For months I have been admiring the beautiful little altars Nichole of California Sister has been making. They are beautiful, and I loved the idea of a spot to gather inspiration, focus my breath, and put forth intentions. I’ve been watching and waiting for juuuuust the right one to come along and resonate with me. Ever a can-doer and also not entirely patient, this week I finally decided to try my had at making my own, and I am so pleased with the results.
For my little altar I scoured FB marketplace and then went thrifting, where I eventually found an inexpensive wood clock I thought I could repurpose for my own ends. I carefully took it apart, peeling away old gobs of glue and disassembling the clock mechanism, and then sanded the whole thing to help my paint adhere. Two coats of spray paint+primer did the trick, and then I hand applied gold leaf to the glass before back-painting it black to make for a decorative background for the top area of my altar. The piece de resistance was the leather-mounted lion’s head I repurposed from a cool old bottle I thrifted. He is my altar figurehead.
For me, the lion represents my fierce loves and fierce protectiveness and loyalty. The way I try to radiate light to the world around me. And the beauty I want to embody, like a big cat’s sensual grace. The items I have placed inside for now include:
a tiny handpainted Chinese bottle, to honor my family and my heritage
a little photo of my two dogs who have passed on, to keep them close
a smooth heart-shaped labradorite stone, for romantic love and also as a reminder to choose myself
a sweet-smelling votive, to be a light in the dark
a baby disco ball given to me by a dear friend many years ago, for friendship and memories
a fairy I’ve had since I was young, to remind me to dream
Thank you, Nichole, for your talent and inspiration. I’m not entirely sure yet what small rituals or practices will grow from this new little space of mine, but for the moment I’m content to focus, breathe, and enjoy. I brought in a single plumeria yesterday, just for the simple tiny joy of it. Right now, that feels like enough.
Yesterday my dad passed away. He was 88 years old. I sat there listening to my half-brother cry on the other end of the line as he delivered the news, stunned and numb for what felt like an eternity. Then I burst into tears.
My dad had the most fascinating, full life anyone could imagine, from growing up in Trinidad and a youthful sojourn in the merchant marines, working as a psychiatric nurse and a double decker bus driver in Scotland, and then emigrating to the U.S. even though he was barred entry here for years due to his Chinese heritage. He worked as a self-employed mechanic, raised two families, and loved his children fiercely. He was generous, loved going to the horse races (where I spent many a happy summer in the infield), was an excellent cook, and entertained us with Charlie-isms like “throosers” for trousers, “DOHg” for dog, and the very British “alumEEnium.” To this day I don’t know how much these quirks of speech were a result of 3 continents’ worth of accents, or how much they were his own little idiosyncrasies. We loved it either way. Most summers he spent a little time “up north” mining for gold with friends, he was a great bowler and miniature golfer, and he left this world on his own terms – independent, living on his own, and old enough see his oldest grandchild start high school, just like he wanted.
I wrote this poem a few years ago for him, when he was having one of his many health scares. I didn’t share it with him at the time, though. He was so very afraid of dying, and I thought the allusions to it in my poem would be troubling for him as he convalesced. I finally gave him a framed copy of it for Father’s Day this year, and I think it may have been his favorite gift I ever gave him. To say he loved it would be an understatement — he held it and read it over and over, mouthing the words and cradling the frame gently in his arthritic hands. He marveled that I had written it “all on my own,” and said I had “brought a tear to his eye,” — but I already knew. I could see the tears shining there. He told me almost shyly that he wanted to try to memorize it, even though his memory had gotten so much worse over the years. I was honored and so, so humbled. That was our last visit, and I am so grateful I was able to convey to him just how loved he was before he died.
so passes the golden autumn of this world into a dark/light place made of lengthening shadows and warm tender moments alike. poignant relief marks the passing of each second and season, pearls on a string slipping away through fingers roughened by time, all the more cherished for that which has gnarled them. fear not, though a shadow passes over your eyes at the thought of things unknown. in the end, you are loved.
— Charla M. DelaCuadra
I love you, Daddy, and I miss you already. I’ll always be grateful for your love. I know you were proud of me. I share your name, and you’ll always be in my heart. Thank you — for everything.
A very dear friend recommended this book recently, and I am so grateful he did. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune is the kind of book you pick up and don’t want put down, just from the sheer heartwarming loveliness of it. I read it over a few days while on a short vacation, and the sweetness of both my trip and this story will be staying with me for a long time.
Meet Mr. Linus Baker. He is a case worker for DICOMY, or the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. His job is to visit orphanages for magical children and produce strictly impartial reports on their efficacy. His days are largely the same: dull grey and tedious, and he is remarkable in only his studious self-effacement. That is, until a unique assignment from Extremely Upper Management puts him on a collision course with love, joy, purpose, and his very first glimpse of the ocean. Intrigued? I was, too!
