Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Wonderful Christmas Gift: Loving Where You Live, Living Where You Love, And A Hidden Garden In San Francisco

I got very tired posting about hatred during the Christmas Season, so here is my REAL Christmas sentiment.

The Gift That Makes A Difference in People's Lives.

Sometimes a gift can be for everyone and yourself at the same time. The garden I've planted/created for the people in our building (and now the whole complex of 3500 units) is like that. It helps give people joy, peace, serenity and cultivates a sense of wonder. 

Yes, it's spiritual: to the gardener as well as to the residents. It eschews secular meaning - humanist, yes, but not secular humanist. Not just a garden of pretty flowers and plants, but a space that draws the soul away from the rest of the world, closer to the Creator, into another, less troubled place.

Loving Where You Live

ParkMerced is a unique space in San Francisco with unique attributes - as well as unique problems. It is not considered "San Francisco": it has no "painted ladies", no hills, no homeless, no landmarks, no bars, no touristy attractions. Built in a 1948, it is a combination of small mock-Regency (read 50s) town homes set among minimalist concrete towers over 108 acres. It's "shopping center" is a strip mall consisting of one grocery*, a sports bar, a taqueria and a laundry. 

Oh, and a papa johns pizza. 

It is bordered by Lake Merced, SF State University and the freeway and because if its position, it is unfortunately tethered to MUNI's M metro line (M for "miserable"). Perched high enough for upper tower apartments to have a magnificent view of the ocean, the largest housing project west of the Mississippi touts its singularity. 

It's residents are a curious combination of students, elderly, a variety of ethnic groups with the emphasis on Chinese and Russian. At any given time, over 10,000 people live here, but the vast layout negates any form of city claustrophobia. 

Vegetation consists primarily of pine trees and "Pride of Madiera" echium. Visible fauna consists of residents' dogs (it is a rare dog heaven in San Francisco), coyotes, an occasional cat (so many indoors), a variety of birds including hawks, doves, seagulls, crows and a myriad number of sparrows. Invisible fauna consists primarily of underground gophers.

Pride of Madeira Echium

And individual plantings. 

Like mine. 

"It's not just a garden, it's a sanctuary, " said one neighbor. People meditate there. Kids come to see the echium-bush birdhouse and the "faerie portal". Some people start their mornings by gazing down on the hundreds of red acrylic rocks forming a glittering heart. 

The bejeweled Faerie Portal

Spurts of violence are rare, and it is a peaceful place where the exigencies of a conglomerate management and obscene cost of living are tolerated (those who have rent control are constantly suspicious of management that can get three times in rent from a new lessee).**

The management's talk of "quality of life" have been met with skepticism, but my own experience tending a (formerly unwarranted ) garden has been "we'd like to see more of that" and has bolstered my opinion.

"They're trying."

Living Where You Love - The Christmas Spirit All Year Round

It's not always easy to love where you live, you have to truly experience living your space and neighborhood with someone you love. The feeling at ParkMerced is more than live and let live. Even some of the students are (gasp!) courteous and acceptance of all lifestyles is the key. Gay couples are spread out among the ten towers. Same-sex couples are accepted, even welcomed. 

The motto of Good Will Toward Men is adhered to throughout the year.

Christmas in the garden is still a private affair known only to tower residents and, of course, the residents of the garden: the birds and spirits (in the form of "Faeries"). The gophers don't count; they are interlopers, opportunists that care only for lies beneath the ground. 

They have no aesthetics.

Peace and good will. One sadly aging Russian grandmother sits there for hours on end, the garden obviously giving her tranquil thoughts. Sometimes she talks to a friend - quietly, as if a raised voice would disturb the peace.

There is never an angry word heard near the garden. Children seem more respectful: this sanctuary has the power to quiet little ones.

The video below says much more about the Christmas spirit than mere words. The "Faeries" and their Portal will (hopefully) give you a "Merry Christmas" from the heart, and hope for a wondrous New Year.

* The grocery has instituted special meals for students and home-delivery for elderly customers.
**One may remember the immense problems I had in keeping my apartment here.

