Cameras And Death

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Do I start by saying…I bought a camera? Ahem, with a lot of help from my mother, I bought a camera. A real one—an awesome but not too scary my-first-DSLR kind of camera—a Nikon D3300. If all goes well you will be more consistently overwhelmed with pictorial support for these ramblings. I’m just starting out, thinking about things like aperture and shutter speed in practice for the first time, instead of just wondering how much more precisely I might be able to capture the world around me if I had some power over such things.

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I guess I’ve effectively started with the camera, so now I just have to figure out how to segue into the rest. It’s strange, looking at these pictures. I like them. I’m still working out the whole lighting and composition thing and will be for a while I imagine, but on the whole they’re okay. Pretty snapshots that remind me of my childhood, details from the house I grew up in, flora and scenery that strike me as particularly Californian, plus a couple pensive travel shots from the road home (back to France, I don’t know where the hell home is anymore. I suppose I have more than one and that’s a blessing more than anything).

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The pictures are a little nostalgic, maybe even a tad brooding, but largely comforting. I hope there’s a hint of unease sifting through it all…the sneaky whiff of impermanence permeating all the pretty things. But it’s a far cry from the distinctly unsubtle reminder of impermanence that’s in the foreground today.

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A 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal yesterday morning. The Bodhanath Stupa cracked right through its eyes, from top to toe. The minaret next to Swayambhu Stupa exists only in the form of a pile of rocks. Nearly two thousand deaths have been counted in Kathmandu and surrounding villages have not yet been accounted for. Most of the monasteries are okay, but not all, and the master teachers are calling for prayers and joining in their support for the deceased, wounded, and disenfranchised.

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How strange that this place where I walked less than a year ago should now be so dramatically redesigned by a shudder of the earth. How strange that catastrophes like this happen so frequently and we can do so little beyond join our hands and send a few bucks or even fly halfway around the world to collect the rubble and try to find and feed those that remain. How strange that death is present like a drop of rain hovering over us ready to fall at any moment and we so rarely feel its impending arrival. How strange that devastation washes over this earth regularly and suffering permeates the planet in both visible and invisible ways at every moment and we are so adept at sidestepping its implications.

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How easy it is to be lost in the urgency of what needs to be done without remembering why. How easy it is to adopt a rhetoric of care for others while nurturing frustration and malcontent. How easy it is to speak of focus and deliberation while engaging in distraction and agitation. How busy I manage to keep myself to avoid facing death. Death.

Death.

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It’s coming for me. Every moment is an ending. One that I ignore, clinging to the next moment’s beginning. Every moment could be the ending of the life and self I know. And I’m not ready. I’m trying to be ready, to get ready, to learn to face impermanence and give up the illusion that all I see and know has truth and existence to its nature. To appreciate that what I perceive is as weightless as a dream and as ever changing. And that this is neither good nor bad, but simply freeing.

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But um, I don’t. Not yet. And if I had to bet, I’d bet a lot of the people that lost their lives or their homes in Kathmandu hadn’t quite got that one down yet either. So pray them for them.

And pray for us all, that we learn how to live with our dying, with the ending in every moment. And if you don’t pray, write a poem; sing a song; hug a friend; climb a mountain; do a thing that reminds you how fleeting we are and that the business of learning how to live with impermanence is a shared one.

Love and good luck.

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The Taste of Nostalgia: Homemade Peppermint Patties

It’s a trait of the women in my family that we have food phases. During one of my most fondly remembered childhood food phases, my mom cooked homemade pizza at least twice a week for five weeks straight. For years my sister only ate Inari sushi, California rolls, and teriyaki chicken at Japanese restaurants. She never strayed. I myself had a phase that lasted from probably age nine to thirteen: the chocolate and peppermint candy phase. While other people dabbled in Skittles and Snickers and everything in between, I invariably ate either York Peppermint Patties or Junior Mints. Sure, on Halloween, I took whatever came my way gladly (with the exception of Bottle Caps, which I consider an affront to the concept of candy), but if we stopped for snacks on a road trip or got a treat at the movies, I always, always chose chocolate and peppermint.

The weird thing about food phases is that they end, and often the food which you once so loved sort of just falls off your radar. You hit your limit, or OD, or something like that. I don’t think I’ve eaten a Junior Mint or a Peppermint Patty in, I dunno, maybe five years and I stopped being impassioned about them long before that.

Then, when my sister and I were at See’s Candy a couple weeks ago, she ordered a peppermint patty, and some faded memory whispered to me. The next time I was at a candy shop, I got one myself, and it was like being hit over the head with my childhood, in the nicest way. A long forgotten source of pleasure resurfaced, like a friend you run into unexpectedly after years of absence. And as with that friend, you feel sort of bad that you’ve been out of touch for so long. Why did I let this loveliness go unappreciated for so long?

But hey, there’s a way to make up for the oversight: by creating a scrumptious ode to the altar of chocolate and peppermint with my own two hands. So I did. And you can too. Recipe after the jump…

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