In the past month, I’ve had more than my fair share of Aha moments. These insights led me to make surprising connections. While coincidences can seem like mysterious, unexplainable events that happen out of the blue, it’s also true that we can manifest them and unveil meaningful connections in the world if we follow our curiosity and tune our focus. Something as simple as a colorful painting, a new artist, or a compelling quote that catches our attention can provide new perspectives and insights that enrich our understanding of the world by looking closer.
C and I dreamed of living in Manhattan soon after we’d retire while still young, mobile, and able to tolerate the city’s energy. Walking to theaters, restaurants, museums, parks, and shops is something we’ve come to love since living in Stockholm and London. The pandemic brought us to New York City sooner than we had planned. In our dream version, our lives and situation seemed generally rosy and steady. Instead, as they often do, life astounds, and rent costs rise to our great shock and eternal misery. So, while we can, we are trying to stop and smell the veritable roses, mindful of our innate hedonistic tendency to quickly move on to the next shiny thing.
This happens every time I visit MOMA: I brush past a painting to see the next, never gaining insight beyond the artist’s name and a few details on the title card, which I forget as soon as I approach the next painting. I grew frustrated and embarrassed by my carelessness as I stood before an image I had visited twice before, unable to recall a single detail about the artist or the piece. C was with me that afternoon, and I suggested we pick a painting we both like and learn as much as possible about the artist and the work, preferring to connect with one piece than scanning many and missing their significance.
Here is “The Moon” and a few things that brought me pleasure and joy this month.
- This 1928 painting titled “A Lua” (The Moon) by Tarsila de Aguiar do Amaral— considered the Picasso of her native Brazil, where she is simply known by first name—who wanted to be, in her own words, “the painter of her country,” caught my attention for its simplicity and suggestive similarity to the more famous Van Gogh “Starry Night.” I was delighted to see her story covered in CBS Sunday Morning. Reading about Tarsila, I learned she was good friends with Pablo Picasso, whom she met in Paris. This connection painted a lovely image of two talented artists philosophizing and encouraging each other in their work, a reminder of what can happen if we lift each other.
- After randomly selecting Patti Smith’s memoir, “M Train,” from the high pile of recommendations on my night table, I was floored to learn she’s the same Patti Smith considered the godmother of punk rock, who sang (and wrote with Bruce Springsteen) “Because the Night.” She is a gifted performer and arguably a more talented writer.
“I consider myself a writer.” -Patti Smith
Soon after this discovery, serendipity would have Substack notify me about a recent podcast episode of The Active Voice featuring… Patti Smith! about her life of writing, her long friendships, and cancel culture. I loved the interview so much that I went in search of more Patti Smith, immediately regretting having missed her rock a performance in Brooklyn this past December for her 76th birthday.
But it was this moving 2016 performance at the Nobel Prize Award ceremony that made me fall a little more in love with her. If you scan forward to the 1 minute 10-second mark, you will witness a BEAUTIFUL EXCHANGE of vulnerability and grace and how trust can help us do what we think we cannot. Can you hear the impact to her singing? I can’t help but think how a child could benefit from such a response.
- Summer was always my preferred season. I favor tropical to bone-chilling, bathing suits to shin-length parkas, and the easy way I stroll through a summer night’s balmy breath. It surprised me when, three years ago in March, at the onset of the pandemic, my perspective of seasons changed. With the world unencumbered by human activity, I witnessed Spring as if for the first time. I was in London, unsure how long we’d be in lockdown when the buds first formed. I thought about the things I’d miss as the days grew warmer and brighter. Spring, I realized, is the precursor to all that blossoms. It leads us into Summer, a canvas upon which we paint our most pleasurable experiences and joyful moments. Fall gives us time to replenish and rest from the flurry of summer activities. Then, not long after, gifts are opened, and a new year begins.
The Enkindled Spring This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green, Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes, Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes. I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration, Faces of people streaming across my gaze. And I, what fountain of fire am I among This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed About like a shadow buffeted in the throng Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.–D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
― Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life
- “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
My biggest fear in life was public speaking. I did everything to avoid it, even finding a way to graduate college without taking the required course. Eventually, I needed to stand in front of an audience if I wanted people to know about Together for Latinas and the work we were doing to improve the lives of Latina youth of all gender expressions. This quote gave me the strength to set aside my ego and personal angst and do what I dreaded most.
And I come back to it every time I feel like giving up on my writing. As long as my values and intentions align, I know I can push through any doubt and fear.
What about you? Have you experienced synchronicity? What meaningful connections were revealed to you?
Thank you for taking the time to connect with me here. It brings me both pleasure and joy to be on this planet with you at the same time.