I turn 59 years young today, although I act like I’m 12 most of the time. When I look at myself in the mirror I see a 40 year old face looking back at me, unless it’s one of those magnifying mirrors, then I see an old tortoise (whoever invented that mirror should be shot!)
Birthdays weren’t that big a deal for me before I got cancer. Don’t get me wrong, I like birthdays. I celebrated other people’s birthdays but I never wanted to make a big deal about my own. Surviving stage 4 cancer changed that. I finally understand how fortunate I am to be alive, celebrating another year, and living cancer free. There are so many who are not. Every morning before my feet hit the floor to start my day, I take a few moments to give thanks for being alive and for being healthy.
So what did I do to celebrate today? Hubby and I went to Long Beach. It’s only a twenty minute drive from my house. We ate a tasty buffet lunch at Natraj Cuisine of India . It’s the first time we ate there and has been added to our favorite restaurant list. We will definitely be back. Then we headed across the street to a local bookstore, Apostrophe Books. I LOVE books and could spend hours snooping at all the book titles. For the last few years book stores are having a tough time keeping their doors open, especially independent ones. That makes me sad. I have no use for Ebooks. I don’t want to hold a computer device to read; my laptop gets too much of my precious time as it is. Other readers tell me the same thing. There is something wonderful about a “real” book. I like looking at my book collection sitting on my shelf. A Kindle isn’t the same. A paperback will never shut off because the battery died and if I drop it, it won’t break.
My oncologist gave birth to a girl about four months ago. I have been thinking about what to buy her. Today on the bookstore shelf, I found it. Shel Silverstein’s book, Where the Sidewalk Ends , sat there as if it were waiting for me. Instantly, I was transported back to when James was a child. I read to him since the day he was born. I couldn’t always buy him books, but we had a library card that helped him go on so many adventures. James used to ask me to insert his name in place of the main character. Shel Silverstein is one of my favorite children’s authors, so I bought the book. My hope is that Dr. S. will enjoy spending time, reading to her daughter before bedtime as much as I did to my son. Those memories are so precious to me. The next time I talk to him I will ask him if he ever thinks about that time.
After the bookstore we were off to a Buddhist temple. I found it on Google search and it looked interesting, even though it only had a few pictures. There wasn’t a website to give me an idea of what type of Buddhism they practiced. That’s ok, It’s my birthday, I’m up for an adventure! The temple seemed farther than I thought. We almost drove past it because their sign was covered by a large tree. Luckily one of the pictures online, was of their building or we may never have found it. It’s called The Khemara Buddhikaram Buddhist Temple. When we drove in to the parking people were milling about, bring in large bags of rice. Were they having some sort of celebration? Could we come inside to see their temple deities? I am always careful to not offend those whom spiritual practice I don’t quite understand, but are still curious about. I’ve written before that I am not drawn to traditional mainstream religions, but I do like Buddhist philosophy. I am always looking for temples to photograph.
Luckily a woman asked if we needed some help.
“Would it be ok to go inside to see the deities?” ( I remembered to call them deities. Years ago I visited a Krishna temple and called them “dolls.” The person who gave me a tour quickly corrected me “they are deities!”)
“Do you want to pray?”
“Sure. That sounds good.”
Hubby and I left our shoes at the door and went inside the large room. I would have liked taking pictures of all the fresh flowers and Buddhas but it didn’t feel right. The picture below is from a Yelp review.
After lighting an incense stick and looking at the many Buddhas, we went back to where the people were. Two monks in orange robes had joined them. I asked another women if she could tell me more about the temple; she motioned to an older man to come over. She didn’t speak English. He explained in broken English, they got together four times a month, whenever the moon’s cycle changed. They had just finished celebrating the full moon (I didn’t even know it was another full moon already!).
On the way back home we went a different route and discovered an old cemetery. I LOVE walking around old cemeteries! The new ones are soooo boring. I know it’s easier to maintain the lawn if there are no headstones to deal with, but a “flat” cemetery is just grass and has no character! My plan was to take lots of pictures of my day and so far I had zero. I forgot to ask the waitress in the Indian restaurant to take our picture and it was disrespectful to just show up at a Buddhist temple I had never been to and start snapping photos. Maybe I could find some interesting headstones. Angels are my favorite. Sunnyside Cemetery is over a 100 years old. There are hundreds of old headstones and only one angel outside the office. She would have to do.
It turns out that Sunnyside Cemetery is more interesting and fun than I first thought. It may not have religious statues but it does have movie night! (That’s right, you read that correctly). I was looking online while I wrote this to look for some historical information and found out the Long Beach Cinematheque shows outdoor movies right there among the tombstones! I’m talking Psycho and The Shining. Next month, the original Halloween movie will play there. This has taken outdoor movies to a whole new level!
My birthday is almost over and I am smiling, thinking about my day. It feels so good to be alive.