I went for a long walk this morning. My feet carried me through Sherman Heights, a neighborhood directly east of downtown San Diego. I was hoping to see some of the community Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) altars. These outdoor altars, distributed about a few residential streets, were the focus of yesterday’s popular Sherman Heights Muertos Festival, which I missed.
Heading down 24th Street, I spotted one elaborate altar near the sidewalk and was struck by the rich, heartfelt symbolism.
Loved ones who’ve “passed to the other side” are remembered with reverence on Dia de los Muertos, and their spirits are enticed back among the living. Traditional items featured in the altars can include sugar skulls, samples of the deceased person’s favorite food, pan de muertos (bread with a small human figurine baked inside), seeds, flowers, portraits of the dead, candles, alcohol (to toast the arrival of spirits), and papel picado (decorative perforated paper which represents the fragile nature of life).
I don’t know whose spirits are being summoned by this particular altar. I can tell that precious memories are being kept alive among the living, and that those memories contain whole lifetimes of love.
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Please enjoy the following photographs. They were taken today at the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego’s wonderful Balboa Park. As you can plainly see, natural beauty is abundant in this amazing garden. I hope you have a chance to visit.
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Almost everyone recognizes their red shield. Most have walked past their holiday season bell ringers. Many have been helped by their programs and services. The Salvation Army, an important part of our community, is 150 years old.
The local branch of the worldwide organization celebrated that history today in the County of San Diego Waterfront Park. I walked there this morning to see what was going on.
What does the Salvation Army do? In San Diego, their Sierra Del Mar Division provides transitional living for homeless mothers and children. They help the unemployed homeless return to a normal, stable, working life. They have disaster response programs, providing emergency food and help. They provide seniors with nutritional assistance. They help people recover from drug and alcohol addiction. They operate the expansive Ray and Joan Kroc Community Corps Center, which features education, recreation and family support programs. They do a whole lot of good. While The Salvation Army is a Christian organization, everybody is welcome. None are turned away.
As I approached the park, I was surprised and pleased to see a dignified parade coming down the sidewalk…
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Día de los Muertos, also called Day of the Dead, is a popular holiday in Mexico and in many other cultures around the world. It’s a celebration that honors the memories and spirits of loved ones who have passed away. It closely follows Halloween, a holiday that is similar but actually quite different. Día de los Muertos, rich with images of skeletons and decorated skulls, is neither scary nor morbid; it is joyous!
This weekend, Old Town hosted its annual Day of the Dead special event. Altars, costumes and other sights that are common during the holiday could be found throughout the park and surrounding area. I took lots of photos!
Artists abound along the Embarcadero near Seaport Village. They’ll paint a quick portrait for a modest donation. Today during my walk, I stopped for a bit to chat with Steve Mac.
Steve uses his talent to capture the essence of his subjects. He has a philosophical outlook on life, shunning the material and the ego for the beautiful essence found everywhere around, and within us. About a year and a half ago he had a profound spiritual experience not far from where we spoke, and he woke up from a state of worry and confusion to a spirit-filled life in the now.
Here are a few of his works he had out on display: