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JOURNALISM AWARDS

JOURNALISM AWARDS

JOURNEYS + EXPLORATIONS

Excerpts from some published favorites.

I contemplate this later as I digest the experience of suffering. My revelations are far from Buddha-esque, but I draw a couple of conclusions.

 

One: Pain can help us sort out the essential from the non-essential. It reminds us of what is truly comforting and nurturing in our lives. We see the givers, not the takers.

 

Two: Pain is embarrassing. It shows us our weaknesses – our wounded knees – but it also helps us grow.

 

I think of more Gnanasekaran wisdom: Your limits of today don’t have to be limits of tomorrow.

 

As we continue to walk, the moon rises and we stop for a few moments to admire its beauty. Gnanasekaran says there are lots of Indian songs about this glowing sphere.

 

Then, as I’m hobbling along, he does something really beautiful. He starts to sing.

 

He doesn’t know it, but my eyes fill up with tears. This gesture means so much, that he’s trying to make me feel better. Every word is a lullaby.

 

The lyrics of one of these cheerful songs catches my special attention: “We who have hearts have a day called tomorrow. We shall definitely live.”

 

I’m beaming now, smiling so big.

 

“So, that’s one of my hobbies: cheerfulness,” he says between two songs, totally matter-of-fact.

 

“Cheerfulness?”

 

“Yes, cheerfulness.”

 

“That’s a good hobby to have.”

 

We giggle together in the moonlight, and the pain fades away.

Symbols of peace are endless inside and outside this mighty circle, including a still pond and 1,000 plants and trees growing as an example of “safeguarding and replenishing” the environment. Colorful prayer flags dance in the wind from a hill just above the grand dharma wheel. Smaller monuments along walking paths, such as rocks chiseled with Buddha wisdom, are no less significant. One rock reads: “Let yourself be open and life will be easier. A spoon of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable. A spoon of salt in a lake is almost unnoticed.”

Things had apparently changed a lot since Cold Smoke and I were young together—not just for me, but for Cold Smoke’s creator. I came back to Missoula, in part, to rapturously drink the Cold Smoke I can’t get in my homeland a few states away, only to find KettleHouse Brewing Co. had just closed its birthplace in Missoula and had moved out of town. As the sun set, my idyllic memories mixed with thoughts about what the beer and I might now be instead.

Of Gaal’s ride across America, his brother said, “It’s really hard when you are sitting there with challenges and you think you can’t do it and then he rolls up and tells you about his story. That kind of motivation and encouragement gets to you.”

 

Gaal said the only limits are those we set on ourselves.

 

And while Gaal’s bike ride is about giving to others — to spread inspiration and to raise money for a nonprofit that provided food, lodging and airfare for his family when he was in the hospital — the ride is also for him.

 

“It’s going to be an awesome journey, not just for the cause, but for the individual,” Gaal said before departing. “I hope it will give me insight to life.”

 

From Houston, Missouri on Sunday, Gaal told me he’d already found a lot of that insight. “Being out on the road away from my family, I’m starting to see the bigger picture of my life and the things I’m extremely grateful for.”

 

For all the noble reasons for his journey, I most cherish a simple image: A boy and his bike, eager to explore, eager to find himself.

 

I think of all the things he’s already seen and experienced: The fresh breeze of the Pacific Ocean, the red rocks of Arizona, the great Rocky Mountains, the open fields and crops of the Midwest. And I think of all the people who have lined streets in small towns and cities across America to welcome him, embrace him, escort him, cheer him on.

 

And I feel happy, very happy, absolutely sure that he is creating so many new, beautiful memories.

Whitmore says he wants to die “with his boots on” – a sentiment that worried me at first when I contemplated his Grizzly Peak proposal – but I know now that he has no death wish. There are too many mountains he still wants to climb.

 

At Taft Point, we sit on a boulder together as we eat lunch and bask in the beauty.

