Infinite words but just one small life.

Sailboats moored near Shelter Island, downtown San Diego skyline in the background.
Sailboats moored near Shelter Island, downtown San Diego in the background.

Anyone who tries to write soon realizes a daunting truth. There are countless possible stories to tell, and numberless ways to tell each one. Infinity multiplied by infinity amounts to a whole lot of indecision!

Last weekend I stood on a patch of beach on Shelter Island. A sailboat moored nearby fascinated my eye, and I puzzled over its profound complexity for several minutes. How could I accurately paint that sailboat with words? How could I phrase the most perfect description? Is it even possible? With a million words is it possible?

As I watched the bobbing boat and struggled to sequence potent adjectives, a sudden thought shook me: Writing’s purpose, like art’s purpose, isn’t to replicate the world. It’s to stretch our minds. That is all.

Words are limitless. As limitless as the universe. They allow us to travel anywhere, in any direction.

A few well-directed words can focus our minds (for a moment) on overlooked things; they can help us see vague things more vividly. Words can seek and memorialize those things that seem important. Words tossed about can provoke hidden feeling and allow us to draw nearer to others. Words, when magical, can help us to discern whispers of meaning in the echoing vastness around us.

Our lives are finite. But the infinity that is contained in words can expand our lives. That is their purpose.

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Writing a blog opens up an amazing world.

Birds take flight above palm trees in downtown San Diego.
Birds take flight above palm trees in downtown San Diego.

This is my 500th post. I can’t believe it.

When I started writing this blog on a lark about a year and a half ago, it was a puny little creation, and I hadn’t a clue where it would take me. Alas, after many hours pounding away at the old keyboard, I haven’t earned one thin dime. But that’s perfectly fine. The riches I’ve received are immaterial, and far greater.

Writing a blog–one that involves photography in particular–opens your eyes, enhances your appreciation of all that is around you. To chronicle a walk through this world, one must carefully experience each step and turn curious eyes everywhere. One must note light, depth, and the color of things. One must listen to others. If I hadn’t begun to meander about San Diego purposefully, searching for “cool” material, I might never have seen some hidden rainbows. Or a small bit of street art. Or dogs surf.

Writing a blog encourages creativity. It’s casual and conversational. There’s no need to fret too much about editing. Readers are just friends. So you can yap freely and let the mind flow. I’ve always been a fan of science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. His great book Zen in the Art of Writing talks about the power of just letting thoughts flow, uninhibited, like gushing water from a wildly whipping dangerously uncontrolled hose. That water will irrigate one’s life, and the lives of others who are splashed.

Writing a blog leads the author to be more honest. More understanding. More compassionate. More vulnerable. Writing a blog, giving birth to a few silly words, expands the soul.

Thanks for coming along on my walks!

Where will I go today? I have a bit of an idea, but I’m not certain. Time propels us forward into the unknown. If you’d like, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr!

History inside Old Town’s San Diego Union Building.

Plaque marks the birthplace of the San Diego Union newspaper in 1868.
Plaque marks the birthplace of the San Diego Union newspaper in 1868.

There are many interesting houses and buildings within Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. One of the most fascinating is the San Diego Union Building. Take a step inside and you’ll see the carefully restored birthplace of a present-day major newspaper: the San Diego Union Tribune.

The framework of the building, erected around 1851, is believed to have been originally fabricated in Maine, then shipped to San Diego around Cape Horn. The San Diego Union was first published on October 10, 1868. The newspaper’s editor at that time was Edward “Ned” Wilkerson Bushyhead, a Cherokee Indian with a Scottish ancestor.

The newspaper began as a modest four page weekly, and was produced on a massive wrought iron Washington hand press. In the museum one can also see an authentic 1860’s recreation of the editor’s room, which contains a desk once owned by the son of Ulysses S. Grant!

