spirituality


Despite my adamant stance that I’m a spiritual person, not a religious one, I’ve been a regular reader of Unity’s Daily Word since I was a teenager. And I’ve written before how it’s something of my horoscope for me in that many have been the times I’ve turned to the “word” for any given day and have it directly relate as if written specifically for me and/or my situation.

As I nervously get ready for and anticipate my first day of class at Rio Hondo College, I opened up today’s entry and found it is no exception:

Transformation
My life is transformed as my mind is renewed.

My mind is a powerful tool. The thoughts I think and the memories I recall shape my life experience. In the Bible, we are encouraged to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” I take this to heart, and it has a powerful effect on my life.

When I choose life-affirming thoughts, I have life-affirming experiences. A transformation occurs. My physical appearance changes as I smile more often, walk more confidently, and let my inner light radiate outward. As I develop greater peace and awareness, my spiritual essence shines more brightly. My inner transformation positively affects my life and the lives of those around me.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may discern what is the will of God. —Romans 12:2

Yesterday’s word was right on the money, too.

Today I’ll be participating my fourth (of five) Great LA Walks, all of them orchestrated by the awesome Michael Schneider of Franklin Avenue. Beginning at Pershing Square downtown I will be pedestrianating (yep, in the rain) with my fellow pedestrianaters all the way westward along Wilshire Boulevard some 15-miles to its end at Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. In the meantime I leave you with this, found this morning at Tony Pierce’s Busblog,.

I am jealous of everyone present in this video who experienced such a joyful transformation of a mall’s garish food court to a glorious cathedral of soaring spirit.

Speaking of soaring spirits, there are so many things I wouldn’t know about without Tony. This being one of them. Hallelujah to him.

I aaaaaaalmost didn’t go. It was yet another dreary morning augmented by a drizzle just light enough to bring the lurking oils and sludge to the roadway surfaces, making them slippery and slidey.

But I went. I pedaled through the spritz and shvitz across Silver Lake and Echo Park through Historic Filipinotown and up and over the climb up Lucas Street and rolled up to the location of the annual Blessing of the Bikes — and place of my birth: Good Samaritan Hospital — just in time to proceed past a robed gentleman who added a few drops of some holy water to the rain I’d absorbed.

And it quickly paid off, because in my circuitous route home wandering around downtown I ended up in front of Disney Concert Hall. Up on the sidewalk I went to get a picture of the gray building’s curves blending in against the gray skies, and banked a slow counter clockwise turn on the bike that rolled me over a stamped steel plate.  Next thing I know the front tire’s lost traction and slides out from me. And the next thing I know after that is that instead of flopflailing to whatever abrasions and embarrassments awaited me on the ground I somehow managed to unclip first my left foot than my right in a semi-fluid supersplit second and step over the falling bike, finishing the  maneuver standing beside 8Ball that I held by the bars in one outstretched hand as if I’d been practicing such a dismount all my biking life.

Blessed indeed.

By somewhat of a reluctant choice, I opted to keep off my bike this week. It was a combination of just needing a break from the saddle in the midst of a rather stressed week at work — compounded by the shock at news of the death and impending funeral service for Analisa, the 16-year-old daughter of my friends Arnold and Martha.

On top of that, there was rain on the plains earlier in the week and this was also the first few days of it being dusk at 5 p.m., and besides that seasonal switch always miffing me just on general principle it also requires a period of adjustment for most motorists suddenly confronted with driving home in darkness. So generally speaking it’s not a bad idea to be as protected from that confusion as possible.

So the dusty squeaky truck was employed, with all its accumulated crud from not being washed in six months — at least. I’ve no problem driving dirty around running errands around town but I was actually embarrassed to arrive at the location of the service in Santa Ana with it so filthy — intentionally parking it out of the way so it wouldn’t be seen. And afterwards when the procession was organizing for the trip to the cemetery in Montebello I left ahead of it to dive into a nearby drive-through car wash to at least get the outer layers of crud shed, only to find it closed for repairs. So I rolled solo to the cemetery — again parking it a distance down the lane to avoid detection.

As if anyone in their mourning freakin’ cared. I can be such an idiot. You’d think I grieved more over a stupid vehicle than I did over Analisa’s death. Trust me, that was not the case.

Suffice that it was a very emotional day. One which I did my best to fill with celebration of Analisa, not sorrow.

Back in the summer of 2000 I got the opportunity to meet the Ontes family of Trabuco Canyon — Arnold, Martha and their 8-year-old daughter Analisa — to discover and later tell their remarkable story of love, hope, and enduring faith in a feature that was published in the January 2001 issue of Orange Coast magazine, thanks to my friend Nancy Cheever (who I met and worked with at the end of my days at the Pasadena Weekly) landing a gig as editor there.

You can read it here if you want… sorry that it’s only in PDF.

In the aftermath of the story — which Arnold and Martha were very pleased with — a friendship sprung up between us, born partially from how much I fell in love with their remarkable little girl and also from how much Arnold and I loyally loved the Oakland Raiders. In the years that passed we would get together on occasion. Maybe I would go down to their place for a Raiders game or they would come up and we’d go to the zoo or a Dodger game. In fact, it was during one of those visits up that they took me and Susan to meet our first monstrous Manuel’s Specials at the legendary El Tepeyac in Boyle Heights. The mammoth burritos there were almost as big as Analisa.

I’m pretty certain the last time the five of us saw each other was when they came up for our wedding reception a waaaaay too long three-and-a-half years ago.

In the time that passed  Arnold and I would drop the occasional email to each other to commiserate about the endless decline of our Raiders or cheer Analisa’s resilience, but those also tailed off and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been a couple years since we touched base.

As such I did a double take when his name showed up in my inbox, then my pleasant surprise turned to heartbreak when I opened the email to learn the worst. That his spunky, punky, spirited, tough, smart and adorable little girl passed away this past Saturday, succumbing I assume to complications from the enigmatic disease she’s suffered with all of her 16 years.

I’m pretty much sitting here dumbfounded between being subsumed by waves of grief and not a little guilt. I’d thought about them pretty regularly — always kept meaning to write or call just to say hey and see how Analisa was faring and wonder what the hell was so wrong with our beloved Silver and Black.

But I didn’t. And now instead of ever seeing her again or hearing her gleeful and slightly mischevious laugh I must say goodbye at her funeral Thursday. But if nothing else I will rise from Analisa’s passing to be a better friend to Arnold and Martha, whose strength and faith will doubtlessly be enduring the greatest test of their lives.

On one of our latter days in Guanajuato, Susan and I entered the largest church nearest our hotel, known as the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato (Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato; built in the 17th century). There were few churches we explored that weren’t breathtaking in one form or another, but in this case, while making my way back from the altar area, any interest in the architecture or decor diminished when I found this Guanajuatan intensely praying in the brilliant illumination of a shaft of sunlight through a window in the dome that pierced the dim interior (click to enlarge):

I hope the gentleman’s prayers were answered.

Last year my sweetie and I experienced Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s “Day of the Dead” celebration for the first time. For this year’s festivities we decked ourself out muertos-style.

dotd.jpg

Flickr photoset from the evening is here.

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