In Like a Lion

When February rounds the corner and the calendar creeps into March, that’s usually when my spirits begin to lift. The tiniest hint of warmer weather – like today’s very-tolerable sunshine – kicks me in the pants and helps me remember that I might start seeing little green bulb shoots in the garden soon. And to start checking the cherry blossom bloom watch map. (NO SIGN YET!) This time of year, the winter fog lifts off our collective shoulders and people start to smile a little more easily… at least until the spring rains start. I won’t lie: this winter has been a bit of a bear. I haven’t been traveling much for work, so my escapism has been limited to some serious Netflix binge-watching. I finally watched the entirety of Twin Peaks (WHY?! WHY DID I WAIT THIS LONG?!), and got totally hooked on Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown.”

the corner deli

[PHOTO: Kenmare and Cleveland Place. Hasselblad 501CM + Ilford Delta 3200]

I’ve had to dig deep to find inspiration this winter. Despite the last couple of months of snow storms and oppressive cold, I did try and keep up with my yoga practice. Emotionally, it’s been a huge stabilizing force and one for which I’ve been so thankful. Each moment I spend to reflect and calm my mind has helped me get un-stuck from a lot of the thinking that otherwise dampens my creativity. I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but taking the time to meditate and focus has resulted in greater clarity about the goals I need to set for myself – creatively, professionally, spiritually. It also helps that I’ve found a yoga teacher who’s great at reminding me to be gentle and kind to myself – and embrace my sense of humor. I can’t wait for her upcoming web series about the cult of yoga in NYC, which should be hilarious.

Beyond yoga, I’ve also been trying to see as much live music as I can muster the past couple of months. There have been a bunch of gems: Steve Gunn for the Rough Trade one-year anniversary party, Ryley Walker at Baby’s All Right, an old school six-hour set from Paul van Dyk at a ‘secret’ warehouse show on Atlantic Avenue on the coldest night of the year. One of my favorite local bands, NYC’s own Heaven, with OKC’s BRONCHO at Rough Trade. A massively noisy and fun night seeing Disappears and Suuns with impressive local opener Christines. Over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that live music is basically medicine for me, especially in the winter. It puts so much in perspective and helps drown out negativity. It amplifies my own inspiration and creative process. It completely enables my addiction to vinyl.

Though I can’t fully credit yoga or music or whatever else I’ve been doing to get ‘unstuck’, I am happy I’ve been making some progress on the photography front as well. It’s been a couple of months since I launched my new website, so this weekend I gave myself an assignment to write and edit a new photo essay. Excited to share some photos from a quick trip to Madrid later this week! While I was at it, I wanted to overhaul some existing content. So I added new maps and started researching ways I can share my favorite spots to eat, what I loved to see, and recommended photo walks. I’ve considered sharing my itineraries in full, but I’m not exactly sure what’s the most helpful. Foursquare? Google Maps? TripAdvisor? That new Pinterest Maps thing – is it any good? So many options, must investigate further.

I’m really looking forward to the warmer weather this week. Little lamb, welcome. Please stay awhile.

Hanami

One of the very first things that Zach and I did when we moved to Crown Heights was invest in a membership to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’d never visited the gardens before moving to this side of Prospect Park, nor did I ever consider myself the kind of person who would wander aimlessly under the canopy of trees. Boy, was I wrong.

Every year now, I can hardly contain myself as I wait for the glorious display of cherry blossoms. This year, I started checking the CherryWatch page in mid-March, hoping for signs of an early bloom. Finally, five weeks later, the cherries are starting to pop. As long as we don’t get much stormy weather or wind this week, I predict that next weekend’s celebration is going to be a doozy. In a really good way. Of course I’m going to be out of town. Figures.

cherry blossoms foreverweeping cherries

ANYWAY. Over the last couple of years after many meandering walks through the garden, I’ve thought a lot about the concept of Hanami. Initially, I always thought of hanami in a very literal sense: stop everything, get thee to the garden, see the flowers, and take photos to try and capture a piece of the magical cherry blossoms.

In the last couple of years though, it has evolved moreso into a rite of passage for spring. It’s almost become an emotional spring cleaning for me, because it seems to satisfy my need to cross a bunch of stuff off my checklist. The cherry blossoms give me my annual assignment:

— Get out of the house!
— Get your act together for the year’s gardening plans!
— Go see your friends and family. Don’t be a recluse!
— Be active! Ride your bike! Get to the gym! Get moving!
— COME SEE US AT THE GARDEN!

The cherry blossoms are very practical blossoms. It’s hard to argue with their logic.

promise of spring

So this weekend, I did as I was told and tore the house apart for a round of spring cleaning. I also managed to do a lot of yoga, purged a boatload of paperwork, and got to see the cherry blossoms through the eyes of my five-month old baby cousin, Olivia. The gardening plans are starting to form slowly but surely and I’m confident they’ll come together. (I want to try my hand at roses. Thanks a lot, Marie.)

I don’t know that I owe all of the productivity to Hanami, or to the cherry blossoms, or even to our upcoming vacation this week. But I do think that that it’s a concept I should try and embrace more in my life. The practice of simple appreciation, of gratitude for the beauty which surrounds, of slowing down and being more present — these are all things which really require practice.

And I need lots of practice.

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heavenly

Rekindling the Love for Prospect Park

It’s been awhile since I used to spend much time in Prospect Park. When I first moved to Brooklyn, the park used to be my oasis – a place of refuge and relaxation. I’m not sure if it’s work or life or all the work I COULD be doing on the house at any given moment, but somehow that quiet time amongst the trees has been one of the things I’ve accidentally given up over the last few years.

Thanks to CH Cycles and the longer daylight hours, my newly-repaired bike and I have been taking an evening spin around the park and falling right back in love. Nighttime bike rides in Brooklyn are one of life’s sweetest pleasures, and it’s one of the best ways I’ve found to relax after a long day at the office. Using gmap-pedometer.com, I’ve discovered a couple of great 7 to 8-mile loops from my house through the park and back, and it’s been blissful. Plus, I just realized this past week that I can actually use that site to track my rides and workouts — I’m hooked!

I thought I’d share a few recent Instagram photos from my nighttime bike rides and I can’t wait to take more this week. If you ever want to go on a nighttime ride / photo outing, let me know! It’s even more fun with friends.