happiness...san miguel de allende, mexico

every few years i find myself becoming the unpaid, usolicited, chamber of commerce spokesperson for san miguel as i think about the three years i lived there.  it holds the number one spot on the list of places i've lived.  we just booked a trip to return in july after being away eight years and it brings everything to the surface again...

it's not a beach town and the weather is spectacular year around.  it defies what most people think of mexico. what more could you want for a getaway?  word of caution: if random fireworks, roosters crowing, or fiestas aren't your thing, you might want to consider somewhere else :)


Wrinkles, Art, Cuba and so much more...

With the recent news involving the warming of relations between U.S. and Cuba, my first thought was not an urge to go see the vintage automobiles that fascinate so many Americans, but instead, going to see street art.  It reminded me of J.R.'s Wrinkle of the City project in Havana which is chronicled in this video and, to me, is what would propel me to book a ticket to Havana.  The Cubans involved in this project are gorgeous. Not in the model thin, superficial way that our culture defines 'gorgeous', but in the authentic, soul expanding way that J.R's art allows us to see. 

In 2012, French artist JR and Cuban American artist José Parlá collaborated on The Wrinkles of the City - Havana, Cuba: huge mural installations undertaken for the Havana Biennale, for which JR and Parlá photographed, and recorded 25 senior citizens who had lived through the Cuban revolution; creating portraits, which Parlá interlaced with calligraphic writings and abstract painterly gestures. This is their film collaboration by the same title documenting their experience.

So much of J.R.'s work around the world is humanity at it's best.  Forget the politics and the prejudices and view the people as their essence and you're off to a soulful experience.  

I've not had the opportunity to see J.R.'s studio before and like most people fascinated with where ideas are shaped, I was intrigued by finding the photos of his collaborative New York workspace on Artsy, whose stated mission is "to make all the world's art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. "

I particularly loved J.R.'s idea of creating a library: "Each person who sleeps here or who comes and has dinner here, they either leave one book a night or each dinner is one book.  It can be a 50-cent book or 50 -dollar book, it doesn't matter. They have to write an inscription why they chose that book. So this library gets bigger every night. I see it as a collection.  Same for the artwork.  But it's the studio collection, so it's not mine directly, the books are not given to me.  I'm just making sure that the collection always stays together."

Wow.  Can you imagine the people who have passed through his studio and left just a bit of them behind.  That would be a collection I would love to spend time perusing!

For more information on J.R.'s work, and his NY studio, check it out on Artsy here. 

Meditation: Balmorhea and Minimum Monument

As someone put forth in the comment section of a Balmorhea video I looked at recently, “I wish Balmorhea music could follow me around in a truck and soundtrack my life.” Well said. They’ve been a favorite band of mine for meditation and general navel gazing for a while now, so when I came across this video of Balmorhea’s ‘The Winter’ paired with one of my favorite art installations, Néle Azevedo’s Minimum Monument project, I was in heaven. Literally. The backstory on the project can be found on her site, but this particular installation was in Berlin in 2009, consists of ice sculptures, and was in conjunction with the World Wildlife Federation. It was timed to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Which seems rather timely given the news recently about global warming…but that aside, I don’t view this video as political at all, simply a message about life’s impermanence and our place in it.

People I'd Like To Hang Out With - Maysoon Zayid

Have you ever thought about having a party and picking 25 people to invite, just 'because'? The 'because' can be a number of reasons - sense of humor, easy to be around, special talent, similar interests - whatever the reason, if you really took your time and assembled your group over the course of 6 or more months, what would it look like? And it can't be anyone you personally know. That's what I'd like to explore in this series called People I'd Like To Hang Out With. When I've reached 25, I'll put a virtual party together on this blog just to see who would be invited. First guest, Maysoon Zayid. I came across her on TED and this is a chick to hang with. Love her sense of humor and gift of perspective. If you take a few minutes to watch her talk, you'll understand why.

She's definitely got a place at the table!

What Does Peace Look Like?

There is peace in the land and it begins with me. My meditation lately has been the question, what does peace look like? What naturally comes to mind first are the clichés - the actual peace sign…the beautiful, restful image of nature that puts our mind at ease…or the more graphic symbols of street art.

But, what actually does it LOOK like? Often times it’s the lack of something that defines it. In many places around the world it becomes the absence of violence, hate speech, persecution and bigotry. When the void is created, peace can result.