The San Diego Union Building in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park contains a print shop and editor's office.
The San Diego Union Building in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park contains a print shop and editor’s office.
The prefabricated wood-frame building was erected in 1851.
The prefabricated wood-frame building was erected circa 1851. In 1967 the building was restored by James S. Copley, who at the time was owner of the San Diego Union Tribune.
Old wood stove just inside the front entrance to accurately restored newspaper office.
Old wood stove just inside the front entrance of accurately restored newspaper office.
Drawers hold hand-set type that used to be used in old newspaper printing presses.
Drawers hold hand-set type that used to be assembled in a press for newspaper printing.
Massive Washington hand press can be glimpsed to the right in small printing shop.
A massive Washington hand press can be glimpsed to the right in the small printing shop.
The small editor's office contains a desk once owned by the son of President Ulysses S. Grant. Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. built a grand hotel in San Diego's New Town.
The small editor’s office contains a desk once owned by the son of President Ulysses S. Grant. In 1910 Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. built a grand hotel in San Diego’s New Town. (I took this photo in August 2017.)
The Newspaper Museum is open daily from 10 to 5.
The Newspaper Museum is open daily from 10 to 5.

UPDATE!

In August 2017, during Stagecoach Days in Old Town, I was able to actually enter the print shop and take better photos of the presses and other objects inside. (Usually visitors must peer or take photographs from a greater distance.)

Washington hand presses were common on the frontier because of their relative light weight. They required two people for efficient operation.
Washington hand presses were common on the frontier because of their relative light weight. They required two people for efficient operation.
Fresh paper was laid on inked type. Setting the type for new articles on just one page could take hours. Fortunately, many advertisements on a page remained the same.
Fresh paper was laid on inked type and an impression made. Setting the type for new articles on just one page could take hours. Fortunately, many advertisements on a page didn’t change.
This jobber printing press would have been used for small jobs such as stationery and handbills.
A jobber printing press like this would have been used for small jobs such as stationery and handbills.
This safe is the one original object displayed inside the reconstructed San Diego Union Building in Old Town.
This safe is the only original object displayed inside the restored San Diego Union Building in Old Town.
A type case full of large cast metal sorts. Individual letters were combined into words, sentences and paragraphs.
A type case full of large cast metal sorts. Individual letters were combined into words, sentences and paragraphs.
Manual typesetting for old presses, as one might imagine, took patience and a good eye.
Manual typesetting for old presses, as one might imagine, took lots of patience and a good eye.
Gazing from the print shop toward the building's entrance area.
Gazing from the print shop toward the small building’s entrance area.
According to one sign, the San Diego Union Building was erected around 1850 by Miguel Pedrorena. The Washington Press, type and printing supplies arrived by steamship from Northern California.
According to one sign, the San Diego Union Building was erected around 1850 by Miguel Pedrorena. The Washington Press, type and printing supplies arrived by steamship from Northern California.
A docent explains how the San Diego Union newspaper was composed and printed many years ago.
A knowledgeable lady in period attire explains how the San Diego Union newspaper was composed and printed a century and a half ago, long before the digital age.

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A garden and poem at New Children’s Museum.

New Children's Museum Garden Project beside Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade.
The New Children’s Museum Garden Project beside Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade.

I can’t stand being cooped up inside, especially on Christmas, so around noon I went out for a short walk around a sunny but very quiet downtown San Diego. I didn’t intend to blog about anything, but here I am posting a few pics anyway. That’s because I was impressed by the beauty of a very small spot along a popular walkway.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade runs along a portion of Harbor Drive, and it passes San Diego’s fun New Children’s Museum. In addition to a playground right next to the pathway, there’s a very small urban garden. The museum’s Garden Project is a demonstration area that allows children to explore a few plants and the basics of gardening. Some art is incorporated into the space, and a surprising poem!

Small garden plot beside children's play area contains flowers and a few edible plants.
Small garden plot beside children’s play area contains flowers and a few edible plants.
Kids can explore gardening and learn with their own hands about our environment.
Kids can explore gardening and learn with their own hands about our environment.
Bicycle wheels and a couple scarecrows add to the fun in the Garden Project.
Bicycle wheels and a couple of scarecrows add to the fun in the Garden Project.
A few vegetables in plots enjoy the downtown San Diego sunshine!
A few vegetables in plots enjoy the downtown San Diego sunshine!
A whimsical poem is inscribed on a long wall enclosing the small garden.
A whimsical poem is inscribed on a long wall enclosing the small garden.

I should’ve photographed this entire poem, but I assumed at the time that it could be found on the internet. I was wrong! The poem seems like a fun, playful bit of writing, and I can’t make heads or tails of it looking at my few photos. Oh, well. I’ll leave it to you to reconstruct the verses I’ve selected!