Season of Hating, Pt III: Have a Fred Phelps Kind of Christmas - Righteously Arrogant and Sublimely Ridiculous

A Facebook event called “The Quran Roast of D.C.” had appeared earlier in the week. “This is the day america must stand up against islam and the islamic immigration which is illegally being implemented on our nation,” the event’s description said.

The organizers had invited more than 2,000 people to the event, and given Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s gross rhetoric against Muslims, and the crowds he’s been drawing, it seemed possible that a good number of them might actually show up.

But the 70-plus confirmed attendees turned out to be more like six men, most of them dressed like bikers, and one middle-aged woman.

Season of Hating II: Only Good Little Stores and Services Get Good Christian Money

Season of Hating, Pt 1: Giving Thanks for an Abundance of Bigotry, Phobias and Racism

Different Fruits of Abundance, Same Flavor: HATE

The Country of NO

While America's Grand Ole Party (GOP) has come to be known as the Party of NO, the same can be said about the country itself.

With the latest flap about Syrian refugees (half of whom are children), the country shows its xenophobia in the worst way. The NYT columnists DAVID D. LAITIN and MARC JAHR proposed a solution (Let Syrians Settle Detroit):

Detroit, a once great city, has become an urban vacuum. Its population has fallen to around 700,000 from nearly 1.9 million in 1950. The city is estimated to have more than 70,000 abandoned buildings and 90,000 vacant lots. Meanwhile, desperate Syrians, victims of an unfathomable civil war, are fleeing to neighboring countries, with some 1.8 million in Turkey and 600,000 in Jordan.

Suppose these two social and humanitarian disasters were conjoined to produce something positive.

But conservatives like Ann Coulter will have none of it: 

"The New York Times Prefers Syrian Refugees Over Black Americans" 

This is the same Ann Coulter who once said "America is the world's most compassionate country."*

The Syrian crisis shows the world that "compassion" is no longer America's middle name.

The Numbers of Crisis and Compassion.

  • 12 million Syrians have fled their homes because of conflict;half are children.
  • 4 million Syrians are refugees; most are in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.
  • Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school.
  • More than 700,000 Syrian refugees and other migrants risked their lives this year to travel to Europe.
And we can't won't take in 70,000. 

If the hysteria over refugees has a recent ring to it, consider the plight of Central American Children:

(CNN July 16, 2014)
Earlier this month in Murrieta, busloads of babies in their mothers' laps, teens, 'tweens and toddlers were turned back from a detainee facility.
They were met by screaming protesters waving and wearing American flags and bearing signs that read such things as "Return to Sender."
What's In The Past Cannot Stay In The Past

Recent history (past 100 years**) may be the best view of America's "No!" problem: Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Latino and Mexican Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, gay Americans have all felt the sting of intolerance. Communities have killed and battered them while Congresses have rallied against them. Those communities that have given them acceptance, solace and sanctuary (like my city, San Francisco) have been pilloried by Right Wing interests. Pulpits (albeit manned by steadfast Fundamentalist pastors) have demonized them to the point that showing any acceptance labeled a church "heretical" in that it didn't conform to strictly conservative view (read: biblical literalism).

In other words, bigotry, racism, xenophobia (and other phobias as well) are still with us, and our socio-religious-political interests are still fueling them. And while "Return To Sender" attitudes have not been extremely violent, the day may come when violence, to some, may be the only option in exercising their right to hate. 

Abundance vs Abundance

Regardless of all the hatred, the intolerance and the sheer mean-spiritedness brought out of America by people on the Right, America still has an abundance of good to be thankful for. The problem, as some see it, is that the leaders making it a "Country of No"are very greedy, reserving that goodness, that compassion for its own and relatively select few: "we have an abundance of freedoms, powers, money, services and goods - but only for us." 

Only for us. 

* Yes, ironic coming from a woman who constantly refers to herself as a "mean-spirited bitch" and who, when it comes to compassion and charity, makes Scrooge look like a combination of Mother Theresa and Santa Claus.

Season of Hating

Just had to post these three articles today, to remind people that Christmas is about Love and not what these people practice.

50 Chumasero Memorial Garden Christmas