Posted tagged ‘celebrations’

The Cards of Life

January 6, 2012

I love all kinds of celebrations and New Year’s Eve is one of them. I am almost superstitious, believing that not celebrating that night might bring you bad luck.

Last year such a celebration took the form of a large party in our home with plenty of friends to warm up the coldest night of the year in Tucson. This year, after several months of racing with time to meet some important deadlines, I had the mood to celebrate the end of this year in “a bit” more glitzy way. So I persuaded David and a couple of friends to go (elegantly dressed) to one of the plushy resorts hidden in the foothills of Tucson’s Catalina Mountains that offered such a possibility. The fact that it promised to be a relatively inexpensive event and that one of my new “Jazz” friends, jazz musician George Howard, and his group would perform was a decisive factor.

The resort was surrounded with cool lights and we walked into the “Parisian night” theme of its lounge where the tables were decorated with red roses. The waiters in black and wearing characteristic French berets were cruising among the guests. Wow, that was exciting! I felt like a little kid ready for fun and adventure.

Lights for New Year's Eve

Lights and water, and Hello Paris

It was a night with the moon high in the sky and big stars on the ground (including George).

Stars, moon, George Howard

It was a night of elegant details in the clothing, which I found to be delightful.

Elegant details: shoes and stockings

It was crowded, it was noisy and it was fun — in my book.

Alicja Mann and George Howard

That was New Year’s Eve, but then came New Year’s Day and a predictable reflective mood arrived dimming my sunny morning. That happens usually after some important celebrations like anniversaries, Christmases or birthdays.

My reflective mood usually brings some dark thoughts for a while. Memories of tragic events, images of people I miss, thoughts about unfulfilled promises or dreams that did not materialize crowd my mind. An image of myself emerges — identical to the real me, but much darker. That darkness is similar to the reflection of any image on a shiny surface (except a mirror) — a pool of water, a window or a very shiny table like the one I was sitting at on New Year’s Eve.

Thinking about this, playing cards came to my mind and I created one for myself. I made the choice of an ace of hearts. I like the hearts on it. I also like that it is the highest card, but can also be the lowest one! There is a challenging duality in it, just as in real life.

The playing cards for bridge or poker have mirror images on them — so identical that the way one holds a card does not matter. However, the cards of life, like mine, have to be handled with great care. If not, they might flip around and their dark side would be up and dominate.

Have a good year of 2012 — play your cards of life the best you can!

Two Ace of Hearts cards from Alicja Mann

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Text and images copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

The Power of Books

December 2, 2011

Books on bookshelves Copyright (c) 2011 by Alicja Mann

Just looking at them
I grow greedy, as if they were
Freshly baked loaves
Waiting on their shelves
to be broken open— that one
and that….

fragment of “The Bookstall” poem
by Linda Pastan from “Heroes in Disguise”
© 1991

“Freshly baked loaves” — what a metaphor! That is how I feel about books and I am also greedy about them. Really, how could we live without books?

I love books and have been surrounded by them ever since I could read and write, because from that time I was given books as gifts for my birthdays, name-days, and other occasions. Oh yes, I was getting toys, but that was when I was a young child. Once I became seven, and could read pretty well, I was considered an “older” child and consequently expected to not even desire toys anymore. The same rule applied to other kids around me at the time of my growing up in Poland. So for Christmas we received books and games and not some “silly” dolls or cars suitable for the “little ones.” Somehow we did not mind and actually felt proud of that – we felt we were in a different category and a little bit closer to adulthood. Giving up toys — a peculiar rite of passage….

Written words and writers were always highly regarded in Poland.

Speaking of Poland and writers – a few years ago during one of my visits over there, I read a short piece of writing by my aunt’s great grandson, Jaś.

Alicja, Jan, and Great Grandmother - Copyright (c) 2011 by Alicja Mann

What Jaś wrote at the age of 10 (Jaś is the nickname of Jan) impressed me greatly. It fitted my concept of the importance of books in my life as a writer and a publisher. So I purchased Jan’s piece of writing just as I would from an adult writer (for the purpose of publishing) since I strongly believe that good writing should be rewarded and encouraged that way.

Here is the short story by Jan Zembowicz in my translation.

The One Who Dances with the Winds

One winter day I was very bored. So I went to the attic because there are always so many interesting things there. I found an old pen of my grandfather, a black-and-white TV, and a strange book. The title of the book was The One Who Dances with the Winds. It was covered with dust and looked very old with its yellowed and ragged pages.

When I started to read it, I felt the power to rule the weather. “Interesting, isn’t it!?” So I went outside to try it.

I danced the Dance of the Winds and a strong wind arrived. I danced the Snow Dance and snow started falling.

Suddenly two figures appeared. One was half transparent and the other was all white. Apparently they were the spirits of Nature. They told me that I was their ruler and that I had special power. I looked over my shoulder and saw that I had grown wings. “Super, I can fly!” Then I told the spirits to go away.

I noticed that the book was open, and I closed it. I lost my wings and found myself back in the attic.

