Archive for the ‘Essays’ category

My Wish

November 2, 2018

This is a very trying time for our country. The tragedy at the Pittsburgh synagogue is still fresh in our hearts. The political divisions are immense, and they are present almost everywhere in the world as well. It feels as our globe is turning in the wrong direction — wrong by whose standards? By mine, of course, right? And by many who think and feel like me, right? But there is always another side of the proverbial coin: different people, different standards, different dreams and goals, different disappointments and fears — a total mismatch for seeing things the same way or even in a similar way. So what can we do besides vote?

After the 6th of November things will change over here, yet they will remain almost the same – resentments, pains, anger, and distrust… just from the other side of the coin…. So, how to rise above those differences and anger? How to unify ourselves?!

There are no Angels with white, fluffy wings that will arrive from above and solve all problems for us. No one has a magic wand in their hands to change our reality. So?…

Some time ago I wrote this poem:

My Wish

I wishCrying child
for a day,
one
single
day,
all of us
could cry together,
free to sob
like children.

Tears of
sorrow,
anger,
hate
would merge
to create
a Chalice of Understanding,
so we can truly love,
so we can live in peace.

-Alicja Mann

Crying She

 

 

Just Crying!

Crying He

P.S.
I propose the first Sunday of November to be our National Day of Crying, because it is a day in the “neighborhood “of November 1st, the day dedicated to the spirits of those who departed from us — recently and in the more distant past. Furthermore, November 1st is observed in many cultures in the variety of different ways. This is exactly the point — a respect for those differences already exists in the observance of that day!

Think about it, please: one day without arguing, without anger, or smiling artificially– just for the sake of smiling… instead the Day of Crying — a day of cleansing our human spirit, a small step towards our unity.

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Text copyright © 2018 by Alicja Mann, alicjamann.com

Poem: from the book Looking at the World Twice © 2009 by Alicja Mann

Photographs: courtesy of Tom Pumford at unsplash.com

 

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Midsummer Tale

August 20, 2018

In the middle of this harsh, Tucson summer filled with plenty of heat and anticipation of the monsoon rains, plus my exhaustion with our country’s political reality show, something very joyful happened that directed my attention to a very different reality.

Returning home from a three week vacation, I discovered that I had a new neighbor!  A charming, energetic female established her home very near my studio where I work. Actually, she moved so close that it was a bit shocking for me, as I never imagined such a possibility. Her place is so near that I can see it (and her, as well) from the window above my desk and when opening the studio’s door. Such a neighbor could be very annoying if it were a human, but it is… a hummingbird!

In the Nest

Yes, they are present around our property, and we are aware of them. A couple of feeders and local desert plants, which are part of our landscape, keep them happy. They seem to like the long dense row of oleanders next to the small white building that is my Word Studio.

It was immediately very clear that my tiny neighbor is a SHE, because I know that HEs (male hummingbirds) do not participate in building nests, or sitting on those two (they lay only two) precious eggs, or feeding the offspring. She has to do it all! As a woman and a mother, I immediately felt solidarity with her!  I have felt such solidarity with cats, cows, horses, and other mammals, but not with a bird.

What possessed her to build that nest on the wires of lights decorating our outdoor covered ‘sitting room’? I do not know! Perhaps she is an intellectual bird that likes books? Actually (joking apart), it is a very safe place – sheltered from rain and winds by a huge tree on the north side and the walls of the enclosed part of the patio on the south side. There also is a fringe benefit – closeness to a hummingbird feeder that might be very handy for a busy, expecting mother hummingbird.

Lenika's Nest

The next question was, will she accept my frequent coming to my studio or will she abandon the nest? Being concerned and knowing that hummingbirds love red and other bright colors, I initially wore my red summer dress. Each time I approached the door of my studio while she was in her nest, my heart was beating a bit faster from excitement, but of course, it could never match her amazingly powerful heart that beats more than 1000 times per minute when in flight. She did not fly away from her nest, and I felt great relief!

A day or so later, she accepted my presence around the studio, even when I was wearing a variety of colors. Wow, it felt great!  Soon a couple of frequent visitors were accepted by her, as well. One of them suggested that we should name her; after all she (the hummingbird) is a part of this establishment now. ”Tina or Tania, perhaps?” They were almost okay – short, energetic names…. “Oh, no, nothing with a T”, I protested!  “Grace maybe, since she is so graceful?” That one did not fly either — there was something “too much” about that name. “How about Ana, Ania, Anna?” The fact that there are Anna’s hummingbirds, and I am still not sure what kind of hummingbird she is, we decided that such a name might be too confusing. Finally we settled for Lenika, created from parts of our two middle names. And that’s who she is – Lenika.

Lenika closer

One day Lenika got inside my studio by accident and immediately flew straight into one of the windows. Of course, she was not able to get out. Surprisingly, Lenika let me take her into my hands without any resistance or fight. She sat there calmly and let me enjoy feeling her silky small body as I walked outside to let her go free. Soon enough she was back in her nest.

