Beach around me

Sunsets do not need any comments or captions!

Two views of sunset at Silver Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Sun at horizon, Silver Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Sun below horizon, Silver Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Alicja Mann's shadow waving goodbye Farewell to Cape Cod and hello sunny Tucson!

P.S. To see more Cape scenery, please visit my previous posts:

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Text and photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.


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