Category Archives: MUSINGS

Ain’t That A Trip? …when the camera lens introduces you to a new home sweet home

Knowing that we sleep under the same sky has narrowed the miles and miles distance between my family and myself. Somehow, ‘home is where the heart is’ just doesn’t compare.

There is a true art to living and loving the longing. 

 

Visiting Detroit. My home. The Motor City. Home of Motown. “Big Cat” sport teams: Tigers and Lions. The Comeback Kids: American automakers. Detroit is no ordinary place. Nor would this visit ‘home’  be ordinary. It’s been over 11 years and I still refer to Detroit as ‘home.’ There’s a worldwide Detroit diaspora; if you travel and meet someone from anyplace in southeast Michigan, they’re likely to tell you they are from Detroit.

It’s one thing to live optimistically, inspiring yourself along the way. It’s something else to see strong, positive affirmations in big, bold letters.

Opportunity Made In Detroit. 

 

 

I had purposely traveled to Detroit to attend a storytelling event hosted by The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers.Their mission is to connect humanity, create community and provide an uplifting, thought-provoking, soul-cleansing entertainment experience that is unique through the art and craft of storytelling. This event’s theme was “Thankful.”

And thankful I was.

I absolutely believe in the healing power of words. Stories are made up of words, yet they are so much more – they connect our very beings. Words can galvanize communities or become shields that deflect change, invite fear, or cast us into the hinterlands separated from each other. 

My trip home would be check-up of sorts. I would open my heart and say “aaaaaah.” My first visit home as a travel blogger. The weekend would be fast, full of family, old and new friends, good cheer and an extreme opportunity to experience home through the lens of my camera.   

This “Zamboni” ice rink maintenance machine tending to the rink in Campus Martius Park is one more reminder: Opportunity Made in Detroit

So, on the first full day of my visit, between family commitments, a meetup with a nephew for some cheer at Flood’s, Detroit’s place “where everybody knows your name,” and the storytelling event, it would be me and my camera. Solo.   

But before I would start my exploration, I would go to Flo Boutique in the West Willis Village, near Wayne State University to buy a coveted Detroit Snob embroidered t-shirt. The store’s team made the atmosphere like being at home with family. After making my purchase perched on a seat, I asked if I could  ‘just be,’ to just hang out for a while and enjoy the camaraderie. “Of course!” was Sheila and Felicia’s response. As well as meeting a number of women, I learned a lot about the growing attractions and community between  Midtown and Downtown Detroit. When I wore out my welcome, off I went. My first stop was Great Lakes Cafe, a coffee-centric shop on Woodward & Alexandrine Avenue for a yummy sandwich.

Flo Boutique – Detroit is a lifestyle boutique for men and women. It is in the heart of West Willis Village, the hub of the Wayne State University, Cultural Center area.

After having some eats, I would be on my way to the riverfront. Once I got east of the landmark General Motors World Headquarters, I inched my way down the street that runs parallel to the river – Woodbridge. Milliken Park. New. The Dequindre Cut. New.

The Dequindre Cut is a non-motorized recreational greenway spanning over a mile from busy Gratiot Avenue to the riverfront. I was impressed by reuse of this abandoned railroad corridor. 

The Dequindre Cut is a greenway that hosts non-motorized recreational activities. I know if I lived nearby, it would be in my walking plans.

While some take abandoned resources and recover their value, others show respect for the unpolished edges of the urban landscape by using them as backdrops for beauty and culture. 

A group of young Detroit models pose in the shadow of the GM headquarters in a field near a warehouse. True grit is what it takes to forge a way into urban arts and culture. Kudos!

This warehouse doesn’t stand alone. It’s supporting cast is a blind of beautiful trees and the handiwork of graffiti artists.

I love calling the U.S. automotive industry “The Comeback Kids”!

 As I inched eastward, the hands of time were inching along with me – backward. Belle Isle Park was definitely one of my favorite places to visit as a child. When ‘the isle’ was the destination for our Sunday riding, life was good. We learned softball, cricket, and when we needed to stretch our legs, we would pile out of the car and race to the Scott fountain. 

I used to imagine the Scott Memorial Fountain to be a wedding cake. Its alternating colored-lights gave it an awe-inspiring appearance at night. Beautiful public art!

In all the years I visited Detroit’s Belle Isle Park, I never noticed the first road, the perimeter road of the island is called Sunset Strip. A well-deserved name!

