Starry nights

Some of my favorite nights have been spent in the middle of nowhere, head tilted up with eyes glued to the night sky. As a kid, my most memorable field trips were to the planetarium, but growing up in various cities with lots of light pollution, I’d rarely see more than a handful of stars outdoors. Nevertheless, I often dreamt of swallowing the Milky Way with my hungry eyes.

My favorite memory of stargazing was when I was visiting family in Australia in 2018. We were driving from Sydney to Melbourne at night, with much of the road in a quiet darkness. I remember rolling the window down and sticking my head out. It was August, so the chill in the air stung my skin, but I couldn’t help but remain fixated. I’d never seen the Milky Way like that, with the Southern Cross boldly waving hello, beckoning for us to follow. Speeding down the highway, we chased the horizon of that sparkly path, hoping to meet it.

There’s no way I could, in total, capture what I’d experienced, other than the sheer awe in the vastness around me and the tininess of my humanity. I was perusing r/Astronomy when this photo captured me:

This photo was shot in Wyoming, so a bit far from the road of my memory and dreams but definitely a continuation of it. I hope it transports you to another time and place like it has for me.

Keeping things fresh

It’s almost the end of the year, and it’s easy to feel like 2020 was both the longest and swiftest year of my life. Nationwide cases of COVID-19 are surging, as we brace ourselves for winter and a holiday season that brings a greater sense of isolation and financial instability for many this time around. I work in public and mental health, and the question around the work we are all asking is how do we manage physical distancing and sheltering in place when addressing mental health is critical for longevity?

Frequently working from home, it’s also easy to feel a sense of monotony throughout the days, weeks, months, and soon-to-be year. (To be fair, I am deeply grateful to be able to work from home.) I’ve been rotating various hobbies to keep things fresh and moving, and one of the hobbies back in rotation is painting. I am far from having any formal training in this craft, but I’ve always loved creating anything by hand and have painted for years. Recently, I started off painting a derpy portrait of my cat, but now painting pet portraits has become a side project, and I’ve managed to get a queue of portraits together.

I’m only on my third portrait, but I’ve got three more in the queue!

It all started with my muse George.
I painted Rue for a couple of my best friends in the Bay Area.
I’m working on a third portrait and mixed a sweet coral to match this pup’s namesake and color vibe for the background.

I try to get to know these pets’ personalities so I can capture unique quirks. It’s honestly the best part, and I often find myself laughing as I paint these silly facial expressions.

Painting has also been great with relieving stress, which also helps when I have technological issues and want to throw my laptop across the room!

If you’re reading this and feel apprehensive about starting anything crafty, just try it! No one starts off a master at anything anyway, and the most important part is whether you find joy in what you’re doing. If cost is an issue, try repurposing things you’ve already got at home. I’ve also painted old planters that have otherwise been collecting dust. I’ve used my glue gun to put several odd objects together, including repairing my toilet seat. (It’s easier than bugging my landlord and way more cost-effective for me.) Happy crafting!

The Map Show

I woke up this morning to alerts that Pennsylvania and Georgia had “turned blue,” which, if you’re not familiar with U.S. politics, means that the electoral votes from those states are likely to go to the Biden/Harris/Democrat ticket versus to Trump/Pence/Republicans. (This isn’t the space to get into why this flip is monumental and what efforts were taken to achieve this, but start with #StaceyAbrams.) With the final counts wrapping up, Biden/Harris are likely to take the Oval Office next year, with only six electoral votes away from the necessary 270 to win.

I’ve tried to avoid actively perusing Facebook for some time, only checking messages and alerts here and there. I see a lot of complaints from all sides on how “we can’t just sit back and watch,” “we can’t depend on them to do this,” and “we’ve got to take back our country.” All racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, violence, and just overall bigotry aside, that’s actually the point of civic engagement. Educate yourself, get involved, take responsibility for your personal sense of power and what that means collectively as a society—do the thing!

I’m reflecting upon the biographical documentary American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs and her comment that we should not rely on messiahs to save us. She made a reference to Barack Obama and the hope he inspired in so many. Two presidential terms and four years since he was in office, some lament today that he did not do “enough.” What can one person do, even if he held one of the most powerful positions in the world? Granted, much, but grassroots power—people power—I really believe this is where it’s at. Hope makes all the difference, but ultimately, it’s only the beginning and a call to action.

If there’s anything we can learn from these last four polarizing years and the disastrous 2020, I hope it’s recognition of our own power and our collective capacity for and to change.

Reflections of Wilshire Boulevard

Koreatown is the densest neighborhood in all of Los Angeles, but a stifling stillness still plagues this city, the economy of which depends heavily on the hospitality and entertainment industries. We continue to sit in the purple tier, indicating widespread COVID-19 test positivity rates and cases and requiring the most severe reopening precautions. While many businesses have been making due with limited hours and reliance on takeout and delivery services, many small businesses, including long-time favorites, have had to shut down permanently. Is there an end in sight?