I did figure out that the poem was written by Quincy Thomas Troupe, Jr., who used to be a professor at the University of California, San Diego, just up the coast in La Jolla. He is known for his biography of Miles Davis, the legendary jazz musician. Quincy also helped to write The Pursuit of Happyness, a true story which was adapted into the popular film starring Will Smith. (I love that movie!)

The poem bounds along with crazy, almost nonsensical words.
The poem bounds along with crazy, almost nonsensical words.
Hopping frogs seem to be important characters in this silly poem.
Hopping frogs seem to be important characters in this silly poem.
The poetry was written by local San Diego author Quincy Troupe.
The poetry was written by local San Diego author Quincy Troupe.
A beautiful sight greets pedestrians strolling down Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade.
A beautiful sight greets pedestrians strolling down Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade.

Here are two photos I took the following spring of flowers in the garden:

Perfect beauty.
Perfect beauty.
Bursts of color.
Bursts of color.

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Kids’ NewsDay benefits Rady Children’s Hospital!

Selling special edition Union-Tribune newspapers during Kids' NewsDay!
Selling very special edition Union-Tribune newspapers during Kids’ NewsDay!

Smiling volunteers could be seen throughout San Diego this morning selling special edition newspapers! Today was the 25th anniversary of Kids’ NewsDay, a much-anticipated yearly event whose purpose is to benefit Rady Children’s Hospital.

Over the years, thousands of children and families have been helped by the money raised by generous people who purchase this inspiring edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Since the first Kids’ NewsDay in 1990, about 30,000 volunteers have sold over a million papers, raising nearly 3 million dollars! That’s amazing! The featured section of the newspaper is filled with stories of kids overcoming extremely difficult situations, many with rare or life-threatening diseases. The stories are filled with optimism, and the most inspiring stories are written by children themselves!

If you would like to make a donation to Rady Children’s Hospital, please click this link!

Kid's NewsDay helps raise funds for Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego.
Kid’s NewsDay helps raise funds for Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.

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Wally the sociable sea lion greets boaters.

Forgive me for telling the following very silly story.  I suppose I like this short story because it happens to be true.

As always, please follow the captions…

A beautiful day on Shelter Island and kayakers approach the boat ramp area.
A beautiful day on Shelter Island and kayakers approach the boat ramp area.
A fisherman has arrived on a boat and he's tossing leftover bait to pelicans and gulls.
A fisherman has arrived on a boat and he’s tossing leftover bait to pelicans and gulls.
And look who else is tagging along--it's Wally the sea lion!
And look who else is tagging along–it’s Wally the sea lion!
Wally is looking for a free meal, himself. A large fish would be very nice!
Wally is looking for a free meal, himself. A large fish would be very nice!
Wally spots some new arrivals coming into the little boat ramp area.
Wally spots some new arrivals coming into the little boat ramp area.
It's the kayakers! Wally comes on by to look things over and say hello.
It’s the kayakers! Wally greets everyone and quickly looks things over.
Some curious, sociable mammals (and a few birds) enjoy a moment together.
Some curious, sociable mammals (and a few birds) enjoy a moment together.

The fisherman told me the California sea lion’s name is Wally. He told the kayakers the same thing. So it seems his name must be Wally!

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Sculpture of Mark Twain reading book on bench.

Sculpture of Mark Twain sitting on a bench at Fenton Marketplace in Mission Valley.
Bronze sculpture of Mark Twain sitting on a bench at Fenton Marketplace in Mission Valley.

A very famous author is known to hang out in San Diego.  He’s usually seen just off Friars Road in Mission Valley. He likes to sit on a bench at Fenton Marketplace in front of the International House of Pancakes!

Who is this celebrated writer of American literature? That prolific master of humor and satire, Mark Twain!

According to my research on the internet, Mr. Samuel Clemens seems to get around. He’s been seen in the same pose in numerous cities. That’s because the bronze sculpture, by artist Gary Lee Price, is practically mass-produced!

Samuel Clemens gazes up from his book.
Samuel Clemens gazes up dreamily from his book.
Mark Twain is reading his own classic American novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Mark Twain is reading his own classic American novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Famous author sits on bench by fountain in front of IHOP.
Famous author with biting wit sits on bench by fountain in front of IHOP.

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