A Dramatic Change: Sunset Behind Detroit and Windsor Skylines

 

In the winter, we ice skated on this pond until our toes felt like they would fall off and then we’d go inside the pavilion and have hot chocolate and Cheeze-It crackers for a snack.

There’s something about showing up to make the full impression of your life something worthy of reflecting on later. Just as the sun will not half rise or set, life’s reflection should be nothing less than that of your full self. This is the place that brought so much joy to my young life.

Something mystical happened as the sun began to set on my memories of home. The sky changed colors like the most elegant fashion model sashaying down the runway and with each change reappearing with something far more exquisite than the last change. 

It was an eerie conspiracy: the sky and the water in the ponds and the river were completely still on the surface. The Detroit River is a shipping channel with grown-up currents. I don’t know the phenomenon, but the landscape morphed into a wondrous canvas where the beauty of life was cast. 

When I stepped out of my car and walked maybe 20 feet to the pond’s bank, the smell of hops from the Windsor brewery infused the air. My heart rang out when the bell tower struck half past the hour.

Along with the reflection of the past, what I saw was the beauty and perfection of the heart: it is a storehouse of joy! What, for ages has been revealed as something that cannot be seen nor known by reasoning, poet, teacher and artist of words, Rumi captured it best.

“The lips, the water of life, the one whose thirst has been quenched are one.”

I wonder if she knows she’s filling his storehouse with joyful memories.

Detroit-Windsor Ambassador Bridge at Sunset

This was the most giving sunset I have ever experienced in Detroit. After beholding a portfolio of beauty, it was time to make my way back downtown to meet up with my nephew. Earlier as I traveled from Midtown to the Riverfront, I noticed Campus Martius was alive and teeming with activity. It is a magnet. The shops, the ice skating rink, the hand-warming bonfire are all people-pleasing attractions. I found a convenient parking space, went to a wine bar, perched with a nice glass of red, and watched the activity of the ice rink like it was a big screen television.On As I approached Woodward, I noticed that I became the subject of the curiosity of a man, moving along the street that would end on Woodward. He walked in a challenged way.  As I stood at the focal point of the attraction taking photos, he finally caught up to me. He stepped right in front of my camera. “Would you like for me to photograph you?” When I asked Richard if I could take his picture, he agreed with no hesitation.

Richard.

This was the first shot. “Why are you not smiling?” He was concerned about missing teeth and smiling. When I assured him that a smile is not defined by teeth and comes from inside out, this was the sweet photograph he gifted me with.

A smile can change an entire landscape.

Of course I wanted to know his story. He moved to Detroit to be close to his daughter and there had been some bad blood and they had been sorely out of contact – for a long time.

Forgive

It just slipped from my mouth and into the cool November air. At that instant, all stopped moving around me and this man who walked with a limp, carrying a cane and vet status. He shared his story and we talked. And talked. What I know is words absolutely have healing power. And, the storehouse of the heart is big enough to hold, preserve and share joy whenever needed.  

After I left Campus Martius soul-cleansed, I was still early for the meetup with my nephew. So I drove along Lafayette Boulevard to take a quick look at the primary school my daughter attended while we lived in the Eastern Market. When I made a u-turn in front of Chrysler Elementary School, I caught a flash of blue.

“Capital A. U-G-I-E”

That’s how he spelled his name when I asked him if he consented to let me take his photograph. He did not hesitate. When I asked where he was headed, I knew his answer: “Downtown.”

Augie on his way Downtown.

The brim of Augie’s hat is lined with blinking lights: a great safety device in the dark. 

My brief and enjoyable cheer with my nephew and one of his former colleagues was just what I needed  after a long afternoon of reminiscing, making new friends, and exploring ‘home’ through another lens. Then it was on to a remarkable storytelling event.

Aint’ That A Trip? …when the camera lens introduces you to a new home sweet home 

 

Ain’t That A Trip? …when stars in the black onyx sky are trumped by the city lights

Good Luck

O, once in each man’s life, at least,
Good Luck knocks at his door;
And wit to seize the flitting guest
Need never hunger more.
But while the loitering idler waits
Good Luck beside his fire,
The bold heart storms at fortune’s gates,
And conquers its desire.

Lewis J. Bates (1859-1946)

 

 

Bates left a great reminder. My response to the sound of opportunity knocking at my door is to fling the door open and hug opportunity like a long-lost friend, then treat it like welcomed company, inviting it to over stay my hospitality.  

Odds are, if given a chance to share good laughs in good company in a good place, I’m there! 