 

Whitmore talks about an obituary for a decorated British pilot who flew scores of military missions during World War II, and how the man said he loved flying so much that he felt he and the airplane became one.

 

“He was truly free because he went beyond the fear of death.”

 

Across Yosemite Valley, El Capitan is aglow in sunshine. Whitmore looks totally at peace as he tells me that he’s always been known for late returns.

In Tijuana, Friendship Park looks like a park. Around the Kincaids, families sit at picnic tables and a mariachi band plays in a plaza beside a busy city street. On the American side, there are armed guards and a barren slab of concrete, but toward its end I spot some plants and two gardeners. One of them is Dan Watman, coordinator for the Binational Friendship Garden of Native Plants.

 

The Spanish teacher lives in Tijuana and works across the border in Imperial Beach. He started the garden, which grows on both sides of the fence, in 2007 through a group he founded called Border Encuentro that aims to build friendships and find common interests between people in both countries through activities held at the fence, such as poetry readings and salsa dancing lessons.

Later, changing into a more respectable outfit for the Fresno Philharmonic, I feel sad. The last to go is the purple headband. I want to keep wearing it across my forehead, maybe with some cool feathers hanging down one side.

 

But inside the concert hall, I find I’m quite happy and at home in my grown-up clothes.

 

While listening to Noah Bendix-Balgley perform a gorgeous violin solo, I’m asking myself which Carmen is my more natural state of being: the girl in the dinosaur T-shirt, or this violin lover in black heels?

 

The answer comes quick. “Oh yeah, silly. Both.”

 

As we grow up, there is a real danger we’ll stop growing. That happens when we’re afraid of expressing anything outside the role we’ve told ourselves we are here to play. Don’t cling to any idea of who you think you are.

 

Half-elf assassin, Charlotte, played by 21-year-old Morgan Schroeder, says something similar: “Try new things and put yourself out there.”

 

There is enough room inside your infinite imagination to be everything you’ve ever dreamed of – and not just in your head. Let that imagination give you new wings every day.

 

You might find you’d like to be a magical healer or a clever gnome or even a reptile person, too.

The 77-year-old is filling up a shopping cart with discarded recyclables, like he does most every morning, for his grandchildren. He exchanges the dirty bottles and cans for cash that he donates to Lowell Elementary School so his grandchildren can go on field trips. He works the night shift at a Valley casino and asks not to be named out of fear his boss will think badly of his unconventional acts of charity.

 

The sun-hatted women think he’s wonderful. Meeting this caring grandpa on June 4 is the big, beautiful surprise of Fresno Mindfulness Walk No. 46.

 

“It’s a reminder that everyone has a story,” says one of the women, Judith Reposo, later. “You just don’t always pay attention.”

Docent Emmett Harden jokes on a recent winter day about many visitors viewing Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park as a “weed patch” in the rural southern San Joaquin Valley. But step inside the park’s buildings, he says, and you’ll get another story.

 

This town – the only one in California founded, financed, built and governed by African Americans – didn’t simply survive, it thrived, at its pinnacle in the early part of the 20th century.

 

Education was a cornerstone of the colony, as was music. Pianos and other instruments graced the interiors of many buildings here.

A creaky staircase from a back alley in Hanford leads to a temple of treasures.

 

The only light in the Taoist Temple comes from a single window. Elaborate candle lanterns draped with strings of beads hang from the ceiling. Chairs made of marble and mother of pearl rim the musty room built of brick and wood. Delicate dolls, intricate carvings and Chinese calligraphy fill tables and altars.

I discovered that there’s lots to celebrate about being able to take a train and bus to Yosemite—and then getting around Yosemite Valley using free park shuttles. There’s also room for improvement. Best of all, there’s a solid foundation in place for continued growth and, hopefully, more use. 

"We saw a lot of things," Martinez said of the Vietnam War. "We hurt a lot of people, and those same people hurt a lot of our people. All we are doing is going back and we want to make this one thing right."

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