I happened across a non-profit website this week based in Toronto, Canada, called The Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention. What sets this organization apart is that rather than reacting to genocide (clearly needed as well), their mission is to use technology and research to prevent it. Which, when you think about it, is so simple, but yet we as a global community have been trained to respond rather than predict.

They make several basic points which I believe make sense and are available through research: • When you identify potential situations where genocide becomes a likely outcome, and raise awareness about it through various media and methods, it can have the effect of making regimes think twice about engaging in such practices knowing the world is watching. Again, it’s a matter of raising the profile BEFORE it happens rather than after it’s started. Internal and foreign pressure can have a chance when the problem is identified early in the process. • If you can identify and counter websites that incite hatred you may have the opportunity to intervene through social media to hinder the escalation that radicalizes people against another group.

What’s also interesting about their approach is their use of technology in this genocide prevention initiative which involve: • Information Gathering – through social media like FB and Twitter, it’s become easier to monitor situations prior to calamity. Another information gathering technique is crowdsourcing through mobile phones which can map situations based on text messaging by average citizens. • Information Management, Visualization and Dissemination – where the data bases they are building will organize and analyze information which can be presented to the public, policymakers, and other orgs where it can help mobilize a response. • Prevention – where using mobile phones networks to document abuses and warn threatened communities, and employing GPS technology to guide targeted people to safe areas can save lives.

Sound idealistic? Perhaps. But there is nothing worse than standing by and watching helplessly as innocent people get slaughtered merely because they represent a tradition or religion which doesn’t happen to coincide with their neighbors. Absence of persecution? I believe that’s what peace looks like.

For more information on The Sentinel Project, click here. And visit their Wiki for another look at them here.


Namaste, Meg

Mother Falcon ~ New, Fresh Sound

One of the many reasons I love NPR is the indie and unusual music they feature.  This week's find is Mother Falcon.  Where to start...something in their music speaks to me on a variety of levels.  It has the rich fullness of an orchestral sound but fuses so many different feelings together that it's hard to describe.  As I listen to it while I write this post, I hear the drama of the score to the movie, The Mission, by Ennio Morricone.  I hear the whimsical quality of the score to my favorite movie, Amelie.  I hear the art rock of Mythos. And the new age sound of ERA and Enigma.  So, if I hear all these sounds fused into one group plus their own tempo of You Knew, their new album, they've got to be something special - you can't put them in a single category.

Tamir Kalifa, Claire Puckett, Yun Du, Kira Bordelon, Clara Brill, Isaac Winburne, Matt Puckett, Nick Calvin, Nick Gregg, Maurice Chammah, Matt Krolick, Maurice Chammah, Diana Burgess, Laura Andrade, Rita Andrade, Matt Krolick not pictured: Andrew Fontenot, Austin Harris, Gilman Lykken, Josh Newburger, Luke Stence photo by Bryan Rindfuss

Tamir Kalifa, Claire Puckett, Yun Du, Kira Bordelon, Clara Brill, Isaac Winburne, Matt Puckett, Nick Calvin, Nick Gregg, Maurice Chammah, Matt Krolick, Maurice Chammah, Diana Burgess, Laura Andrade, Rita Andrade, Matt Krolick not pictured: Andrew Fontenot, Austin Harris, Gilman Lykken, Josh Newburger, Luke Stence photo by Bryan Rindfuss

Mother Falcon is an Austin based group of between 15 and 20 rotating musicians who are classically trained and have collaborated to produce a sound all their own.

They raised nearly $25,000 on Indiegogo to fund a summer tour and have spent time in NYC and LA and are working their way up the West Coast to Portland and Seattle before they head back home.  There is a documentary on KLRU.org about them ~ their origins and evolution.  Click here for the backstory.

In the meantime, I encourage you to treat yourself to a three song mini-concert produced by NPR:

Here's their website  with links to listen and to download their music at ITunes.

Invisible People

Backstory: Once homeless himself, Mark Horvath set out in 2008 to create a vlog that chronicles the lives of veterans, mothers, children and layoff victims by giving them a platform to speak about the experience of being homeless. It's painful that we live in a country of abundance and yet we can't figure out a way to help people like this. I'm not referring to 'professional bums' as you'll hear Joesph refer to - those on drugs or alcohol and who work the system to get meals and who panhandle for their addiction. I'm talking about the homeless you will see in these interviews - articulate, often well-educated, and with hearts bigger than you can imagine despite their circumstances. Invisiblepeople.tv delivers on their mission to change the way we think about people experiencing homelessness.