So, off to Las Vegas I journeyed for a weekend of fun. And laughs. And instant classics.

I am a helpless skygazer. As soon as I settled into the hotel and walked to “The Strip” on Las Vegas Boulevard, I craned my neck up to survey the blanket I would be operating under. What is the blanket, you may ask? The sky, of course! 

The black onyx sky over Las Vegas Boulevard.

I could not see a single star.

All of the stars were down on the ground. On The Strip. The sky had been trumped by the city lights. Outshone. But, definitely not left naked and ashamed. The nighttime sky was beautiful, like smooth black onyx. Like a precious stone, the sky was dotted by a lovely milky white moon. 

 

The Landscape – A Place to Look Up To In Las Vegas

Another Good Reason to Look Up in Las Vegas – Art Glass Inset in Bellagio Hotel Lobby Ceiling

This was my third visit to “Sin City.” I am simply amazed how ingenuous development of the complex entertainment destination Las Vegas has become – a place smack dab in the middle of the Nevada desert. There is live music, comedy, theatrics, all sorts of attractions, acrobatics, adult entertainment – a panoply of reasons to stay active and all abuzz.

Tao Bistro & Club’s interior – as impeccable as the culinary offerings.

Stone tubs filled with rose petals and candles line the entryway into the Tao Bistro and Club. Inside the Venetian facility.

Guests of the Venetian enjoy gondola rides in a backdrop reminiscent of the beautiful city of Venice, Italy.

“Spiderman” takes a break from his post on the Strip.

Gladiators chat until the next picture-seeking visitor comes along.

Another thing that was clear more this visit than ever before was the sense of possibility. It felt palpable – like a heartbeat.  I’m talking about the feeling that comes from pursuit of chance, of luck, of fame, of fortune, of hopes, of dreams. 

The Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino was live on Saturday night.

Because it was the weekend before Halloween, being in Las Vegas was particularly entertaining. It was challenging to distinguish the costumed for parties from those ‘working’ The Strip for photos with visitors and tips. As I passed those dressed in costumes I presumed were working, I thought:

Feed your dreams. They help keep your footing on a solid path forward. Dream big. In high-definition. Anything less than big dreams ought to be left to luck. Odds are, dreams will take you outside of what appears to be to what could be.

That was really advice to myself… then I reminded myself that the journey to the place with the beautiful, smooth black onyx sky was for good laughs and good company and not too much thought-provoking thinking.

Ain’t That A Trip? …when stars in the black onyx sky are trumped by the city lights

Ain’t That A Trip? …when a walk around old town Girona lands you in Mexico

I love avocados. I love Mexican cuisine. What a delight to find extraordinary Mexican cuisine in Old Town Girona, Spain.

Inside looking out. Maguey: Cuina Mexicana

MAGUEY: Cuina Mexicana
One of the owners, Arturo was born in Mexico, moved to France for stint in the finance industry, followed his heart to Spain, and landed in Girona.  

When you walk in the restaurant, you immediately know your needs come first to the attentive staff. Arturo or “Arthur with an o” as he introduced himself was kind and engaging. He genuinely seemed interested in what had brought me to Girona. When I asked how a Mexican-born, journalist ended up in Catalonia, he was open and friendly, sharing his story.

 A few nights before I visited the restaurant for the first time, I watched his partner from a distance. It was just before the dinner rush – she was setting up overflow seating outside the restaurant. Her boundless energy made an impression on me – she was wrestling tables and umbrellas along  the sidewalk. What’s remarkable is the over-capacity seating was one storefront away and around the corner!  

Inside Maguey: Cuina Mexicana

Their food was great, especially the guacamole; it had chunks of the sweet, buttery fruit balanced with those spectacular tomatoes, onions, and just the right spike of citrus flavor. The heavenly guacamole was just the perfect starter to excite my palate but not fill me up.

Did I say I was looking for the best margarita I ever had when I first realized Maguey offered Mexican cuisine? Well, I was not, but it was truly a happy discovery.

Their hand-mixed classic margarita was excellent – so how would the specialty margarita featuring guava fruit rate better than excellent? 

über-excellent

Don’t take my word for it. I rank my people-experience right up there with the food, so maybe I’m not a good reviewer. Go see for yourself – be prepared for good food, great atmosphere, and a welcoming, sweet staff. 

Since travelers and diners seek different experiences, this is not intended to be a review of the restaurant, Maguey. Their website is www.maguey.es

Ain’t That A Trip? …when a walk around old town Girona lands you in Mexico.