I opened the book again and this time I found myself in a beautiful garden.

Now, when no one is around, I open the book and ….

Translated by Alicja Mann
© 2011 Word Studio

Jan Zembowicz - photo copyright (c) 2011 by Alicja Mann Tanczacy z wiatrami
Jan Zembowicz — Warsaw 2006 Original text in Polish

During this Holiday Season include books on your shopping list. Happy giving time, happy receiving time, and happy reading time!

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SPECIAL OFFER

To honor this season of giving I offer any book from my publishing site as a free gift for becoming a new subscriber of my blog which I publish twice a month. The subscription is free and can be terminated at anytime.

Please follow the instructions positioned on upper right side of my blog. When you are confirmed as a subscriber, I will send you an e-mail for your instructions on where to send the book of your choice. The book will be shipped by Priority Mail.

This special offer is valid from today till the end of December. Happy Holidays!

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Text and photos copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann.

Columbus Day Darkly

October 14, 2011

How did you celebrate Columbus Day last Monday?

Columbus Day has been observed by most states of this country since 1937 when Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed October 12 a federal holiday as a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus.

Many Italian-Americans view Columbus Day as a day to celebrate their Italian heritage. Most of us, however, do not know how to celebrate that day, except enjoying a day off from work or going shopping. So on Monday I was wondering what was happening on Columbus Day besides special sales? Nothing or almost nothing, I discovered — nothing in Tucson, anyway, and most likely in the rest of Arizona. Sorry! Casa Grande held a 3-day event, the Arizona Soccer Tournament for the Columbus Cup.

Having had some issues about this holiday for some time, I decided to “observe it” by taking a long walk on Columbus Boulevard here in Tucson and thinking about Christopher Columbus. It was a nice and easy celebration — Columbus Boulevard is only a few steps away from our home and is a pleasant street for walking or jogging, especially the northern part of it that leads to the Rillito River.

Monday morning was sunny and warm and I truly enjoyed being reacquainted with the desert plants and houses along the boulevard. I had not walked it for a while, having been away from Tucson.

Columbus Boulevard, Tucson

Columbus Blvd in Tucson

McCormick Park, Tucson, Arizona

McCormick Park on Columbus Blvd

A charming spot along Columbus Blvd

Rillito River, Tucson, Arizona

Waterless Rillito River

My walk, in truth, was a nice procrastination from writing this post. I procrastinated the next day as well, since I found the issue of Columbus Day a difficult one to write about. Finally, I am writing today, on the “real” Columbus Day, October 12, so please bear with me!

Quite a few years ago I wrote (in one of my op-ed columns) about the dark side of Columbus Day but did not question the celebration of it. Today I do!

Five hundred nineteen years ago on October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus and his sailors arrived in the Bahamas. When they stepped ashore, for the first time since the voyages of the Vikings, a small piece of the New World felt the presence of Europeans. That event changed the history of the world much more significantly than any other geographical exploration.

Why was there such a strong response in Europe to discovery of America? The author of “America in Europe: A History of the New World in Reverse”, German Arciniegas, addresses that question. “The fervor, the passion, the spontaneity that had been restrained for centuries broke their barriers and a new era was opened. Man began to declare his own rights, at the risk of anarchy. When one reflects with sufficient perspective on this deep, radical change, one finds the words that define this new course: Independence, Freedom.”

What was freedom and independence for newcomers became oppression, displacement, and loss of freedom for the indigenous people of this continent.

So why are we still celebrating the man who in truth was not a visionary about the existence of the New World, but stumbled upon it by mistake? At the time of his first voyage Columbus’ intention was not discovery of the New World but travel to India. Assuming that he had reached the “Indies,” Columbus named the native people of San Salvador “Indians” and since then “Indians” has become the name of the natives on both American continents.

Columbus’ attitude towards natives of the New World was less than admirable. It is not fair to judge that man of the 15th century by the standards of our thinking in the 21st century; still, it is impossible to like him while reading the well known excerpts from his logbook regarding the natives: “They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance…. They would make fine servants…. With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them to whatever we want.”

A quote from his second Voyage of 1495, when many Indians were taken as slaves and died on the way to Spain, is also telling, “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.”

I have to admit that I was oblivious to the dark side of the New World discovery for quite a few years of my living in this country and while living in Poland. Writing a book with a Chief of the Wampanoags of Mashpee (an American Indian tribe on Cape Cod) — Son of Mashpee — opened my eyes widely. At that time I read a lot of history of the Wampanoags and other tribes of American Indians. While reading, one could only cry….

Columbus Day has been a controversial holiday for a long time. Some feel ashamed of it. Some feel angry about it. Some wonder what to do about it.

It is obvious that we cannot change history, but I think we can and should stop celebrating Columbus Day. It would be very appropriate, in my opinion, to keep the holiday, rename it and dedicate it to those who were present in the New World when “discovered” by Christopher Columbus. Let’s follow the example of South Dakota that already celebrates Native American Day in place of Columbus Day.

Stop Columbus Day

And what do you think about it?

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Photos and text copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann.


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