Decision-making For Beginners

28 Jul IMG_3769

She did a lot of crazy things that summer that no one would have expected of her. The younger version of her indecisive self wouldn’t have expected her to do these things either, but they are things that define her now.

First, she chopped off fifteen and a half inches of her long, luscious hair and donated it to be made into a wig. She didn’t even ask which organization it was going to when she handed it to the hairdresser. Then she hopped on a plane to Yucatan, Mexico with a group of twelve other college students whom she didn’t know and stayed there in a rural Mayan town for six weeks. While she was there, she swam with catfish on three different occasions. She walked barefoot on the ridged ground of a cave to release her negative energy to the Underworld. She touched the holy water that, according to a legend, would cause her to get married to the love of her life that she hadn’t met yet. Then she ran through the salty Mexican rain on the dirt roads of the small town. She ate banana horchata milkshakes that contained large chunks of “street ice”, but it never made her sick. When she was in the big city, she didn’t hesitate to ask the professional musicians playing outside a fancy restaurant if she could sing with them—and so she did. She wrote a song in Spanish for the first time. She took a taxi to a different town and visited a shaman. She interviewed 10 people in one day, all in Spanish—a language that suddenly struck her as natural only on that very day. She moonbathed under a full moon on the roof of a hotel restaurant and played “Hallelujah” on the guitar. She fed mossy turtles red flower petals. She thought for a second that since she was an old soul, she might have been a reincarnated turtle.

When she returned to Wyoming, she went on a walk and picked various wildflowers from the hill and made a bouquet. She tied a silk scarf bow around the vase. She went to yoga in the park, where she came to the realization that she was a seed blossoming into the red wildflower she had picked earlier that day. She walked out to the lake and sat on the dock, becoming part of the moving water as she watched its gentle waves. Then she ran in the rain again. She bought organic produce for smoothies and drank her way through a detox. She ate vegan chicken with some mid-twenties hipsters. She organized a day of togetherness, mindfulness, and peacefulness for meditation groups of three different cities. She created a sociopolitical party to bring environmental awareness to her own community. She decided to change her musical style completely and so she made up bluesy covers of old rock n roll songs. Something had definitely changed, she thought, since emerging from the cave. Maybe she really had conquered negativity and was in a new dimension, like the ancient Mayans believed.

But the craziest thing she did that summer, or so they say, was decided not to return to the University of Wyoming and study Anthropology and Creative Writing for the next three to five years of her life. They said it was a crazy mistake that she would regret. However, she was sure that she was on the right path—albeit a crazy and free-spirited path (she had always wanted to be a free spirit, though.) Her favorite quote, after all, had always been: “Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” She would have never expected her life to fall so true to this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, but it did– and only because she believed the bold signs of the Universe to stand out more than flashing speed limit signs on the highway. She wasn’t sure exactly where this path was leading her, of course, but she felt as if her everyday magical occurrences were synchronically taking her somewhere. She felt, contrary to her horrible leadership abilities in the past, that she’d obtained a sense of direction.

As she walks along the path to this day, she picks up medicinal leaves on the way and inspects their veins. She finally gave up saying “I don’t know” to people when they would ask her what she wanted to do with her life and instead responded with either “I want to be a musician, a writer, a yoga instructor, and an herbalist”, “I want to save planet Earth”, or “You mean, what do I want OUT of life?” For once in her life, she had finally made a decision of her own. She decided that she wanted to be herself.

~Camille M. Garcia

Mañana Cotidiana

2 Jul

The roosters squawk, creating a canon song. An elder woman wearing a  traditional huipil dress sits in a chair eating a mango and her granddaughter sits besides her, eating a coconut. A man reaches into a tree with a giant fruit-picker while his son waits expectantly to catch the guayaba as it falls to the ground. A woman waters plants.  The almond-shaped leaves of the avocado tree sway slightly in the warm morning breeze. Spanish words bounce back and forth among the people in different positions on the back patio.
A girl of almost nineteen years sits at a table on the balcony of the hotel restaurant, observing this scene from below, imagining how peaceful life would be with these vivid colors, these bright sounds, and these friendly people surrounding her every day. A sense of community every morning, with one’s entire family gathered around a table now eating breakfast together in the gentle glow of the morning sun. Grandmothers, fathers, mothers, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, chickens. Now, birds chirp, singing songs in all different octaves. This place has become home to her, however, even if this family doesn’t speak her native language and they don’t share the same blood. The sounds of their voices have become familiar, their faces have become comforting. The songs of the birds and the squawks of the roosters have become a soundtrack to her life.