The titular house is actually Marsyas Island Orphanage, a secluded place run by a Mr. Arthur Parnassus. It is full of children who will tug at your heartstrings as much as they make you laugh out loud. Nothing has prepared Mr. Baker for whatever a Chauncey is, much less a six-year-old Antichrist, and their antics drive him to apoplexy. The children are as magically unique as they are uniquely magical, and their caretaker is both mysterious and delightful. I belly laughed, I teared up, and I came back for more even as my nights turned into the wee hours of morning. Beyond the beautifully developed characters is a story about finding oneself, making space for joy, and how even one of us can help bring positive change. Oh, and love. Most of all, this story is about love. It feels like a hug down to the very last page, and I hope you love it as much as I did.
This morning I took a long walk around the neighbor with my dogs. I overheard a fellow dog walker across the street ask, “what time’s the party?” and when I rounded the corner, a little girl was twirling around in her front yard with a big bouquet of pink balloons, a shiny pink “5” floating proudly in the middle. Her mother was puttering in the yard as she twirled, and just past her in the driveway was a big inflatable slide, surely huge and and shining with promise to her little birthday girl self.
As I continued past the house, all of a sudden I caught a whiff of kids’ sunscreen, and I was instantly transported. I couldn’t help but grin, a huge ear-to-ear smile that took me totally off-guard. It was one of those olfactory memories that comes out of nowhere and takes your breath away. That smell was pure childhood summer to me — vacations up the CA coast, beach trips and running around the infield at the racetrack. Sunshine and swimming in a lake. Sandwiches, sodas, and giggles. I could practically smell the Italian bread we’d buy on our way to the races, a scent that mingled with sunscreen as my sister and I squirmed away from my mom, much more interested in lunch and the cookies that would follow than whatever hypothetical sunburn might befall us. In my mind’s eye I could see the geese that would honk and hiss at us despite our well-meaning offerings of bread (it was too good for them anyway… oh, that bread!). The grass under our feet as we ran from the far end of the infield to the other, determined to try to get a glimpse of those beautiful horses twice in one race. The feel of a cold can of black cherry Shasta I’d eagerly fish out of the cooler. Or the feel of the warm lake water of Havasu as we splashed outside the houseboat, life vests bright in the sun, and my dad eternally tidying and hanging up soggy towels. The games of Acey Deucey we’d play those evenings, betting with piles of little river stones, our foreheads slightly pink from the day despite repeated applications of sunscreen.
I had a happy childhood. Summers felt like a golden time, and that unexpected waft of sunblock on the breeze this morning made me remember just how beautiful summers can be. This year, as we stretch our wings and rediscover the world outside our front doors, I’d like to try to hold onto that golden, joyful summer spirit. We didn’t care if we were sweaty and tired. It was all about the joy of the moment… and those moments smelled like sunscreen.
Kintsugi : (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い, “golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.
This week we lost our oldest dog, Bailey, rather unexpectedly. He was 17 years old, so we knew our days were growing short, but it was heart-wrenching to have to suddenly say goodbye all the same. He and I had a deep bond — he was a mama’s boy in the best, sweetest sense. He saw me through many highs and lows over the pat 15 years, always patient and sweet, loving and attentive. When our other dog would run to the door to bark at a potential intruder, Bailey would head straight to my lap to protect me, his low warning woofs reverberating through his soft little body. He loved to play fetch, unceasingly bringing back his toys for yet another throw, excitement lighting up his whole face. He would sleep in the crook of my knee every night, a warm and solid assurance, until arthritis and age prevented him from getting up and down from the bed safely. Even then he slept next to my side of the bed most nights, ever devoted. He’d lick my ankles and keep me company. He loved food and treats with a zeal that matched my own, the little foodie, and ever the optimist, he’d lay on the floor near us whenever we were cooking, earning him the nickname “lil’ chef.” Family and his pack were deeply important to him — for years he’d balk at going for walks unless all of us came along. When he scratched at the grass with his hind paws, he’d leave each leg stretched back for a beat or two, like the smallest dramatic ice skater. And in his last days, his intuitive attentiveness never wavered. He was clear-eyed and trusting to the very end, showing me love even as his little body was failing him.
My heart broke on Wednesday. But I am honoring Bailey as best I can, filling the cracks with golden memories. He would want me to feel safe and loved, the way he always worked so hard to do. He will always be in my heart, and I am forever grateful to this little dog for a lifetime’s worth of trust, care, and love. Rest well, my little bear. We will be together again. I love you.
You have my heart. I’m not sure you wanted it, but it sits on your desk (in the corner) where sometimes it catches your eye and you remember (me) for a while. It beats (for you) but mostly you don’t notice. So easy to take (for granted) sitting there on the shelf, gathering dust over the years. I can’t seem to ask for it back, as much as its absence pains me, because one day (I hope) you’ll realize what a treasure it is, how rare and precious a gift it is that you have, (there) on your shelf, that you mostly can’t help but ignore.