Some insight into the project with Mark Horvath:

If this is an issue that resonates with you, I encourage you to watch these short conversations and be part of the solution. We welcome information on innovative solutions from any part of the world which address homelessness. We'll be happy to share them!




If you want to support that "unemployed guy with a camera" help eradicate homelessness, here's how: invisiblepeople.tv

A Certain Kind of Happy: Landfill Harmonic

A Certain Kind of Happy for me is that feeling you get when you cannot forget a video, image, or person simply because what they do is so transformative. With Landfill Harmonic, Alejandra Nash and Juliana Penaranda-Loftus bring a story from Cateura, Paraguay where "the world sends us garbage, we send back music." In an ingenious project that demonstrates creative and simple solutions can bring powerful social transformation to the poorest communities, kids with extraordinary talent are paired with a gifted teacher, Favio Chavez, and provided musical instruments sculpted from landfill trash.. from which a gift is born.

Precious lives are given an opportunity to make exquisite music and show that passion and soulfulness can thrive even in the simplest circumstances when the creative spirit is unleashed.

To support their project, you can click here...we hope you do!

A Different Kind of Street Art: When Fashion Crosses Over Into Performance Art

Buenos Aires Performance Art Have you ever been mesmerized by the beauty of a street performer and thought about the various ways art manifests itself? We encountered the woman in this image in the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires and she is one of my favorites. So, when I saw a video of a Sophie Hong fashion show in Paris, it reminded me of how beautiful and creative art can show up anywhere.

I was recently introduced to Sophie Hong's creations while in Santa Fe, NM and learned about her technique and processes. She works with silk, dyed with tea, then put through natural processes like laying the cloth on the grass, moistening it with pure yam juice, and leaving it spread out under the burning sun from April to September. Later, she uses mud from the bottom of a river to dampen it again. Result? “Mud silk” - a fabric you have to see and touch to understand the depth of the beauty. I've seen similar types of beautiful fabric while traveling in SE Asia, but nothing that compares to this.

Her creativity extends beyond the garment itself and into how it is presented. In this video you'll see how models integrate themselves into the street scene and emerge as a brilliant fashion show...and then fade back into the crowd...

If you'd like to find out more about this spectacular artist, you can click here.

Duct Tape Surfing: Not What You'd Expect

Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together.... There are about as many quotes about duct tape as there are uses for it.  Which is why when my husband showed me this video I was prepared for some sort of Tool Time handyman exercise on it's wonders.  Was I wrong.  Jokes aside, I've yet to see a more magnificent and inspirational use of duct tape.  Take a look:

Duct Tape Surfing from Mark Tipple on Vimeo.

Bravo! Pascale, for your amazing adventurous spirit and Cheers! Tyron for your compassion, skill and willingness to share your ride.

Surfer series1

A Certain Kind of Happy: Address is Approximate

When pondering the possible, is it just me, or have you ever thought about what goes on while you are away or asleep in your own space? I think as a kid those kinds of thoughts are more common and seem to fade away as "reality" or "common sense" take over our adult brains.

Fortunately, the creative among us continue to remind us that childhood questions are still fun to contemplate.

My husband is a collector and has a fascination with things like globes, vintage bowling balls (guaranteed to generate conversation and some eye rolling to anyone who enters our house) and robots.  So, when I saw this stop animation short produced by The Theory and directed by Tom Jenkins, it gave me that kid-like smile and happy feeling you get when you surrender to the fact anything is possible.  Take a look at how they've brought robots to life and taken them on a journey using Google Street View....

A Certain Kind of Happy always includes giving yourself permission to be a kid again.  For more on Theory Films, click here.

While you do that, I think I'd better go check on these guys... Orange SpacemanBlue Spaceman

The Intersection of Art and Solution

Mine Kafon by Massoud HassaniWhen I first saw Massoud Hassani's latest work of art I was struck by its beauty. Once I understood its function I was absolutely astounded by the intersection of art and solution. Because, you see, while beautiful, its purpose is to save lives. How? It began when Massoud was a child in Afghanistan and he learned to fashion toys out of a variety of materials that could be carried by the wind. These childhood experiments transformed into what you see in this image.