Aside 7 May

The trees are basking in the light of the sunset, glowing in gold. The hills are engulfed in a haze that is slowly rising. To the east, the sky is regaining its natural deep blue color that has been hidden all day, only to be turned black in just a few minutes.

For the first time in my life, I can see where each end of the rainbow touches the ground from both of my windows on the eleventh floor. Neither spot is far away from me; I would run there if I could, if I had the energy. I would tell the people in those areas that they are standing in a rainbow. How would we ever know if we were standing in a rainbow?

I forgot that they even existed. I haven’t seen one in almost an entire year, so here I find myself gazing at these vivid colors fading back into the clouds. I cannot be sure where that strip of floating colors goes as it ascends into the fog– I only know that the colors made it over to the other side, all in one, just as bright and vivid as before.

Lamentations of a Chronic Pants-Sagger

10 Apr

(See also “Lamentations of a Chronic Traveler” and “Interpretation of a Statistician”)

How else do you say it without laughing?

Brian is a reputable guy during the weekdays. He ties his striped ties tight around his neck, always nestles them neatly underneath the collar of his dress shirts. He wears his very professional and very lightweight silver-rimmed rectangular glasses. He doesn’t slouch; he stands as tall as his lumbar and thoracic vertebrae will permit. His shoes are of the shiny black sort that bank tellers wear. To match all of this, he even wears traditional dress pants.

On the weekends, he plays a nylon-stringed classical guitar. Before he sings, he drinks from his lime-green water bottle filled to the brim with apple cider vinegar, honey, lemon, and just a hint of water that will quickly clean up the slimy cilia that lines his esophagus.

In his free time, he enjoys watching brief videos of animated monotone bankers arguing amongst themselves—the sort of videos that only bankers themselves would find entertaining. He has memorized every character’s script perfectly so that he can recite every word as he watches.

He daydreams of being a Human Anatomy professor and of playing music with Sublime, but doesn’t fully believe that either will happen; Brian is a logical guy. In the meantime, he counts money and tells countless people to have a nice day.

Brian doesn’t party on Mondays.

However, Brian has not always been this way.

When he was in his teens, he frequently partied on Mondays. He had long hair and rode a longboard. He got suspended twice for “chronically sagging” his pants. And as a result, his fellow schoolmates made t-shirts in a protest to “FREE BRIAN” and they made buttons to pin on their boxers that proclaimed, “SAG YOUR PANTS”.

The administrators paid no heed. Instead, they snatched the buttons from each pair of boxers and pinned them up on the corkboards in their offices for an occasional laugh.

Now, Brain often refers to himself in the third person, as if perhaps his soul still resides in that fifteen-year-old boy who chronically sagged his pants. Perhaps he was never freed. Perhaps “Brian” is just the word associated with the bank teller who always wears properly fitted dress pants during the weekdays and never parties on Mondays anymore.

–Camille Garcia

(Based on nonfiction events, including some direct quotes from a somewhat nonfiction character)

Interpretation of a Statistician

24 Mar

How else do you say it without laughing?

He lived a simple life, performing the meticulous everyday tasks that statisticians are likely to do. He wore clothes typical of the generalized population of statisticians: single color ironed dress shirts tucked into ironed and neatly creased tan slacks. On occasion, he liked to wear a grid-patterned shirt because, “Every statistician should own at least one graphical shirt.”

Every morning he made sure to check the weather channel for the percentages of snow, rain, or sun that were neither personal nor relative frequency probabilities, nor were they variables that inflated or deflated the chance that he would alter his daily attire.

He never bought lottery tickets. Though he knew that anything was possible given a simple random sample, he knew that likelihood always outweighed possibilities. He corrected even his closest family members whenever they confused the definitions of “odds” and “probabilities” in everyday speech. There is, in fact, a significant difference.

In his free time, he spent hours numbering pennies and dropping them back into a plastic container that would later determine, when he blindly selected ten of them, which of his students would receive a pop quiz, just to demonstrate “what randomness feels like”.

