A Perfect World

Four years ago my daughter Bea and I flew down to California to scout out Stanford. Last week the whole family flew in for her graduation.

She showed us the hotspots around town.

For sentimental reasons we brunched at an Anatolian restaurant. My Turkish ravioli with garlic yogurt sauce was a hit.

 

Amidst the chaos we found a shady spot for a game of Pandemic.

And saved the World.

We dined with the parents of Bea’s friend, Ben Bravo, who was gifted with the perfect name for a superhero or the hero of a romance novel!  After four years of hearing such good things about them, it was great to meet all the Bravos.

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Then we partook of a time-honored graduation ritual…in which the graduate’s family arrives with empty suitcases and packs up her stuff while she flits in and out, saying hello to her friends’ visiting parents, and farewell to her friends.

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Saturday morning was the Baccalaureate.

We heard a Buddhist Singing Bowl, a prayer of the Ojibway Nation, a reflection by Bea’s friend Zainub, Taiko drumming, and other benedictions, a celebration of spiritual diversity and mutual respect.

Bea graduated with honors, with distinction, and awards, including The Amy Levy and a Fulbright.  She had her village. Bea was…blessed is the only word that will do…to have been mentored by such remarkable professors as Dr. Gabriella Safran…

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…and Dr. Allyson Hobbs, whose hearts are as large as their intellects, and who kindly took my chick under their wing. Their encouragement made all the difference.

Bea and her brother are very close, besties, village peeps.  Eli traveled from Mexico to help her pack up, to celebrate and support her, even though he had to fly out at dawn on Sunday, missing the Commencement.

But Bea’s besties Denise and Marcus remained to cheer her on.

An airplane circling overhead trailed a message. Like many universities, Stanford is accused of sweeping those stories–and victims–under the rug, or throwing them under a bus, especially when the perpetrators are college athletes.

At Stanford commencement opens with a procession known as The Wacky Walk.

As individuals…

…or in groups…

…students parade around the stadium free to express themselves as they choose.

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I liked the funeral procession for the fallen GPA, with a trumpet playing Taps.

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Some protested after a Stanford swimmer was slapped on the wrist for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Had two students not witnessed the crime, intervened, and apprehended him, I doubt there would’ve been any consequences for the rapist. The victim will be traumatized the rest of her life, but the actions of two heroes and the resulting prosecution sends a message to sex offenders. This time the message is “Don’t get caught,” but one day people might grow up learning to “Treat everyone, even women, with respect.”

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Grads welcomed commencement speaker Ken Burns, a legendary filmmaker who has spent his life shedding light on The Civil War, The War, The West, The National Parks and more.

A stark contrast, from Wacky Walk to observing a moment of silence in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence, and victims of the massacre at a gay club in Orlando that morning. I blinked back tears when the audience spontaneously began counting aloud for each victim of that vicious hate crime…47, 48, 49. Pure pride and joy for my child turned to trepidation at sending her out into our broken world.

Ken Burns proved there’s still intelligent life on the planet, and even in America. His speech was wise and courageous. He ventured off the safe path to politics. Referring to the LGBTQ massacre in Orlando,”We must ‘disenthrall ourselves’…from the culture of violence and guns.”

He implored grads to defeat Trump, “…a person who easily lies…who has never demonstrated interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims…an infantile, bullying man…willing to discard old and established alliances and treaties…Asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747…”

A few people booed, but the majority burst into cheers. Ken concluded…  “We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization…”  Click here and scroll down for Mr. Burn’s excellent closing advice to grads. 

The Class of 2016, at Stanford and throughout the US, has scattered, gone home, to a new job, grad school, even to Mongolia on a Fulbright.

It’s an exciting time, and a little scary as these young adults test their wings and search out their flight path in the Real World.

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Bless them all!  We should have gift-wrapped a bright shiny world and tied it in a bow for them. Instead we’ve left them a mess and must ask them to help us save our precious broken world.  It isn’t a game, neatly laid out on a board, with the rules spelled out, and a clear path to winning clearly stated in the instructions.

Perfection is possible only in a perfect world.  Do you think we could ever commit ourselves to kindness and community, and treat each other and our planet with respect?  Because that would be close enough to perfect for me.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Close.

Except for quotes by Ken Burns, all words and images©2016NaomiBaltuck

 

Love at Second Sight

When my nephew from Southeast Alaska was just a tot, he came to Seattle and squinted up at the sky. “What’s that stuff in my eyes?” he asked. “What stuff?” asked his mom. “That shiny stuff.”

Oh, that would be sunshine. Yes, the sun does shine in Seattle, even more than in Juneau, but so not much lately. Our weather tends to be soft, our skies pastel.

It was autumn when we left Seattle last Friday.

Two hours later, we stepped off a plane into summertime.