So what is it a solution to? When placed in an open area and propelled by the wind it detects and detonates land mines. That is truly astonishing. Mine Kafon successfully funded its Kickstarter campaign last year and has become internationally recognized as a viable solution to a problem that plagues more of the world than you can imagine.

Here's some detail on how it works as explained by Massoud : "Now if it rolls over a mine, the toy, now a Mine Kafon, will destroy itself and the landmine in the same time. Made from bamboo and biodegradable plastics, the Mine Kafon also has a GPS chip integrated in it. You can follow its movement on the website and see were it went, where are the safest paths to walk on and how many land mines are destroyed in that area. On paper, Afghanistan is said to have 10 million land mines. In truth there are far, far more. Every destroyed land mine means a saved life and every life counts.”

You can see the beauty in action here:

Mine Kafon | Callum Cooper from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

Beyond Afghanistan there are an incredible amount of landmines around the world. Here's a 2011 video of his first presentation on the idea. The info and map on where landmines are located on each continent will leave you speechless.

I encourage you to read more about this ingenious artist at his website : http://massoudhassani.blogspot.com/

A Certain Kind of Happy: The Meditation of Pattern

Wollman Rink ~ Central Park ~ New York I’ll admit it up front – I’m lousy at meditation.  I have a beautiful, serene, private, and comfortable space in the yard where I can go anytime, stretch out on a lounge and gaze at Buddha.  The truth is one of my Cairn Terriers, Bodhi, uses it far more than I do.  If I can’t see him when I look out in the yard and he doesn’t come when I call, I just walk around to the side of the house and sure enough, he’s there, popping his head over the top of chair with a look that says ‘it better be important, I’m meditating’.  

 I’ve got ‘monkey mind’ which jumps from topic to topic and either reviews the day past or the day to come.  To get the chatter to stop is a struggle which is why I relinquish the space to Bodhi.  He clearly has it figured out.  Dogs are so good at living in the moment…

 But here’s the thing – I seem to be able to mediate through photographs which is convenient, I know, given this is a photo based ecard site!  There’s no question that certain images work better than others.  There is something about the repetition of patterns, whether man-made or found in nature that is particularly meditation inducing.

 A spectacular source of inspiration is the aerial photography of Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a French photographer whose images are both inspiring and calming.  He most generously has over 2000 of them available from 108 countries on his website for download as wallpaper.  Click on the images to below to enlarge and see where they are from. There’s a link at the end of the post that will take you to his site.

Roof Terrace ~ Monte Carlo - Monaco


Motorway ~ Honshu, Japan


Leman Lake ~ Switzerland


Flamingos ~ near Aleppo, Syria


Housing Estate ~ Singapore




In the end, meditation is about perspective...and that's what these photos give me. To create a gallery of your own wallpapers for meditation, go to Yann Arthus-Bertrand's website here.

A Certain Kind of Happy: The Intersection of Courage and Compassion

If you’re not familiar with Africa Mercy, the ship that docks for months at a time along various ports on the African coastline and delivers lifesaving treatment to the poor in countries where even the simplest treatable problem can end up in death without proper care, I encourage you to take 12 minutes out of your day to watch this video from CBS 60 minutes. It focuses on patients with benign facial tumors which are disfiguring and dehumanizing, but even if you’re a bit squeamish about these types of things, it’s well worth the look when you see the outcome. And I’m not referring to merely the physical outcome, but the soul centered one too. For people who have been ostracized socially to be treated by the angel nurses and doctors on Africa Mercy as human beings is life changing. You won’t see the tumor, you’ll see the person.

Behind the façade of some pretty good plastic surgery in our society lies some pretty ugly, shallow people. I’ll take the humanity I see behind these people’s eyes any day. It just makes me A Certain Kind of Happy to know there are those on the Africa Mercy who see the person trapped inside the body they’ve been given and can help.

For more information on Mercy Africa, click here.

A Certain Kind of Happy: Kindness is Contagious

We see cause and effect around us every day, everywhere. Sometimes good, sometimes not so much. But when I see it play out in an unexpected positive way, it produces in me that Certain Kind of Happy. For example, when you think of Haiti, what comes to mind first? Earthquake, right. Next? The aid, both financial and physical that we, along with many other countries sent to help in the aftermath. Right again. I think the perception people have of countries like Haiti is one of being resource challenged, where every day is a struggle, and where they are trying so desperately to keep themselves alive that to think they would have the capability of helping others is out of the question. While that may be true to a degree, there’s always the exception (or misperception in my case) as I learned last week on a CBS Evening News segment which focused on Haitians coming to Staten Island to help us rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.