I think I already know.

I often thought of asking him if he would be able to calculate the odds of all the strange occurrences I experience from day to day, such as seeing and hearing the word “California” ten times a day for nearly a year, or running into the same people in large cities repeatedly within a short timespan.

I think he would consider these cases outliers falling under the margin of error in the experimental reality of life. The problem with statistics is that they provide no explanation– only numbers that don’t rank highly in a confidence interval.

Day of Happiness

22 Mar

Driving from Windy City to the City of Sun was almost unbearable. My friend and I decided to cross the state line on Thursday because we knew better things lay hidden on the other side, but as I drove, the wind whistled through my windshield wipers, ceaselessly howling at us for the entire hour it took to get there. When we finally arrived in the City of Sun, the wind abruptly stopped. It was like magic.

Our first stop was at a coffee shop in an alleyway. We climbed a flight of stairs to reach this supposedly legendary coffee shop. Upon entering, I took in my surroundings—the cultured people, the windows overlooking the town below, the aroma of coffee mixed with lunch food, the laughter, the different atmosphere of each of the four rooms one could choose to sit in—and I thought that in a way, it resembled a café in Hawaii I had once been to. This city has never failed to surprise me; it could be so many places at the same time, even bringing back island memories.

In that coffee shop, I sipped the best-tasting Sweet Chai I have ever had. The creamy texture and blend of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom) were perfect. The rest of the day was spent exploring similarly magical places and strolling the sunny sidewalks of Oldtown. Whenever I come here, I never know if my happiness arises from the positive vibes that everyone in this city radiates, or if I’m just happy to not have to wear a sweater. Probably both—but I was feeling that way on this particular day, too: light and light-hearted and filled with light1 – perhaps an even stronger sensation than usual.

The last shop we entered was one that sells the most beautiful and expensive clothing that I would never buy but always enjoy browsing through. It also sells a variety of locally made jewelry and candles. I had to smell the candles in antique mugs because I always do—and they were the best-smelling candles I think I will ever smell. The candle-maker wouldn’t give away her secret, so I bought one: Fig. To this day the scent lingers in my nostrils.

We were so caught up in the spontaneity of the day that we could only find time to get lunch during late afternoon. After almost half an hour of deciding where we should go, we finally drove to a sandwich shop on the other side of town. The warmth of the day had been consistent, even at this time. As we arrived, I remembered that today, March 20th, was the first official day of spring.

“Hello! Did you know today is the International Day of Happiness?” a smiling woman greeted us when we walked inside. It was like she was asking us, “Did you know you’ve been wearing your shirts inside out for the entire day? No wonder everyone’s been staring at you!”

“Are you serious?” we gawked in unison. No wonder we were so happy.

“Yes, it really is! And it’s the first one ever!” she handed us smiley face stickers that we stuck on our shoulders. “Now if you’d like, you can write down on that poster what you’re happy about today.”

Well, I couldn’t have been happier that those threads of destiny2 had pulled me and Destiny to our favorite city on a sunny day to celebrate happiness on the first ever International Day of Happiness. We would have never known otherwise. I wrote, A day in my favorite place with my best friend and sunshine.

  1. See “Region of Pure Air” published Dec. 27
  2. See “Threads of Destiny”, published Feb. 19

Loyal Trees

4 Mar

Watch how the trees extend their arms up to the sky and spread their fingers, embracing every ounce of liberty and sunshine. Not only do they embrace the sunshine as it descends against a backdrop of bright colors; they embrace the sky through its storms, forever forgiving of its ability to tear off their clothes, leaving them naked for the winter and all through spring. 

Even when the sky’s cold breath forces the birds to flutter out of the trees’ arms and off into the great horizon, their arms remain open and welcoming. Sometimes they grasp the hands of other trees, consoling one another as they watch each resident depart. Yet they loyally hold the lifeless nests tightly to their chests, yearning for the birds to return someday to the homes they had made.

They mourn for months until the sun is finally stable enough to clothe them with only the finest greens nature has to offer, still with outstretched arms throughout their states of loneliness. They hope the birds will return to witness their newfound beauty—and they do. The birds always return, singing songs of celebration as they flock to the trees, embracing them with gratefulness for keeping their homes just as they’d left them. Image


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