The California sky was so blue!

 
The light was intense, and even the shadows seemed to take on a life of their own.

This was most noticeable in the courtyard of the Cantor Art Museum on the Stanford campus, where we saw a sculpture by Robert Serra.

It was 200 tons of iron, 13 feet tall, 67 feet long.  At first I thought it looked like smoke stacks on a steamer or scrap metal from an old factory.

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But there is more to it than meets the eye.

It is two interlocking figure 8s that we could step inside…

…to interact with…and become a part of the sculpture.

The slanting walls were surprising, but the effect was intriguing.

We felt like Alice going down the rabbit hole.

Each step brought a new view.

The interplay between light and shadow and sky was brilliant.

We viewed a hundred canvases, each one borrowing colors from the same palette…

…but every one a distinct new creation.

It was playful.

Energizing!

 

Definitely a case of love at second sight.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Abstract.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme.

A Peace of My Mind

Last September my son Eli and I went on a great road trip with my daughter Bea, to deliver her, an incoming freshman, to Stanford University.

Then all of a sudden Bea was at school…

…and Eli and I were back in the van on the long drive home to Seattle.

For our trip down, we’d booked nice hotels in advance.  It was all about our last hurrah before saying goodbye to Bea.  Maybe because we didn’t want to think about coming back without her, we forgot to plan the trip home.  We were unprepared, disorganized, and we both kept looking around for Bea.

It was after midnight when we pulled into Redding, CA.

We found a place that simple, but clean, and woke refreshed and ready to move on–from Redding, and from Stanford.  We were going to write ourselves a new story.

We explored a delightfully shabby gold rush town, browsed its antique stores, and bought some dusty old tomes.  Back on the road, Eli read aloud from  The Last of the Plainsmen, Zane Grey’s 1908 memoir of a Western adventure–about the end of an era and the start of a new one.

Perhaps inspired by Zane, Eli suggested swinging by Crater Lake National Park.  It was out of our way, and we didn’t know how far because we hadn’t brought a proper map.  We hadn’t been since the kids were young enough to earn Junior Ranger Badges.  I recalled Crater Lake as a one trick pony, with one view of a lake, gorgeous, but unaccessible.  If we couldn’t get there before dark, the trip would be pointless.

It was a gamble.

We decided to go for it.  We had a few ‘Where are we going, Carl?’ moments.  Like at a crossroads, where two roads both had signage pointing to Crater Lake. The sun was sinking, and we couldn’t afford to get lost.  I kicked myself for not stopping earlier for directions.  This was a remote wilderness, without even another car to flag down.

Do you believe in spirit helpers?   I took this handsome creature’s greeting as positive reinforcement.

Upon leaving the endless forest to begin our ascent, we decided that, whatever happened, the view on the way to the crater was worth the drive.

At last we arrived at the crater rim, with sunshine to spare, but not for long.

As the sun sank behind us, the shadows crept up the side of Wizard Island, until it looked like it was wearing a little sun hat.

While we looked down on shadow, on the far side of the crater, the sun still shone.

Our goal was to visit as many viewpoints as possible before we lost the light.

Crater Lake was not a one trick pony.  It was a Horse of a Different Color.  With the constantly changing light, the landscape changed dramatically too.

Each viewpoint highlighted different sights and inspired different insights.

Whether looking from a distance…

…or close up.

We were alone on the top of the world, awestruck by the beauty surrounding us, not just of the lake, but the valley as well.

Eli captured the color and detail of an alpine meadow in this shot….

…while I had to borrow back the camera to photograph the big picture…

Feverishly, we passed the camera back and forth.  Where one of us recognized the stark beauty of an outcrop…

…the other saw a sleeping lady, perhaps turned to stone by an evil wizard.

Eli and I discovered our new superpower…

We had learned to spin straw into gold.

Golden moments.

Golden Memories.

Peace of mind.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

Weekly Photo Challenge–Unfocused (and focused were crossing a bridge…)

My daughter Bea thought her choice was made–a very good New England liberal arts college for women.  Cozy and friendly, safe and secure.  Then Stanford, a huge University with 16,000 students and a daunting reputation, offered her a place and very generous financial aid packet.

One day her path seemed settled, the next day she was on an airplane bound for San Francisco.  This blurry image, taken on the airplane, is the face of a high school senior trying to concentrate on socialistic realism for her history assignment.  But she is having difficulty focusing on her homework.  Was she afraid that she wouldn’t like Stanford?  Or that she would?

She tried to keep an open mind as she looked around.

It was pretty to look at.

Much to reflect on…

Athena, goddess of wisdom, which shall it be?  Door Number One, Door Number Two, or Door Number Three?

Bea had a good look.

And a good think.

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And went home.

P.S.

She chose Stanford.