The Haitians were brought here by Richard Hotes whose foundation built 500 homes in Haiti for people living in refugee camps after the quake. Some of the men had expressed a desire to go help people just as they had been helped. Fast forward to Sandy and it’s devastation. Take a look:

What a wonderful world this could be if this kind of generous spirit was contagious - just like the flu, or the measles or a yawn. Can you imagine? Sorry, I just yawned kindness... Hope you caught it.

A Certain Kind of Happy: Helping Others Thrive

“Refugee”~ Noun "A person who flees for refuge or safety; often to a foreign country; generally in the face of political upheaval."

When I consider that definition, I feel like that could be many of us. We may be refugees in our own country, our life, emotions or body. In my case, my refugee status is something I embrace – when I lived in Mexico for three years I felt the happiest I’ve ever been and I long for that feeling again. I’m fortunate in that my refugee status is self-imposed. Many are not so lucky.

Which is why when I found The Global Village Project, it created in me that Certain Kind of Happy. The GVP is located in Decatur, Georgia and is where teenage girls who are survivors of war enter the country with the US Refugee Relocation Program. Most of these girls are from Burma, Ethiopia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Thailand.

What a gift to be able to give these girls an education tailored for their needs and not put them in the public school system where they get lost, socially and sometimes physically abused, and drop out.

There is a documentary about GVP that puts the reality back into reality show. Here’s the trailer.

If every community had this kind of system to help refugees, what a wonderful country this would be where inclusion trumps indifference and these girls are understood to be real, not a headline we glance at every day and dismiss as a far off injustice over which we have no power or involvement.

This is the world I want to live in. Where kindness and the willingness to help other cultures assimilate into ours is the norm, not the exception.

If you want to watch the entire 60 minute documentary, you can find it here on IMBD. For Free!

If you'd like to get involved, you can find them here.

A Certain Kind of Happy: Doing the Right, Humane Thing for Animals

I have to admit, I am very conflicted about animal testing of any kind. I suppose the person(s) who have been given the gift of life as a result of a cure found through the use of animals in medical testing might feel differently, and while we are technically at the top of the food chain, I just don’t think we can claim the moral high ground when it comes to using other species to further our own lives. There's simply something inherently wrong with it. As the "superior" species shouldn't that involve the ability to help ourselves without hurting others? (Full disclosure: I’ve been a pesceterian for many years so I abstain from eating creatures except fish and I admit to issues around even doing that) Given the choice, I’d rather spend time with animals than many people I’ve been acquainted with, so you know where my vote lies. One thing I am decidedly NOT conflicted about is any effort to support kindness and compassion toward animals and even more so when those creatures that have been subject to our experiments are given an opportunity to live out their lives in a sheltered environment with the care they deserve. So when I learned about Chimp Haven where chimpanzees that have been part of biomedical research, part of the entertainment industry or who have been rescued from individual situations, that Certain Kind of Happy struck which comes when bad things are made right.

Chimp Haven is a 200 acre sanctuary in Caddo Parish, Louisiana where a current population of 120 chimpanzees live and thrive. Here's an example of one of the families...

If you are so inclined, you can donate money, time or send gifts – they have an extensive wish list of which the Sensory Enrichment items are particularly fascinating: • Large Paint Brushes (plastic preferred) • Canvas to paint on • New toothbrushes, combs, brushes • DVDs – nature shows, cartoons, PG movies • CDs – nature, world music, classical • Water Misters • New Halloween masks • Used percussion instruments (maracas, tambourines, etc.) • Lava lamps • Plastic Mirrors How can you read that list and not recognize their connection to humans?


Or, you can sponsor a chimp and help pay for their care. Their bio’s demonstrate their diverse personalities. I think Pam’s my girl – she’s described “very loyal to the three other girls in her group and sticks up for her friends when the neighbors occasionally try to start a fight. However, Pam has also been observed grooming the neighboring females gently with a stick. She likes to accessorize and carry purses or even wear articles of clothing around her neck . Pam is also a thinker, and can often be found deep in thought!”

I encourage you to check out this organization and if you’re an animal softie like me, support them.

For their website, click here.