Ain’t That A Trip?…when an urban nature walk lands you in a bat cave

 

Inside the Bat Cave, Barcelona, Spain

 Destination has become something more than the name of a place on my itinerary. It is a  frontier waiting to be adventured. Along the way, I am discovering that the trip is to today and a passion is developing: wanderlust for a place where a new nation can be built from within.   

Recently, after a daylong themed tour, “Cava, Coves and Gardens” in the beautiful Costa Brava region of Spain, I thirsted for more. Not the bubbly part of the theme, but the beauty that can hardly be captured in a digital frame.  The gardens. The plant life.

After the impressive tour of the modest and native Mediterranean botanical garden, Marimutra, I arranged to discover the untamed, uncultivated species that grow right in the backlot of the hilly cultural hub of beautiful Barcelona.

The next morning at first light, I watered the horses, tamped down the canvas, and hitched to the wagontrain to the new territory. Well, not really a wagontrain, but a train – the regional train from Girona to Barcelona – a 1.5 hour trip. I boarded the train not pretending to know where I was on the trail, but knowing my path was being directed and a righteous way being made, knowing that any sagebrush in the path would be cleared, and knowing the fog of doubt would be lifted. I was a hopeful pioneer in search of an instant classic.

When we met up with NaturalWalks of Barcelona, we would take an urban walking tour up steep hills, onto precipices, peering onto the site of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the awe-striking Barcelona seaport, the sapphire Mediterranean sea, and the vast landscape views of metropolitan Barcelona. 

.

As an avid walker, I have come to appreciate the beauty of the ordinary. By the end of the tour, what I knew was confirmed: the beauty and rich cultural heritage of the place I admired didn’t just lie just in the architecture and art and history. There was profound beauty and purpose in the modest and surefooted plant life that survived for generations. This secret life that graciously gave hints about how the land was used. 

We discovered uncultivated fennel, garlic, sage, lavender, carob, mint, and a plethora of herbs and aromatics; it was like a moveable aromatheraphy session. When introduced to a new specimen,  I would ceremoniously close my eyes, take in a deep breath, get a huge waft of aroma and exhale with a soulful, ‘aaahhh.’  

Along the way around the mount, we noticed portions of the large rock wall which had been used for Olympic rockclimbing was cordoned off. There were safety concerns due to falling material. Then the amusing appeared: a tunnel. La Fuixarda. An outdoor tunnel that was being used as an urban climbing experience.

The “Bat Cave” is adorned with protrusions of all whimsical shapes, painted murals on the ceiling of the tunnel, and varying degrees of climbing difficulty. It was truly like walking into a colony of bats – friendly bats that were about the business of learning to hang upside down on the ceiling of a cave.

Ain’t That A Trip?…when an urban nature walk lands you in a bat cave.

Thank you Evarist March, owner of NaturalWalks for the memorable experience. Their website is http://naturalwalks.com/

Ain’t That A Trip?…when you land in a struggle between nature and luxury

Amber Glass at Sunset
(C) 2012, Michelle Pearcy
click on image to see full size

Somewhere there’s a place that lies between the excessively busy, cluttered, filled with bad news stories, ringtone-filled world we navigate our way through on a daily basis and packing it all in and heading for a cabin on Walden Pond.

It’s the middle ground.

Finding the middle ground is a constant journey. I feel enormously blessed to know there is a powerfully-calibrated GPS system that guides me. When I need my course re-set, that system doesn’t give up on me, but recalculates and sets me on my way. It’s the Most Capable Guide.  

I never tire of the journey to the middle ground. It is a place where I can rendezvous with life’s challenges, face fears, and instead of ruminating over something that happened yesterday or a moment ago over and over, I choose to tap the stop button instead of the rewind button. 

The middle ground is a place where I can find peace of heart – mind too. It’s a place where only now exists. When I’m in the middle ground, I know no matter how rough, how rugged, or how pot-hole-filled the road may be, it can lead to a stretch as smooth as butter. Yet, the only way there is the way forward.    

The photo of the bottle was taken at a luxury resort where I celebrated my birthday. The beautiful amber glow on the bottle was light cast by a candle. The sun was setting and we had just settled into the beautifully appointed lagoon unit after exploring our new surroundings. When night fell, we were in a crossfire. A war was being waged between luxury and nature. As one of my teachers, Khalil Gibran would say: 

“If indeed you must be candid, be candid beautifully.”