Lenika trapped 2

Three weeks or so past, and I noticed that Lenika became restless and less trusting. She flew away when I entered my studio, or even when I approached it from the far side of our large patio. I have to confess that upset and hurt me, as if she were a real person and not a very small bird. I concluded that it might be the time for her to become a mother, and I started tip toeing around her, like around a woman at the very end of her pregnancy. Other times she behaved like before and at night was back in her nest – very calm, deep in her sleep. That made me calmer, too. Still, some worrying thoughts entered my mind; maybe there is some delay in hatching? Perhaps they are already hatched, and I can’t see them because new born hummingbirds are the size of a raisin and would not be visible yet. And what if the eggs got broken for some reason?

Nest on Patio 2

I truly hope that Lenika’s story will have a happy ending — for her sake and mine. She will have her babies, and I will be free from worries! In the meantime, I am amazed how powerful this tiny, wild creature influenced my behavior and feelings!  Such is the case when one cares about another person or another living thing. It can by joyful, and it can be painful, but it makes us more connected to each other and to this planet.

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Text and photos Copyright © 2018 by Alicja Mann, alicjamann.com

 

 

Helsinki Moment

July 19, 2018

A few days ago, one of my friends brought me a small gift – a bumper sticker that she thought I would like, knowing my political compass. On a white, frugally used space you can see two rhyming words in dark caps – DUMP TRUMP. No exclamation point, just a straight message. I loved it and immediately thought that it should be distributed around. “Perhaps we should reproduce it in large numbers and pass them out in supermarkets and other public places?”

Later that evening I thought about that sticker again. “OK, it is cute, it is clever, and it feels good to have it, but in the reality of today’s political situation in our country, how could Trump be dumped?!  Impeachment comes to mind, but… it’s a very lengthy, complicated process and with today’s Republicans infected by the Trumpism disease and their self-interest… forget it!

I recall numerous slogans, propaganda statements, and political posters from the time of my growing up in post-war Poland controlled by Soviet style Communist apparatchiks. I developed a strong dislike of propaganda that stayed with me till today. After years of living in this country, I learned to accept the fact that propaganda is alive here as well, but it’s called “political advertising.” However, I like bumper stickers, and when I am touched by one, I put it on my car or on my studio’s wall like this one: DUMP TRUMP.

Like many, I have been very frustrated, stressed, and politically angry from the day Trump got elected and became the 45th President of this country! Trump’s domination by creating chaos and entering our lives every day with his bombastic personality, lies and endless tweets made me sick and evoked a form of political lethargy. This is similar to the response by many of us living in Tucson to its powerful sun generating almost unbearable heat in summer – it evokes physical lethargy with a desire to sleep and wait for cooler days. And they do come – with the monsoon’s rains! The lethargy disappears and new energy emerges! But that is the work of Nature. Political lethargy is much more complicated to deal with because is it caused by man-made politics and, in this particular case, Trump-made confusing politics. The cure has to come from us – society.

Then came the 16th of July 2018 which we Americans and the entire world will remember for a long time – the Helsinki Summit of Trump and Putin.

Helsinki Moment

In truth it was not a Summit, but a two and a half hour private chat of the two most powerful leaders of the world: President Trump and President Putin! Such a private chat should take place in a bar and focus on their wives, lovers, children, pets, or favorite sports, but NOT on matters concerning world politics! Such private chats are fine for us, the ordinary people. However, private chats of Trump and Putin are a totally different matter because they have great consequences.

You can imagine that I watched that Helsinki press conference glued to our TV – making notes, taking photos and recording words of Trump and Putin. Like many I was out-raged.

I will not repeat the epithets or statements the press and some political figures addressed towards Trump at that time. Those opinions are flying like small and large birds on the world’s political sky. However, I will share the one text I immediately sent to a close friend, “Trump’s ‘performance’ was a great embarrassment to this country!”

Let’s face it; Putin definitely won that “match”! With his characteristic calm confidence he presented Trump with a soccer ball from the World Cup, which Trump quickly tossed to Melania as a gift for their son Baron.

Tossing ball

World politics is not like a soccer game, a business deal, or a TV entertainment show – it is more like a very sophisticated chess game! In such a game Putin is a much better player than Trump, who most likely couldn’t beat Putin in a game of checkers!

I have been living here long enough to notice that this society does not like losers – the focus is always on the winner. So why not to DUMP TRUMP?!

Helsinki’s 16th July event will not be forgotten. It was proclaimed by many journalists, diplomats, and politicians as one of the darkest moments in American history.

The Helsinki sky on that memorable night did not get dark. There was a penetrating, gentle light diluting the sky’s darkness. One who does not live there might be surprise by that. But that is Finland – light is always present on summer nights! It might be hard to sleep on such nights, and that specific night was sleepless for many, especially journalists like Anderson Cooper and others.

Helsinki Moment 2

Poetically and politically speaking, I see that gentle light as a symbol of an awakening. Perhaps that Helsinki event will be an awaking moment for our society to see this divisive President in a new light. Perhaps we will unite and decide to DUMP TRUMP.

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Text and photos copyright © 2018 by Alicja Mann, alicjamann.com

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


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