As one would suspect, nature won out over luxury. The legion of palmetto bugs (beautiful word for “big tropical cockroach”) set our trail ablaze; we retreated; we were reassigned to another unit to spend the next night; it too was under siege. After the second move, we just knew it would be our chance to shine. We were singing in two-part harmony the theme song from The Jeffersons situation comedy: 

“Well, we’re movin’ on up to the east side, to a deluxe apartment in the sky…well, we’re movin’ on up…”

We were moving to a de-luxe mansion overlooking the sea. It was by far more luxurious and by far roomier than the other two units put together – it was a mansion, after all.

A simple set change. The combat theatre was more beautiful – the troupe this time was  rodents (beautiful word for “sea rats”). The powerful lesson in this instant classic as we call journeys with rich and memorable learning and teaching moments:

You can build your mansion to touch a gilt sky, but if your neighbor’s lot is unimproved, your shack is not much taller than his.  

In spite of the bumpy road we still had a great and memorable time. Most of all the middle ground was still to be found. 

“No road is long with good company.” ~Turkish Proverb

Ain’t That A Trip? …when time begins the moment you stop watching it.

Nostalgia Softens The Look Back
(C) 2012, Michelle Pearcy
click image for full size

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some years ago, I stopped wearing a timepiece on my person. At the very moment I stopped twisting my wrist to watch my watch is when time began.

Nostalgia does something remarkable – it softens the look back, making the hard edges of photos from the past appear gauzy and foggy – almost romantic. So often, the reward for looking back over one’s shoulder is joy. At other times, the payoff is discovery and discomfort. It’s easy to get the lesson not to dwell too long in the past when you walk the shoreline – after taking a step in the sand, when you look back the impression has been washed away.

This old Chevy truck became the subject of my camera’s lens on a ride through the countryside.  It was fall in Michigan – just outide of Detroit, my hometown. This old clunker was placed alongside the road as an attention-grabber for what else? A pumpkin patch! This Sunday afternoon, I sprung my Mom from the rehabilitation facility where she was recovering after a heart valve replacement surgery. We would have a few hours to enjoy the fresh fall air – so off we went, riding, to take in the ‘colors.’ What I didn’t realize is my journey would be with one foot in and one foot out of the past.     

It was breathtaking! Without a doubt, the color wheel got its inspiration from fall in Michigan – indescribably beautiful. You can shoot so much with a camera that your own eye misses the experience. This time, my heart was memorializing  everything. I am ever thank-full; the memory of that day is replete with sight, sound, smell, and sensation of a new season of healing. 

October in Michigan. My favorite time and place for pumpkin-picking, cider-sipping, and Sunday riding. 

 “The BEST and

Most BEAUTIFUL things

In the WORLD cannot

Be SEEN or even

TOUCHED. They

Must be FELT with

The HEART.”

~HELEN KELLER

 

Ain’t That A Trip? …when time begins the moment you stop watching it. 

 

 

 

Ain’t That A Trip? …when traveling light becomes the unreal edge

 The Unreal Edge

Keep your head to the sky. And, whenever you feel weighted down, if you cannot muster the strength to keep your whole head lifted, just get that chin up! 

The Unreal Edge (Graffiti Art – Brussels, Belgium)
Copyright 2012 Michelle Pearcy                          click image for full-size

On the eve of 2011, I sat in a not-so-crowded salon of a Brussels hotel, bringing in the New Year with a young, gentle man from Tunisia. It was a giggle-filled celebration, not just in observance and excitement over bringing in a New Year, but in the common ground between two strangers – two travelers. The acquaintance evolved over a series of glasses of colas and  flutes of champagne. I wondered how long he could continue with his brown bubbly before becoming totally caffeinated. We talked family. We talked aspirations. We talked disappointments. In the space between was lots of laughs that left him with a medical case of hiccups. I smile as I think about how he emphatically invited me – a lone Bohemian – to visit Afriqué.  A few weeks later, his home, Tunisia was ablaze in an uprising.

It seems the road to our legacy is being paved with a cascade of sudden awakenings. The challenge of this generation will be to keep the walk-way elevated and on the high road. That means keeping goodness far away from the ground so when the roots of the Tree of Humanity do expand, the walk-way’s foundation is not wrecked. That’s when the Rock will only be a place on which to stand and no longer an object to hurl. Our greatest, most dynamic moments will be when we live as a community of passionate, loving souls. Then, we’ll know the Unreal Edge.